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Lightning Strikes Twice

Back in June, Emily and I decided that a lovely summer night would be made even better by our attending a ballgame. So we did … and watched the Mets get no-hit by Chris Heston [1] and the San Francisco Giants.

I grumbled and groaned [2] for competitive and aesthetic reasons. The competitive reasons for not wanting my team to be no-hit and lose are, I’ll assume, obvious. The aesthetic reasons? From our perch in the Promenade we couldn’t see how well Heston was mixing or locating his pitches. All we saw was Met after Met after Met arriving at the plate, doing nothing of offensive note and departing — until the Giants were whooping it up.

Last night, Emily and I decided that though it was not a lovely night — in fact, it was windy, cold and thoroughly vile — the best way for us to spend our evening was by attending a ballgame. So we did … and watched the Mets get no-hit [3] by Max Scherzer [4] and the Washington Nationals.

Yes really. I don’t go that often — I think I attended around eight games this year. The Mets don’t get no-hit that often — I know that was the eighth time it’s happened to them. And yet there my wife and I were, stranded once again at the intersection of You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me and What the Hell?

If this is luck, someone else can have it.

At least there were some differences between the two nights. Our vantage point for Scherzer’s outing wasn’t that much better than it was for Heston’s — they were perfectly nice seats but unless you’re in the padded Shake Shack area you can’t really speak with authority about movement on pitches or working hitters or any of the stuff you can geek out about if you’re in front of an HDTV. (This is probably one reason I don’t go to Citi Field as often as I should.) But even from where we were, we could see the life on Scherzer’s pitches, and the Met hitters trying to steel themselves in the batter’s box, and we could tell that no one in orange and blue could catch up to what he was bringing. You needed a close-up view to appreciate how Heston was succeeding, but Scherzer’s performance was amazing to witness from any seat in the house.

Competitively it came with a silver lining too. Believe it or not, being no-hit does not mean you immediately surrender 10 games in the standings. The Mets are still National League East champs, as their new flag [5] accurately states — a fact that will come as news to the hysterical wing of Mets Twitter, and that was lost on the dopey, dyspeptic fans surrounding me and my wife last night.

Our section suggested the Mets got the promos wrong and Saturday was actually Wet Blanket Night. The guy in front of us was outraged at watching the Mets’ JV get throttled by one of the best pitchers in baseball on one of the most dominant nights of his life. The guy behind us was merely irritated, but perhaps that’s because he was busily mansplaining the game of baseball to his female companions, whose air of weary patience suggested this wasn’t a new experience. (Most of what he told them was wrong, which I think would surprise only him.) As for the guy at the end of our row screeching in outrage whenever Harvey threw a ball off the plate on an 0-2 count, I can’t even. I alternated wanting to throttle the lot of them with wanting to scream DUDES WE ARE GOING TO THE POSTSEASON, WE BEAT MAX SCHERZER WHEN IT MATTERED, SO CALM THE FUCK DOWN ALREADY.

The Mets are playing flat? I’ve noticed. Heck, it’s been impossible to miss. I’m not that concerned — one hallmark of the 2015 team has been routinely defying whatever it is we think we know about them. The Mets looked befuddled and tired against the Marlins ahead of their showdown with the Nats — and then effectively ended Washington’s season. They followed a grumble-inducing 3-6 homestand with annihilating the Reds. After Sunday’s game they’ll have four days off. It’s plenty of time to reset. And think of it this way: If the Met bats were hot, fans would be starting cars in garages while scribbling notes explaining that the layoff will obviously cause those bats to go cold.

(By the way, another team suffered the indignity of being no-hit twice this year. That’s right, it was the Dodgers.)

When the NLDS begins on Friday, the Dodgers will have home-field advantage. Eh, so what? If you want me to worry, bring up Juan Uribe [6]‘s sternum and Steven Matz [7]‘s back and Jon Niese [8]‘s learning curve as a reliever. Clayton Kershaw [9] and Zack Greinke [10] are no picnic whether the shadows are between the hitter and the mound or on the other side of the planet. But our starters aren’t exactly a day at the beach either — give me today’s pitching performances from Harvey and Noah Syndergaard [11] and I’ll take my chances with the Dodgers.

And let’s not forget the bigger picture. I wrote this a couple of days back, but it can’t be emphasized enough: The postseason is a crapshoot, a trio of exhibition series. Billy Beane [12] famously remarked that “my shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs.”

Well, job done — and oh what a joyous mission accomplished [13]. On Sunday that ends and we’ll wait for baseball’s autumn exhibition games to begin. I don’t know if we’ll get an ecstatic month that brings sweet memories for a lifetime or a few days of extra baseball followed by disappointment and winter. Either’s possible. If you’re tempted to make any prediction more specific than that, stop and remember the less-famous second half of Beane’s quote about getting to the playoffs: “What happens after that is fucking luck.”