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A Real Cliffdweller

Well, that was inconclusive [1].

I would love to exult in a thrilling Mets victory or, barring that, dissect a frustrating Mets loss. Instead, let’s just all stare out the window and wait for 6:10 PM, for we have ourselves a suspended game, something I don’t know the Mets have had at home since Ed Kranepool couldn’t wait for the third out of the ninth inning to hit the clubhouse on August 21, 1979 [2], and something I know the Mets haven’t had anywhere since lightless Wrigley Field sent the second game of a doubleheader into the next afternoon on August 6, 1986 [3]. In both those cases, the Mets won the games that were halted once they were resumed.

The most famous suspended game in Mets history, from July 13, 1977, occurred the night Con Edison had the poor sense to stick one of its substations in the path of a lightning strike. That contest took two months to complete. The Mets trailed the Cubs, 2-1, as Lenny Randle came to bat in well-lighted (if not particularly clean) Shea Stadium. An instant later, the ballpark and the city were enveloped in a pitch-blackout, which Randle — not without logic born of prevailing evidence — mistook for the Big General Manager in the Sky “calling me” [4]. A 1977 Met should have only escaped yet another defeat so easily. The Mets picked up their game with the Cubs two months later and lost it, 5-2, though Lenny Randle lived to bat .304 on the season.

And on May 24, 2013? Jeremy Hefner made his one big mistake early by way of a monster two-out, two-run home run to Freddie Freeman in the first. Then he settled down as you kind of knew he would in that Hefner may be the only pitcher on Earth who could enter his ninth start of the season with an ERA of 5.00 and be described as “hard luck”. Either everything goes terribly wrong for Hefner or barely a thing goes wrong, but, oh, when that solitary thing goes wrong, it lands on a porch far from home plate and we’re compelled to start every sentence regarding the upstanding Oklahoman [5] with “Jeremy Hefner deserved better, but…”

Hefner gave up those two runs and nothing else for six innings, long enough for the Mets to mount a surprise attack on Kris Medlen. That is to say they scored three runs in six innings despite a) being the Mets and b) ceding the seven-spot in their batting order to Ike Davis and thus effectively playing a game of eight-on-nine versus Atlanta. Davis struck out four times [6] for what is known in baseball circles as “the golden sombrero”. Interestingly, manufacturers of golden sombreros refer to a very productive day at the factory as “an Ike Davis”. Among the eight hitters who surrounded the offensively comatose Davis (now carrying a .143 average so light that he won’t be charged a baggage fee on his impending flight to Vegas) during that Medlen kid’s stay on the mound, Lucas Duda had the good sense to loop a ball in the general direction of Uptonia Parkway in the first, where gloves are not permitted in the fast lane; John Buck hit a home run clear to April in the fourth; and Marlon Byrd exhibited veteran leadership by veteraningly leading a liner to center in the fifth.

Terry Collins decided the 3-2 lead Hefner handled through six was best passed along to LaTroy Hawkins because Collins obviously bet on the Braves and was damned if he wasn’t going to cash in. Hawkins rather predictably gave up a leadoff homer to Dan Uggla in the seventh. How could that not happen when Collins theatrically or perhaps valiantly threw himself on the grenade [7] of Hefner’s 0-5 record after Jeremy threw 94 pitches and looked as solid as Sadecki out there? The Mets were 0-8 in Hefner’s starts, which trumps good ol’ Jeremy’s statistical shortfall. Harvey’s Cy Young monitoring aside, who cares what a pitcher’s won-lost record is? One more inning out of Hefner might have brought the Mets one inning closer to victory.

Or one more inning out of Hefner might have brought a black cat traipsing across the infield. And another blackout. And Ed Kranepool exiting prematurely from wherever Ed Kranepool was enjoying his Friday night. To be fair to the manager, something is always going to go wrong for Mr. Hard Luck. Friday it was LaTroy Hawkins.

So the Mets went to the bottom of the seventh, tied 3-3, with Hefner no-decisioned and laser-hot Daniel Murphy making his way on base yet again via shortstop’s error…and making his way off base via baserunner’s aggressiveness. When Daniel morphs into Marvelous Murph, getting himself thrown out at second by the proverbial country mile, it’s a bad sign. When the next two batters reach via walk and HBP but are stranded by Duda and Byrd, it’s a worse sign. When Scott Rice and Greg Burke collaborate on a bases-loading situation that sets up another heartwarming chapter in the life and times of Evan Gattis [8], and the Mets fall behind, 5-3 in the top of the eighth, you figure the Mets had had their moments and they blew them all.

But the Mets and Braves on a Friday night, fireworks or no fireworks (and there were to be no fireworks on this sparsely attended Fireworks Night), can be interesting. They were interesting a few Friday nights ago [9] at Turner Field. They were interesting at Shea in 2000 [10], when 8-1, Braves, became 11-8, Mets, in the blink of an eighth. There was even a Friday night in Atlanta in godforsaken 2003 that ended with Tsuyoshi Shinjo enlivening his otherwise depressing second Met go-round by gunning down Chipper Jones — remember that guy? — at the plate to ensure a 6-5 Met victory that Armando Benitez seemed determined to let unravel into a 7-6 loss.

Thus, it was interesting that with the Mets spiritually down a ton in the bottom of the eighth at Citi Field, they were really only two runs in arrears. And despite the ghostly presence of Ike Davis striking out with a runner on first, the Mets got two on and Jordany Valdespin up, and Valdespin worked the kind of at-bat against Anthony Varvaro that, if it were Tejada or Murphy doing it, would present cause to praise the Hudgens Approach to deep counts, except it was Valdespin, so Collins probably sent word to Fredi Gonzalez to drill the cocky punk bastard (you know, for his own good). Anyway, Jordany got it to 3-and-2 and didn’t offend any of the veteran leaders or anything. I had a really good feeling about this.

But then Valdespin struck out on Varvaro’s eighth pitch, which indicated it was going to be another lost opportunity in another lost season in another lost era…except Murphy was up again and he scalded a ball to center to score Buck from second. And because for the Braves, Uptonia Parkway runs through left and center, Tejada — who had just broken out of his own mostly obscured Ikeness with a single — was able to go from first to third with the potential tying run. Maybe B.J. Upton would have fielded Murphy’s hit cleanly had everything not been getting drenched, but like his brother Justin, he plays Uptonian defense, so probably not.

Rick Ankiel, so incongruously a member of this team that he appears to have been Photoshopped into his Mets uniform, was up next, though his role was to play wet bystander as Varvaro slipped a soaked baseball past Brian McCann. Tejada bolted in from third. McCann’s throw to Varvaro covering the plate beat Ruben, but it also bypassed his pitcher. Tejada was safe and our sopping Friday night affair was knotted at five.

Ankiel struck out, the tarp spread out, Gary and Ron gave way to that horrible SNY sports highlights show and, after I nodded off, I learned the game was put on hold. It is to be resumed before the Fox game tonight, though that seems to assume an awful lot about the Mets and Braves resolving their preliminary issues in plenty of time for 25% of the nation to see what it’s nominally tuning in for.

Oh, like we care about inconveniencing Fox.

Still, the suspended game’s juxtaposition alongside what used to be known as the Game of the Week seems appropriate. This is network television, where May means the TV season is ending and prime time programming endeavors to hold your attention until fall with cliffhangers — or “cliffdwellers,” as Wes Westrum called close contests back in the days when tie games would be put in the books as such and played all over again as if they had never happened (save for the individual stats). On October 2, 1965, the Mets and Phillies took a Saturday night Shea nightcap to 18 innings at 0-0 [11] before the municipal curfew law kicked in. Rather than being suspended, the game was considered forever deadlocked, one of eight official ties the Mets played between 1962 and 1981. The season ended the next day, though not before the two going-nowhere-but-home teams were forced to plow through yet another doubleheader (which the 50-112 Mets lost). They don’t have curfews on ballgames anymore and they almost never call ties. Hence, we find ourselves smack in the midst of an old-fashioned cliffdweller.

Will Jeremy Hefner finally technically participate in a Mets win?

Which Met reliever will be discombobulated by having to “start” a game already in progress?

How will Dillon Gee be affected by having his routine interrupted in advance of the regularly scheduled game?

During which inevitable losing streak will Terry Collins blame “that suspended game with the Braves” for upsetting the Mets’ finely honed equilibrium?

Do they make sombreros in platinum?

Who’s Anthony Recker and will we find out why Kevin Burkhardt was interviewing him?

Is it going to rain again?

And, most importantly, what about me, dammit? The Mets sent me a postcard offering me two free tickets for a non-Subway Series game in May, which was bureaucratic hell to actually turn into two free tickets. The tickets are for tonight. If I show up and see the end of a Mets loss, do I have to enter it in my Log? Can I take credit for the win? Will my wife endure this mini-doubleheader she’s suddenly signed onto? Will we stick around for ad hoc Fireworks Night?

Then there’s the matter of some recurring oral pain — not the kind thousands inflict on Ike Davis when he strikes out, but the kind for which I have oral surgery scheduled Tuesday (a.k.a. Worst Harvey Day Ever). During the rain delay, hoo-boy, did I have a flareup, the kind of episode where you find yourself thinking, “No bleeping way I’m going tomorrow night.” Then it subsided. Will it arise again? Will it be worse? How could it possibly be worse? If my pain was a baseball player, it would be Ike Davis, for crissake.

For answers to these and other burning questions, tune into the shocking conclusion of The Suspended Game (though, ironically, the suspended game may not be televised [12]).

Also, get ahold of my book [13] if you haven’t. It’s full of great stories about these sorts of games…except the Mets always win.