So much has happened this season already in New York baseball, on both sides of town, more winning from the Yankees on the field, more drama from the Mets off it. But there was never a bigger moment, even with all the big home runs that Aaron Judge has hit so far, than this:
A game between the Mets and the Nationals the Friday night before last in Washington. The Nats had come into Citi Field the week before and swept the Mets, and already were threatening to run away with things in the National League East. But the Mets got a lead on that night, in a game they needed to get, even on the last Friday night in April.
Finally, the Mets were ahead 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Jeurys Familia, Terry Collins' closer, was on the mound. Guy whose job it is to get his team the last out. Only he could not, and now the bases were loaded, and Bryce Harper, one of the best hitters in this world, was on his way to the plate.
Then Collins was on his way to the mound, and asking Familia for the ball, asking a journeyman left-handed reliever named Josh Edgin to save this game for the Mets.
And maybe save Collins' job.
The Mets had lost six in a row and 10 of 11. There is no guarantee Collins, one of the best guys to ever hold a job like his in New York City, will be managing the team next year. Now there was no guarantee that he would be managing the team next week, because if Harper hit one out of the park here, there was a very good chance that the people running the Mets might have tried to do the same with Collins. Or shoot him out of a cannon.
In the morning at Citi Field on Wednesday, before the Mets played the San Francisco Giants, I asked Collins about the possible consequences if he had been wrong about pulling Familia for the left-handed Edgin.
"You can't allow that to interfere with your thinking," Collins said. "It was the right move to make."
He had decided, he said, that if Harper was going to beat the Mets in that moment, he was going to beat a left-hander.
"I can't worry about what happens tomorrow," Collins said.
Edgin got Harper to hit a comebacker. Which became a double play. Which ended that game 7-5 for the Mets.
"Sometimes," Collins said, "your players bail your ass out."
Out of games. Out of ninth-inning jams. Just not out of drama, not even close, for the 2017 Mets. Yoenis Cespedes was hurt already. Noah Syndergaard, who had declined the club's request to take an MRI, went back out and pitched on Sunday against the Nationals, got lit up in a game the Mets would lose 23-5, walked off with a partial lat tear, went on the disabled list, where he will remain for a while. So that was Collins' weekend in Washington. In New York this past weekend, one of his other young starters, Matt Harvey, decided he didn't feel well enough to show up for work on Saturday, got suspended for three games. Harvey showed up on Tuesday and apologized to everybody except James Comey, and is scheduled to start this weekend's Mets series in Milwaukee.
"Nothing surprises me anymore," Collins said a few minutes after he left the interview room, standing outside the Mets clubhouse. "Nothing."
Somehow, starting with that Friday night in Washington, Collins' team won eight of 11 before Familia gave up four runs in the ninth to the Giants on Wednesday afternoon when asked to protect a 3-2 lead, the inning turning into a jailbreak when Wilmer Flores booted what should have been a double-play grounder to end the game. So the Mets didn't sweep the Giants. So they're a game under .500 instead of a game over. But at least they're in play. It has become a trademark of Collins' teams. They get back up, sometimes when you least expect them to do that.
The Yankees have been better than the Mets so far, way better (and that includes starting pitching), the biggest and best surprise in the sport. Judge has hit home runs and Gary Sanchez has come back from injury and so has shortstop Didi Gregorius, who had gotten injured during the World Baseball Classic. Aaron Hicks, flying under all radar everywhere except New York, has been hitting like a star. At Wrigley last weekend, Brett Gardner hit a two-out, two-strike, three-run ninth-inning homer to beat the Cubs. After the Cubs tied Sunday night's game against Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees finally won in the 18th inning.
Oh, and by the way, there was the game against the Orioles not long ago when the Yankees came from 9-1 down and finally won 14-11 in the bottom of the 10th. There has been no better show so far in baseball than they've been. The Yanks have been dramatic, too, just in all the best ways. And they have done the thing that we most want sports to do: They have surprised us. It was Joe Girardi who spoke to me in Spring Training about the fun for him of managing a bunch of young guys, some of whom he knew weren't going to make the team, at least not yet, running around "with their hair on fire." Now the Yankees have their own fans feeling the exact same way.
The Rangers have finally lost to the Senators in the second round of the NHL playoffs. The Knicks continue to be a clown college. In the past 77 years, the two teams at Madison Square Garden have now won a grand total of three championships in their sports. Maybe the Garden going dark again this early, halfway through May, is another reason why the lights are on baseball, on both the Yankees and the Mets, feels as hot and bright as they do right now. That means even when Harvey acts like a chowderhead and takes baseball off the back pages of the New York tabloids and onto the front pages.
There was a time not so long ago, when the Giants were getting a second Super Bowl off the Patriots, when pro football started to feel bigger than baseball in New York. Not now. Judge has become the kind of action hero that he is. Sanchez may be about to remind everybody that it was last August and September when he was the home run kid to watch at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles, who might be the most stubborn team around, refuse to go away, but you wonder how long they can have the best record if Zach Britton, their closer, stays hurt.
Even when the story was one as old as the sport and old as the big city -- nothing good happening to Harvey after midnight -- you see how much baseball matters in New York. Maybe this weekend in Milwaukee, Harvey starts another story as old as the city, the one where they cheer you when you get back up.
The Mets tried to get up in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday, even after Familia had coughed up the lead. They got two on and two out and Flores, who had booted the game a few minutes later, doubled off the wall in left-center and came within a foot or two of tying the game with a three-run homer. The Mets ended up losing, 6-5. Couldn't get one more run. Just more drama. They leave town now. Astros come into Yankee Stadium for four. They retire Derek Jeter's number on Sunday. Good time for it. Good time for baseball in the big city. Like old times.