To put it in Verizonspeak, I’m “nowstalgic” for Friday night, the night I went to Citi Field and left toting a sack full of ebullience that fit my mood better than any single-sized free shirt will ever fit me. Friday night was my fifth game of the year. It was on target to be my fifth loss after the anti-Will Rogers, Gonzalez Germen, met a couple of bats he didn’t like. Then came the bottom of the ninth, when Steve Cishek was shelled at the seashore of Flushing Bay and the 3-2 defeat I dreaded having to enter in my Log morphed into a 4-3 victory I couldn’t wait to get home to ink for personal posterity.
Even the route home was giddy, from the unusual boister of “LET’S GO METS!” ringing the ballpark stairwells and concourses to my LIRR change at Jamaica when we Mets fans from Woodside converged with the Nets fans from Atlantic Terminal. They’d come from a playoff basketball game whose conclusion I followed on my phone just as the bottom of the ninth got to bouncing. The Nets had won and then the Mets had won and here on the platform, in my Nets hoodie (worn for solidarity and warmth) and my Mets cap (worn because it’s my Mets cap), I was happy for my basketball team but I was dreaming for my baseball team and speculating on just how soon we might be the ones crowding Jamaica after a postseason triumph of our own.
My baseball team was a robust 13-10, never mind that I was a scraggly 1-4 in games attended this year. The 13-10 felt a little more real than I would’ve dared imagine even a few games earlier. Since the last time the Mets had swung and completely missed, they had held on to a win via a 7-6-2 putout that giddied me up; and then proceeded the next afternoon to ride a very experienced horse of a starter to a series win over the N.L. champs; and then came back to quell the Marlins, who traditionally make their living quelling the Mets. Friday night, when we were down, 3-2, one of the guys I was with had to bolt, but he assured me, “They’ll win in the bottom of the ninth.” And they did!
Yeah, Friday…those were the day.
Saturday wasn’t. Saturday I was back at Citi Field at roughly the same hour I was Friday, which was too bad, since Friday night games are perfectly normal creatures on every patch of grass that doesn’t grow on the Near North Side of Chicago, but Saturday night games almost always feel alien to the baseball fan’s soul. Saturday afternoon is a most swell time for a baseball game, especially in April when your stadium is built by a body of water where stiff breezes come at you like line drives. Saturday afternoon implies sunshine and relative warmth and an ideal tableau for the distribution of plastic batting helmets.
Saturday night is when it gets dark and cloudy and cold and then it rains. It’s also when the one-game winning streak you’ve etched into your Log ends.
My Saturday night at Citi Field wasn’t all for naught. I got a batting helmet for my trouble — more suitable for my eight-year-old self, but a giveaway is a giveaway. I got a peek at a pregame rainbow. I got plenty of use out of my umbrella. I got the unforeseen pleasure of applauding a Bobby Abreu home run, the kind of event that used to cause only aggravation; live long enough and there’s no telling who you’ll cheer. I got a Blue Smoke grilled chicken sandwich which was a little dry but offered a nice little kick of chili or something tangy to it. I got reminded, as if I’d forgotten since the night before, that anything Chris Young has got is not a rental, that Eric Young, Jr., seeks eternal youth and that Travis d’Arnaud prefers to arrive in Queens by cruising down the West Side.
You go to enough games, you become intimate with every regular’s walkup music. You go to enough losses, you grimace at the opening strains of “New York State Of Mind” following the final out because it is defeat’s walkaway jingle. And indeed, I walked away from Citi Field cold, wet and 1-5 on the season. The Mets were down to 13-11 and not inspiring many dreams. They led by four runs early and I allowed myself to ever so tentatively plan the post I’d be writing in six months about how I didn’t believe at first, but when the Mets had that great homestand in late April, even I had to stop being so crabby and admit something kooky was cooking with this 2014 club we are now celebrating for having won…
My bad. The moment I get presumptively cheery is when games go to hell, which, if you check that Times map real closely, is where the Marlins have their most loyal fans. It was positively devilish how Abreu homered in the first, Mejia dominated through five and everything fell apart anyway, as the Mets basically quit hitting over their last couple of dozen at-bats. Because the Marlins were the opponent, proceedings had to be extended into at least a tenth inning. Because we were banking on Kyle Farnsworth the way we were banking on Jose Valverde a couple of weeks ago, there didn’t seem much chance an eleventh inning would ensue. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s home run appeared to have been a double from where I sat but then the catcher with the name that looks like it could go 20 innings was waved home and nobody put up any kind of fuss, and that was pretty much that, 7-6.
I was impressed that for the penultimate out Daniel Murphy argued strike three and got himself ejected from a game that was about to end. His dismissal allowed me to hope against hope that another of the Mets’ patented Opportunitease-type rallies would succeed just enough to plate a tying run. That way we could find out if Kirk Nieuwenhuis could play second in the eleventh, because every other potential reserve infielder had already been used, but there was no eleventh. There was just dampness and dourness and the fading feeling of Friday’s fun giving way to a sour Saturday approaching midnight, another L to reluctantly register in my Log and another lesson proffered that 162-game seasons rarely reveal their true intent before May makes its initial appearance.