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Hands at 10 and 2

It is one of baseball’s great curiosities that your sub-.500 team can leave its home park, whip a first-place opponent in its home park by a fairly uncommon score on a Tuesday [1] and do the exact same thing four days later to another first-place opponent in its home park. This particular phenomenon may not quite be the stuff of Unicorns [2] and Uniclones [3], but it is something you rarely see.

Actually, we never saw this specific combo until this past week: the Mets beating the Braves in Atlanta Tuesday night, 10-2, and then, Saturday afternoon crushing the Cubs in Chicago, 10-2. Same totals for and against, same road trip, same daunting punching-up challenge that didn’t intimidate our boys in orange and blue one iota…and two different pitching coaches overseeing the arms proportion of the equation. You can’t say the Mets don’t make things interesting for those of us who pay attention to the stuff on the margins.

These were the 24th and 25th 10-2 triumphs the Mets have ever posted. For those of you curious like me (and bless you if you are), here are a few juicy tidbits regarding some of the other 23:

• The Mets’ previous win when they had their hands where your high school driving instructor shouldn’t have told you to put them [4], at 10 and 2, occurred over more or less these same Cubs at Citi Field, July 1, 2016. It featured Brandon Nimmo’s first major league home run [5], along with a pair of blasts from Asdrubal Cabrera and one apiece from James Loney and, the night after he became the first batter to reach the Promenade level in regulation competition, Yoenis Cespedes. Of course Cespedes, like Nimmo a current resident of the 2019 Mets’ 40-man roster no matter that you probably haven’t recently thought about either of them any more than you have Loney or Cabrera, poked many a ball into Promenade in the 2013 Home Run Derby.

• Its direct 10-2 predecessor encompassed merely the clinching of the National League Eastern Division title [6] on September 26, 2015, in Cincinnati. That was less than four years ago. Honest it was.

• The 10-2 before that? Another visit to Atlanta, September 21, 2014, the delightful Sunday afternoon at the late, unlamented Turner Field when the Mets eliminated the Braves from postseason contention [7] and Jacob deGrom — same dude who shut down Los Bravos this past Tuesday — more or less ensured he’d be awarded Rookie of the Year hardware by striking out ten in six innings, back when ten strikeouts in six innings was also uncommon.

• The first 10-2 win in Mets history happened fifty years ago a week from today, June 30, 1969, at St. Louis, amid a season when the Mets were achieving many a glorious first [8].

• The most momentous 10-2 Mets win? You gotta believe it was Mets 10 Pirates 2, Shea Stadium, September 21, 1973. The eight-run rout simultaneously raised the Mets’ record to 500 and catapulted them past Pittsburgh and into first place [9].

Zack Wheeler [10], back to his second-half of 2018 self, tossing seven five-hit, one-walk innings that stayed a shutout into the seventh. Lavishly supported as he was, Zack didn’t need to be flawless, but he mostly was. Mets starting pitching does need to approach excellent as a rule, and the third start made under the watchful eye of apparent breath of fresh air Phil Regan [11] represented an encouraging step.

The power was sourced from Pete Alonso [12] and two others. No disrespect to Todd Frazier and Wilson Ramos, each adding eighth homers to their ledgers, but when Pete goes deep immediately, as he did in the first inning for a solo blast Bob Seger-style — against the wind — it’s hard to concentrate on what anybody else hits out. The Polar-izing figure’s 26th of the season tied him with Darryl Strawberry for the Mets rookie record and set the National League first-half rookie record, not likely the last time we use phrases involving “tied,” “set” and “record” where Pete and home runs are concerned. You already know the Mets record for home runs in a season is 41, shared by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran. Perhaps you remember that Cody Bellinger eclipsed the NL rookie mark long held by Wally Berger and Frank Robinson when he socked his 39th homer on September 22, 2017 (or perhaps you don’t, because the Mets of September 22, 2017, were just that captivating [13]). Bellinger finished his freshman year with 39. Alonso isn’t quite midway through his maiden voyage and he has 26, or two-thirds Bellinger’s sum.

Doing the math was never so much fun.

Speaking of fun, the baseball porn [14] was provided by Jeff McNeil [15] in that way game situations will make fans emit sudden noises of delight and satisfaction that you’d prefer polite company not overhear. In the second, Saturday’s second baseman (a.k.a. Friday’s right fielder/left fielder) slapped — I mean slapped — a low Jose Quintana fastball just inside the third base line with two out. It burrowed itself a narrow path between Kris Bryant and the bag, driving in the the second and third Met runs of the game, making the Year of the Squirrel [16] that much more sexy. Going the other way turns us on like crazy. Having McNeil do it in just this fashion…I don’t smoke, but I kind of wanted a cigarette. The only thing that ruined the mood was Jeff, per usual, getting himself tagged out trying to headily grab an extra base when he thinks the defense isn’t looking (with Alonso due up, no less). Just as well, maybe. I don’t know if I could have handled that much ecstasy at once.

Over nine innings would have been a different matter. Not that 10-2 a second time in a week didn’t do it for me, but for six innings, the Mets had something else spectacular going: the mythic picket fence, adorable baseball slang for scoring in every inning. The Mets have never done it. Hardly anybody has done it. National League teams have picketed across the scoreboard only seven times, and four of those occasions took place before 1900. The last NL game in which a pointy fence was constructed was 1999, by the Rockies at Wrigley. The last NL time before that was 1964 by the Cardinals at Wrigley. And before that? Not at Wrigley, but by New York (NL) in 1923, when our Giant forebears redecorated the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia.

Everything was going so great on Saturday, could the stars align for this marvelous little curiosity, too? The Mets kept hope alive in the sixth when they put one on the board via replay review. They didn’t desperately need the tenth run they got when Chelsea reversed the on-field call that mistakenly said Dominic Smith was out at second on Frazier’s grounder to deep short that scored Alonso from third, but dammit, they earned it.

Alas, as if the baseball gods ruled the Mets a bit greedy for demanding replay review while already leading 9-0, the fence ended three pickets shy of complete, so we’d have to settle for just another 10-2 win. We could definitely handle that much ecstasy.

Thanks to Baseball Reference [17] and Baseball Almanac [18] for the research assistance. The top of my head contains a lot of information, but not everything.