Animal Crackers from Buffalo and Other Strange Creatures Romp in the Citifield Soup During Eighth Inning Come From Behind Rally
The Mets are vying for second place with the Nationals, a game behind Philadelphia, and last night’s 8-6 victory over their rivals was a beauty, although it required a certain animal drive for survival the Mets are often lacking. It was the first game as a Met for “animal” Chris Carter, who knocked in the winning run, and a good night for the Corner Cuties, David Wright and Ike Davis. Wright had several hits and Davis turned in what was possibly the greatest of his three pop foul “Circle de Soleil” catches. It was one of the more theatrical evenings available in New York last night, just a half hour from Broadway.
When asked, before the curtain went up last night, about Chris Carter, who was batting .340 in Buffalo, in the International League, manager Manuel said cryptically, “We’re getting the animal ready.” Suddenly “the animal” was on everyone’s radar. Was he warming up under the stands? Was he really that good? When his name was announced at a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, the crowd went wild, even without the nickname. On only his second pitch, Chris “The Animal” Carter knocked in the go-ahead run cracking a double down the right field line on a field that was starting to become soupy with rain. It was the beast’s first at-bat as a Met and it was a beauty. Ugly Juan Batista was brought in to pitch, and then Reyes and Bay were walked to load the bases and then Wright struck out for the second yellow light bulb on the board. In one of the most suspenseful moments of the season so far, Ike Davis followed with a grand slam that, unfortunately, only happened in his mind. The ball arched high over the short foul pole in Citifield’s right field corner and it was impossible to tell if it was fair, as in grand slam, or foul as in “strike.” The umpires left the field for five minutes to sequester themselves “in camera” view the fly ball from every camera angle on videotape and the verdict when they returned to the courtroom of green was “foul.” Due to the lack of evidence that it was in fact another Ike Davis eighth inning home run, the ten run Mets’ rally was reduced to a mere six, and Ike Davis made an ordinary out a few pitches later on a fly ball to center.
Ike Davis, who ended up 0 for 5 after a rather solid game, got a chance to snatch the limelight again a few outs later. K Rod took the mound for the Mets and was throwing smoke as only he can, in the mid-90s but with a lot on it, and had the Nats down to their last out. The Nationals’ Ian Desmond hit a pop foul near first toward the stands but the wind blew it back in so that it was falling towards the deepest part of the Mets’ dugout. Ike Davis, who has Crazy Glue in his glove, reached over the railing for the ball like he did the previous two times he made the highlight reel, with arm fully extended and glove at a backhanded angle, and snagged the fly with the full extension of his first baseman’s mitt. A beauty of a snag. The Beast in the Cocteau film noir La Belle et le Bete did not shag as great a beauty as Davis did with this pop fly.
However this time, there was a six foot drop beneath him and as he flipped over the railing, five (okay 2)Mets players ran to grab his legs as they came down sideways on the dugout side of the fence and then five more (okay 2) threw themselves against his back to hold him aloft, with Ike playing the role of the flag in the Iwo Jima memorial. The proud, the strong, the Mets….
There Ike Davis remained pinned as they deliberated as to how to let him down safely. There is a priceless shot of Ike’s mangled mug as he stares with blank and helpless expression through the metal wires of the hurricane fence at the cameras. It was a beauty.
Game over. K-Rod, who was on the mound, just stood there staring at Ike Davis and could hardly stop laughing. Ike had saved his bacon. The curtains fell and the stunned audience jumped to their feet with applause.
The Mets have been turning in some amazing 8th innings lately. This one started with the Mets down 6-2 after coming up with a hopeful second run in the sixth on a sac fly by Francoeur. Bay led off the eighth frame versus Brian Brunney with a single to center, followed by a double to left by Wright. Davis scored Bay on an error by the shortstop. Clippard came in to strike out Francoeur. Then Barajas, who is a bit of a beast himself these days in the spirit of Mike Piazza, smacked a double to center, scoring Wright and Davis, the Corner Cuties. Cora got to first on a stunning bunt to the third base side of the pitcher to score Borajas.
Relief pitcher Valdes was due in the lineup thanks to a double switch. That was when manager Manuel opened the cage. That’s when new number 23, Chris “The Animal” Carpenter came snarling and snorting to the plate to pinch hit for Valdes. The news had spread: “The Animal” was on the loose. He looked at his first pitch as a Met and let it go by. Was he going to be cool and let the count pile up? No. On the second pitch he took a rip and tore the cover off the ball, lining a double into the right field corner. Cora scored what turned out to be the winning run and Pagan scored the insurance run, making it 8-6, the final score.
Batista came in but was a little wild himself, and had trouble finding the plate. He walked Reyes intentionally with still only one out and first base open, nearly throwing it in the stands, but then walked Bay on five pitches, missing the strike zone by a lot. Again, the bases were loaded for bear. Wright had every chance to walk as Batista’s pitches were almost going to the backstop, but he kept trying to keep the excitement going and struck out reaching for wild pitches. It was then that Ike Davis hit his phantom home run, his would-be first granny, arching high towards the foul pole in right field. He tried to make like Carlton Fisk in the Sixth Game, making bowing gestures of prostration before the gods of wind and air, as the ball made its windblown journey towards the stands. When the umpires called it foul, he put on a show of indignation, putting both hands on his head like a bÃªte noir or an enfant terrible (excuse my French) having a temper tantrum, throwing his helmet on the ground and jumping around like drunken rally monkey. Manuel asked for a rare video review on the homer and got it, thanks in part to the drunken monkey routine and the pleas, but the umps came back with a solemn verdict, no grand slam, no homer. To Ike
Davis, it was, as the French would say, a “Slap in the face!”
What might have been a ten run rally to make it 12-6 was no more. We had to settle for 8-6, but it was the biggest inning of the season for the Mets, and that’s saying a lot. Everyone went home whistling the title tune, which of course was not the Beauty and the Beast theme but the less romantic “Meet the Mets,” praising the “superb score,” and “sparkling performance” of the cast. The Metropolitan Opera Company, which is what they could now well be called, went into a tie with the National Opera for second behind the Philadelphia Orchestra Nine. It may not have been good baseball but it was great theater!
Note that Carter’s #23 was the number he wore in spring training and it is the number of major league at bats he’s had before becoming a Met; it was Doug Flynn’s old number from a bygone Mets era, it was Brian Schneider’s number, it was Jason Phillips’ number as well. There is no reason to suspect he is related to former Mets catcher Gary Carter.