Most of New York was watching the bigger rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox last night, which is rather unfortunate. Those folks missed out on one of the most dramatic baseball games of the year, and easily the best Mets game of the season.
This late inning comeback against the Braves brought back echoes of the late '90s when Mike Piazza truly was one of the most feared hitters in the game. His three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth to win the game was perhaps his most dramatic home run since that September night in 2001 when he crushed a ball to center field, propelling the Mets to a win in their first home game after 9/11. I never saw that game live because I was down in Austin, but when I saw the highlights on Sportscenter at this cool local dive, I never wanted to be at Shea more than that moment. Watching last night's game at a local Brooklyn haunt (surrounded by Yankees fans salivating at their comeback against the Sox) and seeing Piazza hit another majestic blast, it gave me almost the exact same feeling.
Piazza hasn't smiled at all this season--until last night. His look when coming out of the dugout to take a curtain call has been M.I.A. It was the look of a player who enjoys the game. The tons of slagging he's gotten from fans and the media didn't matter. Where his team is in the standings didn't matter. And the constant speculation about the end of his Mets career (or entire baseball career) certainly didn't matter. This was a look of joy on the face of a player who has brought a decent amount of joyous moments in his Mets tenure, which most Mets fans (myself included) are very quick to forget in the wake of the last two seasons.
This game was also more than about Mike Piazza, it was also about the "new Mets." David Wright continued his penchant for coming up big (two solo homeruns), making a boneheaded error (which cost one run) and then in the words of some movie I can't seem to recall, "You come along and totally redeem yourself!" Wright worked a walk and came around to score the tying run in the 7th, and then made a great grab of a Kelly Johnson bunt in the air on a squeeze play, leading to an unassisted double play in the top of the 8th. And Carlos Beltran seems to be heating up with a 4-for-4 night.
And the "not-so-new-Mets" department, Cliff Floyd made an outstanding catch, diving into the stands in left field to snag a foul ball that he really had no business giving up his body for.
Hopefully this game won't color Omar Minaya's judgment, where he trades away the future to fill some holes in the present. This team won't be contenders until next year at the earliest. Let's keep that schedule in mind, Omar. And let's hope one of the best catchers who ever played the game can go out with dignity, and a little pop in his bat.
Friday, July 15, 2005
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