You didn’t necessarily have to be there. You could glean just fine far from Citi Field what 12 runs in one inning looked like, felt like, even smelled like. It smelled like victory , of course.
But if you were fortunate enough to be at Citi Field on Friday night, you learned something that I doubt came through on television, radio or any outlet’s gamecast. You learned April 29 is the new New Year’s Eve.
What the hell am I talking about? Besides the fact that runs were streaming over Flushing like confetti above Times Square four months ago?
See, there was this between-innings timewaster that ran on the video board when the score was still all zeroes. The lovely Alexa of Branden & Alexa fame wrangled a seated fan to play Mets Jeopardy. She told the gentlemen that to win valuable prizes, he was going to have to answer a question, presumably in the form of a question, and that it had something to do with the letters “N” and “Y”. At this point, she promised, Neil Walker  was going to come on the screen and help him out with a clue.
Onto the screen flashed no image whatsoever of Neil Walker. Instead, we saw this:
“WHAT IS NEW YEAR’S EVE?”
No clue. Just cluelessness. The contestant did not hide his confusion. The host, deprived of the clip that was supposed to get her from Point A to Point C, tried to plow ahead as if nothing was askew. Neil Walker, nine April home runs to his credit, had other fish to fry, perhaps a couple of pitchers to fillet; we can’t blame Neil Walker for anything these days. Nevertheless, the entire sponsored enterprise was in jeopardy of imploding.
Yet the show must go on. Somebody paid for it. Alexa kept calm and pretended this was the plan, asking the fellow to give his best guess despite not having been asked a specific question. Plainly befuddled, he went with, “Uh…what is New Year’s Eve?”
Yup, that was the answer. It was right there, displayed in dead-on balls accurate  fashion that would have made Mona Lisa Vito proud. You couldn’t miss it, even if you couldn’t quite discern how it emerged without proper context. Maybe the Citi Field A/V squad decided cutting to the chase would guarantee a winning entrant. It reminded me of the time my seventh-grade English teacher was conducting a spelling test and, upon reading aloud a word, some wiseacre asked, “Can you spell it for us?” Reflexively, she did.
Everybody got that one right.
If you weren’t at Citi Field on Friday, you missed all this. But because I was there and my dear friend Jeff was there, and we tried and failed to comprehend how a simple game show conceit fell apart upon exposure to artificial light, a shtick was born. When Neil Walker came up in the bottom of the second and bunted for a base hit, we yelled, “NEW YEAR’S EVE!” And when Neil Walker batted again in the third, we repeated ourselves: “NEW YEAR’S EVE!”
When Walker missed a tenth April home run by a few eyelashes, settling for his first Met double and seventeenth Met RBI, we intensified the repetition of our catchphrase du nuit. “NEW YEAR’S EVE! NEW YEAR’S EVE!”
How perfect it would be, we decided, to make Neil Walker’s signature CitiVision graphic neither a cartoon ballplayer kneeling in prayer nor one going out for a stroll, but simply the “WHAT IS NEW YEAR’S EVE?” bullet that fired too soon. From now until whenever he leaves as a free agent, it would be his — and our — personal version of the Rally Monkey.
By this point it was Mets 4 Giants 0, what with Curtis Granderson  and David Wright  having started the bottom of the third with consecutive walks off Jake Peavy ; Michael Conforto  doubling in Grandy; and the presumably fit-as-a-fiddle Yoenis Cespedes  returning from most of a week sidelined to single and bring home the Captain and the Prodigy. Lucas Duda  walked directly thereafter — as did Bruce Bochy , albeit from the third base dugout to the mound.
Peavy pitched as if it really was New Year’s Eve, departing with the starter’s version of a blistering hangover, his ERA rising from 6.86 to 8.61. In came Mike Broadway  and, with him, the hip hooray and ballyhoo of a New York Met rockin’ eve just gettin’ rollin’.
No lullaby for Broadway, only an extended nightmare that commenced with the third pitch he threw to Asdrubal Cabrera . It became a double, the inning’s third, and it plated Lucas and Neil. Five pitches later, Kevin Plawecki  was walked. First and second, nobody out, a 6-0 lead, and it suddenly dawned on us there was more transpiring before us than just another Met offensive onslaught. Everybody had come up, one through eight, and everybody had gotten on. Steven Matz  was about to bat. By any measure, the Mets were batting around and then some.
And they were still just getting rolling. Because Terry Collins veers toward being no fun, he ordered Matz to bunt, as if Matz can’t hit, as if Broadway couldn’t be hit. In any event, Matz couldn’t bunt and struck out. The party paused for an instant.
Then it was back to lampshades on heads. Curtis drove a ball to deep right that, like Walker’s, looked like it would be traveling over a fence. Instead, it descended in front of the No Zone (as in No Homers  Allowed). Hunter Pence  made a play on it.
A very bad play. The Giants’ Sign Man  dropped a catchable ball. It was marked a single. Asdrubal scored, Kevin stopped at second. It was 7-0. Then David singled to load the bases and young Michael singled to push the margin to 8-0. The pace was a little too station-to-station for my tastes, to be honest. Then again, when it stayed 7-0 for more than a minute, I asked Jeff, in all seriousness, “How disappointing would it be if all we got out of this inning was seven runs?”
Man, these are some crazy times we live in.
Broadway was still pitching for San Francisco. Bochy didn’t guide his team to three world championships in five years rescuing lost causes. The reliever’s next task was to face Cespedes with the bases loaded. For anyone with a working knowledge of the Met record book, the setup was ideal. The most runs the Mets had ever scored in an inning was eleven. With one swing, that standard could be smashed, and who was more capable of swinging and smashing than Yoenis? I had seen it for myself three nights earlier when he came off the bench against Cincinnati  after several days of inactivity and cranked a three-run pinch-homer to left to turn around a game, extend a winning streak and, for all we know, redefine a season.
At 8-0, there was no longer a remotely reasonable claim to be made on disappointment. And if you were gonna prevail upon the fates to give you exactly what you wanted, shouldn’t you save that sweetest taboo for a spot where you really need the biggest of bangs? To ask Yoenis Cespedes to do what I wanted him to do might have amounted to using up one of a limited quantity of karmic favors, and for what?
For a record?
It was raining just enough to be bothersome, but not so much that I had to be such a wet blanket about wanting what I could barely bring myself to utter out loud. Yoenis Cespedes didn’t re-sign with the Mets so we could dream medium. Besides, Bryce Harper  insists baseball be made fun again . Who has been more fun since last August than Yo? What has been more fun since the middle of this month than rooting for these Mets?
Ah, screw it, I thought in silence. Hit a grand slam, Yoenis. Give us our record twelve-run inning.
“You got it, pal!” I’m pretty sure I heard him holler over the crack of his bat that sent Broadway’s first pitch in the general direction of the Great White Way. It was indeed a grand slam. It was indeed 12-0, Mets. All twelve had indeed scored in this, the longest third inning in the history of humankind.
Talk about your valuable prizes.
Yup, it was very New Year’s Evelike up in Promenade at this point, but I’d temporarily forgotten Jeff’s and my refrain from Mets Jeopardy and instead remembered all our old and new acquaintances down on the field with a single word…a single number, to be dead-on balls accurate about it.
“TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE! TWELVE!”
I typed it twelve times, but I might’ve shouted it twenty-four. I honestly couldn’t believe the Mets had just scored twelve runs in an inning for the first time in their history. It wasn’t as if I’d been dreaming since July 16, 2006, of surpassing the eleven runs that scored in the top of the sixth that night at Wrigley Field , just as the Mets tallying eleven within the span of three outs was a going concern once ten became the number to beat in the bottom of sixth at Shea Stadium on June 12, 1979 . But when these milestones approach, the desire to reach out and grab them grows overwhelming.
Just as the Mets have, huh? Without Cespedes in the lineup, they kept winning and were plenty imposing. With Cespedes, where between one and eight in their standard lineup is the letup for the opposing pitcher? Mike Broadway picked a very bad night to be an understudy to Jake Peavy.
Cespedes, though…what a star. In a ten-pitch span dating to the previous Friday in Atlanta, Cespedes came to the plate five times, took six swings, delivered four hits, totaled twelve bases and drove in eleven runs. And that was all while letting a debilitating bruise heal. Amid the twelve-run inning and eventual 13-1 win, Yoenis set two Met records of his own: most RBIs by one batter in one inning (six); and most consecutive games with at least one extra-base hit (nine). The Mets he surpassed in these respective realms were Butch Huskey  and Ty Wigginton . I liked Butch Huskey and Ty Wigginton just fine in their day. The days Yoenis Cespedes and these Mets are giving us, though?
Every day is Christmas. And every night is New Year’s Eve .