Hey, for the first 6 2/3 innings that was a helluva fun game. Swing and a drive from Lucas Duda, his first ever off a left-hander, Mets up 3-1, about to go seven over .500, take the first series in their gantlet of contests against powerful clubs, run their record against the hated Phillies to 7-2, and …
The hanging knuckle-curve that Bobby Parnell offered Chooch Ruiz was the needle scraping off the record, causing a roomful of partygoers to reach for their ears and drop their drinks. But if so — to continue a metaphor from another millennium — Andres Torres’s ill-fated pursuit of Brian Schneider’s fly ball a batter before was the sketchy friend of the guy you didn’t want to invite stumbling across the room, hands splayed out in a vain effort to catch his drunken self before falling headfirst into the record player.
Which would make the misadventures of Jon Rauch and Tim Byrdak and Ramon Ramirez and Chris Schwinden a dog’s breakfast of teens throwing up in the bushes and the cops coming to break everything up and knowing you’re totally busted and Mom and Dad are going to wreak a terrible vengeance in the morning, which will be here way too soon, terrible and bright. It’s like that Katy Perry video, only with Shane Victorino refusing to stop playing Xbox in your TV room.
The Mets’ bullpen has an ERA of 5.45, which is 30th in the big leagues and would probably be 50th if there was suddenly an enormous wave of expansion. Thinking about that, you find yourself wondering where these overachieving Mets would be if the pen was merely worrisome instead of awful, and you quickly realize they’d probably be in first place, thumbing their collective orange and blue nose at a nation of baseball scribes.
If someone in the postgame had asked Terry Collins about his bullpen’s execution, I bet he’d have said he was in favor of it.
Despite this, I find myself philosophical and upbeat. Yeah, the bullpen’s bad — but it can’t be this bad. Byrdak’s been great. Rauch has been pretty good all told. Parnell doesn’t have great body language but has grown into a pitcher instead of a chucker — he chose a lousy time to hang a curve to a .366 hitter, but those things happen. Ramirez looks horrible now but has been an effective reliever before — and if you want to give up on him, remember that Frank Francisco looks lights-out now, where a couple of weeks ago we were ready to tie him up and stash him in one of Willets Point’s chop shops. Manny Acosta was awful and so is gone. Should the significance of that be lost on anybody, there are potentially useful reinforcements available or nearly so in Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin and Elvin Ramirez. We can hope that some guys’ struggles are behind them, that we see some regression to the mean, and that some new recruits can help.
Meanwhile, suppose back in January I’d offered you the chance to be 1.5 games out on June 1, with David Wright and Johan Santana looking rejuvenated, R.A. Dickey having a superb year, Daniel Murphy and Tim Byrdak and Scott Hairston and Mike Baxter having emerged as solid players, Kirk Nieuwenhuis looking like a keeper, and signs of life from Dillon Gee, Lucas Duda and Bobby Parnell. You’d have taken that without questions or reservations.
And here we are. The Mets were 13-10 in April, 15-13 in May, and it’s not crazy talk to think they may be able to keep it up or even get better — not with Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada returning and Ike Davis maybe finding himself and the young guns in Buffalo and Binghamton getting closer. Yes, I’d have taken that in January quite gladly. As I’ll do at the end of May.