In Weekend Play, Neurotic Mets Go One and Two

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Delgado watches his fifth-inning three-run homer on its way out of the park last night. Photo: AP

When last we saw your New York Mets, Carlos Beltran was on the brink of becoming a national folk hero and the team was skipping toward the World Series.

Over the weekend, however, things got more Mets-like. The team entered a mojo vacuum. Beltran exchanged dramatic home runs for harmless grounders. Pitchers blew leads; hitters stopped hitting. They were victimized repeatedly by a man with the stupidest beard in professional sports (a highly contested position). Every Cardinal hit landed two inches from a diving fielder's glove — it seemed like the world had tilted slightly. The Cards — their pitcher! — bounced a home run off the top of the wall. A thin, old, sparingly used backup outfielder hit a home run in the ninth inning off the Mets' best pitcher. This wasn't just losing, it was total demoralization. And much of it played out in front of an eerily wholesome midwestern crowd: The Missourians waited quietly between batters, booed politely, wore synthetic stupid beards, and waved immaculate white towels (at Shea, they would have been covered with pigeon crap) as the Mets fell behind in the series 2-1.

In the American League, meantime, Detroit completed a charmed, effortless, masterful sweep of the A's — strongly reminiscent of their first-round manhandling of the Yankees. Coming at the height of the Mets' tailspin, the Tigers' consistency seemed a little absurd, even inappropriate somehow. The Mets' flameout felt terrible but necessary. Schizophrenic scrappy win-losing is what the team is about. It's a legacy. It's also how good stories work: Odysseus has to sneak past the cyclops, and the whirlpool, and the sirens, before he gets to go home to the feast. You have to lose all your pitchers to injury, and all your best hitters to slumps, and all your hope, before you get to taste the true glory of victory. Baseball should come with a little neurosis. It feels better in the end.

So Sunday night, when the narcoleptic giant of the Mets' offense finally woke up, it felt like they'd earned it. Beltran (after a career-threatening video segment in which Fox made him dress up like a bullfighter and dance around with a golf club) hit a couple more heroic lasers into right field. (Note to Fox: We get it; they're humans. Stop.) Then David Wright hit one, too. Carlos Delgado, leaning the wrong way, flicked his bat at an outside pitch and hit, not so much a home run as a popup that happened to land 380 feet away over the left-field wall.

The Mets were two more neurotic wins from Detroit.

Sam Anderson