Time was, the Mets played many domed games over the course of the season, with their many trips to Montreal and the occasional jaunt to the Astrodome. It never felt quite right back then, but it feels especially weird now that there is but one lonely True Dome left in the majors. That would be Tropicana Field, home to the Tampa Bay Rays. I don't blame the Rays for playing there; if you've read The Extra 2%, you know that they'd leave the place tomorrow if they had anywhere to go. Alas, the Rays don't have anywhere else to go, which is why the Mets were forced to play there tonight in the opener of a three-game interleague set, and see all manners of oddness take place! *circus music*
The Mets got off to a quick start, thanks to their legs and some Tampa Bay miscues. After a leadoff single by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdepsin hit a sharp grounder that could have been a double play, but the shortstop beat out the back end. He then stole second and came around to score when a David Wright grounder went right through Elliott Johnson's legs. Wright stole second himself and advanced to third after Jose Molina's throw sailed into the outfield, but his teammates were unable to get him home with only one out.
Chris Young took the mound for the first time in a week and looked a tad rusty, just missing with his pitches and tending to do so up in the zone, a bad combo. He issued a one-out walk in the bottom of the first, followed by an infield single and an outfield one to load the bases. Young then gave up a long hit off the wall to Hideki Matsui, which should have plated two runs, except for the unalert baserunning of B.J. Upton. The maligned outfielder had to wait for a sac fly from Will Rhymes (a late replacement for Ben Zobrist) to score, putting the Rays up 2-1.
Ike Davis attempted to bust out of his slump bunting his way on in the top of the second, and he actually made it on base somehow. But despite another single, the Mets were held in check thanks to a groundball double play. Their bats then flatlined, as Rays starter Andrew Cobb set them down in order in the third and fourth.
The lumber continued to snooze until late in the fifth, when Omar Quintanilla managed a two-out single, followed by a Nieuwenhuis double down the left field line. Valdespin got ahead in the count, then blooped a single into shallow center that scored both runners, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.
Young, meanwhile, saw "hits" fall untouched in the outfield in the second and third innings, thanks to The Trop's baseball-colored ceiling and Lucas Duda and Captain Kirk's unfamiliarity therewith. I'm not sure why the Ray's home was so infuriatingly designed, but I also know that other teams play there all the time without having such issues. Luckily for the Mets, Young was able to negotiate his way out of trouble both times. He looked especially good in the third, escaping a two-on no-out mess by fanning a pair.
Young allowed non-defense-assisted singles in the fourth and fifth to no ill effect, but his pitch count steadily climbed, raising the looming specter of The Bullpen (imagine blood dripping off each of those letters). Elliott Johnson reached him for a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but was soon caught stealing. When Young walked Sean Rodriguez, however, he had to give way to the only pitcher taller than him, Jon Rauch, who got Desmond Jennings to pop out harmlessly.
The Mets padded their lead with some more two-out magic in the top of the seventh, when Kirk worked a walk, then Valdespin hit a ball just fair down the first base line to score him all the way from first. An intentional walk of Wright ended Cobb's night, and he gave way to the bullpen. J.P. Howell had the misfortune to give up a dribbler to Lucas Duda that hugged the third base line and a bloop to Daniel Murphy that drove in two more runs. The rally was capped by a long three-run home run to the right field stands by (wait for it) Ike Davis. It feels like forever since the last time the Mets 1) scored more than three runs in an inning, and 2) got any runs from Ike Davis. The Trop is a madhouse, a madhouse I tell you!
For good measure, the Mets tacked on in the top of the eighth with an RBI groundout from Valdespin (his fourth of the night) and a run-scoring single from Duda, as if trying to make up that pesky run differential all in one night. The bullpen, meanwhile, managed to not screw things up, as TIm Byrdak and Miguel Batista combined for the seventh, while Elvin Ramirez pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth.
All in all, it was a rare laugher for the Mets, who have played way too many close games so far this year. One-run seat squirmers are nice, but I'll take a game like this every now and again, assuming such a thing is possible beyond...The Twilight Dome.
Big winners: Jordany Valdespin, +38.7%, David Wright, +11.0%
Big losers: Jason Bay, -10.3%, Josh Thole, -9.2%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jordany Valdespin RBI single, top of the fifth, +27.7%
Teh sux0rest play: Hideki Matsui RBI single, bottom first, -10/3%
Total pitcher WPA: +7.8%
Total batter WPA: +42.2%
GWRBI!:Jordany Valdespin RBI single, top of the fifth