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This just in: Bud Selig has declared first place in the National League East vacant, pending location of a geographically suitable team that can play three hours of anything resembling baseball.

That description suited the Nationals somewhat more than it did the Mets, as the two clubs bashed away at each other spastically, exchanging errors and wild pitches and poor decisions, before the Nats prevailed on an 0-2 single from Bryce Harper that fell a couple of feet in front of a diving Vinny Rottino, who tried to sell it as a catch. Given that Three Stooges incompetence had even ensnared the umps by then (ask Xavier Nady about one particular strike call), it was a good try; mercifully, the umps declared the game over.

Long before that, I had tweeted that you could smell K-Rodesque walk-off debacle all over this one. I didn’t know how right I was, or how painful the slide into disaster would be.

Forgive Bobby Parnell if he’s not particularly inclined to join any of his infielders for breakfast. The Mets rallied to escape a 3-0, taking the lead on an Andres Torres triple in the eighth, then watched Frank Francisco yield a game-tying single to Ian Desmond in the bottom of the inning. In the 10th, a Henry Rodriguez wild pitch scored Scott Hairston for a 5-4 lead; out came Parnell to try and secure the save.

So what happened? Parnell got Ryan Zimmerman to hit a grounder to short. Jordany Valdespin booted it. So Parnell got Adam LaRoche to hit a grounder to first. Ike Davis booted it, turning a double play into a fielder’s choice. Parnell, understandably unnerved, threw a wild pitch to move Zimmerman to third. After a walk to Michael Morse, Parnell got Desmond to ground to short. Valdespin, amazingly, booted that one too, allowing the Nats to tie it up. If you’re scoring at home, that’s four extra outs handed to the enemy. Parnell, to his credit, did the only sane thing he could do after all that, striking out Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel to keep the Nats at bay. Worst inning of 2012? Why stop there? It might have been the worst inning of the millennium.

The 11th belonged to young Elvin Ramirez, thrown into the deep, shark-infested, acid-filled end of the pool. Ramirez showed a precocious awareness of the game by embracing the principle of pitching to his defense, meaning he struck out three Nats rather than allow any of his incompetent teammates to touch the ball. It seemed Ramirez would be rewarded in the 12th, when Hairston mashed a home run off Ross Detwiler, but he looked gassed in the bottom of the frame, with Terry Collins out of relievers and unwilling to call on Jeremy Hefner, tomorrow’s starter. There were instant back-to-back doubles for the tie, a wild pitch, Ramirez attempting to lose the game by nearly tossing the ball to the backstop on an intentional walk (yes really), an unintentional walk to Detwiler (who baffled everyone by repeatedly trying to bunt ball four), and eventually Harper’s fatal two-out hit.

A brutal loss, but at least on my couch it didn’t hurt as much as it should. The game had become a ludicrous farce by then, with Keith Hernandez so unhinged that I thought he’d fetch the SNY sherpas to carry him down from Nationals Park’s Everest-like pressbox to yell at everybody involved. (A demerit to SNY for briefly turning the camera on Johan Santana, looking faintly horrified in the dugout. It was gauche to drag Johan into this disaster even if it was only by association.)

Besides, the Mets thoroughly deserved to lose: Daniel Murphy messed up a double-play ball earlier in the evening, while Omar Quintanilla handed the Nats an extra run by overthrowing Josh Thole on a play at the plate, plus there was Josh Satin striking out with a runner on third and one out, and Ramirez doing the same. At least Elvin had the excuse that it was his first professional at-bat. It was that kind of game.

After the finale against the Cardinals, I was disturbed that the loss of Mike Baxter prevented the Mets from being able to send down Davis while continuing to push Lucas Duda into some semblance of a right fielder. Tonight, that has to go on the backburner in favor of a much bigger worry: The Mets have no one who can play shortstop competently. Ruben Tejada’s still on the DL, as is Ronny Cedeno, as is Justin Turner, whom you didn’t want out there a couple of weeks ago but now seems like Rey Ordonez. We’re stuck with Quintanilla manning the position, and he’s more than demonstrated why he’s the fourth-stringer you’d never heard of. Quintanilla’s lone qualification to play short is that he’s better than Valdespin, who has no business being out there whatsoever.

Amid such gloomy calculations, as if on cue, came word that Tejada had left of his Triple-A rehab start with tightness in his injured quad and was headed to Port St. Lucie. We thought we only had two more days of hiding under the bed when anything’s hit between Wright and Murphy, but instead we have … well, no one really knows, but it’s far more days than is advisable.

Yeah, it was that kind of night [1].