The Six-Run Inning: The Mets on May 11

I was at the game last night (5/11 against the Nationals) and I don’t think I’m ever going to forget it.  It was one of those games that encourages you to think that you’ve seen the season pass before your eyes.  Of course, such a conviction can be an illusion.  But sometimes you just can’t help but be convinced.

The game convinced me to see it as the 2010 season in miniature because it showed me all the blemishes of the Mets, but it also reminded me of how they can transcend their imperfections.  The starting pitching has been quite good at times, but it is not reliable.  The offense has shown signs of waking up and being good.  It’s still nothing to write home about.  But there is something about this team that makes it more than the sum of its parts.

The first seven innings of last night’s ballgame reminded me of constipation.  The bases would load up but nothing would come home.  I found myself wondering at points what the record was for number of hits by a team that had only one or two runs.  Not that I had any interest in breaking such records, but I was just wondering.  At the beginning of the eighth I calculated that the Mets as a team were batting almost .500 for the game, and yet they had only scored two runs.  Pretty amazing.   Double plays and strikeouts just waited to happen.  There was no way I expected the Mets to win.  But something kept me in my seat.  Looking back, I think it was the fact that I am getting used to the Mets fumbling around, blowing leads, not coming back, and then coming back, whether or not they make it all the way to a win. 

We now have to change metaphors, if you don’t mind.  The eighth inning felt like hitting the jackpot.  Bright shiny coins kept coming out of the machine and wouldn’t stop.  My sister Stefanie and my daughter Sonia and I stood up for the whole inning.  We just jumped up and down repeatedly and hollered, enjoying everything we saw on the field and particularly enjoying what we imagined to be the anguish of the smartasses who felt they had to get into their cars in the middle of the eighth inning.  Never leave a game, I thought.  I have never left a game.  If you think you might possibly leave a game before it’s over then you should find a different sport to follow. 

What was cool about the six or ten run eighth inning was what is cool about the 2010 New York Mets.   Things aren’t happening because known quantities are producing according to statistically predictable patterns.  The known quantities (Wright, Reyes, Santana, Bay, etc.) are proving themselves to be unknown.  And then there is all this entirely unanticipated stuff.  The Ruthian home-run and rbi frequency of our consolation prize catcher, who doubles off the wall with the bases loaded.  A utility infielder hitting under .200 who lays down a bunt that no one is expecting.  The career minor leaguer who joins the team this morning and hits a double to put us ahead.  The charismatic kid first baseman who hits a grand-slam up over the foul pole.  And let’s not forget the no-name middle-relief staff, the most formidable in baseball, who made this go-ahead late inning possible.       

Our old familiar team feels new.  It has a whole bunch of new guys we can enjoy and dream about as we wait for the old guys to find their rhythm.   When they do find their rhythm, the pace and mood of the team will have been re-set by the likes of Barajas, Davis, and Takehashi.  Nobody really knows how these guys will pan out.  There are plenty of troubling signs on the Mets.  But there is something new.  There is this sense that a game is never lost until it’s over, and that a foul ball hit into our dugout is not going to just bounce in there without being chased by a guy hurtling through the air in a somersault.

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