Sunday, September 30, 2007

Zero Hour

So it all comes down to this.

After the Mets resurrected themselves from the ashes in a most impressive display on all fronts, and dragging all their fans in from the ledge, we find ourselves once again dead even with Philly. It all comes down to one afternoon to try to sort out the mess that has been the National League Playoff scenario.

The Mets blasted out of the gate on Saturday, playing fast, loose and free, without a care in the world. The clutch hits and the good at-bats that seemed to have eluded this team for much of the season, and almost entirely over the last two weeks seemed to have melted away, as the Mets poured it on and didn't let up. The game was already out of reach by the 3rd inning, and by the time the bizarre fisticuffs erupted in the 5th, there was little drama left in this laugher of a game.

While you could certainly see that the Marlins were frustrated and tired, and being beaten off the field by the Mets, it was rather odd seeing Miguel Olivo going completely apeshit and charging Jose Reyes off the mound and ultimately close-fisting Sandy Alomar, Jr, touching off a real Bench-Clearing Brawl, the kind the Mets haven't had in quite some time. Sure, there was the Pedro Martinez/Jose Guillen incident last season, and who can forget Dennis Cook/Marvin Benard in 2000, but I don't even know if I can remember the last time the Mets really dusted it up with anyone since the Kevin Foster/Pete Harnisch/Scott Servais brawl way back in 1996 (not to be left out is my personal favorite, the Pat Combs/Doc Gooden/John Kruk/Strawberry/Mackey Sasser fight in 1990).

Instead, the crowd at Shea got to sit back and watch John Maine mow down batter after batter in what was by far and away his best outing of the season. True, Maine has been uneven this season, and at times was downright hideous, especially through much of the second half. But the Mets turned to him today, when they needed it the most, and Maine delivered with a performance as clutch as the day itself. If this all works out for the Mets in the end, Maine's outing today could live on for a long time in Mets lore as one of the most dominant big game performances in team history (right up there with Bobby Jones or Al Leiter).

But, while the 13-0 thrashing was certainly welcomed by all, and certainly much needed for all of us who have suffered the slings and arrows and indignities of the last two weeks, where the Mets for the most part looked lifeless and hopeless, it would have meant very little in the larger scheme of things unless things worked out right in Philadelphia. And the Nationals helped the Mets out bigtime, as Matt Chico threw shutout ball into the 7th, and the Nationals Bullpen was able to get out of a jam, and escape with a 4-2 victory to knock the Phillies back into a tie, setting up what will certainly be a wild Sunday.

I'll be there today. I had figured I would wait until the game ended today to see if I would go, but by the time the Mets had gone up 8-0, I figured it was pretty safe to go ahead and get a ticket. Good thing, too, since by the time the Philly game ended, the game was sold out. Shea is going to be rocking today, guaranteed, from start to finish. And we won't need those silly little hankies they give out in Philly, either (with that said, watch them hand out rally towels today).

But let's keep it all in perspective. This still isn't over. The Mets are going up against a Marlins team that has little to play for, but they are facing one tough cookie in Dontrelle Willis, who has always been hard on the Mets. Tom Glavine is battle tested, and has proven time and again to be a big game pitcher. But the Mets really have to come out with the same chip on their shoulder that Lastings Milledge spoke about after the game Saturday. Get ahead and keep the foot on the gas, don't let up until the game is over. Because a loss, and it's all moot, and all the bad feelings, and the snide remarks and the collapse is still there. Philly has a tough matchup of their own, with ageless Jamie Moyer taking the mound for them. And that's not even taking into account the Wildcard scenarios, and San Diego and Colorado, and lord knows who else could pop into the picture.

It all comes down to one day to sort it all out. I'll be at Shea, with 55,776 of my closest friends. We're behind the Mets 100%, just like we've always been. We're prepared for arrogant hope or desperate shame. Whatever happens, we just have to close our eyes, hope for the best, and take that leap...

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