“Baseball is a game of redeeming features.” – Bob Murphy
This was shaping up to be a horrible night. Jonathon Niese gave up a couple of runs early. Normally, this isn’t cause for alarm, dread, or despair, except for two reasons: first of all, it’s Niese’s third start out of the past four where that’s happened and number two, the Mets were facing Roy Halladay. Roy Halladay has absolutely owned the Mets since his arrival in the National League. To be fair, that puts the Mets in the company of the other fifteen NL teams: Halladay is an outstanding major league pitcher. Once you find yourself down 2-0 to a pitcher like that, the odds are pretty good that you’ll stay there, even if the team for which he’s pitching has an offense less robust that a sloth. Came around two out in the top of the sixth, I was checking in with the goings on via ESPN Mobile on my Blackberry, but barely paying attention, more concerned with ABC’s Scandal on pay-per-view and what the Rangers were doing at the Garden. Right around when the Blueshirts trailed 2-1 in the second period, the night turned on its head.
After getting Josh Thole and Mike Baxter to pop out, Halladay surrendered his only walk of the night to Andres Torres. Kirk Nieuwenhuis – who seemingly always finds himself in the middle of some form of excitement or another – plopped a base hit into shallow left-center. Three pitches later, David Wright squirted a double inside the third base line and just like that, this game was tied, much to the astonishment of the Philadelphia crowd and the ESPN Mobile headline writers: this was not the way the narrative was supposed to play out.
A Lucas Duda strikeout ended that part of things and Manny Acosta stifled the Phils in the bottom half. The Mets went quietly in the seventh, then Philly made some rumblings against Bobby Parnell. Juan Pierre walked, bigmouth Jimmy Rollins singled and after an out, the odious Shane Victorino squibbed a base hit to short. Even through the Blackeberry, the sweat in the New York dugout was palpable. The swift Hunter Pence bounded one to second, where Daniel Murphy one-and-a-half clutched the ball over to Justin Turner at short. The throw back to first was a fraction of a hair late and Pence was called safe and the go-ahead run crossed the plate. Not so fast… Pence was called out, seeing as the egregious Victorino drifted out to southern Jersey to take Murphy out. Antonio Bastardo replaced Halladay and more fun ensued on the defensive side for the New Yorks. A Ty Wigginton liner to center and a perfect bunt by Carlos Ruiz put men on first and second with nobody out. Placido Polanco sacrificed to make it second and third. Freddy Galvis followed with a weak bouncer back to the mound where Parnell’s throw, Wigginton and Josh Thole came together all at once. Ty barreled, Josh held and the game was still tied. Thole was led off the field feeling slightly goofy and will now spend some time on the shelf with a concussion. Tim Byrdak came on to strike out something called Erik Kratz.
Two strikeouts by Jonathan Papelbon sandwiched around a walk to Ike Davis surely spelled extra innings, or at least a rollercoaster bottom of the ninth. Not so fast… Thole’s replacement, Mike Nickeas blasted a double off the left field wall. Good ol’ Ike – never having the best wheels in the world to begin with – pulled in at third. That called for a pinch hitter for Byrdak. The only man available was Jordany Valdespin, King of the Buffalo Shuttle. He had to make a quick turn back from the Herd to replace Ruben Tejada and his strained quad. And here he came, sporting a major-league tally of oh-for-six. Nevermind the Interstate, so far Valdespin couldn’t even find the on-ramp. After a strike from Papelbon, Jordany golfed a down-and-in fastball way over the right field wall for a 5-2 Mets lead. Frank Francisco came on and blew them down in order and the New York Mets came away with their most thrilling, improbable win of the young year.
This is rapidly becoming a team impossible not to like. They play ‘til the end, they take nothing for granted and they scoff at superior odds. They are a fun-loving bunch who will infuriate and charge up, sometimes simultaneously. On those times when they creep back towards .500, it rings as a disappointment, rather than something accomplished. As for right now, there has rarely come a time so perfect and so satisfying to shout…
LET’S GO METS!
PS – The Rangers scored the tying goal with seven seconds left and won 3-2 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead over the Washington Capitals.
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