Watching the faces of the Mets fans after they lost game seven of the NLCS to the Cardinals 3-1, I couldn't help thinking, "Now they know how it feels."
How it feels to lose game seven of a playoff series at home, a series you were supposed to win, felt you should win, against a team perceived to be inferior to your own.
The Cardinals, who huffed and puffed their way barely into a playoff berth with 83 wins, become the team with the second-lowest total of wins ever in a World Series.
The lowest? The 1973 Mets, who won 82, and sneaked into the postseason in much the same way these Cardinals did.
It hasn't been my habit to write recaps of postseason games that either don't involve the Cubs, or those that I attended last year here in Chicago, but this one, I thought, deserved some attention. Game 7 made up for what I thought was the ennui of the rest of the 2006 NLCS, a series that didn't seem as if either team wanted to win it.
The Mets, before yesterday, had played only two game seven's in their history -- game 7 of the 1973 World Series, in Oakland, which they lost to the far superior A's, and game 7 of the 1986 World Series, at home, where they beat the Red Sox after having defeated them two nights before (it's been largely forgotten that after the Buckner game, on a Saturday night, the next night's scheduled game 7 was rained out -- they played it on Monday).
So this was a new experience for Mets fans, losing game 7 at home. And though I was not rooting for the Mets -- nor was I rooting for the Cardinals, either -- I suppose I could feel what they felt, because we went through the very same thing three years ago, only worse, because the Cubs lost games six AND seven at home.
It was a terrific game, and had the Mets won, Endy Chavez' catch -- one that I won't put a superlative to, because you just can't, on something like that -- would have been one to have been discussed for generations. With the loss, all it accomplished was staving off defeat for the Mets for three innings -- that said, it was still perhaps the greatest leap over a major league fence to steal a home run, that I have ever seen.
I know most of you would have rather seen the Mets in the World Series than the Cardinals, but frankly, I don't like either team. For Cub fans of my generation, we will never, ever, ever forgive the Mets for the 1969 season. Even beating them out, and defeating them in the way we did in 1984 (beating them nine consecutive times between July 28 and September 8 that year), doesn't make up for it -- because the Mets went on to be World Champions in 1969, and the Cubs, well, didn't in 1984.
I found myself, as the innings went on, rooting for outs. For both teams. I wanted the game to go on deep into the night, deep into the rain which started falling harder and harder as the evening went on, to go on to 1 or 2 or 3 in the morning, for the game to become legendary in baseball annals. (Incidentally, it's been raining off and on in the New York area most of today. I suspect most Mets fans find that eerily appropriate.)
Didn't happen that way, unfortunately; yet another unlikely postseason hero, Yadier Molina, who hit .216 with six HR during the regular season, hit his second postseason home run to give St. Louis the lead.
The Mets got their fans revved up in the last of the ninth, loading the bases with two out (I must confess, seeing that stadium with 55,000 people waving white towels over their heads, does get you going, no matter who you are rooting for), and then Carlos Beltran looked at strike three.
Couldn't believe that. In that situation? You've got to at least swing.
So it's on to Detroit. GO TIGERS! Hope the teams enjoy the terrible weather they'll be playing in:
Sunday Night: A chance of rain showers before 11pm, then a chance of rain and snow showers between 11pm and 2am, then a chance of snow showers after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 36. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
And don't forget, postseason series often create heroes where you'd least expect it. Something tells me Neifi Perez is going to do something special during the World Series.