Sunday, October 15, 2006

To the Kill

Games 2 & 3 – NLCS

Cardinals 9, Mets 6
Cardinals 5, Mets 0
Cardinals lead, 2-1

Well, that was just pure agony. The past two nights have been brutal on my innards, as the usual angst and tension supplemented by doses of frustration, rage, resignation, disappointment, and dread. Watching baseball sure is fun, huh?

Game 2 hurt because I felt the game was in hand all night, even as the Cards kept coming back. As I predicted, the Mets got to the St. Louis ace, Chris Carpenter, but John Maine went in the tank. Guillermo Mota held fast, then let up – that was the blown lead that really stung, when I thought the Mets would coast. But this Redbird team has that increasingly annoying eye of the tiger / team of destiny thing going on – there’s no denying it. They, along with the Tigers, seem propelled by a force greater than what’s on display between the lines. Damn them.

That sentiment was underscored when Jeff freaking Suppan shut down the Mets’ O and, oh yeah, homered off Steve Trachsel. There’s little I can say about Trachsel that hasn’t already been said, capitalized, emphasized with many exclamation points, and censored at certain Mets forums in the last 24 hours – or that hasn’t been written in this space. His upside over the years (inning-eater, solid, not prone to the big inning) evaporated in an instant last night. He and John Maine both folded when the Mets most needed them.

The home plate umpires have had something to do with it. Not that you can take the onus off Maine & Trax – hell, no – but they rely on calls like Glavine got, and instead they got squeezed like an intern’s cheeks in the Steve Phillips era. It was a recipe for a long night, and that it was . . . twice.

I’ve been trying like hell to get my superstitious regimen lined up, but this series has stood as Exhibit A in the case to debunk the voodoo hex that has commanded my behavior in postseasons past. Hats, shirts, and Met gear of all kinds – no configuration seems to work consistently. Patterns of where I watch, how I watch, with whom I watch . . . non-existent. The only thing I have noticed that has worked has been the Rob Russell Anti-Mojo Factor. Basically, when Rob has made a comment lauding or cheering for the Mets’ opposition, the Mets seem to win. It’s a bizarre reverse-psychology form of fortune I employed several years ago in the ALCS when the Red Sox went down 2-0 to Oakland until I donned an A’s cap and changed the outcome. I need something from my cohort now before it gets desperate here.

Oliver Perez goes tonight in a must-win game, a horrifying statement for Mets fans throughout the Township. On a related note, I’m going to go throw up. David Wright appears to have regressed into wide-eyed rookie status, Jose Valentin left his bat in the regular season, and the Mets’ world seems to quake when Scott Spiezio steps to the plate. It’s been ugly for a couple of nights, and there’s at least a decent chance that it could get worse tonight.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law is pleasantly applying the blinders and sipping the Kool-Aid, bidding on tickets for Game 7 and checking out plane fares to Detroit. I’m a wreck, of course. Now that the Redskins have soiled themselves once again, costing Rob 50 grand, this has the makings of the worst sports weekend for me in recent memory. Only William & Mary’s fourth-quarter comeback against a team they should beat with their second string on roller skates saved a clean sweep, but good reason, the Mets are consuming my rooting interest now.

This is it. These are the moments that will stick with you forever, boys. As Gordon Gano sang, this will go down on your permanent record. Don’t get so distressed, just go out there and play the kind of baseball you’re capable of playing. I’m not ready to kiss off this season just yet.

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