Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What on Earth is going on here?

This is not my team. These are not the Mets I know.

In my emotionally-scarring 2.5 decades of baseball fandom I have grown used to scars and disappointment, to collapses and anemic offenses, to insurmountable deficits left insurmounted against mentally stronger foes. What I have never grown used to, what I may never grow used to, is watching this team give up a crooked number and have anything resembling "confidence" that it was capable of a rally.

And so, after last night's stunning comeback, which not only gave the Mets a six-game lead in the NL East but also may have provided the back-breaking moment that puts the proverbial fork in the Washington Nationals, I ask the one question that continues to run through my mind as I try to contain my youthful glee.

"What on Earth is going on?"

The New York Mets, suddenly, are good. Like, really good. On July 31, the Mets opened a three-game series against the Nationals coming off two losses and trailing Washington by three games. That night Wilmer Flores, who days before was crying on the field when he thought he was on the verge of being traded, hit a walkoff home run, sparking a stretch that has seen the Mets go 25-11. In that span, New York has made up a shocking nine games on Washington in the standings while winning all five games between the teams.

This is a stunning reversal of fortune, the likes of which I don't think the Mets have seen since going 40-15 over a 55-game stretch in 1999 after opening the season 27-28, or possibly since a black cat made his way across the Chicago Cubs' dugout on this very day 46 years ago. What makes it all the crazier is the way in which the Mets are piecing together this stunning run. A team that couldn't buy a run for the first four months of the season is suddenly pounding opposing pitching and rallying from five-run deficits like they're no more of a nuisance than a harmless fly to be swatted away.

The past two nights have capped -- or maybe just continued -- the absurd ride with comeback victories on the road in the two biggest regular season Mets games in years. After New York saw a 3-0 lead against Nationals ace Max Scherzer disappear in the smoke of a five-run inning on Monday afternoon, the Mets responded with five unanswered runs of their own in an unlikely 8-5 victory. Last night the Mets somehow topped that absurdity by rallying from a 7-1 deficit with a six-run seventh inning capped by a game-winning home run from someone who had hit a round tripper in precisely one other game this season.

Last night's win not only put the Mets in a commanding position to win the NL East and officially took the Nationals' fate out of their own hands (Washington must overcome a six-game deficit with only four more games against New York this season), it has reporters from both cities declaring the race is over. Even in Washington, the media has glumly accepted that a campaign in which the Nats began the season as prohibitive World Series favorites is likely done.

Where is the frustration? Where are the heart-rending losses? Where are the blown leads by a shoddy bullpen or the second-inning implosions by a starting pitcher? Where are the Mets I've known and loved for so many years?

Where, I ask, is the sanity?

My brain simply cannot handle this series of crazy outcomes, outcomes I know to be so contradictory to what I'm used to. I cannot bring myself to believe the NL East race is over, nor can I really fully grasp that the Mets might be headed back to the playoffs. But hey, I guess I might have to.

I may not really understand what's going on here, but the Mets don't show any signs of letting up. If that's the case, I may just have to accept another one of life's mysteries rather than wrack my brain over it. Then again, hey, maybe being unable to understand is just the price I have to pay to actually see the Mets play well during a pennant drive.

I can accept that. I'm an inquisitive man, who often likes to know the inner workings or the concealed details. I don't like being out of the loop. This isn't always a good thing. But sometimes you just have to accept that you're never going to know why the plan is the plan or why it works. This may be one of those times.

If that's the case, I'm perfectly happy to have no answers. And I'll stay that way right through October.

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