If you had to choose, would you rather be hobbled by horrible starting pitching or terrible relief?
Too much bad starting pitching and the air is consistently out of the fan balloon by the third or fourth inning, leaving you grousing about wasted evenings and wondering if there isn’t something else you should be doing, possibly including tapping yourself over and over again in the kneecap with a hammer to see when it crosses the line from annoying to painful. Too much bad relief and you don’t trust anything good that happens early, because you know the middle innings will be brought to you by Frogger: It sure would be inspiring to hop across this busy highway, but you know you’re going to get pancaked by a semi.
The Mets got the bad starting pitching, while the Marlins got the hopeless relief (or most of it — the Mets weren’t exactly immune themselves) and Game 2 — by turns depressing, inspiring and repeatedly wacky — wound up in the loss column. Which brings up another age-old and unanswerable question: Is it better to fall behind by five and quietly expire, or to come all the way back and then face-plant into defeat anyway?
Speaking of face-planting, John Maine was so horrid that the joy I felt at having survived baseball-less Day 2 was snuffed out almost immediately. His location was hide-your-eyes awful, and he spent most of his time on the mound looking like a guy confronted by an overflowing toilet. And this, folks, is our Number 2 starter. Ricky Nolasco, on the other hand, was terrific, with his only sin getting tired and turning over the ball to his incompetent teammates. The Marlin pen was so staggeringly awful that the Met relievers’ poor showings will get lost in the shuffle a bit, but it was a depressing march: Jenrry Mejia looked pretty much exactly like a kid who throws hard but needs to harness secondary pitches in the minors, Sean Green looked like his usual blandly awful self, and if you’ll forgive me a thoroughly unfair comparison based on a tiny sample size, Hisanori Takahashi sure reminded me of the last Takahashi thrown in over his head in extra innings.
OK, there were positives to take away beyond “Hey, there’s baseball on again!” (Which ain’t nothing — hey, there’s baseball on again!) And some of those positives weren’t exactly ones I’d been counting on. Jeff Francoeur can’t seem to resist swinging at that 0-0 slider in the dirt, but he then reined himself in and had a couple of pretty decent at-bats, and has somehow walked in two straight games. Rod Barajas’s OBP makes Francoeur look like a Kevin Youkilis clone, but he some good counts, and has shown pretty good thump at the plate. Heck, even Mike Jacobs had a game if ultimately futile at-bat.
Maybe it’s just that it’s early, but I found myself feeling like this game was mildly encouraging — even though if I’d shown you a couple of key plays and said they were from 2009 we’d all be yowling about being lousy and snakebit. Having Fernando Tatis thrown out at the plate on an insufficiently wild pitch with David Wright up in a two-out, bases-loaded situation was obviously awful, the first baseball kick in the nuts of 2010. But I can’t bring myself to scold Tatis. When that ball bounded away, I was screaming “Go!” and you probably were too. The ball didn’t carom right off the back wall, but ricocheted left, and it took a awfully good play by John Baker to get Tatis. If Gary Matthews Jr. makes a throw that’s slightly more on target, Wes Helms is out and maybe we’re still playing — but if Helms slides decently, that play isn’t close anyway. And I still can’t figure out exactly what Leo Nunez did to constitute a balk.
A couple of finger-lengths of bad luck, and we lost. It sucks, but it doesn’t feel like a curse or destiny or incompetence or anything like that. It just feels like bad luck. For right now, I can live with that.