Games 86 through 88 - Mets
Phillies 3, Mets 2
Mets 9, Phillies 4
Mets 4, Phillies 2 (12 inn.)
In a pattern that's come to be all too familiar, my brother-in-law Patrick and I chose to take in the gutpunch of a game in this highly-anticipated series. After that, I sat blissfully unware of the goings-on the next two games . . . when they won in exciting fashion twice. (You might recall that he and I attended Game 7 of the NLCS two years ago. Ugh.)
As with that fateful night at Shea, everything about the night worked to perfection -- except the final result. We had a pair of free tickets, seats in the lower deck, car service to and from the game, a voucher for several free beers at a bar beforehand, and a snoot full when we entered the stadium. We were somehow flanked by Mets fans in our row, we had Johan Santana on the hill, and a recent call-up (whom the Mets had crushed once before) going for the Phils. When the rain begain to fall we were just a few rows under the overhang, dry and content. Not bad.
Then there was the game. The Mets notched a pair of runs in the 5th, when they should have had many more. Mr. Clutch, Carlos Beltran, whiffed to kill the inning, of course. Santana was something to behold, however, and we felt pretty good heading down the stretch. Our mistake.
A combination of a couple of shortcomings undid the Mets and their paltry lead. First, Jerry Manuel had decided to sit Ryan Church, have Endy Chavez play right, and start the unheralded Chris Aguila in left. Questionable at best. Church has been hitting lefties like never before in his career this year. And when Aguila hesitated, squirmed, paused, and ultimately let Jayson Werth's 370-foot single drop in front of him, that's when we really wondered about the decision.
David Wright wondered, too, with 10-second glares towards LF between pitches -- not once but twice. His long look at the rookie confirmed for us that this was a ball Endy catches jogging, not even sprinting and diving. Naturally, it came back to hurt the Mets.
The other piece of this equation is Santana. Statistically, he's been super-solid this year for the Metros, and watching him throw supports the numbers. But there always seems to be some slight letdown that lets the air out of his good work. On some nights it's a flukey homer to a scrub. (Felix Hernandez's grand slam comes to mind.) On this night it was the dire need to retire either Ryan Howard or Pat Burrell to preserve the lead, and he couldn't do either. With it on the line, he fell just slightly short. Blame Chris Aguila all you want -- and we did through the next several Bud aluminum bottles -- but Johan Santana wasn't guiltless.
Later, almost as if scripted, the Mets went down in order to set up a bottom of the 9th that would send the Phillie Phaithful home happy and nearly sully our otherwise excellent evening. Duaner Sanchez battled but gave up hits ahead in the count, and that was that. Victorino, walk-off, blah blah blah.
And then the real fun began, watching the Phillies fans gloat after a win. It was like watching a fish ride a bicycle, what with nobody in the realm of Philadelphia fandom all that acclimated to celebrating victory. Not one but two separate Phils fans gave Patrick the fake-high-five-psyche (one was a fake fist bump) in the bar after the game. Others dropped unfunny insults in earshot. Then, in a weird form of ragging us for supporting the Mets (and bravely wearing Mets caps and shirts), two Phils fans -- wait for it -- bought us beers. Ah, but there was a catch. We asked for Buds, and they bought us Miller Lites! Patrick even overheard one of the duo cackling and telling the other he'd done it on purpose. Alrighty then. And so we wowed the two Philly cheesechicks that they were hitting on with our supreme Metness until they turned their attention away from them and onto us. And then we left. (We're cool like that.)
See, until Philly gets a couple of championships under their belts, their mild affairs with success will always be more awkward than Benjamin Braddock with Mrs. Robinson. And just as funny to the viewer.
Anyway, the Mets blew the game, and led us to once again point out their many flaws over the last few beers of the night. If they couldn't win Santana vs. Happ, why would we expect anything from the other match-ups in the series?
And then I went to Cape Cod, didn't see a pitch, and the Mets pulled out two thrilling victories. Such is life. And there's zero complaining from this corner.