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.

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