Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heart Attack Game

I wrote, last September, about the kind of game I like to call the "Heart Attack Game," the kind of game where the Mets seem to have a game won or lost about 27 different times before they eventually win, or lose it. Last year, the Mets lost these games more often than not. I suppose last year could very well have been a Heart Attack Season, but that's another story that appears to not be relevant anymore.

Wednesday night's game was a prime example of a Heart Attack game, and I was on hand for the festivities, a 3 hour, 25 minute sweat-fest that saw the Mets charge ahead, the Nationals chip away and come back, the Mets charge ahead again, the Nationals fire back, and the Mets finally pull away for the win.

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I believe last night's game was, in fact, the highest-scoring game I've ever attended. It also may have been the most ass-backwards game I've ever attended. This game, to put it simply, had a little bit of everything.

Whether or not the argument is made that Pelfrey came unglued in the 4th inning, after Elijah Dukes (Bitch!) flipped out after Pelfrey came a little bit inside on him is bunk. Pelfrey really didn't have it at all last night, and he was fortunate that his defense bailed him out on several occasions, just about every inning. Fernando Tatis made an Endy-like grab on a Milledge line drive that appeared to be sailing over his head. Ryan Church closed quickly and nabbed a Milledge liner in the 3rd. Pelfrey just didn't have his good stuff last night, was working from behind and the Nationals batters were laying off the sinker and sitting on the fastball. There was nothing about Dukes' antics that would have rattled Pelfrey; in fact, Pelfrey seemed ready to fire right back had Dukes decided to go after him. Although I don't know if it's necessarily wise to go after someone as volatile as Elijah Dukes. But that's another issue entirely.

Pelfrey certainly wasn't good last night, but his counterpart Odalis Perez was worse. Although his defense turned a pair of DPs behind him in the 1st and 2nd, Perez then got his doors blown off in the 3rd, an inning so ugly that with 1 out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, the Nationals thought it better to walk Carlos Delgado and pitch to Fernando Tatis, and Tatis indignantly smacked a 2-run double to extend the Mets lead to 5-1, and stretched as far as 7-1 before the inning ended. And yet, for some reason, I had this feeling like that wasn't enough.

So, of course, the Nationals came back and tied the game, bit by bit. 1 in the 4th and 3 in the 5th chased Pelfrey, which meant that the bullpen would have to get themselves through 4 innings with a 2 run lead.

They managed to get through .2 of an inning with that lead intact.

Aaron Heilman came in and did what appeared to be his best Steve Trachsel impression. He came in and immediately went 3-0 on the leadoff batter. The fans were apoplectic. He threw 2 quick strikes. OK. As if on cue, he threw ball 4, thereby bringing the tying run to the plate. With a runner on 1st, Heilman then slowed the game down to an absolute crawl. I swear there must have been a solid minute between pitches. He wasn't even throwing to 1st, despite the speed of the runner, Roger Bernadina. He got Langerhans to pop out and Bonifacio to ground into a fielder's choice, and that brought up Cristian Guzman with 2 out. Guzman, a gap hitter, not a power hitter, mind you. But Heilman is usually good for one long fly ball per outing. We all know where this is going. Off the bat, you could tell. Church barely moved in right. Lead gone, game tied, fans howling. Heilman is removed for Joe Smith and booed about as fervently as Dukes was throughout the night. Smith restores some semblance of order in the 6th, and again in the 7th.

The Nationals have been parading obscure reliever after obscure reliever out of their bullpen since the 4th. Not only do I not know who any of them are, they're not even listed on the team roster in the program. Not until the 7th do they bring in someone I've heard of, Saul Rivera, the Puerto Rican Jew himself. This Nationals bullpen gave the Mets fits last September, and Rivera was among the ringleaders. So, tonight, the Mets took him behind the woodshed. Rivera didn't help himself much during a rather odd sequence where the Nationals appeared to remember that they were the Nationals and kick the ball around a bit. After Delgado drove in the lead run on a Sacrifice fly, the Mets were looking to tack on more runs. Lord knows they would need all of them tonight. With Beltran on 2nd and Tatis on 1st, and Murphy at the plate, Rivera wheeled and threw to 2nd in an attempt to pick off Beltran. Beltran appeared to be a dead duck, but somehow the ball glanced off Guzman's glove and into Center Field. Beltran dove back in and appeared momentarily stunned as the ball rolled in the outfield. Fernando Tatis was making a mad dash for 2nd, and screaming and waving for Beltran to get up and go to 3rd, but Beltran just lay there. Finally, he got up, looked around and decided he might want to take off for 3rd, since Tatis was just about 3/4 of the way to 2nd. Lastings Milledge had run in to pick up the ball and make an attempt to throw out Beltran at 3rd. Milledge got the ball, reared back...and slipped and fell flat on his face. Rivera then followed that up by throwing a wild pitch that was so wild, it ended up under the ball boy's stool next to the Mets dugout. Brian Schneider singled home two more runs before the inning came to a close, the Mets seemingly in charge with a 11-7 lead.

So, of course, the Nationals rallied in the 8th. Cristian Guzman came up with 2 on and 1 out and the scoreboard read that he had 3 RBIs on the night. I looked at my scorecard. Impossible. He had two RBIs, and even if I missed something, he never even had another opportunity for an RBI. So, Guzman decided to take care of that and then some by hitting his 2nd HR of the game. I wonder if Cristian Guzman has ever had a 2 HR game in his life?

Well, here we go again.

David Wright, after a few weeks of scuffling around and looking pretty bad at the plate, appeared to have righted himself, with 3 hits and a walk. He was in or around every rally the Mets put together, scoring 3 runs and driving in 1. So, of course, the scoreboard reads 3 RBIs. so, Wright decided to take care of that, and with Church on 1st, Wright slammed a HR into the bleachers to give the Mets a few more insurance runs, and himself the proper number of RBIs for the game.

13-10 as Ayala came in for the 9th and I still wasn't convinced that things would end quietly.

Dukes led off the 9th by grounding out to Argenis Reyes, on a rather nifty play by Reyes up the middle, and a nice pick by Delgado on Reyes' dying quail of a throw. But Dukes, who had been hearing it loudly and often ever since the incident in the 4th, decided to milk his moment, running way down the Right Field line and then taking his sweet time walking back to the dugout, waving to the fans as he walked off. Well, if this is what he wants, this is what he gets. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Steve Somers said, later in the evening, on WFAN, that the fans above the National dugout might want to take it easy, you can't be quite sure what Dukes is going to do. The potential for him to go Milton Bradley or Frank Francisco on you is there (Ron Artest is a stretch). But Dukes went off and that was it for the Elijah Dukes sideshow. Luis Ayala, who was probably the last person you would have thought would be the reliable guy in the bullpen held the line and got the Nationals 1-2-3, and I exhaled and took my leave.

I certainly hope the Mets don't intend to make a habit of playing games like they do against the Nationals. It's been a difficult enough journey to get to this point, and their 3 1/2 game lead is their biggest of the season. But let's all hope these games are just an anomaly. I don't like too many Heart Attack games.

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