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Five Games Back, Two Ears Open

The Mets beat the Marlins by one run [1]. But the Phillies beat the Nationals by one run, and the Braves beat the Rockies by one run, so by the end of Thursday, nothing changed at the top of the NL East, though at least we got to maintain the sensation/illusion that the Mets reside somewhere near there.

We’re five games back. I use “we’re” reflexively if advisedly. After Javy Baez [2] told us to go thumb ourselves, the them-against-us quotient emanating from the Mets clubhouse was too high to elicit my standard first-person plural solidarity. “If we win together, then we got to lose together [3],” was Baez’s explanation last Sunday for why he wanted to boo those who booed him. Dude, I thought, “we” have been losing together, sometimes winning together all our lives. We’ve got the together part down pat, no matter how it sounds to you as it echoes off your diamond earring [4] or the hole where it used to sit. I didn’t mind the tone-deaf letting out of his frustrations or his daring to tell the customer that the customer is sometimes wrong so much as I did some stranger coming in here and telling me — telling us — how to be Mets fans. We were Mets fans before you’d ever heard of us and we’ll be Mets fans once you have to be reminded of those two months you played in New York.

But we are five games back, the earmark of a positive trend…though I’m pretty sure we were once five games up. I can’t be certain, because history has been rewritten on the fly this week ever since we continued and completed the April 11 game on August 31. Because the game started on April 11, it goes into the official annals as the game of April 11. Never mind that only seven of 360 pitches thrown in the game were thrown on April 11. Never mind that five Mets who are now listed as having played their first game as Mets on April 11 (Baez, Patrick Mazeika, Heath Hembree, Chance Sisco, Brandon Drury) were nowhere near the Mets’ active roster on April 11. Because what the Mets won over a span of about four hours on the afternoon of August 31 was a continuation of a few minutes conducted in pouring rain on April 11, the win is credited to April 11 and a half-game bump in the standings that didn’t exist for more than four-and-a-half months has been retroactively inserted into the daily log for 2021. So maybe we’ve had a five-game lead at some point this year. Maybe it was five-and-a-half.

It’s hard enough to fathom what happens with the Mets day after day without altering the days that came before.

Still, we’re all caught up on games in terms of games that had first pitches and last pitches, even if we’re not all caught up in our division. At least we’re closer now than we were before the thumbs went down. Five games back in the scheme of recent things is as surprising as being told ahead of the season that Jonathan Villar [5] would homer seventeen times or Jeurys Familia [6] would garner nine wins. We haven’t lost a game in August, April or September dating back to No. 36 going up in the rafters [7]. Jerry Koosman always did prefer to pitch in that cool autumn breeze, and we seem to be as refreshed as the weather — if as flooded by folderol as too many local neighborhoods were in Wednesday’s storm.

Not everything has something to do with everything else. I don’t know what Baez and the thumbs-down crew had to do with the dismissal months earlier of Chili Davis, but I read a column that linked them together. I don’t know what the very serious charge that Zack Scott had driven while intoxicated in the early hours Tuesday had to do with the Mets opting not to sign Kumar Rocker despite using their first-round draft choice on him, but I read that in a column somewhere as well. When the Mets spin out of control, everything gets caught up in the dreidel’s whirlwind. The conventional baseball wisdom coalesces around the Mets don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe they don’t. Or maybe some things they do they don’t know as well as they could while other things are coincidental. Hell, maybe the front office and its flawed parade of GM types knew what they were doing long enough to bring in the Villars, Pillars and Loups who have levitated the season just enough above sea level so that it hasn’t altogether drowned. Somebody in authority just signed off on bringing in Brad Hand [8].

From a thumb to a Hand and nobody making a fist in a week’s time. That’s progress.

However you use choose to use your digits, the Mets are five games back with a month to go, have a bunch of games remaining versus the two teams indisputably not in the top tier of the National League East, and have a whole bunch more against good teams from across the map. I don’t have a ton of faith that the current five-game surge (four, if you buy into August 31 having taken place on April 11) lays a legitimate path to glory, but here I am, being quite aware that the Mets are five games out with a month to go and staying on top of what the two teams above them are doing, which, honestly, I didn’t think I’d still be doing after the Giants and Dodgers shoved the Mets’ tail between the Mets’ legs eleven times in thirteen opportunities.

They’re five games out. We’re five games out. Only five games out.

If I had been at Tuesday afternoon’s resumption of the aforementioned suspended game, particularly during the bottom of the ninth inning, no doubt my focus would have been on the field. Where else would a person be looking while five runs are being conjured to overhaul a four-run deficit? Yet I imagine there must be spot at Citi Field, somewhere in the 300s, where if you turned your back on the field and aimed your vision toward the Ralph Kiner Television Booth and the Bob Murphy Radio Booth, adjacent as they are, you could probably get a decent view of both Gary Cohen and Howie Rose at work. Your ears are the proper receiver for their words, but to see them both simultaneously calling a moment like Conforto hitting and Baez sprinting and sliding would be a sight to see.

Thanks to SNY’s sponsored booth cam, we do get occasional glimpses of Gary in all his Cohenness [9].

WCBS doesn’t seem to bother with visuals, deciding (not without radio logic) that the word picture Howie paints [12] is enough.

For those who aren’t into clicking. Let me transcribe. It’ll be my pleasure.

Gary on TV:

Alonso the tying run at third, Baez the winning run at first, two out. And Conforto SLASHES one the other way, BASE HIT!! That ties the game! Alonso in. Baez digging for third, it’s kicked by Alfaro! HERE COMES BAEZ TRYING TO SCORE!!! HE SCORES and the Mets WIN it!!! Turn those thumbs around!! Javy Baez races home with the winning run, and the Mets win it, six to five!!

Howie on radio:

Baez the winning run at first, first pitch…swing and a ground ball, BASE HIT GOING INTO LEFT FIELD! The Mets have tied it! Alonso scores! Digging for third is Baez — the ball is BOBBLED! Baez comin’ around third, Alfaro’s throw to the plate, the slide — the ball gets AWAY! The Mets win! The Mets win! Put it in the books! The Mets come BACK from trailing five to one in the ninth inning, a single and an error in left field has won the game for the Mets, Michael Conforto gets the hit, they are POUNDING him as he had rounded second base, they’re gonna virtually unDRESS him between second and third, as they will YANK the shirt off of HIS back. Javier Baez had the hit that made it a one-run game, and then after Alonso had scored the tying run on that hit, and Alfaro — remember, a catcher by trade — in left field bobbled that ball, Baez flew around third and scored as the throw was not handled by Jackson, and the Mets have won the ballgame, six to FIVE!

I’m tempted to mix the calls together just to experience the sequence in Sensurround. But they probably come out better one at a time. Watch the action if it’s in front of you. Listen to the descriptions over and over afterward.

Russell Hammond’s message via William Miller to Stillwater’s leading band aid Penny Lane in Almost Famous was, “Tell her it ain’t California without her. Tell her we want her around like last summer.” Well, Howie, it ain’t gonna be the Mets without you in September. It might be in form and function, but the heart and soul we’ll have to ad lib for ourselves. As you recover from what ails you [13], know that we’re leaving an ear open for when you return to start next season. We want you around like every summer.