In Which Stirrups Save The World

“What’s a balk?” I flicked my eyes back to my phone, smiling inadvertently. I hesitated, wondering how to respond to the text message. “It’s really complicated. I dunno if I can tell you via text.”

Ah, those stirrups.

***

Sandwiched between the balk off-loss and Chipper Jones douchery home run, tonight’s was a dandy little ballgame, the kind that can easily disappear three and a half hours. R.A. Dickey was shaky through an uncharacteristic four inning outing. Jones deposited a three run home run (on a 3-0 fastball from Dickey) into the hatchet-ing, chanting, and generally insufferable Turner Field crowd. Four innings, six runs, four earned. “Yeesh.” I excused myself from the TV, cursed Larry Jones, bain of all things Metsian, and settled back onto the couch.

6-2. Dickey’s out. Manny Acosta, former Brave and recent inheritor of Oliver Perez’s dreaded #46 jersey, fanned his former mates, lowering his ERA to a paltry 16.20 (mantra time: small sample size, small sample size). Pedro Beato,apparently now the sixth inning man, a stellar Tim Byrdak and a stocky-as-ever Jason Isringhausen reveled in the “tomahawk chant.” No runs, three hits between the four of them.

Meanwhile, Scott Hairston’s Compact Swing of Justice (patent pending) annexed the enemy territory of the left field stands in the top of the fifth. Playing center in place of Angel Pagan, Hairston’s game tying blast was preceded by a Jason Bay RBI single to right. Hairston would figure into the scoring again in the seventh. Whiffing against heretofore impenetrable Johnny Venters, the ball squeaked away from catcher Brian McCann. Carlos Beltran, gazelle-like, bounded home. 7-6 Mets. Add a Beltran force-out in the top of the eighth, and the Mets were three outs away from sweeping the Braves in enemy territory for the first time since 2007.

I’ll spare you the bottom of the ninth.

Ah, but the tenth.

***

“So, what’s a balk?” Real telephone conversations are instantly refreshing. “Well, basically, if the pitcher is on the rubber–oh, and there are runners on base–and he stops and starts, they call a balk. Runners move up a base.” I furrowed my brow, of course, invisible to the person on the other end. I briefly considered trying to explain the infield fly rule while I was at it, but quickly assessed that it would be like trying to recreate Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. You just have to see it to get it. The voice on the other end giggled. “Balk. Baseball has ridiculous terminology.” “And strange rules,” I added quickly. “Either way,” the voice continued. “Sounded like a good game.” I nearly hiccuped with defiance. But the Mets had blown it! Duda should have let Tejada play that ball, D.J. Carrasco shouldn’t have balked! But I paused. The person on the other end hadn’t seen the game; she was just receiving periodic updates from me. “You know what,” I hesitated. “It was pretty good.” I continued 0n, talking about how Duda should have stayed near the bag, how if Dickey could have gone another inning, we could have spared K-Rod, how graceful Carlos Beltran’s every move was, how unfathomably great Jose Reyes is. How nice D.J. Carrasco’s hiked-up pants and bold, beautiful stirrups were. “There was a time,” I said with faux pretension, “where everyone wore stirrups. Golden years, then.”

“Sounds like it was a good game,” she chuckled. “It was,” I said mournfully. “You should have seen the tenth,” I was feeling oddly reverential. “Just watch,” she continued. “The Mets will probably win on a balk sometime soon.” “They don’t have to.” I smiled. I preceded to aggrandize the night of May 29, 2007. Benitez’s problem? We concluded that it must of been because he wasn’t wearing stirrups.

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