It’s August 27. We are in the middle of the pennant race. We are in second place. We are only a half game back.
Then why do we feel like we’ve already lost? Why do we feel like we are helpless as we watch the year slip through our fingers? Why are we, in the back of our minds, wondering about the wild card? Why do we have the same feeling of impending doom in our gut that we had towards the end of last season?
The 2008 Mets must pass a test. A very important test. They must prove to themselves, to their fans–and perhaps more importantly to the Phillies–that last years collapse was a fluke. On Tuesday night, we failed that test miserably.
Tonight’s loss was not just a heartbreaking loss. Anytime you blow a 7-0 lead, it’s going to take a toll on the psyche of the club. But this was more than that. This was a loss to our main competition…in their home park. And this was a loss that knocked us out of first.
This was a game we had to win, a game we should have won. When you’re playing the 2nd place team and first place is on the line, it’s a must win. It’s a brief 2 game series. With our ace waiting in the wings to pitch Game 2, we jumped out to a commanding 7-0 lead with a future Hall of Famer on the mound. The Phillie fans were quieted quickly and taken out of the game. But it was Deja vu all over again. Once again, we had the Phillies down and once again, we failed to put them away.
The Phillies proved that they still have our number and the horrific nightmarish images of last season that had been buried in our soul were brought to the forefront of our mind once again.
As hard as this is to believe, this was the 22nd time this season that our bullpen blew a save, 7 of which were blown by now injured All-Star Billy Wagner. And of these 22 blown saves, 10 came in the 9th inning. That’s not how you win a pennant; That’s how you lose a pennant.
In a heavyweight prize fight, when one boxer has his opponent wounded, dazed, injured and covering up against the ropes, you go in for the kill. You keep hitting and go for the knock out. Tonight, the Mets wounded the Phillies and then retreated to their own corner before the bell rang.
I’m tired of the excuses and all the justifications for why we lose. After the game, Pedro Martinez, who allowed 7 hits and 5 ER in 5 IP, stated, “It’s frustrating, but…in this stadium, you never know. They never give up, especially in this band box.” The reference to a ‘band box’ is an interesting remark, especially coming from Pedro Martinez, a pitcher who had his best years pitching in a ‘band box’ known as Fenway Park.
In the post-game interview, Jerry Manuel claimed, “People are going to have to get people out. We’ll keep doing it until we find the right way.” Even that is a less than confident statement. There are only 29 games left. The month of September is just a few days away. At this point, this late in the season, we should not be looking to “find the right way.” The fact that at the end of August the Mets skipper and players are still trying to “find the right way” does not bode too well for a winning September.