Friday, July 8, 2016

In The Soup

I'd been feeling as though I was missing out on all the fun over the past week since I didn't go to any of the games in the Cubs series or the Marlins series. But I did go to Citi Field last night for the opener of a 4-game series against Washington, and the Mets were kind enough to cram about a week's worth of excitement into one sweaty, intense, 3 hour and 39 minute affair.

It was disgusting out at Citi Field. I've been to games on excessively hot, humid nights and they're often tough to sit through, which I'm sure is of no surprise. Usually, it's accompanied by a rather tepid matchup, or a tepid game, or a sparse crowd that's been mostly kept away because really, who wants to sit out in that kind of weather? Not that I've ever actually done this, but if I were to take a bath in a pot of steaming hot pea soup, it felt something like that. There was some threat of rain and in fact when I got off the 7 train, it was raining at Citi Field, but not especially hard and not at any kind of degree that would have caused a rain delay. So at least there was that. There were plenty of people, too, since the Mets and Nationals is now a marquee matchup and nobody seemed to want to miss this one. So, already, it was a different kind of hot night.

The game ended up getting pretty heated too, as you might have noticed. For as much as it often seemed like the Nationals were going to impose their will on the Mets, the Mets kept firing back, finding answers and eventually taking control themselves as they came back from three separate deficits to take the series opener in a 9-7 affair that immediately ranks as one of the better games I've been to in quite some time.

This one had a little bit of everything. It started innocuously enough, with Bartolo Colon, who's always entertaining by himself, surrendering a leadoff triple to Ben Revere, which wasn't quite the start anyone wanted to see. Two batters later, Revere scored on a Daniel Murphy hit. The Mets tied the game in the 3rd when James Loney singled with 2 outs against Lucas Giolito to score Yoenis Cespedes.

That ended the normal part of the proceedings. Things went haywire from there.

The middle innings of the game were where things got kind of frustrating. In the top of the 4th, Bryce Harper led off by hitting a rocket of a Home Run to Center Field, and being the jackass he is, Harper shushed the crowd as he crossed home plate. That wasn't so surprising. I started getting annoyed when Clint Robinson and Anthony Rendon both hit what were essentially pop flies that, in that disgusting humid air, just kept carrying out to Left Field until they nestled themselves just barely over the fence for a pair of what appeared to be backbreaking Home Runs. This left the Mets down 4-1, the sparse assortment of Washington Fans (they exist?) blowing their kazoos and me in a real bad mood.

But the Mets seemed bound and determined to not let the Nationals kick them around again. They came back in the last of the 4th and attacked Giolito, as first Travis d'Arnaud hit a Home Run, and then two batters later, Jose Reyes delighted everyone by doing the same, launching one into the Coca Cola Porch Corner to make it a 1-run game. By this point Giolito, who I know is a really good prospect and in time will justify his hype, was really struggling. The Mets had already done a good job of making him work, pushing his pitch count to 60 after 3 innings. Curtis Granderson followed Reyes' Home Run with a double, moved to 3rd when Giolito balked, and then scored when Cespedes smoked a double of his own down into the corner, and just like that, we were tied once again, and Giolito's night was through.

But Washington came right back in the 5th, because they're annoying like that. After all the work the Mets had to do to tie the game twice, Washington kept getting people on base against Colon. Oliver Perez, who relieved Giolito, singled to lead off the inning, which was totally galling because Oliver Perez doing anything is galling. Perez moved up on a Revere single and a Jayson Werth ground out, and when Daniel Murphy hit into a Double Play—proving that he can, in fact, make an out against the Mets—he was stranded there. Except he wasn't, because after a Dusty Baker challenge, Murphy was ruled safe (and he was safe) at 1st and Perez scored. Colon, by this point, had already unraveled into fat and sweaty Colon and that overturned call basically sealed his fate for the evening. Harper singled, Wilson Ramos singled to score Murphy, who was basically skipping around the field like the spastic child he is, and that was it for Colon. Jerry Blevins followed and of course walked the one guy he was in there to get, but Hansel Robles managed to get Rendon to fly out, which was good because I was having this horrible feeling that the way the ball was flying, he was about to park one and incinerate the entire game.

Instead, the Mets did the parking, which was nice. In the last of the 5th, the Mets finally made Oliver Perez look like the schmuck he is. Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a single and Brandon Nimmo followed with one of his own. d'Arnaud struck out, but that brought up Wilmer Flores. Flores hadn't started the game, but through the machinations of things ended up at 1st Base on a double switch, which was good, because Flores had been hitting everything in sight recently. I again had the feeling like something big was going to happen, and this time it did, because Flores went after the first pitch and clanged it off the 2nd deck in Left Field. And I mean this ball was smoked. I looked at Werth and he was doing one of those courtesy runs, where everyone knows the ball is gone but he's making a half-hearted attempt to go after it. So after all that, the Mets now led 7-6, fans were bouncing off the walls like it was the Playoffs, Flores got himself a curtain call, and Oliver Perez was once again Oliver Perez.

Now with the lead, the Mets now had to hang on, which was easier said than done given the way the game was unfolding. Robles held Washington down in the 6th, in spite of giving up a double to Perez, because what the fuck. Perez hit but didn't pitch in the 6th, instead Matt Belisle came in and gave up a Home Run to Cabrera, the Mets 4th of the night (which may or may not be a personal record; I haven't had a chance to go through the scorecards of the now 391 games I've attended to check) to put the Mets up 8-6. Antonio Bastardo came in for the 7th and made his own bed, first by giving up a Home Run to Murphy because, again, what the fuck, and then later fielding an easy comebacker from Robinson and firing the ball not especially close to 1st Base. Addison Reed then bailed out Bastardo by striking out Rendon and preventing Washington from making things even more ridiculous.

In the last of the 7th, the Mets got their final run thanks to a 2-out rally against Sammy Solis that saw Reyes walk, attempt to steal 2nd, decide against it and then get picked off trying to go back to 1st. It might have been helpful if he'd stayed put, since Granderson singled, Cespedes walked and Neil Walker got the RBI hit that would have plated 2 but instead only scored one.

Reed worked a clean 8th—only the second time in the game either team went down in order—and turned it over to Jeurys Familia in the 9th. In keeping with the general vibe of the game, Familia was wild, just all over the place, and walked Werth to start the inning. He then went 2-0 on Murphy and everyone was sitting on their hands because this wasn't going well. Those visions were coming back, of Murphy hitting one into the bullpen and peeing his pants in joy. d'Arnaud went to the mound after that second ball and I can only assume said to Familia "I don't give a shit what you throw, just get it over the plate and make sure he hits it on the ground." Fortunately, this worked, and Murphy did what we're used to him doing: slapping a ground ball to the Shortstop. Cabrera got the out at 2nd, but Murphy was clearly safe at 1st, until he wasn't, because the Umpires invoked the Chase Utley rule on Utley's partner-in-douchebagginess Werth. Instead, both were out, and Werth was left grousing and groaning, and ultimately started kicking his helmet around the field like the petulant child he is while Baker demanded a futile replay. Harper followed and did no further shushing as he struck out to end the game.

Whew. That was about as exhausting to recap as it was to watch. Usually, when a game runs as late as this one did, ending close to 10:50, I'm eager to just get the hell out of the stadium and get home as quickly as possible. Not on this night. This was the kind of game that really gets you fired up, and for as long as it ran, it seemed like very few people left early. Never mind the soupy conditions, or the fact that at times it appeared like the Mets were going to end up in the soup themselves. This is one of those games where the Mets just refused to let their opponent keep the control. The Mets haven't had a string of games like this in a couple of months. But I think right now, they have That Look again.

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