Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Games and Names

Life in general, plus the All Star Break and some lengthy road trips had conspired to prevent me from going to Citi Field for over a month; my most recent game coming all the way back on June 24th when Oakland was in town. That night, Bartolo Colon pitched wonderfully, Travis d'Arnaud hit a 3-run Home Run and good feelings were abound as the Mets cruised to a lopsided victory, a game that I didn't realize until today was my 200th Mets victory.

Last night, my first trip to Citi Field since that night in June produced many of the same results, among them a wonderful outing from Bartolo Colon, who stifled the Phillies into the 8th inning, allowing a plethora of hits that didn't result in runs, a 3-run Home Run from Travis d'Arnaud, whose blast in the 5th inning was a thing of beauty, truly smoked out into the Left Field seats, and a 7-1 Mets victory over the Phillies that felt like a much larger margin of victory than the final score implied.

The game, my 12th of the season and—of some surprise to me—my 4th win in a row, got off to a flying start. I attended the game with a colleague from my former job, whom I've attended several games with in the past. However, many of the games he and I attended together were of the freezing/raining variety early in the past few seasons. The most pleasant weather—80˚ at game time—was in stark contrast to those nights. The Mets offense attacking A.J. Burnett for 4 1st inning runs was also in stark contrast to those nights. Both of these things were most welcome developments, particularly the runs. Curtis Granderson led off with a walk, Daniel Murphy followed by hitting an RBI double, and it was pretty much off to the races from there. Lucas Duda flared a single over the Phillies overshift, and a few batters later Juan Lagares finshed things off with panache, lining a 2-run Double down the right field line to put the Mets out in front 4-0.

The game pretty much flew from there; although Colon gave up 10 hits in his 7.2 innings of work, they were scattered about and mostly inconsequential. The Phillies right now look like a team that's old and tired, and their roster of cagey veterans slowly drifting out of their prime is indicative of that. Ryan Howard, once ferocious, lumbers around the field like late-model Cliff Floyd and somehow the artist formerly known as Grady Sizemore resurfaced with the Phillies, much to my shock.

The interest, then, turned to the people sitting around me, among them Greg from Faith and Fear in Flushing, whom I have read and corresponded with for years, but never actually met within the confines of Citi Field, and ESPN.com's Mark Simon, who provided my friend and I with multiple thought-provoking trivia questions (Most entertaining: The Houston Astros career leader in Batting Average is a former Met. Name him. This resulted in such answers as Jeff McKnight, Mike Hampton, Jeff Kent, Kevin Bass and Jose Cruz before the answer was finally revealed to be Moises Alou. I mused that a good hint would be that the answer holds a Mets club record of some note, but nobody remembers because of other things going on at the time. This produced an answer of Richard Hidalgo later in the evening, who does hold a club record, but not what I was thinking of).

The conversation shared over the course of the game ran the gamut of all things Mets, covering the sort of names and games I often feel like I'm the only one who remembers. It's always good to remember that there's others out there that have devoured the rich history of the Mets—whether it's been memorably good or embarrassingly bad—just as much as I have. One such topic involved a pair of Mets/Phillies games from back in 1990. As the Phillies mounted a 9th inning rally that went nowhere last night, some mention was made of Mario Diaz, whose most noteworthy Met moment was squeezing the final out when the Mets "Won the damn thing [sic]." This prompted me to note another Mets/Phillies game from that season, mostly noted for the bloody Dwight Gooden/Pat Combs brawl and the scandalous appearance of Kelvin Torve in #24, but also for the Phillies, 5-4 losers that night, outhitting the Mets 16-7. With the Phillies outhitting the Mets 13-9 and creaking their way into a 9th inning rally, both these games seemed apropos at the time, but then Vic Black emerged from the bullpen, struck out Ryan Howard to end the proceedings, and a happy, drama-free recap was enjoyed.

It is often the company you share and the stream-of-consciousness Mets Memories that can be discovered that make a game memorable. This game will be memorable for me for that reason.

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