Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Revolution 9

So, you can take the star 3rd Baseman and team Captain, the starting Catcher, the Lefty Specialist, the Closer and one of the Starting Pitchers out of the lineup, but the Intrepid Mets steam along undaunted, riding this early season wave to their 9th consecutive win, and an easy one at that after a few squeakers, as they wiped the Atlanta Braves off the floor with a 7-1 victory.

Tuesday's game was my 3rd of the season at Citi Field and obviously, I've yet to go home disappointed in 2015. Though this was the 3rd of my 20 games for the season, it was actually the first time I'd sat in my regular seats in section 512. Opening Day, I'd been moved over a section to 513, and last Tuesday was not a plan game for me, and in fact I upgraded myself to section 418 (a little-known perk unless you're a planholder, but plan tickets are not only discounted, but you also hold the option to buy tickets at the plan rate for any other game during the season). So I guess you could call this "The People's Opening Day," since not only was I back in my regular seat, but on this Tuesday night that was rather pleasant for an April Night Game, there were probably not more than 15,000 people in the stadium. Most years, I'd just take that as being what it is, but given that the Mets had won 8 games in a row and boasted the best record in the National League, I'd say that counts as a bit of a letdown. That's a Bad Job by most Mets fans.

After Hamburgering it up at my first two games of the season, the crowd was thin enough that I was able to sidle my way up to the Pat LaFreida stand and try the Steak Frites, which was something that I'd intended to do ever since I noticed it on the menu on Opening Day. Clearly, I wasn't the only one; on that day the line was far too long to parse, and the next night, the Harveyfied crowd made things no better. But since Niese Day isn't really a thing, tonight was my night to roll and it certainly didn't disappoint. I'm rarely let down by the "premium" food selections at Citi Field (the regular fare doesn't count because there's always a night when you can get a burger with a crispy bun, which sounds far better than what goes on in Kansas City), and this is no different. Plus, it's more substantial than the $16 sandwich at almost half the price. I'd say it eats like a fancy Poutine, and since Montreal no longer has a team, it may be the closest you can get to Poutine at a Major League Stadium (admittedly, it is available at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, but in general Poutine seems to be somewhat lacking outside of its motherland of Quebec).

But I digress. I wasn't at Citi Field for the food, although it's always a good bonus, I was there for the Mets, and they like the food did not disappoint on this night. The game started off a very brisk Pitcher's Duel between Jon Niese and fat-faced new acquisition Trevor Cahill for Atlanta. The crowd, though light, was spirited as the game moved into the middle innings in under an hour without either offense making much of a peep. Though the Braves managed to get multiple men on base in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings, Niese didn't break, perhaps a testament to the new attitude that seems to be permeating throughout this team. In past years, Niese might have folded under the pressure, but not on this night. He weaseled out of the jams and kept the game scoreless long enough for his offense to get him some runs. In the 5th, this is what happened. Following an Eric Campbell walk, the newcomer Kevin Plawecki (who showed his offensive capability in his first at bat when he sizzled a line drive that unfortunately found its way directly into Freddie Freeman's mitt) followed with his first Major League hit, a clean single past God's Gift to Shortstops Andrelton Simmons. Wilmer Flores, who's started to heat up, followed with a hit of his own and the Mets had the bases loaded with none out. Unfortunately, this brought Niese to the plate. Though Niese does have the habit of sometimes running into a pitch and hitting it somewhere, he's still a pitcher and the odds were against him in this particular situation. Fortunately, Cahill was sufficiently rattled enough to throw 3 consecutive balls, putting Niese in the driver's seat. But on the 3-1 pitch, Niese appeared to have done himself no favors by hitting a ground ball right at Philip Gosselin. The same guy who nobody's ever heard of that came out of the mothballs to beat the Mets back in Atlanta. But, that seems like a generation ago and the Mets mojo is going too good right now. Gosselin summarily booted the ball, everyone was safe and Campbell scored the game's first run. From there, the floodgates opened. Curtis Granderson followed with a clean single to right, plating two more runs and producing his first two RBI of the season. Juan Lagares then knocked one up the middle to score Niese with the inning's 4th run and finish Cahill's night.

That right there was enough for the Mets, particularly with how well Niese was going, but these Mets don't go in the tank so easily. One inning later, Granderson drove in his 3rd run of the night, singling home Campbell to make the score 5-0. Niese ran out of steam in the 7th, allowing a Home Run to Cameron Maybin (that for some reason needed a review in spite of the fact that it clearly was out) and then walking Nick Markakis before departing to a fine ovation for his fine effort. Erik Goeddel followed him to the mound for a rare appearance but did himself no favors by walking Jonny Gomes, necessitating another pitching change. This time, Alex Torres did what neither Niese or Goeddel could do and get the out to finish the inning, striking out Freeman to end the drama.

By this point, the game, which appeared destined to be over in barely 2 hours a few innings ago, had slowed to a crawl. There was a bizarre delay at the start of the bottom of the 7th when it appeared the Braves broke 2nd Base. People were just sort of milling around while one grounds crew member came out to do some work, and then another followed, and then a third. Whatever the problem was, I'm not quite sure, but they managed to fix it and finally, the absurdly named Sugar Ray Marimon took the mound for the Barves. I thought you had to accomplish something in order to get that sort of a nickname, but for whatever reason, he's got it. He got the Mets in order in the 7th, but in the 8th, the Mets reached him for two more runs. Plawecki picked up his second hit of the night, and later  Granderson lofted a fly ball that Gomes didn't bother to make an effort to catch, and instead the ball fell in and bounced into the seats for a Ground-Rule double, netting him his 4th RBI of the night. With a comfortable lead, Familia took a back seat and Sean Gilmartin closed the Braves out in the 9th to finish out the Mets 9th win in a row and improved their home record to 8-0 on the season.

9 wins in a row? 8-0 at home? Everything's different about this team this season, and now sitting pretty at 11-3 on the season, they're in that sort of rarefied air that only happens in seasons that we as Mets fans end up remembering real fondly. These Mets now play with swagger. They pounce on the mistakes of their opponents and generate offense from someone else every night. Tonight, Duda, Cuddyer and Murphy were mostly quiet. The damage was done by guys like Campbell, Flores and Granderson, and Plawecki, in his Major League Debut, interjected himself right in the middle of the discussion as well. These are the kind of teams that do things, when it's someone different every night getting the big hits. I know it's early and I know 14 games does not a season make, but this team needed this kind of a start so badly I can't even describe it, and they've set a tone for this season that hasn't existed around here in years.

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