Monday, September 30, 2013
I was accompanied to my 18th and final game of the 2013 season by my other half, who came to 3 games with me this year, matching her total from 2012. Though she's not a baseball fan on my level (and very few are), I've done a reasonably good job of converting a woman from Philadelphia into a Mets fan. After the Mike Piazza festivities ended, I was ready to watch a Ballgame. She was ready to take a nap, and asked me several times if there was a place in the Promenade Club for her to lie down. I told her that since it was the final game of the season, both teams could well be swinging to get out of there quick, and so the game probably wouldn't be too long (unless it went extra innings, as the Mets were often wont to do this season). Ultimately, the game was quick, despite starting a good 30 minutes late, it was over in 2 hours, 23 minutes, by far and away the fastest game I attended this season.
For a good portion of the game, it appeared the Mets were destined to fade into the Offseason with a whimper. After Eric Young, Jr. zipped around the bases in the 1st inning, firing a haymaker at his competition for the Base stealing crown by swiping 2nd and 3rd, the Mets went silent. The Brewers didn't do very much either, looking very much like, as I surmised, a team that just wanted to go home. They scored a pair of runs on 5 hits in the 4th inning, and probably could have gotten more had Young and Juan Lagares not both thrown out runners at the plate, much to everyone's delight. But down 2-1, the Mets had no particular means of responding. A 4th inning single by Daniel Murphy, who finished his season with a fine 188 hits, was all the Mets could manage against Marco Estrada. Niese departed after 6 innings, and was immediately followed to the bench by Lucas Duda, who was mercifully pulled from the game after going 0-for-3 on Sunday and what felt like 0 for his last 53 for the season (and probably about 2 weeks later than he should have been benched).
By the 8th, I was getting depressed. The season was about to come to an end with the Mets getting swept by the Brewers at home, in front of a packed house that came to celebrate a real Met Hero. But just as it appeared that there would be no Hero to save the Mets on this day, the Mets came to life, spurred by a trio of Rookies that were barely part of anyone's consciousness when the keynote was fired on Opening Day. Juan Lagares reached on a ground ball that Jeff Bianchi threw slightly wide to first, but in plenty of time to get the out. Problem is, Sean Halton, the 1st Baseman, barely seemed conscious that anything was amiss and made no effort to make sure he got the out. Juan Centeno, who despite appearing in all of 4 games this season has struck me as a player with reasonably sound fundamentals, laid down a fine bunt that certainly would have moved Lagares to 2nd, except that 2nd Baseman Scooter lollygagged his way to cover 1st Base, ran into the Umpire, and then alligator-armed Jonathan Lucroy's throw, allowing the ball to trickle out into Right Field and Lagares to score all the way from 1st. Matt den Dekker ran for the fast-as-Zeile Centeno, which was key because Wilfredo Tovar's bunt was fielded by Halton, who decided he'd better be a hero to make up for his earlier gaffe and try to get the runner at 3rd, but the throw was nowhere near close and the Mets now had the lead run on 3rd with none out, bringing everyone to their feet.
Unfortunately, a man on 3rd and no outs hasn't exactly been a high percentage proposition for the Mets this season, but if they could just muster a slow roller or even a bunt, that ought to get the job done, particularly the way the Brewers were kicking the ball around. Josh Satin didn't do it, his fly ball would have scored a more daring runner, but den Dekker was wise not to chance it. Eric Young (who did dare to score on a shallow fly in the 1st and made it), however, did what was necessary and hit a slow roller towards 1st base, allowing den Dekker to score without incident and give the Mets a lead.
Frank Francisco, who's been an afterthought all season and whose season I thought was over after taking a line drive off his wrist 2 weeks ago, came in for the 9th to attempt his first save of the season. Well, why not? It may have not been the most conventional choice, and LaTroy Hawkins probably deserved the opportunity after the yeoman's job he did for the Mets this year, but Francisco got the ball and got the results in what's probably his final appearance as a Met, retiring the Brewers in order in the 9th, punching out Aramis Ramirez for the final out of the Mets final win of the 2013 season, sending everyone into the offseason on a happy note.
The 3-2 victory was the Mets 74th of the season, equaling their total of 2012. Before the season, I predicted the Mets to go 76-86, so I was close enough, I guess. Either way, as a team, I don't know if the results equal the progress I might have hoped for out of this season. Some of the individual performances certainly were encouraging, but there's still quite a few holes, and nobody seems to have much, if any, confidence in the ability of upper management to fix them. Time will tell, of course, and everyone's got their own ideas, but one thing I've liked about the Sandy Alderson regime is the lack of unnecessary moves that were a hallmark of the Minaya era. The moves that are made serve a purpose and I feel confident that, if nothing else, this will continue to be the case as the 2014 Mets take shape.
So, that's it for 2013, gang. I'll be continuing on here in the coming days with some words on Mike Piazza, as well as the always-anticipated Mets Report Card, and probably checking in here and there with some notes on the Playoffs (I'm rooting for the Pirates, as is about 95% of the country, I would have to believe). The San Francisco 49ers are also in full swing so there will be plenty said on that front as well. As for the Mets, well, I've given the Game Hat its goodnight kiss and tucked it into bed for the Offseason, setting the alarm clock for Opening Day on March 31st, 2014.