I participate in a local home run pool. At the start of the season, for an entry fee of $160, one selects eight players who hit 18 or more homers in the previous season, with the proviso that their total 2018 homers sum to less than 210. In each month, your top 6 count and the pool returns $750 to the winner. The top 6 for the season returns the rest of the entry fees to the top 4 finishers to make the whole thing balance.
Having participated in this pool for years, it is astonishing to me how hard it is to win a month. This year, I figured I’d break two of my rules to try and break through. One of them was never taking an Atlanta Brave. I like to keep my betting life separate from my rooting life. But this year I couldn’t help myself and took Ronald Acuna Jr on one of my two teams. His 9 homers so far this month top every other batter in the pool by at least 3. I’m not in first for August, though, because 28% of the teams have RAJ. 95% of teams have the underperforming Aaron Judge, but my real flaw was breaking another rule and taking an ex-Brave: Justin Upton. My brilliance in one area cancelled out by the idiocy of another area. Really – the story of my life.
(I designed the website, which is at www.wongpool.com. If you look carefully at the home page, you might be able to discern my rooting interest.)
Anyway, while I normally shun all things Metropolitan, I am forced this year to coax blasts from Michael Conforto. But not tonight. Tonight is mostly a night to confirm my prejudices, chief among them that the Mets, however much buzz they generate, and however envious I am of their starting rotation, are fundamentally not a formidable team. To think otherwise would be too emotionally scarring.
We started with a rain delay, so the game didn’t start until close to 9 PM. In those circumstances you worry that players with routines will be ill-served, especially starting pitchers. But both Keuchel and Matz started OK. Keuchel had to work around some indifferent catching by Flowers, but survived the first when Conforto failed to homer.
Matz hiccuped first, when Inciarte doubled in JD for the first run of the night in the 2nd. But other than that, nobody reached second base through five innings. But the 6th inning, as you know, has been midnight to Keuchel’s pumpkin. He was not effective in the 6th, but wriggled out of trouble courtesy of a double play and a great no-look running catch from Freddie to end the inning.
That was enough trouble that Newk came on to take the 7th. After two quick outs, Matz got a broken bat flare down the right field line. At this point, for some reason, Snitker pulls Newcomb for Martin. For a minute I thought this was going to be Snitker’s new bullpen theory – You pitch until you let someone on. But Martin gave up a single (not particularly well played by Camargo or by Duvall) which led to second and third, whereupon another bloop hit gave the Mets a 2-1 lead.
Now it was Mickey Callaway’s turn to make a questionable decision: he pulled Matz for Lugo even though Matz had only given up two hits and had thrown under 80 pitches. But Lugo faced seven batters, each of whom reached first: a Donaldson walk was followed by Duvall, Camargo, Inciarte and Flowers singles gave the lead back to the Braves. Joyce, pinch hitting, got what should have been a single, but, confused over whether the ball was caught, Flowers was forced at second while the fourth run scored. Acuña got yet another single with an associated RBI. That brought in our old friend Avilán, who gave up a single to Albies, driving in the sixth run; at this point the BABIP gods rested, and Freddie hit into a DP to end the inning.
As astonishing as eight straight batters reaching first was, then next thing that happened was even more amazing. Shane Greene threw the 8th inning without a blemish. I know it had to happen eventually, but so does the heat death of the universe – it would still be surprising if it happened this week.
Melancon got an initial out in the ninth but the gods of BABIP stirred once again: four straight singles brought Alonso to the plate where, as Chip no doubt said (I was listening to the Mets broadcast) he represented the go-ahead run at the plate. Camargo botched another DP which would have ended the game, getting no outs (after review) loading the bases. Melancon strikes out Ramos and Blevins is called in for the LOOGY save, striking our Conforto. The Braves win the series with an impending sweep tomorrow — because Mets.