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Time-Shifted Train Wreck

Oh, your 2012 Mets. They bite and claw and fight and come back, so you can never ever give up on them. It’s an endearing quality in a team, particularly one pegged as a second-division outfit.

Oh, your 2012 Mets. The second you get giddy, they crash and burn, leaving you in the fetal position. It’s an aggravating quality in a team, particularly one you desperately want to believe in.

Some games are ones you’d like to immediate flush out of memory, never to be spoken of again. This afternoon’s debacle would be a prime example.

Unfortunately, part of being a daily blogger is having to write with posterity in mind. So bear with me for a minute, while we go back into the abyss and look down.

The horror, the horror….

I don’t know if this is better or worse, but we saw this game on tape delay, TiVoing it so we could go to Mother’s Day brunch and making our leisurely way across lower Manhattan before heading home, with a web/social-media blackout strictly enforced. Usually I find that tape delay robs a game of its tension — knowing what I’m seeing isn’t live makes things sag in my mind — but today’s game was good enough that I was riveted. There was the weirdly jovial Carlos Zambrano, smiling genially at anyone and everyone even after falling behind 2-0. There was David Wright snagging a heat-seeking missile from Hanley Ramirez, which almost tore off his arm and turned him around nearly 180 degrees. Wright coolly waited for physics to fail to hurl him into short left field and threw Hanley out. There was Jon Niese, pitching gamely around occasional trouble and winning a terrific matchup with Giancarlo Stanton, from whom more was unfortunately to be heard. And there was Justin Turner, once again turning in a terrific at-bat against Heath Bell. This one wasn’t quite Dunstonesque, but it was still pretty good: Turner knew Bell’s curve ball could be more or less safely ignored, and worked Heath to a full count, got his pitch and rifled a double to right for a 4-2 Mets lead.

Bedlam! Excitement! Why, just three outs from Frank Francisco, and we’ll be headed merrily home….

Nope. The bottom of the ninth was a slow-motion train wreck, ended definitively and by then somewhat mercifully by something very loud and very fast.

When did you know we were screwed? When Emilio Bonifacio hit third? When Todd Tichenor decided John Buck deserved a couple of extra strikes for an afternoon’s worth of warm companionship and witty repartee behind home plate? When you saw Greg Dobbs fit his custom-designed helmet over his horns [1]? When Manny Acosta came in? When Hanley Ramirez walked? When Austin Kearns got hit? When Stanton dug in with the big Red Grooms Pachinko thing whispering to him a la Todd Hundley and the Coors Field upper deck?

I can’t remember exactly when I saw Doom waiting at the door. All I know is that as the ninth cratered, I started scrubbing dishes, neatening piles of magazines and returning household objects to their proper places. That’s my instinct once the DEBACLE warning light is lit — perhaps to extract something positive from a bunch of negatives, or because long ago having cleaned up the apartment made me less likely to throw things in a fury.

I thought Frank Frank deserved an asterisk for Friday night’s failure: Stanton hit a ball so hard that Ronny Cedeno felt lucky not to have been in front of it, Francisco got Sanchez to fly out, Bonifacio smacked a hit through a drawn-in infield, Francisco struck out Buck, and Dobbs’s game-winner came on a broken bat. That’s a fair amount of buzzard’s luck there.

Not so this afternoon — he was awful, with Tichenor’s magically shrinking strike zone unfortunate but not an excuse. Frank Frank’s ERA is now 8.56. In 2012, that just means he’s a member of the endangered species known as “closer” (Bell’s ERA is 10.03), but that’s little comfort right now.

Honestly, it was a kindness that Stanton brought the game crashing down in regulation. It was obvious the Mets weren’t going to win this one, that the Ghost of Soilmaster had them by the neck again. The only question was how they would lose. On a Jose Reyes bleeder that rolled away from the fingertips of a sprawled Jordany Valdespin in 10? On a HBP by Bobby Parnell with the bases loaded in the 11th? On a fielder’s choice with Bonifacio beating the relay throw to Daniel Murphy by an eyelash in the 12th? It was going to be something soul-shriveling and awful, as any Mets fan who’s watched innumerable Miami horrors knew. Given that, it might as well have been Giancarlo Stanton, in the ninth with the wound still fresh.

And now posterity has been satisfied, and we shall never speak of this one [2] again.