Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Most Likely to Succeed

Game 131 - Mets

Mets 6, Phillies 4
Record: 69-62

Last night was the biggest win of the season so far.

Kicking off a torrid stretch of schedule against division/wild card rivals with a . . . “dramatic” doesn’t do it justice, let’s call it “spectacular” . . . come-from-behind victory had to be the most significant feat they’ve accomplished to date. June 11 over the Angels was the most exciting, to me, but this was the biggest.

Hey, I didn’t kick off the season of superlatives. Keith Hernandez did when he referred to Carlos Beltran’s seventh-inning plate appearance as “the most important at-bat he’s had as a Met.” In actuality, it wasn’t an at-bat at all, but the walk he drew led to a run scored on a wild pitch, pulling the Mets within a run of the Phils and setting the stage for the real excitement. Ugie Urbina walked a pair in the bottom of the eighth and hung a scrumptious-looking breaking ball over the heart of the plate; Ramon Castro pounced on it and deposited into the left-field bleachers (the place some call The Bay of Pigs). You could see the mayhem, you could hear the hollering, and you could feel the jumping around, and that was just in my den. The Mets and the 35,000 folks at Shea went as berserk as you can when the game still has an inning to play – especially an inning of Braden Looper versus the top of the order. And it’s [gulp] all lefties.

1-2-3 in the ninth, like there was never a doubt.

And so the Mets continue their quickening creep northward in the standings. They’re still five games out of first in the NL East and in fourth place, but they’re now perched just a half-game out of the wild card spot behind these Phillies and the Marlins, tied with the Astros. It’s a logjam, and all the Mets need to think about is continuing to help themselves and letting the rest sort itself out.

Of additional note last night was a flop of an outing by Jae Seo, just as soon as the rotation controversies left him to swirl around other members of the staff. He allowed ten hits and four quick runs (three on two first-inning homers) through five, setting precisely the tone the Mets didn’t want for this game and this series. Credit the bullpen with sticking their finger in the dike, a by-now antiquated expression that may get this site blocked from your work. Meanwhile, to his credit, Carlos Beltran muffled some of that bad vibe with a first-inning home run of his own. Big night for Beltran. The Mets would be ecstatic to have him reach that level of stickwork he displayed in the last chapters of 2004, but really it’d be nice just to see him produce consistently in that 3-hole. It was funny last night – he had a bang-up night immediately following a sad diatribe from Hernandez lamenting his woes and saying he might not be able to get on track until next year. Well played, Keith.

Random Thought #1: Charlie Manuel was right to argue a blown call on a play at the plate, but his getting tossed may have cost him the game. There were several pitching changes that didn’t happen down the stretch that seemed obvious, even before they resulted in the predictable scenarios that foiled the Phils. Then again, I seem to remember Manuel himself making a few dunderheaded moves earlier this year, so perhaps it would have worked out the same way.

Random Thought #2: There’s scrappy, and then there’s weenie. Chase Utley whined he’d been hit by an inside pitch after the ball just did graze his sleeve in the ninth – after he blatantly leaned in to try to take the HBP for the team. The ump either didn’t see the poly-blend get brushed, or he wasn’t going to award it because of the lean; meanwhile, you could see Castro offer a look like, “Play ball, pansy.”

A great win for the Mets. Greatest, biggest, best, blah blah blah, all that really matters is that they’re right in there and playing winning baseball. I won’t tread on this theme for too much longer, but the feeling our boys have generated in the Township at this point in the season was utterly nonexistent over the past few years. They’re still a fourth-place team and only seven games over sea level, but they’re making me like their chances every time out. I like their energy, I like their hustle, I like their scrap. This has all the makings of what I’d call a . . . what’s that word?

Ah, yes. Resurgence.

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