Sunday, November 1, 2015

Horror Story

I've probably been sitting, staring at my computer screen and staring at that photo above and wondering how the hell to explain what the hell I sat through last night at Citi Field. I should say that I've gone into every Postseason game this year feeling some amount of trepidation. Some nights, it's worse than others. My worst night was probably Game 4 of the NLDS, but Friday night's Game 3 topped it. Fortunately, the Mets won. But for some reason, when I walked into Citi Field on Saturday night, I had this odd sense of calm. I was with my other half on this evening, which could have been a reason, or perhaps it was because it was early and I didn't feel rushed, or because the Mets had won last night and somehow had inspired me enough to not be so worried. But in the Postseason and as I'm discovering even moreso in the World Series, there is tension simply by showing up. It will fluctuate depending on how the game ebbs and flows and on Friday, the tension kind of evaporated when the Mets took a big lead. Last night, however, was a much different story.

The game started out well enough. Steven Matz took the ball for the Mets, in one of those "Dreams come true" kind of games for him. I've always been a little leery of Matz's games this postseason, not so much because I think he'll pitch poorly but because he's still so green. He didn't even make 10 starts in the regular season, but here he is, making his 3rd start in the Postseason, and in the World Series no less. But where Matz had been in the habit of coming out and being a little too cranked up early in games, that didn't happen. Matz had, probably, the best of his 3 Postseason outings on this night. He was mixing speeds and pitches, he was throwing off the Royals timing, he was getting into and out of jams, it was some truly beautiful stuff.

Offensively, the Mets still had a hard time figuring out Chris Young, except for Michael Conforto, who led off the 3rd inning by absolutely blasting a Home Run up into the Pepsi Porch. Wilmer Flores followed with a single, moved up on a Wild Pitch and a Matz sacrifice and then scored on a Curtis Granderson Sac Fly which was aided by Alex Rios forgetting how many outs there were and not throwing the ball back in. In the 5th, it was Conforto again, getting a hold of a Danny Duffy pitch and sailing it into the Mets bullpen. That put the Mets ahead 3-1 and Conforto was ready to jump out of his uniform from excitement.

But these Royals make any lead seem perilous. Though they didn't push much across the plate against Matz, they were still dinging him. Mostly, it was their uncanny and wholly irritating ability to waste every single two-strike pitch before putting something in play. They broke through in the 5th on a play that seemed more fluky than anything, Cespedes kicking Perez's line drive that turned into a double, and Alex Gordon singled him home. But that's just how the Royals have been doing it. 6th inning, same thing. Zobrist double, Cain single, Matz's evening finished right there.

It was, of course, at this point when the game started to get really, really tense. 3-2 lead with a spotty bullpen and a relentless opponent seemed to be a recipe for disaster. But still, so long as the Mets had the lead, everyone felt confident. Jon Niese came in to face Hosmer and Moustakas and got them both. Bartolo Colon followed to face Perez and after a horrifying 10-pitch battle, struck him out. In the 7th, Addison Reed, who's been quite solid, got the Royals in order. The Mets bats, at this point, had gone quiet, however, and so the game stayed at 3-2 going into the 8th.

And it was in that 8th inning that the clock struck midnight and Daniel Murphy turned back into a Pumpkin.

Murphy will be the leading culprit in the utter catastrophe that ensued, but he had some conspirators. Tyler Clippard, for one, was simply awful. Yes, he got Escobar to start the inning, but he got ahead of Ben Zobrist 0-2 and walked him, and he got ahead of Lorenzo Cain 0-2 and then threw him nothing close. Handing a team that consistently makes contact and wastes pitches and drives everyone crazy free baserunners is just asking for trouble. Still, with Jeurys Familia coming in, you had to feel, I don't want to say confident, but you had to feel less nervous. Even if he had to get through Sabermetric Murderers' Row. And he got what he needed out of Eric Hosmer, which was a chopper to 2nd base. It would have been too slow for a Double Play, but certainly one out would have been fine here. But it was one of those balls that bounced and bounced and bounced and then stopped bouncing, and of course that was where Daniel Murphy was playing for a bounce...

There is a certain kind of noise that comes from a crowd of people when something really bad happens. I wouldn't categorize it as an "Aww.." or a "Booo..." It's a truly awful, gut-wrenching sound that sounds sort of like an entire stadium getting ready to vomit in unison. And when the ball skipped under Daniel Murphy's glove and trickled far enough away for the Royals to score the tying run and get the lead run to 3rd, well, it was as if we all knew we were totally fucked.

From that point forward, it was the Royals that were playing fast and loose and fancy free, and the Mets were the team that just saw their assholes collectively tense up. Familia was totally rattled and subsequently gave up a pair of RBI singles to Perez and Gordon before finally getting Rios to hit into a DP, but the damage had already been done. The crowd, which had gone through this roller coaster of tension, broke after Salvador Perez singled in the lead run, I heard some loud banging coming from somewhere in the stadium and it sounded like a bomb was going off. The crowd was running the gamut of emotion from stunned to murderous and some people started to leave outright. Most stayed, though, hoping that the Mets would have something left in them to mount a comeback against their closer, Wade Davis.

It wasn't the 8th. Though Collins had double-switched Juan Lagares in for the 8th, for some reason Kelly Johnson was sent up to pinch hit in the bottom of the inning, which to me was a total panic move. Lagares had at least been playing and hitting reasonably well. Why not let him take a shot? But I was, by this point, totally deflated and through trying to figure out Collins' moves. Hansel Robles got through the 9th just fine. In the last of the 9th, the Mets tried to mount something. Daniel Murphy hit with one out, and didn't get booed. Didn't get cheered, but also didn't get booed and got some sort of a murmured reception. But he singled, which if nothing else allowed the Mets to get the tying run to the plate in Yoenis Cespedes, and then Cespedes singled, and Lucas Duda followed, and maybe Lucas Duda could fire that miracle blast and save victory from the jaws of defeat, but in a play that probably was more horrible than the Murphy error, Duda floated a soft line drive to 3rd that Mike Moustakas caught, and everyone then turned their heads in abject horror to see that Cespedes was standing nowhere near 1st base.

This was, to put it as kindly as possible, a total gut-punch defeat. The loss in Game 1 was pretty bad, but that was at least on the road. When it happens at home, well, it can just take the starch out of everything. Daniel Murphy probably undid the month's worth of goodwill he'd built up with his hot streak in about 5 seconds. Cespedes continued a lousy World Series performance with a totally unconscionable mental error. The Mets lost to a Royals team that once again proved to be relentless in their approach at the plate and their ability to come back in any game, and now they stand but one win from a World Series Championship with a chance to close it out tonight on our turf.

It doesn't look good right now for the Mets. The Royals have beaten the Mets best starters and the Mets Closer and basically everyone in between, and gotten them playing tight and out of sorts. But as I keep saying, while you're in this thing, it's really hard to look at it and put things in their proper perspective. It's amazing, in and of itself, that the Mets have gotten to this point this year. And for as bad as two of these losses have been, they're not done yet. Yes, they're down 3 games to 1 and they'd need to win two games on the road in order to pull this miracle off. Not impossible. Not especially likely, but not impossible. They just have to follow the tenet that this franchise was built on and Believe. We, as fans have to to the same, we've just got to keep on Believing. Tonight is the last game at Citi Field this season, whether the Mets win or not, Matt Harvey will take the ball and try to keep the fire burning at least for one more day, and people are going to be there rooting them on, no matter what happens.

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