Eight In April

Remember a few weeks ago, when some people wanted to start panicking, and others, myself among them, were of the opinion that seven games into the season was too early to lose our heads?

For multiple reasons, I’m glad I was right.  And it applies to our now-eight game winning streak every bit as much as it applied to today’s eighth inning.

We were up three.  It shrunk to two, and then one.  Twice, it looked like we would go behind.  We didn’t.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start in the first inning, because that’s where we’ve gotten used to starting these last few games.  Two singles and a walk load the bases.  One of them, of course, comes from Michael Conforto.  Neil Walker singles; two runs score.

Nice and easy; simple, quality run production.  All a lineup needs to do.

Then we move ahead to the second: hit-by-pitch, sac bunt, hit by pitch, 2 RBI double.  From, of course, Michael Conforto.

Then the fifth.  After an Asdrubal Cabrera flyout, a solo home run.  From Michael Conforto.

Then finally, because I guess even Michael Conforto is at least partially human, we scored our final run of the day without him.

Two themes resonate here.  Our offense is damn good.  And Michael Conforto is the same.

Our offense is scoring runs as we’ve always heard they were meant to be scored.  Getting on base.  Stringing hits together and driving runners in.  And, of course, the occasional home run.

All coming, for the most part, from Michael Conforto.

Really, what can you say about Conforto at this point?  He’s batting .365 with a .442 OBP.  He’s got four home runs, and doubles in six straight games.  In the first 77 games of his career, he’s been better, by a substantial margin, than Bryce Harper or Mike Trout.

His swing is music to the eyes, and the ball off his bat, music to the ears.  His batting stance is simple, yet his stroke flows like water.  He takes the ball to left, center, and right with equal power. Every pitch he sees, he can hit.

He knows the strike zone.  He stands at the plate with the poise and command of a much more seasoned veteran.  He swings at good pitches, and leaves the bad ones.  He knows how to avoid a strikeout, and how to take a walk.

He’s humble, well spoken, and professional.  With a classic swing, hustle on the base paths, and fundamental defense, he’s a model ballplayer.  He does the all the right things on the field, and we haven’t heard of his doing anything off it.

Michael Conforto is freakin’ great.

Now, I’ll control myself for a moment, and talk about the game DID YOU SEE HIS SWING IT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING no really I’ll talk about the game.  We had deGrom; they had Matt Cain.  One in his prime; one past it.  But again, deGrom wasn’t at his best.

Besides Thor, none of our starters have really reached their absolute best yet.  Today, deGrom got the job done, because he’s Jacob deGrom and he’s not going to go out there and lose, but he did it without his best velocity or command.  The velocity had crept up since his last start, and he was sitting at 94 and touching 95-96, but he wasn’t where we know he can go.

Some of his command was missing as well; he walked four, four more than you’d expect him to walk.  He struck out five, five fewer than you’d expect him to strike out.  And through it all, against the Giants’ quality lineup, he went six innings and, but for a Wilmer Flores error that we all saw coming from miles away, wouldn’t have allowed a run.

Through the early goings, we can agree, deGrom has looked good, but not quite great.  He’s been fine, of course; even below what he did last year, he’d be fine.  But he hasn’t quite turned in the dominant performance we’ve been waiting for.

DeGrom is 3-0 with a 1.02 E.R.A..  How’s that?

After deGrom left, that’s when things began to get dicey, because as we’re constantly told, the bridge to Familia is in danger.  First it was Jim Henderson, who struck out the first two batters he faced, and then, after an estimated 47 close calls that didn’t go his way, allowed two runners to reach.

Then it was Addison Reed, who entered to strike our Angel Pagan.  I’ve described it before, and is hasn’t failed yet, despite continuing not to be supported by any quantitative or qualitative evidence that I know of: the sight of Addison Reed on the mound fills me with confidence.  I don’t know why it is: the simple motion, the straight fastball, and the usually superb location combine to create a wonderful sense of security.

Reed had it in the seventh, but not the eighth, so Robles came in with the bases loaded, and in a display of pitching that played its own small part in affirming my conviction that all the bad luck we’ve been through will flip in our favor some time.  Robles allowed consecutive sac flies that, combined, traveled maybe 740 feet.  Had they gone 743, we’d have been down two runs.  As it stood, we were up one.

Sometimes, it may seem like we don’t get the luck we deserve.  Indeed, I firmly believe the truth of that statement; luck has been screwing us over for years.  But today, we had fortunes on our side.

Not that that makes the win any less important.

And then Robles lost himself too, so Blevins came in.  He of the former 20-some-odd men retired as a Met streak, he who himself had, in 2015, been through a spiral of bad luck that, if anything, made him as true a Met as anyone I can think of.

He needed an out, and he got one.  Inning over.

Then, finally, it was Familia, who can just never seem to nail down a clean inning.  Obviously, I’m wrong: Familia has nailed down his share and more of clean innings.  It just never seems to actually happen.  It’s a clearly nonsensical paradox that doesn’t make any sense at all.  And it comes down, once again, to the luck of the Mets fan.

Sure enough, Familia allowed Denard Span to reach base.  This was already trouble, I was sure.

I’d forgotten that today, luck was on our side.

A ground ball.  A new double play combination that works faster than the old one.  A runner fast enough to beat out a throw from Wilmer, but not quite quick enough to beat Cabrera.  A challenge that had already been unsuccessfully used up.

Put it all together for two down, nobody on.  A messy Matt Duffy groundout later, the game was in the books.

So, looking back at everything, we’re doing pretty well.  Today’s win makes five series wins in a row, and tomorrow, assuming the bad weather holds off (and we’ve got the one guy for whom it should), we’ve got Thor, and that’s a recipe to sweep a series if ever I’ve seen one.

No one said it would be easy, as today’s slog to the finish proved. But we’re a good team, so we win the tough games.  Simple as that.

Tomorrow, with Bumgarner on the mound, should be a tough game.  But so what?  As we demonstrated today, we’ll just keep doing what good teams do.  Now let’s move that ticker up to nine, and then, against the Braves’ mess of a team, up to twelve.

We’d won eleven in a row, and scored eleven in an inning.  We’ve bettered one of those; time to do the same to the other.

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