Monday, October 5, 2015

More To Be Said

As is usually the case, I was on hand at Citi Field for the Mets final home game of the season. My presence at Closing Day has been a regular occurrence; I've been to 12 of the last 13. Usually, it's a little maudlin, a rather melancholy kind of day because I know it's the end of the long Baseball season, my final trip to Queens for the year, and truly the first sign that Winter is on its way.

But of course, this year, Closing Day was different, because it wasn't Closing Day. It wasn't the end of the season, it was the beginning of the next step. Fittingly, the weather felt an awful lot like Opening Day because rather than tipping their caps and fading out into the offseason, the Mets instead will continue, on to Los Angeles, the NLDS and then, of course, the first Home Playoff Game in Citi Field history one week hence. I'll be there, I know many of you, loyal reader, will be as well. Sunday's game was the Mets Love-in. That game on October 12th will be intense fury and white noise.

But, of course, that game is still a week away and before the Mets get there, they had to get the regular season over with, and it would have been nice to close out with a win to break the monotony of losing they'd done basically ever since they won the division 8 days ago. To do this, they sent Jacob deGrom to the mound, in his final tuneup for his Game 1 start on Friday. As Syndergaard and Harvey had done before him, deGrom followed suit by whipping off a brilliant 4 innings of work, holding the Nationals hitless and striking out 7 batters. A parade of pitchers followed him to the mound, including Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Jon Niese, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia. None of them allowed Washington much of anything. It probably helped that Washington was clearly in "Closing Day" mode and looked like a team that just wanted to hit the golf course. For a while, there was a No Hitter in progress, as incongruous as it seemed, because the Mets were basically throwing a different pitcher every inning and that crowd groundswell that usually accompanies a no-hit bid never really materialized. It wasn't until the 7th inning that Washington scratched the H column, and even then it was sort of debateable; Clint Robinson's smash snuck under Niese's glove (figures it was Niese to give it up was the prevailing thought) and then caromed off of Ruben Tejada's knee, and maybe on another day that's an error, but today was not that day.

Regardless, the Mets kept Washington off the scoreboard and therefore it was a matter of whether or not they could crack the scoreboard themselves. Outside of Curtis Granderson and a rogue Yoenis Cespedes double, nobody did much of anything. But, finally, in the 8th inning, the Mets broke through and fittingly it was Granderson, who was so resurgent this season and despite not really being cut out for the role anymore was exactly what the Mets needed in the leadoff spot in the order, popping out his 26th Home Run of the season and providing the Mets with the only run necessary to win this final game of the regular season.

Just as fitting was Familia closing out the game in the 9th inning, nailing down his 43rd Save of the Season to tie some other loafy closer for the Mets' club record. Perhaps nobody was more important to the Mets cause in this wonderful season than Familia, who was given an opportunity to be the closer and not just took it, but ran with it and went from being regarded as "Pretty good" to "Elite" and turned a potential issue, that being the loss of Mejia, and instead became the permanent solution.

So, this Closing day ends this chapter of the Mets season, but there's still more story to be told here. We started hanging our shingle here in this corner of the internet way back in 2007, when the Mets appeared to be a team of assassins and instead ended up assassinating themselves, and followed that up by a string of seasons in the wilderness before finally building themselves back up to get to this point. And even then, this 2015 Mets show seemed to be kind of uneven. The Pitching was ready to rock and roll from day one. The offense, of course, left much to be desired. But when a window was left open for them to hang around, management went for the kill and it paid off. For once, the Mets made a bunch of reactionary trade deadline moves and it actually worked out! The Mets went on a run, they beat the Nationals when it mattered most and they won the division handily and even reached the 90-win plateau with this final victory. And instead of tipping their caps and slinking off the field on the season's final day, the team lingered out on the field and saluted the fans. In one of those wonderfully spontaneous moments, as Curtis Granderson was being interviewed on the field, Terry Collins walked out towards Center Field. Jacob deGrom and Travis d'Arnaud followed. Pretty soon the entire team was following, taking that victory lap around the field and saluting the fans, most of whom, like me, had stuck by them through so many miserable seasons. It was a long road to get from there to here and for as much as we appreciate the 2015 Mets for finally taking The Leap, you get a keen sense that the players appreciate all us fans for supporting them, and for continuing to come out, even in situations that were mostly hopeless.

Yes, there is still more to say about the 2015 Mets. There will be playoff games and hopefully several more trips to Citi Field over the coming weeks. For the regular season, I managed to make it to 21 games, the highest total I've registered since another Pantheon Season, 1999. The Mets were 14-7 in those 21 games and much like they did in 2014, they did exceptionally well in the latter part of the season, winning the last 5 games I attended and 6 of my last 7.

Next for me, of course, is "National League Division Series Home Game #1," or so the ticket tells me. It's been 9 years since I've been to one of those games. It'll be good to be back.

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