David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
"I wish we could see you in the World Series," Wilpon said, "but I'm not sure that's going to happen this year."
Our first reaction was to jump on Wilpon for taking an apparent shot at his own stumbling franchise. But we'll give him the benefit of the doubt after seeing the Mets do what many figured to be impossible by beating Rivera in Tuesday night's 2-1 victory at Citi Field.
In this whacked-out scenario, maybe Wilpon was delivering a dig at the Yankees.
Hey, why not? What’s easier to believe? We thought we had this whole Subway Series thing figured out when the week began. The first-place Yankees, a team greater than the sum of its spare parts, gearing up to steamroll the malaise-ridden Mets, which had been fielding a roster seemingly better suited for Las Vegas than Flushing.
Now's about the time to ask for a mulligan.
We figured it was a lucky break Monday night when Daniel Murphy rebounded from Brett Gardner’s spectacular over-the-wall thievery to drive in the winning run with a bat-spiking, RBI single off David Robertson. Little did we realize the Mets were saving their A material for Tuesday’s encore.
After posting nothing but zeroes for eight innings against Hiroki Kuroda and Robertson, the Mets scored twice on three consecutive hits off Rivera, who, by the way, was 18-for-18 in save chances coming in. They actually got two runs before Rivera could record one measly out, the first time in his career – that’s 19 years, 626 saves – Mo failed to retire a batter while blowing a save.
"You can't figure it out," Mets manager Terry Collins said afterward. "There's not words to explain it right now. It's the way the game is. There's no perfect plays. Once in a while, things happen."
First it was Murphy with a double that dunked a few feet inside the leftfield line. Then Wright followed with a line-drive single that Murphy narrowly avoided with an excuse-me sashay on his way home with the tying run.
Surely that would be it, right? At least off Rivera. But no, Lucas Duda finished the job with an exploding bat single that floated into rightfield and brought around a sliding Wright as a half-full Citi Field cheered wildly. The Yankees stalked off the field, heads bowed, as the Mets mobbed Duda on the outfield grass beyond second base.
"I took a swing and it shattered my bat in 50 pieces," Duda said.
No one could have predicted this. Any of it. Collins talked before the Subway Series of how such a showdown could provide some momentum for his flailing club, having the Yankees at Citi for two days, the motivation of beating one of the supposed best teams in the majors. If the Mets couldn't get up for this, it would be a long four months until packing up at the end of September.
Collins said all the right things. But doing it seemed unlikely. Why should the Mets rally now after showing few signs of life during the first seven weeks coming in? It helped that Matt Harvey had another Harvey-like performance, limiting the Yankees to one run over eight innings and striking out 10 to give the Mets at least a puncher’s chance in he ninth.
Of course, that meant conquering Rivera, something that no other team had done this season – not the Red Sox, not the Orioles, no one. Better clubs than the Mets. Way better. Or so we thought. Instead, Rivera blew his third save against them, and his ERA vs. his Flushing pals jumped to 3.53, the highest for him against any team but the Angels (3.65).
“It was a really good game until I got into it,” Rivera said. “It happened quick.”
To say the Yankees and Rivera were blindsided by the events of the past two days would be an understatement. Are they just not as good as we had come to believe? Are the Mets not as bad? We have two more games to get a better handle on these questions, a better read on what we've been watching. In the meantime, we'll take the next few hours to stop our heads from spinning.
"You don't see it very often," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rivera's implosion. "But every once in a while."
As for the events of the past 48 hours, they had to be seen to be believed.