Thanks to Billy Wagner's Houdini act in the 9th inning tonight, the Mets were able to escape, both from a bases loaded, no out jam in that inning, but with a victory in a game that they had trailed most of the way, and looked rather poor in doing so. For about 6 1/2 innings, Wednesday Night's game looked almost like a carbon copy of Tuesday (which I had the poor fortune of attending), where the Mets looked flat and lifeless against a team that they absolutely had to beat more than any other team in the league, playing in conditions more appropriate for The Hound Of The Baskervilles rather than a Major League Baseball game. They scraped across a run in the first against Smoltz and then pretty much shut down, stranding runners and hitting into double plays with alarming frequency. And then Atlanta broke through for 3 against El Duque, and that appeared to be it.
But the Mets are a resilient bunch, and, of course, just when you think they are down and out, they shock you. First, Luis Castillo came through with a 2-run single to tie the game in the 7th. Then, it was Moises Alou, coming off a stretch in which he had hit into 3 rally-killing DPs in the last 2 games, stepping to the plate and ripping a redemption HR to put the Mets ahead and eventually give them a sorely needed victory.
It was a study in contrasts from Tuesday to Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Mets did little right, right from the get-go. Oliver Perez, who had been so successful against Atlanta (and perhaps my primary impetus for attending the game on Tuesday), got into jams he couldn't get out of, gave up a couple of monstrous HRs, and by the time anyone knew what hit them, the Mets were down 6-0, and the Braves fan in the Larry jersey I had the poor fortune of sitting next to in UR14 was whooping it up to the point where I moved seats, else risk strangling the bastard.
It was a miserable game of whatifs and missed opportunities. If Oliver gets the pitcher out in the 2nd. If Milledge isn't called out on a questionable strike 3 or Perez gets the call at first on his nifty bunt in their half of the 2nd. If Alou doesn't hit into 2 deathly DPs to kill a pair of rallies in the 4th and the 6th. It was another one of those games that I was tempted to leave at around the 4th inning, and the text messages to El Guapo indicated as much.
Few good things came out of that game.
- Schoeneweis came into a game at home and actually got an out when he needed to get it.
- The Chicken Tenders and French Fries at the concession stand now come with 4 tenders instead of 3.
- I didn't die from Heat Stroke.
- They solved the problems with the Express trains back into Manhattan after the game. I hopped on a train with little wait and no crowd, and I was home in less than an hour after the last pitch.
Meanwhile, later on that night...
Some time after the game, and after I had returned to Ballclub HQ, Manhattan, I had gone to a local diner for a bite to eat with M2M, Sr. (Not a Baseball fan, however purports to have been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan back in that era; now roots for the Yankees halfheartedly mainly to maintain family dischord). On the TV at said diner was the Giants/Nationals game. And while we were eating, Barry Bonds did indeed hit his 756th HR, passing Hank Aaron's career mark and taking it for himself. Here's the extent of the exchange:
M2M: Oh my God...
M2M, Sr.: What?
M2M: Bonds did it.
My father peered halfheartedly at the TV, but seemed more interested in the giant scrum going after the ball.
I've made the extent of my remarks on Bonds and the Steroid issue, and the evidence against him is certainly damning enough. Whether people want to feel the record is tainted or not is their own opinion. All I have to say is that Selig turned a blind eye to this issue for so many seasons, never cracking down on the problem because of the excitement generated by the Home Run and the Home Run Chases. Then, when he finally decided to do something, he did a halfhearted job of it. And what he's got now is a Major Record set because someone used, or allegedly used steroids, and a public opinion that will forever question the record as long as it stands (until A-Rod breaks it). Congratulations, Bud. I hope you're happy.
As long as we're on the subject, I have one more comment and a couple of Kudos from the event itself.
I believe it was Karl Ravech (it could have been Kruk, I forget) on ESPN last night who had mentioned that Hank Aaron wasn't at the park in person because of his desire to let Bonds have his moment, and not to relive his travails of 1972, 73 and 74, painful and difficult years for him as he pursued Ruth's record. Others seem to think that this is his way of condemning Bonds for allegedly using Steroids. Either way, while his videotaped speech was nice, it was pretty plastic as speeches go. It was probably taped a month ago at the behest of his good buddy Selig, simply as a show of goodwill towards Bonds, and I don't think that it came off as something genuine. They saved it until he broke the record, and then threw it up on the big screen as if it were something spontaneous, and I don't think it was spontaneous.
To Mike Bacsik, former Mets farmhand and victor of a start or two during the forgettable 2002 season (which I think I've mentioned before) for really handling this thing like a pro. It could have been a big, demoralizing thing for a pitcher, but it seems like Bacsik really relished his role in the moment itself. He talked about how his father told him to go after Bonds, and he did, and he gave up the HR, and now he's the answer to a trivia question. And he really seems to be genuinely happy about that. Good for him.
To the guy who caught the ball, Matt Murphy of Queens, NY, for catching the ball, surviving being gang tackled by 300 other lunatics, and being carried out with his Jose Reyes Jersey in full view. Nice way to kick them all in the nuts. My father was thoroughly amused by the sight of him being carried out by 10 SF Police Officers.