So last night (Game 41, it said on the ticket) was my first venture to Shea for the 2006 season. I know, I know, I'm a bit behind the times in going to see the first place Mets. Usually my Mets games come in binges--last year it was seven games before the All-Star break, this year it will end up being at least 7 games after the mid point of the season. I'm not sure why my attendance record is like that; it just is.
I got my tickets for free from Alli, the Muppet Show-loving Yankee fan. She got the ticket through her job, but alas couldn't go because she had to work. And even though Alli is a Yankee fan first and foremost, unlike most Yankee fans she doesn't hate the Mets (except for six times a year), and is fun to go to games with because she's a big fan of baseball in general. Instead of scrambling to get someone to go with me, I decided to hop the 7 out to Shea by myself and tackle something I had never done before--keep score.
Yes, as big of a baseball geek as I have and can be at times, I had never deemed it important enough to keep a scorecard. Going by myself presented the perfect opportunity to master this tradition. And I must say, only once did I have to look down a couple rows at the Pirates fan keeping score to see what I messed up. And with the lack of action--and pitching changes--on both sides after the run explosion in the first inning, it was a damn easy game to score. The Mets looked like the old great road trip Mets in the first inning, and then looked like the Mets post-road trip for the next eight innings. Perhaps Pirates starter Kip Wells knew scouts were coming after the first inning to check him out.
El Duque (yes, that's what I wrote on my scorecard) had a rough start with seven balls to start the game, but then settled down and baffled the Pirates most of the way. When it hit the 7th inning, I thought that El Duque's time on the mound must be coming to an end soon (my upper deck right field seats didn't allow me to peek at the pitch count). And Orlando must have known it was his last inning too, as he used all his bag of tricks in that inning. When he threw a 51 MPH change-up, there were "oooooooo"'s audible throughout the stadium. It was nice knowing that a less that peak crowd (40, 360 reportedly sold, barely half of that showed up I think--no one sat within 8 seats of me all night) appreciate the mastery of that pitch. And when he came back with an 86 MPH fastball, it looked Billy Wagner-esque.
And the best part of the trip? The game was done in less than 2 and a half hours, and I was home by 11. Sweet. Oh, and that the Mets won was cool too. It was a perfect night at the park.
Other random thoughts:
--I had no idea that Gary Cohen is now the voice on the loop that tells fans what they can and can't do at Shea Stadium. Wish they had kept running Bob Murphy's voice.
--Boy scouts just can't stay seated during a ballgame. Must be that "be prepared" motto that keeps them jumping around everywhere.
--Mike and I have a friend out in L.A.--his nickname is Johnny Reno--and he always has a knack for calling during ballgames with very odd questions. Last night he called me in the 8th inning and asked, "What Tubes song was a hit?" Unfortunately, I thought he was saying Cubes, so I kept asking him over and over what the band was. I guess if anyone was sitting near me they would have been annoyed.
Lastly, I agree with Mike's earlier post--The Mets are not back "in form." If they win 4 out of the 5 games up the break, then I will say they are getting close, but not until then.