Things never quite go according to plan.
On Wednesday, Robbie blew off a class and hustled from college to New York to join us on our journey to Shea Stadium and Game 1 of the NLCS. The weather was threatening but we all hoped to get the game in. Oddly, even though we had a fourth ticket, seven different people we invited along couldn’t make it. Our final thought was to scalp it at the stadium. We all met up at Grand Central, in the rain, and walked to Deb’s favorite area luncheon place to grab some dinner and then take the subway to Queens.
Arriving at Shea, we realized the rain was getting heavier and thought they might call the game. We went straight to our car, carefully parked near an exit, and got in to dry off and check WFAN for details. Based on the first comments we heard, the rumors about Cory Lidle being killed in the plane crash were confirmed for us. I thought Cory had a lot of potential when he broke in with the Mets and was sorry to see him go in the Tampa Bay expansion draft. I thought he had a pretty good year with the Yankees and his death was a sad event.
But I digress. Within ten minutes, the official word came that the game was called, to be rescheduled. We fired up the engine and slogged through the rain back to Connecticut and after a break, Robbie took one of our cars back to school since it was clear by then we’d be doing this all over again on Friday.
Fortunately, MLB decided to make it an evening game, guaranteeing he could join us and Deb’s coworker who originally had our fourth ticket, was able to be there, too. So far so good.
Thursday, the Mets, behind superb pitching from Tom Glavine, took Game One. By then, though, they had won eight in a row dating back to the regular season so I recognized the odds were stacked against them for a ninth. But, being a Mets fan, I remained hopeful.
Friday was cool but clear and we once again hooked up at Grand Central. We got to the stadium in plenty of time, grabbed sausages and watched the Cardinals finish batting practice. We were in the Upper Reserve, somewhere just past third base into left field, and four rows from the top of the stadium. Still, it was, in many ways, a superior view than the game we saw a week before.
We settled in and then Deb’s phone buzzed. She received a text message which read: “I’m on Mt. Sinai, what’s the score?” Yes, CairoKate was sending us queries from a historic point of the world, anxious to keep in touch. As a result, Robbie would text back the score every inning or so. We also were entertained by Linda Eder (one of Deb’s favorites) performing the National Anthem and we laughed when Jon Stewart bounced the ceremonial first pitch.
I kept comparing my experience last night to the one 1999 NLCS game we attended, the only one the Mets won against Atlanta. The air was super-charged back then, we were on our feet most of the night, and were hoarse well before the ninth inning. Last night, it didn’t feel the same, seemed to be maybe 80% of that. Guys two and three rows below us decided to use their attendance as an excuse to get quickly drunk on beer which meant they were super-charged and on their feet much of the night. Since the guy in front of me couldn’t see, he stood, forcing me to stand more often than I wanted.
The Mets struck early against Chris Carpenter, who clearly didn’t have his best stuff. He threw an awful lot of balls, walked a high number of players and couldn’t contain the Met offense. John Maine, though, seemed to keep losing focus and allowed the Cardinals to stay in the game so a 3-0 lead suddenly became 3-2, and so on, all night.
By the 7th inning, the drunken guys seemed to lose all self-control and sure enough, a fight broke out that left one guy with a bloody nose and a good half-dozen people involved just had their night ruined. A side note: no usher or security game by, we were too high up, too remote for their notice it seemed.
Willie Randolph’s plan was to use Guillermo Mota in the 7th, Aaron Heilman in the 8th and close things out with Billy Wagner in the 9th. This plan normally works well. However, Mota couldn’t get out of the inning, requiring Heilman to come in early and by then the score was tied at 6. Convention tells you not to bring your closer into a tie ballgame but Randolph went against such wisdom and brought Wagner in for the ninth. Here’s when things really fell apart and for the first time in my memory, Randolph removed his closer before the end of the inning. With Roberto Hernandez now pitching the score stood 9-6 and that was too steep a problem to surmount as the team went quietly in the bottom of the ninth. No late inning heroics, no walk off classics as happened early this season.
We stand tied at 1-1 with Detroit seemingly poised to close things out this weekend and rest until this series is over. The sports reporters from all media seem to think it’ll be the Mets in 6, but as the last few days prove, things don’t quite go according to plan so I’ll remain cautiously optimistic.