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One of a Kind (Runs Affair)

That creature you thought you saw rumbling across the landscape at Citi Field late Friday night…it wasn’t your imagination. It was that most elusive of baseball figures, the Unicorn Score [1].

The New York Mets posted what was for them an unprecedented final, beating the Colorado Rockies, 14-2 [2]. Thanks to Baseball Reference’s Play Index tool and my selectively insatiable curiosity, we know that in the 8,864 official regular-season Mets games that preceded Friday’s (and, for that matter, the 89 games the Mets have played in the postseason), winning 14-2 had never happened. There had been wins by 14-0 twice, 14-1 four times, three each of a 14-3 and 14-4 nature, five 14-5s, a lone 14-6 and a pair of 14s doubling a duo of 7s, yet somehow in all the possible digital scenarios wrought when the Mets blow out opponents, it could never before be accurately reported, “The Mets won, 14-2.”

It can be now. We have a 14-2 Unicorn, our twenty-third Unicorn Score overall, our first since 17-0 galloped by last September [3].

For those of us who populate the Mets statistical underground, this was a huge get. Take another gander at all those wins directly or fairly proximate to 14-2, and you’ll understand why we’re beside ourselves with numerical joy. In the realm of anomalous results, it was unfathomable that this franchise could notch a 13-12 nailbiter [4] in its second year, a legendary 19-1 romp [5] in its third and toss in a 16-13 all-nighter [6] before it turned twenty-five, yet keep stepping around a seemingly more attainable tally far into its sixth decade. All told, once you count two 14-11 wins (one of them at Coors Field) and two 14-9 wins (both famously at Coors Field [7]), the Mets had previously prevailed 24 times while totaling precisely 14 runs, but somehow in 55½ seasons missed landing on the exact winning score of 14-2.

13-2 was achieved five times, 15-2 three times. 14-2 not at all. In its obscure way, it was as mystifying as not having had a no-hitter until 2012 [8] or a three-homer game at home until 2015 [9]. How do you win 14-1 four times and 14-5 five times but 14-2 never?

You don’t, not anymore, not when the Mets properly space fourteen singles, three doubles, two homers (from T.J. Rivera and Michael Conforto) and seven walks; Jacob deGrom tames Colorado in his usual if uncertified All-Star style (eight innings, four hits, one walk, eleven strikeouts — plus Jake singled twice on his own well-supported cause’s behalf); and video replay review works as it’s intended to, which is to say it prevents a third Colorado run and preserves the chance for a 14-2 Unicorn to see light.

The play of the game, brought to you by narrowly defined hindsight, occurred in the top of the sixth, deGrom nursing, as it were, a 9-2 lead. (The Mets have won 32 games by a final of 9-2, though none since April 3, 2011, constituting the longest current winning-score drought encompassing only single-digits; yeah, I keep pretty close track of this stuff.) With one out and DJ LeMahieu on third, Gerardo Parra lifted a fly ball to medium-deep left field. Yoenis Cespedes — en route to collecting four hits and, hopefully, rejoining the living — fired a throw to Travis d’Arnaud as LeMahieu took off. It was Cespedes’s arm at its strongest but not quite its most accurate. D’Arnaud gathered Yo’s bullet in on the second hop, just to the left of the plate before shifting his mitt quickly to tag the runner’s trail foot before the lead one could touch home. Umpire Mike Everitt said safe, but Terry Collins and his people saw different and challenged. Once the play appeared on the expansive screen beyond the outfield fence, everybody knew the call was going to be reversed. The Mets walked off the field before Chelsea would confirm the third out had indeed been registered, which as showing up umps goes, is way more effective than a manager kicking dirt ever was.

I don’t think the Mets defense was being rude to Everitt. They knew they had to hurry back to the dugout, grab their bats and start putting five more runs on the board to reach the unreachable stat. Three in the seventh, two in the eighth and Josh Edgin loading the bases in the ninth with two out before flying Pat Valaika to center made it so. It had happened — Mets 14 Other Team 2.

The blips that will make a fan happy. After four days of break-enforced nothingness, I would have settled for a baseball game of any shape or size. To get not just a win, but a win of contextually historic proportions, well, that’s a “welcome back” that will have you feeling warm all over, maybe afflicted by the slightest touch of the second-half fever. Noting the Mets picked up ground on the Rockies and moved to within 9½ Citi blocks of the second Wild Card might be a delusional [10] framing device, I grant you, but until Friday night, I could only imagine a 14-2 Unicorn Score.

You don’t have to imagine what it was like to be at Shea Stadium during the New York blackout of 1977. Patrick Sauer tracked down a half-dozen individuals with rich memories of that darkest of nights and wrote an engaging article about it, which you can and should read here [11]. One of his eyewitnesses (if you can be an eyewitness to pitch blackness) is my brother-in-law, former Shea Stadium vendor Mr. Stem, as we know and love him internally [12]. Due respect to the others in the story, his is the most entertaining account of the bunch.