The fine print on doggedly determined underdog teams that rise up and take a bite out of dismissive expectations is they’re prone to getting rapped on the nose by those wielding rolled-up newspapers…or booming bats.
This was a lousy weekend to be the Little Team That Could once it became apparent they Couldn’t. This was a lousy weekend to have not nearly the ability to back up whatever heart you’ve been leading with for nearly three months. This was a lousy weekend that save for Nick Swisher — or “Nick Seizure,” as my Droid’s spell-check insists on calling him — failing to be as tall Friday night as he was irritating for three days, could have been historically abysmal.
All is lost, at least until tonight in Chicago when the Little Team That Can might very well make the Subpar Series a quickly fading memory, given baseball’s eternal equity as the game of redeeming features. Still, their shot at instant redemption doesn’t excuse the spit show the Mets put on Saturday and Sunday, when they proved themselves temporarily incapable of playing with the big boys.
Two one-run losses felt like a pair of blowouts, as there are no prizes, not even moral victories, for constantly being behind a run and endlessly staying behind a run. The Mets lived for eighteen innings in the Land of Opportunity but told the Welcome Wagon it wasn’t interested in cashing in. Theoretically, a couple of 9-1 debacles would have been less fun to watch, but I’m not sure how.
OK, that’s probably not true, either. But yeech on Saturday and yeech even more on Sunday, the latter day featuring much to moan sprinkled by a tad to cheer. There was welcome return by Ruben Tejada; the discovery of Andres Torres, Base-Stealing Weapon; and the inspirational sight of R.A. Dickey taking back with his all a fraction of what he gave up with his arm. Too bad Keith Hernandez wasn’t doing the game, because he would have oozed with old-school pride over R.A. eschewing the “la-di-da” ethos Mex finds so distasteful and running through Chris Stewart to score the first Met run of the game. Too bad it came when the Mets were already down, 4-0, and it didn’t nearly take the spin out of Dickey’s uncommanding knuckler.
R.A. pitched a bad game. Hard to believe, tough to admit, painful to realize not so much because I assumed he’d never again not pitch a one-hitter (though I was beginning to lean that way) but because if we don’t win an R.A. Dickey start, then what do we do?
It was admirable, to a point, the way the Mets pulled R.A. out of his ‘L’ hole and tied things up in the sixth on a series of singles, walks and opposition miscues, but without a proper post-Sabathia followup — say, a big hit of the extra-base variety — leaving the game tied loomed was an invitation to trouble. And trouble wasn’t shy about RSVP’ing in the eighth when Miguel Batista’s second inning of usefulness proved a fairy tale.
Batista shouldn’t have been pitching to Robinson Cano, I suppose, but it kept coming back to the Mets’ inability (or refusal, you’d almost think) to put the saw into what could have been a see-saw thriller. The Yankees take a 6-5 lead? Well, damn it, Mets, take a 7-6 lead. Easy enough to say from here, but the visitors who trailed 3-0 on Saturday and let slip a 5-1 lead on Sunday didn’t seem to have any problem remaking the game in their own image when they had to.
Because, quite frankly, that’s what they do and that’s what we can’t do. Or didn’t. But should’ve.
Six hours and thirty-seven minutes of intracity futility spread over two nationally telecast nights leaves one shy of sustained logic and overloaded with frustration. So let’s call on R.A., whose verbal skills didn’t take a personal day even as his command called in sick, to bright-side this latest episode in municipal shame:
“It didn’t quite live up to the billing. But golly, I’m so proud of our guys who scrapped and fought. We can build off that.”
If you really can, please do.