As Jose Reyes batted with two men on in the top of the eleventh, you could hear a small but determined group of Mets fans doing the “Jose” chant in the background, like we were back at Shea in 2006. Well, if you were watching, you could hear it. In that sense, most people probably couldn’t.
The chant was only background noise, anyway; as Reyes batted, Gary and Keith were discussing how the Phillies would manage their bullpen to the next two batters. It was Asdrubal, a switch-hitter but a raker against lefties, and then Nimmo, who hits righties like he plays the game, which is to say well.
“The problem is,” said Gary, “If you go to a righty against Cabrera, then you have no lefty against Nimmo.”
Reyes was still hitting, for a while anyway; then, he struck out, and Cabrera came up. There was no movement from the Phillies’ dugout; Pete Mackanin was sticking with the lefty. Cabrera, said a graphic SNY’s crew flashed on the screen, was batting .382 against righties; only Nolan Arenado was better. And then, while I was mulling this over in my head, Asdrubal launched a ball to left, and the game took on a different tone.
This wasn’t 2017. This couldn’t be. Mets were circling the bases, and balls that should have been caught were leaving the yard. Pete Mackanin had gambled and lost; out he came, to make a pitching change one batter too late.
“I would have brought in the righty,” Keith said.
There are games like this, every once in a while in a September that’s otherwise gone to waste, when you see flashes of what could have been.
After Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo walked, and hustled his way down to first. He could have started for us all year…hell, one of these years, maybe he will. Phillip Evans had a hit, and Nori Aoki walked…in different years, either or both of them could have been Jose Valentin or Damian Easley, those inexpressibly valuable pieces who quietly contribute on the way to a successful season. Kevin Plawecki had a hit in the 11th…he was, we tend to forget, a first round draft pick.
And then, of course, there was Familia, who seemed to have forgotten that he wasn’t having this kind of year. Everything was working. Pitching to Odubel Herrera, he got the strikeout looking on what I swore was the same pitch he’d thrown to Dexter Fowler, almost two years ago, to secure the National League pennant. Then he induced a Maikel Franco groundout, and struck out Cameron Rupp on the kind of slider we haven’t seen in years to end it.
This could have been a game the 2015 Mets won on the way to their improbable division title, if you didn’t look closely. But it couldn’t, because Amed doubled and Nimmo tripled and Asdrubal Cabrera had four hits and Kevin Plawecki had two. It wasn’t the 90-72 2015 Mets out there, and it definitely wasn’t the 70-91 2017 Mets; maybe it was the World-Series winning Mets of the future. Meanwhile, Gary and Keith were doing their thing, going on about how tired they were and who was going to drive them home tonight, and as they wound down the bottom of the eleventh, I realized that it was one more night on SNY with the boys, and that we only had one more, and suddenly, as I watched our guys wrap up another win, I didn’t really care what our record was.