Some days you gotta take Randy Newman’s advice:
Roll down the window
Put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys, baby
Don’t let the music stop
The Dodgers blast “I Love L.A.” after every victory at Dodger Stadium. I’ve grown familiar with the custom over the past couple of seasons while the Mets were reliably providing the cue to press play. Chavez Ravine was taking its place among all the Turner Field wanna-be’s when it came to doubling as a pit stop of hell for the Metropolitan traveling party. Before Sunday, the last time the Mets prevailed at Dodger Stadium, Johan Santana earned the win. (It was also the last time Johan Santana earned a win in the major leagues.)
Through six consecutive appearances, we got ridden ’til we just couldn’t get ridden no more. Seemed like more. Seemed like a ton of nights of Nick Punto high-fiving Danny DeVito while Clayton Kershaw barely broke a sweat. As it happens, Punto’s no longer a Dodger, Kershaw conveniently pitched before this most recent Mets @ Dodgers series commenced and DeVito stayed out of camera range, at least while I was watching. The Mets lost Friday and Saturday with ease, anyway.
Sunday, though, was a good day for cranking up the Beach Boys, because we had fun, fun, fun ’til the charter flew our Metsies away.
The Dodger Stadium losing streak was snapped. The marine layer of misery dissipated to reveal sunny Southern California skies for the visitors. For a few precious hours, the Mets weren’t losing out the string and David Wright’s career wasn’t crashing to a premature end (even if he was exiting early in deference to neck spasms). Nobody from New York threw a ball away or squandered a golden scoring opportunity. Terry Collins’s strategery required minimal deconstruction. Everybody on our side did more or less what he was supposed to do. One guy on their side did a beautiful thing he really shouldn’t have done.
Fun, fun, fun — that’s three funs, as in three outs, with the third of them helpfully provided as coda to a relatively routine sixth-inning double play. Yasiel Puig was on second. Adrian Gonzalez was on first. Matt Kemp grounded to Eric Campbell at third, who threw to Daniel Murphy at second, who threw to Lucas Duda at first, who kept his eyes wide open and saw Puig galloping around third base and daringly heading for home…and by “daringly,” I euphemize politely but really mean “stupidly”. Duda threw to Travis d’Arnaud, who had time to enjoy a Dodger Dog and chat up Rob Reiner before tagging out the Wild Horse of the Oh Dear.
“Oh dear,” Don Mattingly must’ve been thinking regarding his most talented and least predictable player, who assured whatever small rally the Dodgers might mount against Bartolo Colon was nipped in the bud. It was 7-2, Mets, but one was in, two were on, nobody was out and Colon’s efficient Sunday — admirably crafted six days after the passing of his mother — looked like it might be gathering a little wear and tear. This was Dodger Stadium and these were the Dodgers. Plus, the Mets were still the Mets. You didn’t have to be in Napa Valley to sense the plates were preparing to shift.
But then Colon gets that grounder to third that becomes two outs and is going to move Puig to third. L.A. still has a conceivable threat in the bottom of the sixth if Puig just stands still. The game isn’t over. It can certainly get better for the Dodgers and worse for the Mets. After the way the Mets have played for the past few weeks, you don’t dismiss any possibility.
Though you weren’t exactly thinking “triple play”.
Puig seemingly wasn’t thinking much at all. By deciding he could pull a Mookie and score from second on an infield grounder, he put the kibosh on L.A.’s last, best chance to ruin the Mets’ flight home. Score it 5-4-3-2 for the eleventh triple play ever turned by the Mets, though you can’t help but credit Puig with an assist.
Energized by their around-the-horn fielding prowess, the Mets stretched their already formidable lead in the seventh to 10-2 and eventually won, 11-3. In truth, it would’ve been tough to lose a game that featured four Met homers, including two from Duda (five ribbies) and one apiece from d’Arnaud and unlikely offensive contributor Ruben Tejada. A blowout win may have been in the offing no matter what. But mix in a weird-ass triple play, and now you’re cubing fun.
Triple plays are always delightful as long as your team is on the right side of defensive justice, but it doesn’t always indicate good times all around. Sunday’s was only the third Met triple play to be tucked into a Met win. TPs graced successful box scores in 1965 and 2002, but the other eight — right up to the Angel Pagan festival of indecision from 2010 — occurred in Met losses. One could infer that if you’re allowing enough baserunners to enable triple plays, perhaps you’re going to be giving up too many runs to win. Or if you’re turning only eleven triple plays in 53 years, you’re as likely to detect a viable pattern as Yasiel Puig was to score from second on a ground ball to third.
This aberrational episode was indisputable fun, which every baseball fan deserves, even in a season sorely lacking it lately. The last time “fun” was applied to the Mets, it was when they weren’t losing any more than they were winning for a spell. “Hey, the Mets are a fun ballclub to watch,” I kept reading or hearing, which, in fact, made me cringe. When you have a good team, nobody points out how much fun that team is. The fun is implicit. You win, there’s fun. When you’re theoretically developing the ability to win, as the Mets were rumored to be doing a month or so ago, you are patted on the head as you are complimented over all the fun you’re having not experiencing the disproportionate amount of losing that has come to be associated with your product. Ever since we stopped playing Philadelphia and started playing everybody else, I hadn’t seen or heard a word about fun.
Today from Los Angeles, the fun presented itself without condescension or subtext. The Mets, their stubborn problems notwithstanding, won by eight runs and turned a triple play. If that ain’t fun, fun, fun, I don’t know what is.