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Lunch Angle

You want home runs at Citi Field, perennially notorious [1] as a launching pad for next to nothing? Met home runs, that is? Then slate your Saturday dates for when many are thinking that it would sure be delicious to have a ballgame with lunch. An in-depth exploration of all Saturday 1:10 Met home starts during these past six seasons reveals they are the source of a recurring home team power explosion that could transform the grim Astoria night [2] into a glorious shade of orange as well as blue.

Granted, our control group study is three games, which is to say the only three Saturday 1:10 games the Mets have scheduled since 2014. Management got it in its head that Mets fans don’t enjoy sunny Saturday afternoons as much as they savor the dark of Saturday night, hence the only time we get a Mets game like it oughta be in terms of scheduling on the seventh day of the week is late March/early April. One assumes the 126th Street decisionmakers would prefer to stick fans outside to freeze past 7:10 PM every night of the week, but maybe somebody in those offices took the last Weather Education Day to heart.

If anybody was taking on-field success into account, they might notice Saturday 1:10 PM first pitches have served to cultivate an atmosphere where baseballs fly off of Mets bats and the vast majority of the crowd leaves overjoyed with the ensuing result and the chance to devote the evening ahead to other, indoor pursuits. Saturday afternoon, April 5, 2014 [3], gave us Curtis Granderson’s first home run as a Met and Ike Davis’s last, the latter a pinch-hit walkoff grand slam to defeat the Reds, 6-3. Saturday afternoon, March 31, 2018 [4], saw Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes (remember them?) each go deep in support of Jacob deGrom, contributing to a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals.

The undeniably successful albeit small sample size increased by 50% on Saturday afternoon, April 6, 2019, with more Mets home runs. Lots more Mets home runs…and just enough of other valuable stuff to ensure a Mets win that was as sunny [5] as the skies under which they were socked.

J.D. Davis [6], default third baseman — as in some opposition offense seems to be his defensive fault — put his wood where his leather sometimes ain’t and brought it to bear like crazy, hammering not one but two home runs off fancy Nationals free agent acquisition (back when teams signed fancy free agents) Patrick Corbin. Like every other ball that ignored walls, Davis’s duo, proffered in the fourth and the sixth, traveled far. J.D. doesn’t stand for Just Dingers, but we’ll definitely keep accepting as many of those as he can furnish us.

Davis shaped more of Saturday afternoon’s home run pie than any other Met but he was not alone in slicing up Nationals pitching. Robinson Cano [7] hit his first at Citi Field as a Met; he hit two there (and two at Shea Stadium) in some other uniform the affiliation of which escapes us for now. The eighth-inning blast off Justin Miller was the 313th of Cano’s career, placing him a scant 311 ahead of Pete Alonso [8]. Alonso is up to two overall, one at the ballpark where was born to slug. Pete won’t be fenced in by any stadium, but this one is clearly his. Has a rookie in the eighth major league game of his life ever seemed so ready to roll? Not just in deed (which in Alonso’s case was done in the eighth inning, just prior to Cano’s) but in manner. Pete jumps up and down after he hits ’em like we jump up and down when he hits ’em. The whole team seems to be following his excited lead. Or as the youngster who has yet to wear a Mets uniform in ten official games put it after the game, “Never count us out. Like the Mets saying is, ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’”

If at that point he’d asked for an ice cold Rheingold and directions to Ralph’s studio, I wouldn’t have been surprised and couldn’t have swooned any harder. He’s so Met! But, really, who here isn’t when the sun is out, the ball is airborne and the mood is buoyant? Four of the five Met home runs were belted by newcomers, yet this is no longer a Citi of strangers. You get used to your guys fast when they make you want to stand with them with open arms. Davis from Houston. Cano from Seattle (and somewhere else before that). Alonso from heaven’s sandlot. They’re J.D., Robbie and Pete. They’re from here these days and we’re not proofing at the door.

The fifth home run of five the Mets walloped Saturday, thus tying a record for the most the Mets have catapulted beyond barriers in their sometimes grudging ballyard, was a product of Michael Conforto [9]. He’s no stranger, no matter how Terry Collins and the disabled list conspired to keep us from getting to know him better for a few years. Michael’s dinger (he’s not really a Mike, is he?) soared in the sixth, a bit after J.D.’s. It was the 39th regular-season long-distance call of Conforto’s Citi Field career, placing him third among all Mets since 2009. He was previously tied with Grandy and is parked for a spell eleven behind David Wright, which doesn’t seem possible, yet adds up. Over David’s horizon awaits Lucas Duda with 71. Given the entirely non-collusive coincidental trend toward extending your young superstars before they ever find there was once such a thing as unencumbered free agency, it’s also worth noting Conforto’s bomb was the 77th of his career, meaning he’s 175 from matching Darryl Strawberry. Let’s allow for patience, health and contractual consent where that milestone is concerned.

All five Saturday sunshots were things of beauty. They were also each so special that they couldn’t be supplemented by something as mundane as a baserunner, which is to say the four Mets combined for five solo home runs. Two drawbacks to that artistic statement: 1) at the moment when the fifth home run became a souvenir, there were no other runs of any kind to join them along the Mets’ portion of the line score; 2) the Nationals also scored five runs. Starter Steven Matz [10] gave up none of them over five innings crammed with mostly effective pitches but there was one with Robert Gsellman on the mound in the sixth, driven in by Ryan Zimmerman, who has some nerve remaining active while his Virginia playmate Wright has stepped aside and sat down; another facilitated by some passed ball nonsense (charged to Wilson Ramos [11], not J.D. Davis, for it’s not always J.D.’s fault); and three Gillaspied off of Jeurys Familia [12]. So when we got those two homers in the eighth from Alonso and Cano, it wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing. It was necessary as hell to forge a 5-5 tie.

One more run was required to keep Saturday at 1:10 perfect and we weren’t about to be picky how we got it. Fortunately, the Mets proved there is more than one way to skin a Nat. With two out and the bases empty in the bottom of the eighth, Conforto doubled off of Tony Sipp, knee-nagged Jeff McNeil [13] arose from the bench to absorb a pitch to his shoulder for the greater good and Keon Broxton [14] took a big gulp out of Sipp, singling Conforto across the plate and the Mets into the lead. It wasn’t a home run, but other ways to score are also nice.

Just as nice was Edwin Diaz [15]’s zippy ninth inning: ten pitches, seven strikes, three outs to end Saturday’s early bird special, 6-5, at 4:23 PM. If you weren’t full from all the dingers, you could be off to a lovely dinner. Every Saturday should unfold in such a powerfully delightful manner.