Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blacked Out

In the top of the 7th inning of tonight's Mets/Cubs debacle, SNY went black. I changed channels, reset my cable box, but nothing worked. It popped back on for the duration of a commercial break between the top and bottom of the 7th innings, but that was it. After about 10 minutes, I gave up, turned off the TV and turned on the radio. Time Warner Cable screwed me out of seeing the last 3rd of tonight's game.

Or, perhaps, they did me a favor.

Without SNY, I was unable to see the Mets offense go right back in the tank that Steven Matz pulled them out of on Sunday. Daniel Murphy returned and looked just like the same old Daniel Murphy. 4 At Bats, 1 Hit. And that 1 hit represented 33% of the Mets offensive output against Kyle Hendricks and a troika of Cubs relievers. No Met reached 3rd base against this vaunted Chicago pitching staff.

Jon Niese, on the other side, did his admirable best to try to outpitch his own non-existent offense, but this was unfortunately an impossible, unwinnable undertaking. While Niese only allowed the Cubs 4 hits, unfortunately two of them came in the top of the 6th inning, and happened to be a single to Baseball Jesus Kris Bryant, followed by a double from David Eckstein-like Matt Szczur, which eluded Michael Cuddyer and allowed Bryant to score the first and only run of the game.

There have been years where the Mets offense just can't do anything with any sort of consistency. In fact, a majority of the team's history has been predicated on such a thing. Sometimes, they've managed to win in spite of this (ie 1969, 1973). But most years, for as good as their pitching can be, the season simply boils down to them not being able to hit enough and their pitchers simply not always being able to throw shutouts. And so you get years like, say, every year for the last 5 years, where the Mets can get great pitching most nights, but lose 4-2 or 3-2 because they just can't hit enough.

But this year they seem to be turning this into an art form. True, the lineup has suffered without d'Arnaud and Wright and Murphy, although Murphy came back tonight and it didn't make a damn bit of difference. It's the guys that are still there that aren't helping. Michael Cuddyer might not be Jason Bay-bad just yet but he's pushing the limits of Carlos Baerga-ness (and of course departed tonight's game hurt). Lucas Duda has crashed back to earth, not so much because he turned back into the lummox he was prior to 2014, but because without any protection in the lineup, he's pressing, and trying to do too much and as a result swinging at bad pitches and getting away from what made him successful in the first place. Curtis Granderson was hot for a second there but now he seems to be on the downswing again. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares have run hot and cold and lately it's been more cold than hot, and Ruben Tejada is just a complete disaster. And there's no depth to speak of, anyone else the Mets have on the roster right now is at best worse than anyone who's starting right now, and that's a truly frightening prospect. This past weekend, the Mets swept the Cincinnati Reds, and on one night they won because they managed to score 2 runs on 3 hits. The next day it took them 13 innings over two days to score 2 runs, and the second run basically scored by accident. Sunday, they scored 7 runs, but the pitcher happened to drive in 4 of them so that doesn't excuse anyone else. Is the solution here really to teach Steven Matz to play Left Field? I don't think so. At this point it's not Collins's fault because he can only make do with what he's given, so if you need a scapegoat, right now Sandy Alderson looks like your guy.

That is, unless you feel its easier to blame a majority of these players for not hitting better.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Amazin' Matz!

After sitting through 7 pretty boring innings of Baseball, I suppose the fans who meekly trickled out of Citi Field after Saturday's game had come to its merciful end couldn't be blamed. However, the real action for the day was just about to take place. Steven Matz, the Stony Brook, NY native, was finally going to make his Major League debut. The latest in what's become an almost annual string of hotshot Mets Pitching Prospects to ascend, Matz was accompanied to his start by a few hundred friends and family, plus an extended family of fans ready to see him follow in the footsteps of Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Syndergaard, Montero, Familia, Hefner, Schwinden, Mejia and Pelfrey. OK, Maybe just the first four in that list.

Matz certainly arrived with hype. After all, he'd been wiping the floor with the PCL for the first 3 months of the season. But for the first time I can remember, I walked into a souvenir shoppe at Citi Field and saw racks loaded with MATZ 32 T-shirts before my man had ever thrown a pitch in anger at the Major League level. And not only that, people were gobbling them up. Prescient? Perhaps, but nobody in their wildest dreams could have seen the kind of debut Matz was going to embark upon.

It was supposed to begin at 1:10pm. It didn't begin until 4:38pm, and in that time, you probably couldn't have blamed Matz for developing a healthy case of debut jitters. His first pitch to Brandon Phillips appeared something in homage to Bill Pulsipher, as it sailed off of Johnny Monell's glove and clear to the backstop. Matz's 5th pitch was a strike, so much so that Phillips launched it deep into the gap in Left Field, over John Mayberry's head and, at least as far as I could tell, over the orange line for a Home Run. Or was it? Mayberry played the ball in and Phillips was on first, so maybe I was wrong, but I didn't think so, and when Bryan Price, who was actually awake after watching his team play an awfully placid 7 innings of Baseball in the early game, challenged and won, the Reds had a 1-0 lead and Matz's dream day was off to a nightmarish start.

Then, of course, Matz settled down and got down to business. He got Votto and Frazier, walked Jay Bruce and then struck out Marlon Byrd for his first K in the big leagues. He displayed a fastball that touched 95mph, which was nice, but what impressed me more was the fact that he kept mixing in a curve that floated in at a positively Bugs Bunny-like 75mph and a changeup, and he wasn't afraid to throw any of these pitches at any given moment. The Reds could have read a scouting report on him but it wouldn't have helped. Matz kept them constantly guessing. Sure, it helps that the Reds have a mostly miserable lineup (and during the 1st game I mused that they looked like a team that just didn't give a shit), but there are legitimately good hitters on that team and you still have to get them out. And so Matz went out and got them.

The fact that he did well pitching was just fine, and not terribly surprising. But he had a slight wrinkle to his game up his sleeve that nobody really saw coming, and that's what turned this game from a really nice debut into the stuff of legend.

In the 2nd inning, Darrell Ceciliani, batting 5th in the Mets C-lineup (yeah, they ran out the C-lineup for this one, replete with Ceciliani, Mayberry, Campbell, Monell and Wilmer Flores batting cleanup) reached on an error. Mayberry and Monell did nothing productive, and with two outs and the pitcher on deck, Josh Smith walked Eric Campbell intentionally. The logic of course being that you go after the pitcher making his Major League debut with two outs. Nobody would argue against that. So, Matz comes to the plate and I noted that he hit right handed but threw left handed, the opposite of Syndergaard and deGrom. Smith went right after him and Matz reared back and took a big time hack at the 1st pitch, but he missed. "Well," I said, "at least he's not getting cheated."

Matz then took a similar swing at the second pitch, however this time he connected and rammed a shot to dead center, over Billy Hamilton's head and off the wall. Ceciliani and Campbell both scored and Matz found himself on 2nd with a double, 2 RBI, a lead, and a stadium full of fans bouncing off the rafters with joy, not only because the kid got a big hit, but because someone on the team finally came through.

But Matz was only getting warmed up. In the 3rd, he shot off the mound to field a Hamilton bunt and threw him out by a good few steps. "It's the Steven Matz Show," a fan around me yelled. Matz followed by getting the revenge strikeout on Phillips, fooling him badly on a changeup with 2 strikes, and then getting Votto to swing through a curveball for another K. Todd Frazier, the New Jersey boy, reached Matz for a bomb of a Home Run leading off the 4th to tie the game 2-2, but Matz was undaunted. Frazier's going as well as anyone in baseball right now, so there's no shame in giving up a HR to a hitter like that.

Still, that meant the Mets needed to score more than 2 runs in order to win, and the Mets hadn't scored more than 2 runs in a game in over a week. So, what do they do? Let Matz take care of it, of course. Smith once again walked Campbell leading off the Mets 5th, bringing up Matz in a bunt situation. Except I don't think anyone actually wanted him to bunt. Smith certainly didn't give him an opportunity to do so, running a 3-ball count before Matz took a strike and then bunted one foul. So with 2 strikes, the bunt was off, and so was Campbell, so of course Matz just swung and pulled the ball right through the vacated hole at Shortstop and into Left Field, sending Campbell to 3rd where he scored on Curtis Granderson's subsequent Double. The Mets then had a golden opportunity to blow the game open, except that they turned into pumpkins and could neither lift a fly ball deep enough to score Matz or get a hit to break the game open, and the game moved on to the 6th with the Mets ahead 3-2, with 4 hits, 2 of which were by Matz.

The Mets rallied again in the 6th, with Mayberry getting a hit, and Monell getting a hit, and me nearly passing out because those two things happened in succession, and then Campbell getting hit, and then the bases were loaded and everyone was on their feet because, guess what, Steven Matz was coming to the plate. And I figured he didn't have to hit a Grand Slam, because that would be somewhat apocalyptic, but if he just got a single and drove in 2 runs, he'd bring the damn house down. Matz worked the count to 2-2 before, in the words of Matz's Grandfather, Holy Shit, he got another hit, a line drive over Phillips' head to score 2 runs and give the Mets a 5-2 lead. One batter later, he was on the front end of a potential DP ball from Tejada, except that he made a Major League take-out slide on Phillips, forcing a bad throw that bounced away from Votto and allowed Campbell to score another run.

Matz had at this point generated so much excitement with his bat that it was easy to overlook the fact that he'd been cruising through the game on the mound. Aside from the 2 Home Runs, Matz had allowed 3 hits going into the 7th, which I figured would be his last inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Byrd, which didn't help. After Collins ran through a majority of his bullpen in the early game, getting through 7 innings would be huge. Brayan Pena also singled. But Matz didn't break a sweat. He got Eugenio Suarez to slap into an easy 6-4-3 DP and then got Unknown Outfielder Jason Bourgeois to strike out, his 6th of the game, and was serenaded with yet another Standing Ovation as he walked off the mound, with 100 pitches under his belt and assumedly done for the day.

But he wasn't. Collins sent him back for the 8th, to everyone's delight, in spite of the pitch count, and tried to squeeze another inning out of him. He almost got there—he got Hamilton and Phillips, but then walked Votto and that was the end of his day, after 7.2 innings and 100 pitches, allowing 2 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks and 6 strikeouts, picking up 3 hits in 3 At Bats, 4 RBI, a record for a Pitcher in his Major League Debut, and no less than 5 Standing Ovations. And for the rest of the day, Matz was the toast of New York.

How many times do you see someone charge into the Major Leagues like that? Obviously nobody knows where he'll go from here, and most assuredly he will have days where he'll take his lumps, and he won't get any hits, and the lineup won't score him any runs and he'll lose a tough game. But Mets fans have a habit of latching on to guys like this. When a player who's had some bumps on the road to the Majors as Matz did, when he's a local guy like Matz is, or when he's a home-grown guy, and he comes in and lights the stadium on fire like he did yesterday, well, Steven Matz has endeared himself to Mets fans forever. He's going to be one of those guys that can do no wrong in the eyes of the fans.

At least that's how it feels this morning.

But Does It Count?

My plan for Sunday was to go out to Citi Field to see Steven Matz's Major League debut. That's not too hard to grasp, unless you know how much I dislike going to Sunday afternoon games. The weather on Saturday, however, threw a monkey wrench into this plan as the heavens opened and dumped heaps upon heaps of rain onto the area, stopping and ultimately suspending the game after 6 innings with a 1-1 tie.

So, you know, I forge ahead anyway, figure I'll get a few innings of Free Baseball in and hopefully I won't get home that late. Maybe an hour later than I normally would have.

Except. The. Game. Kept. Going.

And going...

And going...

Never mind that the resumed game started late in the first place. It was announced for 1:10pm (quite honestly, I don't know why they didn't set it for something more logical like 12:10, but that's besides the point) but some residual rain that fell throughout the 7th and 8th innings kept the tarp on the field and delayed things by about 15 minutes or so.

I should have known right then and there that this resumed game was going to turn into one of those Baseball Farce sort of games, the sort of game that dissolves into abject weirdness and makes you really start to consider the folly of this game.

Carlos Torres took the mound to kick things off and immediately gave up two hits. He was removed in favor of Alex Torres, who promptly walked the one batter he was tasked to get out. Hansel Robles followed and mercifully got Todd Frazier to pop out to finish the inning and bring us to the 1st Inning 7th Inning Stretch.

The Mets, for whom scoring runs is often a tall order, had a couple of scalded shots off of Ryan Mattheus in the last of the 7th. One, by Ruben Tejada, was ticketed for the corner but for Skip Schumaker Batmaning himself through the air to make the catch. Lucas Duda hit one to a similar spot, but this one was off the wall. Again, a sure double, except that Duda tripped over 1st Base and instead was thrown out by Schumaker at 2nd.

That was how this was going? It hadn't reached that point, but I was beginning to worry about extra innings.

Robles and Mattheus and Familia and Hoover all combined to ensure that this would be the case, aided in their conspiracy by Juan Lagares, who went over the fence to rob Jay Bruce of a Home Run, and by Michael Cuddyer, who with the winning run on 3rd base in the 9th, popped out.

Sigh. Extra Innings. My favorite. And if that wasn't bad enough, let's not forget that this was IN FRONT of the game that I'd shown up to see!

Jeurys Familia got through a rather difficult 10th inning, all but ensuring he wouldn't be available for the "2nd" game. Boris Badenov Burke Badenhop came in for the Reds and set down the Mets without much drama in the 10th. Logan Verrett, who for whatever reason I keep confusing with switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, entered in the 11th for the Mets, and did not switch-pitch, and did retire the Reds in order. Carlos Carrasco Carlos Contreras entered for the Reds in the last of the 11th, and here the Mets finally caught a break when Joey Votto yakked on a Granderson ground ball and Curtis reached 2nd on the error. Ruben Tejada followed with a walk, and just as they did in the 9th, the Mets had two on and one out with Duda and Cuddyer coming up, and just as they did in the 9th, Duda and Cuddyer each failed to do anything consequential except draw the ire of the fans that were beginning to get a little impatient.

By the 12th, I'd now officially seen as much of this game than the people who actually showed up to this game yesterday, although I was still waiting for a run and by this point lord only knows what was going through the mind of Steven Matz—something along the lines of "Score a run and get this shit show over with" sounds accurate. But neither team was cooperating. Verrett got the Reds quietly and Contreras did the same.

There have been bizarrely extended games that I've attended many times over, but never in a situation like this, where I knew I'd committed myself to a full game afterward, never in a situation where I'd walked in halfway through the game and felt like I'd sat through the whole thing, and never in a situation where I was truly afraid that nobody was going to score and this game was headed for 20+ innings. But that's what I was beginning to feel like as the 13th inning started, because unless somebody screwed up somewhere, nobody was going to win this game. Sometimes, the Baseball Stink is just that contagious. Bobby Parnell, whom I hadn't seen since his return, entered the game and got through a mostly quiet inning, aided by Kevin Plawecki throwing out Ivan DeJesus Jr on the bases.

Nate Adcock entered the game for the Reds in the last of the 13th and walked Dilson Herrera. This immediately was a good sign, because in the 9th and 11th, Herrera had made an out in front of Granderson and Tejada getting on base, and the lack of an extra out with the runners on base screwed everything up. So Herrera was on and went all the way to 3rd when Granderson singled. So the Reds had the Infield in and the Outfield in and Ruben Tejada hit a smash to Eugenio Suarez that Suarez didn't field, and didn't pick up right away, and there was Herrera vapor-locking at 3rd, and I suppose that's OK because Suarez recovered enough that he could have thrown out Herrera at home, but since he held the base, everyone was safe, and so the bases were loaded with nobody out. The Reds then had some conferencing and Skip Schumaker was brought in as a 5th Infielder with Lucas Duda up. All he needed to do was hit a damn fly ball, and yet I had this horrible fear that either he would hit into a Double Play and Cuddyer would strike out, or he would strike out and Cuddyer would hit into a Double Play, or maybe they would both hit into Double Plays. Either way, Duda didn't exactly not hit into a Double Play; his chopper was simply hit high enough that Votto had to jump to field it, couldn't hang on to it, and then could only take a bite out of it when he realized he had no time to get Herrera at home. A fitting end to a perfectly fine mess of a game, but at least the Mets won.

It was only about 2 hours and 40 minutes into the resumption of the game. Which led to me having the silent conversation with myself as to whether or not I'd seen enough of this game to have it actually qualify for my personal game log. I'm inclined to say no, if only because there have been games where I went to the second game of a Doubleheader, and showed up before the first game had ended, and watched the last inning or two, but I wouldn't count games like that. Plus, I hadn't seen the beginning of the game, or either starting pitcher pitch. Most importantly, I wasn't scoring the resumed game, since I hadn't scored the first 6 innings, I didn't want to pick up midstream. On the other hand, I saw more of the game than people who were there yesterday did, 7 innings today as opposed to 6 yesterday. Also, the game was still undecided when it was suspended, I actually saw the Mets score the winning run. Anyone out there have any thoughts on this?

This was my thought process as I waited for the game I actually came to see to begin. I'll discuss that game later.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Suspended Animation

There's still something that's truly bizarre about the suspended game concept. Some time on Saturday, I'd decided, because my other half was out of town and because I was kind of bored and needed something productive to do, that I would get myself a ticket for Sunday's game so I could see Steven Matz's debut. I've done things like this before with mixed results, but whatever.

Little did I know that I'd be signing up for more than one game's worth of action, because Saturday's game, which probably shouldn't have been started at all, ended up in that netherworld of this-game's-tied-but-it's-raining-really-hard-and-we-can't-finish-it-tonight. Again, this happened because the Mets can't hit and Matt Harvey will sometimes allow a run.

To their credit, the Mets did manage to get 6 hits on Saturday against a combination of Jared Michael Lorenzen and Manny Parra, but their only run came courtesy of Curtis Granderson, who hit another Home Run into the left field seats of all places.

Harvey, in spite of the comical conditions, pitched well. His only problem was that the Reds tied the game in the 5th inning and the Mets couldn't scratch out another run for him. The rain delay didn't matter much to him; he'd already been hit for so he wasn't going to come out for the 7th.

But, there was still a completion to this game that needed to play out, and with the rain, which was only getting worse as the evening dragged on, the game was called and now will get picked up at the front end of Sunday's game, so I'll have to tell you how it turned out after I see it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Just Barely Enough


The Mets, on Friday night, backed Noah Syndergaard up with a Mighty two-hit performance.

Somehow, this was enough to get them a win.

In the sort of effort that both tantalizes and simultaneously nauseates the entire fan base, the Mets, or, more specifically Noah Syndergaard, turned the offensive output of one Curtis Granderson Home Run, one Dilson Herrera triple, and three fortuitously consecutive walks into a victory over the similarly hapless Cincinnati Reds.

Syndergaard pretty much did the heavy lifting on his own. He had no real margin to work with; provided one run in the first, Syndergaard allowed the Reds to tie the score in the second inning because that's Baseball. For as good as he can look at times, he's still probably going to allow at least one run to whoever he's facing on any given day. After that, Syndergaard didn't allow much else. In a quietly efficient performance, Syndergaard got himself through 8 innings for the first time in his career, allowing the Reds just said run on 5 hits, no walks and 5 strikeouts in an 89-pitch effort. The question wasn't if he would pitch well, because he did, and he got better as the game moved along. The real question was whether or not the Mets stupid offense could scratch out another run or two and get him a win.

Thursday, the Mets clawed out two runs to get deGrom the victory. Friday, it seems they did the same thing. Sure, Granderson's leadoff Home Run off of Johnny Cueto was nice, but Home Runs don't accomplish a lot with nobody on base unless you plan to win a lot of 1-0 games. That usually doesn't happen, so it was probably in the Mets best interest to score another run. They managed to accomplish this partially by accident in the 5th inning. Dilson Herrera, who's been batting behind the pitcher lately, I suppose because he's not hitting much, but that logic doesn't hold because nobody's hitting much, banged a 2-out Triple off Cueto. Cueto then, as he's wont to do sometimes, then lost his marbles and walked the next three batters, Granderson, Eric Campbell and Lucas Duda, to bring home Herrera with the lead run.

Somehow, this was enough for the Mets. This piddling 2 run, 2 hit effort got them a win. The win is always good, but nobody who watches this team is fooled. 95 times out of 100, if you charge out there and make this kind of an effort, chances are things won't end well.

You know, unless your Pitcher can stop the other team cold. At least the Mets have that going for them. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

deGravy

Finally, the Mets were able to provide enough offense to back the latest in a string of dominant outings by that day's starting pitcher, in this particular case Jacob deGrom, as they salvaged the final game of a thoroughly embarrassing and humbling road trip that saw them lose 7 out of 8 games, 5 of them to teams they probably should have been wiping the floor with, and score all of 11 runs over said 8 games.

The game's hero is all deGrom, who's actually been pitching like he's the ace of this pitching staff, and not Harvey. Harvey gets the acclaim and Syndergaard is the phenom, but it's been Jacob deGrom who's had the best season of the bunch to this point. He's been great for the better part of the last two months now, although his record at 8-5 doesn't necessarily speak to that, some of his other numbers, like the 2.15 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 100.1 innings, and 0.93 WHIP, are better indicators of his success. More telling would be the 63 strikeouts and 6 walks he's allowed in his last 8 starts, where he's pitched to an ERA of 1.23. I know I said you can't go by the record but I suppose I have to mention that he's 5-1 over those 8 starts, although he shouldn't have lost the 1, and in the other game the bullpen blew his lead.

Basically, deGrom has been so good that more often than not he's able to outpitch his miserable offense, and yes, he's benefited from games where he got backed with 14- and 7-run outbursts, but those are infrequent occurrences. Most days, deGrom has had to work with nothing, like he did last Friday in Atlanta and again today in Milwaukee. Last week, deGrom left a 1-0 game in a tight spot and could only watch as the bullpen blew his lead and hung him with a loss. Today, the Mets backed him with a veritable deluge of 2 runs, and when deGrom found himself with men on base in the 7th and 8th innings, he shooed away coaches and finished the job himself, plowing through 8 sterling shutout innings without walking a batter and striking out 7 on 4 hits. Jeurys Familia returned from his lack of a Save opportunity groin injury to pitch an incident-free 9th inning, thereby sealing the deal on this Mets victory that feels just a little bit like too little too late. But that remains to be seen.

With the offense floundering, the Mets of course responded to this by calling up pitching prospect Steven Matz to slot into another attempt at a 6-man rotation, which I suppose will last for a week or two until they sufficiently alienate Jon Niese. Matz will start Sunday against the Reds (Meet the Matz?), where I assume he will be the latest Mets pitcher to enjoy the high pleasure of stopping the opponent cold and taking a loss because the offense didn't score any runs and Daniel Murphy caught some bad vibes on a ground ball.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Done Before It Started

I missed the beginning of the game on Wednesday night, so when I did put the game on, in the top of the 3rd, the game was over. Bartolo Colon had already given up 2 runs to the Brewers in the 1st, and the Mets, with their lineup consisting of Johnny Monell, Ruben Tejada and Eric Campbell were at best going to only score 2 runs against Jimmy Haynes Jimmy Nelson and his 8.43 ERA. They got their run in the 4th inning, thanks to a Curtis Granderson Home Run, which accounted for 1/3rd of the hits they would accomplish for the evening.

If you're keeping score, God Help You because you don't need me to tell you that that's 3 runs and 7 hits for the Mets in this series so far.

It didn't matter that Lucas Duda and Bartolo Colon staged an Alphonse and Gaston routine in the 5th inning, botching a 2-out ground ball by Ryan Braun that should have ended the inning and allowed the Brewers to somehow parlay that into a run. It didn't matter that Colon gave up a Home Run to a guy named Scooter. These runs had no bearing on the outcome of the game because the game was already over. This team doesn't hit because I don't know why.

Terry Collins looks stupefied right now. I know he was talking about a team meeting today and I'm not sure if it actually happened or not. Collins will probably be the fall guy if the Mets can't pull themselves out of this funk and maybe it's about time he's let go. This isn't necessarily his fault; he's only been able to do as well as the pieces he's given, and over the 4 1/2 years he's been here he just hasn't had much to work with. But sometimes a team just needs a new voice and maybe that's what the Mets need. However, please do not construe this to mean that I've joined the band of clueless cretins that continually insist that WALLY BACKMAN HAS TO BE THE MANAGER. I've already said that if Backman were going to be the Manager of this team or any team, it would have happened already. But I think I need to take this argument a step further. Sure, Backman is going to be full of piss and vinegar and be entertaining, and I think that's what gives him "pop appeal." But that's the sort of act that works with Minor Leaguers and when you get in front of the big boys, that doesn't quite fly. Also, Wally Backman isn't going to miraculously get this team to start hitting, and he's not going to get Daniel Murphy to stop having his hiccups, and he's not going to get Johnny Monell to stop hitting in to Double Plays, and he's not going to improve anyone's fielding. Some Managers (read: Bobby Valentine) got lesser teams to overachieve because they were specifically brilliant at being in-game tacticians and able to outsmart the opposing manager in key spots. Terry Collins doesn't really have that, or at least he hasn't had a real opportunity to prove he does, I don't think, but I'm quite certain that Backman doesn't have that quality. Backman seems to me to be more of a John Stearns-type clown who's going to make a lot of entertaining one-liners and argue with the press while managing the team to a 75-87 record. That's not the answer here.

All that being said, I really don't know what the answer is here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Follies

This once-promising Mets season has now dissolved into a circus that nobody really wants to watch, because instead of it being like the circus of, say, the Omar Minaya/Willie Randolph era, this circus is a complete and utter bore. There's no jolt, no fire, no drama, no intrigue, just the Mets kind of sleepwalking their way through these games, usually ending up scoring 2 runs on 6 hits and making 1-2 errors of varying consequence.

Tuesday night, with the Mets, who can't win on the road, playing in Milwaukee, who can't win anywhere, something had to give. Unfortunately, it was the Mets. Jon Niese pitched decently, because all the Mets starting pitchers have pitched decently of late, but he was the latest in a long line of Mets pitchers to pitch decently and lose because he gave up 2 runs and the Mets offense had no means of recourse.

Niese gave up a run in the 1st inning and looked like he was going to melt down into one of his trademark Jon Niese innings where he starts glaring at nobody in particular, snatching at the baseball and giving up 4 runs. The Brewers helped him out by being the Brewers, but then again, the Mets did a good job of helping out Mike Fiers on the other side by being the Mets. Somehow, the Mets grabbed a lead in the middle of the game—I must have passed out at the sight of them scoring one run and so I hadn't regained consciousness when they scored again—but Niese ran out of steam in the 6th, the Brewers tied the game, and then when Michael Cuddyer made the Mets daily Error in the 7th, the Brewers took the lead and the equilibrium had returned to the game.

The Mets then had the indignity of going down in the 9th inning against Francisco Rodriguez, only being able to counter with Johnny Monell. Monell, of course, was up earlier in the season and if I'm not mistaken had about 30 At Bats and hit into 13 Double Plays. Fortunately, he did not hit into a Double Play last night, but that's only because there was nobody on base ahead of him. Instead, he simply Josh Thole'd to end the game, which I suppose was a fitting way for this game to end.

Johnny Monell? This is who's getting an At Bat with the game on the line? Travis d'Arnaud is back on the DL, of course, because Terry Collins said on Sunday that he'd be back in the lineup good as new by Tuesday. This has been going on with the Mets for 6 years now, so should we really be shocked by this? Collins said before Tuesday's game that he expected d'Arnaud to be out for the minimum 15 days with his elbow injury or his shoulder injury, so you can forget seeing him back in the lineup until late August, I'd guess. Dilson Herrera had a mishap in the 2nd inning when Jean Segura ran over him on a play at 1st. Herrera looked like he did something unpleasant to his wrist, but then he shook it off and stayed in the game, probably because even in his short time here, he's become wise to the fact that maybe he ought to not spend too much time around Ol' Ray "Cortisone Shot" Ramirez.

This is the circus. Same shit, different year and now the Mets are back at .500 after running out to a great start and with Washington unable to get out of their own way. If I were the upper management, I'd be ruing the lost opportunity here if I weren't too busy doting over the team's A-ball affiliate. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Own Bad Rerun

I knew there wasn't a game on on Monday night, but sometimes I will reflexively turn on SNY anyway just to see if they're re-running an "interesting" game. By "Interesting," I mean something other than the 4 games they seem to be running ad infinitum as part of their "10 Years of SNY" crotch-grabbing-fest. They are:

1) The Pujols-Delgado-Beltran game from 2006, which I was at and remember fondly.
2) That game against the Cubs in 2007 where Jason Vargas started and the Mets rallied for 5 in the 9th despite using a B-lineup.
3) R.A. Dickey's 20th win in 2012.
4) The game against the Yankees in 2013 where Lucas Duda beat The Great Rivera.

Sometimes, I've noticed other games, but usually it's one of those 4. Over and over again. Because, when you really think about it, how many other "great" games have the Mets played in the last 10 years? I could pick a few, but SNY seems to feel otherwise, because when I put on SNY on Monday, I was horrified to see that they actually absconded to show a game from 2009. I'm still trying to wipe 2009 from my memory completely, but I can't seem to escape it, and SNY did me no favors by reminding me about it.

But, quite honestly, if SNY can mail it in and dig up crap from 2009, well, so can I. Here's what I wrote about the game they were showing:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Dangerous Game

The Mets went 5-5 on their last Road Trip, something that most fans seem to consider a hearty accomplishment considering all the injuries they've been experiencing. This is, perhaps. true, but if you consider that had the Mets hit at all after their 3rd game in San Francisco, they likely could have gone 9-1 on the trip. Examine:

Monday, the Mets lose to the Dodgers 3-2 in an 11 inning game noticed more for the 5 errors they committed than the 11 hits that generated only 2 runs. Ryan Church's baserunning gaffe gets most of the blame.

Tuesday, the Mets lose 5-3 in LA, mustering only 6 hits. They nurse a lead into the middle innings before the Dodgers rally against Maine. Once behind, the Mets manage only to hit into double plays.

Wednesday, the Mets lose 2-1 in LA, on 7 hits. Once again, the Mets can get guys on, and then only seem to be able to hit into a bunch of Double Plays. Their pitching keeps the game tied, Livan Hernandez has perhaps his best outing of the season, but LA wins on a few singles in the 8th.

That brought us to Boston. My initial feeling was that the Mets would go in and the Red Sox would feed them their lunch. Friday was, in my opinion, their best chance to do anything, with Santana on the mound. With Reyes back on the shelf, and the lower part of the lineup being littered with names like Ramon E. Martinez, I wasn't hopeful. But the Mets came out and basically dinked and dunked Matsuzaka to death in the 5th inning, making him throw too many pitches and eventually giving themselves enough of a lead that the game was safe in the hands of Santana, Putz and Rodriguez, and enough of a lead that it didn't matter that the Mets once again played one of their idiot games, making 3 errors and doing everything possible to keep the Red Sox in the game. An ugly victory, no doubt, that was predicated on some luck, just as much as it was the skill of Santana.

Saturday, the Mets managed to luck out again, in a game that played out somewhat similar to the final game in LA and that appeared to be just as frustrating for the Mets. After the first inning, Pelfrey and Beckett went to work setting down just about everyone in sight over the next 7 innings. For Pelfrey, who continues to improve despite not getting any recognition, it was another solid outing that would be forgotten by game's end. For the Mets in general, it was shaping up like a forgettable game. Against the backdrop of a major Arts Festival, I was in my office with a radio, fading in and out of the game in bits and pieces. As the 9th inning began, I left my office. Of course, I missed all the excitement. It was not quite 5 minutes later when the text messages started pouring in about Santos' HR, which sparked not only controversy, but for the Mets, victory. Once again, the Mets pulled out a game they appeared destined to lose, based on the skill of their pitching and a little luck on offense.

Sunday, the Mets once again managed to eke out their daily quota of 5 (and no more than 5) runs in their attempt to sweep, but their pitching, which had been the primary reason they'd been in all of these games in the first place, had what was for them their first and basically only bad game of the road trip. Redding got a lead and couldn't hold it, Green and Takahashi got the Mets behind, and Stokes got banged around in a 12-5 rout that basically gave you a very frightening look at what the Mets are looking at on days they don't pitch.

The pitching staff has been leading the way for the Mets, whether anyone wants to realize it or not. But if they continue to get such poor support, how long will the team be able to last? Will the pitchers be able to hold up, or will they leave the offense out to dry? It's a scary proposition the Mets are playing right now, as Reyes continues to languish on the Bench with a supposed "Day to Day" injury, Delgado is on the shelf and their replacements and the people around them can only generate sporadic offensive outbursts. The Mets haven't scored more than 5 runs in a game since the 3rd game in San Francisco, and one of those instances wasn't enough to get them a victory. Last night, again, the magic number was 5 runs. Maine was up to the task, but the latter part of the game seemed to drag on forever as the Mets bullpen continually got into and out of jams, and the offense continued to leave men on base. I feel somewhat nervous about the Mets chances with this lineup. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Do any of us need to be reminded that the Omir Santos era ever happened? I don't think so. We've suffered enough. We don't need to be reminded of 2009. SNY, find another game. Any one of these will suffice

Monday, June 22, 2015

Waterloo

It seems that invariably, the Mets have at least one series a year in Atlanta where they go in and just stink up the joint, and usually it ends up with them getting swept and looking really bad in doing so. This past weekend was that series, when the Mets needed to just sort of keep themselves afloat, but instead fell victim to their own personal Waterloo once again.

Fortunately, this was also one of those weekends where I really didn't get to see much, or any, of the three games. I'd mentioned that I was out Friday night and arrived home and fell asleep with the game on the radio, which was just as well considering how things turned out.

Saturday was more or less a repeat of Friday, except that I arrived home earlier in the game, fell asleep earlier in the game, and awoke to find that the Mets had still managed to lose. Noah Syndergaard had a not-as-good outing, where he expended too many pitches too early in the game, only pitched 4 innings, and was gone by time the game was decided. I did hear Travis d'Arnaud tie the game with a 5th inning Home Run, and then I heard him depart from the game with a rather frightening sounding elbow or shoulder or both injury, which happened when the Barves took the lead and ultimately didn't give it back. Later, I found out that the injury was not so severe, although if Ol' Cortisone Shot Ramirez has his hands on Travis, we might not see him again until mid-August.

Sunday, I was visiting my Father for Ralph Kiner's Birthday and while we were out to dinner, I saw the final inning and a half of the game, where the Mets, desperately in need of a run, created opportunities for themselves and then did a wonderful job of screwing themselves out of said opportunities. Matt Harvey pitched his ass off for 7 innings and allowed 1 run and 4 hits (or at least I assume he allowed 4 hits). Usually, when you get an outing like this from your best pitcher, you ought to be able to win the game, except when you're pitching in front of the Mets lineup, in which case your chances of winning are at best dicey. The Mets managed all of one hit off of Julio Teheran in his 7 innings of work, and so by time the starters left the game, it was the Braves with the 1-0 lead. Eric Campbell hit a double in the 8th inning—his first hit in weeks, it seems, but was stranded. In the 9th, with The Great Rivera Kimbrel no longer an option for Atlanta, and Hairy von Flugelheim Jason Grilli unavailable, the Mets were facing non-entity Jim Johnson. Curtis Granderson singled, and then Juan Lagares beat out a sacrifice bunt attempt for a hit, and the Mets were in business. Lucas Duda flew out, which was OK, because Michael Cuddyer could still get the job done. Except that for Cuddyer, getting the job done meant grounding into his 44th Double Play of the season, an unconscionable outcome of that particular at bat, and the Mets were officially sunk.

So, the bloom is pretty much off the rose for this season, and I suppose that's a kind way to put it. Were I more succinct, perhaps I would just say they're up Shit's Creek once again. 5 losses in a row, including 3 against a team that they probably should be feeding their lunch to, and now 1st place is gone, .500 is up their ass, and everything is terrible once again. The Mets have the worst road record in Baseball if you don't count the Phillies and what the hell kind of team with any sort of aspirations plays to a 10-24 record on the road? If it makes you feel any better, and it probably doesn't, the Mets now have 3 more games on the road in Milwaukee, owner of one of the 3 worst records in Baseball. I give the Mets one out of 3. Let them surprise me. Hell, let them surprise themselves.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

deGreat deTravesty

I was out for most of Friday evening, and when I returned home, the first thing I wanted to do was take a nap. So much so, that this precluded me from flicking on the TV to see what was going on between the Mets and Braves. Instead, I opted for the radio, and the dulcet tones of Howie Rose and the slightly more-grating Josh Lewin. From what I heard, things seemed to be going just fine. The Mets had but a 1-0 lead, as once again they seem to lose the ability to hit the baseball on these road trips, which isn't good, but what was good was Jacob deGrom continuing to pitch like he's one of the best in the National League. He'd already thrown 6 shutout innings when I put the game on, and he got through 7 by retiring the Braves on 9 pitches.

deGrom's counterpart, the equally young-ish Matt Wisler, matched deGrom through the early innings, only breaking to allow a Michael Cuddyer RBI single in the 6th. For a while this looked to be the run that would beat him. But, then, the bottom of the 8th happened, and the Mets were done in by their usual assortment of team issues.

First, deGrom didn't help his own cause by allowing a leadoff double to Andrelton Simmons. This is nothing new, because for whatever reason Simmons just destroys the Mets. Clearly, he's got Greg Dobbs Syndrome, because he can barely bat his weight against most teams, but when he sees the Mets, all of a sudden he's turned into Cal Ripken. This wasn't a devastating blow, because deGrom regularly gets out of these kind of jams. Eury Perez followed with a sacrifice bunt, and it sounds as though it wasn't a very good bunt, because there was ample opportunity for deGrom, who fielded the bunt, to get Simmons at 3rd...except that nobody bothered to cover 3rd. Pedro Ciriaco followed. I believe I saw Ciriaco's Major League debut at Citi Field a few years back in a game where the Mets were blowing out the Pirates. He hit a triple and singlehandedly broke up an R.A. Dickey shutout in the 9th inning, so I know he can run. I also know that he's one of those players that's more of an annoyance than an actual threat, so it didn't surprise me too much that when he grounded to Flores, and Flores took about a hair too long to look Simmons back to 3rd, he ended up beating the play to 1st.

Now in an actual jam, deGrom was removed from the game, although at that point nobody was quite sure why. Even Howie Rose questioned the move, and when he does that, you know it's probably not going to end well. Sean Gilmartin came in to face Jace Peterson, who's already provided plenty of headache over the past week, and Peterson of course ended up doubling over Juan Lagares' head in center to score both runs and give the Braves the lead.

Then, Gilmartin was gone, and I kind of nodded out. Bobby Parnell was involved and so was Jeurys Familia in finishing out that shit show of an inning, which basically sunk the Mets. Elmore Farkas Jason Grilli finished out the Mets in the 9th, the Mets lost their 3rd game in a row on the road, and instead of hearing about what a brilliant, gutsy effort the Mets got from Jacob deGrom, instead the story of the game is the preternaturally brilliant debut performance from Matt Wisler, and how he's going to lead the Barves to the promised land. And instead of picking up a win he so richly deserved, deGrom got hung with his first loss since early May and has to sit there wondering why exactly he was pulled when he was pulled, instead of being given a chance, with 97 pitches in the bank, to clean up his own mess.

Friday, June 19, 2015

That Future Age Is Here

I'm sure I wasn't the only Mets fan who was kind of put out that there wasn't even a courtesy wave on CitiVision or whatever the dopey screen is called these days from R.A. Dickey while the Blue Jays were in town. I know he wasn't scheduled to pitch—that's kind of irrelevant. Given how the Mets fans and Dickey shared such a mutual affection for each other during his time here, that was the least they could do. We got to see plenty of Jose Reyes, sure, but it's easier to get a glimpse of an everyday player.

Dickey didn't make an appearance against the Mets until the final game of this 4-game home-and-homestand against our friends to the North, and matched up against Bartolo Colon, Dickey sort of gave us a glimpse of what we'd used to root for, as he pitched into the 8th inning, allowing 1 run and 3 hits in another Blue Jays blowout victory, thus ensuring the Mets would go 0-for-Toronto.

I hesitate, however, to say that this is what the Mets have been missing by having traded Dickey away. I know that several Mets fans, and some clueless non-Baseball-following cretins that were won over by Dickey's Pop Appeal ripped the Mets for the trade, but let's consider all that's happened since that deal was made (particularly since there's nothing good to say about the game he just pitched against the Mets).

R.A. Dickey has pitched reasonably well for the Blue Jays, but he hasn't matched the success he had with the Mets. After going 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA and the 2012 Cy Young Award for the Mets, he's since gone 31-32 with a 4.13 ERA with the Blue Jays. No Cy Young award, but he did win a Gold Glove in 2013.

In 2+ seasons with the Blue Jays, Josh Thole has yet to play a full season's worth of games with the team. He has managed only 111 games and 279 At Bats, hitting a paltry .219 with 1 Home Run and 17 RBIs. I don't know if he's even in the Major Leagues and I can't say I care. But I'm quite certain he has continued to spend most of his time perfecting the art of grounding out to 2nd Base. Thole, however, has done much better for himself than Mike Nickeas, the other piece the Mets dealt. Since 2012, Nickeas played in 1 Major League game, on September 10, 2013. He caught one inning in a blowout loss and did not come to bat. After spending all of 2014 in the Minor Leagues, Nickeas then retired altogether.

The Mets, by comparison, turned Dickey and the two Catchers into Travis d'Arnaud, who's battled injuries and inconsistencies but when he's played, he's been rather good, and John Buck, who did a fine job for half a season before getting flipped to Pittsburgh. For Buck's services, the Mets now have Dilson Herrera and Vic Black, even if Black has yet to get his act together and pitch like he means it. Additionally, the Mets now boast Noah Syndergaard, who came with the hype of a front-line starter and although to this point he's pitched like the 22-year old Rookie he is, he's also shown signs that the billing wasn't just hype.

It's safe to say that the Mets probably would never have gotten this kind of a return on Dickey at any point other than the offseason of 2012-13. The trade was so necessary to make it's not even funny anymore. And, sure, he came back and beat the Mets last night, and yes, we miss having someone whose literary and philosophical abilities matched the heart in which his feats were accomplished. But I said it in 2012 and it remains true: You have to give up something to get something, and at that point, Dickey was the most marketable piece the Mets had.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Nelson

The final vestiges of a mostly moribund Mets loss north of the border in Toronto was sort of shoved aside by the news that broke just as the game was coming to a close of the passing of Nelson Doubleday.

Nelson Doubleday, of course, was never the face of anything during his 22-year tenure as co-owner of the Mets. It could be said that he probably didn't want to own the team at all. But he was cajoled, partially by his friend John Pickett, who owned the Islanders, and also by an opportunistic ninny named Fred Wilpon, to be the muscle in a group of investors that bought the Mets in 1980.

In that period of time, to call the Mets a laughingstock would have been kind.

Nelson was never the rah-rah type and he never wanted to be. All he did was put the right personnel in place to set the team up to succeed. By bringing in someone with the savvy of Frank Cashen to rebuild the team from the ashes and giving him the proper financial backing, the Mets got it back together, built up their farm system, produced players like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling and Len Dykstra, shrewdly traded parts away to acquire flashy, established stars like Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, and by 1986 they were winners once again.

Of the two heads at the top, it was always Nelson who was more focused on ensuring that there was a winning team on the field, much more than Wilpon, the schmuck, who seemed more concerned with image. This created plenty of friction between the two. When the Mets were going through a down period in 1998, Fred Wilpon's focus was on building his dream stadium, an Ebbets Field replica, in the Shea Stadium parking lot. Nelson was interested in acquiring an All Star Catcher named Mike Piazza who had suddenly become available. Nelson got his way and two seasons later, the Mets won a pennant.

Ultimately, Nelson would be bought out by Wilpon in 2002, in a rather contentious divorce that in retrospect might be where things started to go haywire for the Mets. Again, Nelson wanted to keep a winning team on the field regardless of cost. Wilpon seemed to be more interested in shoving his rubber-faced weasel of a son in our faces to talk about all the great pet projects they had going, like the new stadium and the Minor League team in Brooklyn. Shea Stadium closed down in 2008, the Wilpons got duped by Bernie Madoff and the Mets still haven't recovered. And even when that does happen, you can't help but think that the team's success is and will be in spite of the Wilpons, not because of them. When Nelson was around, you always had the feeling that the team was succeeding for him just as much as they did for the rest of us.

It makes you think...What if Nelson had stayed? Surely, the sting of the Madoff case would have been far less damaging. Surely, the Mets wouldn't have gone through 6 seasons of abject hell in an era bad enough to rival the late 1970s. Would Citi Field have been so reviled and anti-Mets history when it opened? Would it have been built at all?

We should all be thankful that we had Nelson in charge of our team when we did. He was at the top when the Mets were the kings in this town and he did everything he could to keep it that way.

Tip your caps for Nelson. He took good care of us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Familiar Friendly Sights

Tuesday night at Citi Field brought about a pair of comfortably familiar performances that punctuated a 3-2 Mets victory. First of all, Matt Harvey, who's looked very un-Harvey-like over his past few outings, got back to basics, and back to pitching like a badass. His 7 innings of shutout ball were punctuated by 4 hits against a tough Toronto lineup, 6 strikeouts, no walks and 3 exuberant fist pumps and expletive-laced motivational screeches.

But you knew that at some point, Harvey was going to get back to this kind of a game, because he was too good and too motivated not to.

Perhaps of more singular importance was the way the game was finished, with Bobby Parnell coming out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 8th inning and finishing off the game, picking up his first Save in close to two years while keeping the lead intact.

Up to that point, Harvey had clearly made himself the story with his 7-inning effort, which included him helping his own cause by belting an RBI double in the 2nd inning off of Blue Jays youngster Scott Copeland, who clearly looked over his head. The Mets scored 3 runs off Copeland early and he was gone by the 5th. Harvey, of course, was on cruise control, scattering his hits and finishing off with a flourish.

But, the real question was if the Mets could survive the final two innings with Familia unavailable, Robles unavailable and the untested, untried Akeel Morris lurking in the wings. Carlos Torres was summoned to try to get through the 8th inning after pitching an inning on Monday and Torres had one of those outings he's periodically prone to where he's just terrible. The Jays were stinging the ball against him, and only by dumb luck did he pick up one out because Kevin Pillar didn't pick up that the runner ahead of him, Ryan Goins, had been stopped at 3rd base on a Jose Reyes hit. Pillar instead kept steaming forward until he arrived at 3rd and was clearly horrified to see Goins standing on the base, and by that point all Pillar could do was stick a fork in his shoes and take a bite out of them.

But Torres couldn't fix his own mess and instead walked the next batter to load the bases and earn himself a trip to the showers. Then, it was Parnell, and admittedly I was feeling kind of skeptical because Parnell hadn't looked at all like Parnell, even going back to before his surgery last Spring. I surmised over the weekend that he was basically going to have to try and reinvent himself if he wanted to survive. His secondary pitches were deathly when coupled with him throwing 100mph, but when he was only throwing 92, it didn't seem quite as severe. So, he had to pick his spots. Yes, he allowed two of the runners he inherited to score, but when he needed it, he got a strikeout of Colabello to finish the 8th, and given a clean slate to start the 9th inning, Parnell just finished the job himself, and that was the sort of Parnell performance I was hoping to see. I can't call it the Parnell of old, because he wasn't blowing hitters away, but he was keeping them guessing, which is what he's got to be able to do. The age old adage of being a pitcher instead of being a thrower, and if Parnell can be a pitcher, he'll be OK. I think.

So, the Mets have swept the Citi Field portion of this Lake Ontario Series or whatever you want to call it. If you again want to get technical about it, the Mets now have a 11-0 record when playing the Blue Jays at home. That record is less successful when they play at Rogers Centre, but if nothing else, they can do no worse than split with the Jays, which is fine considering they came in to New York having won 11 straight.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lucky 11th

Some Mets games I've been to have more twists and turns than I'm able to adequately describe. Monday Night's game at Citi Field most definitely can be classified as one of those games. On the heels of seeing the Mets get No-hit last week, this game got off to an eerily similar start. Things turned in the Mets favor in the middle innings when they finally got a hit and some runs, only to slip away at the hands of an overused Closer. Things appeared lost in the 11th inning, but the Mets managed to take advantage of some bizarrely specific circumstances to come back from the dead and win the damn thing, 4-3, stopping the Blue Jays' 11 game winning streak and keeping their perfect Home record against Toronto intact.

My 10th game of the season came a mere 6 days after the ignominy of last week, which I'd prefer to never mention again except that sometimes I have to. The Mets were playing the Blue Jays, a team I'd hadn't seen the Mets play since 2001—because they hadn't played the Mets in New York since 2001. The Blue Jays had also never won a game against the Mets in New York. But, 14 years later, who would pay attention to that? This meant the return of several things to New York, among them Jose Reyes, who received a warm welcome, in stark contrast to when he appeared with the Mickey Mouse Marlins 3 years ago, R.A. Dickey, who was lost in a sea of blue sweatshirts in the Toronto dugout, and the Canadian National Anthem, which I feel squashes the Star Spangled Banner like a grape, and has never been performed at Citi Field—because this was the first time a Canadian team had ever played at Citi Field. As such, they had to get a professional to sing O Canada, because nobody here probably knows it; certainly the school group that sang the Star Spangled Banner didn't.

Then, there was a game to be played, and after striking out Reyes and getting Josh Donaldson to fly out, Noah Syndergaard faced Jose Bautista, and Bautista greeted Syndergaard by clobbering a pitch so far up the 2nd deck in Left Field that Michael Cuddyer didn't even give it a courtesy run. This seemed to unnerve Syndergaard, who then gave walked Edwin Encarnacion and allowed a bloop hit to Chris Colabello (and his .345 batting average) before finally getting Dioner Navarro to end the inning, after having thrown about 15 pitches more than he needed to. However, Syndergaard settled down, and more importantly settled in, and looked every bit like the dominant pitcher we were looking for. Against a lineup that's been bombarding pitchers for double-digit runs over the past few weeks, this was a particularly impressive effort. Though he only managed to make it through 6 innings, Syndergaard allowed only the 1 run, 2 hits and 1 walk in the 1st inning and supplemented that with 11 strikeouts.

Syndergaard's counterpart, Mark Buehrle, had no such pitch count issues, as he set down the Mets in order in the 1st, and then did so again in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, as I began to get more and more apoplectic. It wasn't lost on me that I'd just seen this happen, and that personal hitless inning streak was stretching much longer than I was comfortable with. After 12 innings, I'd had enough of that. After 13 innings, I was really starting to get frustrated. In the 5th, Lucas Duda hit a shot that sort of handcuffed Encarnacion (who clearly plays 1st Base like a DH) and went down the line. I had to wait a few seconds just to make sure it was actually scored a hit. Fortunately it was, so I could finally breathe easier.

Still, for the great work Syndergaard had done keeping the Blue Jays in check, the Mets hadn't cracked the scoreboard. But in the 6th, they broke through for a pair of runs, started when Kevin Plawecki used the often-reviled head-first slide into 1st base to beat an errant throw from Reyes, aided when Syndergaard stayed in the game to lay down a bunt, and finished off by back-to-back RBI Doubles from Juan Lagares and Ruben Tejada.

The Mets turned this lead over to the bullpen. First, Carlos Torres came in and got the lower half of the Toronto lineup in order. This was just fine. Jack Leathersich came in the game in the 8th and got one out, but then walked Justin Smoak, the failed Rangers/Mariners prospect who's mysteriously resurfaced with Toronto. Jose Reyes followed by grounding hard to 3rd, a ball that might have been hit hard enough to double up Reyes, but Tejada double clutched the ball and only got one of the two outs. In Tejada's defense, that was Jose Reyes running to 1st, so it's just as well he assured himself of one out. This, then, brought the meaty part of the Toronto lineup up, beginning with Josh Donaldson. There was no way in hell Leathersich was going to be left in. The only question was who would come in the game. After doing some heavy lifting on Sunday, the Mets bullpen was somewhat limited, to the point where Akeel Morris, a guy you've never heard of unless you watch Spring Training games or collect Bowman Baseball Cards, was summoned from A-ball to fill some holes.

Oddly, Jeurys Familia was summoned for a 4-out Save, one day after he converted a 4-out Save. This wasn't odd in the sense that Terry Collins wanted his best pitcher to go after Toronto's best hitters. But it was sort of irritating because Collins has been working Familia pretty hard all season, and 4-out Saves on Back-to-back days is a tall order, plus the fact that there was no other arm he could trust in that situation isn't really good. George agreed with the move, at least until I mentioned that Familia had picked up a 4-out Save the day before. Then, he thought the move completely asinine. Regardless, Familia came in, struck out Donaldson and got 25% of the way to a victory.

Unfortunately, that's as far as he got. Steve Delabar stopped the Mets in the 8th, so Familia returned still nursing a 1-run lead, which lasted the duration of one pitch in the top of the 9th. That pitch was sent screaming down the Left Field line by Jose Bautista, towards the corner. Were the Left Field foul pole 340' away from Home Plate, the ball might have hooked foul. Unfortunately, the line is only 335' and thus the ball landed a few feet fair for Bautista's second home run of the night, lead gone, 4-out save blown, good vibes gone. Things could potentially have gotten much worse, as Encarnacion followed with a jam shot double. Familia, who was clearly working on fumes at this point, got Colabello to pop out to Duda, but then walked Dioner Navarro. He wasn't putting batters away like he normally does, and Kevin Pillar battled him gamely, but fortunately bounced into a Fielder's Choice, and then Danny Valencia struck out and the Mets emerged from the inning tied.

Roberto Osuna set the Mets down in order in the last of the 9th, and so, after 8 innings of holding the hottest team in Baseball in check, the Mets now found themselves heading to extra innings. Fortunately, the game had been relatively quick to this point, not quite past the three hour mark. This was primarily because Mark Buehrle had spent the first 7 innings working at his usual metronomic pace, averaging :08 between pitches and keeping things moving along. Plus, there wasn't a lot of cocking around with pitching changes, and even a lengthy 3rd inning delay when Home Plate umpire Marty Foster was injured after getting clocked with a foul ball didn't slow things down much.

Hansel Robles, who really hadn't had a chance to calm down after his 9th inning misadventure on Saturday, entered the game and worked a clean inning, even getting through Russell Martin, who I still insist is a low-rent Paul LoDuca. Aaron Loup, a stringy lefthander, came in for Toronto in the last of the 10th, and in spite of facing a pair of righthanded hitters also allowed the Mets nothing.

By the 11th, George was beginning to wind down. I felt I still had a couple of innings left in me, but George, who has to work earlier than I do, said that this would be his last inning. The discussion then turned to the longest games I'd attended, in terms of innings. We'd attended a couple of 13-inning affairs over the years, but 14 innings remains my personal record, something I've been subjected to 5 times. I noted that by time the game gets that long, I start to root for someone to score period, not necessarily the Mets. This, of course, led to the inevitable mention of the fabled Bobby Valentine Moustache game, which took place against the Blue Jays and featured a walk-off hit by none other than Rey Ordonez.

The hope was that this particular game wouldn't follow suit, and when Robles walked Ezequiel Carrera and then gave up a hit & run single to Colabello, the Jays were in business. Robles then got ahead of Navarro 0-2, but Navarro hacked at the 2-strike pitch and hit a fly ball out to Granderson in right, and any fly ball to Granderson in right is likely deep enough to plate a run, and that's exactly what happened as the Jays grabbed a lead, and suddenly found themselves 3 outs from stealing a win and extending their winning streak to 12.

This put me and every other Mets fan in a rather foul mood as Brett Cecil, who somehow is the Jays closer, came in for the last of the 11th. I've always operated under the assumption that Brett Cecil was a former Yankees "prospect," and as such wasn't any good, but it seems that was never the case. He's always been a Blue Jay. So, he retired Lagares to start the inning, but then walked Tejada.

This, then, is when the circumstance and brilliance of Baseball took over.

Michael Cuddyer, who was certainly capable of popping one into the seats, came to bat. He didn't pop one anywhere, instead he hit a ground ball to 2nd base, horrifyingly destined to be a game-ending Double Play. Ryan Goins fielded the ball, and all he had to do was just slap a tag on Tejada, toss to Colabello and finish off the Mets. Tejada, however, broke to a stop rather than running into a tag. He then wisely backpedaled towards 1st, forcing Goins to chase him down in order to make the tag. Goins might have been wiser to try to get the force at 2nd, except that he'd committed to the play and instead chased, and eventually tagged Tejada, but by that point Cuddyer was well safe at 1st, and Tejada had managed to keep the Mets alive for one more batter. This was Lucas Duda, certainly one capable of blasting a pitch into the seats, even against a Lefty. The Jays went into their overshift, as teams usually do against Duda, pulling the infielders over to the right side, and shifting their outfielders over as well, and deep, to the point where Carrera was playing somewhere in front of the Apple, Pillar was in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Bautista was playing somewhere in Forest Hills. Essentially, they were daring Duda to try and hit one the other way. Duda worked the count full, which meant Cuddyer would at least have a running start as Cecil delivered the pitch. Duda swung and did exactly what was necessary at that particular moment: he lofted a pop fly into shallow left field. With Carrera so deep and the infielders swung to the right, it was easy to see off the bat that nobody was going to catch the ball, and Cuddyer was steaming around the bases. Carrera picked up the ball and perhaps a good throw had a chance to get Cuddyer, but Donaldson for some reason cut the throw off and then fumbled the ball, allowing Cuddyer to slide home with the tying run uncontested. The Mets had staved off defeat, and now had an opportunity to win. Cecil was removed in favor of Liam Hendriks, who came in to face Wilmer Flores. Hendriks only needed one pitch, which Flores grounded straight up the middle for a hit. Pillar made a desperate throw towards home but it was nowhere near close enough to get Duda and the Mets escaped with the 4-3 win.

So, it took longer than expected, but the Mets stopped the hottest team in Baseball and kept their home record against the Toronto Blue Jays undefeated in one of the more rousing games the Mets have played at Citi Field in general, never mind rousing for this season. Duda and Flores will get the bulk of the credit, and they should, because Duda's hit was perfectly placed and Flores earned himself getting bum rushed by the entire team and getting the Juan Lagares Sunflower Seed shower, but this whole inning was made possible because of Ruben Tejada not running into the tag on Cuddyer's ground ball. His keeping the game alive made everything after that possible, but of course, that particular play is basically lost in the box score. The sort of little things that make a game like this memorable. Now, hopefully SNY will show replays of this game in their Mets Classics rotation instead of continually showing that game against the Cubs from 2007.