Glop is the word that occurred to me after sitting through the Mets and Pirates getting gloppy with one another at Citi Field Sunday afternoon. I don’t even know if I’ve ever used the word glop before, but it seems to fit. I had to look it up to make sure it really is a word. It is. It refers to a baseball game in which one team commits four errors, issues a half-dozen walks, hits one too many batters, strikes out twenty times and generally stretches the parameters of what constitutes a “professional” baseball team (they get paid, but otherwise, what a bunch of amateurs), yet that team remains competitive in this game almost to the end because the opposing team turns first, second and third bases into America’s fastest-growing retirement community, while its virtually literally untouchable ace pitcher comes down with an acute case of the touchables.
Hold on, I have to take a phone call from the bottom line. I’ll put the bottom line on speaker phone so you can hear what it has to say.
“Yeah, hi, Greg. Just calling to let you and anybody reading this know Sunday’s game looks good  from my perspective. All I see is the final score, which was Mets 7 Pirates 3, meaning the Mets swept the Pirates and remain in first place by a game over the Braves. I don’t really see anything else. Gotta go. Bye.”
As you just heard, the bottom line hung up before I could dissect the myriad elements I found disturbing during Sunday afternoon’s game at Citi Field. Typical bottom line.
Really, I have no beef with the bottom line. Give me a Mets win, and I’m clam happy. And, honestly, I was clam happy the whole homeward-bound journey, from the descent down the stairs to the Rotunda, through the weaving in and out of slow pedestrian traffic to the 7 Super Express platform, and in the LIRR’s hands from Woodside to Jamaica and beyond. The Mets did pull out a win that for much of the day seemed predestined and in the end went official. It was never fully exquisite, but it seemed to be getting its job done. Still, dropped into the middle of it were a couple of innings of searing doubt, an interval when aspects of the glop became too gloppy to ignore. Fortunately, the most repelling portion of the glop was eventually whisked away.
Thus, here I sit, happy as that aforementioned clam, even if I spent several hours squirming in my Excelsior seat wondering what all 36,291 of us in attendance had done to deserve this game.
I have the feeling that if I was planted on the couch watching what unfolded, the glop wouldn’t have necessarily oozed through the television screen so tangibly. It was from watching this in person that I couldn’t ignore not only the subpar aesthetics but their potential impact on the bottom line before the bottom line made itself clear. There was a sense of occasion that was curdling by the inning.
Since 2008, Stephanie and I have attended the final Sunday home game of every season but two (2011, before it evolved into our thing, and 2020, a year when the ballpark admitted only cardboard cutouts). Often this outing coincides with Closing Day. The first, in 2008, was Shea Goodbye, the ultimate Closing Day. That was in a category all its own. The second, Citi Field’s first Closing Day in 2009, was seminal. We were able to wrangle semi-reasonably priced seats in 327 — third base side, in the shade, only as close as we need to feel to the field, helluva view if the game isn’t altogether absorbing — which became our favorite spot in the ballpark. Maybe not my favorite spot for all games, but definitely our favorite spot for our game. That Closing Day, my 36th game of Citi Field’s inaugural season, was probably the first time I decompressed from my smoldering resentment of Citi Field’s existence and concomitant role in Shea Stadium’s demise. That’s right, I willingly went to 35 games kind of angry at the facility at which I was regularly spending time and money. I had to keep taking one more taste just to make absolutely sure I didn’t care for what I was sampling.
Game 36, in 327, began to nudge Citi Field into my tolerant graces. Good graces would take a while longer. Even in the crummy seasons with their desolate Septembers, I looked forward to our day or, if ESPN was being a jerk about it, night in 327. Sometimes I’d settle for 328. Sometimes I’d hit StubHub paydirt and land 326. But let’s call it 327 for convenience sake. I scanned the resale market this week until I found something I considered doable from a purchasing standpoint. In those crummy seasons with their desolate denouements, 327 can be extremely reasonable. The first-place Mets of the moment are a hotter ticket on weekends than I’d prefer. Except for the first-place part. I wouldn’t change that.
Without necessarily aiming for a reduction in attendance, I’m really not the “I’m going to the game” guy I used to be. I always liked hearing myself say, “I’m going to the game.” “I’m going to the game” was practically my way of life once Shea cleared its throat to deliver its adieu. That ethos carried over into Citi, the place I already mentioned I didn’t love, yet you couldn’t have discerned that from The Log II, the steno notebook in which I record the most vital stats from every game I go to. After the 36-game tasting menu of 2009, I never went to fewer than 26 games in any of the succeeding half-dozen regular seasons, or just enough to decide I guess I kinda liked Citi Field sorta OK.
Yet I haven’t been to as many as 25 games in a season since 2015 (when The Log II opened its postseason section), as many as 20 since 2016, or as many as 15 since 2018. I haven’t set foot inside frigid Citi Field in April since 2017 and have gone on back-to-back dates only once over the past five years. The whole business of going to the game as a matter of course has become just a little too much for me. Too much in multiple senses of the phrase. Mostly I’m comfortable on that couch, enjoying the multiple camera angles delivered on that television, relishing the company I keep with the voices emanating from the speakers (they don’t know that I’m the fourth man in the booth, filling in their blanks for them, even if they can’t hear me doing so). Some nights I think, “man, that would have been a fun game to have been at,” only to think a second later, “man, it’s great that I’m already home.” That’s the tradeoff, I suppose. I continue to Log just enough games every year so my self-image as a ballpark regular, pretty much all I ever aspired to be when I was a kid for whom Shea loomed as Oz off the Grand Central, remains legitimate in my mind, yet maybe not so many that novelty isn’t baked into the bargain. Sometimes there’s nothing I’d rather do than go to the game. Sometimes covers it nicely.
Sunday’s promotional giveaway was a small, clear tote bag emblazoned with the logo of the MLB Network and the cap insignia of the New York Mets. It wasn’t the reason we chose to go, but we wanted what we thought was coming to us. “First 10,000” was the fine print. We passed through the main gate probably 50 minutes before first pitch. There were no lines. This wasn’t a bobblehead or a gnome. Yet there was no sign of a tote bag giveaway. Others seemed to have snagged their premium, but not us. Maybe if we’d chosen a baseline entry point rather than the Rotunda, we would have been promotionally blessed. That move didn’t seem necessary. Maybe I’m a little rusty at discerning promotional giveaway strategies. Maybe they should give out more tote bags.
Stephanie, thoughtful co-worker that she is, wanted to stop in at the main team store to find a birthday present for a Mets fan colleague. That took a little while. Then we had to negotiate the meanderers who clog the passing lanes on Field Level before we could reach the escalator. That took a little while. My ideal of Sunday afternoon in September with my wife — a leisurely lunch inside the Piazza 31 Club, formerly the Everything Else; a stroll to our seats in 327; taking in the magnificent vista as Bobby Darin extols the virtues of “Sunday in New York ,” all while I clutch my freebie tote bag — dissipated bit by bit. I was in the men’s room for Darin’s serenade. (I completely missed the pregame tribute to Joan Hodges, whose passing  I didn’t learn about until our ride home.) Eating at our seats whatever we could grab from the shortest available line outprioritized missing any bit of the starting pitcher warming up to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The starting pitcher. He came with the price of admission. He’s always worth it. He’s worth balancing a Cubano and a fistful of napkins on your lap.
Jacob deGrom  faced his first batter and did not strike him out. That made the first batter an anomaly, because after Oneil Cruz doubled to lead off the game, deGrom struck out essentially every Pirate in creation. Ryan Reynolds. Rodolfo Castro. Rennie Stennett. Cal Mitchell. Ke’Bryan Hayes. Arky Vaughan. Zack Collins. Sammy Khalifa. Jason Delay. Jason Thompson. Jack Suwinski. Mike Easler. Greg Allen. Lloyd Waner. Paul Waner. John Wehner. It was one big blur of black and gold and K. From one on and nobody out to begin the first through the end of the top of the fifth, Jacob deGrom faced fifteen Pirates and struck out thirteen of them. He and Tomás Nido were having themselves a fine game of catch. It was our privilege to bask in the breeze Jake instigated.
Those were the tops of the innings. They were satisfying. The bottoms had some catching up to do in that department. Not that they didn’t bring their own value to the proceedings. The Mets were up, 3-0, after two, albeit not without incident. The Mets are hit by pitches like opposing batters are struck out by Jacob deGrom. It’s happened more than a hundred times this year. It happened four times on Saturday night. Nobody was injured from any of those most recent plunkings, but the repeated nickings and bruisings must be deepening some psychic scars, because when Johan Oviedo hit Pete Alonso, Pete Alonso didn’t put his head down and jog to first. He said something to Oviedo. I assume Oviedo said something back. Mets and Pirates swarmed the infield, raising tensions and temperatures. All those baseball players on the field at the same time snorting indignantly…you know what that means!
It means nothing happened. They’re baseball players. Pete went to first. The game resumed at its already stately pace.
“Nothing happened” also describes what took place when the Mets batted with runners on bases. Their 3-0 lead, built on two first-inning runs and one second-inning run, appeared substantial enough considering who the Mets had pitching, but in 327, it could not be ignored that while the Pirates were setting up their own team store stocked with shoddy fielding and complementary passes to first, the Mets were being a little too polite about accepting Bucco generosity.
Three left on in the first, but it’s OK, Jake is dealing.
Two left on in the second, but don’t worry, Jake is on.
Two left on in the fourth, but be cool — Jake’s got this.
Another runner left on in the fifth — calm down, it’s still 3-0. And have ya seen that strikeout counter? I think there’s smoke coming out of it!
The deGrom-Nido game of catch was rudely interrupted in the sixth inning. Collins singles. Delay singles. Cruz homers.
Cruz homers? With two runners on base? Two runners are on base? Against deGrom? That’s my disbelief talking. I swear I thought Cruz’s shot was a ground rule double. Maybe I just didn’t want to see what I saw bouncing after it landed over the fence. All Jake did for five innings was strike out one of the all-around worst baseball teams I’ve ever seen. Other teams have had worse records. The Pirates play baseball badly as if that’s specified in their corporate mission statement. Drop this. Mishandle that. Throw that there instead of here. Grab some sunflower seeds while a runner rounds third. That is when they bother to be engaged enough to play it. Yet, as Buck Showalter likes to remind the media after losses to lesser lights, they’re all major leaguers out there, and the Pirates encompass enough talent to intermittently outmuscle their miscues. Cruz is certainly talented. He muscled the hell out of a deGrom slider.
At 3-3, with deGrom departing, the lovely afternoon that Final Home Sunday is supposed to be turned grim. I could feel myself leaning forward and staring in a way that was too eerie to be coincidental. “Holy crap,” I realized, “this is my 2007 pose.” My hundred rational reasons why September 2022 isn’t and is never going to be September 2007 flew over the wall with Cruz’s homer. I was Dan Fogelberg in that liquor store parking lot on Christmas Eve.
Just for a moment, I was back in school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain
In this case, “school” was the Upper Deck at Shea, 9/30/07, and “the rain’ was two more LOB in the sixth plus one more in the seventh, the score remaining 3-3 and the Phillies being absolutely no help during those intervals when the revolving out-of-town scoreboard deigned to display the only out-of-town score of surpassing interest to 36,291 customers, tote bag-toting and otherwise.
At least the Pirates kept striking out. Seth Lugo struck out one (and hit another one, thank you very much) as he took over the sixth. Joely Rodriguez, who seems particularly inspired when he succeeds Jacob deGrom on a Sunday afternoon, or perhaps noticed David Peterson auditioning for his role Saturday night, struck out five across the seventh and the eighth. And the LOB-loving Mets finally got it through their molasses-mucked veins that they were playing the Pirates of today, not the Pirates of yore. None among McCutcheon, Bonds or Parker was waiting in that on-deck circle. This was a beatable crew. So start beating them already.
Nido led off the home eighth with a single. Exit the slowpoke, enter singular speedster Terrance Gore . Just a couple of half-innings before, the sponsored trivia contest saw a grand prize go by the wayside because the contestant, after identifying Bob Murphy as the announcer who promised a happy recap after each game and Jerry Koosman as the franchise’s winningest lefty, was stumped when asked what current Met had been on three different World Series-winning teams. You know who else was stumped? This guy. True story. Like most Mets fans, I’m barely aware Terrance Gore, ring bearer from the 2021 Braves, 2020 Dodgers and 2015 Royals (ptui!), is a 2022 Met. He was added to the roster in late August to make things happen on the basepaths. Only problem is Buck rarely encounters a situation dovetailing Terrance’s skill set. A catcher reaching first to lead off a late inning in a tie game, however, was Terrance’s cue to take the stage.
Come and meet
Those speedy feet
On the avenue Gore’s taking us to
A lead of four to three
Terrance needed a little help to give the Mets a lead, though not much. While Brandon Nimmo batted, Gore sought his opening. He saw it, and he took it, along with the next two bases, stealing second and taking third on an errant throw (errors more of a Pittsburgh specialty than pierogies these days). The help arose when Nimmo, in dangerous Dark Brandon mode, stood up against evil and dunked a ball into left field. A hit with a runner on base! What will they think of next?
It wouldn’t take all that long to find out. After Francisco Lindor struck out, Jeff McNeil walked. Then Pete Alonso walked. The bases were loaded. This should have been exciting. Excitement from Met runners on base, however, had ducked into the Piazza 31 Club. Or maybe that was Stephanie, who might have needed a blast of cool air to get her to the ninth. Either way, we who remained in our seats without pause had been teased enough by possibility. We had a slim advantage here in the eighth. Could we add some weight to it?
That was Daniel Vogelbach’s cue to saunter into the spotlight, and he put his arms around it to marvelous effect, singling home Dark Brandon and Squirrely Jeff to make it 6-3 and remind one and all (me, especially) that September 2022 isn’t through and isn’t September 2007. Mark Vientos pinch-ran for Vogie, not because Vientos is known for his speed, but because sneaking Gore onto first again is probably against the rules. If Buck didn’t try it, you know it’s not in the book.
The Mets scratched out one more run, or accepted it on another Pirate misplay. Just so we wouldn’t feel too smug about our boys’ redemption at 7-3, they left two more runners on to ratchet their LOB total for the day to 13 (4-for-18 with runners in scoring position versus Oviedo and four unremarkable relievers). Lest a Mets fan get caught up in counting what hadn’t gone all that well for the Mets, we could go to the ninth and count something historically good.
We were about to watch a strikeout record be set. Through eight innings, Met pitching had fanned, by swing or by stare, 19 Pirates. The Mets as a staff in deGrom’s first home start of the year struck out 19 in a nine-inning game. Tom Seaver and David Cone respectively struck out 19 all by themselves in complete games (kids, ask your grandparents what those were). It doesn’t quite resonate when four pitchers combine to total the most strikeouts in a regulation game in Mets history in the context of considering what Seaver and Cone did in 1970 and 1991, but we live in the age of group efforts. That combined no-hitter in April was no Nohan, but it was pretty sweet, and as long as we’ve sat through this game, we’d sure like one more Pirate to strike out.
And three Pirates to make outs in general without scoring four runs, because winning wafted up from the mound as the main reward. Then again, for those of us who paid our money and didn’t get a lousy tote bag for our trouble, give us the record if you can. Give it to us through the right arm of Trevor May, on in a non-save situation, which is a polite way of saying that extra Pirate-provided run in the eighth sat Edwin Diaz down, which was swell in the context of preserving our closer for potentially closer contests, particularly something momentous in Milwaukee, but a bit of a bummer because you know Edwin would be good for at least two strikeouts and that would have set a major league record of 21 strikeouts in nine innings, plus there’d be trumpets.
Have you two met?
Yes, let’s get three outs, however they can be captured. Trevor is certainly capable of protecting a four-run lead. The first two came on batted balls. The third, however, following an inconsequential double, materialized as Suwinski watched strike three land in new catcher James McCann’s mitt.
Twenty strikeouts! Have you ever seen the Mets register twenty strikeouts in a nine-inning game? In the innings they were pitching, I mean? I have! I saw them win, too. In my twelfth game at Citi Field this year, and my tenth consecutive Final Home Sunday with my Sweetie (“my wife” sounds so formal) dating back to 2012 — if you don’t include 2020 — I scooped up a little history and a bounty of bottom line satisfaction .
And you know where I put it? In one of those tote bags somebody in the row ahead of us left under his seat. Damn right I scooped that up, too.