The threat of rain led to many late arrivals at Shea tonight; the steady drizzle that started mid-game led to many early departures, especially among the high-class field-seated patrons unprotected by the overhang, leaving mostly mooks of the sort who traditionally give Shea its savor to roar when Carlos Beltran singled home Jose Reyes in the ninth to win Thursday night’s game 7-6 against the Chicago Cubs.
The mookoisie reacted in similar fashion throughout the night. They proffered protective cheers throughout fan-fave Pedro Martinez’ gutty starting pitching performance, booed the bullpen until it unexpectedly turned tough, and encouraged every little rally through the final surge to victory.
We got a sense of the current Mets fan profile in the food and beer courts, where we recorded this conversation between a Wright-jerseyed young woman and a Wright-jerseyed young man:
She: It’s going to be a totally amazing weekend, so I said to my new personal trainer, I have a reunion in six weeks, let’s get to it. She worked me hard, my abs are so sore.
He: I know what you mean. I got to run a mile and a half in like ten minutes.
She: Yeah, but then you’ll be a cop, and you’ll get to carry a gun. All the cops I dated always took their guns everywhere they went.
Also among the lingering crowd were the usual family clusters, after-work office drones with loosened or discarded ties, old-timers in vintage Mets regalia, and very young men outfitted and pumped as if for a heavy metal concert but for their Mets caps.
They all cheered, with occasional muttering demurrers, for Martinez, whose hardest pitches barely exceeded 90 mph and who survived by fooling batters with significantly slower off-speed hurls and cutters, earning six strikeouts and five runs scored. Even when Martinez left two runs down in the first they yelled for him, and when he departed for good in the seventh down 4-3 they hailed him, and Martinez gamely lofted his pitching arm like an old bullfighter in response.
It was a hard night for the Mets almost to the end. They saw rallies squelched and Ryan Church caught stealing second at what seemed like a crucial moment. But Church magically evaded what seemed like a sure tag at home in the eighth, widely circumventing Cubs catcher Koyie Hill to tie the game.
There was the usual anguish from the bullpen, with Ricardo Rincon lasting one-third of an inning and letting in three runs, prompting the expected tsunami of boos and jeers. But Brian Stokes, Scott Schoeneweis, and Pedro Felciano kept the Cubs at bay, and Joe Smith, who had performed very badly against the Braves on Sunday, closed without incident.
We have seen Mets fans extremely testy at this point in the season, especially during the famous 2007 collapse, but those who endured the drizzle at Shea last night were enthusiastic through thick and thin. They did not greet Jose Reyes with the traditional “Jose Jose Jose” song except when prompted by the Shea sound system, but they loudly cheered him at bat and on the basepaths, and Carlos Delgado drew spontaneous chants of “MVP” despite an unproductive evening.
Though the Mets are still in danger of missing the playoffs, the fans are for the most part more supportive in the clutch than we have seen in seasons past. Maybe the fact that these are the last days of Shea — and, from what we’ve heard, the end of an era of affordable Mets tickets — has made them more appreciative of the fandom they can currently pay for. In any case, there are three games left to their season, and they’re a game behind the Phillies and tied with the Brewers for the wild card. If there were ever a time to be appreciative, even against one’s better judgment, this is it.