Thursday, July 01, 2004

Game 77 - Mets
The Truth Is Out There in Cincinnati

Mets 7, Reds 6 (I think)
Record: 38-39

I almost threw up at work today, and not because of the usual reasons. The Mets played an afternoon game, and I was excited to have an afternoon devoid of meetings. That meant that I could do some work, then follow some of the game on the Internet, then do a little more work, then follow a lot more of the game, then do no more work and tune in to the rest of the game. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it nearly put me in the infirmary.

The Mets cruised through the first few innings on the same run production cycle as last night. Another in a long line of Pitchers Who Aren't This Good, Jose Acevedo, shut out the New York nine for the first four innings. In the bottom of the fourth, Cincinnati threatened after Eric Valent, playing first while Piazza caught, booted leadoff hitter D'Angelo Jimenez's grounder. After Jimenez stole second, giving the ol' 1-2 punch to Art Howe's lineup card, a walk and a fielder's choice put runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out. Especially considering how well Al Leiter was pitching (once again), it was maddening to think the Reds would take the lead -- perhaps an unsurmountable one, based on the Mets' bats of late -- because of Valent's fielding gaffe. Meanwhile, Valent had ended the Mets' chances in the second inning by grounding into a double play. Right about then, I pulled out the old Hoosiers quote (pretty fresh in the head, since it's been on the tube every other night for a month), "Uh, Coach, what you're doing with Eric Valent . . . I'm not seeing it."

Fast-forward to the top of the fifth (we can fast-forward because Al Leiter is the man). It was as if my negative brainwaves had just reached Great American Ball Park (nice rah rah name) after zapping into my computer screen and over phone lines all the way to Ohio. Eric Valent homers on a fly ball to right field. Ah, yes, thank you for showing me the light. I'll go back to my non-baseball-manager job now. Valent's dinger seemed to wake the slumbering Mets hitters. Oh, wait . . . we can do that? Ohhh, okay.

But here's where it got weird for me, the Internet viewer. I had been following along on's Game Update for the first few innings. After opening another browser window to check out some All-Star voting tallies on, I opened their Gameday window as well. Simultaneous, multitasking Internet baseball, ensuring (a) that I got the latest action as quickly as possible and (b) that everyone realizes I am a total geek.

So, in the top of the 6th, MLB tells me that Mike Piazza doubles, Cliff Floyd pops out, and Richard Hidalgo walks. ESPN says the same. After a strange delay in both places, MLB reports that Shane Spencer bangs a 3-run homer to left. Bedlam in my office. Paper clips everywhere. But when ESPN finally refreshes, it goes from Hidalgo's walk straight to a popout by Ty Wigginton. What the . . . ? MLB goes on to show Wigginton's out and a Valent groundout and we're on to the bottom of the 6th with the Mets up, 4-0. Meanwhile, ESPN follows with Valent's out and the end of the frame, Mets up, 1-0. It was as if Shane Spencer's at-bat never happened. Strange things were afoot here.

Things got weirder in the 7th when Jose Reyes, whose average had dipped to .111 -- which I noticed, glared at, shook my head at, and prepared to assault in this space, homered to left as well. At this point it truly crossed my mind that someone was having some fun at my expense. Eric Valent, Shane Spencer, and Jose Reyes (who'd hit a combined seven homers all year) go yard in successive innings? ESPN confirmed the Reyes shot, now posting a 2-0 lead. ESPN, what you're doing with the Mets game . . . I'm not seeing it.

Top 8. Hidalgo launched one to center. 6-0 according to MLB, 3-0 according to ESPN. This thought occurred to me. If is affiliated with and has any similarities to the think tank that is the MLB executive office, there's no way in hell they're right! Are they inventing Baltimore specials that never happened as a way to appease Peter Angelos? Is this a trumped-up scandal to throw the scent off the high-heaven stench of their shady ownership of a franchise? These questions and more were being kicked around the desk.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ricky Bottalico -- relieving Al Leiter after seven shutout innings -- retired two batters and then ran out of gas. Ran out of gas, careened into the guard rail, hit his head on the steering wheel, got out and was struck by an oncoming bus. In other words, he gave up a double, a single, a double, and a hit batsman before it occurred to Art Howe to hook him. By the time Braden Looper took over, 6-0/3-0 had become 6-3/3-all. I was getting nervous/screaming frantically. Looper proceeded to demonstrate he wasn't quite warmed up by allowing consecutive singles, thereby completing the Ricky Bottalico ERA-Tripling Project. With it 6-5/5-3 Reds, I couldn't believe the Mets were on the verge of blowing/had blown a six run/three-run lead this late. The Mets simply aren't going to hit four/three home runs in a game very often, and the increasingly slippery bullpen was coming dangerously close to ruining it/had ruined yet another game. Looper forced a grounder and the Mets went to the ninth. 6-5 in Cooperstown (?), 5-3 in Bristol. I still wasn't sure who was right, but I was going with MLB -- can you claim a win on such a technicality if baseball's official website reports it wrong? I'd love to see an asterisk in the standings due to some dweeb's technical equivalent of a Red Sox fielding play.

Just when it looked a little foolhardy for Manager Howe to have subbed for Piazza when he did, replacement Jason Phillips walloped a double to score Kaz "Shinjo at Short" Matsui. So the Mets tacked on a valuable insurance run./So the Mets were within one. Alas, a pair of groundouts ended the rally/game. 7-5, Mets./5-4, Reds. This seems monotonous at this point, but I'm telling you, this was how was reporting it. Their folks covering the game had "lost time" a la The X-Files during Shane Spencer's home run. Perhaps an extra-terrestrial life-force had abducted them for one at-bat, or maybe Mo Vaughn sat down for an interview in front of them for a couple of minutes. Either way, they missed it.

That both sites went into the bottom of the ninth made me feel a lot better. That with two outs Adam Dunn hit Braden Looper's 2-0 offering over the Kentucky state line did not. Braden, what you're doing with the lead . . . I'm not seeing it. Now it was tense no matter which website I was checking out. Several colleagues stopped by but quickly exited when it was apparent the project I was working on was exasperating me. Finally, however, Wily Mo Pena grounded out to second for the final out. Whew. This one really would have been more comfortable as just a box score sifted through tomorrow morning. A win is a win is a punch in the gut. eventually altered their final score to reflect a 7-6 Mets win. At this writing, though, they still don't have a Game Log or even a line score. It's simply not available. Somebody get Mulder, and I don't mean the Cy Young candidate in Oakland.

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