Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sit Back And Enjoy

In around the 6th inning, as the Mets had already put the finishing touches on a runaway 10-1 victory over the Oakland A's, George turned to me and said "You know, I don't think I can remember the last time we were at a game that was an actual laugher."

I had to pause and think for a while, and I couldn't remember the last laugher I'd been to either. It's a nice feeling, seeing the Mets stick it to their opponent early and often and just cruise the rest of the way home, unimpeded by any sort of drama or delays that might happen in a close game. The Mets lit up Scott Kazmir to the tune of 7 runs on 8 hits in 3 innings, on the strength of a trio of Home Runs, and more or less coasted from there behind another masterful performance from Bartolo Colon.

It was a somewhat festive atmosphere at Citi Field for my 11th game of the season. The Mets and Oakland A's meet rarely; those more senior than I might have some ill feelings from the 1973 World Series, but in reality, the Mets and A's don't have much in the way of a heated rivalry. That being said, the A's right now are more or less everything the Mets aspire to be; a team comprised mostly of youngsters and castaways who have somehow meshed into a cohesive unit that hits and pitches with fierce consistency, to the point where they hold a fairly solid lead in the AL West.

Scott Kazmir, who we all know as the great prospect that wasn't, is one of those players who's rediscovered some prior magic in Oakland, coming into the game with a league-leading ERA of 2.08. But the Mets treated him with little regard. After spotting the A's a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Mets exploded for 3 runs in the 2nd inning, courtesy of back-to-back Home Runs by Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. This from an offense where 2 Home Runs in a game is noteworthy. Happily, the Mets were just getting warmed up. In the 3rd, the Mets rallied again, stringing together some hits and an RBI Groundout from Granderson to set the stage for the recently recalled Travis d'Arnaud. d'Arnaud, who didn't hit at all in the Majors, and then got sent down to AAA and immediately started hitting .400, stepped to the plate with a golden opportunity to prove himself, and I couldn't help but think "if he could just park one right here, that would be great." And sure enough, he did, smoking a pitch well out into the seats in Left Field for a 3-run Home run that opened up a 7-1 Met lead and spelled the end of the night for Kazmir.

The remainder of the game moved along at a brisk pace and featured a number of odd highlights that make laughers enjoyable. For one, Oakland's manager, Bob Melvin, began employing double switches in the 4th inning, swapping out Kazmir and Jed Lowrie for Jim Johnson and Nick Punto (prompting George to muse "Wait a second...Nick Punto is an A!?"). He did it again in the 6th, and then in the 7th inning, he outdid himself, putting Eric Sogard in the game at 2nd base and removing Coco Crisp, and in the process shifting Alberto Callaspo from 2nd base to 1st base, Brandon Moss from 1st to Left Field and Yoenis Cespedes from Left to Center in a gordian knot of confusion that only happens in Spring Training games, or games where your team is down by 9 runs.

Chris Young, of whom rumors of an impending release were swirling, chimed in with a second Home Run in the 5th inning, and almost hit another one later on in the evening, driving a pitch out to the warning track in left center. For someone as maligned as Young has been of late, a 2-Home Run game is great, but 3 would have been pretty far out. Especially 3 at Citi Field, where the Mets pretty much never hit Home Runs.

And, of course, there's Bartolo Colon, who once again coolly worked his way through 8 more or less effortless innings, tying the A's up in knots after allowing a 1st inning run and finishing his night with 8 strikeouts to go with 1 walk and 4 hits. He also proved himself a showstopper with a bat in his hand, as he drew cheers following a 2nd inning Sac Bunt and a standing ovation after flaring a single to left to start the 4th inning. Colon batted again in the 6th after Ruben Tejada was hit by a pitch and eschewed the bunt, instead swinging away (and why not with a 7-run lead) and ripping a good foul ball before hitting a slow roller out to 3rd base, and despite the urging of everyone in attendance, he proved not swift enough to beat it out.

All in all, this was a rare night at Citi Field where there was nothing to complain about. The weather was splendid, the game was over in a brisk 2 hours, 24 minutes, the Mets scored early and often and the outcome wasn't in doubt. George and I even got to bear witness to a true meeting of the minds late in the game, as both Cow Bell Man and Pin Man convened in front of us for a conversation of true hard-liners. Pin Man had met up with some friends and received gifts of more pins, while Cow Bell Man was simply making his rounds as he is wont to do. But there they were at game's end, high-fiving George and myself and everyone else around and reveling in one of those rare relaxing Citi Field evenings.

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