Thursday, June 22, 2017

That Internal Fight

Something happened in the 4th inning of last night's game that kind of piqued my interest. And I don't mean Yasiel Puig taking too long to admire his Home Run and pissing off the entire Mets team, because those things tend to get overblown and players are often good at policing themselves.

It was, however, the initial source of the Mets ire that caught my attention. I know that if you make the rounds, most of the chatter involves something to the effect of "fweh fweh stupid Mets and cwybaby fwores," and "maybe don't throw a fastball down broadway stupit mutz." And in reality, I don't care much what Flores said or who he happened to be saying it to, but more that he did it. It's sort of his way of saying that he's getting a little sick of this shit. I think we're all getting a little sick of this shit, and, you know, you kind of want your players to show that sometimes. Flores has a history of not really being the "silent, methodical" type. You saw that two years ago when he was—and then wasn't—traded. And here the Mets are, getting their heads handed to them for the third day in a row, their overmatched Pitcher Tyler Pill just served another one up to an arrogant, underperforming headcase and he hot dogged it. I mean, didn't Wilmer Flores basically just do what every Mets fan wanted to do at that point?

Beyond that, you're starting to get a little bit of leadership out of Flores, which is important because the Mets seem to be kind of leaderless right now. David Wright probably won't be back unless some divine intervention occurs, and other guys are old, not playing well, injured, or have one foot out the door and in some cases all of the above. So it's incumbent on these younger guys to kind of make their case here. Flores to this point has had a very good season, which doesn't especially surprise me. People will listen to young guys if they're backing it up. I think you're seeing the beginning of a future leader.

This is sort of juxtaposed against an asinine article I read earlier on, the gist of which can be summed up as "dur dur dur stupid mets didn't sign turner and murphy and lookit them now." And, I mean, yeah. I get it. The past six games have just been a series of the Mets getting their heads bashed in by Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy, former Mets who were let go ostensibly because they hadn't proven themselves worth keeping around. I mean, Justin Turner was around for three seasons, and basically proved himself to be an inconsistent role player with a goofy personality who liked to throw pies in people's faces. At no point did he pose as a .330 hitter, because if he had, the Mets probably wouldn't have let him go. Murphy, of course, just makes me angry. Like, now, he makes me legitimately angry. I mean, think about it. We saw Daniel Murphy here for 8 years. Not a few cups of coffee. 8 years. And 8 years as a starting player. And if at ANY point in those 8 years, he'd shown that he was at all the kind of player he's turned into since he went to Washington, then the Mets would have given him a contract, and none of this would be happening, and everything would be fine. But nooooooo. We got 8 years of the anthropomorphic version of "the Yips," got tantalized by a well-timed two-week hot streak, and then an era that ended with two of the most egregious, Murphy-typifying errors in backbreaking spots in the World Series. And in case you forgot, nobody wanted him that offseason, he was probably Washington's 4th choice, and now he's Joe Fucking Morgan and the Mets are the jackasses.

Grumble. This is why it's important for guys like Wilmer Flores to get a little pissed off. It's just a reminder that these guys actually do care about this debacle of a season.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Same Thing

I'd essentially turned off Monday night's game before I ever started watching it, and for all intents and purposes I did the same thing on Tuesday. Or at least I should have.

I was watching at the beginning of the proceedings on Tuesday. I figured Robert Gsellman had to fare better than Wheeler did the night before but that was blind hope since the Dodgers basically ate him for breakfast. Logan Forsythe led off with a single, Corey Seager followed with a Home Run over the Center Field fence, I slapped my head in disbelief, Justin Turner reached when T.J. Rivera threw a ball not especially close to 1st base on a routine ground ball, Cody Bellinger hit another Home Run, I slapped my head again and then went to do something else.

By time I checked back in, the Dodgers were busy flossing their teeth with Gsellman, Seager hit two more Home Runs and everything else that could possibly have gone wrong, went wrong.

I know that the Mets aren't as bad as the Dodgers are making them look right now, but then again I'm not convinced of this. The Mets season right now is, ostensibly, finished and I would guess we'll be hearing rumblings and grumblings of trades in the coming weeks, but these last several games against really good teams have been mostly noncompetitive efforts. This from a team I believed was going to do something great with themselves. I've been shown. The more fool you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuning Out Early

These West Coast games have a habit of playing havoc with my schedule on all fronts. I'll stay up to watch a 10pm game, but watching through to the end is largely dependent on whether or not the game is worth staying up for.

I was late tuning in last night and as such, when I did click on, the Mets were already behind 7-0, as Zack Wheeler was lit on fire by MLB's newest flavor of the week, Clay Bellinger, and opposing Clayton Kershaw I figured there was not much worth sticking around for. So I shut it off.

What did I miss? Well, ultimately, I missed the Mets wasting everyone's time by putting forth a thinly-veiled comeback, hitting 4 Home Runs off of Kershaw to cut a seemingly insurmountable deficit to 8-6 by the 7th inning, and then having their momentum cut off by Fernando Salas, who allowed the Dodgers to tack on two more runs in the last of the 7th to close out a 10-6 loss in this series opener.

I mean, sure, give the Mets credit for fighting back, particularly to Jose Reyes, who arose from his coffin to hit two Home Runs, Gavin Cecchini, who hit his first career Home Run, and to Jay Bruce, who continues to play exceptionally well in a mostly hopeless situation, but, I mean, who at that point was still watching? If a Home Run is hit and nobody is around to watch it, did it ever really happen?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pray For Rain

I'd mentioned yesterday that the Mets games had become totally formulaic. At least for this week this was not the case when Jacob deGrom pitched. On the heels of a masterful Complete Game against the Cubs, deGrom again pitched sterling baseball for 8 innings against the Nationals, allowing the Mets to win, 5-1 and salvage at least one game out of this debacle of a series.

deGrom did not complete the game this time out, although he certainly seemed like he could have, but we'll forgive him as he made up for this shortfall by hitting his first Major League Home Run in the 3rd inning. This, then, is usually a winning proposition for the Mets, as Gary Cohen mentioned at some point during the game that the Mets hadn't lost when their pitcher has hit a Home Run in 21 years. I gave it some thought and came up with a number of times I'd seen a Mets pitcher hit a Home Run, and I could name among them Armando Reynoso, Mark Clark, Johan Santana and Jeremy Hefner, and the Mets did not lose any of those games. So deGrom going deep definitely bode well for the remainder of the afternoon.

Fortunately, deGrom's pitching was just as good as his bat on this day as he allowed an unearned run in the 1st inning and basically cruised the rest of the way, something most Mets pitchers have not been able to do. But his Home Run merely tied the game and he did need some support from the rest of the team in order to get the win, and he got that, as Michael Conforto had what I'd hope are a couple of slump-snapping RBI hits and T.J. Rivera had 4 hits of his own.

In the grand scheme of things, I know this really doesn't make up for the three games that the Mets vomited up prior to this, but at least the Mets can go on the road with a good taste in their mouth. This may not help since the Mets are playing The Hot Dodgers. Maybe we should just pray for four days of rain and just play the games when deGrom is scheduled to pitch. Since, you know, 4 days of rain in Southern California is a totally realistic wish.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

More Of The Same

I feel like Saturday's game was more or less a carbon copy of Friday's game. The Nationals attacked the Mets early, hit a bunch of Home Runs and basically kept putting the game just enough out of the Mets' reach for them to mount anything more than a paltry attempt at a comeback.

Once again, the Mets were behind 4-0 before they actually woke up and did something against Stephen Strasburg, and by then there wasn't much worth doing. While they did manage to get Strasburg out of the game in the 6th inning, their offense is so cocked up that they managed to make the Nationals horrendous bullpen look reasonably decent, or as decent as a team can look wearing these ridiculous Father's day jerseys that look like something out of the 1996 Marlins, which is an insult to my palate in addition to being a shameless marketing ploy.

This seems to be the general formula for every Mets game, or at least every game that they lose. The starting pitcher, in this case Seth Lugo, gives up a leadoff Home Run, the opponent tacks on a few more, the Mets fight back late but ultimately the bullpen just gives up more runs and they can't make any more headway. The names change on a day-to-day basis but it seems as though the result remains the same. And so it goes. This season just gets more and more depressing by the day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bad Feeling Friday

Friday Night at Citi Field was one of those nights that had all the makings...of abject disaster.

I was talking to a friend on Thursday night about how I'd be going to the game on Friday, and he was talking about the Mets going up against Max Scherzer and how it didn't look good, and I mused about how the Mets had, in fact, beaten Scherzer previously and actually roughed him up. He pointed out to me that Scherzer also threw a No Hitter against the Mets. Given the state of these two teams heading clearly in opposite directions, it seemed as though the latter was more likely. Still, I forged on, it was Friday, I'd already exchanged into the game, and, well, how bad could it be?

The upshot, of course, is that Scherzer did not no-hit the Mets again. Unfortunately, the Mets managed little of consequence against him through 8 innings. Steven Matz, making his home debut did his admirable best, but was victimized by three Home Runs, putting the Mets into a Scherzer-proof hole and the best they could muster was getting Scherzer out of the game after 8.

It was a pleasant night, if nothing else, and I was early enough to the game that I actually milled around downstairs and stopped at Fuku, which I enjoy but don't get to very often since it's not at all in my particular Citi Field path of choice. I suppose that was the highlight of the evening, and when the meal was the highlight of the evening, you know it wasn't a very good game.

Matz had already allowed back-to-back Home Runs to Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor when he led off the 3rd inning and banged a single up the middle, which was the Mets first hit, and thus ensured that Scherzer would not get a No Hitter. However, by that time he was strutting around the infield and generally keeping the Mets from doing anything meaningful. But at least at 2-0, the hope was that Matz could hold the Nationals and the bats could wear down Scherzer and give themselves a chance to come back against Washington's awful bullpen. Unfortunately, in the 6th, Anthony Rendon hit a 2-run Home Run to make the score 4-0, and just in case there was any suspense left in the game, the Nationals tacked on three more runs in the 9th inning in an excruciating procedure that turned what had been a brisk 2+ hour game into a 3-hour slog that ultimately ended in the same result.

Sigh. The Free Shirt Friday shirt wasn't even any good. That was depressing. So much for the positive vibes coming off of the Cubs series.

Friday, June 16, 2017

These Freakin' Guys

So because of work commitments, I neither heard nor saw any part of Thursday night's game, which I suppose is just as well because it was terrible. Robert Gsellman was lit on fire by Bryce Harper early and later the entire Mets roster apparently turned to mush, because I guess the Nationals willed it so, and they once again fell meekly to the Nationals, 8-3.

It's mid-June and the Mets haven't managed to beat the Nationals at home, and now sit at 2-5 against them for the season, which is some 2013 shit. How the hell do the Mets expect to make any headway into that deficit they've dug for themselves if they can't do anything against their chief rivals? They've lost here, tomorrow they face Scherzer, then Strasburg and before you blink this whole thing could be out of hand.

I don't know. This whole thing makes my head hurt right now.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Not So Fast

By all rights, the Mets should not have won on Wednesday night. Consider everything that happened in the early part of the game:

Matt Harvey came out and allowed a Home Run on the first pitch he threw to Anthony Rizzo. One batter later, he allowed another Home Run to Ian Happ. Later, he allowed a third Home Run, this one of the moonshot variety to Kyle Schwarber. All the while, his velocity dropped down to some disturbingly low levels, and after 4 innings and 4 runs, he was done, complaining of a "dead arm."

In the 3rd inning, Neil Walker attempted to lay down a bunt for a hit, came up lame and went down hard, leaving the game with what looked to be at worst a bad hamstring pull.

Michael Conforto missed his 3rd straight game with back stiffness and Yoenis Cespedes was given an off day and, given his bizarre preparatory routine, was unavailable to pinch hit in the 4th inning, resulting in the Mets needing to send up...Steven Matz.

So at this point in the game, everything has gone wrong, Cubs fans are once again hooting and hollering and throwing pizza pies in each other's faces, and the Mets are hanging their heads down 4-1.

But something funny happened. The Mets fought back.

Matz, who we already know swings like he means it, hit with one out and the bases loaded against Mike Montgomery and, well, it wasn't a thing of beauty, but his chopper to 3rd was well-enough placed that he beat the throw and drove in the run. Juan Lagares followed with a sac fly and 4-1 became 4-3, and in the 6th, it became 4-4 when Lagares hit an RBI triple off of Pedro Strop.

Thus the game was turned over to the bullpens, and with the meat of the Cubs lineup hitting, Jerry Blevins was summoned, and, you know, all he did was whiff Rizzo to finish the 7th, whiff Baseballs Jesus in the 8th, and finish out his 1 1/3 innings by making Willson Contreras look like an arrogant jackass by tossing his bat away on strike two and then freezing him for strike 3.

It remained tied in the last of the 8th, and the Cubs went to Carl Edwards Jr., one of those weird single-digit-wearing pitchers. Curtis Granderson led off and you kind of had a feeling something was going to happen, you know, late and close, packed house, and as no sooner did Gary Cohen mention that he was at 299 career Home Runs then Granderson uncorked himself and drove a pitch into the Right Field seats to put the Mets ahead. But that was just the start of things. Josee Reyes hit and Yoenis Cespedes hit (and was promptly run for by Robert Gsellman), and Reyes stole a base, and at some point Hector Rondon appeared and Lucas Duda blasted a pitch into a spot similar to where Granderson's hit landed for a 3-run Home Run and, dare I say, he skipped across Home Plate. The Mets still weren't done but the consequential part of the inning had occurred, and the Mets had gone from seemingly dead in the water to ahead 9-4, which Addison Reed locked down after an unnecessarily hairy 9th inning.

So, now, maybe there's something going here, as the Mets have rallied back to win 5 of 6, and take a series from the "unbeatable Cubs juggernaut," and send them out of town and send their obnoxious fans back to their cave. The key, then, would be if they can keep this going through the weekend against Washington. This has all the makings of a series that could either give the Mets more momentum or just kill the entire season. I'm not sure there's much in between. 3 of 4 is a tall order but if you want to make a statement, that's what needs to happen here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

That Didn't Work

In my younger, wilder days, I thought nothing of going to Mets games 2, 3, 4 or sometimes 5 days in a row with Doubleheaders mixed in. Nowadays, going to games on back-to-back nights is kind of a stretch for me. I'm old, I'm tired and sometimes it just doesn't go very well. But through happenstance I found myself with several unused tickets from my plan which, of course, are exchangeable. But there were a limited number of games I could actually exchange into, because of games I'd already had tickets to, or games I couldn't go to, or games that are blacked out altogether. As such, I was sort of pigeonholed into getting tickets for Tuesday night, knowing that I'd already had tickets for Monday. Not that I was thrilled, but I did invite out some old friends and forged ahead.

It was fortunate that I had friends with me because the way the game unfolded, it would have been really bad if I were by myself.

I somehow found myself in section 405, out in Right Field, and I'd blindly assumed I was in Section 405, row 5. This was one of those weird sections where for whatever reason they shoehorned a row of seats into the middle of the concourse. I arrived there before my friend and when he arrived, I noticed he was having a lengthy discussion with an usher. When he arrived, he showed me his ticket. It said row 4. I then looked at my ticket.


Sheepishly, we moved to the proper seats, though I'm not certain anyone was actually sitting in the wrong ones.

This, by the way, was the extent of the entertaining part of the game. Zack Wheeler didn't have it to the tune of getting his ass lit up by the Cubs and their "innovative" lineup that included Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff and Jon Lester batting 8th. Rizzo smoked Wheeler's 2nd pitch of the night over the apple, which led to the inevitable Cubs Fan Circle Jerk. Though the Mets did tie the game in the bottom of the 1st, Wheeler just hit a wall in the 2nd. I'm not certain whether or not he got rooked on some close pitches to Albert Almora or Rizzo, but he walked both of them with two outs, forced in a run, and subsequently gave up a Grand Slam to Ian Happ, and the Cubs fans were literally humping each other in the aisles. It was kind of embarrassing and it didn't get any better from there.

After that, I kind of tuned out. In the early parts of these blowout games, there still exists some blind hope that the Mets might come back, but as innings move on and the Mets do nothing, that feeling sort of fades. The Cubs didn't help by piling on; later on Jason Heyward hit a Home Run, Baseballs Jesus hit a Home Run and got all the Cubs fans pregnant, and that little red-ass Willson Contreras stole a base up by 9 runs, which in my book is deserving of a fastball between the numbers.

So, instead, I decided to have a beer with my friend and we had some philosophical discussions about Theater and other non-Baseball related topics, and then at some point we figured this was a dead ballgame and we may as well leave. I believe it was 12-1 at that point and it was almost 13-1 but for Jay Bruce pulling back a Home Run—I do give him credit for continuing to go all out in a hopeless situation. That was my parting shot for the night. I realize it ended up at 14-3.

The moral here is...well, I'm not sure. Don't press my luck too much by going to back-to-back games against the Cubs? I will say that the fact that I was there on Monday night did take the sting off of this game somewhat. And, once again, at least the Cubs fans weren't directly confrontational. As usual, in games like this, you try to find the little victories.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Knock You Out

Monday night was my 8th game of the season at Citi Field, but certainly one that I'd circled and progressively got myself more and more cranked up about as the date approached. I've already gone over my dislike of the Cubs, and my distaste for their sophomoric fans, and how utterly galling I found their run to a World Series championship last season was. I know that the Mets as a team had to be looking at this series too, because you always go gunning for the Champs. To say nothing of the fact that the Mets kicked them in the teeth in the NLCS two years ago, and handled them in similar fashion in the regular season last year and if they'd had the opportunity, they might have done the same thing in the Postseason.

But that was last year and this is now and the Mets have had a hard time getting out of their own way, but so have the Cubs, themselves just a .500 team and perhaps going through their own World Series hangover. That in and of itself is no deterrent; they're still viewed as the "Golden Boys" of Baseball, and their fans were out in full force at Citi Field, much to my disgust. I'd prepared myself for any number of confrontations, since, as case history has shown me, Cubs fans have no particular shame and a lot of chutzpah, but nothing materialized. This was a minor victory. In the grand scheme of things, I wanted the Mets to handle any necessary rebuttals on the field. To my delight, they did so, as Jacob deGrom delivered a big-time performance in a big-time moment, whipping off a masterful Complete Game effort to lead the Mets to a 6-1 victory.

I'd mentioned that this was my 8th game of the season, but my first this season with my other half. She being the wiser usually waits until June to start coming to games, as she lacks my aptitude for cold weather. She also lacks my punctuality, though in her defense we were both delayed getting out to Citi Field due to the entire MTA network going into retrograde. I wasn't at the stadium until 6:50, she didn't get there until about 7, and by time we got through security, and waded through the noodnick Cubs fans cocking around on the Field Level, and got upstairs, and got food, and sat down, it was already the middle of the 2nd inning. Comparatively speaking, we missed very little; deGrom allowed a 2-out double to Anthony Rizzo in the 1st that went nowhere, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda both hit deep fly balls to Right Field that didn't have the legs to get out in the bottom of the 1st, and deGrom navigated the 2nd following Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes massacring a pop fly, striking out Javier Baez and John Lackey in the process.

So we finally hit our seats in 418 for the bottom of the 2nd inning, just in time for Cabrera to shoot one out into the bullpen in Right Field. I'd noticed a Cubs fan sitting directly in front of me and, just for emphasis, made sure to yell "He's not catching this one!" once it seemed pretty certain that the ball was out. That was the leg up the Mets needed. In the 3rd, the Mets had 2 on and no out for Yoenis Cespedes, but Cespedes grounded into a Double Play. The Cubs fans, who as a collective seem to sound like a bunch of women and children when they cheer, were all up, but Jay Bruce picked up Cespedes and shut up the Cubs fans good and proper by hitting a laser beam of a Home Run into the Cubs bullpen. This was one of those shots that looked like it was going to hit the wall, but somehow scraped over instead. Which was fine by me. In the 4th, Cabrera hit another one into the Bullpen on Lackey's first pitch of the inning.

Once he got a lead, deGrom went into cruise control. This was good, particularly considering how badly he'd pitched his last two times out, but it again underscores the fact that deGrom can be good enough to battle through with less than his best, but when he has his best, he can absolutely dominate, and that's what he did to the Cubs. He wasn't clean by any stretch; he walked 4 batters and the Cubs had men on base basically in every inning, but he wasn't giving the Cubs an inch.

In the 3rd inning, he gave up a hit to Kris Bryant and walked Anthony Rizzo. Ben Zobrist hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
In the 4th inning, he gave up a leadoff single to Jason Heyward. Willson Contreras hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
In the 5th inning, he gave up a hit to Lackey. Jon Jay followed by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play.
In the 6th inning, he walked Rizzo. "He can't do it again, can he?" was my thought. But sure enough, Zobrist hit into another 4-6-3 double play.
That's 4 Double Plays in 4 innings if you're keeping score, and two of them to Zobrist, who we've all had enough of for several lifetimes.

Only in the 7th did the Cubs manage to reach deGrom, when Addison Russell flicked a Home Run into the Right Field corner with 2 outs, one play after Terry Collins got a safe call on Baez at 1st overturned. Cubs fans were slapping each other with salamis, but that was basically the highlight of their night. deGrom was in such control that by time he finished the 7th, I thought it possible, though unlikely, that he could finish, as he was hovering around the magical 100 pitch number. There were two pitchers warming up behind him in the 8th, but deGrom didn't waver, retiring the Cubs in order for the first time all evening. Meanwhile, in the last of the 8th, the Mets tacked on two more runs to stretch their lead to 6-1, and with 2 outs, deGrom took his turn at bat to a roaring ovation.

The 9th, then, seemed mere formality. I don't quite recall if anyone was warming up, but there seemed little reason why deGrom couldn't finish the game out unless the Cubs rallied, but they didn't stand much of a chance. Zobrist grounded out on the first pitch of the inning, he got Miguel Montero to tap weakly back to the mound, and he blew Contreras out of the box at 97mph on his 116th pitch of the night to put a bow on things.

It had been some time since I'd seen a Mets pitcher throw a Complete Game. The double whammy of a CGShO has eluded me as well, but, you know, don't get greedy. I hadn't seen a Complete Game by a Mets pitcher since 2011, when Miguel Batista threw one on the last day of the season. And games like that are generally forgotten (there's also this game, which does not qualify but does tick most boxes). Point is, deGrom came up big when the Mets really needed it, obviously because they simply need to win games at this point, but also to show that they can still stick it to the Cubs and shut up their fans. People will remember this game. I'll remember this game. Hell, even my other half will remember this game. This was probably the most rousing game I'd been to all season. Good timing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Different Look

Sunday, like most of the two games on Saturday, was a day where I didn't get to see much of the Mets game, unless you count the few innings I saw from a distance while eating lunch someplace. The Mets were ahead 2-1 in the 4th-5th inning while I was around a TV and as such I'd missed all the game's meaningful action. What I did see was the Mets win behind a pitcher making his season debut for the second game in a row.

I can't say I had or continue to have the highest of hopes for Seth Lugo, but if nothing else, he acquitted himself well enough down the stretch last season and pitched with enough confidence to inspire some sort of positive feelings this season. And, well, not having him as he worked back from an elbow injury that might have been severe enough to necessitate the Big Boy Surgery was problematic, not so much because Lugo is a world-beater, but because he's substantially a better option than whatever else was available. What will happen from here I'm not certain but Lugo and his exceptionally spinny curveball shined for 7 innings and 90 pitches in Atlanta, on a day when one would have expected a fly-ball pitcher to have some trouble. But Lugo allowed 6 hits and 1 run along with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts and that was enough to get him a win because the Mets scraped out 2 runs against Jaime Garcia.

I'll echo what I said yesterday about these reinforcements being very helpful, particularly considering the fact that the Mets won 3 of 4 over the weekend when it sure as shit looked like they were ripe to get swept. So they're starting to tilt things in their favor, but of course the acid test will come this week when they come home to play America's Sweethearts, the Chicago Cubs in what should be a nauseatingly good time at Citi Field. I'll be around, so I hope to have the opportunity to see those cocky pricks knocked down a peg (and yes, that's more commentary of the obnoxious Cubs fans sure to show up than the team themselves).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Many Happy Returns

The Mets, on Saturday, did not follow prior history on Saturday by continuing to lose games in Atlanta in June, in spite of Saturday's Day-Night Doubleheader (my favorite!) at least partly being played on one of those painfully sunny Atlanta days where the temperature looks to be no less than 115˚.

But the Mets did not lose the sunshine game. In fact, they didn't lose either game. They won both games and kind of looked like a cohesive team in doing so. It was a little more like another day-night Doubleheader they played in Atlanta (which oddly was the last time they swept a doubleheader of any kind) a few years ago that proved a harbinger of things to come—or perhaps of a time the Mets are trying to recapture.

I was out most of the afternoon, which shouldn't be of much surprise to anyone who's read this blog with any regularity, and as such I didn't see much, if any of the early game. But I did follow along on my phone as I was able, such as the case may be, and so I saw the Mets hanging on to a tenuous 1-0 lead throughout most of the afternoon. The Mets scored an early run off of Sean Newcomb, a lefty making his Major League debut—one of those things that has a tendency to bedevil the Mets—but he was matched for the most part by Robert Gsellman, who kept the Braves off the board altogether. I checked back later to see the score was 2-1 in the 8th; to that point both Mets runs had involved Wilmer Flores, who was busy quietly putting his stamp on a pretty memorable afternoon all things considered. Fortuitously, I found myself in a store with some televisions on around the 9th inning, when the Mets had the bases loaded and Yoenis Cespedes at the plate, so I saw what transpired there as Cespedes hit a Grand Slam to give the Mets a 6-1 cushion and, you know, provide the team with that little something extra that had been missing these past six weeks.

I was still out when the nightcap started at the rather odd time of 6pm, which I guess was done to accommodate a postgame concert, although they have a habit of throwing in some bizarre start times in Atlanta (I seem to remember there being a game scheduled for 5pm on Sunday of all hours some time ago), so I didn't see the early innings of the game, which essentially involved Steven Matz welcoming himself back into the fold by providing that little something extra that had been missing from the starting rotation all season and, you know, pitching economically without giving up any runs. Unfortunately, Matz was matched by Matt Wisler, who hasn't pitched especially well in general, except when he faces the Mets, and he subsequently turns into John Smoltz. So it was scoreless into the middle innings, but the Mets rallied in the 5th and Jay Bruce hit a 3-run Home Run to break the ice and more or less ice the game. Matz threw shutout ball through 7 and reminded everyone that when he's healthy, he's really good (now if only he could stay healthy). The Mets then tacked on more runs, most of them involving Wilmer Flores, who banged out 4 hits in the 2nd game to finish the day 6-for-9, and the Mets coasted home with an 8-1 victory to give the Mets a sweep of the Doubleheader at a point when things seemed to be at their most grim.

These reinforcements are nice and kind of underscore why people were so optimistic about the Mets at the outset of the season, or, more appropriately, why the spate of injuries is so infuriating. If the Mets could stay healthy...If, if, if, to the point where it's all kind of hollow. The reality is that it happened and the Mets have dug themselves a pretty major hole. I'm not certain if it's altogether too late for them to claw themselves out of it. however, stranger things have happened...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Deserving Fate

Going through this season to this point, I guess, what, 60 games in, has been kind of a chore. That's what happens when you come in pretty well convinced that this team is going to break through and find the greatness that they've been chasing for 31 years now...and then the bell rings and the whole thing just falls flat. The Mets ran out to 7-3 and since then the whole story has been win 1, lose 2, win 1, lose 3, win 2, lose 3 more. But Friday night's game in Atlanta was one of those games that, in my younger, angrier days might have just thrown me over the edge.

You can basically blow through the 1st 8 1/2 innings in a few sentences. Matt Harvey was OK. Not great, just OK, and managed to make it through his start not allowing any runs. Unfortunately, because he threw so many pitches—I mean, what else is new—that start only lasted 5 innings. Curtis Granderson hit a Home Run and the Mets led 1-0, and that lasted all the way to the next inning, when Paul Sewald came in, gave up a couple of hits and got Dansby Swanson'ed when Swanson doubled home two runs to give the Braves the lead. The Mets tied it on an out-of-nowhere Home Run from Travis d'Arnaud and thus it was tied into the bottom of the 9th.

Fernando Salas was in after having pitched a reasonably quiet 8th, and with 1 out, here was Swanson again, and at this point the game basically turned into a microcosm of the entire Mets season. You know, Swanson hasn't had a great season but that should hold little bearing on anything because he tattooed the Mets up real good late last year and I expect we'll see more of that. So Swanson hits one up the middle, and really this should be a single probably 100 times out of 100. And there's Curtis Granderson, moving after the ball with no particular sense of urgency, like he's going for another helping at the clubhouse buffet. So Swanson takes off for second and makes it, and not only does he make it, he makes it easily. So already, I'm incensed. Never mind the "maybe a Shortstop with better range makes the play" argument, because I'm not worried about that. Curtis Granderson played that ball like an asshole, and Swanson promptly made him look like an asshole. One pitch later, the game was over when Rio Ruiz singled through the hole where Cabrera probably would have been if Swanson had properly been on 1st, and Swanson scored and the Braves had a veritable Marlins party on the Infield. Probably because they all knew that they just stole this game from under the noses of a team that's totally fucking asleep right now. You could have seen Ruiz's single coming a mile away. Doesn't matter if Conforto didn't have a handle on the ball. He wasn't throwing out Swanson anyway.

I don't often outwardly think that the Mets deserve to lose games, but the Mets deserved to lose that game. They played like a bunch of assholes and they should feel like assholes. Sometimes, humiliation can be a good thing and if the first two months of this season wasn't bad enough, maybe a game like this will wake them up. The Mets, even in their neutered state, should be feeding the Braves their lunch. Instead, they're standing around with their thumbs up their asses while opposing players circle the bases at will. This isn't a Manager thing and it's not as though Granderson's the only culprit here because you see it in bits and pieces constantly. It seems like an annual thing, actually, that the Mets go into Atlanta in June and it seems like that Atlanta air just sucks the life out of them, and they look slow and tired and that sun is beating down on them and they get swept. A sweep wouldn't surprise me at this point.

Friday, June 9, 2017


For whatever reason, this year there have been multiple notices about how today is the anniversary of the legendary Bobby Valentine "Moustache" game. I'm not quite certain why this year it's getting more attention, since it's only the 18th Anniversary, but on the other hand, as the game of June 9th, 1999 is and forever will be a Ballclub Favorite, I'm more than happy to take the time and remember it. In fact, the revelation that Robin Ventura was heavily involved in aiding and abetting Valentine in this ruse just makes it all the more enjoyable.

We at The Ballclub consider the Bobby Valentine era to be one of the peaks in Mets history and this specific game was one of its highlights. In the nascent days of this blog, I did give the game of June 9, 1999 a full treatment so, if you will, step into the wayback machine, across the street to Shea Stadium...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lost Classics: June 9, 1999

I was reading about the one-year anniversary of SNY over at Faith and Fear, and the guys over there were talking about the Mets Classics, the old games they have rerun. And rerun. And rerun some more. In fact, just this evening, I was watching yet another replay of Game 7 of the '86 Series. Yes, they warm the heart. But the Mets have a rich tradition of classic games. Interesting games. Games that make you scratch your head, and games that just make you proud to be a Mets fan. But only a handful of Mets Classics are ever seen on SNY. You can rattle them off pretty easily: The Clincher from '86. All the Playoff and World Series wins from '86. The Clincher from '88. Leiter's gem in the '99 Play-In game. Mike Piazza's HR after 9/11. And a smattering of "Instant Classics" from the '06 season.

Yes, new games are on the slate for the upcoming season. Games from '69 and '73.

Many still are simply forgotten. Lost in the annals of time except for people like us who remember them, who were there, or watching on TV. Games indelibly burned into our memories.

Flash back with me, if you will, for one such game.

It is June 9, 1999. A steamy, humid Wednesday night in what will become a magical season for the Mets. Not 5 days earlier, with the team mired in a 7 game losing streak, Manager Bobby Valentine had called for his own head if the team didn't improve over the next 55 games, to the tune of a 40-15 record. Since then, the Mets had not lost, winning the finale over the Yankees in the Bronx, and taking the first two games of a three game series over the Toronto Blue Jays at Shea. This night was the finale. In a season that will see me eventually attend 30 games, I am in attendance on this night, sitting in Mezzanine section 2, row A. Keeping score, as I always do.

A 7:40 curtain at Shea, featuring a pitching matchup of Rick Reed and David Wells.

It is apparent early on that Wells has his best stuff this evening. He strikes out Alfonzo and Olerud in the first. The Blue Jays jump on top on a leadoff HR from Catcher Darrin Fletcher leading off the top of the 2nd. In the 3rd, it's future Met Carlos Delgado doubling home Craig Grebeck with the Jays' second run. Former lazy Met Tony Fernandez will lace a single to right to follow that up. But Roger Cedeno charges the ball, and his throw home to Piazza is true, and well in time to nail Delgado at the plate. Jose Cruz, Jr pops a solo HR with 1 out in the 4th. 3-0 Jays.

Although Reed will continue to weave in and out of trouble for most of his 6 innings of work, he's fortunate to depart after laboring through 6 innings only trailing 3-0. 10 hits and 2 walks, but he's helped out by some stellar defensive efforts. It's not surprising, the infield behind him would do it all season long. In the 4th, Shannon Stewart is robbed on a diving stop up the middle by Alfonzo. In the 6th, he's robbed in the hole by Ordonez.

It is Turk Wendell taking over for the Mets in the 7th and turning in two strong innings. Dennis Cook will follow him in the top of the 9th and retire the Jays in order.

But the Mets haven't been able to touch Wells at all. Through 8 innings, only 4 hits, all singles. Wells has 6 Ks and no walks. And as he gets Henderson to ground to 3rd to start the last of the 9th, much of the sparse crowd of 18,254 begins to depart. Alfonzo singles to center, bringing about a faint murmur. But Olerud follows by hitting a comebacker to Wells, who goes to second to force out Alfonzo. 2 outs. But Piazza singles to right, moving Olerud to 3rd. Still, a faint murmur. It's a lefty/lefty situation with Ventura coming up. Not the best of odds.

But it is a different Robin Ventura this year. Ventura was a solid, if flawed 3Bman over 10 seasons with the Chicago White Sox. But he signed with the Mets before this 1999 season, spurning offers from hometown teams in California. After a slow start, Ventura caught fire, beginning with a doubleheader against the Brewers on May 20th that saw him blast Grand Slams in both games. He is embarking on a career year that will by season's end see him hit .302, with 32 HRs and 120 RBIs. He will win a Gold Glove for his efforts at Third Base. And he will deliver one of the most memorable hits in Mets History in October.

And, on this night, he will battle David Wells. He will work the count. He will foul off 2-strike pitch after 2-strike pitch. Piazza will steal second during the sequence. And then Robin will rip a clean single to center, scoring Olerud and Piazza, and cutting the Jays' lead to 3-2. Wells will depart for the evening. Ventura will as well, as Luis Lopez enters to pinch run. Robin has done his job. Now the need is for speed. And Brian McRae will bat against rookie closer Billy Koch.

And McRae will drill a shot down the left field line, down into the corner.

"SCORE LUIS! SCORE LUIS! SCORE LUIS!" I yell repeatedly as Lopez motors all the way around the bases, scoring without a throw. It's a double for McRae. Game tied.

And the evening was just beginning to get interesting.

Koch would get out of the 9th, sending the game into extra innings. Cook continued for the Mets in the 10th, retiring the Jays in order once again. Against Koch, the Mets will go quietly in their half. John Franco enters for the 11th. He will allow a leadoff single to Fernandez, but Fletcher hits into a nifty 4-6-3 double play. More infield defense.

As the clock ticked later on into the night, and the midweek crowd dwindled, the second subplot of the evening began to take hold.

The New York Knicks, led by Allan Houston and Larry Johnson, were in the midst of a miraculous run to the NBA Finals. This night, they are in Indiana, playing the hated Pacers in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The series, tied 2-2, had to that point been a tense, taut battle, highlighted by a miraculous 4-point play scored by Larry Johnson in Game 3. It has been a back-and-forth battle most of the evening, with the Knicks hanging on to a slim lead in the 4th quarter. This as the Mets and Jays are headed to the 12th inning. Many fans have the game on radios, and the scoreboard has been giving updates throughout the evening.

It is the 12th inning when the game takes its oddest turn.

Pat Mahomes has taken over for the Mets. He allows a 1-out single to Shannon Stewart. With Grebeck batting, Stewart takes off for second. Grebeck swings through the pitch, but Piazza throws Stewart out at second.

Or so we think.

Home plate umpire Randy Marsh awards Grebeck first base. Seems he hit Piazza's glove with his swing. Catcher's interference is the call. Error on Piazza.

Cue Bobby Valentine.

Valentine will storm out of the dugout and blow his stack at Marsh. Marsh will get in Bobby's face. Bobby is ejected. And then he really lets Marsh have it. He starts flailing his arms, bobbing his head and screaming so loudly he can be heard in the Mezzanine. The crowd loves it. "BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY!" is the chant. Finally, Valentine screams his peace, and retreats to the clubhouse.

Mahomes will get Jacob Brumfield to pop out, and strike out Delgado to get out of the jam.

In the top of the 13th, it's Olerud coming up with a stellar diving stop on a smash by Fletcher, turning a 3-6-3 double play to end another Jays threat.

In the last of the 13th, against future Met Graeme Lloyd, the Mets will get Henderson on to lead off, but strand him. The crowd is jovial as Piazza bats with 2 outs. "M-I-K-E, MIKE! MIKE! MIKE!" is the chant, mocking the J-E-T-S chant. Mike strikes out.

But cheers erupt from the crowd. As the fans with the radios already know, and the scoreboard is about to tell us, the Knicks have emerged victorious, a 101-94 win on the road to tilt the series in their favor. They will win Game 6 that Friday night as well, to beat the Pacers and move on to the Finals.

It is around this point, that the most infamous moment of the game occurs. Though it is lost to those in the stands, who cannot see into the Mets dugout, there is, caught by the cameras, a gentleman with an odd pair of glasses and a fake moustache in a Mets T-shirt who has appeared in the dugout. It's Bobby. Donning the Groucho Marx disguise, he has snuck back into the dugout following his ejection to see the end of the game. The Moustache will become legendary in Mets, and Bobby V's lore.

By the 14th, I'm exhausted. It is not uncommon, as games such as this carry on past midnight, for me to begin to root for anyone to score, out of delirium. The Jays do not score in their half of the 14th. Tom Davey begins the bottom of the 14th for the Jays. He walks Lopez. He walks McRae. Davey is pulled for ageless lefty Dan Plesac. Cedeno lays down the sacrifice, moving Lopez to 3rd. The Jays pull the infield and outfield in as Ordonez steps to the plate.

I'm screaming for a fly ball. Something to get that run home.

"YES!!!" I scream as Ordonez delivers. A long fly ball to left, over Brumfield, landing softly in left field, as Lopez trots home with the winning run. A most gratifying winning run, capping off a memorable comeback victory for the Mets. And not a moment too soon, at 12:16AM, capping off 4 hours and 33 minutes of baseball. Thrilling, well-played baseball. The kind that the Mets will play all summer long, as they fulfill their Manager's promise and embark on the 40-15 stretch that will eventually land them in the Playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.

A blip in the larger picture, but a game that is well worthy of a Mets Classic.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Real Live Victory

Admittedly, I didn't actually see any of Wednesday night's game, as I was precluded by some other pressing matters that required my attention and then a nap that I needed to take, so as a result, I only know that the Mets won on Wednesday.

I know that in order to win, they needed to score, and scoring runs in Texas doesn't seem to be much of an issue, although they only hit two Home Runs on Wednesday as opposed to the 5 they hit on Tuesday, which of course just goes to show you that, really, you need to pitch well in addition to hitting Home Runs, and sometimes cramming both of these things into one game has been a challenge for the Mets this season.

Zack Wheeler, who, let's face it, has been the Mets best pitcher to this point this season, slung his way through 7 innings and in fact left in prime position for a win as the Mets did lead 3-1, but, of course, the Mets bullpen went SPLAT and blew his lead in the 8th inning. Extra innings seemed imminent but the Mets managed to scrape across a run in the top of the 9th in spite of themselves. Jose Reyes hit what apparently should have been an inning-ending fielder's choice, but for Roughned Odor alligator-arming a relay throw to Elvis Andrus that was not handled (and even after replay still was not handled), which allowed Matt Reynolds to steam around from 2nd base to score.

Ostensibly, the Mets scored the winning run on the most Anti-Met play of the season, because it seems like this sort of thing has been working against the Mets all year.

So, the Mets leave Texas with a split, and I really can't say they're treading water because with their standing it seems like they're drowning. Now, off to Atlanta and I can't say recent history of June trips to Atlanta give me much confidence. On the other hand, reinforcements are coming...supposedly...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Turning In Early

I mean, I'd like to go into games feeling a little more confident, and when you come into a game and tell me that the pitching matchup is Jacob deGrom against Dillon Gee, I feel like the smart money is on deGrom. Dillon Gee left here rather ignominiously two years ago and hasn't really found a toehold since then, and I mean I wish him well since he toiled reasonably well here in some generally hopeless situations but, you know, it's Dillon Gee. And, well, the Mets are still in a hopeless situation without him.

Neither Gee or deGrom pitched anything resembling well on Tuesday in Texas, where the Mets haven't visited since...well, I'm not sure, but it's Texas and it's the Summer and the ball was just flying out of the park to the tune of there being 7 Home Runs for the game, and 5 of them were hit by the Mets...and yet the Mets still figured out a way to lose the game, 10-8.

I was actually around on time for this, because I guess life has better geared me for 8:10pm games, and the Mets hit Dillon Gee early and often, but the problem was that deGrom basically handed those runs back to the Rangers almost immediately, and so 1-0 Mets became 2-1 Rangers, and 3-2 Mets became 4-3 Rangers, and so on and so forth until somehow it became 8-4 Rangers, and deGrom was getting some desultory pep talk from Terry Collins, and Texas had put in a pitcher with the uncomfortable name of Austin Bibens-Dirkx, whom the Mets couldn't figure out.

Later, and I mean much later because it was the 4th inning at close to 10pm, I was fading. Josh Smoker had come in and thrown gasoline on an already-smoldering fire, and at 10-4 there was a Neil Ramirez sighting, and the best thing I was able to come up with at that point was some weird assertion that Ramirez bears a striking resemblance to halcyon Montreal Expos mascot Youppi!

When the Mets got some runners on in the 8th and failed to make the score anything closer than 10-5, I decided I'd had enough. It was late, I was tired and the game was done, so I shut it off. Some time passed and I figured I'd get some kind of buzz on my phone that the game had ended, but it hadn't come, so I checked in on Gamecast and was surprised to see that the Mets had cut the deficit to 10-8 and had men on base...and then of course the dreaded "In play, Outs" line popped up, Jay Bruce hit into that Double Play, and the game was done.

So, you know, I didn't miss that much after all. In fact, maybe I spared myself an extra 40 minutes or so of misery.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Quick Out

You could almost feel a game like Sunday's brewing for the Mets, just based on the way Saturday night's game ended. After nearly blowing a large lead but hanging on to win Saturday, the Mets got their doors blown off before most of the crowd had even settled into their seats on Sunday. Tommy Milone was the victim on this particular day, as the Angels lit him up like the Crash Davis proverbial Christmas Tree early and often and then tacked on some more runs late against Hansel Robles to win the final game of this series, 12-5.

I know no Mets fan was probably expecting great things from Milone, but if nothing else, I'd like to think he's capable of more than the basically non-competitive effort he threw out there yesterday afternoon. He'd already done himself no favors by loading the bases with no outs, and then walking .154 hitting cleanup batter Jefry Marte to force in a run. Then, of course, he laid a meatball out there for C.J. Cron to whack in the seats for a Grand Slam and...

Wait a second, just wait a fucking mean this wasn't the same game the Mets played on May 21st? There was a different opponent and a different starting pitcher instead of Milone? But the final score was basically the same, so you could have fooled me. In fact, hasn't this basically been the same game the Mets have played every Sunday afternoon this season?

I'm not convinced. I need legitimate proof that the Mets haven't decided to pull a Potemkin Sunday thing on us this year.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sleepy Saturday

Saturday night's game was one of those games where if you blinked, you might have missed it. Or at least that's how it felt. First of all, the game was on FOX, which always goes well for the Mets. Fortunately, Joe Buck wasn't involved, so that was a slight moral victory, although the guy who was doing the game first of all neglected to ever announce who the hell he was, and second of all was one of those stereotypical "deep-voice" types that FOX tends to hire because I suppose it's swarthy and romantic and will keep the ladies interested.

But I digress. I'd been out and came home and fell asleep, or almost fell asleep and at some point I remembered there was a game on, so I put it on just in time to see Wilmer Flores hit a Home Run, which made it 4-2 Mets, but it was the 4th inning so I figured there was still lots to happen. And then I started making dinner, which precludes me from paying too much attention to things and relying what I hear. Usually, it's Gary Cohen, and, you know, you spend so many years listening to The Best, you get used to certain inflections. I wasn't getting that with Jimmy Deepvoice. So I took that to mean nothing interesting was going on. And, well, it wasn't.

In fact, the rest of the game basically flew by to the point that by time I did check in, Addison Reed was in the game and I automatically assumed it was the 9th inning. Except he got Adam Frazier to ground out for the 3rd out of the inning and then walked off with his cap flipped back, so the game wasn't over. At that point I refocused and realized that Terry Collins had finally had enough of this shit and decided to just let Addison Reed get the 2-inning Save. It of course figured that he gave up a leadoff single to Josh Harrison to start the 9th, but he did get the next three outs to finish the game and give the Mets a 4-2 win that they sorely needed. And that's, of course, indicative of this sad state of affairs because it's June, the Mets are miles under .500 and even farther from where they need to be in the standings, and these wins are "sorely needed."

Is it any wonder I'm barely paying attention?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

That Old Ace In the Hole

I mused the other day to nobody in particular that I missed the old Matt Harvey, who used to come out with smoke coming out of his ears ready to throw the ball through a brick wall and would snarl at anyone that deigned get in his way or, worse, attempted to remove him from a game.

I keep this blind hope that someday the old Matt Harvey will come back, and maybe that will happen, but the more I watch, the less likely it seems. Twice spotted a lead against the Pirates, Harvey fell victim to the irrepressible Elias Diaz, who drove in 6 runs, and to his own bullpen, who melted down once again as the Mets fell to the Pirates at home 12-7.

This was another one of those games that was thrown at me as part of my original plan, but as seems to have been the case many times this year, I've swapped it out for another game. A couple of times, this has happened and ended up biting me in the ass, because the Mets won the game I missed, but I suppose if there was ever a game I was going to be glad I didn't go to, this would be it. Were it two years ago, or even four years ago, knowing I had tickets to a game when Harvey was on the mound, I don't think I would have been so quick to pass (although to be fair, I was prodded to swap out this game by my other half, still reveling in the graduatory afterglow). Hell, there were nights when I specifically swapped in to games I knew Harvey would be pitching. It was can't-miss Baseball.

Now? It's If ya got the time, and it seems like that attitude has overtaken the whole ballclub. The Mets find their way back to within some sort of shouting distance of .500 and then go out and lose 3 games in a row. It's not improving. I'm still not sure how it can improve and the chatter I'm hearing now is a little more of what can we trade guys away for as opposed to what can we get to shore up the team. It's depressing. This season wasn't supposed to go down like this.