Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Start the Commotion

Games 73 through 75 - Mets

Mets 6, Blue Jays 1
Blue Jays 7, Mets 4
Mets 7, Blue Jays 4
Record: 47-28

The Mets jetted up to the cleanest major city in North America and made tidy work in two of the three games against the Jays. Although Tom Glavine presented a nice return to form on Friday night, the series was won with hitting, hitting, and more hitting. The hits won’t keep on coming forever, but they’re clearly carrying the Mets during this stretch.

After Glavine’s solid showing in the series opener, Orlando “Chuque & Duque” Hernandez issued a fireworks display not legal back in the States. That his stint was truncated by a bizarre mound-visit ruling that had both Willie Randolph and the umpiring crew under fire was merely a diversion from the fact that Hernandez was lit up. It was the first time he’d really been torched as a Met; while a potent Jays lineup deserves some credit, it underscores a growing nervousness about the rotation even as the Mets’ divisional buffer inflates.

What can you say about this offense that hasn’t already been noted by fans, bystanders, and casual glossers of the daily boxes? Even Toronto ace Roy Halladay got touched for more than his usual allotment, though his roughing up couldn’t measure up to the alley beating El Duque suffered. Jose Reyes is sporting a slow-pitch softball average over the past couple of weeks, Carlos Beltran has already jammed more into the first half of the season than he gave us all year in ’05, and Dee-Dub has men who usually sport more than a sliver of machismo gushing girly sentiment. Even Jose Valentin – well, I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but his rejuvenation has certainly been one of the HiGH points of the month.

Taking two of three from Toronto was a more than satisfying outcome; lately, everyone from Rob Russell on down to the SportGuy have been slagging the National League with little resistance. Losing the series might’ve been an acceptable loss, given the caliber of the opponent, but giving the NL-naysayers more fodder was avoided.

Taking two of three from Toronto without incurring serious injuries in the rapidly aging park formerly known as SkyDome was a coup. Seriously, did anyone see the condition of that turf? It makes the old Vet rug look seamless. Duaner Sanchez experienced some shooting pain in his arm that moved a township from its recliner to its knees in a millisecond, but knock on wood, it doesn’t appear to be the crisis we’d feared.

Phase 1 of the road trip against the “Group of Death” went well, but now we get to the main event. Subway Series Shmubway Shmeries, everything you want to watch is contained within the next three nights, weather permitting. Yes, that’s right, the New York Mets travel to Fenway Park for three games. Let the inevitable chatter about 1986 commence; for once, I won’t cast such nostalgic but meaningless hype to the compost heap of media drivel.

The pitching match-ups are letter-perfect, considering the respective staffs. The undercard will be fought tonight, as newcomers Alay Soler and Jon Lester square off. Soler’s been solid, Lester’s been downright phenomenal in this early going. For once, I’d like to read “Lester got bombed last night” reported in the sports pages instead of the taunting e-mails I receive.

Tomorrow night’s game features the much-anticipated return of Pedro Martinez to the park that sheltered him as he rose from winning the Cy Young to being mentioned alongside Cy Young. Pedro’s a gamer, and I hope and expect him to give it all he’s got for seven strong (a tip of the cap to Grady Little) while treating the fans to a something special. With Josh Beckett on the hill for the Sox, we’ll need it.

The series finale on Thursday brings us no letdown of marquee names, with Glavine going for the Mets and Curt Schilling going for the Sox. Glavine’s had a tough month, but he seems to have weathered what I pray is the worst of it. Lester, Beckett, and Schilling will be the stiffest gauntlet the Mets have run through in some time. Meanwhile, Papi, Manny, and the rest of the mashers present no cakewalk for the Met arms. (Not to suggest that the Mets walk with their arms; this isn’t Cirque du Soleil, despite Orlando “El Cirque” Hernandez’s latest carnival.)

All of this is assuming the weather lets them play. The east coast is waist-deep in rainfall this week, with floods, mud slides, and power outages plaguing the area. Here's hoping this bild-up isn't all for naught, because it's time to get fired up.

We fans have to love pre-Break challenges; it’s excitement without serious repercussions (barring possible injury; you obviously know by now that jinx-breaking prefaces and addenda ride like remoras on every shark that we at MLC ever . . . jump). If the Mets blow up in Beantown, there’s an eternity to regroup, retool, and reevaluate, so all will not be lost. If the Mets slice through the Sox as they have many an adversary of late, it will be another affirmation of the new, new Mets. This series is a challenge, and I can’t wait to see if the Mets are up to it.

Of course, my crony and I are a million amperes more amped than anyone on Yawkey Way right about now. The convergence of the Mets and Red Sox in one stadium ushers a level of excitement into our respective systems that’s not often seen. There are mixed emotions a-plenty; for me to root against a Lester and for Rob to root against Pedro, for each of us to turn the turrets toward each other for three nights – well, you know it’s something big. It’s huge, and it means more than you even realize.

It’s about cheering on our teams, sure, and wanting the stellar success of our clubs to carry on. It’s about pride, bragging rights, and all that jazz, yeah yeah yeah. But’s about something more than that, something that goes deep into our very beings to bring us euphoria and an uninhibited desire to bellow joyful gibberish without termination. I’m talking, naturally, about beer. Cases of the stuff, exchanged on a game-by-game basis with the possibility of a sweep-case accouterment. Two teams will collide in the night somewhere not far from the site where, a long, long time ago, the Boston Pilgrims eradicated the Indians. And just as the consequence of that event has fostered bitterness even while providing the foundation of future history for the peoples who comprised each. . . ballclub (you thought I meant Plymouth Rock, didn’t you? Silly fools, I’m talking about baseball, duh.), the impending showdown at Fenway will deliver much heartache and liver damage to the participants in this lager wager for the ages.

Game on. And someone get me another beer.

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