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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Losing the Way It Oughta Be

The Mets lost, and it was annoying — after a drought in the clutch, they came back to tie the game against the Diamondbacks and their dreadful uniforms, forcing the business of determining a winner to extra innings.

Then Erik Goeddel came on as the latest reliever, and it was immediately clear that he didn’t have it. He spiked balls below the strike zone, sent them sailing wide of it, and looked like a man who’d backed himself into a corner. The sarcastic cheers for strikes were inevitable — and so, it seemed, was the outcome.

A.J. Pollock, whose season has been disappointing enough to grant him honorary Met status, passed up a 2-0 fastball right down the middle — a decision many Arizona fans probably characterized as excessively polite, given Goeddel’s desperation and lack of command. Goeddel threw the same pitch again, and Pollock did his job, clubbing the ball over the wall for a 3-1 D’backs lead.

The Mets fought back. Michael Conforto homered off perpetual annoyance Fernando Rodney, he of the askew hat and arrows fired heavenward. But that was a cosmetic victory. Yoenis Cespedes — who’d earlier driven in the tying run and actually shown interest in playing the field energetically — popped up, Wilmer Flores came out on the short side of an 11-pitch battle, and Dominic Smith flied out to left. Thanks for coming everybody and please get home safe.

“Safe” is far from assured for this year’s Mets — the latest to fall is Steven Matz, who will undergo surgery to relocate an irritated ulnar nerve, meaning his season is over. The surgery itself isn’t particularly worrisome — Jacob deGrom had it last season and showed no ill effects — but the subject is. Matz’s career has been a litany of arm woes, from the Tommy John surgery that felled him before his first professional pitch to the maladies that have now curtailed all three of his big-league seasons. Matz is left-handed and obviously talented, but it’s reached the point where the first question he has to answer is “Can this guy stay on the field?” So far the answer is “no,” making follow-up questions of little import.

Still, I found myself not terribly bothered by the loss. Part of that, I’ll admit, is being on vacation — the first few innings unfolded while I was engaged in a vigorous three-way battle for family mini-golf supremacy. But more than that, it’s that I’m content watching the young Mets earn their stripes — and take their licks.

I rooted for Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Rene Rivera and other departed Mets, but they weren’t pieces of the team’s future, and watching them finish out a lost season had become a singularly pointless exercise. I’d campaigned for weeks for the Mets to move the lame-duck veterans and let the kids play. Once they finally did that, complaining about the results would be laughable.

Sure, the game’s looked too fast for Amed Rosario at times, and Dominic Smith doesn’t look like he’s enjoying his introduction to the ungodly breaking shit they throw in the Show. But it’s by enduring those moments that Rosario and Smith will learn. They need to play, just like Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki do.

Robert Gsellman might benefit from a Dale Carnegie book tucked into his stocking this Christmas, but since declaring that he doesn’t care, he’s pitched like he does. The Mets need to see if he can keep doing that — and they need to provide new challenges for Paul Sewald, Chasen Bradford and the other young relievers once starters such as Gsellman depart. Hey, that even includes seeing if Goeddel can work back-to-back days.

On Monday night the answer to that last question was “no.” But that’s all right. Testing the capabilities of Addison Reed and Lucas Duda stopped being relevant sometime this summer. It was time for the Mets to prepare a different exam, however much we may not like the class’s initial grades.

17 Again?

“You have to respect a ballplayer who’s just tryin’ to finish the season,” Annie Savoy told us after she learned Crash Davis left her at dawn for an opening at Asheville in the South Atlantic League. Crash had a goal: minor league home run No. 247, the record for such things in the world of Bull Durham, if not real-life minor league baseball. When Crash next showed up in Durham, it was only after he’d taken care of business. He hit his dinger, he hung ’em up. Now, at the end of the movie, Crash just wanted to be.

Nobody on the 2017 Mets deserves to just be more than Jacob deGrom. He’s taken every ball, he’s made every start, he’s absorbed every indignity, he’s pinch-hit a few times and, for the most part, he’s kept any dissatisfaction to himself. On Sunday at Citi Field, he betrayed a touch of impatience with the less than stellar defense behind him during the inning in which he finally cracked enough to allow the Marlins to score the runs that definitively torpedoed his afternoon…but he also had the grace to apologize publicly for inadvertently showing up his rookie shortstop. Young Amed Rosario had made like Dear Evan Hansen and went tap, tap, tapping on his glove before making the throw that didn’t retire Dee Gordon in the seventh, which soon revealed itself as prelude to disaster in the form of Giancarlo Stanton taking Jacob deep for a three-run homer.

The blast would have been predictable had it come off any other Met pitcher. After Gordon beat Rosario’s throw, and before Stanton sent a pitch so far it should have had a damn stewardess on it, the starter instinctively raised his hands in disgust that he got the ground ball he needed, yet no outs to show for it. Sort of like the rest of us did, except we weren’t on TV and we aren’t Rosario’s teammate. DeGrom salvaged some diplomacy over the incident afterwards, admitting, “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”

Does anything good ever happen on a Sunday afternoon at Citi Field?

Calendar aside, it wasn’t a great day for deGrom and it wasn’t a passable day for the indisputably inexperienced, intermittently inept Mets, who ultimately lost to Adam Conley and the Marlins, 6-4. Conley notched eleven strikeouts in seven innings. The Mets fumbled continuously for nine innings. DeGrom took the defeat, pulling the ace’s record down to 13-7. There was a time not too long ago when I thought Jake had a shot at 20 wins. A lot would have had to have gone right, which should have been the clue it was an unlikely quest. These are the 2017 Mets. A lot never goes right.

The goal Susan Sarandon’s Savoy cited remains a valid one for all of us, deGrom included: just try to finish the season. We have 40 more games to go. Jake has maybe eight starts, depending on how hard he may be hitting the proverbial wall, which I hope isn’t as hard as Stanton hit him on Sunday. You could definitely envision a moment when all concerned parties agree the ball shouldn’t be given to deGrom because what’s the point anymore? Let him get an early start on winter and let him keep the one reliable arm the Mets have in functional shape ahead of 2018. Or maybe, should there be an alternative after rehabs and callups take effect, he can miss one start and be fresh to finish the season as he started it, on the mound.

Jake said he’d like to get to 200 innings. He’s at 165 right now. Decent goal. It’s an arbitrary figure, but arbitrary figures drive pitchers and fans. I have a figure even more arbitrary as my goal on his behalf: 17 wins. That’s a legitimate acelike total. We already know Jacob deGrom is a legitimate ace, but you so rarely see that many wins these days, no matter how good the pitcher.

I’m gonna put aside that pitcher’s wins are an inane category, given how a starter can put in a fine day’s work, go completely unrewarded because he’s undermined or outdueled, and then a vulture can swoop in briefly and fly away with his W. Hansel Robles, the reliever who’s often been awful, is second on the staff with seven wins. Paul Sewald, the closest thing the Mets bullpen has had to a breakout performer, is 0-5. No starter not named Jacob deGrom has more than five wins. The Mets themselves don’t have 55 wins, so it’s no wonder that the infrequent victories are distributed disproportionately.

We know wins are flawed. But they exist, and I’d like Jake to collect 17 of them. That’s four more on top of the amount he’s already secured. He’s welcome to squeeze out more if he can figure out how. I suppose I should just cut our losses and hope he doesn’t get hurt in quest of No. 14. But I like 17. Seventeen was how many Jerry Koosman had in 1969, how many Jon Matlack had in 1976, how many Doc Gooden had in 1984 and 1986, how many Ron Darling had in 1988 and how many Al Leiter had in 1998. If I may dazzle you with unassailable logic, 17 is not as many as 18, but it’s more than 16. Sixteen wins is admirable — on this team, it would be astonishing — but 17 somehow conveys another level of oomph.

R.A. Dickey was the last Met to win as many as 17. He won 20 in 2012. We’re no longer asking for 20. We’re asking for 17, a Leiter’s Twenty, if you will. Doesn’t seem like to gargantuan a sum to ask for every nineteen or so years. Jake has seven or eight starts left, pending how management chooses to nurture his right arm the rest of the way. “There’s too much nurturing in today’s game,” Keith Hernandez, the quintessential 17, suggested Sunday, just to remind us he’s had it with society in general and baseball in particular, but it’s understandable if the Mets want to cover their asset with caution and a fleece blanket. Yet if Jake is allowed to go out and be Jake, I really hope the Mets can score a few runs for him, catch a few outs for him and smoothly transfer a few grounders from their gloves for him. I hope 200 innings yields 17 wins. As long as we’re trying to finish the season, it would be nice to come away with something that makes it less trying.

In other Jake news, the Mets have received Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers as the player to be Rhame later in the Curtis Granderson deal. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but he’s a righthanded minor league relief pitcher. My scouting report indicates that if he wants to make it with the Mets, he has a helluva first name.

The Kids Are All Here

June 3, 2017, was a fine Saturday night for the New York Mets, who beat the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field, 4-2, with, Lucas Duda at first, Neil Walker at second, Curtis Granderson in center, Jay Bruce around in right, René Rivera catching, and Addison Reed pitching the eighth and ninth innings to record his eighth save. Some kinda win, some kinda team.

Well, not really some kinda team, because even with that particular splendid effort put solidly in the books, that team improved only to 24-30 and sat nowhere near either first place in their division or a Wild Card spot in their league. June 4 was also the last time all five of the aforementioned position players started together in a winning Mets effort, whether saved by the closer of record or otherwise. Injuries were incurred. Lineups were juggled. Futility ensued. It was nobody’s fault, it was everybody’s fault. The Mets of Bruce and Walker, Duda and Granderson, Rivera and Reed and those with whom they attempted to blend their talents never gained traction. Now — eleven weeks since they forged their last collective success — there is no longer any sign of any of them on the team they once called their own.

There are still Mets, but those guys aren’t them. Reed, 28; Bruce, 30; Walker, 31; Duda, 31; Rivera, 34; and Granderson, 36, are fighting for playoff positions in other teams’ colors. They were supposed to be doing that in orange and blue. It didn’t happen. We have moved on because we have to. On Saturday night, August 19, 2017, the majority of the Mets who started their game at Citi Field were far younger and, as logically follows, less experienced than their early-June forebears. Kevin Plawecki, 26, was the catcher. He’s up because Rivera followed Granderson out the door on Saturday afternoon. René, who at some point held every unsure Met hand attached to an otherwise promising Met pitching arm, was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. In 2016, Rivera kept an ad hoc staff in one piece all the way to October. In 2017, there is no October to speak of on the horizon, so the Mets bade René Vaya con Dios, which is baseballese for “go and contend.”

Bidding fare thee well to the veterans you don’t expect back and allowing them to lend their abilities and wisdom to teams battling for something more than a quick end to the schedule is the humane thing to do. For example, I would have enjoyed a few dozen more opportunities to watch Curtis Granderson of the Los Angeles Dodgers play the consummate professional for the New York Mets, but as with the other vets who have been similarly dispatched, it wasn’t getting us anywhere and it wasn’t getting him anywhere. This was a Branch Rickey-Ralph Kiner year in Flushing. We were finishing out of sight with these fellas, we can finish out of sight without them. Had Grandy and Duda and so forth hung around, we’d likely be a more competent outfit than recently demonstrated in the short term, but we’d also be grousing that the kids aren’t getting their fair chance.

Those chances have arrived. Plawecki’s gonna get the games Rivera would have started, and maybe a few that would be going to Travis d’Arnaud. Brandon Nimmo, 24, is suddenly at least a part-time starting outfielder. No more Bruce, no more Granderson, hence more Nimmo than we’ve ever seen. On Saturday he joined Plawecki, 21-year-old Amed Rosario, 22-year-old Dominic Smith, 24-year-old Michael Conforto and 26-year-old Wilmer Flores in support of 26-year-old Rafael Montero’s eternal search for the fountain of effectiveness.

The young men on a mission found what they were looking for as they crafted an 8-1 victory over visiting Miami. Montero was a real pitcher for six entire innings. He pitched without fear and was rewarded with one double play ball after another. The Mets’ offense — with a helping hand from the Marlins’ defense — provided Rafael with a seven-run bottom of the sixth to ensure him one of the rare positive decisions of his career. Mets management has made mostly neutral decisions since late July. They cut their losses on the veterans who weren’t signed for next year but brought in no major league or major league-ready talent in return. Instead, it’s been about the kids who hadn’t yet gotten a shot and the kids who hadn’t yet gotten much of a shot.

Saturday night, the kids were all here and the kids were all right. Flores homered. Plawecki homered. Smith homered. Matt Reynolds, 26, who started the smashing sixth by pinch-walking for Montero, came to bat a second time in the inning, serving as the ninth de facto designated hitter in Mets history. Two nights before, Granderson became the seventh Met to homer in his final swing as a Met, the only one to leave us with a grand slam. Intriguing goings and comings are defining these transitional Met days. Smith hit his first career Citi Field home run, Plawecki his second. The five double plays the Mets turned tied a franchise high. Montero earned a home win for the second time ever, the first time since 2014, long before we’d ever given more than a passing opponent thought to the likes of Neil Walker and Jay Bruce.

We had ourselves a succinct, discrete era in the interim. We had ourselves 2015 and 2016, back-to-back postseason appearances, one deep, one cameo, each the culmination of memorable 162-game journeys. We tried to keep it going in 2017 but went irretrievably off course. We might find our way back to where we want to go in 2018, but we’ve surely veered from the path we traveled the previous two seasons. Not all the names have changed, but enough have. The 2017 that encompassed the events of June 4 was part who we were in 2015 and 2016. The events of August 19 are the preface to something else altogether, something yet to be determined.

***

Already determined: win or lose, a night of baseball with the Chapmans of Central Jersey remains an unmatched delight. Stephanie and I were honored to spend Saturday in the M&M’s Sweet Seats alongside our dear friends Sharon, Kevin and Ross — the family’s youngest son, whom we’ve known since before he was knee-high to a Strawberry, recently turned 21, thus providing an excuse for Citi Field celebration — and other swell folks in the Chapman Mets orbit. The M&M’s Sweet Seats used to be the Party City Deck. Before that, it was deep left and left-center field and the reason hardly anybody hit a home run in those directions. In its current incarnation, it’s a perch that serves as a prime spot for outfield viewing (we literally had Nimmo’s back), and you will by no means leave hungry from the bountiful food and drink included with your admission, yet I have to agree with Sharon that if you’re going to name a section for M&M’s, then just on principle, the M&M’s should flow like wine. Perhaps wine should flow like wine in that section, too but leave that issue for when Seaver Vineyards takes over naming rights.

Surprisingly, the M&M’s don’t flow at all. There are some baked into cookies, where chocolate chips should be, but it’s not the same thing. It never is. C’mon, M&M’s. Get with your own program. You bought it, you branded it, you gotta bring out your best. Divert a case of your candy-coated product from Air Force One, slap a skyline logo over the presidential seal, and give your guests a treat that will Met in their mouths, not in their hands. I can’t believe you need me to tell you that.

An Elder Statesman Exits

The Mets’ flaccid, meaningless loss to the Marlins was prelude to the real news of the day: the trade of Curtis Granderson and cash to the Dodgers for the curious return of a player to be named later … or cash.

The sheer Wilponitude of that transaction is irritating — to my admittedly inexpert eye this looks like a fancy way of not being willing to say “salary dump,” but we can vent about that another day. Granderson immediately leaps up 33 games in the standings and joins a clubhouse making October plans. I wish him the best in those endeavors — as, I suspect, do all his teammates and every other Mets fan.

Granderson wasn’t an MVP or a transformative player, arriving in Flushing with his best years behind him. But his on-field performance repeatedly surprised you, and the surprises were invariably to the upside. As for his off-field performance, “MVP” would indeed be the word — Granderson showed everyone what a fundamentally good person he was, whether it was raising money for charity, taking young teammates aside for conversations, or showing up with ice cream for Mets employees whose workplaces were desks instead of warning tracks and basepaths.

Granderson’s arrival on a four-year deal was something of a head-scratcher, with the prevailing wisdom that the Mets could expect two decent years and expect to swallow two lousy ones, then say farewell to a 36-year-old player. But Granderson was … well, “consistently inconsistent” might approximate it. The man would spent April and May looking like he had a giant fork in his back, then rouse himself in the warmth and prove impossible to get out. He alternated amazing funks with runs of excellence, and when each campaign was over you were surprised to find him having turned in much the same performance, and a pretty good one at that. While the batting average was never particularly robust, his early exit robs him of the certainty of hitting 20 homers in each of his four Met seasons. He helped carry the Mets to last year’s unlikely play-in game (and kept them alive with a tremendous catch in dead center) and was superb in the World Series the year before that. In the field, he played right when his arm dictated he should have been playing left, which wasn’t his fault; asked to switch to center, he acquitted himself better than anyone expected.

And hey, his final act as a Met was a grand slam against the Yankees. That’s got to count for something, right?

* * *

While pondering a departure, spare a moment for a non-arrival. The Mets called up Kevin McGowan and then sent him down without a pitch thrown in anger, making McGowan — provisionally — the 10th ghost in club history and the third to never play a big-league game for another franchise.

That “provisionally” is important here. McGowan is just 25 and might well return in September, or sooner if more veterans depart the club and payroll. Two years ago, Matt Reynolds was the Mets’ first postseason ghost, waiting until 2016 to escape baseball ectoplasm. But escape he did.

Still, funny things happen in baseball, and there are all number of ways for the likelihood of another shot to curdle into possibility, non-impossibility and then nothing. Just ask Terrel Hansen, who went back to Tidewater as a 25-year-old in 1992 and retired in 1999 after playing for three more organizations, in the Mexican League and in independent ball. Or there’s Billy Cotton, who was called up in September ’72 and — according to legend — got as far as the on-deck circle only to see the batter in front of him hit into an inning-ending double play. I’ve never been able to verify that story and hope it isn’t true, but what’s indisputable is that Cotton retired after ’74, never having returned to the big leagues.

Here’s hoping McGowan avoids such a fate. We’re Mets fans — we’ve got enough things that go bump in the night as it is.

Bring On The Reds!

Statistically, it didn’t matter that the Yankees came to Citi Field from the Bronx to complete their Subway Series sweep. It mattered that they came from near the top of their division. The Mets versus any serious contender this year has been almost uniformly bad news.

Talk about hewing to your weight class. The lightweight 2017 Mets have proven incapable of punching up. With the Yankees having garnered the 7-5 decision on Thursday night — largely attributable to Steven Matz pitching three-and-a-third like he had to bolt for the 9:19 at Woodside; and despite Curtis Granderson doing his best to give us a potential parting gift — the Mets finished 0-4 versus NY (A). The intracity record is redolent of the 2003 version of this nonsense, the year the Mets went 0-6. The highlight of that Subway Series was a similar furious comeback to nowhere. On Saturday night, June 28, in a makeup game that constituted the back half of a day-night two-stadium doubleheader nobody ever mentions, T#m Gl@v!ne was Matz, Dan Wheeler was Chasen Bradford and the Mets fell behind, 9-0. Yankee legend Brandon Claussen played the role of Luis Severino that night, except Brandon Claussen didn’t put me in mind of Rob Schneider’s catchphrase glory.

“Hey, Luis Severino! The Severino! Severino Sunset Strip! Doc Severino-sen! Making copies! And holding the Mets mostly scoreless!”

In 2017, Luis practically replicated Brandon from fourteen years before. Present-day Yankee starter line: 6.1 IP, 1 R, 0 ER. Way back when Yankee starter line: 6.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER. In both cases, the Yankee starter was favored with a mammoth lead. Claussen’s chums weaved him a 9-0 cushion, even fluffier than Severino’s 7-0 advantage. It made no nevermind that a Met run or two began to trickle in a generation or so apart. Yet somehow, in each instance, all manner of Met began to break loose. In 2003, Claussen left his post with a 9-2 lead and saw it nearly disappear. Raul Gonzalez struck the mightiest of blows, a three-run, eighth-inning double off Mariano Rivera that pulled the Mets to within one at 9-8.

Nine-eight! The Mets had nearly climbed out of a nine-run hole! Wow! Why is this game so obscure? Because the key word here is “nearly”. The Mets’ dramatic comeback ran out of drama. Rivera settled down, the Mets stopped scoring, and it became a 9-8 loss, essentially like the other five losses in that season’s Subway Series mess.

This time around, Severino was nearly undermined by a reliever not nearly as famous as Rivera, fella mopping up named Bryan Mitchell. Up 7-1 in the bottom of the ninth versus Mitchell, catcher-infielder Travis d’Arnaud led off with a double, frequent flyer Matt Reynolds singled, intensely concentrating Brandon Nimmo pinch-walked, and Granderson — who the day prior was recorded by the Mets’ social media staff sharing ice cream and gratitude with various Citi Field staffers because he’s just that wonderful a human being — bestowed upon us one more lovely image. He took Mitchell well over the right field wall for a four-run four-bagger. Granderson’s grand slam brought the Mets, who you could have been forgiven for forgetting were even taking part in this game, to within 7-5. It was shades of Raul Gonzalez in the best possible context.

Unfortunately, Mitchell wasn’t permitted to hang around. Dellin Betances came on, retired the next three Mets and preserved bleeping Yankee hegemony for the night, the week and the year. Curtis’s valiant swing produced the second Met grand slam of 2017 produced in service to a loss. Jay Bruce did something similar in hopeless circumstances in Atlanta in early May. It made for a nice noise, but changed nothing. Jay Bruce isn’t even a Met anymore. The trade winds might take Curtis from us, too. Essentially, then, we got eight runs on two swings and keep winding up with nothing. And as in 2003, the Mets couldn’t beat the Yankees once.

And as in 2017, the Mets on Thursday night couldn’t do a thing against a legitimate contender.

Let’s consider the contemporary Mets in terms of their opposition. When they’ve played what we shall call, for our purposes, indisputably lousy teams — the Phillies, the Giants, the Padres and the A’s — they’re very good: 19-10, for a winning percentage of .655. When they’ve played, for lack of a deeper descriptor, so-so competition — the Pirates, the Marlins and the Braves — they are deeply and decidedly so-so: 16-15, .516.

And when they’ve played actual contenders, whether the elite teams who have division titles already socked away, a claim on playoff positioning currently, or a legitimate chance to make it to the postseason — a universe that encompasses the Nationals, the Cubs, the Brewers, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks, the Rockies, the Angels, the Mariners, the Rangers and, distressingly, the Yankees — they are barely on the same planet. The Mets are 18-41 in these situations, for a winning percentage of .305.

Clearly the Mets need to schedule more games against the lousy and the so-so and avoid everybody else at all costs.

If you’re planning on following the Mets over the next 43 games, and you are looking for clues as to how bad it will be and whether you have anything to look forward to except perhaps running into Matz on the LIRR (where he will presumably be beginning his apprenticeship as one of those conductors you can convince “nah, you already got me,” and thus save a fare), be delighted that the Mets have yet to play the Cincinnati Reds this year. The Cincinnati Reds are definitely one of the indisputably lousy teams in Major League Baseball. So are we, but they a bit more so to date. We have seven games with Cincy. That projects as feasting time. Normally I’d say you never know how any given set of baseball games will turn out, but the Mets are so utterly predictable this season, I’m comfortable tentatively concluding that the Mets’ seven games versus the Reds, along with the six that remain against repeatedly overmatched Philly, will be a veritable godsend. Let’s apply the .655 winning percentage to those thirteen and pencil in a 9-4 slate.

We’re done with the Pirates, but there’s plenty of Marlins and Braves left. There’s always plenty of Marlins and Braves left. The Mets play the Marlins and Braves twenty times each every March to prepare them to play the Marlins and Braves a hundred times every season. Thanks to an April rainout, we are blessed with thirteen that remain in this category. A baker’s dozen Marlin and Brave games, apportioned at a winning percentage of .516…that seems like a recipe for 7-6.

Great, we’ve already figured out that from our current mark of 53-66 we will improve to 69-76. Not the kind of record we dreamt of in spring, but gosh, considering how bad we’ve been so much of this year, that implies a significant improvement. Very nicely done, Mets. Now all you have to do is go home and heal, and when all your pitchers besides Matz are healthy, we can look forward to great things in 2018.

Wait a sec. I seem to have forgotten we have a total of seventeen games to be played versus actual contenders: three apiece with the Cubs and the Astros, four with the Diamondbacks and, oh goody, seven with the Nationals. Seventeen games against a class of opponent against whom we lose almost seven of ten at a time multiplies out to five more wins and twelve more losses for us. Add that to the rest of what we’ve calculated, and we’re looking at a final record of 74-88.

Y’know what? That’s not as bad as I thought it was gonna be. Based on the last four nights, I assumed we’d go 0-43 the rest of the way. Of course the games will have to be played. That’s where assumptions run into problems. I wouldn’t necessarily assume the 21-22 projected above is a lock, but seven against the Reds is seven against the Reds, and from that I take advance solace. Then again, somewhere in Cincinnati, some version of me is taking similar solace that at least they have seven games left against the indisputably lousy Mets.

The View from the Orange Grove

It sure gets orange early out beyond center field on the Met home dates The 7 Line Army comes to play. It’s looked that way from a distance. I can report it’s even more orange up close, radiating brightly from all those personalized jerseys sporting all those last names, nicknames and inside jokes. Good. Citi Field can always use a splash of color.

Also, more runs from its home team, fewer supporters for its visitors and, to shake up mundanity, another ball hit at its resident starting catcher turned third baseman/second baseman/third baseman/second baseman…and so on.

A Mets fan needed as much novelty as he could get his mitts on when the Mets were otherwise losing another awful game to the Yankees. I mean, I guess it was an awful game. Who can tell anymore? With Wednesday night’s third consecutive loss to this particular opponent, the Mets have fallen 12 games under .500 for the first time since 2013. Twenty Thirteen was briefly leavened by the Mets’ four-game sweep of the Yankees. The immediate goal of the 2017 Mets is to not be on the wrong end of a four-game sweep in the current edition of the Subway Series. I never thought we’d be so soon in the midst of a year that makes relentlessly hopeless 2013 look not so wretched by comparison.

Hence, we require all the sunniness we can gather as August descends to depths not recently plumbed. Let us thus drape ourselves in orange. Let us pound a pair of ThunderStix. Let us party like it’s 1999 in the standings, ignoring for the moment how deep No. 99 from the other side of town drove a ball into our stands. Let us high-five while our palms are free of calluses, for it’s not like we’ve had much to high-five about this week or this year.

The 7 Line Army as “a thing” picked up momentum in 2015 and 2016 when there was a plethora of Metsiness to be cheery about. When the Mets aren’t winning, The 7 Line Army seems a celebration in search of a reason. My night as an embed — arranged by a longtime Faith and Fear reader and full-time gentleman named Marc — revealed its devoted Met-loving troops don’t have to look hard. They’re at a baseball game with each other and almost all of them are decked out in the most primary of Met hues. How can you not effect ebullience when you turn Big Apple Reserved into a veritable orange grove? Besides, Marc and I agree we miss when you could identify specific ballpark levels by their distinct color schemes.

I wouldn’t necessarily say I miss the days of scorching Subway Series fever, those afternoons and evenings when Shea Stadium was a cauldron of genuine baseball hostility between neighbors, roiling from the orange seats downstairs to the red ones upstairs, but it sure is different at Citi Field. Have we all mellowed that much? That is, when we’re not chanting for chanting’s sake in center field because chanting makes for more fun than silence does? We chanted for as much as we could think of on Wednesday night. Hell, we chanted for a praying mantis (quickly dubbed “the Rally Mantis”). It didn’t get us a win, but it got us out of the house and in a reasonably good mood for a few hours.

It’s plenty different from the high summer drama of Matt Franco flipping an 8-7 loss to a 9-8 triumph, but it’s also different — for the better — from my last direct exposure to the once-ballyhooed intracity rivalry on which we instinctively staked our core identity. From 1998 to 2008, nothing mattered to me quite as much as the Mets beating the Yankees at Shea Stadium. I vowed to quit attending the Subway Series in 2009, Citi Field’s inaugural year, after Frankie Rodriguez walked Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded and I couldn’t tell whose spanking new ballpark I was in by the crowd reaction. The fact that Rivera was batting at all indicates it was the Mets’, but otherwise the game might as well have been played at a neutral site. That was probably the low point of my wherefore art thou, Shea? separation pangs. Whatever was wrong with Shea, at least I knew it was the home of the Mets. Every Subway Series game at Shea, regardless of outcome, made visceral sense to me. I didn’t see any purpose to it post-Shea.

Citi Field has since grown to fine and dandy status by me, but I’d felt no urgency to test its efficacy for Mets vs. Yankees maneuvers. Once Marc graciously got in touch, though, I figured, why not? Conclusion based on my first NYY@NYM night in eight years: there’s still too many of Them on the premises, but the vibe isn’t as holy war as it was at the turn of the century. I suppose that’s better from a civilization standpoint. We allow too many issues to divide us as human beings— why get hung up on who’s resplendent in orange and who’s obviously a creep in navy blue? My T7LA comrades and I certainly expressed antipathy for those whose existence we have conditioned ourselves to not care for, but it felt a bit like going through the motions. Of course Yankees Suck; of course Aaron Judge derives his power from an illicit substance; of course if you’re obnoxious enough to parade around in the wrong cap and the wrong jersey, your cup of beer deserves to meet an unfortunate fate.

Y’know, not really or should I say wholly, to any of the above, but some traditions need to be kept going in lean times. Gotta keep those emotions sharp for when these sets of games are fully competitive again.

Wednesday’s game was technically close, but inevitability hung over it from the outset, and no amount of chanting or ThunderStixing could drown it out. It’s not that the Yankees seemed unbeatable. It’s that the Mets seemed incapable. It didn’t help that the Mets lost two of their projected starting infielders, Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes, to sore rib cages. How in the name of Ray Ramirez does that happen? With Neil Walker making friends and influencing people in the Cream City, Terry Collins was forced to improvise. Little did we know he’d been waiting more than four decades for the opportunity.

Because of the injuries to Flores and Reyes and the utter lack of infield alternatives, Travis d’Arnaud joined the ranks of Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Anthony Recker among catchers serving as unlikely Met third basemen. Chicken salad out of chicken Salas for those of us who track the perpetually intriguing Mets Third Base Merry-Go-Round. In July, Asdrubal Cabrera became the 163rd Met to play the position (yet somehow resisted the impulse to demand a trade). Last week, Walker showcased his versatility by taking a spin at third, earned the “164” designation, and suddenly found himself a playoff-contending Brewer. Travis did not wake up Wednesday anticipating he’d be the 165th Met third baseman ever, but it was either him or an old Manhattan White Pages holding down the hot corner.

Collins wasn’t gonna totally hang d’Arnaud out to dry, however. Against batters more likely to hit in that direction, Terry shifted Asdrubal to third and attempted to hide Travis at second. Against the other kind of batters, the players reverted to the positions where they started the game. This went on for nine innings, just as Terry remembered it working when he was a minor league infielder scurrying back and forth with a similarly put-upon catcher in 1976. Elias had to build an annex to house all the 2B-3B-2Bs and 3B-2B-3Bs attached to d’Arnaud’s and Cabrera’s names in the box score, but the constant movement paid off. Or, at any rate, it didn’t directly cost the Mets anything on defense. And when d’Arnaud, stationed behind second base, reeled in a ninth-inning pop fly, it rated a standing ovation from those of us out in center. We’d been looking for a while for anything to applaud, even if it was semi-ironic. Td’A notching a simple “F 4” in the scorebook wasn’t quite the sensation as that praying mantis, but it definitely generated a buzz.

Judge’s home run to Promenade in the fourth, on the other hand, created a kind of hush not heard since Herman’s Hermits were in their heyday. There was genuine awe to be had not only in seeing where the eventual speck landed, but also in watching thousands of heads following the flight of the ball. One massive thought bubble floated above Citi Field: How far is that thing gonna go? It went where even Yoenis Cespedes’s mightiest blow dared not tread. Nobody was on base, so its impact was no greater than René Rivera’s relatively gravity-restrained home run in the fifth…except nobody years from now will be talking about that time they saw René Rivera homer off Jaime Garcia of the Yankees, while everybody will remember that time they saw Aaron Judge homer off Robert Gsellman of the Mets.

They might also remember Erik Goeddel striking out Judge in the ninth, not because it was critical to how the game turned out, but because Judge had just set a record for striking out in consecutive games; a million, I think. Small comfort to those of us in the orange grove (though we surely applauded when he whiffed). Hammerin’ Yank Aaron notwithstanding, the game was lost ultimately by Mets relief pitching being Mets relief pitching. Gsellman’s rust, the Mets’ indifferent hitting, and generally lousy calling of balls and strikes surely contributed to the 5-3 defeat, but the bullpen void glared as it so often does. Two separate conversations, conducted during and after the decisive seventh inning — Paul Sewald’s seasonlong tribute to Dale Murray continues unabated — led me to decide Met relief pitching has always been not healthy for children and other living things, save maybe for a few weeks in 1983 when Carlos Diaz, Doug Sisk and Jesse Orosco were simultaneously golden. The fine print on the tickets should include a warning to observe late innings at your own risk.

Yet we cheer, we chant and we take our chances that it will all be worth it. Orange-clad Army induction is optional, but it certainly adds a little flair.

I Saw* Dominic Smith's First Big-League Homer

At this stage of a lost season, it’s no longer about the standings or even particularly about the score. Baseball becomes a game of individual accomplishments, and the roster a collection of atomized pieces to be assessed for some future mosaic. Keep this one, dump that one, maybe we can swap that one for something that fits better.

Jacob deGrom isn’t going anywhere — he’s the only one of the Mets’ vaunted young guns who didn’t burst a barrel during this campaign. If someone can be said to pitch well despite giving up five earned runs, it’s deGrom, who was mostly unlucky in losing to the Yankees. In a low-wattage Subway Series, this was another mostly dull game, which Mets fans like me scattered through the stands seemed to find more perplexing than anything. DeGrom looked great, except the Yankees lofted all manner of dinks and dunks over the infield, a small number of deGrom pitches were less than great, and that combination was enough to beat the Mets.

The game was also my first look at the new Yankee Stadium through civilian eyes. I’d been twice before, but each time I’d lucked into exotic seats I had no business being in. For my first visit I was a few rows behind home plate (for the unveiling of George Steinbrenner’s plaque, no less), and ushers entreated me and my neighbors to not bother Jay-Z, which I thought was some kind of to-the-manor-born joke until I realized that oh, that really is Jay-Z sitting right there. (I didn’t bother him.) The second time, I was in a suite down the right-field line, on a work outing during which I endeared myself to my boss by telling credulous newcomers that Monument Park was a replacement for a statue of Moloch into whose fiery maw luckless Bronx orphans had been fed during secret midnight ceremonies. (Hey, it’s metaphorically true.)

Seen from a less exalted angle, the new Yankee Stadium is just … deeply underwhelming. I still need to give it a proper tour, but it’s like someone took the old white skeleton frieze, then sat down with the post-Camden Yards pattern book, put a big X through anything interesting, surrounded the premium seats with a moat and called it a day.

Citi Field arrived with some horrific sight lines and a woeful lack of affiliation with the team that actually played there, but from the beginning the park had both instantly recognizable pieces (the rotunda, the Shea Bridge, the Pepsi Porch, the home-run apple) and general-access areas (the left-field plaza and the promenade deck above the rotunda) where you could eat, hang out or stroll. Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall is a fitting showcase for the team (which is to say it’s big, expensive and cold), but there’s an absence of common areas, and looking around from a grandstand you mostly just see generic ballpark.

The frieze remains iconic, even if it still strikes me as set dressing that wouldn’t look out of place adorning Skeletor’s lair in He-Man. But Monument Park 3.0 is baffling.

The original Monument Park was actually in play, which I can accept wasn’t the greatest idea; its successor dominated the area beyond center field. The third iteration, however, looks like the backlot of Vinnie’s Used Cars — a sad space beyond the center-field fence, dimly visible under sagging netting. My pal Will and I spitballed new locations for it, finally concluding that anything anyone came up with would be better than what actually exists. I mean, this is Monument Park — something even Yankee haters instinctively look for — and it looks like a shabby afterthought. How do you screw that up?

Oh, when a Yankee hits a home run the stadium lights do a disco/vogue thing, followed by those irritating Yankee chimes. Much as I disliked the frequency of its use, the disco/vogue thing was pretty cool.

Anyway. Your takeaways from the night were exactly two: Dominic Smith hit his first career home run and Amed Rosario hit his second, the latter coming off Aroldis Chapman in the ninth and giving the Yankees a bit of a fright, at least. Here’s to many more Smith-Rosario pairings on the scoreboard in the future, and to their contributions coming in actual wins.

Oh, that asterisk: having concluded that the Mets’ presence in Yankee Stadium was essentially theoretical for the night, I gave up and went looking for a decent hot dog and beer. The Yankees pipe the radio feed into the bathroom, but TVs are lacking while waiting in concession lines. I returned with my expensive prizes to find that the score had gone from 4-0 to 4-2.

“What the hell happened?” I demanded, looking at the Mets suspiciously, and was told that Dominic Smith had hit his home run.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, disgusted with Yankee Stadium but also with myself.

But hey, I was there. Sort of.

Degeneration Generation

As SNY spoke with Dave Mlicki Monday night about claiming first blood in a Mets-Yankees tilt that mattered, I found myself more than a little distracted. Mlicki had blanked the Yanks 20 years ago?

No, that couldn’t be right.

Surely it was five years ago.

OK, maybe 10.

But nope, you could look it up. The Mets and Yankees have been at this interleague thing a long time — a real generation that spans several baseball ones. Which is long enough for it to become something less than special.

Oh, I tuned in Monday night. But that was more because I’d spent nine days in the Met-unfriendly climes of Alaska and British Columbia, and so seen only snippets of action. I missed my Mets, despite this year being generally missable, and particularly wanted to see Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith on the same field and in the same lineup. Mets-Yankees just happened to be the first game where I’d get to do that.

Rosario’s not unfamiliar at this point, but Smith was new to me. The sleepy-eyed rookie strikes me as what you’d get if someone smushed Butch Huskey into a slightly smaller package, though I did also note of his soft hands and instinctive awareness of what to do with them during Monday night’s game.

The rest of the Mets were more familiar and so less compelling. Curtis Granderson jerked one of his patented Yankee Stadium home runs into that ludicrously close right-field porch. (Seriously, why did they ever let him leave?) Yoenis Cespedes had a very Cespedian game: a home run, a poor throw home that let a runner score, a disclination to run to first after a third strike escaped the catcher. Rafael Montero was better than expected except for one inning in which he retreated into all-too-typical timidity. Hansel Robles was good for an inning, which of course got him another inning, during which he was predictably bad, surrendering a massive Aaron Hicks home run that doomed the Mets.

Oh, and Hansel pointed to the sky again, as if the ball were going a quarter of the distance budgeted. Since not giving up home runs seems to be a bridge too far, he could at least stop doing that.

As for the new-look Yankees, they have an assembly line of hard-throwing, competent relievers, the gigantic Aaron Judge and a bunch of dudes I haven’t bothered paying attention to. I can’t work up any animosity for this edition except Brett Gardner, and even he’s only irritating if you’re determined to be mad at someone.

Maybe it’s the old age talking, but that’s fine with me. I didn’t like interleague play in the first place, but for years I was helpless to avoid getting whipped into a lather by the typically understated coverage heralding the return of the Subway Series. Still, as Dave Mlicki might tell you, it’s been a long time. On Monday I muttered and fussed out of instinctive tribalism, but that’s all I could muster. When Rosario looked at a called strike three, neither the borderline call nor the end of the game particularly bothered me.

I’m sure that will change. The Mets will have something to play for, these new Yankees will reveal old loathsomeness that I will beseech the baseball gods to punish, and it’ll be on again. But Monday night was just another game in a lost season — and a dull game at that, if you want to know the truth. It’s good to be back, but as this season dwindles my reaction isn’t to mourn but to shrug. And in a way, that’s sadder than any pop-up to Luis Castillo could be.

An Unobtrusive Little Score

When you’ve heard your team won a game by the score of 2-0, you assume there was very good pitching. When you’ve heard your team won a game by the score of 9-5, you assume there was a good bit of hitting. When you’ve heard your team won a game by the score of 6-2, you assume…what? Your team was probably in control, they pitched well enough, they hit well enough, there was likely an inning that definitively separated the two teams from a more nerve-wracking outcome. Somebody must have scored some runs to put the game away. Somebody must have prevented some runs that would have made things tighter. Mostly you assume it wasn’t the most compelling of games. You won by four. Good. Next!

The Mets beat the Phillies on Sunday, 6-2. It wasn’t the most compelling of games. Chris Flexen and four relievers pitched well enough. Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto in particular (a homer each, five RBIs between them), hit well enough. The Phillies — mostly Odubel Herrera, attempting to tag up to an occupied base — ran themselves out of a potentially bountiful fifth. The Mets scored six. The Phillies scored two. It took three hours and thirty minutes, but it got the job done. A 6-2 win, three out of four in the series, on to the bus, and off to the Bronx.

And I wouldn’t dwell too much on the final, except, because I keep track of how often the Mets win by whatever score they win by, I discovered that Sunday’s 6-2 win was the Mets’ 100th 6-2 regular-season win in their history.

Happy Hundredth!

Yeah, I don’t know what to make of it either, but a round number is a round number, even when applied to a score that isn’t round and doesn’t instantly imply much beyond eight runs were distributed in a satisfying manner. Earlier this season, the Mets also notched the 100th 6-3 regular-season win in their history, and while it wasn’t a terribly memorable game, a scan of the scrolls showed the Mets had made plenty of their previous 99 6-3 wins indelible.

Bartolo Colon’s lone home run was in service to a 6-3 Mets win. So was Jeremy Hefner’s. The first time a Met hit three home runs in one game — Jim Hickman in 1965 — the Mets beat the Cardinals, 6-3. When the Mets tied their team record for most consecutive wins, eleven, in 2015, it was on a 6-3 victory over the Braves. Frank Viola’s 20th win was 6-3. Matt Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery was 6-3. The first Met ever taken in an amateur draft, Les Rohr, got his professional career off to a promising start by defeating the Dodgers, 6-3, at the tail end of 1967. Ike Davis’s last great Met moment, his ninth-inning, come-from-behind, pinch-hit grand slam that shocked the Reds, resulted in a 6-3 triumph. Darryl Strawberry’s last great Met moment, when he blasted Doug Drabek and the Pirates practically out of Shea Stadium in September 1990’s end-of-an-era pennant race, presaged a 6-3 final. And perhaps the most mind-bogglingly craziest game the Mets ever played that didn’t end at 3:55 in the morning, the one in Cincinnati on July 22, 1986, with Dave Parker dropping the presumptive last out, Eric Davis and Ray Knight exchanging punches, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell swapping right field, Gary Carter playing third, Keith Hernandez fielding a bunt about six inches in front of the plate and Howard Johnson blasting a three-run homer in the fourteenth…that was a 6-3 Mets win.

Even the first 6-3 win the Mets ever managed was pretty Amazin’. They downed Don Drysdale and the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds on August 24, 1962, the first time they beat the former Brooklynites in New York. Drysdale won 25 games and the Cy Young that season, and the Dodgers wound up tied with the Giants after 162 games, setting the stage for the three-game playoff that gave San Francisco the pennant. If those Original Mets, who were 40-120 overall and 2-16 against their otherwise most overwhelming opponent, hadn’t decided to uncharacteristically jump up and bite L.A. with a 6-3 nip, the Dodgers (theoretically) would have gone to the World Series instead. The 1962 Mets weren’t so much Giant-killers as they were Dodger-doomers.

Six-Three encompasses a world of Met wonder. Six-Two, by comparison, lacks regular-season historical intrigue. The Mets won the fourth game of the 1986 World Series, 6-2, and the first game of the 2000 NLCS, 6-2, but in the regular season, I would nominate, as most anomalously exciting 6-2 win, Mets 6 Dodgers 2, June 11, 1980, better known as the Mike Jorgensen Game.

The Mike Jorgensen Game? You probably had to be there, or at least have been watching it or listening to it to understand its significance. The game was at Shea and it ran ten innings, and if you don’t mind indulging in a little arithmetic, you will thus infer the game ended on a grand slam if the margin of victory was four runs at home in extras. It dramatically concluded off the bat of Jorgensen, a Met then in his second Flushing go-round. Jorgy graduated from nearby Frances Lewis High School and the Mets, that particular week (as New York State regents exams loomed), were matriculating toward .500, a.k.a. the unreachable star. This was the week when The Magic Is Back, up to that point a silly advertising slogan, became the mantra of Mets fans everywhere. The eternally crummy Mets had begun the season 9-18. Comebacks like this one — engineered against teams considered far better than ours — had pulled us to the edge of respectability. The Mets climbed to 25-27 on Mike’s four-run four-bagger off future tormentor Rick Sutcliffe. It was, quite seriously, Magical.

So why haven’t you heard more about this most massive 6-2 moment in Mets history? Because three nights later, Steve Henderson would hit an even more Magical home run — for three runs off Allen Ripley — capping a ninth-inning comeback from five runs down to beat the Giants, 7-6, and it became the emblematic victory of a generation. Seven-Six automatically tells you something spectacular occurred. Six-Two suggests you need to take a closer look and bring a calculator.

There have been a few other 6-2 wins of surpassing situational interest over the past 56 seasons. Joe Torre’s first managerial outing, an oasis of optimism amid the ongoing desert of Queens crumminess, was won by that score on May 31, 1977. When the Mets clinched their second consecutive Wild Card, on September 27, 2000, it was by beating the Braves, 6-2. The win unleashed the most ambivalent clinching celebration in Met history given that we really wanted to win the division from the Braves in 2000…and the Braves had won the division directly from us the night before. But we were in the playoffs again and 6-2 did it.

Six-Two was also the score attached to an outcome that was either emblematic of its time or just a triviality. On April 5, 1994, the day after the exponentially more famous Tuffy Rhodes Game, the Mets won, for the first time, a game in which they fielded a starting lineup consisting of nine players who were each born after April 11, 1962, which is to say after the franchise itself was born. Seeing as how the Mets’ image desperately required rehabilitation after 1993 was marked by a tendency to play with parking lot firecrackers and bleach-filled Super Soakers, it was nice to know the Mets were sort of growing up at last. Behind Jose Vizcaino, David Segui, Joe Orsulak, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff Kent, Jeromy Burnitz, Kelly Stinnett, Ryan Thompson and Pete Smith, the Mets beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field, 6-2. The next time the Mets won by that score was August 10, 1994. The next day, the Mets played their last game of the season as a strike cancelled the rest of the schedule.

Six-Two is a shy kind of score, apparently. It doesn’t always want to come out to play. The Mets didn’t win a 6-2 game until they’d won 103 other games. Its first appearance on behalf of a Mets victory came Saturday, May 30, 1964, at Shea Stadium against the Giants. Jack Fisher went nine. Charley Smith went deep. Willie Mays went to third on a triple, but he was with the other team then. Buoyed by the 6-2 sensation, the Mets rushed right back to Shea the next afternoon for a Sunday doubleheader and wouldn’t surrender the field until it was nearly Monday morning. They played 32 innings, the final 23 in the nightcap. The Mets scored six off San Francisco pitching again, but gave up eight. Willie Mays played shortstop for the other team.

From 1966 to 1974, the Mets won only one 6-2 game, over Atlanta on May 21, 1971. It was also at Shea. Nolan Ryan gave up a home run to Hank Aaron but was otherwise good enough to raise his record to 5-1, lower his ERA to 1.32 and attract the interest of California Angels scouts. Once Ryan bloomed in Anaheim, the Mets may have decided winning 6-2 only led to bad trades, thus explaining the one such victory in an eight-year span. Since the mid-1970s, however, 6-2 wins have been a recurring feature of Met seasons. Only in 2011 and 2013 have the Mets not won a 6-2 game. As recently as 2009 they won four of them. The first was achieved in rather mundane fashion versus the Yankees the day after the Mets lost on Luis Castillo’s one-handed grab at infamy. That was a 9-8 loss. You can tell by 9-8 that it was exciting. Some days you prefer mundane. Tonight at Yankee Stadium a mundane 6-2 win would be just fine. The use of two hands on pop flies would also be appreciated. It always is.

Walk On By

Steven Matz looked all right for a change for four innings Saturday night; looked a little too much like Jonathon Niese in the fifth inning; and never made it out of the sixth. Unlike Niese, the Mets’ latest vexingly underperforming lefty stalwart didn’t blame anybody but himself for his shortfall. He never does. Yoenis Cespedes hit a monstrous home run in his club’s best at-bat, versus the otherwise masterful Aaron Nola in the fourth, yet struck out with two on and two out to dash his club’s best hope, versus Ricardo Pinto in the eighth. By then, the Mets were down to the Phillies, 2-1. Chasen Bradford (1.1 IP, 0 R) had kept the Mets within a run after Matz’s departure. Erik Goeddel (1 IP, 1 R) pushed them back by two runs, which is where the game ended, at 3-1, the actual home team of Citizens Bank Park finally topping the home away from home team from New York. Somewhere in all of this, Amed Rosario showed off his backhand, his throwing arm and his bat — the first two to rob Ryan Hoskins of his potential first major league hit, the last to land himself on second with his own first double. His feet, however, did him no favor as he got himself thrown out at home on the back end of a delayed double-steal attempt in the second.

That was the game. It was a loss flecked with moments of encouragement and frustration. There figures to be ample amounts of both as the Mets continue to break in youngsters and shed veterans. Rosario is now a fixture. Dom (or Dominic) Smith started again at first. Brandon Nimmo was elevated from extended in-game interview duty to lead off and play right. And perpetually youthful if not exactly fresh-faced Jose Reyes was the late-announced starter at second, taking over for Neil Walker. Walker joined the exodus of experienced players who are no longer of use to a team out of a race but, in one of those cognitively dissonant realities of the sport, is judged useful by a team in a race.

The destination for Walker is Milwaukee, where Neil is headed in exchange for a player who already has a name, but it will be learned by us later. The Mets are also sending the Brewers cash, which seems at odds with their way of executing trades, but every deal is different in detail if not tone. The tone here, as it was in the respective dispatchings of Lucas Duda, Addison Reed and Jay Bruce, was we need to figure out who we are for next year, and whoever we will be almost certainly won’t include you and your salary, so if you don’t mind clearing out your locker a little early to make our decisionmaking process a wee bit less complicated…yeah, thanks.

Neil Walker, who is from Pittsburgh, was pretty much who we thought he’d be when he came over from Pittsburgh in exchange for the unlamented Niese (who also came over or at least back from Pittsburgh, come to think of it). He hit pretty well. He fielded decently. He was, by all accounts, a heckuva guy. He just didn’t avoid injury and he forgot to morph into Rogers Hornsby, which is what his Met second base predecessor did the second he left New York. By not keeping offensive pace with Daniel Murphy, Neil Walker’s Met legacy became not having been Daniel Murphy.

This is where I’d love to interject, “But being Neil Walker was good enough.” Well, they did get to the playoffs in 2016 without Daniel Murphy, but also without Neil Walker when it mattered most. Neil certainly helped keep the Mets aloft amidst their fallow period last summer, but just as they were revving up, he went down with a bad back and never played after late August, thus excusing himself from direct Wild Card association. He sat out more time this year, though his partially torn left hamstring was hardly the difference between another run to postseason and wherever the current campaign winds up. By moving on to Milwaukee, Neil will miss another September in New York, leaving him what I’m going to assume is a club record. Neil hit 33 home runs as a Met, the 61st-most in franchise history (tied with Ramon Castro and Jay Payton) and likely the most by any Met who never hit one in September. Was he that unclutch? No, just that absent. Neil never had a Met at-bat in September, which thoroughly explains his complete lack of power down the stretch.

Not quite the right man in the right place at the right time. But a heckuva guy. And did we mention he’s from Pittsburgh?