Tuesday, July 2, 2013

12:24am Lightning

Were I still living at home, last night was the kind of game that I would have arrived back at my Father's house to him laughing his ass off at the folly of my sitting out at Shea Stadium for over 5 hours. Even now that I don't live at home, there is still quite a bit of folly to these ridiculous extra-inning games. 

For whatever reason, I seem to have the magic 13-inning touch when it comes to Mets/Diamondbacks affairs. Monday was the 5th time I've attended a 13-inning game, and 3 of those 5 have come against the Diamondbacks. The last one, back in 2008, was well-documented here. The first, in 2006, was a particular classic. Last night was a little gem in its own right, particularly given the way the game played out.  

I've been more and more skeptical about going to these games of late, particularly given the Mets struggles at home and the general banality of the games I've attended this season (except when Matt Harvey was pitching). I didn't particularly relish the opportunity to see this Shaun Marcum/Wade Miley pitching matchup one day after I was out at Citi Field to see the Mets get pummeled so badly that I couldn't stomach to sit around for the bitter ending. 

It appeared that many people agreed with me. After a crowd of 33,000 showed up on Sunday, it appeared that there were barely 10,000 out on Monday night. The weather, miserable all day, might have been a factor. Who knows. At any rate, it appeared there were so few people out, that you could actually hear the sounds of the game and the shouts of the crowd quite clearly. 

Often, in games like this, I have the tendency to sit there, dutifully keeping score as I always do, and lose myself in thoughts of how I might describe this game for you loyal readers. After an inning, I'd figured I had my storyline: Shaun Marcum, who generally seems to look like he's not enjoying himself, looked particularly uncomfortable out on the mound tonight. He kept flexing his arms and kicking at the dirt on the mound, like something just wasn't right. He hit Aaron Hill on a 2-strike pitch, and then threw to first a few times, before again stalling to kick some more dirt. I could tell that this wasn't going to end well, and I was right, because his next pitch to Mount Rushmore-like 1st Baseman Paul Goldschmidt was launched in the general direction of the Whitestone Bridge for a 2-run Home Run. In response, the Mets started off against Wade Miley with Eric Young, Jr working a walk and immediately getting picked off so badly that he didn't even react to Miley's attempt, instead standing there before making a feeble attempt to run away from Goldschmidt. The Mets then loaded the bases on 2 hits and a walk, setting everything up for John Buck to strike out. This, I figured, would be the game right there. The Mets served it up, missed their chance to respond, and Miley was set to throw a 5-hit shutout. 

The 2nd inning proved more of the same. Marcum, who continued to work at an excruciatingly slow pace, pawed at the dirt some more before giving up a 2-out RBI hit, while the Mets again got men on base and left them there. A long, losing night appeared imminent, but to his credit, Marcum eventually settled down and in spite of the fact that he was apparently dealing with a shoulder problem, gutted it out for 6 innings and kept the game at 3-0.  Unfortunately, the Mets continued to get hits off of Miley, only to fail to break through each time. Thus, I figured, the highlight of the game would have been in the 4th inning, when the sky turned a magnificent shade of pink, bathing Citi Field in such a striking shade of light that you could have shut off the stadium lights and kept playing. 

I knew the Mets would probably rue their missed chances as the game continued, particularly when they finally started to break through against a succession of Arizona relievers. In the 7th, the Mets finally broke through when Eric Young, Jr, who was one of several Mets who was on base all night, drew a walk, moved up on a Daniel Murphy groundout and scored on a key hit from the one guy who's usually good for those, David Wright. Marlon Byrd followed with a flare hit, setting up the Mets for more. But, Kirk Gibson, who seemed to be treating pitching changes as though they were some sort of psychological gamesmanship, went to the mound, removed Brad Ziegler and replaced him with old friend Heath Bell. Bell promptly got Satin to hit into a Fielder's Choice before getting Buck to pop out, a small victory in its own right because to that point, Buck hadn't even made contact. 

The 8th inning brought more baserunners for the Mets. Omar Quintanilla hit a gapper with one out that Gerardo Parra appeared to catch, and the groan from the crowd was palpable. But Parra subsequently face-planted into the warning track and when it became obvious that the ball was resting comfortably on the ground, there was an immediate roar of approval. Quintanilla motored all the way around to 3rd, while Parra lay on the ground, which immediately drew some concern. It's tough to tell, at least from my perch in section 512, what happened exactly, but it didn't look good, particularly given the length of time Parra spent on the ground. But after a lengthy delay, Parra did get up and walk off. It appeared another squandered opportunity for the Mets when Valdespin popped out, but Eric Young salvaged the inning with an RBI double, and moved to 3rd on a Wild Pitch. There he stayed when Daniel Murphy flew out. 

So, the Mets had chipped away enough to make a 3-run game into a 1-run game, and maybe they had built up enough of a groundswell to get one more run across against another old friend, J.J. Putz in the 9th. Hopefully, 2 more runs, so we could all get out of there, since the game had stretched well over 3 hours. Marlon Byrd, another Met who spent most of the night getting on base, very nearly tied the game on his own, but his drive to left landed mere inches shy of a Home Run. Or was it? Terry Collins came out to challenge it, and why the hell not? What's a few more minutes? Plus, at worst, there's still a runner on 2nd. The umpires upheld the double, so Byrd stayed put. It would take at least one more hit. Josh Satin, who's surprised everyone with his performance of late, followed with a flare hit into left. This resulted in one of those moments where everything seems to slow down, as Byrd dashed for home, just as the throw was coming in to the plate. It appeared Byrd was dead to rights, and this game would end with the Mets a dollar short once again. But, somehow, the ball shorthopped the plate and Miguel Montero couldn't handle it. And even if he did, his tag on Byrd was late. Byrd scored to tie the game. The Mets were now in prime position to steal a victory, particularly after John Buck walked. But after a Lagares fly out, Buck, who couldn't catch a break, got thrown out trying to move up on a passed ball. 

So, after the Mets had bumbled their way through much of the evening, they managed to scrape out 3 runs and earn themselves extra innings, as the game rocketed towards 4 hours and beyond. The crowd, thin to begin with, was now dwindling down to a few hearty souls who probably either could survive on little sleep or just didn't have to be up early in the morning. I took this opportunity to move down, into the 400 level, as Bobby Parnell came in for the 10th. As Carlos Torres and LaTroy Hawkins had done before him, Parnell stopped the D'Backs cold. So, the Mets had yet another chance to keep this momentum going. 

Chaz Roe kicked off the bottom of the 10th by giving up a hit to Omar Quintanilla. Quintanilla scooted up a base on a pair of ground outs, but got no further. Parnell repeated himself in the 11th, including netting a strikeout of Roe, who I'd automatically assumed would be pinch hit for and even went so far as to write in his line in my scorecard. But, noooo. Roe handed the Mets even more baserunners in the 11th, walking Wright, intentionally walking Buck (which was sort of silly considering how poor he'd looked at the plate), and then unintentionally walking Anthony Recker. The sight of Anthony Recker confirmed a mild fear of mine; that the Mets had run out of players. But, with a golden opportunity to finish things off, here was Gibson again, interrupting things with a 2-out pitching change, pulling Roe for Tony Sipp, his 7th pitcher of the night, two more than the Mets scorecard allows space for. I was now reduced to writing in margins, which meant things were starting to get out of hand. Quintanilla hit a shot. Unfortunately, it was right at Goldschmidt. 3 more runners left on base for the Mets, 4 and a half hours in the books, and more game to be played.

David Aardsma entered for the Mets in the 12th. With the bench now bereft of position players, I began to think about what the plan was going forward. The Mets now only had Scott Rice and Brandon Lyon left in the bullpen. Rice had pitched about a week in a row and needed a day off. Lyon was coming off getting embarrassed by Washington, so nobody was blaming Collins for staying away. If they needed a starter, their most likely candidate to eat innings, Shaun Marcum, wasn't available because he'd started the game, though that was long enough ago that one couldn't be blamed for forgetting that. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler certainly weren't options. Jeremy Hefner was scheduled for Tuesday. Bottom line was, hopefully this was all unnecessary thinking. Aardsma did his job in the 12th, and the bottom half of the inning mirrored several others, as Young got a hit, Gibson changed pitchers with 2 out, and the Mets didn't score.

Cody Ross, a Marlins reject who nobody likes, led off the 13th with a Home Run off Aardsma and styled as he did it. Of Course he did. Of course, after 5 hours and 13 innings and 33 runners left on base, that's how it's going to go down. Another stupid night with the stupid Mets. 

But for as stupid as the Mets often looked in this game, they somehow managed to wise up at the right moment. Or maybe Kirk Gibson just got stupid himself after sitting through this mess of a game. With one out, Josh Satin nailed a double to right, his 2nd double and 3rd hit of the game, and his second 3-hit game in a row. Think about this for a second. Josh Satin has had two cups of coffee with the Mets over the past two seasons and did nothing in particular other than being an honorable Landsman and have bushy eyebrows. But, here he is, getting a chance to play because his fellow Landsman, Ike Davis, stunk for 2 months, and all of a sudden he's hitting .380. Where did this come from? He's looked so good at the plate recently that when he was up in the 9th, I actually felt confident that he'd come through. And here in the 13th, he did it again. Kirk Gibson then ordered John Buck intentionally walked. Again, think about this for a second. John Buck struck out each of his first 3 at bats, and looked progressively more and more clueless each time. After his hot start, he's fallen back to earth and I believe he went 3-for-June. And yet not only did Gibson order him intentionally walked in the 11th, he did it again in the 13th, when Buck was the potential winning run! 

The logic, I suppose, was that the pitcher's spot was up next, and the Mets were out of players. The Mets do, however, have one pitcher who can handle the bat rather well, and that would be Matt Harvey. Harvey, who draws a fanfare at the mere mention of his name these days, was now called upon in an unscheduled appearance to lay down a bunt. This in and of itself was controversial, since Collins was giving away an out, but realistically, as good as Harvey looks at the plate, he still hits like a pitcher. A ground ball at someone would have been certain disaster. The safe play was the sacrifice, which Harvey laid down with ease, and allowed Gibson to order yet another intentional walk to Omar Quintanilla. The strategy behind this, I'm again not quite sure. At this late hour, I was only able to come up with one of two reasons: 1) Gibson didn't have a pitcher warming up. Every time the Mets had two outs and men on base, and were ready to go in for the kill, Gibson broke up the rhythm with a pitching change. 2) Gibson really wanted the Mets to set a record for leaving men on base. Whatever the reason, it ended up not working, because Andrew Brown, after falling behind 0-2, got a hold of a high fastball and shot it into the gap in Left Field, scoring Satin and Buck to win the game and earn himself a sunflower seed shower in lieu of the Justin Turner pie. 

Of course, it was Andrew Brown with the winning hit. 2 weeks ago, I had derided Brown as a useless placeholder who wouldn't be around by this point. So, since that point, all Andrew Brown has done is come up with meaningful hits, and none quite as meaningful as this one, at 12:24am, after 5 hours and 13 minutes and 13 innings and 13 pitchers in soupy conditions and mysterious managerial moves,  so that the Mets could peck and scrape and claw and eventually be rewarded with a 5-4 win that defied all logic. Sometimes, you win games like this.

This was not the longest game I had attended in terms of innings, as I do have 4 14-inning games on my ledger. However, it did end up being my longest in elapsed time, and believe me, I felt every bit of those 5 hours and 13 minutes this morning. I'm always happy to see the Mets win, particularly since I'd been working on a miserable 4-game losing streak. But as I've gotten older, I think I'm beginning to appreciate the quicker, 2 hour, 40 minute games much more than these marathons. I'm all for good drama and good stories, but all things considered, this was slightly ridiculous.

No comments: