Mets Win, Losing Streak Ends

We won! Mets 2, Marlins 1. The four-game skid is over.

I was asked to write about reliever Hansel Robles in today’s poem, since manager Terry Collins put him in a bases loaded, none out situation. Robles, a righty, struck out two before lefty Dee Gordon (a legit threat) came up to the plate. Collins took out Robles and put in our left-handed specialist Blevins, who got the out with a shallow fly ball that Cespedes caught on the run, although Gary Cohen on SNY was so excited for the out that he said it was Conforto, not Cespedes. Either way, I’m sure Robles wanted that out more after those first two Ks.

The New York Post even wrote about Collins’s “full-throttle” bullpen strategy for this game and his effort to end the losing streak. GM Sandy Alderson said that it’s not something we’ll likely see again.


 

The Tenth Mind on the Field

 

World Series, game five, ninth inning, and Harvey

wants to finish the shutout. No way!

Harvey says to Collins, no way am I coming out!

So Collins lets him back in, and Harvey

sprints to the mound, the crowd cheers

and chants his name, and then he walks one

and gives up a double. Collins throws

his lineup pad, storms into the corner

of the dugout to swear off-camera.

It’s a choice he’ll wish he never made–

he could’ve lost his job because they lost.

He should’ve brought in the closer, Familia,

‘cause Harvey was gassed. So, next season

Collins goes full-throttle, rifling through his bullpen

after days of short rest and high pitch counts

and tired arms, just to win one game,

to not make the same mistake again.

Robles came in, bases loaded and none out

and struck out two, then Collins

yanked him and put in the lefty reliever

to face the lefty batter. He got a close out,

shallow fly to left where the fielder caught it

on the run, but Robles deserved

that third K, and Collins is stuck between heart

and brain and gut. He’s the tenth mind on the field,

the one that sees everything, that has to choose

who stays in, who gets yanked, and who

has the best chance to win.

The Captain

Mets 1, Marlins 2. That brings the losing streak to four games, but our pitchers are just getting warmed up. Hopefully the bats will follow.

Today I wrote about David Wright, the Captain, who has had a bad bout with spinal stenosis, which limits his ability to play regularly. But David is an original Met. The team signed him out of high school, brought him up through the minors, and he’s been our starting third baseman since 2004, so he’s earned some deep loyalty from the team and the fans. He became the Captain in 2013, following after Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, John Franco, and, unofficially, Mike Piazza.

I love David Wright. He’s a gentleman on and off the field, a team leader. He’s one of my favorite all-time Mets, so here’s a poem for him. May he play for many more years.


 

The Captain’s Bad Back

 

The whole stadium started to groan

when they saw the line drive toward third,

where Wright waited, but the crowd hushed

as he leapt ten feet and smack! the ball went

into his glove. Then a volley of applause

for the team captain, David Wright,

who spent months that summer in traction,

his busted back that kept him from scooping

ground balls and swinging hard. But when

he returned, his long throws to first got loopy,

his swing more compact, but when he leapt,

my God, it was grace in action, instant reflex,

speed that’s incalculable. But his stenosis

is a slow narrowing of the spinal column

that’ll never go away, that can flare up

in an instant. It gets worse with age,

and age is not kind to ballplayers.

Every night, after nine hard innings

leading the team, his back stiffens

as he sleeps. Every morning he stretches

to loosen up, and before every game

he shows up five hours early to work out,

just to make sure he can play that day,

ready for what might be one last game.

Matz Tanks

Mets 3, Marlins 10. I turned on the game in the top of the 2nd. Nobody on, nobody out. Five minutes later, it’s 7 to zip and Terry Collins yanks young Steven Matz after he gave up a nail-in-the-coffin two-run homer. In baseball, it’s amazing how quickly a good batting order can unravel a pitcher when he doesn’t have his good stuff.


 

A Pitcher’s Mind

 

Two on, nobody out, the 3-2 pitch

and it’s a walk, then another,

then a single and a run scores,

then the pitcher is spitting and mumbling

to himself as the manager trudges

to the mound. They cover their mouths

with their mitts, and who knows

what’s said at those meetings—

the famous scene in Bull Durham

where they talk about a cursed mitt

and misaligned chakras

while the batter taps his cleats

and waits. The pitcher’s mind unravels—

he’s thinking of his pregnant wife,

or his parents in the luxury box

who flew all this way to see him tank

but really came to wait for the moment

of birth. He shakes off the next sign

from the catcher, throws a fat hanging curve

that the batter pounds over the fence,

and the manager’s back out, a slap on the ass

and the pitcher’s done, and he sits

on the bench and spits sunflower seeds

and watches his team lose with a blank,

sweaty face, with a mind that’s anywhere

but here. He’s waiting for that call, the ride

to the hospital, the birthing room,

the first cry of a newborn

that’ll make all those losses disappear.