What was Jeurys Familia doing in trouble again? And more importantly, how would he get out of it?
Familia, it seems, hasn’t quite hit his groove yet. His pitches are there, for the most part, but they’re all over. He’s giving up too many hits, and his E.R.A. is higher than we’d like.
Fortunately, even after an adventure of a ninth inning today that included throws to the wrong bases, an attempted barehand that went wrong, and a single to Jeff Francoeur, his save percentage is as high as it possibly can be. And one game at a time, that’s all that really matters.
When Familia got Daniel Castro to ground to Walker to end it, I sank back in my seat, relieved beyond measure. This had been a game we were supposed to win. For the longest time, it had appeared that we would do so easily.
“It’s a lot closer than it seems,” Keith had warned in the eighth inning. So secure in my newfound confidence in our guys, based in part on the successes of what is now a 7-2 road trip, I hadn’t taken him seriously enough. But as Kelly Johnson reached to start the ninth, then inexplicably moved to second on a slow ground ball to Asdrubal, I wasn’t sure.
Familia had his share of trouble last year as well: he blew five saves, and in several others, relied on clutch double plays to extricate himself from what would otherwise have turned into extremely thorny situations. All closers get into trouble, I suppose, but you’d think that we’d get a break from that, every once in a while. You’d think, with a guy like Familia, who may already be one of the best relievers in Mets history, we’d have ourselves a carefree ninth inning every once in a while.
But really, what would be the point of that? A win isn’t half as sweet if the possibility of a loss hasn’t been introduced. When Familia got the last out, I pumped my fist and lay back, flooding with happiness as we, with the win, moved another game above .500, and finished out a sweep of the Braves, who, in their final year at Turner Field, seem determined to reverse all the undeserved luck they’ve received in their 20 years playing there. Last night, when Robles or Bastardo or whoever it was — you see, I don’t even remember — got the last out, I barely noticed. I was listening in one ear as I scrolled through the internet, looking for a Jerry Lee Lewis t-shirt.
Now tell me, which win is sweeter?
Statistically, of course, there’s no question to be asked; a win is a win, and that’s that. But the statistics aren’t all that matters — they never are. We pulled out a win today, despite not hitting our best and missing out on some opportunities. We managed to hang on to a victory we really didn’t deserve, over a team that deserved it even less.
Win sweetness — I don’t know that we’ve got the stats to measure that. But for most of us, myself included, it’s the reason we watch in the first place.
It’s not about the win itself, but what led there — the narrative of the win, if you will. It’s about Jacob deGrom returning from the tumultuous birth and subsequent complications of his son and pitching beautifully, moving his record to 2-0, 1.54. It’s about Michael Conforto, after hitting the ball hard all weekend and not getting the hits to show for it, driving a ball over Nick Markakis’ head for a ground rule double in the sixth, which could have been, depending on how exactly you calculate this almost entirely useless statistic, the game-winning RBI.
And even more, it’s about beating the loss-straddled, rebuild-mired, stadium-hopping, offense-lacking, bullpen-wanting, series-losing, godforsaken Atlanta Braves.
First, deGrom — perfection wasn’t expected, in his first start in two weeks, but what we got was pretty damn good by itself. As in game five of the NLDS, he didn’t have his best stuff. And just as he did then, he persevered. Five and two thirds innings, which should have been six but for a squibber up the third base line that Brooks Robinson, or, indeed, David Wright couldn’t have done anything with.
For deGrom, the perfection will come — if not in terms of 27 up and 27 down, at least in terms of throwing his pitches just the way he wants them. He’s coming off a World Series appearance, an abbreviated Spring Training, and a sudden bout of time off to deal with a baby and a lat pull. The velocity will show up, as will the location, and the snap on the curveball, and all the things we love about, to channel Keith Hernandez, young Mr. deGrom. But in the meantime, he looked pretty good anyway.
Remember the four aces we all talked up? Well, we’ve been through three of them, and we’re out with three wins, even though quite frankly, none of the three had their absolute best stuff. They’ll all be better. Our opponents probably won’t. We’ve got one ace to go — and then Bartolo, and then the four aces get right back at it.
So now, it’s on back to Queens, where gamblers are waiting for their fourth ace and weather forecasters have predicted a strong chance of lightning. That’s right — it’s Thorsday on a Monday, and against a Reds team that we last saw leaving the field as we celebrated a division title, I can’t help but like our chances.