You make your own luck.
That’s very important when you remember all of this. When you start talking about the supernatural and “destiny” and “karma”, it’s very important to realize that the reason a baseball team is even in the position to benefit from juju is because they’re good enough to be close. They’re good enough to high five the Hand of God before that same hand pushes them along to the next stage. The Mets were 25-10 since the All-Star break. They vaulted themselves to this position.
But when a good team crosses over into lucky or destined, you know it. It takes you over. Those old enough to do it can look back into the portholes of time and find moments when you knew that you had crossed over. Back in that magical (or mythical depending on how old you are) season of 1986 I think it took us over early. They had beaten the Giants on a walk off in late May when Jose Uribe let a pop fly and you kinda knew the Mets had crossed over into that realm.
This year, it might have been Wednesday. Marcus Stroman left the game after four innings with a tight hamstring. The bullpen was tasked with giving the Mets a chance to beat the Indians for the second straight night. Save for a 10th inning home run by Carlos Santana which wasn’t even a bad pitch by Luis Avilan, the bullpen led by Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo did just that. (Wilson for the second night in a row.) They put the Mets in a position to win a game in the bottom of the 10th with the top of their order ready to pounce against the Indians closer, Brad Hand.
Amed Rosario, who is just flat out damn good these days, led off the inning with a double. Joe Panik sacrificed him to third. The Indians then made a critical decision to put the winning run on base as they put Pete Alonso on first base intentionally to set up the double play off the bat of Michael Conforto. Brad Hand knew this. He was the one that ultimately walked Alonso. Maybe because of the abracadabra walk it didn’t register, but he knew the play was to get two outs.
But when that play came to fruition on a ground ball to first, Hand moved towards home plate. Who knows what was going through his mind. Who knows why his instinct told him he had to break for the plate even though the play on a ground ball was to get two. But because of that one small decision, the Indians couldn’t get their game ending double play because nobody was on first base. Instead, Rosario scored, Conforto reached first, and the game was tied. Quantifiable magic. Rosario put the Mets into a position to benefit from the decision that Hand made that turned a probable loss into a definite tie.
More quantifiable magic: There are very few spots on an infield that a ball could go which would allow Wilson Ramos to reach on an infield single. On the next at-bat, he put it in one of these spots. Hand’s throw to first pulls Santana ever so slightly off the bag to give Ramos his single. Replays clearly showed that with a good throw, Ramos was out by a half-step. But live action clearly showed that the Buffalo was smelling that hit right off the bat and when a Buffalo smells prey, get out of its way. He knew. He hustled. Hand’s trajectory was ever so off and the Mets were guided along once again.
So with first and second and two outs, J.D. Davis found himself in an 0-2 hole. If this team hadn’t gone on such a run and put the minds of the roster on “focused playoff position”, Davis probably swings for the downs and we go to extra innings. Perhaps it doesn’t get that far. But those who are watching this team are seeing that “special something”. And that special something is that with something to play for, their minds are present. They’re focused. They’re locked in. Every pitch means more than the last one. Pitchers can no longer be guaranteed to throw lollipops in big spots and get away with it. Davis, who is as locked in and as mentally present as anybody on that roster, worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 and got that lollipop slider and crushed it into the left field corner to win the game.
You make your own luck. The Mets got a little lucky, but they put themselves in the position to benefit from quantifiable luck. We demanded that they answer the question about whether they can beat good teams down the stretch. So far in August, they’ve beaten the Nationals two out of three (helped by some magic and some more magic), and now the Indians two straight in a series that I had them getting one out of. And now they have a sweep on their minds which would give them a little cushion as they try to hit that magic number of 87. Can they sustain this? Well when their luck is going bad that certainly sustains, right? Take everything into account and they’re still owed a few to get back to even. This team, whether it makes the playoffs or not, is proving to be just good enough to take what’s theirs, even if magic puts it on a lower shelf for them to reach.
Today’s Hate List
- Baseball, like life, is unpredictable.
- The Astros might represent the A.L. in the World Series. The Tigers are so bad that they’re multiple games behind the Orioles.
- With Justin Verlander on the mound, they were a -500 favorite ($500 to win $100) to defeat the Tigers at home.
- The Tigers won.
- There are no sure things. Hug your kids. Teach them that gambling will only serve to spiral them into despair.