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Fort Held Twice

You get an early lead, which is good. You sweat an early lead, which is natural. You hold an early lead, which is satisfying. You do it all over again a couple of hours later and you’ve really got something there.

In a parallel universe, perhaps the Braves come back on the Mets in one or both games of Tuesday’s semi-twinight doubleheader, with the three o’clock high [1] of bolting to a 2-0 advantage in the first inning of the opener melting away under the pressure applied by a formidable opponent — experienced starting pitcher buckling down rather than buckling under; lineup loaded with certified Met-killers; discomfitingly recent world championship pedigree — and/or the lonesome runs in the nightcap just sitting there on the scoreboard crying out for company, because how long can our starter keep squirming out of trouble?

You know where that parallel universe is? In the receding corners of our Metsian anxieties. It’s gonna be there, but it’s gonna cast less and less light as this season goes along if this season continues to go along if it continues to go along as it has thus far gone along. If it goes along in what has emerged as 2022 Mets fashion, we’ll get along.

In Game One, the Mets indeed have a 2-0 lead after one, and a 4-1 lead after two, and a 5-1 lead after four, yet before you can commence contemplating the chances of a sweep, David Peterson [2] allows a single to lead off the top of the fifth, makes a one-out error as a fielder and allows a three-run bomb to Matt Olson (as if we needed a new applicant for a Met-killing license) directly thereafter. Now it’s 5-4, the youngster returned to the roster for the express purpose of starting this game might be rattled and here are the bleeping Braves of Charlie Morton (still in there), Austin Riley (always lurking), Travis d’Arnaud (apparently vengeful) and Ronald Acuña (not playing but menacingly available), ready to slip their World Series rings on their fingers and take it to us, as they took it to us the night before after we led, 2-0.

Except the night before [3], like the year before, was ancient history as Tuesday afternoon pedaled toward Tuesday evening. Peterson did give up a hit to Riley after the homer to Olson, but Marcell Ozuna popped up and d’Arnaud, familiarity with Citi Field notwithstanding, struck out, and Peterson got through five with a lead.

The lead was never relinquished, not by Adam Ottavino [4] after a perfect sixth, not by Drew Smith [5] after a scoreless seventh and eighth, and not by trustworthy Edwin Diaz [6] in the ninth. Trustworthy Edwin Diaz is indeed the same Edwin Diaz who used to stoke trauma. The difference is he went in for No-Hitter Therapy [7] last Friday, and since then, you can’t look at Diaz like you used to. You can if you must, but that, too, is ancient history. Not every combined pitching effort calls for lavish group hugs. Sometimes it’s just a matter of everybody doing their job very well. Nine Met hitters scored five runs. Four Met pitchers allowed only four. That’ll lift a lid to your liking [8].

The nightcap was a dollop of Dom Smith [9] early — two-run double in the first inning — and a torrent of Carlos Carrasco [10] all night long. Carrasco’s night was lengthy, encompassing eight innings and 96 pitches, and it might not have been what you’d think of as classically efficient (Braves reached base to lead off the first, second, third and sixth), but Cookie eventually found his groove en route to a win that required a mere 2:18 to bookify. The Braves didn’t touch him when it mattered. Pete Alonso touched Kyle Wright when it definitely helped matters, socking an opposite-field homer to pad Carrasco’s lead to 3-0 in the sixth. Nervous was understandable. Apoplectic seemed out of fashion. By the time auxiliary fireman Seth Lugo [11] came into close, you remembered that “defending world champion” sounds impressive, but every season is a new season. In the current season, Ozzie Albies nicked Lugo for an infield single, but Adam Duvall flied out and Travis Demeritte grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.

Suddenly, the Mets had swept the Braves [12]. Suddenly, the Mets were 18-8, a record no Mets team had carved after 26 games in this century [13]. Suddenly, for what it was worth [14], the Mets were in position to win another series if they could take Wednesday’s game. The finale was TBD, as is everything before it happens, yet we could already determine that these Mets were solidly in first place, not at all resembling last season’s accidental tourists who mysteriously stumbled into the top spot of the division and quite explicably tumbled out of it.

Every Mets team holds our hopes in their hands. Few Mets teams hold leads twice as they did in Tuesday’s doubleheader. Few Mets teams have looked like this one. Makes a fan want to keep watching.

The topic of relaxing a little even as we hold on for dear life 162 times a year bats lead off in the latest episode of National League Town, with Teddy Martinez, Sergio Ferrer, Nationals Park and Nora Ephron batting further down the order. Listen to all of it here [15] or wherever you seek 1970s Met utilityman talk.