Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Proper Revenge

Monday night at Citi Field was a night 6 years in the making. Or maybe it was 9 years in the making. However long it was, it proved to be worth the wait. Citi Field made its debut on Baseball's grandest stage and rung itself in in style. The pregame talk of revenge quickly dissolved as the Mets unleashed the Gates of Hell on the Los Angeles Dodgers, setting a club record for runs scored in a Postseason game and grabbing a 2-games-to-1 edge in the NLDS with a rousing 13-7 victory.

I was in attendance—€”how could I not be—with George, 9 years to the day of the last Postseason game I'd attended. Postseason games, and this was my 6th to date, are a different animal from the Tuesday Night Special that I'm so fond of. These games are loud, unruly wars where I spend the entire day leading up to the game feeling like I could run from my office clear out to the stadium just to get to the game. Fans are on every pitch, mostly standing and when something good happens, there's not a cheer, there's a primal roar that rises from the stands. It had been a long time since I'd experienced that.

The game was, of course, scheduled for the somewhat-asinine start time of 8:37pm, and George and I arrived at the scene at around 7pm and already the scene was insane. Think, perhaps, Opening Day times about 50. To say nothing of the fact that these fans, which was on this night was probably about 98% in favor of the Good Guys, were out for blood. They were itching for a fight, and their target was Chase Utley. But Utley never saw the field, instead receiving a proper welcome during the pregame introductions. This was fine, as far as I was concerned. George agreed. Faith and Fear's Greg Prince, who I fortuitously ran into on the Promenade prior to the game, also agreed. The Mets did their best to whip everyone into a frenzy, handing out bright orange Rally Towels and prompting everyone to wave them as TBS came on the air, and even brought Ruben Tejada on the field as the Mets were introduced in a bit of a Willis Reed moment. But the best revenge, I felt, would be if Matt Harvey went out and simply shoved the bats up the Dodgers' asses for 8 innings.

But Harvey proved mortal on this night. Though he got through the 1st unscathed, the Dodgers started ringing hits off him in the 2nd, and loaded the bases with nobody out. The fans, which at this point were bouncing off the walls, were now sitting on their hands, and when Yasmani Grandal singled home two runs and Curtis Granderson's throwing error led to a 3rd run, the air had been sucked out of the building. When things like this happen in the Postseason, it's like an ambush. The air is literally sucked out of the building and the entire stadium gets eerily quiet. Here we were, first home Playoff game in 9 years, Harvey on the mound and he's getting lit up? This wasn't good. Fortunately, he minimized the damage and got out of the inning without allowing anything further.

So, then, the Mets now had to come back from a 3-run deficit against Brett Anderson, who in my opinion was part-reclamation project, part-retread, and represented the weak link in the Dodgers rotation. To say the Mets came out ready to attack him was an understatement. Yoenis Cespedes led off by hitting a little ground ball towards Jimmy Rollins (who also received a warm welcome) and simply outran the throw to 1st. Lucas Duda followed with a flare hit to Center. Travis d'Arnaud shot a hit to left that scored Cespedes. Wilmer Flores then reached on an infield hit, and now we were in business. But Juan Lagares hit into a Fielder's Choice and Harvey struck out, and it seemed like the Mets were going to let a great opportunity go by the wayside. However, Curtis Granderson atoned for his error by smoking the first pitch from Anderson off the fence in Right Center, plating everyone, erasing the deficit and blowing the damn roof off the joint. When I say it was loud, I mean It. Was. LOUD. Loud in a way we've never seen at Citi Field. Remember how the Upper Deck at Shea Stadium used to shake? I swear the Promenade level was shaking. That's the kind of release that was going on at that moment.

The fun was just starting.

Harvey wasn't at his best, but he was good enough. Mechanically, he was completely screwed up, probably because of the long layoff he'd had between games, and not, as some fans seem to feel, that he wasn't ready for Prime Time. Once his teammates got him a lead, he wouldn't let the Dodgers get back up and in the process, the Mets bats continued to light up the scoreboard and light up the "Pyrotechnic display" that was set on top of the scoreboard. In the 3rd inning, Cespedes singled and remained there with 2 outs when Travis d'Arnaud launched one onto the Party deck in Left Field. This one was gone off the bat, one of those classic d'Arnaud jolts when he just squares one up and it sails out into the night. This sealed Anderson's fate for the evening, as by this point he'd been spotted a 3-run lead and handed back twice that.

Things did not improve for the Dodgers as herky-jerky lefty Alex Wood entered the game in the 4th. Lagares led off with a double off the wall in Right-Center, a drive that just kept sailing until it reached the wall. Though Wood rebounded to get Harvey and Granderson, he, or perhaps his manager Don Mattingly decided to play with fire and intentionally walk David Wright. Wright generally rips lefties, yes, but I just had a feeling that he was asking for trouble by walking him in front of Murphy, and Murph for once proved me right by dropping a single in to Left to plate Lagares. At this point, Wood was royally fucked, because he was falling behind hitters, not particularly fooling anyone, and now had to face Yoenis Cespedes, and we sort of all knew what was coming. On 2-2, Cespedes stopped the show by hitting one of his now-trademark Home Runs that looks like it's been shot out of a cannon. Not only was it as much of a no-doubter as d'Arnaud's Home Run, this one was met with gasps moreso than cheers. It landed in the 2nd deck and Cespedes, as is his wont, styled at the plate, flipped his bat and took about a minute rounding the bases. Basically, the ball was fucked, Wood was fucked, the Dodgers were fucked. The Mets had gone from a 3-run ambush to a 10-3 lead and what was a tense affair had turned into more of a pep rally.

From there, things calmed down somewhat. Harvey finished the 5th inning, then turned the ball over to Bartolo Colon, who delighted everyone by striking out the side in the 6th inning. By this point, there wasn't any particular drama in the game, other than fans catcalling Utley, but nonetheless George and I still felt like more runs were needed. Not for any particular reason, just because the Mets had a bullpen and more runs were probably necessary. On the other hand, it was a jovial enough evening that when Adrian Gonzalez hit a Home Run off Colon in the 7th, nobody cared too much. They were too busy booing Utley.

The Mets honored our request in the Bottom of the 7th by plating some more runs off of Pedro Baez. Baez created his own problems by giving up a hit and two walks. Michael Conforto Pinch-hit and hit a Sacrifice Fly, and then Curtis Granderson, who had himself quite a game in his own right, doubled off the Left Field wall to score two more runs, giving him 5 RBI on the night and putting the Mets ahead 13-4.

Addison Reed pitched a solid 8th inning and then Erik Goeddel came in for the 9th inning and promptly got lit up, allowing a 3-run Home Run to Howie Kendrick before needing to be rescued by Jeurys Familia. Familia had no such problems, retiring all three men he faced to close out the Dodgers and close out what was a real barnburner of a game. At 12:24am. Yes, it was late. Yes, once the Mets went up by 9 runs, a lot of fans headed for the exits because it was so late. Yes, George and I both had long trips to our respective homes and arriving before 2am was a dicey proposition. Did we care? Not at all. All that mattered was that the Mets found a way to get up off the mat, shake off the words, the pain and the controversy and win the damn game, and at this time of year, that's really all that matters.

This will, I believe, be remembered as the night that Citi Field finally became "Home" for Mets fans. It's been the de facto home ever since it opened back in 2009, but there's never been that great, magical moment that we can all look back on. For the most part, it's been forgettable teams with nice individual accomplishments mixed in. This 2015 year has been the first time Citi Field was home to a winner, and the first time that those glitzy, overproduced and overhyped Playoff Productions were on hand, and oddball trinkets like rally towels were handed out. The Mets did their job to make sure it was a magical night to be remembered. It was a full team effort, as most of the Mets wins lately tend to be, but it was probably Granderson's double that brought the house down. 9 years of pent-up frustration and anger just came blasting out in that one moment, and it carried, through Cespedes' Home Run into the 2nd deck and basically through the rest of the night. Each of the now 6 Playoff games I've been to has had something oddly unique about it, and this one certainly had plenty of unique moments that I'll continue to carry with me.

But the best part? I get to go back later today!

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