The Mets of recent vintage have been more about sabotage than camouflage, but for a night all was well in Flushing. The good vibes started with Jenrry Mejia, whose mix of cutters, sinkers and sliders had the Cardinals flailing, muttering and occasionally smashing bats. Mejia faltered in the seventh, as per usual for 2014 Mets starters, but in his postgame interview he flashed a dazzling smile and redirected praise in the direction of Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy, about whom more in a bit.
Watching Mejia, I wanted to go key Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya’s cars. How much did those two cost Mejia in terms of development, derailing his career in a vain effort to save theirs? (And oh what a time for ownership to leave off its usual meddling.) But that’s the past. Mejia is here, apparently healthy, and looks like he’s gaining confidence with every start.
Mejia’s teammates didn’t do a lot of hitting (and Mejia himself is positively Colonic with the bat), but the gloves were on point. There was Tejada’s sprawling stab of an apparent single by old pal Yadier Molina in the fourth, which was overshadowed an inning later when John Jay hit one to essentially the same spot with Jhonny Peralta on first. This time Tejada skidded to a halt on his belly and shoveled the ball with his free hand to Murph, who grabbed it barehanded facing the center-field wall, then spun on one stiff leg, like some grotesquely plumaged wading bird, firing it to Josh Satin to complete the double play. It was a marvelous play, but the most fun part was watching Murphy beam at his infield partner afterwards, clearly delighted with himself, Tejada, being a Met and life in a benevolent cosmos. The other day I was thinking that watching Murph must be like watching Ron Hunt, when the Mets were new and bad and you took whatever praiseworthy baseball you could get. But Murph also has some Ron Swoboda in him — he plays hard, but sometimes his own excitement leads him to do something dopey. And sometimes those dopey ideas turn out pretty spectacularly. It would have been wiser to guide Tejada’s toss into the glove and make sure of the out at second, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. (The same goes for stealing third under Molina’s nose, a foolish notion that succeeded brilliantly.)
While we’re talking about defense, points to David Wright, who ended the seventh with a long throw across the diamond to Satin and smothered a downy Cardinal rally in the ninth, trapping a bad hop in his solar plexus and starting the around-the-horn double play. Wright is in one of those grooves where he’s playing at the top of his considerable ability, which — like all things Wrighteous — we should appreciate more than we do.
Speaking of appreciation, I spent the last couple of innings nodding happily at Travis d’Arnaud‘s work behind the plate. D’Arnaud still has trouble with balls in the dirt, but watch attentively for just a few minutes and you’ll see that the talk about his pitch-framing prowess is justified. He’s quiet in his positioning and doesn’t sneak pitches back to the fringes of the plate so much as he ensures that his glove is in the right place to make them look their best when they arrive. Once you spot it, you can’t stop watching — or noticing the contrast with catchers whose “noisy” mechanics cost their pitchers strikes. D’Arnaud’s bat looks better, too — the double he clanged off the wall was almost a home run, he gave the Mets a badly needed insurance run with a ringing single to center in the sixth, and the other day only the superlative glove of Andrelton Simmons kept him from tying the game in the ninth. To be sure, d’Arnaud’s neither a finished product nor a sure thing — above all else he needs to stay on the field — but the more I see of him this year the more I like.
What wasn’t to like? The only thing I have is whatever the hell the Mets were wearing out there. Look, I have ample amounts of respect and gratitude for our armed forces, and the Mets’ ticket offer for the troops deserves applause, but the team looked like someone Photoshopped the Padres’ togs to look even worse. This is worse than the tail, the ice-cream caps, the orange bills and pretty much anything else the Mets have inflicted on the eyes of their fans over the decades.
Still, for a night it worked — Mets infielders were constantly materializing out of the dirt of the infield to make hits disappear. Why, they even looked like a good team. Might just be camouflage, but it was a welcome sight.