Monday, April 21, 2014

One More Inning

Sunday Afternoon's game at Citi Field was my 4th game of the season in which the weather was intolerably cold, and my first with my other half, whom I have mentioned is somewhat less-enthused by a day at Citi Field than I am. Particularly on a day when the temperature up in the Promenade level felt a good 10 degrees colder than the 54˚ that was laughably displayed on the scoreboard throughout the proceedings. How cold was it? It was so cold that we willingly spent innings 6 through 9 sitting in the warmth of the Promenade club—obscured view of Home Plate be damned—and not once did I feel I was missing out by not sitting in my seat.

It figured, then, that on a day like this, the Mets and Braves would engage in a 14-inning battle of wills. We did not make it to the end of the game; had I been by myself or with someone a bit heartier, I might have been more likely to stick around. But my other half was cold, and for that matter, I was pretty cold too, and, perhaps fearful of a game like this breaking out, we took our leave after the 11th inning. I was somewhat torn, there was a general feeling of guilt associated with coming or staying, but after so many years of going to games, I've sort of drawn 11 innings as the point where an extra inning game goes from being quaint to a little excessive. And having actually sat through 14-inning games 4 times previously, I know that by time that 14th inning comes around, I've begun rooting for ANYONE to score, not just the Mets. For my other half, any sort of extra inning is met with an assortment of gripes, and usually a discussion about the longest games ever. Being reasonable, at the end of the 10th inning, I asked if she wanted to leave. She said it was up to me. I said I would use a facility and think about it. When I came back, to assorted glowering, I said to her, "One more inning."

The inning came and went, and nobody scored, and with a 12th inning going on, we took our leave. What we ended up missing was, as I followed the game on my phone, two and a half innings of nothing, followed by the Mets winning in the last of the 14th.

Getting to that point was, to be kind, sloppy. Of the 6 runs that were scored over the first 13 1/2 innings of the game, 4 of them were directly due to a variety of errors, 3 of which were committed by the Braves. Eric Young Jr reached 2nd in the 1st inning thanks to Ratso Upton gagging on a lazy fly ball to Left. Young eventually scored on an RBI Groundout by David Wright (who by game's end would have nailed out 4 hits—but not a key one). One inning later, Zack Wheeler hit with the bases loaded and swung at the first pitch, producing a hard grounder in the hole between 1st and 2nd. A run was sure to score, but Dan Uggla, always known for his sure hands, ended up inexplicably dropping the ball while in the process of throwing to 1st, and thus a second run was plated. The Mets had a nice opportunity to open up a lead at this point, but both Young and Curtis Granderson failed to do anything useful.

A Granderson error played key in the 5th inning, which ended up being the only inning in which the Braves scored at all. Ironjaw Heyward slashed a double down the Right Field line that would have put runners at second and third with one out. But Granderson decided, rather than throwing to a cutoff man, to throw the ball in the general direction of the Braves dugout, managing to land the ball perfectly down the dugout steps. This would be 2 points in Curling, but unfortunately they weren't playing curling, and so a run scored and the stage was set for Atlanta to plate two more and grab a temporary 3-2 lead. The Mets, however, took advantage of more vintage Uggla defense in the last of the 6th, when he booted a sure Double Play ball off the bat of Lucas Duda, which allowed Wright to score and tie the game 3-3.

The game then settled into a battle of bullpens, both of which either pitched exceptionally well or just took advantage of some complete offensive ineptitude. In the 7th, the Braves had a golden opportunity to strike, getting a pair of runners on with one out, but with "Baseball's Hottest Hitter" Freddie Freeman coming up, Scott Rice came in and got the sorely-needed Double Play on his first (and only pitch), keeping the game tied. Carlos Torres, Kyle Farnsworth and Daisuke Matsuzaka followed, and in the 6 innings they covered, allowed 1 hit, 2 walks and 8 strikeouts. Matsuzaka's effort was most impressive, covering 3 innings and 5 strikeouts worth of work and generally keeping things in check. Atlanta's bullpen had a similar amount of success, behind 5 relievers covering close to 7 innings and allowing the Mets all of 3 hits of no consequence and a hit batsman, Lucas Duda, that led to one of those bewildering moments that only seems to happen in a game like this, seeing the line "L. Duda stole second base" pop up on ESPN's Game feed in the 13th inning.

Then, there was the 14th, which happened while we were somewhere between Woodside and Court Square. Jose Valverde, deposed as Closer, entered the game in kind of an Oliver Perez "There's nobody else left out here" role. Expecting the worst, Valverde allowed a 1-out single to Gus Schlosser, the Barves' long reliever, but followed that up by getting Meathead Gattis to hit into a DP. In the bottom of the inning, the Mets managed to scrape across a run by doing the absolute minimum necessary. Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off with a walk. Ruben Tejada followed by sacrificing him to 2nd. Eric Young Jr. was then walked intentionally, to get to Curtis Granderson. Granderson, to this point in the game had gone 0-for-6, including a ground out with the bases loaded, a strikeout, a horrible error and boos that had begun to reach Jason Bay-level. But Schlosser basically dropped the game in Granderson's lap when he wild-pitched the runners up a base on the first pitch, and then Granderson hit a fly ball out to Ratso Upton in left that was just deep enough to get Nieuwenhuis home with the winning run. It seemed fitting that it would be Granderson getting the winning run home after the lousy day he'd had, but at the same time, it typified the lousy start he's had that he could only managed to get the run home when it was basically served to him on a silver platter. Sometimes these things can be tide-turning, but I guess that remains to be seen.

The 14 innings, despite the fact that I wasn't there for the last three of them, ties my personal record for longest game by innings. As I mentioned, this was the 5th such time that I've been subjected to such a long game. Fortunately, of the 5, the Mets have won 4 of them. At 4 hours, 37 minutes, it was far from the longest game I've ever been to. That honor was met just last season, in a 13-inning game against Arizona that lasted 5 hours, 13 minutes, and believe me, when you're at games that extend that long, you feel every bit of it afterwards. Even if you leave before the game's actually over.

No comments: