Tuesday, August 9, 2011

These Mets sure know how to take a punch — and deliver one

I was talking with my brother over at Optimetsic recently about this Mets team, and how — despite all that's gone on with injuries, and the rough start — enjoyable the season has been, how players like Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee have stepped up, how they never give up, how Terry Collins has the team playing hard every game.

But while I have enjoyed what the Mets have done, I admit I want more. I've been pointing to the final third of the season, with a majority of games at home, and three series left against the Braves, as being the Mets' final chance to prove to the naysayers that they were far from finished, that they could still have a run in them.

Then the Mets lost four in a row to the Nationals and the friggin' Marlins, and dropped the opener of the Braves series, and I have to say, it was rough. Here it was, their big chance to at least start to make up ground, and they were blowing it, the last three losses coming at home, which made things doubly frustrating. And of course, losing to the Braves is always painful.

And yet, the Mets battled back again, winning Saturday night with four home runs and 16 hits, and you thought, OK, there's still some hope.

I tuned into Sunday's game late, hearing on the radio that Willie Harris was in for Jose Reyes, who left with an injured hamstring. WHAAAA? We get to my mom's house, and within a half-hour, Daniel Murphy gets spiked and injures a knee, and you knew just from the look on his face that he was done for the year. SERIOUSLY?

And yet, the Mets still battled, but ultimately let the Braves take it when Bobby Parnell allowed a broken-bat single, a walk, and then for some reason threw three straight sliders to Chipper Jones, who of course rolled a 15-hopper past second in the top of the ninth for the win.

Immediate thoughts were that Citi Field must be built on an indian burial ground. Ike Davis wasn't hurt here, it was in Colorado, but still -- that was a seemingly innocuous collision with David Wright that's kept him out all season. Murphy hurts his other knee covering on a stolen base — when does that ever happen? Just plain bizarre. And Reyes again? Something's up. If there really are Phillies jerseys buried in the foundation, dig 'em up.

I lost it, especially with Parnell, who I thought would benefit by having a Frankenstein-like implant of Jason Isringhausen's head onto his 100-mile-an-hour body. Parnell went to the well once too often with Chipper, which he has a tendency to do. He hasn't learned to pitch, and that's what keeps guys like Kyle Farnsworth bouncing from team to team.

And yet, the Mets still battled. They could have packed it in, but instead rallied to take game one of the Padres series on Monday, recapped nicely here by Optimetsic. Two in the eighth, two more in the ninth. Lucas Duda is going to get a huge opportunity to be the left-handed power-hitting first baseman that Davis was supposed to be, and this audition will go a long way toward him possibly being the right field starter next season. Duda has met the challenge.

He came through again Tuesday night, with two more hits, but more importantly, a huge sacrifice bunt in the eighth that set up the game-tying sac fly by Nick Evans (keep this kid around, please). Best of all, Collins said Duda asked him if he wanted him to bunt. Anything for the team, coach.

Then there was the game-winning run on a bases-loaded walk to Ruben Tejada, who has shown that he has a pretty good eye.

Everyone contributed. Pagan homered for the second straight night. Hairston had a big hit. Jason Bay continues to hit. Carrasco got out of a jam.

Collins has said over and over that this team doesn't give up, and they've proven that over and over again. If any team deserved the YOU GOTTA BELIEVE mantra, it's this one. And so, I continue to be greedy and perhaps too unrealistic. Ten games out with 11 to play? THERE'S STILL A CHANCE.

*** And yes, I know the video above is in Spanish. Damn YouTube "embedding disabled by request." It still translates.

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