- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Baseball Made Fun Again

I particularly liked the part where Bryce Harper [1] struck out. That I have to be more specific than that I also particularly like.

I’m referring to the top of the fourth, one out, nobody on, the Mets ahead of the Nationals, 2-0. Noah Syndergaard [2] is one-two on the consensus best player in the National League and…frozen. Syndergaard painted the black a shade of ebony ice. Harper didn’t know what to do with the most perfectly placed inside pitch you’ll ever see, so he stood and he took it for strike three. It was only the second out of the fourth inning, only the fifth of an eventual ten K’s unleashed by the Met starter, but it was surely a victory within a victory.

Great pitching had stopped great hitting. The law of the jungle had prevailed.

Baseball was fun again Tuesday night [3], which should have made Harper happy as heck [4], given that he pointedly referred to the sport as “tired [5]” in Spring Training. Coincidentally, the Mets looked tired on their recent road trip to nowhere, especially its last leg, which, of course, never happened [6]. Then they arrived home and woke up, starting their day with a nutritious breakfast consisting of sublime pitching and solo home runs.

You know, the breakfast of defending league champions.

Syndergaard ate up the Nationals with a spoon so as to get every drop: seven innings (apparently the modern-day equivalent of nine), four singles, one double, no walks, no runs and let’s not forget those ten strikeouts, including two of Harper. The line of Thor outpaced that of Max Scherzer [7], who went not quite as deep and failed to keep within the confines of Citi Field two fly balls to right. One was the very first pitch he delivered to Curtis Granderson [8], who in turn delivered it beyond the reach of Harper, who might tower over the game, yet isn’t tall enough to catch everything socked in his general direction. Granderson spent the bottom of every inning in which he batted as a baserunner of some sort, a happenstance that in 2015 tended to serve as gateway to triumph. Come the third, Michael Conforto [9] also sent a ball suitably out of fielding range, another splendid sign.

That gave Noah a two-run lead, an edge that held up without obvious muss or fuss the rest of the way. Addison Reed [10] and Jeurys Familia [11] each threw perfect innings to seal a much-needed 2-0 win, a definitive first blow in the projected 19-round battle for National League East supremacy. It’s a little early to be determining a division champ, but it’s never too soon to capture what feels from the outset like a very big game.

Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers in previous start. He struck out half as many Mets this time around. Subtract a few feet from Granderson’s and Conforto’s respective efforts, and perhaps this affair would have encroached into West Coast start time. Mad Max was almost as good as Thor, but not as good. Thor was both dominant and efficient and, as a result, the Mets were winners in two hours and thirty-two minutes. Even with pair of replay reviews mixed in — both from the Nationals, including one triggered despite their not having any challenges remaining (go figure) — it was a deliciously brisk evening.

Only one National made it as far as third base. Harper didn’t get on base at all. Friendly Ghost of October Past Daniel Murphy [12], the focus of some well-deserved appreciation upon his reintroduction to Flushing, blooped one single (beyond the reach of Neil Walker [13], appropriately enough) but was stranded alongside his .399 batting average in the on-deck circle as Harper grounded out to surprise third base starter Matt Reynolds [14] to conclude the contest.

That the Mets could top their first-place rivals behind Syndergaard is no surprise. That they could defeat Scherzer while featuring Reynolds in his major league debut at third and good old Soup Campbell [15] at first, well, that’s the Power of Thor, a scintillating blend of heat, location and savoir faire. His second strikeout of Harper, in the sixth, consisted of a sinker, a changeup and a backdoor slider [16]; talk about putting the Mjölnir [17] down. Someone who can outduel another elite ace and make you forget the stiff backs of David Wright [18] and Lucas Duda [19] can really inspire you. After he fanned Harper in the fourth, I was ready to don appropriate headgear [20] and parade through Times Square [21].

But then I would have missed Noah’s next four innings, and why would I want do that?

Heartfelt thanks to all who came out to Turn of the Corkscrew Books & Wine [22] on Monday night for a pulsating evening of Mets talk. When in the greater Rockville Centre area, I heartily suggest visiting the independent bookseller on North Park Avenue. They stock some fairly Amazin’ items [23].