Friday, July 1, 2016

Knocked Down A Peg

Thursday night's Mets/Cubs game was, of course, the first time I'd watched the Mets in several days, and it figured that it ended up being one of those "clenched teeth" affairs, where the journey of the game seems to be more of a struggle than Baseball in general ought to be worth. But after spotting the Cubs a 3-0 lead, something that seems to spell instant disaster for the Mets, they managed to battle back, take the lead and survive a hair-raising finish to take the series opener from the Cubs, 4-3.

This entire season has essentially been a Cubs Pee-pants Party. I've never seen the national media bury their heads so far up an entire team's ass like this, and I live in the same city as a celebrated American League franchise. I have, in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, talked about how it feels like the Cubs have not only already won the 2016 World Series, but they also won it in 2015, even though the actual records will indicate something different. Regardless, the Cubs have been anointed, and for the most part they've lived up to their expectations, laying waste to most everyone that's gotten in their way and not showing any signs of slowing down. Unlike the Mets, when they lose a player, it seems like there's another young stud that slides in and starts bopping the ball all over the place.

And, you know, then we have Cubs fans, who were a pretty insufferable bunch to begin with. I wasn't at Thursday's game, and I haven't made a final decision on tonight, but I have a feeling that if I decide to show up, I'll have plenty of unwelcome company in my way.

So when Baseball Jesus took Steven Matz deep in the 1st inning to put the Cubs up 2-0 two batters into the game, I figured this was just the beginning of the end for the Mets. But they surprised me. Matz settled down and held the line for as long as he possibly could, in spite of an elevated pitch count and a constant spate of runners on base. One weakness the Cubs seem to have is a propensity to strike out, and they certainly did it in spades against the Mets pitching; Matz himself netted 6 in 5.1 innings of work.

Meanwhile, the Mets offense sputtered, as has been the case for weeks now. John Lackey was ripe for the taking on several occasions, but it seemed like every time, a Mets batter was hitting a line drive that Baseball Jesus stabbed, or went into a shift, or was run down in the gap by Albert Almora Jr, who it seems likes to do this obnoxious little hop when he catches a ball like he's preparing to crash into a wall that's not there. In case you needed further fodder to dislike the Cubs.

The Mets eventually broke through in the 6th, when, down 3-0, Yoenis Cespedes did what he usually does and hit a skyscraper of a Home Run, this one landing in the Promenade level. Cespedes is, as far as I'm aware, the only person on the planet to have hit a ball up there. He accomplished this several times in the 2013 Home Run Derby, but this was his first in an actual game, which I believe qualifies him as the Tommie Agee of Citi Field.

This appeared likely to be the Mets sole highlight of the evening, but Lackey eventually broke in the 7th and the Mets finally caught some breaks. With 2 men on and 1 out, Brandon Nimmo, who we haven't had much to say about here simply because we haven't yet seen him in person, came to bat against Joel Peralta. Neil Walker was seen feeding Nimmo tips on Peralta, but regardless, the kid in his 5th Major League game still has to figure it out. And damned if Nimmo didn't get himself down 2-strikes and start wasting pitches, and wasting pitches, and wasting more pitches before finally singling to drive home a run and move up to 2nd on a bad relay throw to 3rd base. One batter later, Nimmo scored the lead run when Javier Baez decided to Daniel Murphy on Neil Walker's chopper to 2nd. The play, while well-intentioned, was poorly-executed. Rather than take the sure out or set himself before throwing, Baez tried to do everything in one motion and when Baseball Jesus didn't catch his lousy throw to 3rd, not only did Alejandro De Aza score the tying run, but Nimmo scored the lead run.

Catch your breath, right? The Mets had a lead! And, you know, you look to these young guys to try to bring some kind of a spark and in this key spot. When it was needed most, Nimmo delivered the jolt.

So, then, the Mets had to nurse a 1-run lead home against these turkeys, and when Addison Reed lost the battle of the Addisons when Russell drew a walk, he departed the game in the 8th inning in favor of Jerry Blevins, in to face the Struggling Jason Heyward and his .234 average and $184 million contract. Heyward grounded out.

In the 9th, Jeurys Familia came in and was all over the map. He gave up a walk to Miguel Montero after being up 2 strikes, and a double to Ben Zobrist, who is just Met Kryptonite and it seemed like the roof was ready to cave in. But, again, these Cubs love to hack away and sometimes this can bite you in the ass at the worst moment. When a simple fly ball, or even a ground ball, might have brought the tying run home and put the lead run on 3rd with 1 out, Baseball Jesus instead swung for the 6-run Home Run and struck out. An intentional walk later, Willson Contreras, who's hitting cleanup in spite of having 2 weeks' experience in the Majors, also struck out. Baez followed by not striking out, but his popup was just as effective as James Loney caught it and Familia had somehow Houdini'd himself out of this mess.

I keep saying these are "building block" wins but the Mets never seem to build on these things. Regardless, kicking the Cubs in the teeth like this is pretty gratifying, and it might be enough to get me out to Flushing this evening in the hopes that the Mets can will themselves to a similar result. If there's any team that deserves to get dialed back a little bit, it's definitely the Cubs.

Or perhaps it will just rain all night. That seems to be a possibility as well.

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