Thursday, September 19, 2013

Take Back The Night!

After two consecutive nights and 17 1/2 innings of Mets/Giants Baseball, I was fairly nauseous. The Giants and spates of their fans had basically come into our house and humiliated us and our team. Tuesday night was a 4-hour debacle of a game and Wednesday was shaping up as a shorter version of the same story. And in spite of having a plush Delta Club seat dropped in my lap earlier in the day, it appeared I was destined to witness another lifeless Mets effort, followed by another train ride home full of mirthful San Franciscans (who I have to say, even though they annoyingly took over our ballpark, are actually lovely people, and yes, maybe I got in their good graces by mentioning I root for the 49ers). The "Lets Go Giants" chants were overpowering as another unmemorable 4-1 Met deficit moved to the bottom of the 9th.

Then something funny happened. The Mets came back.

In what has to go down as the least likely Mets comeback I've ever witnessed, the Mets, after 8 innings of muddled mess and Lucas Duda being horrible, the Mets got off the mat, strung together a rally and ultimately quieted the Giants and their fans when Josh Satin punched a 2-run Walkoff single with 2 outs and 2 strikes. But, of course, it was quite a journey to get to that point.

I'd come into some Field Level seats for this game courtesy of a vendor, and being that it was a work-related kickback, I'd invited a co-worker to come with me. He backed out early in the day, but around that same time, the owner of a nearby establishment came in saying he had an extra seat behind Home Plate and asked if I wanted it. I mentioned I already had tickets, but he showed me the seat, which was better than the one I already had, so I said I'd take his ticket and give away the ones I had. Fortunately, I work in an office where offering free anything is generally jumped on, so that was easy. Additionally, a repeat performance of the 7-train fiasco of Tuesday was also avoided, which was also nice.

Tuesday night, I looked over at the Sterling Level seats and mused that I'd probably never sit there, so I guess somewhat karmic that I ended up there the next night. It's rare that I sit in the Field Level in general, and pretty much every time I've sat there, I never paid full price (and sometimes I never paid at all). The Sterling Level and the Delta 360 Club is certainly nice, a little slice of how the 1% lives, but I can't say I was blown away by it. The Pat LaFreida Chop House seems to take up a majority of the area, and a glance at the menu revealed prices not outrageous considering the price point of Ballpark food. That being said, I don't see myself ever eating there, because I don't see the utility of having a sit-down restaurant at a Baseball game. But, that's me. I went out the fancy doors into the seating area, where the view was about as good as I expected, and the seats themselves fully cushioned, office-style chairs that quite possibly ruined me from sitting anywhere else in the ballpark (but, you know, I'll sit in them anyway). I was immediately greeted by Angelo, one of the in-seat service waiters. With the lack of a real concession stand in the Sterling Level, these guys get a lot of work. He handed me a menu. I had a menu from the regular Field Level in-seat service, which seemed rather plain, a generic assortment of food you could just as easily get up and get. The Sterling Level (or, more appropriately, Delta Club) seat service menu is vastly different. They'll deliver Shake Shack directly to your seats if you sit there (and given what those seats cost, I suppose that's the least they can do)! Blue Smoke! El Verano Taqueria! All at your fingertips without having to move. So, of course, I ordered up a Shackburger, my first of the season, thereby filling my quota for the year.

Then, there was a game to watch. In those seats, the game is sort of a blur. I somehow found myself behind Pizza purveyor Phil Hartman and the actor Luis Guzman, who attracted a modicum of attention until they left around the 6th inning. I thought, in these seats, I might be spared from too many chanting Giants fans (the Finnerty's crowd safely in the Outfield can be heard no matter where you are), but somehow there were several sitting around me. The game itself was mostly just happening. Aaron Harang pitched admirably well, which is to say that he kept a decent pace and didn't get embarrassed. He threw a lot of pitches and struck out a lot of batters, but also gave up a bomb of a Home Run to Gregor "I will turn you into a Bug" Blanco, and wasn't helped later on when Andrew Brown whiffed on a lazy fly ball. On the other side, Matt Cain, who hasn't pitched well this season, pretty much tied the Mets up in knots all night, which wasn't really such an accomplishment considering that he had to face Lucas Duda 3 times, along with a bunch of other guys who generally looked overmatched. For a majority of the evening, it seemed that the Met highlight of the night was going to be Juan Centeno, making his Major League Debut, getting his first career hit in his 2nd At Bat, thereby becoming the 3rd Met player this season that I've witnessed get his first career hit. Through 7 innings, the Mets had yet to get a runner past 2nd base, and only managed to do so in the 8th thanks to a throwing error by Buster Posey when den Dekker attempted to steal 2nd. Josh Satin's Sac Fly got den Dekker home, so, if nothing else, the Mets wouldn't be shut out. But at 4-1 going to the 9th, there appeared little reason for Mets fans to stick around, and many, including the fellow that gave me the ticket, left.

The Mets had made a bit of 9th inning noise against the Giants bullpen on Tuesday night, and here, amid myriad "Lets Go Giants" chants so loud that the Mets contingent couldn't boo loud enough to drown them out, the Mets started to cobble a little rally together once again. Against Santiago Casilla, Andrew Brown worked the count and eventually worked out a 7-pitch walk. Nobody seemed convinced it would lead to anything, particularly when Lucas Duda followed with the predictable strikeout. But Juan Lagares, who does work counts, though not always with positive results, worked Casilla over enough to a) make him throw a wild pitch and b) walk him on 7 pitches, which led to c) Bruce Bochy removing Casilla from the game in favor of Tony Sergio Romo.

Romo, who always struck me as sort of a non-entity until he caught fire last Postseason, is now apparently the Giants #1 Folk Hero, since the fans went nuts as soon as they saw him coming in. Romo had some difficulty shutting things down on Tuesday, and Wednesday he didn't fare much better. Zach Lutz, hitting for Ruben Tejada (who apparently broke his leg in an Outfield Collision with Brown earlier in the 9th inning, and yet stayed in to complete the inning), didn't seem like a promising candidate to keep this little rally going, but after laying off that trademark Romo slider, finally got hold of a fastball and pulled it fair down the left field line, scoring Brown, sending Lagares to 3rd and making it to 2nd himself. So, now the Mets were at least going to make it interesting. The Giants fans still seemed nonplussed.

But it got even more interesting when Centeno followed with a first pitch flare towards the Shortstop. It appeared that it might slip into the Outfield for a potentially tying hit, but Brandon Crawford came up with it and made a desperation throw to 3rd, too late to get Lutz. Lagares scored and the Mets now had the tying run on 3rd with 1 out. Surely someone ought to be able to get this run home. den Dekker followed by looking at a couple of strikes and then looking at 4 consecutive balls, drawing the Mets 3rd walk of the inning and moving the winning run, now Anthony Recker (inserted as a Pinch Runner for Centeno, who looks slow for a Catcher) down to 2nd.

The Pitcher's spot was to follow, and the Mets countered with...Omar Quintanilla?! This was the best the Mets could produce at this point? I was sort of convinced that a Pitcher might have been a better option, but then again, the Mets had produced enough mojo and their remaining fans were getting just enough into it that maybe, just maybe, he'd produce a gapper to win the game. But, then again, this was Omar Quintanilla, and although he did hit a fly ball, it wasn't anything remotely deep enough to get Lutz home. With 2 outs now, the Giant contingent was roaring with approval, thinking the drama was going to be averted much like it was on Tuesday.

Josh Satin stood as the last chance for the Mets. But Satin, as was the M.O. of most of the Mets in this inning, continued to lay off Romo's slider, waiting for him to slip a fastball in there. It took to the 5th pitch of the AB, but Romo threw that fastball, and Satin was ready for it, lining it inside the left field line to score both Lutz and Recker and set off a celebration that I didn't consider a possibility about 15 minutes earlier. I screamed myself hoarse and high-fived strangers in the kind of jubilant atmosphere I hadn't felt at a Mets game in a long time. And yeah, maybe it's just one win in another losing season, but considering that they'd done nothing this entire game, and this comeback was accomplished primarily by a bunch of kids just trying to prove they're worthy of a spot in the Major Leagues, it's something worth celebrating. I've been to almost a half-season's worth of games in Citi Field's 5 year existence, and I think between the seat and the comeback, this one will always rank among the most memorable.

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