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Destination Somewhere

The 2016 New York Mets will play a 163rd game.

We know that much, even as we’re desperate to know more.

The Mets beat a lifeless-looking Phillie team on an odd night at Citizens Bank Park, with a brisk, chilly wind knocking down anything hit to center or right. In the early going Ryan Howard [1] tried to hit one out and failed, as did Lucas Duda [2]. When behemoths like that come up short, you realize a different game is afoot.

Fortunately, the Mets have diversified their offensive portfolio in recent weeks. In the fourth, after three innings of working Alec Asher [3] into hitters’ counts with nothing to show for it, they broke through with four straight singles by Yoenis Cespedes [4], Curtis Granderson [5], Jay Bruce [6] and T.J. Rivera [7] for a 2-1 lead. Add in a home run by Bruce and some late-inning slapstick and five runs was more than enough [8] to support Robert Gsellman [9], who turned in six innings of fine work before handing the ball off to Fernando Salas [10], Addison Reed [11] and Jeurys Familia [12].

Extra credit goes to Granderson, who ran down Jimmy Paredes [13]‘s drive at the center-field fence in the sixth, squelching the Phils’ best bet to come back in the game. And a tip of the hat to the baseball gods for whatever that was in the eighth. With runners on the corners and one out, Cespedes hit a pop into the wind behind first, above Howard’s head. The breeze didn’t drag the ball very far away from Howard, but by now he’s become a sessile fielder, and it was enough. The ball just missed plunking a retreating Jose Reyes [14] in the helmet and caromed off first base. A befuddled Cespedes wound up on first, a wide-eyed Reyes was forced at second, but meanwhile Alejandro De Aza [15] was scooting home for a run. No one in the booth could recall such a play in their collective decades of experience; from the expressions on the faces of Reyes and Cespedes, it was new to them too. Come to the park and you really might see something you’ve never seen before.

Before we move ahead to ponder a rather important weekend, let’s stop for a moment and appreciate the key personnel behind what would have been a ho-hum win if not for the intersection of the calendar and the standings.

And yet this band of irregulars, deployed in ever-shifting combinations through Terry Collins [18] audibles, not only beat the Phillies but has the Mets guaranteed of playing extra baseball this year.

So who do we play and when? We can’t answer that one, not with the Mets, Giants and Cardinals stacked up like 86-, 85- and 84-win airplanes trying to land on a runway with two spots. We could play the Giants, play the Cardinals, or watch as those two teams play each other in a play-in game for the play-in game. We could play in San Francisco, in St. Louis, or at Citi Field. We could even join a modern barnstorming campaign to break a three-way tie, a spectacle that would end with the surviving team staggering into Chicago and activating its bat boy to pitch against the Cubs.

(Hey, if that’s the way forward, we’ll take it.)

But right now we know one thing the Giants and Cardinals don’t — we’re getting a 163rd game. After the dismay of August, I won’t call that a miracle — we only bring that word out for once-in-a-generation events — but it sure is amazin’.