I’m always wary when going to Shea Stadium with the Braves in town. I tend to get my hopes up — This is the day. Today, they’ll turn it around and bury those punks. — only to have Tim Hudson throw a one-hitter through seven, or some such dominance. Had I attended last night’s game, I probably would’ve felt the tide turning during the three-run-on-four-straight-walks third inning … only to have Mike Pelfrey piss it all away in one at-bat to Kelly Johnson.
And so as I dragged myself out of bed this morning to check the weather and the ticket situation, I half-hoped for an ominous forecast of rain, or a single ticket in the far reaches of the upper reserved, indicating very little chance of using the courtesy pass this afternoon. But the Weather Channel told me that any precipitation for the day had already passed through, and Mets.com told me that I could have two tickets in the orange field-level seats if I wanted to pay $167.
But things started looking up as we made our way from the house. Casey and I went our separate ways at Secaucus, where she took the Northeast Corridor line to Trenton and I awaited the next Penn Station-bound train. Mine happened to be a train of the new double-decker cars — a first for me heading into the city, or on a weekend — and as I sat down on the left-hand side of the train, facing the platform on which Casey had been standing, I saw she too had the luxury of two-story cars, and would get to enjoy it five times as long as I would for my 10-minute trans-Hudson traverse.
My train luck didn’t transfer with me to the E, which went local through Queens instead of the much more efficient express, but I got to Roosevelt Ave. with enough time to walk from the back of the platform to the front to ride the first car of the 7 the final six stops to Shea, getting some nice photos of the blue ballpark as we approached.
My comped seat, as usual, was way up in the upper reserved, but row B, which does make a difference. And once there, I scanned the starting lineups for each team — my smile growing ever wider as I went through the Braves’ lineup and over to the Mets. No Yunel Escobar, the talented young Atlanta shortstop. No Chipper Jones, the long-time villain in the Mets’ battle against evil. And on the Mets’ side, no Luis Castillo, the 32-year-old slap-hitting second baseman with two bad knees and a fat, four-year contract that the Mets should already be regretting with every downward chop at a fastball and each four-hopper to second base with runners in scoring position. Carlos Delgado was still in the lineup, but at least he drove in a run in this game … albeit on a dribbler up the first-base line that Mark Teixeira probably should’ve let roll foul, or charged harder for a play at the plate. (And later, on the throw Tex did make home, he was given an out by the home-plate umpire, even though it looked like Angel Pagan slid in safely before Brian McCann got the tag down.)
It was nice to see the Mets bunch their hits together in the third inning for a four-run rally, but some insurance would’ve been nicer. On Friday night, when Jair Jurrjens lost his cool with the umpire’s strike zone and walked four in a row, he provided all the Mets’ runs in a 6-3 loss. They had two hits at that point, too, and I later found out that that’s all they’d get for the game. Though they managed a few more hits after their only run-scoring frame today, they’re going to have to put up more crooked numbers on the scoreboard if they want to put together any kind of winning streak.
Hopefully, they’ll find some magic against John Smoltz tomorrow. The chances aren’t good, but perhaps they’re due. They’re due for a six- or seven-game winning streak (the Pirates arrive for three beginning Monday, and then the Mets head to Arizona, where they’ve had great success the past three years; though with the D-backs’ solid pitching staff, I’d be happy starting off with one win and going from there). The Phillies have been fattening up on weak pitching (the Pirates) and child-like ballparks (particularly their own), and the Marlins are playing over their heads. If the Mets can keep the Braves down and start another four-game winning streak on Philadelphia when the next series starts, the division lead will come back to them. But first they’ve got to start hitting.