So I took a long lunch. It was lunch. Just about the only thing I really like about Citi Field is its Shake Shack.
And it was such a nice way to spend an afternoon.
One of the things with baseball more than just about any sport is the very real chance that you can see something in any given game that you truly haven't seen before. There were examples of that today.
I might have seen someone rob a home run before, but I don't know if I've ever seen it the way I saw today, Travis Snider of the Pirates gripping the top of the right field fence with one hand, stretching the other hand with his glove about as high over the head as you could possibly go and stretching it back a bit too, and somehow getting a ball that was over and past the fence into his glove for an out. Mike Baxter seemed a little surprised to be ending his home run trot just past second base.
And then the play where the Pirates centerfielder dove for a ball, did a wonderful job of acting like he caught it, I thought he had. But the umpire called it safe, that the ball had hit the ground or been trapped. There was a runner at first base who had held up on going to second to see if the ball had been caught. The centerfielder managed to throw the ball to second to get him for a force out -- maybe he should have just let the ball fall in front and thrown him out. So I've seen players dive for the ball, I've seen acting jobs, I don't think I've ever seen that combine with a force out at second on a missed fly ball to center field. And then to add a cherry to this unique baseball sundae, the center fielder was injured on the play and left the game.
R.A. Dickey is a rare baseball breed, the knuckle-baller, the successor to Tim Wakefield for the title of last knuckle-baller standing. Alas, he didn't have his knuckle ball working in the early innings, and the Pirates took an early lead. A liner to left that went over the head of the left fielder. A fly ball to shallow center that was up in the air for an awfully long time but not quite enough time to be caught. A slow roller to third where the Mets didn't get the out at first because the third baseman thought a little too long and hard about trying for a play at home. It looked like that kind of Mets game, where the Mets weren't doing the job on defense, the Pirates were leaping the outfield fences to take away home runs, that Dickey might muddle through without his knuckler and still lose the game not so much because of his pitching as because he was playing for the Mets.
But it didn't play out that way. Ike Davis hit a solo home run. The Mets got another run here, another run there, and then David Wright hit a three run homer to give the Mets a 6-3 lead. And R.A. Dickey found enough of his knuckler, mixed in enough change-ups to keep the Pirates off balance, that he managed when all was said and done to pitch 8 2/3 innings. To get 13 strikeouts tying a career high, to get within a fraction of an inch of getting a 14th strikeout as the final batter he faced fouled off several pitches before earning a walk.
Jon Rauch comes in. It's the Mets. At the end of a miserable season that started off with such promise. He comes in to relieve Dickey, the first batter he faces comes within a yard or two of hitting a 2-run homer. In the 9th inning, he does give up a 2-run homer. Close isn't good enough. 1 out, none on, Mets up by 1. Bobby Parnell comes in and gets the final outs to save R. A. Dickey's 20th win.
And then in another first, at least for a game I've attended, the Mets showed the postgame interview from the Mets TV channel on the scoreboard.
Some decades ago when the Mets were in another period of protracted badness, their ad slogan one season was, if memory serves, "At any moment, a great moment." Which sums up today pretty nicely.
And just to say: when R.A. Dickey was warming up before the top of the first inning, his music was from Star Wars, a chunk of the finale from Episode 5 or 6 that started with the Imperial March theme, and then just a little bit of the next reprisal before the game began. And when he came to bat, which pitchers get to do in the NL and which R. A. Dickey got to do three times today, his "walk to plate" music was the theme from Game of Thrones.
So that little spark of Mets fan in me got fanned a bit, and the sf nerd in me as well. If there's going to be a first pitcher in 22 years to have 20 wins for the Mets -- well, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
I really would love for him to get the Cy Young Award.