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Let’s See That Again

When the 2020 season was in the uncertain talking stage — after Spring Training, before Summer Camp — I was pretty sure of one thing: other than for historical perspective purposes, I would never want to see highlights of whatever transpired on the field once the Mets started playing, if they started playing. And once they started playing, little occurred to change my mind, not so much because of how stubbornly mediocre the 2020 Mets were insisting on being, but because there was little I’d want to relive about what 2020 looked and sounded like in the baseball sense.

Or most other senses, but for the moment, let’s stick to our sport.

I didn’t want to see video of the empty stadiums ever again.
I didn’t want to hear audio of the synthetic crowd noise ever again.
I didn’t want to listen to clips of even our outstanding announcers hesitantly crafting calls of plays taking place in one ballpark while sitting in a booth in another ballpark ever again.
I didn’t want sift through designated hitters in every single game ever again.
I didn’t want to reckon with runners trotting to second base to begin any extra inning ever again.
I didn’t want to make sense of a surfeit of road teams playing as home teams in myriad makeup games ever again.
I didn’t want to revisit the dubious contingency plan of doubleheaders in which no more than seven innings of baseball per game were scheduled ever again.

Turns out I might want to see again a little of some of the above…particularly one of those dopey shortened doubleheaders…especially the way it concluded.


Belated congratulations to the Met rookie class of August 2017.

On Friday night, the Mets swept the Yankees at Yankee Stadium [2] in one of these new fun-sized twinbills, coming from behind late in both ends, doing so in their final at-bat in the second game. If you’re a Mets fan fortunate enough to not be dead outside, you’d have to be dead inside to not want to relive that kind of outcome at least a couple more times in your life.

The top of the sixth inning of the opener will likely make for fine repeat viewing as well, what with the Mets trailing, 4-1, before proceeding to open three drums of industrial-strength whoopass on Chad Green, one of those components of a Yankee bullpen generally considered to be unwhoopable. His ass told a different story after the sixth.

Free with every drum of Met-brand whoopass comes a compelling narrative.

• There’s the one that has erstwhile all-world freshman Pete Alonso [3] emerging from his sophomore doldrums to blast a three-run homer to socially distant center to tie the game at four.

• There’s the one that has Dom Smith [4], whose pain and cause became that of his teammates 24 hours earlier, launching the home run that put the Mets ahead, 5-4.

• There’s the one, manufactured in limited-edition form, that has Jake Marisnick [5], recently of the injured list, stepping up directly after Dom and going essentially as deep off Green to make it 6-4.

The last time we saw ex-Astro Marisnick, it was for approximately a minute in July before he limped off into presumed Lowrie-like oblivion. Unlike with good ol’ Jed, we’ve been suddenly reminded Jake is both alive and well. The last time the Yankees had seen him, Marisnick was on deck during Jose Altuve’s shot heard above the trash can din [6]. Maybe the sighting spooked them.

Terrific stories, each and every one of them. Collect them all! And top it with Sugar! Yes, we’ll use Edwin Diaz [7]’s sweet nickname because we have no reason to be sour on our once and present closer. Sugar poured some heat on the Yankees in the seventh/final inning, facing three batters and striking out three batters, following in the reliable relief footsteps of Dellin Betances [8] from the sixth and Walker Lockett [9] from the fourth and fifth. As Lockett had been the last Mets pitcher to leave the mound before the sixth-inning onslaught, he picked up the W. As this is 2020, when rosters churn without end, Lockett was also handed a DFA. If we don’t see Walker again, we thank him for his service (same for the also-shuffled off to nowheresville Juan Lagares [10], last listed as No. 15 for one game after having been No. 87 for one game after having been No. 12 for seven years). When see Edwin again, we promise not to cringe in advance.

That was a great first game. You could forget that Michael Wacha [11] was ineffective in his first start off the IL. You could forget that doubleheaders in which seventh innings act as ninth innings are literally bush league. You could look past the dark clouds that were going to widen the already expansive between-games break deemed necessary for the players to safely prepare themselves to play a second game. Of course it rained amid the interregnum. Does it ever not rain on 2020, literally or figuratively?

Taking that first win and going home didn’t sound bad, actually. When has any good ever come of playing a second Subway Series game in a day? The Mets and Yankees had forged four previous twinbills in their shotgun shared history, all necessitated by inclement weather. The Mets were 0-3-1 overall — 0-4 in nightcaps. There were no fans at Yankee Stadium and there were few stars in pinstripes, but why push our luck at the usually braying tar pit?

Why? Because sometimes luck is there to be pushed. The Mets pushed theirs in the second game in the Bronx. David Peterson [12], like Wacha, was back from a brief injury respite. Like Wacha, Peterson couldn’t quite shake off the rust, though he gave his team a little more than his predecessor (4 IP, 3 ER vs. 3 IP, 4 ER). The Mets survived a Familia Fifth, in which Jeurys loaded the bases but declined to let them unload on his head, and made optimal use of two doubles to create one run in the bottom of the inning to pull within 3-2.

Reminder: the bottoms of innings were when the Mets, in road grays, batted. They were the home team despite being away because… oh, you know [13]. Because 2020.

After Brad Brach [14] and Jared Hughes [15] each provided Luis Rojas with a perfect inning — our bullpen was nothing but solid for seven scoreless doubleheader frames; that is not a misprint — the Mets still trailed by a run heading into what we used to automatically consider their third-to-final opportunity. It was the bottom of the seventh. The presence of Aroldis Chapman pitching meant it was the ninth somewhere. Last chance and all that.

Jeff McNeil [16] led off determined to not make the first out. I’m sure all batters leading off innings maintain that sort of preference, but this was different. This was, nah, I’m getting on base, I don’t care who you are on the mound. Perhaps it was the icky surroundings and the flipping of which team was granted last-est licks, but damned if McNeil wasn’t playing Paul O’Neill to Chapman’s Armando Benitez in my mind. In Game One of the 2000 World Series, you just knew that if O’Neill somehow got on versus Benitez, something dreadful would occur to the team in the field. He did and it did. I picked up almost the same vibe in almost the same ballpark twenty years later (different facilities, similarly charmless). I was sure that if McNeil bested Chapman, we were going to win.

I should interject that in the 31st game of this season — the halfway point, we now call it — it was the first time I’d found myself having an overriding feeling about a game other than feeling baseball in 2020 is virtually pointless. For thirty games, up to and including the pleasant result in the first game of the doubleheader, I was mostly “I guess I hope the Mets win, but this whole thing is a farce, so whatever.” During McNeil’s at-bat, I was so invested in what he’d do that I had to tell myself to stop thinking positively on his behalf lest I jinx him to perform negatively.

And I only do that when I’m convinced what the Mets are doing matters.

For eight pitches, it mattered to me that Jeff McNeil reached base. On the eighth pitch, Jeff McNeil took ball four. At that instant, I was convinced the Mets would win.

Before I could fully weigh the detrimental impact of my unspoken thoughts on the course of events in an athletic contest taking place on my television, Billy Hamilton [17] came in to pinch-run for McNeil. Before Chapman could fully process the danger Hamilton’s two legs encompassed to the work of his left arm, Billy was off to second base. Because Chapman threw to first base as Hamilton ran, it can be said, technically, that the pitcher had the runner picked off first. But, no, not really, because Hamilton — whose already indefatigable speed seemed kicked up a notch by the presence of 42, twice Billy’s usual 21, on his back — was pretty easily safe. He was now a runner in scoring position. Most nights, having one of those doesn’t fill a Mets fan’s confidence coffers.

But this night was different from most other nights. This night was the night after the Mets took their stand [18], standing with Smith and Hamilton and a whole lot of people who wish everybody can simply live a fairer life in this country we love, no matter how anybody appears to the uninformed eye. And this night, Jackie Robinson Night across Major League Baseball, was the night Smith had continued to excel as a Mets batter, not only with that homer in the first game, but via two more hits in the second, including one that drove in the Mets’ first run; and the night when Hamilton, entering for the express purpose of moving the Mets forward when they needed it most did exactly that; and the night Amed Rosario [19] pinch-hit for Luis Guillorme [20] with Billy Hamilton taking a lead off first…make that second.

Guillorme (.419 BA) started at short in the second game. Guillorme has raked enough to keep all five boroughs leaf-free. Rosario’s season has mostly dangled pathetically from a branch; he was batting .207 through the opener. But Luis is a lefty, Amed’s a righty, Chapman’s a lefty, and some percentages outplay some other percentages, thus it was Rosario at the plate while Hamilton rushed into scoring position.

Then it was Rosario following Hamilton across the plate, for it turned out that with Amed hitting off Chapman, he, too, was in scoring position. He sent a slider flying over the left field wall, turning a 3-2 Met deficit into a 4-3 Met win. Amed’s swing created a rousing walkoff two innings before that sort of thing is usually possible, a transfer at Grand Central shy of such an ending being normally imaginable. But, as you know, normal stepped out for pack of masks five months ago and has yet to be spotted since.

It was the first home run Chapman had surrendered since the one Altuve hit to snatch the pennant for Houston. Given how quiet it was at Yankee Stadium, you could have heard a trash can banging, but no such sound could be detected. Just a burst of happy yelping from a bunch of jubilant Mets.

Friday’s finale was a win all Mets fans who hadn’t rashly declared being “done” with their team the night before could fully revel in. It had that Cookie Club [21] energy, that taste of 2019, maybe the slightest soupçon of comparably good if not better days ahead…days that will maybe soon feature a pinch-owner who will come in to run with this franchise’s fortunes like Hamilton went whoosh on that first pitch. One miracle at a time where Steve Cohen [22] is concerned, perhaps. It’s still 2020. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday, and 2020 has mostly done nothing but present itself as all wet.

In event of precipitation, grab a towel and rewind Friday night’s doubleheader. It’s worth experiencing over and over for a change.