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Pinball Wizards

I’m not sure what game the Mets and Rockies were playing out there in Denver, but it sure didn’t look much like baseball.

“Playing pinball,” Keith Hernandez [1] blurted on a night he seemed alternately entertained and horrified by the bloodletting down there on the field. That’s pretty close, I suppose. Still, whatever the game was, I’m glad the Mets won it — even if they had to sandwich mini-laughers around a near-death experience to do so.

I mean, my goodness. Twenty-three runs on 29 hits. Sixteen of those hits were for extra bases. Eight of them were home runs. There was no full inning without scoring by one team or the other. There were just three 1-2-3 innings — Christian Bergman [2] in the top of the fifth, Sean Gilmartin [3] in the bottom of the sixth, and Jeurys Familia [4] to end the game. All three of them should receive miniature Cy Young [5] awards. If you took your eyes off the action for a minute you’d turn around to see outfielders chasing a ball up the gap or a pitcher turning away in disgust. It wasn’t safe out there for anyone paid to throw a baseball in anger.

The apex predator to worry about was Yoenis Cespedes [6], who’s probably thinking that Coors Field might be a pretty good place to set up shop next year. After his second-inning grand slam off the luckless Jon Gray [7], I asked Twitter how one says “throw that weak-ass shit again, meat” in Spanish. (If you’re curious, I’m told it’s Tirela Otra vez y come mierda, which roughly translates as “pull again and eat shit.” Definitely the spirit.)

Cespedes wasn’t done — he’d crack two more home runs, resulting in the curious stat that the generally underpowered Mets are the first team since the ’11 Brewers to have three different guys hit three home runs in one game. (Lucas Duda [8] and Kirk Nieuwenhuis [9] are your other ’15 fence-busters.) With Cespedes rather terrifyingly locked in, it seemed entirely possible that he might become the first Met (and 17th player in big-league history) to hit four. In the top of the eighth Cespedes poked a single through the right side against Tommy Kahnle [10] (pronounced KAIN-lee, for some reason), making him 5-for-5. He came up again in the ninth with a chance to a) hit that fourth home run; b) tie Edgardo Alfonzo [11] with a 6-for-6 night; or c) stroke a triple for the Mets’ 11th cycle. Unfortunately the outcome was d) watch the ball just get intercepted by Carlos Gonzalez [12]‘s glove, because CarGo hates fun.

It was a good night to be a pitcher; not so much to be a pitcher. Poor Bartolo Colon [13] looked like an infantryman sent out to clear mines even before he threw his first pitch; a flyball pitcher and this particular night was not a kindly combination. Colon was excused after 3 2/3 rather terrible innings and being hit by a pitch that made his forearm look like someone had inflated a water balloon beneath the skin.

The heroics of Cespedes and his supporting cast (including Michael Conforto [14], who hit the most impressive homer of the night) somewhat obscured the fact that the Mets managed give up a six-run lead. It was 8-7 when Gilmartin arrived to try to clean up Colon’s mess and should arguably have been worse than it wound up. In the fifth Gilmartin gave up a single, followed by a game-tying triple. He struck out Brooks Barnes, but pinch-hitter Kyle Parker [15] hit a medium-depth to Curtis Granderson [16], who has a shallow-depth arm. Say what you will about Granderson, but he makes the most of his abilities: He Granderson positioned himself perfectly and put everything he had behind a one-hop throw to Travis d’Arnaud [17], but the ball took an odd bounce and Nick Hundley [18] gave d’Arnaud a neat little deke as he slid into home, with one leg coming forward and one pulling back and a hand emerging from the windmilling legs to snatch at the plate. D’Arnaud tagged something, at some point, and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in New York while Schrodinger’s Mets were half-on and half-off the field, the out was confirmed as such.

Was it so? Well … they said it was, didn’t they? Let’s leave it at that. They said it was, and so it was the Mets’ turn to blast away at the paddles and plungers and hope nothing flashed tilt so that someone unplugged the machine and sent everybody home to do something more productive. It wasn’t elegant, but we ended the night with the high score. Hell, you could look it up [19], even if you’ll barely believe it.