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A Game That Needed a Noah

A long time ago, it looked like Noah Syndergaard [1] was on his way to a perfect game.

That wasn’t 40 days and 40 nights ago — that’s the story of another Noah — but by the end of this deluged and drowned evening, with its two rain delays, it sure felt like it had been that long. MLB mercifully put an end to the stalled proceedings shortly before 12:30 a.m., making the Mets officially winners [2] of a 2-0 contest that had gone from taut to tempest-tossed.

I feel slightly sorry for the Clevelanders who took advantage of the Indians’ New York, New York series to take a Big Apple vacation. It must have sounded fun, but at least a few of those folks must have seen their team go 2-4, left Citi Field during the first rain delay because their planes were going to depart without them, discovered their planes had all been delayed but not yet canceled (in storytelling we call this foreshadowing), and wound up sitting in La Guardia or JFK or Newark wondering why no bar in the tri-state area shows Mets games. I hope they weren’t on cots somewhere in Terminal C when the plug got pulled.

(Note I said slightly sorry — it’s not like I wanted their team to win or anything.)

But back to our Noah. He herded the Indians back into their dugout three by three not once but five straight times, and up here in Maine (where the weather is beautiful, by the way) I was starting to get a little antsy while listening to At Bat. Given Syndergaard’s arsenal, he has a lot of games in which you catch yourself thinking about perfect games and no-hitters too early — I do the same thing with Jacob deGrom [3] — but this was different. I couldn’t see Syndergaard’s pitches, but didn’t need to, because I could hear the crowd soaring and crashing on every pitch, and the excitement in Howie Rose’s voice. Syndergaard had brought his A-game, and Howie sensed this performance might require his.

The first enemy batter of the sixth — our old friend Kevin Plawecki [4] — didn’t do much to douse the enthusiasm, as Syndergaard erased him on two vicious sliders sandwiched around a fastball. Syndergaard then worked a 1-2 count on Tyler Naquin [5] and threw him a changeup at the bottom of the strike zone. Naquin served it over second, into the vicinity of a charging Juan Lagares [6], who reached down with his hoovermatic glove … but arrived a third of a second too late.

Lagares tried to sell the one-hopper to the umps as a catch, a bit of trickery rendered vestigial in the era of replay review, and endearing because of that. Two batters later Francisco Lindor [7] tallied Cleveland’s second hit, and we had to put aside our disappointment at losing a ringside seat for history to make room for our potential disappointment at seeing a hard-won lead get away. The speedy Greg Allen [8] slapped a ball between first and second, which felt like disaster, except Pete Alonso [9] fell on the ball, shoveled it backwards, grabbed at it desperately and heaved it towards first.

The Indians lost a game Wednesday because a veteran pitcher left a base uncovered [10]; Syndergaard beat Allen to the bag, recorded the inning-ending out, and then exchanged a slightly awkward chest slap and then an emphatic chest bump with Alonso. It was dopey and goofy and adorable — if the Mets keep rolling like this an overamped Alonso may be tearing teammates’ uniforms off mid-game come September — and I’ve only watched the clip seven times while grinning ear to ear.

(No wait — make it eight.)

Alas, it was the last pitch Syndergaard would get to throw. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth and offensive hero Wilson Ramos [11] at the plate, the deluge came. The game stopped for two and a half hours, and when it resumed it was a mess — soppy conditions, wet balls, poor fielding and the certainty that more weather was to come.

Syndergaard was long gone by then, and I found the faintest of silver linings in the fact that he wasn’t robbed at a chance for perfection by something so fickle as the weather. But his departure left the Mets back in circumstances all too familiar and trying — needing to find a worryingly large number of outs, a day after they’d nearly emptied the pen playing into extras.

Happily, the back end of our often-suspect bullpen was as crisp as everything around them was soggy. I didn’t think Noah’s arc would wind up including Jeurys Familia [12] with an olive branch in his mouth or Paul Sewald [13] as dry land amid the waters, but that’s the way this story unfolded.

Both Familia and Sewald were sharp, and then the rains came again, bringing with them a radar map with way too many dark green and yellow blotches. Half an hour later, the portents were clear for those well-versed in the routines of ancillary stadium personnel: Lumber was brought out to weigh down the tarp, and the sunflower seeds and gum disappeared from the dugouts.

I’ll remember the significance of such sightings next time I’m in rain-delay limbo, as a couple of minutes after that (not seven days, thank God), Mother Nature recorded the last six outs herself.

The waters may not abate from the Earth until this afternoon, but that should give the Mets plenty of time to prepare for their next test. The Braves were the last roadblock encountered by the Mets in their unlikely surge back into the thick of things; and hey, perhaps they’ll be that again. But the Mets just passed another test, and with flying colors, no less. A once-moribund season has become fun again, and doesn’t that call for a little faith?