Three weeks ago, though it seems longer, I experienced one of the true highlights of the 2013 season at Citi Field when, with two outs and the Mets down a run, Rick Ankiel tripled Daniel Murphy home from first to tie the Reds at four in the bottom of the seventh. That Rick Ankiel actually tripled — literally his third-to-last hit as a Met — was inconsequential. That the Mets would go on to lose, 7-4 (booted along by Ike Davis choosing to analyze a fair ball rather than field it), was secondary to that moment of triumph, for as soon as Murphy crossed the plate, the true goal of the day had been achieved.
Matt Harvey was taken off the hook.
“Harvey’s off the hook!” we exulted to one another in Excelsior. It was a line I distinctly recall having articulated eleven days earlier in a Promenade Box, and it was one that would echo from Promenade Infield seats on a Saturday that eventually trudged twenty innings deep. In this season when we step right up to greet the Mets at our own peril, our near-term aspirations for this team remain fairly reasonable. We don’t expect wins. We don’t much ask for wins. All we want is for our one shining hope to not be sullied by words like “lose,” “lost,” “loss” or anything in the “L” family.
Yet on this gloomy Thursday afternoon, when only a fraction of the “25,741” in attendance weren’t scared off by definitive forecasts calling for biblical floods, the offensive famine that has starved Harvey across the unlucky ’13 desert could no longer sustain the plump, delectable zero in his right-hand column. That scintilla of dignity — the sure, they didn’t score for Harvey, but at least he didn’t get stuck with the loss caveat that would probably make a good name for the Mets’ season highlight film if they still produced them as they did when the Winik boys made futility sing — was at last snatched from us.
Matt Harvey went seven innings, gave up one run and it was far too much for his teammates to overcome on his behalf. Score a run while Matt Harvey pitches? Why not ask rain to hold off for three hours?
The rain held off, but the Mets held no thunder in their sticks. They completely succumbed to Adam Wainwright for seven innings, and by the time they rallied in the ninth to ever so gently attempt wrap their feeble fingers around the hook in Harvey’s back, they trailed by two enormous runs. With one out, Marlon Byrd homered and John Buck doubled. Reverse that sequence and we’re reveling in Harvey staying hookless, but the Mets have far too many conditions in need of reversal. Buck’s pinch-runner Collin Cowgill got to third when Kirk Nieuwenhuis almost singled (the Cardinals are rat bastards about letting balls through infields), which set it up for Josh Satin…
Oh, c’mon. Look at these names. Nieuwenhuis. Cowgill. Satin. The Mets didn’t tie the game. Harvey was not taken off the hook. The best pitcher in the world is 5-1 instead of 5-0-9. He’s pitched poorly enough to lose once or twice (at Miami, of course), but otherwise should be topping double-digits in wins. Instead, Matt Harvey hasn’t been party to a personal positive decision since May 17, and in that one he had to do the batting as well as the pitching. Harvey’s near-impenetrability in every stadium that isn’t Marlins Park is so pervasive that Mike Matheny didn’t mind walking the Mets’ No. 8 hitter, Nieuwenhuis, with two outs and a runner on second just to force Terry Collins’s pinch-hitting hand in the bottom of the seventh. Collins took the bait and removed Harvey in favor of Justin Turner, who grounded out to end what other teams might call the threat.
The only real surprise in any of that is realizing the Mets had a runner on second to begin with.
In other news, save the Mets from their better/baser instincts and vote 35 times for David Wright to start the All-Star Game. At least you’ll be doing it because you’re enamored of his hitting and fielding.
It’s tempting to pivot toward making this latest Met defeat and corresponding lapse in decorum a platform from which to decry all that makes our fandom frustrating. But for the hell of it, let’s steer clear of the rampaging cougars for a night and consider a few other things worth knowing:
• Earl Monroe’s new autobiography is a New York sports fan’s delight, harking back to a great era when certain teams won championships and others came damn close. If you love a little basketball on the side, Earl The Pearl is definitely something to pick up and roll with.
• Once upon a time, there was a Met named Lastings Milledge, and in tribute, there was a blog called Blastings! Thrilledge. The Met left. The blog soldiered on. Then, like the 2013 Met offense, it more or less disappeared. Now it’s back, as Blastings! Trillage. It’s quite the lyric enterprise and heartily recommended for your perusing pleasure.
• I’ve never been a morning person, but mornings this season have brought the latest issue of The Slurve — Michael Dougherty’s sublime and comprehensive daily baseball newsletter — to Faith and Fear’s in-box, and we are better informed for having woken to receive it. Check out a sample after you’ve helped obliterate potential Panda sightings in Flushing this July 16.