After more than a year-and-a-half in dental denial that those random pains in my mouth were nothing that couldn’t be artfully ignored, I submitted to inevitable oral surgery this past Tuesday. Though I wouldn’t recommend it for a lark, I put myself in the hands of capable, caring professionals who made it nothing like the horror show I anticipated. They couldn’t tell from my instinctive clenching and whimpering, but I actually handled the procedure pretty well. Still, recovery has been a drag: soreness, ice packs, disgusting salt-water rinses, antibiotics, painkillers, a persistent sinus headache, very cautious chewing on one side and a bonus overnight bout of nausea for my trouble. As Keith Hernandez might suggest (albeit between licks of a Tootsie Pop), let this be a lesson to you kids out there: go find yourself a dentist you like and make regular visits — you can’t mollycoddle your choppers.
In my post-extraction fog, everything that smacks of routine has come to annoy me, including sitting down in front of the television at 7 PM to watch the same old Mets take on the same old opponent night after night after night for…what was it now? Four nights? “Are we playing the Yankees again?” I asked in exasperation.
Then I snapped out of my fog and smiled as much of a smile as 30 teeth hampered by one slightly puffy cheek could generate. Why, yes, we were playing the Yankees again. And because we put ourselves in the hands of capable, caring professionals, it was nothing like the horror show I anticipated. You couldn’t tell from my instinctive clenching and whimpering, but the Mets handled the procedure exceedingly well.
Thus, for those of you who might have thought trying to sweep an entire home-and-home Subway Series from the Yankees would be like pulling teeth, I can assure you it’s not.
It was a lark…a lark in our park and a lark in their park.
We took a bite out of the Yankees and it was delicious, however we managed to chomp down on them. The Mets’ preferred method was by nearly flawless starting pitching, which in 2013 tends to mean Matt Harvey and several days of dreaming about Matt Harvey, yet this week it has meant everybody, encompassing the most unlikely of characters. Like Shaun Marcum, who kicked off this five-game winning streak by mowing down our former rivals, the Braves. Like Jon Niese, who didn’t let his non-serious shoulder issue stop him from elbowing aside the Yankees on Ted Nugent Appreciation Night. Like Harvey, who only counts as unlikely here because he had company in pitching brilliantly. Like Jeremy Hefner, to whom Mets wins are no longer chronically allergic.
And, finally, like erstwhile bulldog Dillon Gee who used to stand and fight until Terry Collins had to drag him off the mound, but this season had this unnerving habit of chasing the bullpen cart into traffic by his third time through the opposition order. That Gee had gone so wayward that we were about to find himself lost from the rotation. Oh, but Thursday, as the Mets’ Subway Sweep that I ordered in 1997 was finally delivered into my waiting lap? This Gee pitched and pitched and pitched some more. This Gee could have gone the full nine and another nine on top of it. I knew it, you knew it, my periodontist knew it.
Except Terry Collins. He somehow knew that removing a starting pitcher who had thrown all of 88 pitches, retired his previous 15 batters and struck out the last five in defense of a 3-1 lead with five outs to go was the move that absolutely needed to be made. If Terry were a contestant on Beer Money, you suspect he’d answer the $10 question and walk away unwilling to risk greater success. His decision to lift Gee while Gee was as completely unhittable as he was suddenly hairless was undoubtedly a minority opinion, but given that Collins is the manager, his opinion was also the only one that counted.
So out went Dillon Gee from the game of his life — and the night we’d all been dreaming of ever since somebody decided forcing the Mets to play the Yankees annually would create an irresistible, platinum-priced treat — and in came Scott Rice. Rice has been used so much that if a teammate gives him a particularly effusive high five, Rice’s left arm will fall off. But the important thing is Rice has earned his slaps and claps this season and, though it was still a weird call to the bullpen, Scott did it again. He popped up Ichiro Suzuki and struck out Brett Gardner, and the Mets were one inning from a sweep.
A four-game sweep of the Yankees. The Yankees of Reid Brignac and David Adams and Chris Stewart, yes, but the recently first-place Yankees nonetheless. The same Yankees whose pinstripes, we’ve been repeatedly informed, transform scrubs into stars; pump youth serum through the veins of dried-out husks of has-beens; and generally demand genuflection based on reputation and presumed intimidation. The current Yankees still have plenty of players who have proven they can beat the Mets, but most of them watched this series in navy warmup jackets from their dugout or, perhaps, luxury condominiums in the Tampa Bay region. The Mets, on the other hand, entered this series mostly with guys who haven’t proven anything anywhere. All told, the only two things the Mets and Yankees of the moment had in common were a city and a talent level.
The neighborhood is still the neighborhood, replete with ill-mannered neighbors who don’t mind letting us know which way the wind usually blows, which is why any of this garners our extra attention. The neighborhood’s playing field, no matter what the respective records say, had been leveled. Ours was a crummy team. Theirs, according to my friend Pythagoras, had been indisputably crummier for three straight nights (because crummy team beaten by crummy team equals crummiest team cubed). Then, in the bottom of the ninth inning on the fourth straight night, Bobby Parnell — who is closing ballgames like he expects to be presented one of those sweet commemorative fire hoses in a dozen or so years — did what Mets closers haven’t done routinely since before there were Subway Series to save. He retired Robinson Cano and two guys who used to be Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner.
Subway Series sweep. For the Mets. Not of the Mets, but by the Mets. The Mets ran 27 rings around the Yankees. Three of the four games were close but all four Mets wins were decisive. It was Gee and Rice and Parnell. It was Byrd with a massive homer and Buck with a perfectly poked infield hit. It was Wright starting a nifty double play to pick up callup Quintanilla after an error and it was Quintanilla walking to set up the all-important insurance run.
It was all about “up” for our Mets of New York, New York, this helluva town. Queens is up. The Bronx…not so much. And Broom(e) Street was where all the action happened these past four nights when the routine of plopping down on the couch in the wake of having my teeth pulled couldn’t have been much more enjoyable unless it had happened in some distant October. Can’t do anything about the calendar, though. We play ’em when we play ’em and we play whoever they suit up in their precious pinstripes. Here at the end of May 2013, we played the hell out of ’em.
As this week ends, I feel I’ve traded two upper molars for four magnificent wins. I also feel I got a very good deal.
And you get yourself a very good deal on some other very great Mets wins right here.