There will be a bunch of games like this — how many? Five? Ten? More than a dozen? — that will keep the Mets’ season alive in the minds and the memories of their fans whenever the mathematics officially wear out. All the vanished late leads. All the losses, especially late, by one run.
All the days and nights when the Mets could have authored something special instead of something excessively ordinary. They will live in the hearts and souls of fans who will spend the balance of the autumn and winter replaying those games, because there will be no other games to watch, not until March, not until Port St. Lucie.
“That’s not the night you want to not have your best stuff,” Trevor May said just before midnight, on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff, and so what would have been a five-alarm Mets win became a four-alarm loss instead. “I made a couple of mistakes. They took advantage of them. And here we are.”
Here he was. Here the Mets were. They trailed, 5-0, on this emotional night of baseball and history, and they chipped their way back, finally had it 7-5 to the good by the eighth, handed the ball to May, asked him to get the first three outs of the six they’d require.
He got none of then. Brett Gardner singled. Aaron Judge homered, his second of the night, to tie it. Giancarlo Stanton lined one just inside the first-base bag, and May was gone, and it was a little later when an error would allow the go-ahead run to score, which would prove to be the winning run.
Add it to the pile.
“Gotta get ’em out,” a dejected May said. “Gotta make pitches.”
It has been a season filled with so many such postgame declarations, a season soaked with lament, a season with too many aggravating mornings-after. Mets fans can recite them all by rote, like the lyrics of an old Jimmy Buffett song.
This one would have been so essential to their cause. The Braves had tripped against the Marlins, so there was actually a rare opportunity to gain ground on the leaders who almost never lose to bad teams. The Yankees were begging to be buried after surrendering their big, early lead.
There was even a little historical symmetry in the house, if you happen to hang your hat on that kind of thing. James McCann blasted a two-run go-ahead homer off Chad Greene in the sixth, the Mets’ catcher providing a huge blow 10 days shy of 20 years since another Mets catcher — fellow named Mike Piazza — had delivered a similar stroke. That made it 6-5 Mets. It also made Citi Field sound more than a little bit like the middle of October.
“It was our ballgame to win,” McCann said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t hang on.”
It was a beautiful night, filled as it should have been with equal parts sadness and joy, with chants of “USA!” and fans fist-bumping cops. Even the warring fan bases seemed to do so with a spirit of respect and good humor. Somehow, when something went well for the Mets, it sounded like there were 41,000 Mets fans in the house.
When Judge hit his game-tying blast, it seemed like there were 41,000 Yankees fans on the premises. On this night, a night when both teams wore “New York” spelled out on the front of their jerseys, that was exactly as it should have been.
“It was amazing being part of the night,” Mets starter Taijuan Walker said. “I wish we could have won the game, but it was still an incredible experience.”
Walker’s night, in so many ways, was the Mets’ season in miniature: one miserable inning (a five-run second) plunked in the middle of five innings of promise and occasional perfection. The Mets have spent 5 ½ months channeling a similar pattern. There is just enough to have kept you believing, even now somehow.
And always the periodic mud pie in the cereal bowl. Add it to the pile. It was a fun game. It was a thrilling comeback. It was their 72nd loss, one that looked an awful lot like too many of the other 71. The game was played Sept. 11. In thousands of Mets fans’ memories, the replay will come in December. And January. And February …