I’m sure there have been worse showcases for baseball. I’m sure I’ve even seen a few of them. But it’s hard to think of any at the moment.
My God, that was a horrible, horrible, horrible baseball game inflicted on blameless fans and viewers by the Mets and the Brewers. I gave up trying to keep track of the atrocities sometime around the third inning, throwing up my hands and letting the game degenerate into a blur of Brewers being thrown out by 10 feet, kicking balls into the outfield, flopping in the general vicinity of balls they should have had, and otherwise commencing to play stupid. The Mets had their own problems early on, but they seemed to right the ship, while the Brewers kept scooping up buckets of seawater and pouring them into the boat. It was like a “Benny Hill” sketch with all the roles played by Jar Jar Binks, a travesty so profound that eventually even Keith was overwhelmed — his metronomic sighs lapsed and then went silent, leaving him to stammer out a meek protest every so often about the decline of everything. When Carlos Gomez got himself thrown out at third with Milwaukee down four in the seventh, I just shook my head sadly. All that was missing was Dallas Green staring gape-mouthed at the field, so shocked that he momentarily couldn’t remember how to be outraged.
Amid the mess, some quick notes on Mets who managed to attract attention for positive reasons.
Ike Davis: Shalom y’all, he’s back. (Hey, Ike greeted everybody in the clubhouse with “shalom.” Just using the material I’m given.) My first glimpse of the prodigal son was disappointing — he still has that crazy hitch and 53 million other moving parts to his swing, making you wonder how he ever hit in the first place. But then I asked myself what, exactly, I thought I’d see — Ike was still going to look like Ike, not Pete Rose or Jerome Walton or Jeff Bagwell. Guys don’t retool a lifetime’s worth of batting over a couple of weeks wandering in the desert, no matter what commandments Wally Backman has to offer. He looks more patient, and that’s not nothing — his at-bats got better as the night went on. At his worst earlier this year, you felt like Ike was out before he stepped in for the first pitch. For a night at least, he wasn’t being baited into launching a long swing at junk he could only tap to an infielder, and it showed in the box score. Progress? Ask again in a day, and then in a week. But for a night? Sure. Progress.
Zack Wheeler: Reason 19,346 that it’s great to be a power pitcher is that you can survive on nights you don’t look particularly good. Wheeler was wild early, with his fastball leaping out of the strike zone in every conceivable direction, like a dog who’s been in the house all day straining at the leash. Fortunately for Wheeler, he was also throwing 96, meaning most of those misdirected fastballs went for balls or walks instead of shots up the gap. Like Ike, the most encouraging thing was that he got better, culminating in his 1-2 punchout of Juan Francisco as the tying run in the bottom of the fifth. The last pitch Wheeler threw all night was also the best pitch he threw all night. Can he build on that? I don’t know, particularly with the Mets braintrust giving him wildly contradictory advice nearly every day. (Don’t throw all fastballs! Throw more fastballs! You’re tipping your pitches! Quit worrying about tipping your pitches!) Tune in five days from now and we’ll begin to find out.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: It’s probably just a hot streak, but the mulleted one has a pretty good thing going between his late-inning heroics against Arizona and his four-hit, two-walk, five-RBI performance tonight. Granted, massive hurler Johnny Hellweg and his successors were handing out walks to everybody who asked, but as with Ike, the most promising sign for Nieuwenhuis is that he’s doing fewer bad things — namely, getting himself out without making pitchers break much of a sweat.
But you know what? Enough. We won and they all count — even the ones where the entire other team plays like someone’s spazzy nephew mashing all the buttons on the controller at once.
And now that we’ve won, let us never speak of this one again.