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Neil Before Clods

People go to the movies and yammer. They go to the symphony and fail to silence their phones. They go to museums to take selfies and be dumb. There’s no art form created by humanity that can’t be ruined by the presence of humans. Why should baseball be any different?

The always-dizzying Mets have had quite the run of self-induced drama recently. They’ve mismanaged injuries, thrown luckless journeymen to the wolves and are now embroiled in a made-for-talk-radio pissing match with recidivist prodigal son Matt Harvey [1].

If you were paying attention, Monday saw the Mets not disable Asdrubal Cabrera [2] (because this approach has yielded such spectacular results over the last couple of years) and dominate Twitter timelines as various people yelled about whether Harvey had been golfing or at some douche-bro club, felled by a migraine or brought down by up-whooping, texted no one because he was sleeping or texted the wrong people too late, and (presumably) whether he answered the door in Greenwich Village dressed in Batman PJs or his ESPN the Body ensemble.

(By the way, I’m trying to imagine what’s less fun than a late-night tete-a-tete with Mets security goons who want to take my temperature and assess whether or not my eyes are suspiciously red. I can think of stuff, but it’s a short list.)

I didn’t pay it much mind and don’t plan to, because I don’t really care — when I checked Twitter on Monday it was because I wanted to know if Gavin Cecchini [3] had been activated. (He hasn’t — presumably he’s been stashed in one of those depressing hotels by La Guardia, one hopes unaccompanied by Tony Tarasco [4].)

What I really wanted, once night fell, was a baseball game unencrusted by barnacles of nonsense. I wanted a theater without yakkers, a concert hall without cellphones, a museum without selfie sticks.

Fortunately, baseball can generally be relied on to provide that.

The Mets and Giants — a stubbornly enigmatic team and an inexplicably terrible one, respectively — collaborated to produce a perfectly serviceable baseball game that was exactly what I needed, particularly since it came with a happy ending [5].

It was an odd one — close but somehow not particularly taut. Part of that was Jacob deGrom [6]‘s inefficiency — his pitch count escalated dangerously, leading to his departure after six so-so innings. Yet he left with 11 Ks, and he got strikeouts when he really needed them, fanning Gorkys Hernandez [7] with a high fastball to end the fourth and Brandon Belt [8] and Hunter Pence [9] to end the fifth.

Points also for the curveball that Jerry Blevins [10] threw Belt to end the top of the seventh. It was pure evil, starting on a path that looked like it would hit Belt in the upper thigh yet winding up barely above the plate. Belt swung and missed, but shouldn’t feel too bad — he couldn’t have hit that pitch if he’d been armed with a machine gun.

Still, it looked like the Mets might fall short, and I was gritting my teeth thinking about having to write 500-odd words about losing by a skinny run because a stupid ball just barely hopped over a stupid fence. That happened to Neil Walker [11] in the first, as his double was transformed from the happily up-the-gap variety to the no-way-that’s-not-fair ground-rule variety, forcing Jay Bruce [12] to return to first instead of following Michael Conforto [13] home with the tying run. Instead of 2-2, it stayed 2-1 Giants.

The Mets tied it up in the fifth on T.J. Rivera [14]‘s double, fell behind immediately on a long Buster Posey [15] home run, then tied it up again on a pinch-hit double by Curtis Granderson [16]. But my mind went back to late-inning ties at Citi Field against the Giants and didn’t like the potential outcome. Nor was I particularly enamored of the idea of the two teams playing on and on before a chilled and punch-drunk clientele, not after having been sucked into the Yankees and Cubs re-enacting Verdun [17] last night.

Fortunately, the reliable part of the Giants’ bullpen chose this night to prove un-, which is really all Bruce Bochy [18]‘s team needs right now. Derek Law [19] wiggled out of serious trouble in the eighth by coaxing a double-play ball from single-thumbed stalwart Cabrera, and then Hunter Strickland [20] looked poised to do the same with two outs in the ninth, runners on first and second and Walker at the plate.

The pitch Strickland threw wasn’t that bad — it was a slider diving below the knee. But it was meant to slide to the outside of the plate, and instead it slid from the inside to the middle. Posey reoriented his mitt and stabbed at it, but he’s done this long enough to have suspected the ball wouldn’t reach its destination. Walker whacked it down the line into the exurbs of Utleyville, chasing Conforto home and the Mets’ latest misadventures away.

Well, at least a little. And at least for a night. Hey, sometimes that’s all you ask for.