During the first game Wednesday, the Mets scored practically at will. Michael Conforto, newly anointed leadoff hitter for however long Terry Collins can resist sitting him, was a perfect fit at the top of the order, singling in the first, homering in the third. Yoenis Cespedes was Yoenis Cespedes for a second consecutive night. Asdrubal Cabrera was clutch for a second consecutive year. Vince Velasquez, whatever his gifts, was no match for our muscular Met mashers.
I enjoyed this game very much.
During the second game Wednesday, Zack Wheeler emerged as the star you were sure he was about to be when last he was a relatively permanent member of the Met rotation. Zack gave up little in the first and second, nothing in the third, fourth and fifth. About all the Phillies could do in response was step out of the box in an attempt to disturb his timing. Wheeler’s timing was disturbed for two years, yet here he was pitching as if he’d never missed a start. You think hitter hijinks are going to throw him off? The impenetrable righty defended the 5-0 lead like an ace.
I enjoyed this game very much as well.
During the third game Wednesday, in the bottom of the sixth, Wheeler the ace was — because this will happen in a pitcher’s second start after two years’ absence — huffing and puffing in an effort to blow away three more batters. The wolf, however, wouldn’t exit the doorway. Zack got two outs but loaded the bases. Away went Wheeler, along came Hansel Robles, making his eighty-fifth appearance of the thus far nine-game season…check that: it was his third night in a row pitching. Seems like more. Robles is too talented to dismiss, to enigmatic to trust fully. Enigmatic is one of those words you use when you want to acknowledge a reliever’s talent but chronically cringe when he shows up with runners on base, especially when all of the bases have runners. Cringing turned to caterwauling when the first pitch Robles threw to Maikel Franco turned into a grand slam and chopped the Mets’ lead to 5-4.
I did not enjoy this game at all.
During the fourth game Wednesday, I assumed we were screwed. Early on, I flicked away my superstitious impulses and began to mentally pencil in a series sweep and fourth consecutive victory overall. Now I was skipping over the part where I kick myself for presumptuousness and moving on to questioning my priorities. These Mets and these Phillies are out of my control, yet here I am entrusting my prospective happiness to their machinations. I entrusted it to Hansel Robles, and now I’m teetering on the emotional abyss. True, the Mets were still ahead, 5-4, but they weren’t touching the Phillies’ pen (Cespedes was particularly flummoxed by Pat Neshek) and Collins was letting Robles start the seventh, which seemed to be a death wish. The score was Mets 5 Phillies 4, which is to say the Mets were winning, but in my mind it went from Mets LOTS Phillies nada to Phillies ruining a season that was shaping up so nicely, why can’t we get more starts of at least seven innings, why is there nobody but Robles to bring in, why am I ensnared in this psychological trap? And are we sure Ryan Howard and his 48 homers cracked at the expense of Met pitching aren’t lingering menacingly over by the bat rack, never mind that the last of once-hot Phillies signed a minor league deal with the Braves last week?
I think my lack of enjoyment of this game is evident.
During the fifth game Wednesday, the Mets hung on to win, 5-4. No, they didn’t do any more hitting to speak of, but neither did the Ryan Howardless Phillies, the lot of them succumbing to Robles (he stayed through only one batter in the seventh), Blevins, Salas and Reed. They all contributed to Wheeler’s ability to wear that weirdly charming Player of the Game crown afterwards. They all pitch too often, too, but what are you gonna do in this day and age? After the second game of the season, the one the Mets lost in twelve to the Braves, a lady on the idling 7 express asked me why deGrom had to come out when he did despite having been brilliant. I said, a little sarcastically, well, you know, he went six innings. And the lady, earnest as the dickens, asked me in all sincerity if that’s now the rule in baseball because she remembered when starting pitchers went nine. No, I said, that was just a frustrated comment on how pitchers are used now. The lady thanked me. She was very nice. So was winning our fourth in a row and moving into sole possession of first place by Wednesday evening’s end, despite enduring my first bullpen-induced philosophical crisis of the season and surely not the last.
I was fine with this game.