“Pack it up. Pack it in.” Those are the words that usually play over the Citi Field loudspeakers when the Mets’ best player comes to bat. I’ve noticed the song before but was never quite moved to put the lyrics into proper context until Thursday, when I sat again through nine gnawing innings at the house of pain and watched the Rockies anesthetize the Mets for a fourth straight game — or would the proper term here be euthanize?
No, because the Mets have yet to be put out of their or our misery. They owe their fellow National Leaguers 37 chances to get their momentum on against them. It worked wonders for the Rockies, who didn’t look like world-beaters in effecting their four-game sweep, but they weren’t taking on the world. They were taking on the Mets. All they had to do was wait out another superb starting pitching performance and…that was basically it.
• Monday night, R.A. Dickey throws seven innings of one-run, three-hit ball. Mets lose, 3-1.
• Tuesday night, Chris Young begins his evening by throwing five perfect innings. Mets lose, 6-2.
• Wednesday night, Matt Harvey strikes out nine while giving up one run and three hits over six innings. Mets lose, 5-2.
• And on Thursday afternoon, a beautiful day for a ballgame if only the Mets had decided to take part in one, a young fellow named Collin McHugh made his major league debut, shut out Colorado for seven innings on two hits while striking out nine. Mets lose, 1-0.
To be fair, the Mets were facing Christy Mathewson, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson, which would explain why they scraped together only five runs over four days.
Correction: the Mets were facing Alex White, Jhoulys Chacin, Jeff Francis and Tyler Chatwood, which didn’t really seem to have anything to do with the Mets’ inability to score. Those guys — none sporting a remotely impressive WHIP or ERA+ in 2012, could have been any guys Jim Tracy picked up outside the Flushing Home Depot for a day’s work. The Mets who weren’t Dickey, Young, Harvey and McHugh conducted themselves across four games as if they’d packed it up, packed it in and prepared to jump on the first plane to their autumnal hunting and fishing trips.
McHugh looked very solid, albeit against the Rockies, who somehow have a worse record than the Mets, but men with bats are men with bats, and those men wearing the purple tops (which always appear blue on television) didn’t do a thing with the kid. Conversely, the Mets apparently did a few things with Chatwood, Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers, Will Harris and Matt Belisle, though they were only commendable in the version of baseball in which getting to second base — as a Met did in seven of nine innings — is considered an outstanding achievement. Perhaps Coach Terry is handing out self-esteem ribbons for advancing 180 feet, but the rules by which everybody else plays dictate trips to third and home are prerequisites for success, and the Mets opted not to visit either of those sites Thursday.
The defense, this time in the guise of second baseman Jordany Valdespin in center field, committed its customary lapse; the bullpen, represented by hard-throwing liability Bobby Parnell, found a way to not hold the fort; and Terry Collins undermined what tiny chance of redemption his group had by calling for a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning because the Mets can easily afford to give up outs. Baserunning was also abominable, as admirable Mike Baxter, whom we promise to ply with pilsner in the offseason, staggered tipsily between first and second on a fly ball just tricky enough to trick him into an out.
All this sizzling 1-0 action took 190 minutes to complete, which gave me plenty of time to engage in baseball and sundry conversation with fellow blogger Sam Maxwell on my right and award-winning photographer Sharon Chapman on my left while we occupied a shady swath of seats out in left field. It was midday human contact I surely appreciated (just as I enjoyed my time with several swell Mets fans Monday and Tuesday nights), but I really wouldn’t have minded a little yappus interruptus so we could ooh and aah at some Met home runs. Or run-scoring hits of any kind. Or runs generated by any means necessary. Or maybe a first-and-third situation.
There was none of that. Just a canyon of zeroes accompanied by the steadiest of dull aches.