Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kool & The Gang

Games 140 through 143 - Mets

Mets 11, Astros 3
Mets 3, Astros 1
Mets 4, Astros 1
Mets 3, Braves 2
Record: 82-61

One of the keys to the ultimate success of a given baseball team is peaking at the right time. That time is October, not early September, but it's a whole lot more comforting to see this team playing up to its potential after Labor Day than it is to have had them clicking on all cylinders on Independence Day and pining for that level of play now. The 2007 Mets were top-notch in April, moderately effective in May and August, and relatively dreadful in June and July. Looks as though they're book-ending a midsummer snooze with some good baseball, and that's 100% better than the alternative.

What does that mean for their chances to win the division and compete in the postseason? It bodes well but promises absolutely nothing. We've written more than once about the unpredictable results to the last few years of playoffs, and so nothing is taken for granted. Except when we speak of getting World Series tickets in a semi-tongue-in-cheek manner. You know how it is.

And that's how it was Saturday at Shea, as my brother-in-law and I took in a fine outing by the Metmen on a sunny day at the old ballyard.

My grandmother likes to remind me that when she and my grandfather were taking me to my first major league baseball game in 1978, I showed up in their room at 6:30 in the morning, all decked out in my uniform, wondering how long till we rode into the City for the game. It was a 7:30 PM night game, of course. Well, Patrick and I were only slightly less geeked up for this game, arriving way too early.

The problem was that on a hot day after a night game, Willie'd given the boys a day off from batting practice. Our loss to begin with, but then the players' tickets didn't become available till after an hour after we got to the stadium. It hardly mattered, though; we walked over to check out the progress on Citi Field, saw Ralph Kiner walk into the ballpark, and talked all things Mets.

His comment after we received David Wright's tickets: "X5G . . . I've never seen that section before, and I have no idea where it is . . . that's gotta be a good thing." And indeed it was, as we were 10 or 12 rows back behind home plate. We dropped off our promotional Mets fleece blankets (at a blazing hot day game? Really??) at the seats and meandered up to the Diamond Club for a couple of beers and some sausage & pepper subs.

Once we settled in for the game, we enacted a couple of side games, just because. They included drafting a trio of players for whom a home run would get you a five-spot as well as a drinking game wherein spotting any jersey/T-shirt sporting a player's name and number from the '86 club meant a quick slug for me, any from the 2000 WS team meant one for him. Hey, live baseball is the eighth wonder of the world, as far as I'm concerned, and needs no ADD-incited filler; that said, it was a long day in the hot sun, and there's no reason not to enhance even a brilliant spectacle.

And then there was the brilliant spectacle that was Tom Glavine's day. He was perfect through five; in a bizarro-jinx move, Patrick began talking about it after the 1st inning. Seemed to be working, but we let our guard down in the 6th -- possibly ordering our 6th round of Bud Lights in those icy aluminum bottles -- and Cody Ransom (wasn't he a secret agent?) knocked one into left-center to spoil our fun.

Didn't spoil our day, though, as Glavine quickly induced the 4-6-3 from the next batter and eventually pitched into the 8th. He was still looking strong then, even, and Willie pulled him despite Glavine having thrown just 86 pitches and two idiots in the lower deck sternly cautioning against it. The move worked out, of course, and there's cause for praise in the Met pen after I heaped so much abuse on them for a few weeks. (Deservedly.)

Oh, and our beloved revolutionary hero David A. Wright homered in the 3rd, netting me $5 and giving the Met faithful a reason to stretch their legs and their lungs. Couldn't have scripted that one much better, though Patrick wondered aloud why he didn't glance up at the folks occupying his seats and offer a wink and a point. Yeah, okay.

All in all it was a textbook-great day at Shea, a near-complete foil to the anxious, intense, uproarious, and ultimately heart-breaking night in the mezzanine last October. Next trip out we'll return to our rightful place in the cheapies next to jokers like ourselves, but now and again it's nice to get close to the action and live well.

A tremendous sports weekend for yours truly. The coming weeks will probably shelve the pleasant memories of early September, but for now, let's not worry too much about that, okay?

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