Saturday, April 5, 2014

Queens

On Miracles
Saturday, April 5, 2014
New York Metropolitans vs. Cincinnati Reds
Not Shea Stadium
Major League Baseball, National League
Queens, NY
1:10 PM

Outside the Game: Work, stress, etc. Lather, rinse, repeat. We've all heard it.

It was a 1:10 PM first pitch, so I had to just set my alarm for my regular weekday time to get there for gates. I was a little reluctant to get out of bed, but I eventually got dressed and out the door.

And I got to the PATH station just as a 33rd train was preparing to leave. And I got to the subway just as an orange was ready to leave. And then I got on a 7 that was about to leave. This was an unprecedented run of luck, and confirms that my best time from home to Not Shea, on non-express trains, is one hour and five minutes under the best conditions. I had worked that out in theory during my many trips out that way, but it is good to have observational data to confirm it.

I had dressed to what I thought was excess that morning. The weather report was mildly optimistic about temperatures in the 50s, with sun but "some" wind. I was in two pairs of socks, four t-shirts, Spring jacket, earmuffs, baseball cap, "texting" gloves (an unfortunate, but useful, give away in years past), with a Mets wool hat in reserve (ditto). This clothing choice was borne out when I got off the subway. The wind was absolutely whipping out at Willet's Point' knocking over signs, barricades, small children, and unsecured concrete. It wasn't cold out, per se, but that wind was not helping the situation. Everyone waiting on line to get in at the stadium were arrayed like a herd of water buffalo, backs to the wind in a vague semi-circle, hunched together for heat. As per normal, they only let non-season-ticket holders in two hours before the game. Thankfully, I was there early enough to be right at the front of a line, so I was one of the first ten non-special people to get in the door.

Getting home was getting there in reverse. I was right onto a 7 express back to the city, and then an orange to the PATH train back to Hoboken, which I barreled on to as the doors were closing. On the 7, I believe I was sitting next to a woman recording a Spanish 101 audio tape during a phone conversation. God as my witness, she was asking what time to meet someone at the library.

I have used up all my good luck. I fear for my life.

The Stadium & Fans: Not Shea is still Not Shea, with a circus now seemingly a permanent fixture in the parking lot. There wasn't a whole lot new at the park this year. They had put in two more walkway plaques to commemorate the All-Star Game last year and David Wright's All-Star homer in 2006. Mike "Jackass Roid Freak" Piazza was added to the Mets Hall of Fame. In more useful tributes, Ralph Kiner had a "Kiner's Korner" exhibit added to the Mets Museum, a grass-paint tribute behind home plate, and a circle added to the retired numbers, which are now behind the Party City seats in left. There was also a bunch of Kiner merchandise in the stores. Miss you, Ralph.

The only other new addition was the remnants of All-Star game crammed into the Bullpen entrance. The two All-Star apples were perched up in front of the bullpens, and the giant All-Star sign that was on the scoreboard was placed at the end of an alley. Once again, I really have to wonder who the heck is in charge of these things over there.

No doubt thanks to the weather, the crowd started out sparse, at least in the seats. It would not surprise me if a good portion of them were seeking shelter at the enclosed parts of the park. There were also an unreasonable amount of Reds fans in attendance. I have to imagine it was just the start of the season buzz that shook all the displaced Cincinnatians to the park. By the end of the game, the crowd was of more respectable, and it got loud in the ninth.

At the Game with Oogie: I was in the Caesar's Club Bronze seats along the first-base line for this game. I normally do the third-base side, and I think I will again, but it was a good change of pace, and it worked at karmically. Also, the prices for tickets were sliced in half this year. My seat only cost $39 bucks. I again was the first person served at Shake Shack, as I went straight back as soon as the gates opened at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

Perhaps because of the weather, people were sparse in our section at the start of the game. There was a guy who looked a lot like Buddy Holly sitting two or three rows ahead of us who earned the ire of those in the section by getting up every half inning in the middle of plays to head out to do Buddy Holly things. Go take a plane ride, guy.

There was eventually a group of teenage boys sitting to my right (including one of those oddly numerous Reds fans), and a young Hispanic family to my right. The family had an adorable daughter, or what I expect was a daughter, as only her eyes poked out of a big pink swaddle of clothes against the wind. They didn't show up until right before the Mets took the lead for the first time, so I shall treat them as lucky.

The Game: Where to even begin.

The Metropolitans came crashing out of the gate and were 1-3 going into the first weekend of the season. Dylan Gee, going for the Mets this game, was a hard-luck loser on Opening Day and facing a 1-3 Reds team that weren't nearly as bad as their record indicated, if last year was any benchmark.

I believe I have already mentioned the cold and wind issue. It was going to have an impact somehow, either on the pitchers, or the batters, or the fielders. What it would be was to be seen by all of us freezing our patooties off in the seats at Not Shea.

And the answer seemed to be the batters. The Reds went in order in the first, and the Mets only managed a two-out walk that went nowhere. The Reds went down in order again in the second, but the Mets worked something of a rally. A one-out walk made it to second on a ground-out to the pitcher. The number eight man drew an intentional walk, to make it first and second with two outs, and then the Reds' pitcher balked them both into scoring position. But with pitcher Gee at the plate, he meekly struck out to end the inning.

A one-out single in the top of the third ended the no-no, but a couple more ground outs ended the threat. The Mets only managed a runner on an E4 in the bottom of the inning, and the Reds and Mets both went in order in the fourth. Perhaps having finally gotten acclimatized to the weather, the Reds started the fifth off with a line-drive homer to right, then scaterring a couple of two-out hits before ending their half. The Mets could only manage a one-out double to end the Reds' no-hit bid in their half of the fifth.

The Reds went in order in the sixth, but the Mets started it off with a single in the bottom of the inning. A fielder's choice swapped runners on first, and then new acquisition Curtis Granderson crushed a homer to right. A two-out single was all they had for the rest of the inning, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead at the end of six. The Reds had some baserunners thanks to a walk and a fielder's choice in the seventh, and the Mets only managed a two-out single.

The Reds had some life left, however. They started the eighth with a double to right, and promptly bunted him over to third. That was for naught, as the next batter lined another homer to left, pulling the Reds into a 3-2 lead. With the lead lost, the Mets felt safe to go to the pen, and two quick outs followed. The Mets responded in the bottom of the eighth by going down in order in the heart of the lineup. The top of the ninth featured a new Mets' reliever and a one-out single, but nothing else.

And then the bottom of the ninth. The bottom of the order was up for the Mets; the closer was in for the Reds. It did not look good. A leadoff walk gave some hope. An attempt to bunt the runner to second apparently ended in a 1-6 putout, but Terry Collins popped out of the dugout and issued a challenge on the play. And we're off to the races. The process, which we were assured would be under a minute, took at least three, but it ended with the call being overturned, and the runner ruled safe at second. The next batter walked to load up the bases with no outs. The pitcher spot was up.

And out walks Ike Davis, newly demoted from the starting first base job and relegated to the bench. Not a man with anything to prove at all, I'm sure. He crushed a pitch to right for a walk-off, pinch-hit, grand slam. The crowd goes wild. Put it in the books.

The Scorecard: As crazy a game as it was, it even hit on my scoring checklist of getting a review play while I was scoring.

I was using the BWAA Official Scorebook again, although I bought the program anyway for the Ralph Kiner tribute. Early on during the hitting freeze, there wasn't a lot interesting going on except for the balk in the second. All the runs came from dingers, which was an odd bit of information, as was the only three put-outs the Mets made in the field at first base.

The scoring story of the game was the challenge, however. Actually, there were almost two, as the Reds manager came out for a chat on the 5-4 putout in the top of the seventh inning. The best guess was he was asking if it was reviewable, but the umpires apparently judged it a neighborhood play at second which could not be reviewed.

The main event was in the bottom of the ninth. The sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher and over to the shortstop at second was ruled on the field to be a 1-6 putout. Collins used his appeal, and people went off and reviewed the play, and the runner was eventually judged safe at second, something everyone in the stands already knew, because the TV screens showed us a clear replay nearly immediately.

I gave the play an asterisk and noted the original call and the over-turn, and then scored the play as finalized in the scorecard proper. And a check mark for Saturday.

The Accommodations: Hoboken, Sweet, Hoboken

See the Flickr set for this trip.