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46 Wins in 46 Paragraphs

[1]But Johan got Michael Bourn to tap a little spinner back his way, which he seized and heaved to first, with extra adrenaline carrying it a few feet too high on its way there. Last year it might have gone over the glove of Lucas Duda or Murph or Justin Turner, but Ike hopped nimbly skyward to nab it, allowing Santana to aim his final punch into his own glove and march into the dugout with his first 2012 test an unqualified success. (1-0)

I don’t know if my amateur psychology is as on target as Wright’s ferocious contact was, but I do know the Mets’ second home run of the day, Lucas Duda’s first, wouldn’t have been a home run from ’09 to ’11. And I can guess Lucas’s second was probably monitored in the White House Situation Room. When was the last time you saw a laser like that? Is it possible for us to harness its power on a regular basis? (2-0)

The Mets may not be flawless, but so far this year they are perfect. They’re undefeated through their first series, alone in first place in their division, alone in New York on the list of teams that have won at least one baseball game that counts this year. That’s as close to flawless as they need to be right now. (3-0)

And then Daniel Murphy came to the plate and rifled one through the infield and got piled on and emerged with both knees intact (like you weren’t thinking the same thing) and the Mets were 4-0 and everything, at least for one more day, was officially awesome. (4-0)

In the ninth, second baseman/potential third baseman Murphy totally Bucknered what should have been the final out of the game, E-4, cutting the Mets’ lead to 5-2, creating tension where there should have been handshakes. The murmur muttered all across Metsopotamia was of the “oh no” variety, yet y’know what Frank Francisco did? Struck out Shane Victorino for a new final out. That’s what dependable closers on unshakeable teams do. Or so I’ve heard. (5-2)

No, Howie and Josh assured me, I wasn’t dreaming. David was not on the DL, despite what everybody and his Twitter account was insisting would be a sure and depressing thing as regarded our third baseman’s right pinky. Bison Josh Satin prowled the Met clubhouse, but was not activated. No need for his emergency services. David was able to grip everything he needed, so he grabbed a bat, gripped the hell out of it to homer some 428 feet from where he stood at Citizens Bank Park. (6-2)

The last letter in Byrdak — or BYRDAK, per the back of his uniform — is a big, blue and orange K. I stared at it as the ninth began and decided what I wanted to see next, beyond a simple filing away of the Braves’ chances, was the man whose last name ends with a K end the game with a K. That’s a strikeout, for you fans who are new to baseball. (7-3)

[2]Aubrey Huff is no Willie Mays, in case you were wondering. As the Mets mounted a rally, Huff didn’t get in their way by knowing where second was on a potential double play ball, certainly a sure fielder’s choice on Justin Turner’s grounder. We’re always happy to watch somebody else implode. Then we’re requisitely ecstatic when Scott Hairston, pinch-running from third, jars just enough of Buster Posey on a slide into home so that Posey can’t make a clean throw to first on what is otherwise going to be a 3-2-4 (Huff covering first) DP that seems certain to send this stupid game into the tenth and onto the thirteenth or twenty-third. As Posey’s fling made like Dennis DeYoung and sailed away, Tejada steamed in from second with the, if you’ll excuse the improbable expression, winning run. (8-6)

Jose Reyes played for me for nine years. Yet he plays for himself always. Same as Johan Santana. Same as Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Same as Lucas Duda and all of the Mets responsible for winning Tuesday night’s edgy 2-1 affair. Jose Reyes’s new teammates play for themselves as well. I know that. I’ve always known that. The brusque tap on the shoulder that free agency provides every winter should be enough to make that a matter of constant awareness not recurring surprise. But if we walked around fully aware that baseball players are just people looking to make the best living possible and baseball teams are just businesses looking to make the most profit possible, we’d want nothing to do with either faction. (9-8)

It was another beaut — it really was. Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey faced off in a corker of a pitcher’s duel, with Buehrle’s deadly sinking change evenly matched against Dickey’s fluttering knucklers. Omar Infante hit a home run that would have gone out of old Yankee Stadium to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. Yet the Mets would fight back, with old friend Jose Reyes’s throwing error giving them an extra at-bat — which David Wright used to launch a home run of his own that carried over the new wall and carried David over Darryl Strawberry for the club mark in RBIs. The rest was cosmetic but satisfying, with Lucas Duda hitting a line drive that nearly killed an outfielder, Mike Baxter chipping in a you-can-exhale-now double and even Ike Davis looking better. Mets 5, Marlins 1. Very nice. (10-8)

METS FAN CONFESSION: “I Skipped An Entire Afternoon Session Of A Wonderful Mets Conference To Listen To The Last Few Innings Of A Wonderful Mets Game And I Can’t Say I’m Sorry That I Did.” (11-8)

The Mets are 4-0 on Saturdays this year, including their most recent 7-5 victory at Coors Field; Lucas has now driven in 38.1% of all his team’s runs on that day to date. The Mets are 8-9 the rest of the time, when Duda — presciently dubbed “Saturday’s Child” by Josh Lewin on the season’s second Saturday — is not doing much. (12-9)

[3]Which is why I say the first thing we do, let’s kill all the Moyers. Let’s step on the throats and kick the spit out of the replaced ligaments of crafty lefthanders when it seems they’re begging us to. Let’s not permit them to stick around and leave games within the reach of mile-high air, Paul Emmel’s mysterious strike zone and Todd Helton’s heretofore rarely tapped pinch-hitting prowess. Let’s not let Johan Santana take a seat with a 4-0 lead and make him shower and dress amid a 4-4 tie. Let’s not hold the breath the thin atmosphere demands we lose in Denver and let a game like this go into a tenth, then an eleventh inning. Let’s not let a storyline like Johan Santana versus Jamie Moyer devolve into Ramon Ramirez versus Matt Belisle. It was statistical shame enough last week that Santana versus Josh Johnson went into the books as Jon Rauch trumping Edward Mujica. (13-9)

Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco, for one day, know from customer service. Their mission was not only to protect a one-run advantage and preserve Santana’s diplomatic integrity (how many more times could Johan pretend not to be annoyed by leads blown and decisions evaporated?) but to re-establish the good name of the New York Mets bullpen. Not that it generally rates a name printable in family blogs, but this was going to be the season when a revamped relief corps was going to change perceptions and reputations. Of course that is said every year. It’s never true for more than a couple of weeks. If it can be true for a single Saturday, as it was when Bobby pitched the eighth and Frank took care of business (mostly) in the ninth, then they can respectively take a hold and a save out of petty cash. (14-13)

Tejada’s flop, on the other hand, was hard to watch — if I’d seen the replay before knowing the aftermath, I’d have been terrified that he’d broken his jaw, lost teeth, been concussed or all three. A quad strain, all things considered, seems lucky — though a Mets defense that features David Wright, Justin Turner, Murphy, Josh Thole, Duda and whoever’s in left is the kind of thing that causes starting pitchers think about during sleepless nights. (15-13)

[4]To the hypothetical introductory highlight package of today, please add footage from last night. Please add Jordany Valdespin socking it to Jonathan Papelbon. Please follow that ball into the right field stands, its flight both instant and eternal. Please evoke the shock that a minor league callup who was a minor league senddown rescued only by physical setback to another Met chose this moment for his first major league hit, a pinch-hit three-run home run that broke a 2-2 tie with two out in the ninth inning in a ballpark where very little good has occurred over the past five years. Please don’t cut away until we see Jordany Valdespin round first base and shake with delight, one innocent fist briefly raised, because for all the standard jockish admonitions to act like you’ve been there before, Jordany Valdespin hadn’t. (16-13)

But still. Four Citizens Bank wins against one defeat? A thrilling classic followed by a merry farce? If the plan is to exorcise this particular chamber of Met horrors, it’s off to a pretty good start. (17-13)

The Mets had just tied the game at four. It felt like they were ahead. They’d be in an instant, when incredibly valuable Andres Torres (sorry for kind of forgetting about you while you were out, amigo) made with the perfectly struck infield grounder to push the Mets ahead, 5-4. From there, it was a mix of competent relief pitching — envy it, crimson hordes — and cleverly tacked-on tallies (Ike and Andres each muscling up) en route to the 10-6 final. (18-13)

[5]A sunny Saturday afternoon inside the Marlins’ green-screen sound stage was the perfect antidote for the production that went awry Friday night (and so many nights nearby), especially when viewed through the prism of the third baseman’s performance. David was starry, starry Wright — surpassing the Four-Hundred mark as late into a Mets season as I can recall any Mets hitter doing (Cleon Jones dipped below the Williams Line after 31 games in 1969), plus showing enough range to throw out Austin Kearns from Big Never Mind Little Havana. Fox’s emergency fill-in announcer made a huge deal over Wright’s general torture of Ricky Nolasco, but David didn’t play favorites. Three hits came off the starter and then he shelled Cishek by the seashore for another. (19-14)

Somebody’s a little streaky here. It could be Frank or it could be us as fans. Whichever, the race was on in the top of the ninth to get the Mets’ 3-0 lead safely in the paddock. Who would cross the finish line first? The Mets? The Brewers? Our and Collins’s trust in Francisco? The closer’s reputation, or at least the one that earned him his lucrative contract? (20-15)

As you probably know if you were with us at Citi Field, watched it on SNY or caught it On The Radio, it was a very good game. The Mets beat the Reds, 9-4, despite falling behind, 4-0. Many Mets contributed to the comeback, but the key blow was struck by David Wright, whose world-leading batting average of .411 certainly qualifies as Hot Stuff. (Imagine what he’d do with consistent Protection in the lineup.) David’s go-ahead double in the eighth scored Rob Johnson, who started the big rally by bunting, which was wonderfully shocking. I see a backup catcher demonstrate that kind of cunning — and enough speed to come around on Wright’s double — well, I gotta tell ya…I Feel Love. (21-17)

Yet here we are, in the cool of the evening, sipping on a refreshing 6-5 win whose peril was real but danger never grew any graver than first and second, nobody out. Francisco defied the rising, thundering snarls of the Rogers Centre throng (the way we’ll sound when Frank revisits Citi Field in another uniform someday…or next time we see he’s still with the Mets) and, à la Andy Dufresne after his crawl through a river of edited-for-television spit, came out clean. (22-19)

[6]The Mets won anyway, with Terry Collins popping his nightly dose of Vitamin Byrdak and Frank Francisco keeping everybody’s language suitable for children, but Ike didn’t appear to be any part of it, and not just because he went 0-for-4. 0-for-4? Big deal. The greatest hitter in the universe, David Wright, went 0-for-4. James McDonald made most everybody look more like .156 neophytes than .403 worldbeaters. But, man, the ohfers Ike takes lately are just brutal and his visibly insular reactions to them cringe-inducing. There are brushes with moments of clarity, when an occasional hard-hit line drive shoots toward a rudely waiting webbing, but they’re not built on. He’s totaled two hits and one walk in his last ten games. Whatever defense he brings to bear as the only legitimate first baseman on call doesn’t come close to compensating for the acres of barren production he leaves in the wake of his sullen plate appearances. (23-20)

Today, Niese handcuffed the Pittsburgh Pirates rather convincingly, using his cutter and change to great effect, as the Mets just got enough offense and left PNC Park with a 2-1 series win. (And a 19-19 all-time record in the beautiful stadium where horrible things happen, believe it or not.) (24-20)

But Wright can’t be the whole story. Tonight’s Mets offense began with Lucas Duda banging a home run off the sign overhanging the Mo Zone. It kept rolling with a double from Mike Baxter and a single from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, young outfielders pushing Jason Bay and Andres Torres towards Where Are They Now? status. It concluded with a double down the left-field line from Daniel Murphy and a single rapped back up the middle by Ike Davis. Yes, there was an Ike Davis sighting — though nothing was sweeter than seeing Murphy ambling back to the dugout sending fist pumps and attaboys Ike’s way. (25-21)

[7]I got a very good feeling watching the Mets overwhelm the Padres this afternoon. Not just a 9-0 feeling, but a feeling that this was a throwback game, the kind of game I could’ve watched on Channel 9…the kind of game when Rusty Staub wasn’t a bobblehead, but a 3-for-5 right fielder robbing Johnny Grubb of a double. Alas, the real Rusty was confined to the SNY booth, but we were OK on the field anyway. After all, we had Vinny Rottino. (26-21)

One of the things that’s fun about Dickey — besides his W.P. Kinsella musings, thoughtful candor and pitbull competitiveness, of course — is the way he treats his knuckleball alternately like a scientist with a tricky experimental subject and an artist with a fickle muse. On Sunday, his knuckler was so good that R.A. sounded like a man who’d proved his theorem and harnessed that muse, even if only for an afternoon: “If you [radically change speeds] and still throw strikes with it, it can be ruthless.” (27-21)

I’d love to tell you I ordered up the first home run hit by a Mets pitcher in two years and a heretofore AAA infielder recording three hits and a pinch-hitter taking over the team lead in longballs all in the service of putting away a certifiably hated division rival, but that part was out of my control. If I could control events that effectively, I wouldn’t only have Shane Victorino flop down in center field and a line drive leap off the tip of Jimmy Rollins’s glove, but I’d keep the Long Island Rail Road moving when I have a personal milestone celebration to indulge and I’d keep the rain away for nine consecutive innings. (28-22)

[8]Johan Santana pitched the First No-Hitter in New York Mets History. It happened. It really and truly happened. I shouted and I cried and I hugged my wife and we drank champagne from the same Mets mugs with which we toasted the 2006 N.L. East championship, none of which will show up in the box score, but I always wondered what I would do if it happened, and now I know. (29-23)

It was just as well that after not sleeping much in the hours that followed history, I nodded off for a couple of innings Saturday. I wasn’t giving R.A.’s gem the attention it deserved, which I felt a little bad about, but in all the scenarios I ever dreamed up for the First No-Hitter in New York Mets History, it never occurred to me to include a day after. (30-23)

Not only do I root for a team that’s pitched a no-hitter in its life, but that team’s current iteration more or less seems to be in first place. It’s a three-way tie, and some percentage points don’t work in its immediate favor, but one-third of the season is complete and the New York Mets are more of a first-place team on June 4 than we ever would have dreamed on April 5. (31-23)

[9]Lucas Duda’s two-run shot was enough to back R.A. up — it was 2-0 for most of the afternoon but felt like 20-0 — and the Mets played sound defense for a change, with a particular tip of the cap going to Omar Quintanilla, playing with a finger that needed X-rays before the game and will get another set tomorrow. Quintanilla’s not who we’d like at shortstop, but he’s what we have for the next week or so until Ronny Cedeño gets back. (And if Quintanilla should join the ranks of the disabled, please God bring up Sean Kazmar or Wilfredo Tovar or shift over David Wright or do anything that doesn’t involve Jordany Valdespin making errors at Yankee Stadium. There’s only so much I can take.) (32-26)

Young persevered, the Mets stopped dropping balls, and eventually they figured out that Alex Cobb was basically armed with nothing but his own fairly ordinary fastball, which he kept aiming at the hands of left-handed hitters. Perhaps the Mets heard Keith Hernandez howling about this rather metronomic plan in the booth, when he wasn’t registering crabby opposition to Moneyball, video review and Twitter. (33-29)

Your conclusion carries with it its own set of holes. Where you indicate Dickey’s perfect game not being a perfect game is beside the point because the bigger victory is that he’s pitching so incredibly well throwing the magic pitch that maybe next time he’ll throw the perfect game — and even if he doesn’t, a string of shutouts and near-shutouts that are on par with what the best pitchers in his team’s history have done is plenty? No disrespect, Mr. Plimpton, but we here at Limited Imagination Publishing wonder if you have any concept of telling a good sports story. (34-29)

If your taste runs to active worrying (and you’re a Mets fan, so you’re at least acquainted), you’ll want to consider the defense, again. Ike Davis botched a pickoff of B.J. Upton, leading to a run. Then, with a 9-5 lead in the ninth and two outs to go, Omar Quintanilla inexplicably tried to race Desmond Jennings to second base instead of taking the 26th out at first. Fortunately, the bats had enough juice in them to make up for all that: Kirk Nieuwenhuis went deep twice, David Wright was on base four times, Davis reached base three times and even Jason Bay, the Charlie Brown of the gang, hit one out. (35-29)

[10]Surely, R.A. Dickey, 37 and barely of the same planet as the rest of us, is present. He is here as much as the Baltimore batters were absent Monday night. Oh, they could be seen at the plate, standing in the box, watching the ball go by, even swinging sometimes for effect. Dickey struck out 13 Orioles, a few of whom scowled unhappily at Eric Cooper’s interpretation of the strike zone. Most of them, however, knew what was coming and accepted the outcome with minimal physical resistance. They could have tried harder to hit his unhittable pitches, but what would have been the point of that? (36-32)

Tonight, the bird-killer was Johan Santana, armed with a deadly change-up, a slithery slider, just enough of a fastball and a brain that could teach a master class in pitching. Two starts removed from making history, Johan was back to being Johan 2.0, the marvelous second act that’s also proven pinch-me stuff at Citi Field this year. (37-32)

Swept, sweep, swept, sweep. Since the Yankees arrive Friday night, following Thursday’s pause to enjoy the All-Time Mets Team, let’s hope this particular pattern doesn’t hold. The Mets are 6-6 over their last 12, and the highs and lows of emotions have been enough to produce altitude sickness. (38-32)

We can cluck about it now because after Andres Torres had to do a little Jim Edmonds number to retire Russell Martin, and Frank walked Ibañez and gave up a single to Captain Pause Sign to inject unwanted drama into the ninth inning at Citi Field, Francisco emerged only slightly scathed. Our closer of record (because apparently we have to have one) struck out the murderously dangerous Curtis Granderson and popped Mark Teixeira and his ill-fitting helmet to Omar Quintanilla, who apparently hasn’t seen enough ninth-inning, two-out highlight films to USE TWO HANDS! but cradled the ball anyway, and it was a win for Jon Niese, a save for Frank Francisco and a great relief to us all. (39-32)

[11]Which isn’t to say I can’t enjoy every single minute of an old-fashioned battering of the Cubs at Wrigley. Because that’s the Mets needed very badly and that’s what they delivered today — a 17-1 all-points smackdown that could have gone for a week and I wouldn’t have been tired of it. (40-36)

Sure they’re incredibly low-key and almost never said anything particularly interesting for public consumption when they were teammates — with Young going out for the season early and Capuano muddling through the schedule in a state of mostly mediocrity — but each is pitching at the top of his craft presently. We certainly are lucky to have Chris Young adding gravitas to our rotation; watching him outduel Chris Capuano, who is excelling in his post-Met incarnation, was a real treat Thursday night. And I’m sure the only reason I kept nodding off on them was the West Coast start time. (41-36)

He pitched beautifully, once again, resuming where he left off before that hiccup against Satan’s insurgents. He’s 12-1, with a shot at going into the break (and one presumes the starting assignment for the All-Star Game) with 13 wins. He struck out 10 for the fifth time this season. His numbers in June: 5-0, 0.93 ERA, three complete games. (42-36)

It’s just that your hopes and your sights had been raised so very high by the so many highlights you had absorbed since the First Night of June. A couple of which were still to come. Yes, your sights had been raised […] and they stayed just as high on the final night of what had been — overall pedestrian team record aside — one of the most magical months through which you as a Mets fan had ever lived. By the Thirtieth Night of June, you could ask for no more. Except, perhaps, whatever July had in store. (43-36)

Can the Mets make October? Of course they can — I’m not sold on the Nationals, the Braves have plenty of their own problems, the Marlins are a disaster and the Phillies’ window may have slammed on their fingers faster than we thought. Not to mention there’s not one but two wild cards to play for now. But if the Mets stumble on the way to October and you’re surprised, well, you’ve forgotten recent events. (44-37)

[12]Games like these make you want to kiss the Mets logo smack between the “e” and the “t”…though maybe it would be more appropriate to kiss its “s,” considering it was Thursday’s tail end that made the whole thing so lovable. (45-38)

On the ninth pitch, LaHair hit a little parachute that was clearly destined to land in the undefinable space bordered by the responsibilities of the left fielder, center fielder and shortstop. The Cubs would have the tying run on second with one out, and who knows? But there was Tejada, back to the infield, letting his instincts guide him to the right place — and then flinging his glove out to corral LaHair’s ball as he crashed to the ground. Parnell pumped his fist. Tejada settled for a little nod, a gunfighter who’d done his duty. (46-39)

Banner Day photos by Sharon Chapman. Get well, Dillon Gee.