- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Double Shifts at the Superlative Factory

The rocket ride, amazingly, continues.

In front of a packed, delirious house, the Mets kept on playing baseball with verve and swagger and a talent for the impossible whenever it was necessary. From Noah Syndergaard [1] shaking off some early stumbles (though Juan Soto [2] will make even a sure-footed pitcher miss a step or two) to home-run heroics from J.D. Davis [3], Wilson Ramos [4] and Luis Guillorme [5] (yes, Luis Guillorme) and clutch relief from Seth Lugo [6]. Heck, even Mickey Callaway [7] has showed some welcome flexibility.

I’m in Gettysburg, Pa., for a family reunion that distant cousins very kindly invited me to. Did you know Gettysburg is within the Nationals’ blackout territory? Neither did I. That’s meant the last two nights have been a Howie-and-Wayne affair — which has been about the best Plan B one could imagine. Howie’s been terrific, fully present in the drama and determined to make you love what’s happening as much as he’s loving it.

On Friday I was in a Greek restaurant as the game began and contented myself with Gameday until I got out to the car and joined the radio feed. But not Saturday night. On Saturday night I was nervous, obsessively checking whether it was game time yet and making sure I was in position to hear every word.

I was also thinking about Emily and Joshua, who were at Citi Field. They’d gone in part because I’d pleaded for a Hawaiian shirt but also because Joshua has been as caught up as anyone in the Mets’ unlikely ascent to relevance and beyond. My kid’s relationship with baseball and the Mets has ebbed and flowed over the years; on Friday, he persuaded his mother to walk for a while before getting on the subway so he wouldn’t lose the audio feed — a show of faith that was rewarded. But he’d never been to Citi Field when it was packed with fans roaring and baying and trying to conjure their desires into reality through sheer will and maximum volume.

I’ve been to plenty of big games that fizzled, which is an occupational hazard of letting yourself get excited, but I had an additional reason to hope Saturday night’s game wouldn’t be one of those. For a little while it looked like that would indeed happen, but Syndergaard steadied himself and the Mets were lurking against Patrick Corbin [8]. Davis and Ramos together equaled one Soto, and I thrilled both to Howie’s call of the back-to-back shots and to the replay, once I got to see it. Davis’s bat flip was a thing of beauty; so was the pose struck by Ramos, a split-second after hammering a ball out of sight.

And when Soto struck again, there was Guillorme, of all people, to get us even. Guillorme has long been one of my favorite Mets, with sure hands and superlative instincts — he always knows what he wants to do if the ball comes to him, and the game never speeds up on him when the unexpected happens. I grumbled and groaned when Adeiny Hechavarria [9] got the call instead of Guillorme, just as I muttered and moaned when the Mets refused to give him a long enough stretch of playing time to show what he could do.

Well, now he has — just ask Fernando Rodney [10], who spread his arms in disbelief and despair as Guillorme’s first big-league homer sailed into the right-field seats. It got no easier for Rodney: Joe Panik [11] reached on an error and Jeff McNeil [12] singled. Against Daniel Hudson [13], Amed Rosario [14] came within a whisper of slamming a ball into center (and, OK, also within a whisper of hitting into a double play), moving the runners. to second and third. Dave Martinez [15] opted to abracadabra Pete Alonso [16] to first, loading the bases with one out, and up came Davis.

An 0-2 count, but Davis has made immense strides this year (funny what happens when you let young players play), and he drove Hudson’s fourth pitch to Adam Eaton [17] in right, deep enough to score Panik, then gave the universe a satisfied nod and a raised fist: mission accomplished.

Through it all, the fans were roaring — Emily and Joshua among them. You could hear them on the radio, a welcome addition to the soundscape; you could practically feel them making the screen shake on the highlights. As for me, I was wearing out the carpet in a two-foot path, back and forth across my hotel room, cajoling and begging and exulting and worrying.

The Mets being the Mets and baseball being baseball, there was still the ninth to be navigated, a journey that’s been treacherous, to say the least. Callaway opted for Lugo instead of Edwin Diaz [18], and Lugo (with perhaps a little help from a tall strike zone) dispensed with further drama [19]. Which was fine; the game had delivered plenty.

(And even then, it all came down to a 3-2 pitch, because of course it did.)

Then it was time to monitor scores and check standings and worry — happily — about Sunday. And in the middle of it, a welcome text from Emily: “Guess who really enjoyed his first experience at a playoff-feel game?”

Can Sunday compete with what’s come before? Hell if I know — this all stopped making sense about a week ago. We’re in a strange country, a land of dreams, and I don’t want to wake up and I don’t want to go home.