Monday, August 3, 2015

Back To Even

And yet somehow, after everything that's gone wrong this season, with things being as ass-backward as they could possibly be, the Mets are once again tied for 1st place, after sweeping a series from the Washington Nationals at Home, culminating with a rousing victory in front of a sold-out crowd on The Biggest Game In The Galaxy on ESPN.

Think about that for a second.

When was the last time the Mets sold out a game in the middle of the regular season against a divisional opponent? When was the last time the Mets sold out a game on a Sunday Night? Hell, when was the last time ESPN deemed the Mets relevant enough to show on a Sunday Night? Yes, it might not have been quite so long in actuality, but consider just how badly the Mets fans have been starving for a weekend of meaningful games in the middle of the Summer like this. I've heard this weekend's series referred to as the biggest games in the history of Citi Field, and I'm not so sure I can argue with that. Ever since the place opened, there's been no positive memory. No reminder that the Mets fans can create Shea Stadium in this new place. This is why nobody's really warmed to Citi Field, because the Mets were never good enough to create that kind of a vibe. This weekend was a reminder of what we'd been missing during the 6 lost years.

The Mets and Nationals had been kind of dancing and jabbing all season long. The Nationals were injured. The Mets couldn't hit. The Mets couldn't beat the Nationals. The Nationals couldn't pull away. And then they come in to Citi Field, where they usually just bludgeon the Mets and the Mets finally punched back. The first two weren't things of beauty, but they ended the right way. That brought us to Sunday Night, which in and of itself was kind of strange, The Mets, sort of like a Buzz-Bin band from the early 90s, were creating enough of a stir that someone at ESPN actually noticed and this game, which all of a sudden kind of feels like Mets/Phillies '07-'08, was now kind of a marquee matchup.

It was like Mets/Phillies from that era. I made that comparison before the season even started. The Nationals were all too high and mighty and crowned themselves before the season started. But the Mets have had other things in mind all season. Their pitching held up their end of the bargain. The offense, not so much. But now they have some offense, and now the Nationals had better start paying attention, because the Mets just ran their asses right out of Citi Field.

The Mets accomplished this primarily because their best pitchers did what they were supposed to do. Noah Syndergaard went out on Sunday Night, in what was easily the biggest start of his life, allowed a 1-out Home Run to Anthony Rendon and spent the better part of the next 7.2 innings very calmly disposing of the Nationals. In one rather quick 5-pitch burst in the 3rd inning, the Mets supplied him with all the offense he needed as Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda each blasted Home Runs off of Jordan Zimmermann (not so you'd notice from ESPN's camerawork), which had the fans bouncing off the walls. I wasn't even there and I could tell you that that was the air finally returning to the Mets. That was 6 years of pent-up frustration beginning to boil over. The fans finally had an outlet to express their noise. That outlet was Syndergaard. Syndergaard worked through 8 innings for the 3rd time in a row at home, bridging the game directly to Tyler Clippard, who shut down his old teammates to close out this 5-2 win to give the Mets, believe it or not, a sweep of the Nationals and a percentage-point share of 1st place. 1st place in August is something the Mets haven't ever come close to sniffing in the Citi Field era. So when they say Citi Field reminded them of Shea Stadium last night, it's because this is the first time Citi Field ever had the chance to remind anyone of Shea Stadium.

Believe it or not? Maybe it's time we all started believing again.

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