Game 19 - Mets
Mets 2, Rockies 1 (10 innings)
The bow of the new season isn't really christened until it happens. Well, tonight it did. Mark it in your books. Game 19, a win against Colorado on April 24th, finally saw the up-from-couch leap into the air and spazzy den dance. The low ceiling -- and fan -- forces me to emulate Verreaux's Sifaka Lemur (okay, but if you haven't seen it, you should; the resemblance is uncanny) with a few bonus fist pumps for effect, and the whole spectacle is a silent, hurky-jerky mosh for one. The den dance is visible to nosy neighbors through an array of tall windows, but rest assured, when it happens, I can't care any less.
It didn't occur because El Duque was superbly on his game, even though he threw seven hugely important shutout innings. Granted, John Hirschbeck's parking spot is smaller than his strike zone (in the 12th inning, I chuckled because he calls 'em like he needs to be home by 10:00), but clear command for the better part of Duque's outing and super-sharp movement on each of his pitches had the Rockies baffled.
Unfortunately, they were no more baffled than the Mets hitters at Aaron Cook's similar combo of unwavering precision and umpire's decision. [Aside: we've discussed this before in this space, but the effect on a ballgame this kind of umpire has is marked and inexcusable. He very simply, and quite measurably, is calling balls as strikes. It's such an integral part of the game, and although players claim to simply want "consistency," umpiring performance should go beyond that. If an NFL referee consistently marked the ball six inches short of where it should have been, he'd be working Arena League games rather quickly. Alas, QuesTech was dropped, forgotten, and is never to be spoken of again -- like that little kid in "Married with Children" -- thanks to the whining of Glavine, Schilling, et al, plus the overreacting, cop-out umpires who really began to ruin games with a saucer-sized plate. Yeah, why would you want to police the officials? The NBA does, and look at the trouble that caused. But I digress, quite a bit.]
Regardless the cause, the top of the order went 0-for-16 through the first 10 innings, grounding just about everything rather routinely right at someone. Scoreless through nine, there were only a handful of opportunities, and the Mets capitalized on nary a one. Then Billy Wagner gave up a legit double and a semi-legit triple (but nobody who saw the Cameron Collision is griping about that one dropping in) in his second inning of work. 1-0, bottom 10, two outs, and I submit this mopey bitch to my brother-in-law:
"Damion Easley is our last hope?? Ugh."
I soon followed with "Um . . . never mind" as Easley hit a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center. I've seen a ton of baseball, especially in the era of the revered Extra Innings, and I didn't see that coming at all. Not even a tiny bit. The lesson, as always . . . well, you know.
And even that didn't propel me awkwardly into the air. I think I was too stunned. Understandably, don't you think?
After missing on a good chance in the 11th, the bottom of the 12th looked promising after a walk-bunt-balk sequence. After I mistakenly presumed David Newhan would pinch-hit the winning run home and extenuate the unlikely hero theme (he soooo did not do that), I felt sure Jose Reyes would shake off the mini-slump he's entered, but he was walked before he had the chance. It came down to Endy Chavez with two outs, who as most of our avid readers know has a permanent place etched in the Township HoF.
And Endy delivered in the exciting way that he and few others seem to know how to operate. Endy's 0-1 drag bunt exhilarated just for the bold idea; his execution of the idea tensed the muscles and gave hope; the result of the play defied gravity, sending a thirtysomething fatbody hurtling into the Norfolk night as, sad to say, only this child's game can. As Shawn Green scampered home, with only mine eyes to behold the otherwise unsightly Met Mambo, it was a beautiful thing.
Welcome to the 2007 season, Mets fans.