DRIVER 8. [6-18-10]

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Mets v Yankees
6-18-10

I am not a big fan of the 1-0 game. Or let me restate that: I am a big fan of the pitching duel, if that is what we are presented with, but I am never a fan of 1-0. I can never sit there confidently and know, absolutely believe with all my heart, that my team is going to shut down the opposition solidly. 1-0 makes my stomach hurt. 1-0 has me sitting on the edge of my seat because I’m unwilling to be comfortable for any second, as though my personal level of attention to the action on the field will ensure victory. 3-0, well, that’s a much better feeling, but I didn’t start to feel as though things were truly okay until that last run bringing it up to 4-0. And then I was feeling better – but not great- until Francisco Rodriguez got on the mound, and then all bets were off.

But I get ahead of myself.

When the Mets are winning, our house has two diametrically opposed approaches: my approach is that you don’t start adding games, you stick to the games you have. There is some superstition and some not wanting to tempt the fates too much involved in that philosophy. And that would be a totally solid approach if it weren’t for the fact that TBF’s approach is to start adding games when the Mets are playing well. If I say no, I don’t want to go, he’s going anyway, and then I’m sitting at home watching the game and thinking OMG WHY DIDN’T I JUST GO.

From: TBF
Subject: Friday night

Would you want to go if I found tickets?

So much for the superstition.

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I am over my fear of Yankee Stadium. I think surviving the Thing We Shall Not Mention Because Michael Kay Needs To Mention It 50 Times built up enough scar tissue that I am no longer walking around on tiptoe. I still do not like it as a ballpark, and am delighted by comparison with the warm, comfortable home we have in Flushing (despite its well-documented shortcomings) compared to the Train Station In The Bronx. There was a good crowd tonight on an absolutely perfect evening for baseball, groups of guys and gals and families in their Mets and Yankees finest. Besides, where else can you see charming couples like this:

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Even with the early lead, the tiny thought in my mind of you are tempting fate by doing this, you know, the coach will turn into a pumpking again soon is coursing through my brain when I’m sitting at the House of Evil watching the Mets shutting out the Yankees. You gotta love an early lead, getting a run on the board right away, it’s what I remember best about the games of 2006, the early runs, piling it on, the continual movement machine. Hits and walks, “little bites,” as Willie used to say. The attitude of the Yankees fans around us was that of destiny; there were some pieces out today forecasting a total sweep, and many of the Yankees fans around me read their Blackberries, filed their nails and otherwise looked bored every time Takahashi threw a pitch. It was as though since they didn’t know who he was, he didn’t matter. There was no recognition of the fact that hey, you already faced this guy, and didn’t do so hot. And then there was the usual colossal overreaction every time they got a man on base. You would think it was the last out of Game 7.

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I love that David Wright is booed. I love that Jose Reyes is booed. I loved that the Bleacher Creatures went through the tiresome exercise that is the roll call and finished it up with “Box Seats Suck” and then “Mets Suck”. I like that we get under people’s skin.

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I like that Jose rocked the high socks tonight. He should do that more often.

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I loved that Takahashi didn’t let anything get to him. I loved that Ike Davis seemed cool as a cucumber, stepping out of the batter’s box as he needed to, straightening his pants legs, knocking the dirt off his cleats with his bat. Little things, the things you notice because not much else is going on. The other team made some great plays – I will give credit to Robinson Cano, at least – but it was not a game of tremendous action, as you know. While that might make for slightly boring television it was like walking a tightrope at the actual Stadium.

There were more Mets fans there than I originally thought; then again, they probably got louder as the game progressed. We were in the 300s which is such a different experience than the 400s that I do not know that I will ever agree to tickets up there again. There was trash talking, but it was good natured, clean trash talking. There were women behind us consuming multiple portions of whatever that drink is that comes in the long, tall plastic container; that might explain why they thought the Yankees got a run in at the bottom of the 6th. I had uncharacteristically sprung to my feet in a cheer – and so did they, and as I turned around, thinking, Maybe they were Mets fans and I didn’t notice? did I see their crestfallen expressions as they realized what happened.

I should not be mentioning the Foxwoods Casino Turning Point of the Game because Foxwoods Casino is not (yet!) a sponsor of metsgrrl.com, but for me, tonight, the Turning Point of the Game was when Jerry Manuel decided that this game actually MATTERED and brought in Pedro Feliciano to face Curtis Granderson. I am not exactly the biggest in-game strategist you will ever meet, but even I was sitting there, scratching my head and saying, “Shouldn’t we be bringing in someone else to face Granderson?” Around me, Yankees fans are on their feet and screaming about how THE GRANDYMAN CAN DO IT, which was miserable enough, but the thought that Elmer Dessens was going to be who we sent out to face Curtis Granderson was just going to make me comatose. And then the bullpen door opened up, and out came Perpetual Pedro, the man we have EXACTLY FOR SITUATIONS LIKE THIS ONE.

“I’m kind of surprised that he’s doing this,” TBF said. “I mean, this is very not Jerry. He’s the 8th inning guy. He pitches the 8th inning. Not, he comes in at a key situation because he’s the best guy we have at the moment.”
“He wants to win this game.”
We both sat there in silence briefly and pondered this… at least until Valdes came trotting out at the top of the 9th. If David Wright had actually hit that 3-run HR we were all praying for him to do, that might have been one thing, but even 4-0 is not much of a margin, even in the 9th. You know I am speaking the truth here. There are so many ways things could have gone wrong, up until the very last out. I know, I am spooked, I am scarred for life, but I am not entirely out of proportion. The Mets are playing good baseball right now, but they are not playing flawless, above reproach baseball.

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When Frankie came in, and then LOADED THE BASES, I confess that I sat there and started to re-write the lede for this piece in my head. I felt just the tiniest bit like the beat writers, when there’s the big, game-changing play and you have to completely write your story from scratch. I did not think he would get out of it. I did not think, in that interminable at-bat by Gardner (during which the guy in front of us kept screaming BRETT THE JET! BRETT THE JET! nonstop), that Frankie was going to get out of this. Truth. I was trying to consider how I was going to get myself out of Yankee Stadium without wanting to run into oncoming traffic after Francisco Rodriguez coughed up yet another blown save and Derek F. Jeter hit a freaking grand slam to tie the game at the bottom of the 9th. “C’mon!” said the guy in front of us, “This is what Jeter was BORN to do,” as though we would actually agree with him for one tiny second. Maybe not born to do, but likely to do. “He’s Captain Clutch!” dude insisted. This is when TBF launched into his tirade about how “clutch” is the most meaningless, unscientific statistic in the history of statistics, which prompted Mr. Dude to start lecturing us about “intangibles,” and while TBF caught his breath I launched a parallel tirade about how ‘intangibles’ was an even more meaningless, unquantifiable statistic.

Just when I thought I could not possibly bear it one moment longer, that was the moment when the aforementioned Derek F. Jeter, CAPTAIN CLUTCH, struck out swinging. I refrained from muttering anything about “intangibles,” and to say “and there was much rejoicing” would be an understatement. But keep in mind that I was not jumping up and down. It was more like “sitting back in the chair in relief.” TBF is muttering something about how we should have brought whiskey for moments like this.

Unfortunately, we were not out of the woods yet. An even worse outcome for this game was now approaching the plate. If Derek Jeter being game hero would have been intolerable, Nick Swisher hitting a grand slam to tie the game would have been a gazillion times worse. At least Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter, and not some once-lovable bum from Oakland who turned into the quintessential Yankee [redacted]. I cannot believe I ever liked Nick Swisher. (I swear it’s like Samson and Delilah, formerly decent guys go to the Yankees, cut their hair off, and turn into an intolerable [redacted].)

(Speaking of “intolerable” and [redacted], I haven’t mentioned Francisco Cervelli once. I did mention on Twitter early in the game that he was my least favorite Yankee, and someone asked why. I said it was because he was an intolerable douchebag, and on a team that includes Nick Swisher, that was quite an accomplishment. I also hear that Ron Darling agreed with me, but not quite in those words.)

There is much debate about the pitches Frankie is throwing. People are saying he is finished, that he’s not K-rod (which was a dumb name anyway), that he can’t do what he used to do. But in this case, what he did was cause Nick Swisher to pop out in foul territory and I’m screaming “TWO HANDS [censored]” and TBF is calmly pointing out that it was in foul territory even if they didn’t, but it doesn’t matter, because the Mets have won this game. “New York, New York” blares out of the PA and we start singing along, and keep singing along until we hit the escalators and instead hear a lovely baritone start singing “Meet The Mets”. We join him and carry the second verse out onto River Avenue.

No matter what happens tomorrow, it is much nicer to head back to the Bronx for game two having won game one.


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