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Lucy’s Invitation

Ready to kick that football, Mets fans?

I’m not talking about the unasked-for arrival of a certain inferior sport before its time. Rather, I’m talking about Lucy Van Pelt and her ongoing invitation for Charlie Brown to kick the football she’s holding.

Lucy, you probably remember, invariably yanked the football away, causing poor Charlie Brown to let out a startled AUUGGGHHH! (or something similar) and end up flat on his back, winded and morose. But time heals all wounds, and Charlie Brown wouldn’t be Charlie Brown without an indefatigable optimism in defiance of all that has come before. And so there Lucy would be, football teed up and waiting, sweetly promising that this time it would be different.

This has nothing to do with the Mets’ wild-card chase; I just like “Peanuts” and was thinking about it.

Ha ha.

Of course it has everything to do with the wild card, and whether we can dare to believe yet again in this ragtag outfit, the one with two decent relievers, a dunderheaded manager, untrustworthy owners and a long history of agony. The same ragtag outfit that, despite all that, is also stacked with capable young hitters, has terrific starting pitchers, gets up no matter how many times it’s knocked down and always, always keeps you guessing.

Wednesday night wasn’t much for drama — the Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray [1] seemed out of sorts in the first inning, was betrayed by his defense and also by his location, and before Ray could blink it was 5-0 Mets and he was out of the game. It never got closer, as Steven Matz [2] shrugged off a bout of wildness in the second and wound up with six innings of shutout ball. The Mets didn’t even have to sweat how to get the usual agonizing six or nine outs after the starter’s work was done, turning mop-up duty over to Jeurys Familia [3], Paul Sewald [4] and Tyler Bashlor [5], who acquitted themselves blamelessly. All very nice, and that’s before the satisfying, slightly spooky fact that on a day of 9/11 commemorations, the Mets wound up with nine runs on 11 hits [6], paced by two-homer games from both Todd Frazier [7] and Jeff McNeil [8].

A laugher? During a breathless wild-card chase? Well, that was unexpected.

What’s more, after a long stretch where the out-of-town scoreboard was uncooperative, the Mets got help: The Brewers won, but the Braves beat the Phillies and the Padres defeated the Cubs. That leaves the Mets somehow only two out, ahead of Arizona, tied with Philadelphia and eyeing both Chicago and Milwaukee, who now share the second wild card.

By my own rule of thumb, two out with two and a half weeks of baseball remaining is doable. And so here we are again. One more game with the D-Backs, a three-game set with the big, bad Dodgers (who have already clinched, with effects on their bigness and badness to be determined), a road trip to Colorado and Cincinnati, then back home for a four-game stand with the Marlins and, lurking at the end, the Braves — who also will have clinched by then, but who also will still be the Braves. The season has shrunk to something you can memorize easily.

Lucy’s holding the football, and you guys I really swear she’s had a change of heart. Just look at how sweetly she’s smiling, and how perfectly she’s got that pigskin balanced. With a good kick, I bet it would go clear over Snoopy’s doghouse and into the next yard. Maybe even over the house, and wouldn’t be that something?