Everyone who has rooted for the Mets for at least eight years knows what game was buried inside the game they saw this long, hot, muggy afternoon. I recognized it as soon as I turned the game on and heard that we were behind, 5-0. I feared it when I saw that we had caught up, and when we then fell behind, 8-5. When we took the lead, 10-8, I did everything that would not actually get me committed to try to ward off my sense that the demon game was in there. But it was in there, like a vampire, struggling to live on our blood. I recognized it. I saw it and it prevented me from ever thinking that the Mets were going to win the game. I am usually a hopeful fan, but I never thought we would win. I had been in this haunted place before. Here it was again: the sixth game of the 1999 National League Championship Series. The game after the glory of the grand-slam single. The game in which we fell behind 5-0, with our backs against the wall. The game in which we climbed back and fell behind and climbed back again and then lost our lead twice when closers who had been invincible all season could not hold the Braves. We lost it right on the knife edge of fate. Right on the border of happiness and despair. Right where Kenny Roger’s pitch gave the 1999 National League pennant to Atlanta.
Philadelphia is not going to take it from us. When they are not psyched because they’re facing us, their lousy pitching staff will revert to form. But we have a pennant race now. The odds were at least 32-1 against them winning five in a row as we lost five in a row. But it happened. And here again we see an old Mets pattern that will not die. The Mets have a very long history, when they’re very good, of coming a long way, then digging themselves a grave, falling into the grave, and then climbing back out of it.
All you can hope is that this disastrous series in Philadelphia will give the Mets a sense of what they need. I’m not talking about stuff only the general manager can fix. I’m talking about the fingernails you need to climb out of graves and scratch someone else’s eyes out. I liked the way the team came back today. I liked the sense of their sweat, their defiance, their frustration, and their desperation. I liked the ten runs. Last year people wondered if the ease of the 2006 season had not prepared the Mets for the trench warfare of the playoffs. St. Louis may even have beaten us because they were used to being a mediocre team that lost a lot of games and knew that they really had to turn it on to beat teams better than them. We may not have known how to turn it on because we had been pretty much on all the time.
These 2007 Mets are not a great team. We know that. They know that. But they can still go all the way. They are not the 2006 team. They are not the 1999 or 2000 team. What they are is something like the 1997 or 1998 team in a universe in which there is no juggernaut in Atlanta. This is a 1997 or 1998 team with the opportunity to win its division. Good, but riddled with imperfections, and seven games in front only five days ago, they must now find whatever gave them 10 runs today. Maybe something good and unanticipated will happen to make all the difference. Maybe Carlos Delgado will go on a titanic tear, maybe Scott Schoenweis will bear down and give us a bullpen, maybe Pedro Martinez, having sat out almost the whole season, will put on his armor like Achilles and stride into battle and give us the games that will shape our idea of him forever.
Maybe we will lose. Maybe a team as hungry as the Phillies we’ve seen over the last five days will not be denied. But I am beginning to think that the Mets will fight. That’s all I want to see. It would be great if they won. But the important thing is that they will fight. I will help them, as I can, from the powerless perch of my couch. This is an epic unfolding. You will never forget the game they played this afternoon. You may never forget the next two months. The Mets are down, hurt, angry, and headed into Turner’s Field. The Phillies and maybe even the Braves are ready to bridge the moat and storm the citadel we have held for almost the whole season.
They shall not pass.