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Double Vision

Seeing baseball in person always reminds me that the game is really two different experiences. The view from your couch lets you play HD voyeur, seeing everything from the pitcher’s grip to how the catcher frames each pitch — and with stats and expert analysis handed to you, like a surgeon taking tools from an assistant. The view from, say, the Promenade is completely different — the players are down there doing something or other, the scoreboard tells you the outcome of the little things, and your eyes and the crowd’s reaction cover the big things.

I can’t tell you much about how Marcus Stroman [1] or Kyle Muller [2] or Bryse Wilson [3] or a parade of Met relievers looked. I don’t know if they were hitting their spots, if their pitches had life, or any of that. I was busy or in transit for a big chunk of the first game and hundreds of feet away for the rest; I’d be better off asking someone who stayed home.

What I do know — or more precisely knew already but was happy to remember — is that it’s a very good thing to find yourself under the big night sky in the bowl of a stadium after the heat’s leached out of the day, surrounded by your fellow rooters, many of them living or dying alongside you about a thing as silly and beautiful as a baseball game. It’s fun to debate Mister Softee vs. that weird waffle thing that looked good on SNY the other night, to root for the random kid trying to whack wiffle balls over a miniature outfield wall, to vamp ironically or wholeheartedly to whatever music’s booming out of the PA, and to scream and yell and boo and don a rally cap and pursue whatever personal ritual will absolutely, positively affect events down there on the field, and even if that’s not true, well, it couldn’t hurt.

It’s also fun to ponder just how many threads connect players and plays, even in games not destined to be long remembered. The record will show that the Mets split a doubleheader with the Braves, losing the opener 2-0 on some untimely Atlanta doubles and winning the nightcap 1-0 on a timely double of their own; what will be forgotten is that the first game was a drumbeat of frustrations for us [4] while the second game was the exact same thing for them [5].

I arrived at Citi Field in the bottom of the fifth of Game 1, just in time to slip into a standing room spot and watch Pete Alonso [6] come to the plate with runners on first and second and one out. Oh, I thought, I’m a good-luck charm! Pete promptly chopped a high bouncer along the third-base line, a ball that could easily have hopped over Austin Riley [7]‘s head to cut the Braves’ lead in half and put runners at second and third … except for the annoying detail that Riley snagged the ball, stepped on third and threw to first for a double play.

Oh, I’m not a good-luck charm.

Still, the Mets have had a flair for drama throughout this strange, bumpy season, so of course they got a runner on against Will Smith [8] in the seventh for James McCann [9]. McCann scorched a ball into the hole at short, Dansby Swanson [10] made a stab that would have been envy of any matador, and the Mets had lost.

The Mets had lost, and played reliever roulette in Game 2, entrusting a split to Aaron Loup [11], Jeurys Familia [12], Anthony Banda [13], Trevor May [14], Seth Lugo [15] and finally Edwin Diaz [16]. A dangerous game, but somehow it was the Braves who kept getting hurt. In the second, they put runners on first and second with none out thanks to a Riley pop-up that Alonso lost in the lights and a Swanson grounder off J.D. Davis [17]‘s glove; Familia fanned Guillermo Heredia [18], Abraham Almonte [19] and Kevan Smith [20]┬áto put down the threat.

In the sixth, after Jeff McNeil [21]‘s two-out double gave the Mets a 1-0 lead, Lugo came in and clearly wasn’t himself, or rather he was the himself who’s shown up too often recently. He surrendered a leadoff single to Joc Pederson [22] and walked Ozzie Albies [23] to bring up Freddie Freeman [24]. Freeman slammed a ball to the left-field fence, where Kevin Pillar [25] had just enough room to make the catch, but Pederson took third and the Mets’ lead was in serious jeopardy. So of course Riley hit a grounder to Luis Guillorme [26], who made a beautiful flip to Jonathan Villar [27], who threw to first for the double play.

Yeah, the same Riley whose nifty grab had turned a potential Alonso RBI into a double play a couple of hours earlier. Baseball pens these reversals of fortune so often that none of us should be surprised to encounter one, and yet we always are. The Mets failed to cash in any insurance, Diaz arrived to pursue the save, I assumed the fetal position because it’s Diaz, and so of course he erased Swanson, Heredia and Almonte on some of the more vicious fastballs and sliders he’s thrown all year.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’ll be in the fetal position next time he arrives too. Because you can’t outguess baseball. Not when you’re studying it up close on the TV, and not when you’re peering at it from your perch beneath the night sky. You can’t outguess it, but you can always appreciate it. Win or lose, a night at the park will remind you to do that.