We’re stuck in a season that’s either overdue to be part of a transition or is just a discouraging checkpoint amid an ongoing demolition. (Perhaps you’ve noticed.) It’s been wearying, and after watching the Mets get swept by the Reds and mostly missing them nearly getting swept by the Braves, the last thing I wanted to see on the calendar was what awaited us all tonight: Mets vs. Yankees.
Particularly since this year’s Yankees squad is what we deluded ourselves into thinking the 2013 Mets might be — a scrappy bunch of Plan B players sent into battle to hold the line, only to outperform all expectations. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have yet to play a regular-season game, while Curtis Granderson’s 2013 has consisted of little more than a cameo. And yet the Yankees of Jayson Nix and Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells have been more than up to the challenge.
I told Joshua I figured we’d get swept. I braced myself for the disaster. And I convinced myself that it didn’t really matter, that I was not going to let the braying mooks of Yankeedom make a lousy season feel worse.
That lasted until Brett Gardner leapt high over the Citi Field wall to take a home run away from Daniel Murphy, turning an ephemeral 2-1 Mets lead back into a 1-0 Yankees advantage. That Yankee run had come courtesy of a Mets misplay and a play not made — the former a Lucas Duda special in which poor Lucas dove gallantly but unwisely for a little parachute off Gardner’s bat, turning a single into a triple; the latter a Nix floater that you couldn’t blame Mike Baxter for not catching but also couldn’t help thinking he should have. That was all Jon Niese gave up, but for a while it looked like it would be enough to beat him, an all-too-familiar fate for Mets starters of late.
(By the way, this was Joshua’s reaction to Gardner’s triple: “That’s the kind of play Yankees fans think their guy earned.” I’ve spent thousands of words trying to capture the unique loathsomeness of Yankees fans, but my kid only needed 11 to nail it and them. Raising his allowance.)
Anyway, when Gardner leapt high and came down with Murph’s homer in his mitt, I screamed a versatile bad word loud enough for the kid to hear it in the shower and know something had gone very wrong. And then I stared at the TV and fumed, remembering Paul O’Neill robbing Derek Bell above the right-field fence of now-vanished Shea in 2000. In that game, I was sitting a row behind a Yankees fan in one of their hideous top hats, sandwiched by two Met fan friends. When O’Neill robbed Bell, one of the Mets fans snatched the top hat from his pal’s head and hurled it out of the mezzanine.
It wasn’t worth it.
But the Mets, for once, were not inclined to go quietly. Gardner’s grab — accompanied by a few too many Kevin Burkhardt hosannas for a Mets fan’s taste — ended the bottom of the sixth, but David Wright led off the bottom of the seventh. Wright promptly redirected a Phil Hughes pitch on a high arc, safely beyond the reach of Gardner or any Yankee not flying a helicopter. Wright helped keep the Yankees at bay in the eighth with a nifty stab of a Wells grounder he converted into a double play, setting the stage for some Mets heroics punctuated by a ringing single and celebratory bat slam from Murph.
God only knows what awaits us tomorrow, when I will already be challenged to remain civil and decent in the face of a Mets presentation to Mariano Rivera. (Every team’s having one, he typed while gritting his teeth.) But at least for one night the good guys won , as I’d almost forgotten the good guys sometimes do.