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Marathon Men

“Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

You might know that as the U.S. Postal Service’s motto, though actually it just adorns one of their temple-like buildings here in New York City. (And is a translation of Herodotus [1], who was talking about messengers in ancient Persia. Anyway.)

But it would sure seem to describe this year’s Mets, who have specialized in rainouts, snowouts, delays and lengthy battles in the dead of night or dolor of hot afternoons.

Certainly it’s a good summation of last night’s game against the Giants, which started after 10 p.m. here in New York and threatened to carry on until dawn. It’s the fourth time this season that the Mets have gone 15 innings or more, and much as I love baseball that’s about enough of that, thank you.

Partially it’s that the Mets’ extra-inning affairs remind you more of Verdun than some ancient clash of daring scouts and speedy armies, with all involved waiting for a telegraph announcing that no exhausted troops remain to be felled. Last night ground on and on, and the oddity was that the Giants first let the Mets back into the game by playing stone-gloved defense, with old friend Andres Torres front and center on the list of offenders, then walled the Mets off from victory with terrific defense. (Tim Lincecum was probably not amused.) The Mets, meanwhile, followed up a merely good Matt Harvey start with smothering bullpen work, with temporary stalwarts Greg Burke and Josh Edgin particularly deserving of praise.

Harvey, by the way, has a blister problem, though since he’s Matt Harvey he has labeled it a trifling issue that should not distract anyone from the fact that he is not doing his job and is deeply dissatisfied with himself for not being perfect. On a team where plenty of players dream of an intrepid ascent up the slopes of Mount Adequate, this is yet another reason to love Matt Harvey. Let’s just hope the blister thing, however it’s labeled, doesn’t lead to brine being used as a dubious home remedy and Harvey being traded to the AL West for a hulking infielder who’s ready for the knacker’s yard [2].

While we’re on the subject of Harvey, it was somewhat odd (to say the least) to see him back out there in the bottom of the seventh having thrown 107 pitches.  (If you were scoring at home, first of all I’m sorry and second of all you already know that Pitch No. 108 was a Hunter Pence triple and Pitch No. 109 was a Brandon Crawford single.)

Terry Collins explained that Harvey’s final start might be skipped or abbreviated to prep him for the All-Star Game (and maybe take care of the blister thing), which would seem to make sense except that there’s already talk of Harvey facing the dreaded Innings Limit, so why not economize pitches wherever possible? We all might regret Harvey’s absence when the Mets are in the thick of the Little Playoffs, AKA the battle for fourth place. More seriously, come September Harvey could be in the hunt for a 20th win and/or a Cy Young award, and it would be a shame to see him frozen in place while others continue the hunt.

(At this point you should imagine Keith Hernandez sighing into the mic and then explaining, with increasing indignation, that in his day pitchers threw 300 pitches a game and then used their throw day to race steam engines through cliffsides.)

On the other hand, Terry also said that if Bobby Parnell hadn’t emerged victorious he probably would have turned to Jordany Valdespin [3], so perhaps he just had the vapors.

If so he’s excused, because by then we all were in a somewhat altered state. I was torn between worrying that the Mets and Giants would play on through the ages, eventually passing down their tasks to children and foolhardy volunteers, and fearing that both teams would be eaten by seagulls, turning Whatever They’re Calling It Now Park into a morbidly fascinating ossuary.

In the end neither of those things happened, though the game must have set a record for shots from the center-field camera rendered surreal by passing waterbirds. Crawford had tied the game in the seventh and kept the Mets from winning it with a nifty stop of an apparent go-ahead single for Marlon Byrd (who perhaps would have been spared avian gnawing) in the 11th, but ruined his own narrative of pluck and redemption with a misplay that turned out to be fatal.

The Mets have finally won a marathon [4]. Alas, their appointed rounds involve 85 to 90 losses, which doesn’t seem like something to be immortalized in marble. But give it 2,000 years or so, and perhaps historians will be more forgiving.