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11 Alive

And on the eleventh day, they did precisely what they’d been doing on the ten days that preceded it.

They won [1].

It’s a daily exercise with these Mets, now historically so. In front of your frozen but grateful blogger, his shivering photographer pal and scattered others who — like Sharon Chapman and me — value excellence over warmth, our team tied its franchise record for most consecutive wins: eleven. They also completed the first-ever homestand in which ten Mets games were played and ten Mets games were won.

By the Mets, in case you require clarification.

The size of the crowd at the moment the current winning streak reached 1969, 1972, 1986 and 1990 proportions might not have numbered 7,917, which is the sum total you get when you add those four sets of digits. Hardy as those of us who stayed in attendance to the final out were, this occasion deserved a grander setting, or at least a warmer one.

Then again, these are the 2015 Mets. They play through any conditions and they win through all of them.

Unseasonably chilly. Unreasonably sizzling. (Photo by Sharon Chapman) [2]

Unseasonably chilly. Unreasonably sizzling. (Photo by Sharon Chapman)

It was as frigid at Citi Field on Thursday as the Mets are hot. Three prolonged replay challenges were issued by the two managers, but they paled in comparison to the challenge presented to we loyalists who stared — bundled or otherwise — into the face of Flushing Bay’s killer winds. But who cares about the unseasonable chill when the season is unreasonably sizzling? How often do you show up to an atmosphere reminiscent of (as Sharon observed) Sharknado 2 and not wind up feeling like you’re an extra in a disaster movie? More to the point, how often do you watch the Mets polish off the Braves on the heels of burying the Marlins right after sweeping the Phillies?

You gotta stick around to bear witness to the conclusion of the 10-0 homestand responsible for 90.9% of the eleven-game streak. This is history that’s been unfolding before our rapidly believing eyes. That “eleven in a row, achieved four times, first in 1969…” business is strong stuff in Met lore. I’ve been hearing about eleven straight wins my entire sentient fan life, a period that began a few months after the first of those four-now-five streaks. The Mets never winning more games than precisely that many consecutively was established for me as canon by Lindsey and Ralph and Bob and drilled into my consciousness forever more. It was the untopped therefore untoppable benchmark, the puffiest cumulus cloud of franchise flawlessness imaginable. When the Mets are as hot as hot can be, they win eleven in a row.

Maybe the record will stand in perpetuity, set and/or tied five times, never to be bettered. Or perhaps we’ll be able to use the number that comes after eleven in less than 24 hours. That would be wonderful.

For now, though, eleven consecutive wins is utterly Amazin’ to consider, while the ten out of ten at home is its own piece of heaven. I’ve been keeping track, since the very first time I entered Shea Stadium in 1973, of how the Mets do when I’m there. I jot the result and the essentials down in a steno pad. I filled one for Shea and am in the process of doing the same for Citi. I’ve never started a season by going to four games as I have in 2015 and writing down a W all four times.

Until now.

It almost feels like cheating. “Geez,” I hear myself think, “I’m 4-0 only because I could’ve gone to any four games of the ten they’ve played at home thus far and seen a win. If I could’ve gone to all ten, I’d be 10-0 at Citi Field this year, just like the Mets.” As if there’s something wrong with that.

There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s living the dream. We go to Citi Field — no matter how nightmarish the weather — and we see our team win. It’s a dream come true. It’s not rigged, it’s not scripted, it’s not preordained. Despite the reboot of those splendid “The Magic is Back” t-shirts [3] via the visionary entrepreneurship of The 7 Line, it’s not sprinkled with blue and orange pixie dust. It’s simply deserved. I don’t mean we’re swell guys and gals and therefore have this coming to us (I’d like to think that, but so would 29 other packs of fans). I mean the Mets go after each game determined to win it and they suss out every possible route to victory, working toward it and earning every bit of it.

“They find a way to win” is one of those phrases you usually hear applied to scrappy underdogs who have to repeatedly come from far behind and rely on supernatural breaks to keep getting lucky, The Magic is Back-style. These Mets don’t really proceed like that. Finding a way to win seems like the crux of their job description. The difference between them and the “they pulled it out” type of enterprise that “finds a way to win” is the 2015 Mets find a way to win virtually every half-inning.

They yield no ground in their search for an edge. They swing away immediately. They work the count interminably. They (usually) throw to the right base. They appear to have thought every situation through before it occurs. They generally display terrific instincts. They are logical in their approach. They are breathtakingly daring. They choke off the opposition’s rallies. They are impossible to foil. They take what the other team gives them. They go after what they have to have.

And, as is implicit in an eleven-game winning streak, they don’t lose.

I’ve studied up on 1969’s eleven-gamer and how it turned the franchise around. I remember the broad outlines of 1972’s record-matcher and the statement it was making until the fracturing of essential bones spoke louder. I have very clear and specific memories of how eleven straight got powerfully strung together in 1986 and again in 1990. I have just lived through the eleven wins in a row, already in progress, from 2015.

All have a stretch of 11-0 in common, yet I don’t see many similarities now to how things coalesced exactly as statistically beautifully as they did then. There is little sense of the “God took an apartment in New York City” explanation that defines the spirit of 1969’s initial surge. Rusty Staub [4] and Willie Mays [5] haven’t alighted among mere mortals to elevate a latter-day 1972. Nobody talked about this team being poised to “dominate” as Davey Johnson [6] promised 1986’s Mets would (which they did). And when the 1990 Mets decided to rejoin the living, it was obvious how capable they were of reeling off win after win after win. Those were the Mets of Strawberry at his peak, Jefferies when he wasn’t his own worst enemy, Viola on a roll and a bunch of teammates who were either awesome as a rule or astounding for a while. The surprise wasn’t that the 1990 Mets won eleven in a row. The surprise was that the 1990 Mets didn’t win eleven in a row every eleven games.

This edition, the 2015 Mets, was supposed to be competitive to the point of maybe contending for that theoretically graspable second Wild Card, the least brassy of the brass rings available to a competent ballclub with a modicum of aspiration. If these Mets weren’t 13-3, nobody would be asking why the hell not?

Instead, they’re 13-3 — in first by 4½ games, best record in the majors — and, after continued exposure to their matter-of-fact charms, we are asking, well, why the hell not? They may not strike the impartial observer as great. But it can’t be argued they’re not good to the extreme.

On Thursday, every time something threatened to go wrong, the Mets dispatched the threat with ease. A bases-loaded situation presented itself in the bottom of the first to their least effective hitter to date, Daniel Murphy [7]. Murphy made the most of it, doubling in all three runners, commencing a four-RBI day. Daniel also made a poor defensive decision that led to an unnecessary run in the fourth. That was two innings after a blockheaded interpretation of the can’t-block-the-plate rule awarded the Braves a run that had been legitimately cut down at the plate.

Bartolo Colon [8] surely noticed he was pitching in a 3-3 game that shouldn’t have been any worse than 3-1, but it didn’t distract him from his myriad tasks at hand. Like skillfully bunting a runner over in the fifth. Like brilliantly picking a runner off first (by himself) in the sixth. Like never giving up another run after fleeting misfortune bit him. With Colon keeping Atlanta’s runs at three through six, the Mets could stroll to glory.

Brave pitchers weren’t nearly so disciplined. The Mets’ first inning was built on three walks from Julio Teheran [9] to the first four batters he saw. The Mets’ fifth inning — a three-pitcher production, directed by hacky Fredi Gonzalez — took a misplayed grounder; a steal on a strikeout; a wild pitch; and another three walks to another set of four batters, and turned it into the go-ahead run. Two singles, a fielder’s choice, a balk and another single provided tack-on insurance in the seventh.

By then, it was 6-3. Bartolo had already passed the baton to Buddy Carlyle [10]. Buddy would slap it in the left palm of Alex Torres [11], who in turn relayed it to Jeurys Familia [12] for the final sprint. In the seventh, eighth and ninth, Atlanta sent eleven batters to the plate. They produced a single and a walk but no runs. It never felt like they couldn’t come back (they still model tomahawks on their jerseys and they still pay Freddie Freeman [13] to stoke our anxieties), but the more you watched the Mets, the more you were certain the Braves wouldn’t come back.

There were enough unstable elements darting about this gust-ridden eleventh consecutive win to suggest an alternate outcome was possible, but the Mets fan who stayed at his seat until he was standing and vigorously clapping his gloved hands while history beckoned with two out in the ninth knew no such answer was blowing in the wind. The Mets were going to win this one, like they’d won the previous ten.

With no doubt from them and oodles of joy for us.

A podcast appearance of a different stripe: I joined Yanks Go Yard to talk Subway Series and generally obsess on the Mets some more. Listen here [14], if you dare.