Monday, June 13, 2005

And There Was Much Rejoicing.

Games 60 through 63 - Mets

Angels 12, Mets 2
Mets 5, Angels 3
Angels 4, Mets 3
Record: 32-31

Over the course of my weekend in New York, the Mets reclaimed sole possession of last place in the NL East. Feels like home, doesn't it? But it doesn't matter. And what with the Nationals ripping off a stunning ten in a row, last place isn't spitting-distance from the top spot like it was a week or so ago. Doesn't matter. The Mets got walloped on Friday night as the Halos added a grand slam in the ninth for an after-dinner gutpunch -- as if dumping Mo Vaughn on the team a few years back weren't insult enough. Doesn't matter. And after winning on Saturday, the Mets lost a Pedro start Sunday when a David Wright error allowed the winning run to score in the 9th inning. Fine work, gents. But you know what?

Doesn't matter.

None of that other stuff matters to me because of Saturday night. Amid a stretch of games played as if the Mets were skunked on hooch, the squad came up huge. I was in a tiny bar in a tin can town throwing back cold beer, listening to a band of nobodies crank out some music, and keeping one eye on the television over the bar. Flanked by family at all sides doing the same, we talked and drank and even danced, reluctantly, all while monitoring the progress of the beloved Mets. When Marlon Anderson collided with the Angel catcher only after sliding a cleat over the plate for a rare, bizarre, ridiculous inside-the-park home run, it became clear the entire bar was dancing/drinking/playing/serving with one eye on the ballgame. The place went nuts, with folks jumping up and down like idiots, high-fiving sloppily, and reveling in the company of strange barmates. It was fantastic.

And then Doug Meant-to-get-my-glove-down missed an easy grounder that led to the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. Groans and resigned returns to their music or beers. Abbreviated seminars confirmed that yes, defensive replacements hitting .208 who strike out miserably in their only at-bat should probably be able to handle routine ground balls. Tangents about not whether the Mets should trade for a first-baseman but whether Todd Helton or Mike Sweeney should be the target. And then a jerky little roller-coaster ride.

Reyes managed a bloop, and Cameron eked out a walk. The bar crowd packed in around the TV. Beltran and Piazza struck out quickly and weakly. Curses flew through the air, and some stormed off in anger, but most of us hung in there, just needing a Cliff Floyd hit to score Reyes.

When I say I hung in there, by the way, I mean I didn't give up my bar seat or anything, but hell, yes, was I sure the Mets had lost. And I was pissed. And let down. And determined to remind Jerry that my supposedly "seriously negative outlook" was more suitable than he'd considered.

When Floyd jacked a ball down the right field line, there was that pandemonium poise in the bar, and when it landed just foul, there was an even more severe letdown. That was it. That was the best good chance the boys had of pulling this one out. Dammit.

And then something odd happened. Jose Reyes took third with Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly holding the ball. Donnelly looked like he wasn't quite sure what had happened, or how, and maybe, just maybe that bugged him just enough so he'd be a fraction off on his next pitch, which . . .

Oh, my. Cliff Floyd hit a bomb to center and the celebration from before looked sleepy in comparison. What a blast, and what a blast ensued.

It was Game 62 of 162, one tiny win that couldn't offset the handful of recent losses -- couldn't even fend off last place, and yet it was enormous. It was the only game I caught a significant portion of over the weekend, supporting my newfound good luck charm status. It was the Mets' first win when trailing into the ninth inning this year -- after 26 failures. And it capped off a marvelous weekend of memorializing my Met-lovin' grandfather. Even the most secular-minded among us was alluding to there being something to the timing of things and our being together in the ol' town for this game. As an aside, if I'm tapping away at these Met posts five years from now in my new domicile inside the confines of Tuxedo Park, my life has worked out exactly as I'd wanted.

It'd be hard to argue convincingly that this was a win upon which to build, since the Mets turned right around and blew Sunday's game. Still, I don't think the events of Saturday night are to be discounted, as remarkable as they were. This club still has a ton of work cut out for it, but they have a certain intangible quality to them that sapsucker sportscasters would label "special" and Apollo would call "the eye of the tiger" but I'd prefer simply to call "sand." They've got more sand than the beach that Rob and I will be reclined upon by Friday, and that's a 180-degree spin from those Met teams who, annoyingly, haven't quite faded from my rearview yet.

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