Friday, May 3, 2013

Script Changes

It's not news to Mets fans, particularly anyone who has been following the team since Turner Field opened in 1997, but nothing good has ever happened to the Mets at Turner Field. I mean, sure, they've won some games here and there, and they've swept some series on rare occasions, but for the most part, nothing good ever happens to the Mets in Atlanta. Whether it's umpires blowing calls at home plate, or players abandoning fundamentals, or Larry being a general nuisance, something terrible usually happens to the Mets when they go to Atlanta, and the result is that they generally lose games. I don't think they won a game there at all between 2003 and 2005, and I believe they've only won about 2 games there since 2007.

Even without Larry around to wreak havoc, the Braves still feature all the pieces designed to annoy me. Dan Uggla—remember him?—is there now, and some Uptons are involved. This Andrelton Simmons fellow is drawing a lot of sizzle in spite of the fact that he poses as little more than a glorified Rey Ordoñez. Then, there's their closer, Craig Kimbrel, who everyone fawns and drools over like he's the second coming of Mariano Rivera except that people gloss over the fact that every time he's had to close out a big game, he's shit the bed. So...yeah. No love lost for the Braves.

Tonight's game seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of all those other games. The Mets broke out to an early lead thanks to the continued success of John Buck, but the Braves chipped away and chipped away, and ultimately tied the game in the 5th. It didn't help that Shaun Marcum couldn't keep himself together. But whatever. If the Braves didn't strike then, they would have struck later on. And they did, in the 7th, courtesy of a walk and an inopportune Wild Pitch, setting the stage for All Star Andrelton Simmons to tap into a Fielder's choice that probably would have been a Double Play had the ball been better hit, but them's the breaks. Mike Minor hadn't given up a hit since the 2nd inning. And there went the Mets in this game.

Except that for reasons I can't quite understand, the Braves removed Minor from the game. Marlon Byrd promptly hit a Home Run off Eric O'Flaherty in the 8th inning, re-tying the game.

So, the Mets won't lie down so easily, will they? That's OK. Braves Folk Hero du Jour Evan Gattis answered Byrd's Home Run with one of his own off Brandon Lyon. Braves lead once again. Braves fans doing their little tomahawk chop dance that brings me right on the verge of homicide every time I hear it. The unhittable Craig Kimbrel coming in for the 9th. We already know how the script ends. May as well pack up and go home.

Except that David Wright decided to man up and throw a wrench into that plan. Kimbrel had him late on a pair of fastballs, but, pro that he is, Wright shortened up his swing and deposited the next pitch in the Center Field bleachers, tying the game again, and hanging a BS on Kimbrel. I found this to be a particularly gratifying Home Run, particularly since Keith Hernandez—Keith Hernandez!—had spent the entire inning with his lips firmly glued to Kimbrel's ass.

Still, the Braves appeared primed to make Wright's Home Run a footnote in the bottom of the 9th. Ramiro Peña (who was a former Yankees prospect, so you know he's got to be good) doubled off Lyon, and then got sacrificed to 3rd. Here we go again. Another game in Atlanta destined to end with something stupid happening. But instead of sticking with Lyon to the death, Terry Collins instead went to Bobby Parnell. All Parnell did was get Jordan Schafer to fly out to center—probably deep enough to score Peña, but shallow enough to scare him out of trying—and Justin Upton to ground out, keeping the game tied and into another extra inning affair.

I still wasn't entirely convinced that the Mets were just prolonging the inevitable, because they still had to score more runs in order to win, and through 9 innings, they'd only managed 5 hits, 4 of which had fortuitously left the yard. Jordan Walden came in for Atlanta in the 10th, and while Keith spent a good 15 minutes expounding on his bizarre delivery, the Mets once again got to work. Jordany Valdespin worked a 2-out walk, which seemed innocuous enough, but in reality it set one of Terry Collins' more ingenious plans in motion. Bobby Parnell, the next batter, would surely have been hit for under most circumstances. But here he was, coming to the plate.

Only in retrospect was it evident that Parnell was simply there to square for a bunt and distract Gattis enough to allow Valdespin to steal 2nd. At worst, Valdespin is caught and Parnell goes out for another inning. Instead, Valdespin was safe, Mike Baxter subsequently pinch hit and walked, and Tejada and Murphy followed with run-scoring hits. Just the way Collins drew it up.

3 tidy, uneventful outs from Jeurys Familia later and, amazingly, the Mets had a 7-5 win that you sort of had to pinch yourself over. The Mets battled back in a game where Atlanta's groundswell probably should have overcome them. They tied a game in Atlanta where normally they would normally have meekly faded off into the night. They took an extra inning lead and held it. This isn't the script that these Mets/Braves games usually follow. I hope to see it happen more often.

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