So I went to Saturday’s Mets baseball game — it was 1973 Playing Cards Day, for gosh sake, the Wilponian equivalent of 52 tiny old-timers shuffling out of a plastic-coated, Caesars-branded pack for our brief nostalgic reverence — and a marathon broke out. Yup, another long one from those wonderful folks who brought you the extended mix of Marlins 2 Mets 1 on June 8. Actually, do 12 innings and 3:46 count as long for us anymore? Only when matched against the games normal teams play.
Define normal. I’d say a normal team plays mostly nine-inning games, concludes them within approximately three hours of their starting times and includes among its batters one indisputable hitter. Not a guy having a pretty good year or a better year than expected or the year of his life or regressing to the mean from an atypically monstrous month, but “the guy you can’t let beat you”…whatever that means (why would you want to let anybody beat you?).
Our normal threat is David Wright. David Wright is the one who makes most every play and gets pitched around as much as possible when games march grimly into extra innings. David Wright is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. That probably puts him out of action until sometime in September. It ought to put him out of action until sometime in September. Anybody who lets David Wright hurry his hammy back to the basepaths should be sued for extreme superstar negligence.
In the meantime, the Mets play their daily 11 or 12 or 20 innings with a lineup that when you come up the Rotunda escalator and see it laid out in Topps form, you look away out of politeness. Alas, it also awaits you inside the seating bowl where it is incapable of doing much more than keeping you firmly seated. There’s not a lot to stand up and cheer when your No. 3 hitter is Josh Satin and your third baseman is Justin Turner. No offense, guys. No offense from any of you guys all the live long day.
The Mets managed to keep the Royals on the field for twelve innings nonetheless. Jeremy Hefner overcame his one weepy inning to toss several worth a hint of a grin. The bullpen — Germen to Feliciano to Atchison to Rice — provided a smooth ride from the sixth through the eleventh. I’m guessing they were outstanding, not that the Kansas City Royals were overtired. The Royals have a winning record but remain something of a mystery in that they’re the Kansas City Royals and I am rarely impelled to analyze their strengths, weaknesses or idiosyncrasies.
I can report they still have a player named Hosmer, which was cause for personal celebration in that I still have a cat named Hosmer. And they have a pitcher named Bruce Chen who appears to be the same fellow I saw start five games for the 2001 Mets. But that can’t be correct a dozen years later…can it?
Also not terribly likely: Royals fans at Citi Field. But I swear to Saberhagen, I saw a whole…I’m not sure what the group form of Royals fans is. A covey of Royals fans? A tower of Royals fans? Perhaps a rhumba of Royals fans? However they are termed, their species is generally considered quite exotic in the northern climes of Queens County. Saturday, however, there was practically an entire warren of them.
The Mets staged two successful rallies. One of them consisted solely of a second-inning solo home run from Daniel Murphy while it was still cold and rainy (there were also stretches of Saturday’s game that were hot and oppressive as well as breezy and pleasant — don’t tell me there’s no such thing as climate change). The other, emanating in the eighth inning, was from out of the ol’ earthball playbook, wherein everybody has to gather ’round and push an entire oversized sphere to its ultimate goal like something out of Sisyphus or maybe the Stonecutters. That’s how the Mets roll these days: slowly and clinging to each other for support. An Andrew Brown pinch-hit, a Salvador Perez passed ball, a Juan Lagares infield single, a Lagares stolen base and a Satin single…why, it was a trip to bountiful! Two whole runs! Tie game!
Extra innings were right around the corner. They had to be. The 2013 Mets refuse to release you on your own recognizance any sooner.
Sadly, the Wrightless Nine (which eventually included every position player Terry Collins could spell) was done creating bounties after the eighth. Also sadly, David Aardsma has stopped being Aawesome the way Don Aase ceased to Aalphabetically Aamaze in his one year out of nowhere as a Met, in 1989. Aardsma, as temporary replacement for Bobby Parnell, seemed to be heaving rather than throwing, just as Marlon Byrd is probably pressing as he attempts to fill the absent Captain’s Nikes. Justin Maxwell, of September 30, 2009 walkoff infamy, took Aardsma inside the left field foul pole in the top of the twelfth, and that would be all the pen would write on this day.
Not to be overlooked in the aftermath of the 4-3 loss was the ephemeral presence of Isaac Benjamin Davis. See, when I was coming up that Rotunda escalator and absorbing the majesty of the Mets lineup in the company of my pal Ben (who graciously invited me to join him for the afternoon), we audibly concurred that without Wright — or “him” — 40 miles of bad road probably awaited. Though we spoke to only each other, we were intruded upon by an unsolicited opinion, courtesy of an older, crustier lady Mets fan who saw fit to remind us that we weren’t doomed without David Wright because Ike Davis was coming around.
Yeah, we nodded, maybe, but Ike’s not starting today and, you know, he’s still this year’s version of Ike, recent incremental steps forward notwithstanding.
“NO!” she interrupted. “YOU’RE NOT FUCKING LISTENING! HE HAD VALLEY FEVER! IT TAKES YEARS TO GET OVER THAT! SOMETIMES YOU NEVER GET OVER THAT!”
For good measure, she growled that precise sentiment two or three times more. Or as Ben, who’s spent far more time in the valley fever breeding ground of Arizona than most New Yorkers, put it later, “I was listening. I just didn’t agree.” And come to think of it, if Ike is still suffering from valley fever, which we sure hope he isn’t, how is that supposed to inspire confidence in his prospective performance?
We didn’t see her anymore during the game, but we did have a fellow sitting in front of us who (aside from informing us, apropos of absolutely nothing, that he once saw Sandy Koufax pitch) now and again turned around to let us know what the Mets had to do in any given inning. The gent’s solution to the offensive malaise was always the same, no matter which .164 hitter was due up next:
“Terry’s gotta pinch-hit Ike Davis here.”
I liked that strangers’ stray baseball thoughts were intermittently seeping into Ben’s and my conversation. That should be happening at Citi Field. It happened at Shea Stadium. But this guy’s entire philosophical oeuvre consisted of the absolute necessity of deploying Ike Davis to hit for Recker. Or Quintanilla. Or Turner. Or Satin. Or Hank Greenberg, Harmon Killebrew and Pablo Picasso if the game had gone on long enough.
Eventually Ike was double-switched into the game at first base…seconds after his patron departed (I guess he had to beat the traffic so he could tell a tolltaker about that time he saw Koufax). I was like, where’s the Ike Davis dude? Seriously, Ike Davis was playing! Ike Davis was looking past his valley fever and whatever other maladies may or may not be still affecting him and was in this very game! WHY WAS THIS MAN NOT FUCKING LISTENING?
Son of a gun, Ike never got to bat. He was left on deck when Quintanilla struck out to end the game in the bottom of the twelfth.
Gosh darn it all to heck.