The Game 5 loss of a year ago will be stained in memory for a while in and around the New York Mets and their fandom.
“November Rain,” a Guns N’ Roses hit single from 1992, stays cool today. Turkeys and giving of thanks mark the November months. Leaves falling and cold fronts swirling mean the season is turning.
Football. Of course — the heart of football season — when the playoff chase heats and the stakes raise. The pigskin is on your mind all week and demands your life on Sunday.
All known connotations of the month of November, an uneventful 30 days otherwise, are valid and present in the penultimate month of the year. But the notable exclusion – an elusive couple of days that may or may not bring on this event in a given year – is November baseball.
This year, baseball in November is back. And you know what that means: the Fall Classic, late in the series, and a champion near crowning. In Cleveland, the Indians and the Chicago Cubs will play game six tonight, November 1, and a potential game seven tomorrow, November 2.
And you just have to love it.
One city will reign as the sport’s supreme and the other will fall into dejection – a state all too familiar with both franchises. One fan base, one undying faithful, will be defeated with a splintering wound it won’t soon forget, while the other will exult in utter and uncontrollable euphoria. One team will end a historical drought that has seen generations of fans while the other will instead insufferably add another year to the count, and another ounce of skepticism toward curse-deniers.
In New York, the remembrance of such a unique set of circumstances – only two teams experience them in some capacity, only once each year – is raw. A year ago today, November 1, 2015, the Mets hosted the Kansas City Royals for the final of three games at Citi Field during the World Series. The Mets were down 3-1, facing elimination, season’s end, and the prospect of celebratory Royals mobbing the Citi Field mound.
Need I remind you?
Everyone with a stake in the Mets – owners, the general manager, staffers, coaches, and, of course, the fans – faced those harrowing alternatives to an ideal world in which the Mets won and lived to play another day. Most directly, though, Matt Harvey, faced those challenges; it would be his truly to overcome them, and his pitching effort that would determine the fate of the Mets – either boarding a late-night plane to Kansas City or struggling through a sleepless night of what-could-have-happened.
Harvey did his job – and much more – when he turned in eight innings of four-hit shutout baseball. With the Mets up 2-0, he wanted that ninth. Terry Collins let him keep the ball, but such a move that contradicted Collins’ instincts proved ill. Harvey walked a batter and surrendered a double, prompting Collins to summon his closer. Juerys Familia, that ace closer, inherited a one-run lead with the tying run on second and no men out. The Mets lost the game 5-2.
For the Mets, it stung.
For the Mets, it’s hard to imagine a fan forgetting that night in the near future, if he or she does at all.
In Cleveland, tonight, the stakes have reached the precipice of highest-possible-altitude in sports. That is, game six with everything on the line. If the Cubs should win, that barrier will be pushed to a seventh and undoubted final meaningful baseball game until April of 2017.
Whichever team’s players are hanging their heads in Cleveland this week, the pain will be all too real.
One thing’s for sure: it hasn’t been forgotten in New York.