Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Twilight Zone

Game 76 – Mets/Game 74 - Red Sox

Red Sox 9, Mets 4
Mets Record: 47-29

Red Sox Record: 46-28

I'm hijacking Whitney's well-executed recap of last night's contest, both because I'm lazy and because it's a preview of our attempt tonight to make MLC history. Whit and I will be ensconced in the comfortable environs of my living room this evening, accompanied by what promises to be more adult beverages than advisable on a school night. We'll be turning on the laptop and capturing our witty banter as Pedro takes the mound against Ebby Calvin - tune in here tomorrow (or whenever we figure out how to transpose the notes) for groundbreaking blogging.

I tried to call Whit last night right after Reyes got gunned at the plate. He didn't answer, probably because he thought I was going to rub it in. On the contrary, I called to express my stunned surprise at Manny Acta's decision-making. The Mets were down 1 run with 2 on with a chance to load the bases against a talented but struggling young pitcher who'd already walked in a run in the game. On top of that, Carlos Delgado - who'd already taken Jon Lester deep in the game - was coming to the plate, and the Sox had nobody warming in the bullpen. Acta's Sveumian effort was the single biggest play in the game, and damn near got the Mets' hottest player killed. Speaking on behalf of the Nation, my warmest regards to Mr. Acta and his family.

The "game of inches" cliche was fully realized last night, as the Reyes play, the Milledge misadventure, the Loretta catchdrop, and the seemingly dozens of Mets that fouled Lester's pitches straight back all had the chance to drastically change the outcome.

With 1 down and 2 to go, I'm really looking forward to seeing Pedro pitch tonight. He's said all the right things since coming to Boston - I like him even more than I already did. Unfortunately for my Metfan friend, it's been my experience with Pedro that he underperforms when he's emotionally charged up in the regular season. I figure he'll be as superpumped as he's ever been this evening, so my counterintuitive prediction is that he's less effective than normal. Oddly, I hope I'm wrong, because I'd love to him be electric through 8 innings before the Mets' pen blows the game in the 9th.


This is why it’s good to have some high-profile – if not high-pressure – contests along the route to “meaningful games” in the autumn. It’s good to get the little spaz that lurks within us all to make an appearance in mid-season; that way, when tension heightens later on in the year, we’re familiar with his antics and can pants, swirlie, and trash-can stuff him without delay.

This game was spaz city. (It should be noted that I, like Tiger Woods, mean to poke no fun at cerebral palsy victims or others who might take offense. I refer to a certain caliber of klutz that is best depicted via this common playground term. That I once again cave in to the language refs that consist of the planet’s most thin-skinned, hypersensitive grouches disappoints us all, I’m sure. And I mean no disrespect to people with a literal thin skin condition, nor people who prefer “sedentarily-challenged” to “hyper,” and . . . ah, forget it.)

Anyway, this ballgame might as well have been played on a hockey rink, what with the way the Mets seemed to react to Fenway Park. The New York nine seemed distracted, disoriented (no offense to Asians), and discombobulated from the first pitch. (Maybe it was the kinder, gentler, post-2004 Fenway faithful actually cheering the ceremonial return of Calvin Schiraldi. That sure had me weirded out.)

Memo to the Mets: Fenway is a quirky old stadium with equal parts endearing charm and annoying architecture, it’s not an alternate plane. Stephen King does frequent the place, but just as a fan. The Hitchcock who occasionally played here was Sterling, the Mulder was Mark, and the Palmer was not Laura but Jim. The “zone” Alay Soler tried desperately to reach was lorded over by Tim McClelland, not Rod Serling. For the first five or six innings, that inner doofus was running rampant in a most bizarre way.

In the first inning, “Screech” Beltran set the tone by getting picked off first in clumsy fashion. Minutes later, he misjudged/underestimated/lost/Screeched a deep fly by Kevin Youkilis that he usually catches without breaking a sweat. Youkilis would later score on a two-out, two-run single that might have been prevented. And no, Dustin Diamond, this paragraph isn’t going to get you any closer to having people who’ve never met you
pay for your house.

In the second, “Horshack” LoDuca reacted slowly and effortlessly to a foul pop off the bat of Alex Gonzalez, one which the wind blew back to the first row of seats, where it caromed away without a play. Seconds later, Gonzalez ripped a double off the monster. He’d later score.

Sox starter Jon Lester induced some ineptitude on his own, making some good hitters look bad and some so-so hitters look so-bad. “Skippy” Woodward fit rather snugly into the latter category, whiffing in a key moment to end the Mets’ turn in the fourth. “Arvid” Wright would mimic Skippy’s performance quickly thereafter.

In the bottom of the inning, in a highlight that pretty much encapsulates this entire theme, Manny Ramirez skied a ball to left with two on and two out. “Urkel” Milledge began a series of jerky, reckless spins and twists that resulted in him flat on his back and the
ball plopping down on the warning track beside/behind him. It was surreal to watch; the wind played a part, but it was a mere cameo compared to the scene-stealing star turn by the Urk-meister. The 3-2 lead became 5-2, and the game just seemed to be floating away from the liferaft of misfits that was tonight’s Mets.

“Milhouse” Acta got the coaching staff into the act in the fifth, waving Jose Reyes into a collarbone-crunching (well, it looked that way) collision at home plate on a one-hop liner to left. The theretofore promising rally was a clean, new button down shirt; the base hit was a brand new fountain pen; Acta’s windmill was the foolhardy absence of a pocket protector, rendering both items worthless. That we had to hope that the single hottest-hitting Met of the moment suffered no serious injury on a game-spoiling blunder by the third base coach had me wishing a bevy of melvins on the highly-touted coach.

Sometime about the midpoint of the game, the jitters – or whatever was turning the National League’s first-place team into an AP Calculus field trip – subsided, and the Tri-Lams seemed to revert to old Met form. Unfortunately, they reverted to a series of exasperating traits as well as the ones we love. After “No Argument from” Willie Randolph failed to contest a force-out at second that was ruled a transfer drop but at least merited a conversation, he then demonstrated why he consistently beats out the sport’s knee-buckling curveball artists for Slowest Hook in the League. Willie let a struggling Alay Soler stick around just long enough to give up taters to Marlin cast-aways Mike Lowell and the aforementioned Alex Gonzalez, ending the must-see portion of the game. 8-2: it’s when solo shots by Beltran and new Met Eli Marrero don’t suck you back in. Honestly, a little more Randolph and a little less Nesman might have saved this one from the scrap heap.

This game looks ugly on paper, especially when you see the 15 Sox hits stacked up against the Mets’ six, but the Mets really did have their chances. Here’s the lesson as you take the stage for real after umpteen dress rehearsals against the NL East’s understudies: if you stumble over yourself and wet your pants even a dribble against these guys, you’re destined for a sprawl down the stairs. Come out with the grace and calm you know you can muster tomorrow night, and you won’t embarrass yourselves. Seriously guys, get your heads out of your Clavins. Be cool.

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