The baseball rhythms were back Friday night at 10:10, albeit uncomfortably time-shifted. You’d have preferred them back at 7:10 PM. You’d have preferred them back at 7:10 PM the previous Monday, actually. Who wanted a pause when the cause was so glorious, when the momentum was so momentous? Who wanted the Mets to pack up their homestand hotness only to see the team luggage diverted south to Santiago when it was supposed to be headed west to San Diego?
We worried a lot and we stayed up a little and we were rewarded for our nocturnal vigilance sometime after 1 AM Eastern. The Mets stayed hot. Or the Padres stayed cold. Together the two melded just right.
I looked forward all evening to finally getting baseball back. Then, as the first two pitches were thrown to Curtis Granderson, I missed them. I was looking down at the second segment of my two-screen experience, not noticing my passion had returned in full. “What — there’s two strikes already?” So I looked up from the iPad and squarely at the television. The Grandopolis (my new private nickname for our dynamic leadoff hitter — I don’t think John Sterling ever called him that) shook off those two strikes and singled to ignite things in earnest. There was Curtis on first, twirling an imaginary towel, as if to cool off the heat that successfully arrived on the same flight as the Mets’ winning streak.
Three runs were generated with two out in the top of the first and a fourth came to be in the top of the third. The Mets held a commanding 4-0 advantage, our Not Terrible team well out in front of one of the few collectives a person should feel prohibitively confident about leading. Yet the Padres are nobody’s patsies. Not ours, anyway. Petco Park has been a stealth Turner Field for the Mets over the past decade, seemingly every game there ending 2-1, usually when Scott Hairston hits a home run in the wrong uniform or Scott Schoeneweis hits somebody I’ve never heard of and will hear of again with a bases-loaded pitch.
Still, 4-0 versus a team whose batting average was .214 and whose on-base percentage was Why Bother? Figuring the Mets had everything under control, my attention wandered. A bowl of cereal called me into the kitchen.
Somewhere between sprinkling the Truvia and pouring the Lactaid, the opposition replaced its ripe bananas with actual bats. The offensively somnambulant Padres woke up and etched four runs onto the board versus the previously machinelike Bartolo Colon. Colon may not be streamlined but he’s usually efficient. Yet the Padres put all their Sisyphean might behind pushing a quartet of tying tallies up his hill. Watching them grind away reminded me of watching us struggling to score during the first three months of this season. It took forever, it was fraught with doubt, but somehow it eventually got done.
Dismayed that the game had gone to 4-4, I snuck over to Channel 5 to watch the conclusion of the two-part 30 Rock whose first half ran the night before (Liz and Criss go to Ikea on Valentine’s Day). Part I aired when there was no baseball. Now there was baseball and it was feeling uncomfortably familiar. The Mets’ first game after the All-Star break is when the orange and blue boulder traditionally begins to rumble downhill. We hadn’t won the first game of the so-called “second half” since 2008, which also happened to be the last season when both Met halves came together for a winning record.
So for a half-hour of flipping back and forth, I watched more 30 Rock than I watched Mets. If I was going to be sitting up after midnight for a rerun, it might as well be something that made me laugh.
The Padres feature several distinctive relievers. Inconsequential 2011 Met Dale Thayer, whose hirsuteness Keith Hernandez compared to President Chester A. Arthur’s; Alex Torres, who wears the big, ridiculous, unwieldy cap but may laugh best when he’s still standing from a line drive roaring straight at his noggin; Kevin Quackenbush, who’s got the name “Quackenbush,” plus he went to my alma mater, so I’d be rooting for him against anybody else, I suppose. The distinction the guy with the hair, the guy with the hat and the guy formerly with the USF Bulls have in common is they tamed the Mets, who all but quit hitting between the fourth and the eighth. Then again, once Colon malfunctioned, Dana Eveland and Jeurys Familia successfully reset the Padre order to sleep mode.
Which was something I was contemplating entering once the shredded wheat was safely digested. But this was the Mets on the West Coast, one of those crosses a fan must bear in the course of a season, particularly a season that was just unnecessarily interrupted for five long days.
Must stay alert…
Must make it to the final if potentially disappointing result…
But this trip to Petco brought treats! The kind my cats gleefully roll around on the floor over and hopefully don’t throw up five minutes later! The ninth inning saw the Grandopolis land on first with a walk, take second and third on two consecutive outs and zip home when Travis d’Arnaud had one of those at-bats that will become part of his SNY highlight montage for the rest of the year. Wisely laid off Joaquin Benoit’s tempting two-one pitch. Swung through high likely ball four to make it a full count. Then went the other way with élan.
Not sure why the opposite of pulling the ball is “going the other way” as opposed to “pushing the ball,” but that’s for thinking about when I can’t sleep. As the Mets took a 5-4 lead, I was growing plenty drowsy but was glad I maintained alertness so as to witness Travis’s maturation process (3-for-5, pair of ribbies) continue apace and Jenrry Mejia dance away with another save.
Td’A made t’dAy a good day when it was in its wee-est of hours. The Mets extended their winning streak to five and cobbled together their first eight-of-nine in four years. The last time they were 1-0 post-break they improved their overall record to 52-44. At 46-50, that lofty level thus far eludes them, but maybe not for long, probably not forever.
The late-night start times can unmercifully challenge the eyelids, but you don’t need Annie Lennox to tell you sweet dreams are made of this.