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Lucas Duda Is the King of NutraSweet Pop

The Mets and Astros combined to throw 266 pitches tonight at Citi Field. For 265 of them — that’s 99.62% of the game if you’re mathematically inclined — the results were pretty much unbearable for Mets fans.

The preteen girls in the stands, most of whom were waiting to watch someone named Austin Mahone, unleashed 266,000 shrieks tonight at Citi Field. All 266,000 of them — that’s 100% if you’re mathematically inclined — were unbearable for everyone except besotted fans of Austin Mahone.

The original plan was for Emily, Joshua and I to go tonight. We didn’t for the usual bourgeois reasons — soccer game, looming deadlines, busy day tomorrow, plus not particularly wanting to be caught in a hormonal supervolcano. For 265 of the pitches thrown, it seemed like a good call. The Mets looked flat all night, unable to do anything — as seems to be so often true — with a 31-year-old roster-filler of a pitcher. Sam Deduno [1] was great, I suppose, unless he was just pitching against a Mets team that looked ready for the far-from-the-bright-lights version of October.

Deduno’s teammates didn’t do much to support him except have luck on their side: In the sixth Dexter Fowler [2] hit a ridiculous little roller up the third-base line, by which I mean that it rolled absurdly back and forth on the actual chalk, like some spheroid version of the CGI feather in Forrest Gump. Daniel Murphy [3] — who looked amusingly disgusted all night — waved his hands halfheartedly at it, and the historically minded part of me desperately wanted Murph to hit the deck and try to blow the ball foul, a la Lenny Randle [4]. He didn’t and the ball stayed fair — if untouched it would have somehow hopped up on the third-base bag and then rolled along the line to the outfield wall, possibly absorbing chalk like some kind of lunatic snowball until it threatened the life of Eric Young [5] Jr.

Eight pitches later, inevitably, Jason Castro [6] whacked a double to right and the Astros were up 1-0.

It sure looked like that would be it, and Rafael Montero [7] would head into the offseason with his final memory a weird little game where nothing particularly bad happened except one thing that was enough to beat him. The shrieking escalated as the Mahomies — who are not, sad to say, a preteen tribe dedicated to searching out YouTube videos of former Met Pat Mahomes [8] — got closer to their appointment with their idol.

I had despaired of seeing the Mets win, and the game was easily one of the most boring ones of the year, so I started rooting cruelly for the Mets to tie things up so the Mahomies would have to wait in the stands while the teams played four or five more hours of similarly wretched baseball.

Unless they decided the concert had to go on, which gave me an idea: A while back my friend Will and I went to a Brooklyn Cyclones game that went long enough so the postgame fireworks were going to bump up against Coney Island’s curfew. The rather amazing answer someone came up with was to begin the fireworks show during the game. Fireworks started exploding directly over the batter’s eye, sending clouds of smoke over the field, while the poor players tried to do something that’s difficult even when artillery isn’t bursting right behind the pitcher. I figured the Mets could do the same thing, wheeling Mahone’s stage into the outfield between the 13th and the 14th and then continuing the game, with music blasting and preteen girls screaming and outfielders doing their best to maneuver around or across a stage full of musicians. (“Sorry, Fowler — the bass player’s in play.”)

I did allow myself one happier fantasy, but it seemed like even more of a reach: Back in May 2001, Greg and I were in the stands at Shea for Merengue Night against the Marlins. Greg recently recalled this one [9] for his own purposes — it featured Brad Penny [10] hitting Tsuyoshi Shinjo [11], after which Todd Zeile [12] hit a game-tying three-run homer and told Penny to “suck on that for Shinjo,” leading to a bunch of milling around and yelling. Timo Perez [13] would then win the game [14] in the 10th on a walkoff double.

It was fun eventually, but before that I mostly remember an unpleasant buzz in the stands all night. A large chunk of the boisterous crowd was interested in the music to come and not in the Mets, whom they regarded as an unwelcome warm-up act. An equally large chunk of the boisterous crowd was interested in the Mets, and regarded merengue as an unnecessary add-on, something between an annoyance and an alien invasion. There were partisans on either side of this divide who became less and less shy about broadcasting their opinions, and by the late innings too many of these folks were actively interested in finding someone to disagree with.

It was a tense scene, with nasty racial overtones threatening to boil over, and I was not excited about what might happen if the game went 14 or 15 innings. Timo’s hit made all the bad stuff vanish in an instant, like releasing a balloon. Timo was Dominican and he was a Met, so everyone was delighted [15]. Someone in the crowd threw him a Dominican flag, which he ran around brandishing with an enormous grin. Dudes who’d been ready to slug each other a batter before were high-fiving thunderously, and as Greg and I headed for the ramps I screamed at everyone I passed that TIMO PEREZ IS THE KING OF MERENGUE!

Now, I doubt anyone at Citi Field tonight was worried about a massive brawl between Mahomies and Methomies. But as the Mets’ frustrations continued, I thought wistfully back to that night 13 years ago. Young tripled with one out in the ninth, but Murphy flied out to left and even the speedy EY had to hold. Up stepped Lucas Duda [16], who hasn’t hit much in September and was facing a lefty.

“Walk ’em off, Lucas,” I said, but it was rote — there was zero conviction behind it. Tony Sipp [17] threw a slider for ball one, the Mahomies shrieked for the 265,999th time, and then Sipp missed badly with a fastball slider.

Most of Duda’s home runs are big majestic things, high arcs destined for the front of Pepsi Porch or that indeterminate Citi Field neighborhood between the right-field stands and the Shea Bridge. Not this one — it was a screaming liner bound either for Utleyville or the visibly vibrating uvula of a Mahomie in foul territory. Duda’s blast banged off the screen on the foul pole, causing Methomies and Mahomies to greet the shared victory [18] with delirious shrieking unison. The man himself skipped happily around the bases like some kind of terrifying mutant fawn, flung off his helmet to reveal his oddly muffinlike hair and leapt on the plate to be engulfed by his jubilant teammates.

And of course then I wish we’d gone. Perhaps I could have seen Lucas circling the field holding up a massive Austin Mahone banner. Or, failing that, I could have medium-fived 40 or 50 13-year-old girls, greeting each of them with the news: LUCAS DUDA IS THE KING OF NUTRASWEET POP!