Blue Jays came a-courtin’ Monday night. They know how to woo the Mets on the Mets’ home turf, especially as the hour grows late. As they had on nine previous Shea-based occasions, they brought a ripe opportunity for the Mets to win. The Mets graciously accepted what the Jays presented them and said “thank you very much yet again, kind birdies.”
It was kind of the Jays, wasn’t it? They could have extended their own winning streak to an unimaginable (to us) twelve; instead they enabled to the Mets to create a streak of their own: two wins in a row, two exhilarating comebacks in a row.
Everything they say about Canadians being so nice is apparently true.
The Jays weren’t necessarily so generous all night. Mark Buehrle was stingy and Jose Bautista was greedy. Noah Syndergaard was everything a Jays fan could have hoped for when Toronto drafted him in 2010…and everything that same Jays fan might have rued when his team sent him to our team in 2012.
Noah went six, struck out eleven, allowed but two hits and laid down a bunt even. When he finished pitching, he and the Mets trailed, 1-0. When Carlos Torres followed him to the mound, he and the Mets led, 2-1. Buehrle might have dolloped out few baserunners but eventually quit being perfect. A helpful throwing error from another wonderful if geographically misplaced Canadian (Jose Reyes) set up consecutive doubles and the two six-inning runs that put Noah in position to win the game.
Bautista, the five-minute Met from 2004, had other ideas, tagging Jeurys Familia in the ninth for a very sneaky home run just over the fence in the left field corner. Earlier Bautista hit one to Astoria, meaning it was 2-2 and the Mets and Jays were bound for extras.
Extras in Queens is usually where the Mets shine when they take on this particular opponent, though it should be admitted that “usually” equals that game in 1999 in which Bobby V donned the fake mustache. That one went fourteen, foiled David Wells, featured Pat Mahomes and the Mets won, 4-3. This one got to eleven and appeared futile when Curtis Granderson couldn’t throw out Ezequiel Carrera at the plate. Of course he couldn’t. You know what they say in the battery business: some run on Energizer, some run on Duracell, but all run on Granderson.
That likely would’ve been most of that, except the Jays wouldn’t let the Mets go gently into that good night. In the bottom of the eleventh, after Juan Lagares was nabbed on a brilliant play by second baseman Danny Valencia, Ruben Tejada walked. Michael Cuddyer then hit the double play ground ball that was about to end the Mets evening when Valencia undid his good from two batters before and didn’t bother throwing to second. If he had, it’s 4-6-3, good night New York, let’s see if we can catch the end of the Stanley Cup (Canadians love that stuff). Instead, Valencia got it in his mind to tag Tejada, while Tejada — not lately anybody’s idea of heady — got it in his mind to make himself untaggable.
Ruben wiggled and jiggled and wriggled and Valencia was easily distracted. Eventually he got some combination of mitt and ball on the baserunner’s body, but it took so long that it provided ample running time for Cuddyer to cross the first base bag. In the fifth, when the Mets had their very first baserunner, I noticed something similar. Lucas Duda was on second with two out. Dilson Herrera grounded to third baseman Josh Donaldson. All Donaldson had to do was throw to first. Instead, he saw Duda trundling in his vicinity and thought tagging him would be a better option. He missed Lucas. He was able to get Dilson, but it was a waste of motion. The same team impulse to tag instead of throw came back to bite them six innings later.
Fellas, a word of friendly advice for when you go back to playing everybody else (because we’d be plenty happy if you won the A.L. East): leave the tagging to Bautista.
With a two-out baserunner, the Mets had a chance. They had Duda up. John Gibbons had an idea. Duda traditionally pulls the ball, so let’s take every Jay fielder dating back to Barry Bonnell and shift them so far to the right they can shake hands with the ghost of William F. Buckley. This clever defensive strategy put Jays closer Brett Cecil squarely on the firing line when Duda — who is not nearly as predictable as opposing managers tend to think — flared a 3-2 pitch to left that probably could have been caught or at least contained by a reasonably positioned glove.
Instead, the shift wound up handing Cecil his beanie. Cuddyer got to racing around the bases and scored all the way from first on what was ruled a single. Duda lumbered to second on the futile throw to the plate and, lo and behold, the camouflaged Mets revealed themselves in a 3-3 tie.
Exit Cecil. Enter the next victim, Liam Hendriks, who threw one pitch. Wilmer Flores stroked it directly up the middle to score Duda with the winning run. The Mets won, 4-3, just as they had on June 9, 1999. No facial hair constructed from eyeblack. No sunglasses at night. Just 25 Mets not named Dillon Gee who were dressed to go Jay hunting and did so very successfully.
Of course they didn’t have to exert themselves all that much toward the end of the hunt. The Jays jumped in a barrel and invited their hosts to take aim and fire. It would have been undiplomatic to have refused.
This, too, was the game we’d been waiting for, the game we’d been subconsciously groping for, the game embedded in our DNA. This was the game that signaled perhaps prosperity is neither illusory nor fleeting. This was the game that allowed us to quit looking over our shoulders to see if the worst was gaining on us.
This was the game in which deficits were limited after a harrowing start, in which there was enough talent on the field to make a hypothetical stand definite, in which a comeback moved inexorably from possible to probable to having actually happened, in which the Mets not only roared from behind but remained secure while ahead.
This was the game we imagined when we began letting baseball overtake our imaginations. There was a game at some critical point in our development as fans that told us a scenario like this could and thus would unfold when we needed it. It might have occurred in a pennant race or a postseason series or some seemingly random Saturday night exactly three-and-a-half decades before, but deep down — though we’ve trained ourselves to hide it well — we know how to believe. “To be a Mets fan is to exist in tension between hope and the muscle memory of much disappointment,” Mets fan and Times columnist Michael Powell wrote in Saturday’s paper. On Sunday, we catapulted in the direction of hope.
There was a solid enough lineup to take on a less than stellar starter on the other side. There was a home team bullpen to apply sealant when our first Sunday pitcher leaked runs. There was a shortstop for whom tomorrow was the ideal antidote to the day before. The second baseman, a pretty competent fellow at his position normally, looked pretty slick besides.
There was Dillon Gee definitively permitting almost every Brave batter’s run-generating intention to come to fruition for a brief, painful interlude. Almost every Atlantan scalded the Mets’ fifth-and-a-half starter, a designation that seemed appropriate, considering Gee has not seemed fully himself since returning from the disabled list. He’s neither a starter nor a reliever, yet he’s not exactly a swingman. Gee is a free-floating anxiety for the organization to continually project onto the starting rotation. His utility seems like a better idea than it is reality. Dillon was a stalwart in his day. His day wasn’t long ago, but it might as well have taken place in another Met epoch.
Gee buried the Mets twice, at 5-1 and then 8-3. He was gone before the fourth was done. The excavating grace was provided by his opposite number, Mike Foltynewicz, previously seen at Citi Field surrendering Lucas Duda’s 30th home run on Closing Day 2014. I see the name “Foltynewicz” and I think Paul Foytack and Dave Lemanczyk were mashed up by some clever Baseball Reference DJ. I saw the pitcher Foltynewicz and I didn’t think of Shelby Miller or Alex Wood, the two capable Atlanta arms from the previous pair of games. We might not be able to easily spell Foltynewicz, I decided, but maybe we can come back on him a little.
We came back on him (and his successors) a lot. We came back with extreme force. It made for a delightfully bracing gust in a ballpark and season during which the Mets can go for days without plugging in the power. Darrell Ceciliani homered in the bottom of the fourth to make it 8-4. It could have been taken as a tease or it could have been interpreted as a surmountable score. One out later, the surmounting continued apace when Dilson Herrera went deep. Being down 8-5 isn’t easy, but it’s not crazy, not when you’re facing Foytack-Lemanczyk.
By the fifth, it was no longer a Braves kind of day. After Alex Torres finished the fourth for Gee, Terry Collins turned to Sean Gilmartin, the 25th man on the roster most days. Most days when I try to remember who’s available, I count to 24, wonder who I’m missing and then…“oh right, Gilmartin. When did he last pitch?” Gilmartin warms up more than he pitches. He’d warmed up so much in the past week that Collins couldn’t use him Saturday when he really could have used another pitcher.
He used Gilmartin Sunday and the tide kept turning. Mr. Rule 5 Lefty was fresh and untouched by Brave bats. The same crew that raked Gee was shown to its seats by Sean. Nobody reached in the fifth. Only a walk was issued in the sixth. In between, Travis d’Arnaud belted the two-run shot off Brandon Cunniff that made the score 8-7. It was a one-run game now. Atlanta was ahead, but their edge felt less tangible than the Mets’ divisional lead has over Washington.
Yet the Mets are still in first place, even with Max Scherzer dropping complete game, sixteen-strikeout, one-hitters at will. That’s because in the bottom of the sixth Juan Lagares (who looked distressingly human on two plays in center) walloped the necessary blow in the bottom of the sixth, a three-run job that added an extra ‘L’ to Luis Avilan’s name. The Mets now led, 10-8, barely two innings after they trailed, 8-3. Seven unanswered tallies lit the Citi scoreboard, all of them on the wings of young men’s home runs, the most desirable flights the LaGuardia area has to offer.
It could have still become one of those games, one in which the next Met reliever undoes all that good work and you’re left peering down the tunnel and praying Mike Piazza is swinging in the cages, preparing for when Terry Mulholland enters, but nothing that dramatic was needed. The Mets crafted their little miracle like it was no big deal in the middle of the game. In the innings that followed, Bobby Parnell resumed his reacclimation, Herrera reminded us what a true second baseman is capable of (robbing horrifying Freddie Freeman with a sparkling dive and glove flip to end the eighth), Wilmer Flores redeemed his Saturday misadventure by fielding perfectly adequately, Danny Muno graciously kept Anthony Recker company on their business trip to Nevada and Jeurys Familia shortened the game considerably. Once the Mets nosed ahead, my thoughts turned to the closer: Just get it to the ninth and we’ll be all right. Jeurys came on with two out in the eighth, setting up Herrera’s magic act, but the effect was the same.
I don’t know what was more remarkable: the Mets coming back from five down or being confident the Mets closer wasn’t necessarily going to screw it up. The Mets got to 10 runs and the Braves were kept at 8 and the psychic damage inflicted by Saturday’s debacle was, if not erased, then at least negated. Instead of losing one you were sure they were about to win, they won one you could have reasonably assumed they were destined to lose. If hitters can keep homering and the closer can keep closing and somebody settles in at third, we might actually convince ourselves a team that was good enough to win in unlikely fashion on Sunday is good enough to win any day.
It was just one game. But, oh my, what a game!
This was the game we’d been waiting for, the game we’d been dreading, the game we knew in our bones was coming. This was the game that you couldn’t hide inside the supposedly reassuring (and likely temporary) confines of first place. This was the game that came tumbling forcefully out of the closet of Metropolitan anxieties.
This was the game in which the infield defense of our nightmares was on full display, in which organizational depth felt like a pipe dream, in which the bullpen defied management, in which magnificent starting pitching was wasted, in which a last-stand rally crumbled in the face of fundamentally unsound instincts.
This was the game we imagined when we imagined the worst. We imagine the worst quite a lot. “To be a Mets fan is to exist in tension between hope and the muscle memory of much disappointment,” Mets fan and Times columnist Michael Powell wrote in Saturday’s paper. For two days, we had drifted back to hope. Later Saturday, we spiraled into the disappointment we remembered.
There was no certifiable closer to save the day. There was no major league-caliber third baseman to make the day easy to begin with. There was a shortstop who’s a helluva power hitter or perhaps just a helluva power hitter who plays shortstop and he didn’t play it well at the moment it mattered most. The second baseman, a pretty competent fellow at his position normally, didn’t look terribly slick either.
There was Jacob deGrom definitively squelching almost every Brave batter’s run-generating intention for a good, long while, except for Freddie Freeman, which isn’t unusual in these New York-Atlanta matchups. There was Darrell Ceciliani making one hell of a throw to cut down Cameron Maybin, the last villain of Shea, at the plate in the eighth, which would go down as the play of the game in a kinder, gentler game. The Mets had just taken the lead for deGrom in the seventh, finally getting to equally squelchsome Shelby Miller for two runs and old friend Dana Eveland for another. They had survived the comprehensively overmatched — batting average .083; fielding percentage .727 — Danny Muno’s three third base miscues. They had survived Miller’s brilliance amid the Citi Field shadows. They had survived Jack Leathersich’s learning curve and would survive Bobby Parnell’s creakiness. All they needed to make a day of it was to survive the ninth.
They didn’t. Hansel Robles, in for unavailable papa Jeurys Familia, couldn’t keep runners from boarding the bases. Wilmer Flores couldn’t quickly corral a grounder that was neither routine nor impossible to turn into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. Flores’s uncertainty of movement gave Robles one out when he really, really needed two. Maybin, whose cradling of the final out ever at Shea still rankles, singled in the run that transformed a 3-1 Mets win into a 3-2 nailbiter still in progress. Alex Torres was brought on as the next best Terry Collins option. Freeman opted to single to tie the game and ultimately send it to extras.
The Mets provided no offense in the bottoms of the ninth and tenth. In the top of the eleventh, Carlos Torres, starting his second inning, allowed two singles, the second of which clanked of Dilson Herrera’s otherwise steady glove. Fredi Gonzalez asked Jace Peterson to bunt on Torres’s first pitch. He did so badly, but it got the job done because Eric Campbell a) grabbed it before it could bounce foul and b) thought about a play at third from his unwieldly locale between third and home despite no Met fielder being on or heading for third (and Campbell, mind you, was the defensive replacement for Muno). Second and third, nobody out, might as well get it over with. Maybin, of course, singled in the go-ahead run and another for good measure.
It’s 5-3 in the bottom of the eleventh when hope reared its silly head. Earlier defensive stalwart Ceciliani singles. Recent defensive liability Herrera singles. John Mayberry, heating up like June, is the pinch-hitter. The cynical 21st-century Mets fan actually believes something wonderful is about to happen.
It does. For Braves fans. Mayberry lines to Andrelton Simmons. Simmons sees Ceciliani caught in the chasm between second and himself. Simmons tosses to Peterson at second. Ceciliani is nabbed off base for the second out. It basically negates the double play Darrell turned three innings earlier when he fired Freeman’s foulout to Travis d’Arnaud to nail Maybin at home. It might as well have been three weeks earlier. The game ended exactly one pitch later when Juan Lagares grounded to Peterson to force Herrera. There was no redemption. There was just the loss you knew was coming at some point in this season of depletion when the Mets continually trot out a depressing procession of undersized, inexperienced ponies and ask them, while they’re feeling their way around the track, if they can pretty please go win the Belmont. They don’t, natch, because that’s what happens when you don’t have the horses and are lavishly deliberate in reinforcing the paddock with adequate replacements.
It was just one game. But, oof, what a game.
Bartolo Colon has 9 wins. Jeurys Familia has 18 saves. Those are some pretty cool numbers, even for our sophisticated statistical times.
Wins have been discredited as a leading indicator of starting pitcher effectiveness and are all but useless for measuring anything a reliever does, but when the starter always earns the decision, I don’t think you can completely dismiss its conclusions. Colon has started 13 games in 2015 and is 9-4. He’s been doing the heavy lifting every time he’s won. In each of those 9 starts, he’s gone at least 6 innings. Only one of them wasn’t a “quality” start, and we can swap out his having won 7-4 on that occasion for his hard-luck losing (2-1) to Arizona in his most recent start prior to last night.
As for last night, he kept his own luck together, distributing but 2 hits, 2 walks and 2 runs to Atlanta over 6 frames. The Mets led when he exited, which would explain the 9th win.
Also contributing Friday in an explanatory nature: Wilmer Flores’s 10th home run; the 3 late-game double plays begun by Dilson Herrera; the 2nd game in a row in which Michael Cuddyer came through with a key RBI; and John Mayberry’s 1st Citi Field home run.
Oh, and don’t forget that 18th save out of Familia. I was surprised to learn, despite watching him all season, that Jeurys had 17 saves coming in. They’ve quietly and effectively accumulated, which isn’t a bad way for saves to collect.
Saves are also a limited stat, having been jury-rigged for the benefits of agents and their clients and perhaps to increase the royalties paid to groups like Metallica and AC/DC. You can’t say the Tsuris brothers, Alex and Carlos, didn’t help save the Mets’ bacon-flavored strips by throwing the ground balls that became 2 of those Herrera-engineered twin-killings in the 7th and 8th (never mind that they placed the runners on base to give Dilson so much to work with). Still, you get to the 9th, and you get there ahead by 2 runs, you want to get out alive.
Familia kept us vital. It was a less simple process than usual — two walks sandwiched a base hit — but when Jeurys, who might have had other things on his mind, had to get Nick Markakis to cooperate, he succeeded. It went 4-6-3 and ensured a 5-3 victory.
Scoff at saves if you like, but you’ll never reject them when you receive them.
I was wrong to have expected the 11:02 from Jamaica to have left Jamaica at 11:02, so my last call of Thursday night was off (forty sweltering, cranky minutes of waiting later, I realized there’s a reason the LIRR never touts the train from the game). Otherwise, though, I had a pretty good run of getting things right.
Most pertinently, my announcement to my new buddy Skid — more on him in a bit — as the bottom of the ninth unfolded that Cuddyer was gonna win it for us came off as extraordinarily prescient. It was, technically, but not really. I went with Michael as our potential savior of the moment because we needed one run and he was going to be the fifth batter, and if I learned anything across consecutive nights at Citi Field, it’s that the Mets seem to require at least five plate appearances to generate a single meaningful tally.
(Whatever happened to those closer fences anyway?)
As for the part where I “knew” we’d win, well, I didn’t have more than a hunch, but I was trying to effect an optimistic pose. It’s easy for a Mets fan to go the other way. I am one of the legion of them who sees their recurring stays in first place, including this morning’s, as just visiting. Surely the pile of injuries, the lack of depth and the general Wilponness of the operation will catch up to them, even if the Nationals can never definitively pass them.
Yet here they are, with the best record among five teams in their division, which seems to translate to a positive trend, but these are the Mets and we are their fans. Something’s always a little lost in translation.
But the Mets were winners. Michael Cuddyer did indeed come up with the winning hit off Sergio Romo in the ninth inning’s fifth plate appearance for the relatively nominal home team. Romo had to all but tee it up for Cuddyer — he’d plunked Curtis Granderson with one pitch, confounded Andrew Susac with another — but from there, the cleanup hitter on the N.L. East’s first-place tenant finished the job. It made me a prophet not just regarding process but substance. I hadn’t said it aloud, but I did hear myself think not too many innings earlier, “A good team wins this game.”
The Mets proved themselves a good enough team Thursday. Good enough to not get buried under what appeared to be a Jon Niese avalanche of ill fortune. Good enough to not let a first-inning 2-0 deficit balloon. Good enough so that Niese could straighten out from behind, a posture you never see coming from the veteran lefty who apparently has the nerve to block Steven Matz’s gold-flecked path to guaranteed glory. Good enough to have wrung a run out of Tim Lincecum in the fourth and two more from the former phenom in the fifth. Good enough to not let a two-out Eric Campbell error and the distressingly predictable two-run Brandon Crawford homer that followed sink their starter in the sixth.
Niese has yet to step out of the way and make room for Matz. He’s put together two admirable starts in a row at a point where civilized society has flat given up on him. I’d given up on Niese once Crawford’s liner flew vigorously over the right-center field wall. I was stunned to see him take the mound in the seventh, the Mets trailing, 4-3, Jon’s resurrected mojo presumably having been crushed by Crawford. But son of a gun, Niese dispatched the Giants in order and set the stage for one-third of the Mets’ bench, Darrell Ceciliani, to lead off with a pinch-double and score when Granderson singled him in directly. Earlier, Curtis swung and missed a whole lot. I’d given up on him, too. But not the Mets. Not fully.
Sure they left Granderson on third in the seventh. And d’Arnaud on second in the eighth. And Cuddyer on second in the fifth. And the bases loaded in the fourth. But a good team wins a game like last night’s, and as long as they hadn’t yet lost it, you couldn’t say they weren’t good enough. Once Michael rowed Curtis’s boat ashore in the ninth, you could say they were.
The burden of proof remained on the first-place Mets all the way up to the unbitter end considering what this series had been like. No hits for Howie Rose to mention on Tuesday. Not a scintilla of succor provided by Matt Harvey on Wednesday. San Francisco Giants everywhere you looked all week.
Too much Giants in the land of the Mets. Too much Giants for a Mets fan with a self-diagnosed Giants soul to bear after possible overexposure.
This was my week spent in the shadows of Giants.
Monday there was a meeting of the New York Giants Preservation Society, which is always a wonderful time at the ever welcoming Bergino Baseball Clubhouse and certainly was again this time…except for being implicitly (and explicitly) reminded by my fellow preservationists that a pool of modern-day Giants fans as deep as McCovey Cove was going to be splashing down at Citi Field in the nights ahead. My New York Giants soul ceases its empathy at the water’s edge of Flushing Bay when the San Francisco Giants are physically on the premises. I’ve come to respect and admire the present-day organization for reinforcing the sturdy historical continuum that links the present-day franchise to the Gothamites who long ago inhabited the Polo Grounds, yet at heart, I continue to defer to the late, great Vic Ziegel’s 2002 take on the dichotomy between loving what was and not necessarily being much moved by what is:
And now a team that calls itself Giants gets into the World Series, and the TV people show clips of Leo Durocher and Thomson jumping home and Willie’s catch — you know, the catch. They must think there’s a connection. They kept saying a win would be the first for the Giants since 1954. What are they talking about? People who know I was a Giants fan ask how I feel about the Giants coming so close to being world champions again. The truth? There is no again. I don’t feel a thing.
Tuesday there was Giants Town Hall in Manhattan, which had nothing to do with baseball, but the name of the New Jersey-based football team serving as host didn’t escape me, considering who the Mets were playing in Queens. It was an event for season ticket holders to which I was graciously invited by a good friend who thought I’d get a much-needed kick out of it. And I did. Bob Papa emceed. David Diehl provided color. John Mara answered questions. So did Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin. So, too, did Jon Beason and Victor Cruz and Eli Manning. “Wow,” I found myself grasping as I ogled the very familiar figure on the Beacon Theater stage, “that’s Eli Manning!” I was simultaneously starstruck and reassured. Such a down-to-earth young man (he still looks 14 to me), Eli seemed everything he appears to be in Dunkin’ Donuts commercials but more so. Eli is what I suspect David Wright would be if David Wright wasn’t weighed down by the unfathomable burden of being David Wright. Eli turned an innocent query about what it’s like to hold the Super Bowl trophy into a five-minute tour de force on the ins and outs and joys of winning it all. If only David were experientially qualified to answer a similar question. Hundreds of football fans cheered their quarterback and dreamed of another Super Bowl. I cheered my quarterback yet ached for my third baseman.
The principals were accommodating, the vibe was upbeat, the hats were complimentary…and the Mets were getting no-hit. By the other Giants. The Big Blue kind would go back into air conditioned storage for a few more months. The San Francisco variety was shutting us down and looming for two more days.
Which brings us to Wednesday and Skid.
Skid has a conventional first name, but he likes to go by Skid, which is perfect since his last name is Rowe and his music of choice is metal. His baseball team of choice is the Mets, which isn’t remarkable in and of itself until you know Mr. Rowe is a lifelong resident of Northern California, where the girls are reportedly warm and there are two perfectly viable major league baseball teams for a person to grow up attached to.
But Skid didn’t choose the A’s and he abandoned any pretense of allegiance to the Giants as of May 11, 1972, which of course you and I recognize as the day Horace Stoneham did the right thing fifteen years after doing the wrong thing and returned Willie Mays to New York. With that trade of Mays to the Mets for Charlie Williams and cash, young David…I mean Skid Rowe pulled a reverse Stoneham. He moved his heart from San Francisco to New York.
He became a Mets fan. And he stayed a Mets fan. It’s a long, beautiful story and he tells it fine for himself right here.
But that’s hardly the end of the story. It’s all well and good to be a Mets fan while living one’s entire life somewhere else. Through this blog I’ve encountered several people who’d match that description. But Skid is the first Mets fan I’ve come to know who did the most one could possibly imagine about it.
He’s moved his entire person to New York for one season and one reason only: to go to every single Mets home game this year.
This was Skid’s life dream and he acted on it. He worked hard, he saved up, he retired from his job of 37 years as soon as he could, he kissed his extraordinarily understanding wife goodbye and he made a giant commitment to the Mets. He’s in the midst of fulfilling it right now.
Skid Rowe is the authentic realization of the fan-in-residence program.
The Mets have thus far played 32 games at Citi Field. Skid has attended all 32. Plus the Opening Day watch party. Plus the 7 Line outing at Yankee Stadium (along with some other road games on tap). Plus fantasy camp in January, though the whole enterprise must feel like fantasy camp to a man who has fantasized about this season for ages. It also, he admits, feels a bit like a job. He used to have to be at work early every morning. Now he has to be at the ballpark early every night. He’s not complaining, mind you — I’m guessing he’s grown a full white beard to pull focus from the marks where he’s been pinching himself to make sure all of this is real — but who among us doesn’t consider being a Mets fan a full-time avocation?
But who among us does this? There are anecdotal analogues to Skid’s story out there. In 2013, Steve Rushin profiled Bob Gertenrich, a Chicago Blackhawks fan who’d been to every one of his team’s home games since 1966. In 2014, attention was paid to Dennis Doyle, a Knicks fan who set his life aside so he could be in the arena everywhere his team was (and what a year to do it!). But Gertenrich was already in Chicagoland and Doyle was already a New Yorker. Skid was one of us without ever having been among us for more than one game — the Shea night in 1999 Bobby Valentine went infamously incognito — and decided he wanted to live among us as one of us.
I’m biased, but I’d say that beats all.
Two years prior to Skid’s dream season, he reached out to me to tell me about his plans. I told him I looked forward to going to a game with him after he crossed the continent. It was fitting that we took in two against the team that occupies a corner of our respective baseball psyches. For me, the New York Giants are an ideal. For Skid, the San Francisco Giants are an omnipresence, especially since 2010. Every game has been a West Coast game for him. He’s spent the better part of a half-decade extending congratulations to colleagues and acquaintances. Tuesday night, with Chris Heston’s no-hitter put in the books, he had to dole out by text yet more dollops of graciousness.
It comes easy to him. Skid’s one of the most sweet-natured people I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending Citi Field time with. Perhaps not being a New Yorker has something to do with it, though with the Mets on the field and his heart on his sleeve, he blends in just fine, save for continuing to refer to the local roads as freeways. He couldn’t be more at home in our home ballpark. Skid has developed an army of supporters among the Citi Field staff. Security guards, parking lot attendants and beer vendors fist-bumped him repeatedly over the last two nights. He deserves it. They have to be there, he has to be there. They intrinsically understand each other.
Skid and I understand each other, too, which is why we hit it off while the Mets were remembering how to hit Giants pitching. We’ve had the same fan experiences thousands of miles apart. We’ve lived in the same psychic neighborhood for generations. The difference was he had to view it from the other side of the country, a biological Mets fan trapped inside a Giants fan’s geographical body.
Now he’s transitioned. Now he’s where he’s supposed to be. Now when he goes to the see the Mets — which was something he usually had to wait for them to come to San Francisco to do — he’s not outnumbered by Giants fans.
Almost outnumbered, but not fully.
Yes, the Giants fans were omnipresent at Citi Field this week. Yes, it is distasteful. No, they were nowhere to be seen prior to 2011, but that’s how it works sometimes. No, it does not do my New York Giants soul a bit of good to see so much black and orange in the stands. But no, it doesn’t really bother Skid that much. The Mets leaving runners on base bothers Skid. The wave bothers Skid. Nothing else seems to get to Skid. Skid’s living the dream, for goodness sake.
His dream of seeing the Mets beat the Giants where a (bare) majority of the crowd was rooting for the Mets was delayed Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday we had fun anyway. Skid has treated himself to some very nice seats for his stay and treated me to the ones next to him. We were within spitting distance of Fred Wilpon, but not nearly so crass as to test the theoretical trajectory. We also eyeballed John Franco and Rusty Staub, both of whom conceivably could have contributed as much against Tim Hudson and Buster Posey as any of their Metsian descendants. These were Delta Club seats, the kind where waitstaff can’t wait to take your food and drink order. We ate and drank before the game started, so we weren’t customers. The folks in front of us kept ordering Tito’s and Sodas — doubles. Harvey served up two doubles and three homers. We all should have been ordering and quickly downing triples.
Wednesday I had to say those dreaded words at the end of the game: “Despite the loss, this was a lot of fun.” But the loss couldn’t help but detract from the fun. Also detractful was the dopey Giants fan (far too young to have a clue as to what the Polo Grounds were) not stepping six inches in to give me an iota of space on the postgame 7 Super Express. He seemed to resent my nudging him from the doorway. I seemed to resent his entire existence. Jerks like him should stick to the freeway.
Thursday, we’ve established, needed no qualifier. It was fun before, during and after, at least until the forty-minute delay at Jamaica. It was fun strolling around the park during BP. While Skid stopped by the Shea Bridge to chat with one of the many Citi Field employees who’ve become hip to his journey, I noticed Heston standing alone waiting for a ball to come to him. On Tuesday night you’re the toast of the sport. By Thursday evening, you’re a rookie shagging flies.
It was fun staking out a table in center field and making quick work of chicken tacos from El Verano Taqueria while reliving every Met thing that went wrong between the coming of Roberto Alomar and whatever was presumably going wrong for the Mets while we were enjoying dinner. True Mets fans chew over our stomach-churning episodes with inordinate relish. And salsa.
It was fun being back in the Delta Club seats, lodged between a three-generation fan family (proud owners of a Mets Monopoly board, I learned) and an office outing headed up by an inoffensive know-it-all who kept quizzing his buddies on who wore what uniform number. It was lightweight stuff, and I wasn’t going to get involved (and boy can I get involved), until the know-it-all said Rube Walker wore No. 55 and I could not let it stand.
“Rube Walker was 54,” I answered without being asked.
“You’re pretty sure about that,” the know-it-all egged.
He looked it up. It was 54. And, to answer the rest of his stream of queries, Eddie Yost was 53; Duffy Dyer was 10; Ron Taylor was 42; Craig Swan was 27; Joan Payson’s middle name was Whitney; and this train doesn’t stop at Ronkonkoma, though that was something I was asked at Woodside the night before — I get a lot of those questions, too.
Told ya I had a pretty good run of getting things right.
It was fun trying to make out what Jeff Wilpon was watching from his private suite with the public view. He had a big-ass monitor tuned to something that didn’t look like the SNY feed. I’m gonna say it was Nicktoons.
It was fun noticing Granderson taking time out from his on-deck duties to playfully slip into two girls’ selfie snapped from the front row. After watching him strike out twice, I would have deleted it myselfie.
It was fun when repeated attempts to start the wave stalled.
It was fun when we invented a new nickname for Campbell. Since Skid and I agreed he’s a placeholder, we decided he should be known as Bookmark. Of course the know-it-all asked if I knew Eric’s actual nickname.
“Soup,” I said. “And what’s the nickname of every Campbell who’s ever played professional baseball?”
“Soup,” he said.
Correct. I’m glad he could get one right.
Mostly, two nights with Skid was a blast. I was touched that of all the bloggers of all the teams in all the big leagues he sought me out far in advance of fulfilling his dream to let me in on it and then he let me be in on what turned out to be a milestone marker in the middle of it. At last, Skid Rowe got to see his true home team prevail over that other team that plays its home games near where he will eventually go back to living.
Skid usually watches the Mets on Pacific Daylight Time. He can be forgiven if he’s still sort of getting used to being on Eastern Daylight Time. Last night, though, with the Mets winning in a walkoff against the Giants, it was surely about fucking time.
Forgive the profanity if you hail from outside the Metropolitan Area. It’s how we New Yorkers tend to express ourselves if we’ve been kept waiting too long for our connection on the Long Island Rail Road.
If you’re at Citi Field and see a man with a white beard in a jersey bearing No. 24 — Willie Mays, in case the guy from the Delta Club seats isn’t certain — be sure to say hi. It’s probably Skid and he’d definitely be glad to meet you. For now, get to know him better at his own blog, Skid’s 2015 Dream Season.
So what kind of loss would you prefer? One where the Mets look flat and inoffensive and collect no hits at all, or one where the Mets collect lots of hits, but can’t pitch, field or run the bases so it doesn’t matter?
What’s that? You’d like neither? Sorry, not on the menu.
Unlike on Chris Heston‘s big night, the Mets hit and hit from the get-go — Curtis Granderson started off the game by tripling into the gap. Oh wait, Granderson thought the ball had been caught, so it was a double. Except it was a single. That’s how it’s going these days: The Mets hit but still screw up somehow.
Granderson recovered from his self-colonoscopy but wound up getting thrown out at home from me to you, to use a baseball saying I’ve always loved without really understanding it — even Tim Teufel had a crappy night. Wilmer Flores seemed to save the day by driving in two runs, but that only got the Mets even — because Matt Harvey had given up a two-run homer to Joe Panik in the top of the first.
On an 0-2 fastball, no less.
It was just the beginning of Harvey’s troubles. The Mets grabbed a 4-2 lead, but Harvey unraveled in the sixth: Panik singled, Angel Pagan singled, Buster Posey doubled into the corner (on another 0-2 pitch), Brandon Belt homered, Brandon Crawford doubled but was thrown out at third, and after an out Justin Maxwell homered.
Harvey’s record over his last four starts: 1-3, 7.20 ERA and eight homers surrendered. In 2013 he gave up seven homers all season.
So what’s wrong? After Harvey’s unceremonious departure, there were as many theories as there were Twitter accounts and SNY microphones. Maybe it’s a hangover from Tommy John surgery: Adam Wainwright‘s ERA was nearly 4.00 in his first post-TJ campaign, after all. Maybe it’s not having a feel for the killer slider that complements the fastball. Maybe it’s not pitching inside enough — Giants hitters were leaning out for pitches like they were at the buffet. Maybe it’s just the usual learning curve of a sophomore season.
Most likely it’s a little bit of everything above. Harvey, to his credit, was his toughest critic after the game, talking about being “all over the place” in a “pretty poor performance” and stubbornly returning, mantra-like, to insisting that figuring out will begin tomorrow.
Which would be great, but the Mets have more to fix. Their baserunning was abysmal, their infield and outfield play was poor, and they’re playing with no real bench until they sort out some mysterious transaction that seems to involve Kevin Plawecki, Dilson Herrera, Bobby Parnell and possibly others from a list that could include Dillon Gee, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun and Ted Williams‘s frozen head.
Let’s hope that restructuring begins tomorrow too. It was good to have Travis d’Arnaud back, but Eric Campbell has to be moved off third base sooner rather than later — the highlight of SNY’s telecast was Ron Darling dispassionately noting that Campbell doesn’t have a lot of range or confidence at third, so he compensates for that by playing back and not coming in on balls, which leaves him a second or two slow trying to turn double plays. Last night’s game was all the evidence one needs to see why that’s not a good idea.
Once whatever mysterious transacting has been completed, Herrera should take over at second, with Ruben Tejada moving to third until he’s, in turn, supplanted by Daniel Murphy. That ought to stabilize things a bit, without disrupting Wilmer Flores’s development as a shortstop. (Which you’re welcome to say is also a bad idea.) But it also involves waiting — and then, once the waiting’s over, hoping for an outcome that’s dependent on a best-case scenario, such as a 21-year-old being ready for a regular big-league job. In the meantime, the Mets are playing short in any number of ways. Which has only been happening since the first day we heard the name “Bernie Madoff.”
It’s getting old, to say the least. And it’s too much for any baseball superhero to fix.
I’ll admit it. I was rooting for it.
I was out on Seventh Avenue in front of Penn Station using the time before the 9:39 Babylon train was announced to hear Howie Rose call history in the making. It was too absorbing a broadcast to let go to waste on a late two-out single that would turn a potential night for the ages into another routinely depressing Met offensive performance.
Also, it was bound to happen, and not just because I basically never expect the depleted Mets to hit even a little. The Mets had gone 22 years without being on the wrong side of one of these babies. The night it happened in Houston, at the hands of Darryl Kile in 1993, it also felt bound to happen. That was the year when anything that could go wrong did go wrong. By September, there was no chance the Mets wouldn’t be no-hit. It had been 18 years since Ed Halicki. It felt strangely overdue then, too. When Halicki did it, I remember thinking, “Well, here we go again.” I remembered Bill Stoneman doing it three years before Halicki did it, three after Bob Moose did it. I have no personal recollection of Bob Moose doing it. I learned about his no-hitting the Mets in the Bob Moose biographical comic booklet that came in a pack of cards the year after he did it. I seem to recall Moose’s comic balloon emphasizing that the Mets went on to win the World Series. It was tough to look back in anger, given the context of 1969.
Before Kile, Halicki, Stoneman and Moose, the Mets were no-hit every ten minutes, or so it seemed. Actually, they were no-hit twice: Sandy Koufax in 1962, Jim Bunning with the perfect game in 1964. There was also Jim Maloney carrying a no-no into the eleventh in 1965. Thanks to Frank Lary, the Mets kept that one tied. Thanks to Johnny Lewis, the Mets got that one won. Maloney’s incredible effort from 50 years ago this Sunday used to be listed with the no-hitters thrown at the Mets, but was eventually expunged because the arbiters of such monumental acheivements aren’t much fun.
But this, Chris Heston throwing a no-hitter versus the Mets last night, was fun. Perverse fun. Historic fun. Broadcasting fun. I’m pretty sure I was rooting less for a pitcher I’d never heard of until the night before and more for the announcer I’d been listening to for close to three decades.
I wanted to hear Howie Rose call a no-hitter. Yes, I’m aware he already has a pretty significant one under his belt, but I was watching on television that night. I would’ve been watching on television last night, except I was out. I was listening on and off to the game because it was the game. I carry a radio around because that’s what I’ve always done when the Mets are in the air and I can’t be by a TV. I planted myself outside Penn because it was this game.
Briefly I reconsidered my stance. The Mets once upon a time trailed the Expos by six runs entering the ninth inning and tied it before winning in the eleventh. The Mets once upon a longer ago time trailed the Giants — the Giants — by four runs entering the ninth inning and won it with five Magical runs. Was there a Carl Everett or a Steve Henderson or an extraordinarily muscular Johnny Lewis who could provide a five-run blast last night? I’d throw this no-hitter overboard in a second if I thought the Mets could make something out of this game other than a nuisance of themselves.
No, I determined. They’re in first place, and they are to be lauded for it, but tonight they are not going to suddenly score five runs. There’s “never say die” and there’s acceptance that some cases are probably terminal. Go ahead, Chris Heston, take your best shot.
Go ahead, Howie Rose. Take us on Heston’s journey.
I listened to the eighth out on Seventh and I thought about sticking around for the ninth. But then I’d be missing the 9:39 and screw that. The next train out would probably include Yankees fans coming back from their team helpfully keeping our team in first place by beating the Nationals. I don’t need that kind of company. When the eighth is over, I reasoned, I’ll run downstairs, I’ll grab a window seat, I’ll finesse the wire that connects my earbuds to my radio and I’ll try to get as much of a signal as I can while sitting in then rolling through the tunnel.
There wasn’t much clear channel to be had. I got as far as learning Heston got Tejada to two-and-two to out before everything blanked out. Radio was no help, phone was no help. I was the personification of that Flintstones episode in which Fred and Barney are out fishing and Mickey Marble has hit a ball that is going…going…and Barney accidentally knocks the stone age radio into the drink. Boy, was Fred angry.
Next thing I could make out over WOR as my train poked its nose into Long Island City was a car commercial, so I assumed the bottom of the ninth ended as I’d come to want it, with the Mets not compiling a hit. And I was right.
I keep coming back to the word history, which can take the shape of HI57ORY if we’re lucky or Hest-ory when we’re not. Heston, No. 53 for the visitors, did his part. Howie did the rest. Howie invoked Bunning, remembering the support he garnered at Shea as he set down the Mets on Father’s Day 1964. Mets fans root for a Phillie? It was a different time, a different standard, a different set of expectations, Howie said, with just a little sadness infiltrating his voice, that fans take anything that doesn’t go their way maybe a little too “personally” today. His implied message was how often do you get to see a no-hitter?
Or hear one?
You gotta hear this one, as called by Howie Rose in the bottom of the ninth. I listened to some of it after I got home, I transcribed it this morning and I share it with you now in honor of a terrific broadcaster carrying on in the tradition of another terrific broadcaster, Bob Murphy, an announcer who wouldn’t let the wrong color uniform get in the way of painting a brilliant and detailed word picture.
Here’s Howie’s call. Murph would be proud.
Well, if San Francisco Giants righthander Chris Heston could responsibly be described before the game as a rather NON-descript pitcher, well, there’s been absolutely nothing ordinary about what he’s achieved tonight.
However it ends, it’s going to be one of the most memorable games of his life.
He has no-hit the New York Mets through eight innings.
We start the bottom of the ninth with the Giants leading five to nothing, ANTHONY Recker leads off for New York. He’s oh for two, grounded to second, grounded to third.
Heston DELIVERS his first pitch and he HITS Recker. And that answers any question you might have about whether there’s either a little extra ADRENALINE or perhaps just extra NERVOUSNESS…COURSING through Chris Heston right now.
His first pitch hits Anthony Recker, the THIRD batter that he’s tonight, so Recker the runner at first, and DANNY Muno will bat for Sean Gilmartin.
[Josh Lewin interjects: “He’s cast as the, uh, Jimmy Qualls I guess here, huh?”]
Well, Muno, a switch-hitter batting left…and Heston’s first pitch, a curveball in for a called strike, nothing and one, and if he was a little extra amped up, that should calm him down.
Muno two for nineteen. One for four as a pinch-hitter.
Infield at double play depth, the pitch, fastball lined FOUL off to the left of home plate downstairs, it’s oh and two.
The paid crowd tonight, twenty-three thousand one-hundred and fifty-five. If Heston pulls this off, there will be many MORE who insist that they were there as the years pass.
Oh and two to Muno. Heston to the belt, DEALS. Curveball in there, STRIKE THREE CALLED. One out in the ninth, Heston has no-hit the Mets for eight and one THIRD innings.
And with a runner at first and one out, consider that any pitch now could be the final one of the night should GRANDERSON hit a ground ball that the Giants turn into two.
For Heston, the strikeout, his ninth of the game.
Not a big strikeout pitcher, but tonight he’s had EVERYthing working.
They will overshift the infield, three on the right side against Granderson.
Heston’s first pitch…taken outside, a changeup, one and oh.
The Giants not at all concerned about Recker. They’re not holding against him, Brandon Belt pretty deep and WAY off the bag when that first pitch was delivered.
Belt a little CLOSER now, perhaps because they wanna keep that double play in order, but now he drops back.
The one-oh pitch, curveball OVER, strike one, it’s one and one, and that pitch has been absolutely DAZZLING by Heston tonight.
That a little bit more of the twelve-to-six type curve. He’s also had a rather slurvy looking one that’s been effective.
One and one the count. Here’s the pitch, fastball low outside, ball two.
Giants will start to get some action in their bullpen. The pitch count not an issue in and of itself. He’s thrown a hundred and three. He’s thrown one game of a hundred and twelve, another a hundred eleven.
Two and one to Granderson, now the pitch. Fastball, popped FOUL, into the seats downstairs behind third.
TWO and TWO to Curtis Granderson.
Well, Brandon Belt, the first baseman, reaches down, puts an errant HOT dog wrapper or piece of paper into his pocket, and you’d never know what Heston’s doin’. He’s all business, already waiting to go on the mound.
Two and two to Granderson, the pitch, FASTBALL IN THERE, STRIKE THREE CALLED! He got him on the inside corner at the knees, and CHRIS HESTON is ONE OUT AWAY from NO-HITTING the New York Mets.
It is his tenth strikeout of the game, the third time that he’s gotten Granderson.
And NOW it is up to Ruben TEJADA, who is oh for two and was hit by a pitch.
Remember, Heston has not walked a batter. The only THREE baserunners the Mets have had tonight have been hit batsmen: Tejada; the man on deck Duda — they came back to back in the fourth — and Recker to start the ninth.
Many in this crowd are standing, some taking pictures. Recker runs, first pitch, breaking ball, outside, ball one. Recker takes second on defensive indifference.
So Heston, one hundred and six pitches thrown, just rubs the ball up and goes right back to the rubber, he’s not WALKIN’ around, not sucking anything IN, or takin’ extra deep breaths, he’s just ready to pump. One and oh to Tejada.
Heston to the belt, now the pitch…fastball chopped towards third, foul ball, past coach Tim Teufel. It’s ONE and ONE.
Many in the Giant dugout getting as close a look as they can, draped over the railing. Eric Campbell is the lone Met in a similar posture on the first base side.
Many in this crowd, if not most of them, now on their feet.
One and one to Tejada.
Heston sets, now the pitch, breaking ball in the dirt, two and one.
FIVE to nothing, Giants. They scored a first-inning run. Noah Syndergaard went six, gave up ten hits and four runs. But the pitching line of the night belongs to Chris Heston. Turned twenty seven years of age two months ago. From PALM Bay, Florida.
Two and one to Tejada…here’s the pitch…fastball on the OUTSIDE CORNER, two and two, and now Heston a STRIKE away.
The LAST time the Mets were no-hit and SHUT out — a no-hit, no-run game — was by the GIANTS, Ed Halicki in San Francisco, in 1975.
Here, Heston with a two-and-two count to Tejada…comes set, Recker leads from second…here’s the pitch…
FASTBALL IN THERE, STRIKE THREE CALLED, HE’S DONE IT!
CHRIS HESTON has NO-HIT the New York Mets!
And the Giants come out of the dugout to mob their twenty-seven year-old righthander.
The Mets have been no-hit for the first time since Nineteen Ninety-THREE, when Darryl Kile of the Houston Astros did it, but the Mets scored a run in THAT game. It’s the first time in nearly forty years, since AUGUST of 1975, that a pitcher has pitched a no-hit, no-run game against the New York Mets, Chris Heston with an eleven-strikeout gem.
He did not WALK a batter, he hit three, and slowly Bruce Bochy and the coaching staff emerge from the Giant dugout. The pitchers in the Giants bullpen are taking a slow walk in, as one by one the Giants players hug Chris HESTON, who has pitched a NO-HITTER.
The San Francisco Giants have defeated the New York Mets, five to nothing, but it’s the SEVENTEENTH no-hit game in the history of the San Francisco Giants, who of course started their baseball life right here in New York as the New York Giants.
And now the paid crowd of twenty-three thousand one-hundred and fifty-five salute Heston with a standing ovation as he walks, perhaps in something of a daze, back towards the Giants dugout.
In the ninth inning, for New York, no runs…no hits…no errors, a hit batsman, one man left, Heston strikes out eleven and NO-HITS the Mets. The final score, the San Francisco Giants five and the New York Mets nothing. Back to talk about it in a moment on the WOR Mets network, driven by your TriHonda dealer.
It seemed like a good idea. With our kid headed off to California with grandparents, I asked Emily if she wanted to go to the Mets game. Noah Syndergaard was pitching, and tickets were 66% off. She thought it was a capital idea. We snagged two seats in the front row of the Left Field landing, got tacos and were in our seats before the top of the first was over.
Why on earth was no one here, I wondered? The Mets, warts and all, were in first place, they had an exciting rookie on the mound and it was an absolutely perfect late-spring evening. I surveyed the empty acres of green seats grumpily — and got grumpier when I realized the seats that weren’t empty were disproportionally filled with visiting Giants fans. Gangs of them, in orange that was the right color yet the wrong allegiance, chanting and hooting and being entirely too conspicuous.
None of us, of course, had any idea that something special was coming.
The Giants contributed half the Mets’ National League birthright, including the small matter of that signature orange NY on the caps. And the Giants have done an admirable job of remembering their New York origins, bringing back old heroes and World Series trophies to the remaining Gotham fans. The Mets have responded by giving that half of their legacy mulishly short shrift: Citi Field’s rotunda is an homage to the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers and a tribute to Jackie Robinson. (Perhaps you’ve heard?) There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that, but the absence of any gesture towards that other team is unfortunate. The Mets once made noises about the green seats being a nod to the Polo Grounds, but nobody believed that; the closest they come to admitting they owe the Giants anything is by keeping Willie Mays‘s No. 24 unofficially retired, and that has more to do with respecting original owner (and Giants diehard) Joan Payson than with the club that put the orange in the orange and blue.
Well, the Giants certainly pushed their historical narrative tonight.
You can’t call balls and strikes from the Left Field Landing, so I have nothing to say about whether Chris Heston was hitting his spots or home-plate ump Rob Drake was helping him. I’ll wait for the pitching charts, while throwing down an early warning about sour grapes. (Anybody want to celebrate the slightly belated anniversary of Johan Santana‘s one-hitter?)
From my distant vantage Heston’s stuff seemed pedestrian — high-80s fastballs mixed with curves. Later, looking at the highlights, I was more impressed: That curveball was a killer, and the sinker was perfect for pounding balls into the ground for an infielder to retrieve. I saw a couple of balls get called strikes, yes, but nothing screamed travesty to me.
Look, no-hitters are flukes; what makes them fun is that they come out of nowhere. Sometimes great pitchers throw them when they’re on top of their games and have smothering stuff, but great pitchers also throw them when they have lousy stuff. And sometimes lousy pitchers throw them when they have great stuff. Tom Seaver has been open about having nothing the day he threw a no-no for Cincinnati; the likes of Len Barker and Philip Humber have been perfect on the mound. Stuff happens.
Heston hit his spots, didn’t make mistakes, and pitched to his defense. (A defense that was a lot better than ours — in the early going Syndergaard kept getting double-play balls that Met infielders turned into fielder’s choices.) The Mets hit one ball hard all night — Eric Campbell‘s grounder to Brandon Crawford‘s backhand. Everything else they swung and missed at or patty-caked to an infielder.
Heston earned his accomplishment; he should savor it. And so should the Giants fans who were lucky enough to be there to see it. I’m not pleased right now, but I suspect in a week or so I’ll be thinking, “You know what? I saw a no-hitter in person. That’s pretty cool.”
Anyway, by the 7th inning I was experiencing the opposite of that jittery sense of expectation you get when your pitcher is creeping closer to a no-hitter. I figured Heston would do it and wasn’t particularly surprised as he got closer and the Giants fans got louder. I wasn’t rooting for him, but by that point I didn’t see sneaking a ball through the 5.5 hole as lipstick worth smearing on this particular pig.
I went to the bathroom in the top of the ninth and walked back through the nearly empty section to take my seat next to Emily. Heston hit Anthony Recker, struck out the next three Mets looking and that was it. I took a picture of the scoreboard for my brother-in-law and his family and waited for the Mets to acknowledge the second Citi Field no-hitter.
I wondered what they’d say. The stadium-operations folks had proved graceful hosts in the All-Star Game, so I figured they’d have some congratulatory note for Heston, along with some historical context. Something about how that was the 17th no-hitter in Giants history and their ninth since moving to San Francisco. Or how it was the fifth Giants no-hitter since 2009, or the franchise’s second against the Mets. Or perhaps the video board would note that Heston was the seventh pitcher to no-hit the Mets and the first since the late Darryl Kile.
Amazingly — shamefully — there was nothing. The Mets followed a night of doing nothing at the plate by doing nothing to honor an opponent for something of historic significance. It was negligent and crass and embarrassing.
I don’t know why it happened. Perhaps somebody in stadium operations was afraid they’d get in trouble. Perhaps someone thought it wasn’t right to do that at home. Perhaps it just didn’t occur to anybody. Whatever the case, here’s hoping the stadium-operations folks get together with the Met powers that be and talk it through and come up with an answer that has the proper grace and class.
Because with this lineup, the situation could arise again very soon.
Welp, that first West Coast trip is out of the way, and the Mets went 3-4, but 2-87 if you adjust the results by Depressed Met Fan Black Cloud Overhead Factor.
2-87 is obviously horrible, and in our spiritual standings the Mets are now 10,462 games out of first place.
3-4, on the other hand, is not horrendous for a week of playing on the other side of the continent in the middle of the night, and fans who make do with primitive stats such as wins and losses opened the paper (an obsolete physical medium) this morning to find the Mets in first place in the NL East by an entire half-game over the Nationals.
So what happened? Jacob deGrom was great, and Josh Collmenter was very far from that. The Mets clubbed four homers off Collmenter: two by Curtis Granderson, one by Wilmer Flores (whose Shortstop-O-Meter is currently reading EH MAYBE NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL), and one by Eric Campbell.
Campbell had one of those redemption games: In the first inning he goosed a double-play throw into the dirt at second base, turning two out and none on into a mess that cost deGrom two runs and the lead and sent the Twitterati (including this representative) marching on Sandy Alderson’s house with virtual pitchforks. So in the second Campbell hit a long home run into the seats to give the Mets back the lead and restore his own karmic balance. SNY’s cameras then caught Campbell apparently apologizing to deGrom for the lapse, with Jake grinning and life-is-granding his way through the exchange like he was selling another Ford.
Another good note from SNY: The Mets and Diamondbacks could be some unfortunate mother’s bizarrely different siblings. The Mets can pitch but can’t hit or field while the Diamondbacks can hit and field (particularly their annoyingly gazelle-like outfielders) but can’t pitch. Which started me down the road of a post sagely explaining that starting pitching is the foundation of everything, until I started poking around the expanded standings.
The Mets are 31-27 and have scored five runs more than they’ve surrendered; the D-Backs are 27-29 and have scored seven more runs than they’ve surrendered. The Mets are a half-game up in a division that’s scuffling along, while Arizona’s 4 1/2 out in a tougher slate. The only real difference between these two clubs is the quality of their neighbors; subtract that and they are essentially the same team. They’ve just taken different routes to getting to that same place.
The interesting question for the Mets is whether they get to be a different team soon. Travis d’Arnaud should be back within a few days, displacing Kevin Plawecki, who’s shown enough to give you hopes about his future while thinking his present should still be in Las Vegas. Dilson Herrera also looks close to returning, which should put the aforementioned Campbell out of a job, followed in a couple of weeks by Ruben Tejada. Bobby Parnell is due to return Wednesday despite not looking ready for duty, while the slightly less-unready-looking Vic Black was activated and sent to Las Vegas, which struck some Mets fans smarter than me as a slightly shenanigansy prelude to a transaction that would do the opposite of what I just wrote. Whatever the case, one of them should soon replace someone, probably the not-yet-ready Jack Leathersich.
The point is that the Mets should look different in a week, and if d’Arnaud and Herrera are sound and Parnell/Black can improve on Leathersich’s body of work they should be better. That’s a lot of ifs, granted, but how many ifs were required to get us to being injured and profoundly weird and also in first place on June 9?
Remember Arizona when Arizona was really Arizona? When Arizona was a welcoming oasis for Mets bats? Remember 14-1, 18-4 and 15-2? Those were scores by which the Mets pounded Diamondback pitching at Chase Field in 2005 and 2006. We didn’t always win by a ton but we always won when we visited the desert. We won thirteen consecutive games at one point. We won every series we played in Phoenix from 2004 through 2008. Hell, we swept in 2014 and took two out of three in 2013.
What happened, Mets? You used to love these trips. Now you act like your sinuses are too good for them.
Your bats aren’t, that’s for sure. Holy crap, it’s 1971 out there these nights. It’s great pitching and no hitting. It’s a bottom of the order whose worst hitter when Bartolo Colon is pitching isn’t necessarily Bartolo Colon. Bartolo Colon has learned how to hit. Ruben Tejada has remembered how to hit. Maybe somebody else puts lumber to horsehide in a meaningful manner once per evening — Cuddyer on Friday night, Lagares on Saturday — but that’s it.
Our fellas sometimes get on base but don’t come around. Nobody drives them home. Everybody hits into double plays. Everybody else lofts balls into the outfield. Don’t hit balls on the fly to Arizona outfielders. David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Ender Inciarte cover three-thirds of the earth’s surface. Even water doesn’t seep through.
The Diamondbacks play good defense. Shall we use that as the excuse du jour? Chase Anderson and three relievers pitched pretty well. Shall we act as if they were impenetrable? The Mets suffer from multiple player injuries. Shall we pretend nobody informed those with personnel-procuring responsibility that major league teams should come equipped with a certain amount of depth? And while we’re making inquiries that ought to have obvious answers, can we ask the likes of Anthony Recker, Eric Campbell and latest mystery guest Danny Muno why they can’t maybe bust out once in a while considering they’re in the big leagues collecting big league meal money?
Colon pitched wonderfully. Colon hit professionally. Colon made one mistake. Colon lost. The Mets lost. Such outcomes seem to be recurring in the present, regardless of how wonderfully positioned we might be for the future.
Over the first sixteen games of 2015, the Mets’ winning percentage worked out to a full-season record of 131-31. Clearly, that was unsustainable. In the 41 games since, the Mets have played at a clip that would net them a full-season record of 67-95. It’s a larger sample and it’s more recent. It’s troubling. It’s not the stuff of good-pitch/no-hit 1971. It’s the stuff of no-chance 1980 (minus the Magic). It doesn’t have to represent the prevailing wind of the 64.8% of what remains of this year, but it sure does blow.