Go figure. After somehow overcoming their own lack of hitting and boneheadedness afield to take two from the Yankees at Citi Field, the Mets made the very short trip north to resume hostilities in the Bronx with the likable but generally luckless Jeremy Hefner on the mound. So of course they leaped on David Phelps like a psychotic jack-in-the-box, barraging him with hits and working walks and hitting balls at pinstriped infielders who booted them. Phelps got one out while surrendering five runs and slunk off to lie down in a dark room, wondering what the hell had just happened. On our couches and barstools and bits of enemy territory we were wondering the same thing, only we were happy and desperately wanted more.
I was still floating from the merry sucker punch Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Lucas Duda delivered to the immortal Mariano Rivera the night before. But this was equally fun — a five-spot to take the edge off immediately and leave Yankee fans practicing their October retreat to the Deegan. Why, even those Mets rumored for imminent visits to Vegas chipped in: Ruben Tejada began the night with a sharp single to left and Ike Davis worked a count and delivered two runs of his own. The infield wasn’t even drawn in.
The first two Subway Series crackled with tensions and subplots, even though the Mets’ happy double application of lipstick couldn’t hide the underlying pig and the current Yankees are a collection of understudies and temps. None of that matters, or ever will. The stadiums and uniforms are familiar and the fans and their dramas are the same: We hate them with the mostly impotent rage of little brothers pushed too far this time and they make a show of dismissing us as beneath their notice while constantly checking to make sure we’re registering their scorn. As long as these things are true, the Subway Series will be immune to fluctuations in attendance or either side’s protestations of being tired of it. The respite came, weirdly, from what actually happened on the field. With the Mets suddenly up 5-0 and then 6-0 and then 8-0 it was still a Subway Series game, but you could actually exhale a bit and just watch the thing instead of spending three hours clinging to the ceiling like an overly caffeinated Spider-Man or curled up in the fetal position.
It got scary of course — you knew it would. Hefner got scuffed up a bit, which is no crime given the Yankees’ assembly line of lefties and that ludicrously short porch in right. The Mets, apparently surprised by their own competence, returned to their normal catatonia with bats in hand for much of the game, allowing the Yankees to creep closer and closer, until you could hear the blue and orange muttering. Ike was striking out again and Tejada was doing lamebrained things and you could imagine all manner of awful hare-and-the-tortoise scenarios.
When I said something to this effect on Twitter, I wasn’t told I was insane despite the fact that the Yankees were mostly tired and wanted to get in their gigantic SUVs and sleep and come back and plot Dillon Gee’s demise, like sensible baseball teams do on the wrong side of a bad night.
No, my Mets tweeps promptly admitted that they too were worried. As a fanbase, we’re so out of practice when it comes to good fortune that we assume it’s a trick.
Scott Rice’s rather wonderful fort-holding pushed this paranoia back, as did Rick Ankiel’s RBI single. But even in a harmlessly weird ninth that saw Robinson Cano wander the bases unmolested and LaTroy Hawkins and John Buck both pursue a foul pop northwest of third base, I was trying to brew up my own little black cloud. When Tejada was mercifully removed before he could further injure himself or a teammate, I was briefly certain that Justin Turner would make 15 consecutive errors and the Mets would lose. Luis Castillo’s sins would be mostly forgotten, but it would be too late for me — I would forswear baseball and blogging, move to Mongolia and live in a yurt, defending its felty confines by hurling stones at anyone who dared approach.
This was of course ridiculous, even by melodramatic Mets standards. Hawkins tamped down a spot of Yankee bother and the Mets had won three straight against Them and four straight against Everybody. They’d won the Subway Series — done, put in books — and earned a chance to try for a four-game sweep.
They’ve done so despite ample evidence that their numerous problems are very far from fixed, but you know what? I’m not going to dwell on that. For the next 24 hours, let’s let that be fine. We can worry about demotions and regression by complementary players and lack of depth and hitting anemia and payrolls and all the rest on Friday. This has been fun, which is why we all started watching baseball in the first place, and more fun for being so totally unexpected. Let’s just enjoy it, whether it’s a sweep or merely a quite satisfying three of four. And let’s remember that sometimes the little black cloud is hovering over the other guys, not us — and if we’d just look up, we’d see a bit of sunshine.