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The Hits Just Stop Coming

“Bobby Knight told me this, ‘There is nothing that a good defense cannot beat a better offense.’ In other words, a good offense wins.”
—Dan Quayle, Vice President of these United States for four years

Pitching and defense are splendid, except when they’re deployed against you. Jordan Zimmermann and three National relievers outpitched Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero Wednesday night. Washington’s fielders, when called upon, thwarted Met hitters. They weren’t called upon all that often. Nobody scored very much, but the Nationals scored just a little more than the Mets.

That’ll sully an undefeated season [1] right there.

The Mets, despite the too many cooks [2] who are or aren’t preparing their lineups, didn’t hit. When they did hit, it was right at somebody. No doubt there’s an advanced metric that suggests they did what they were supposed to do [3] but dumb luck got in their way. As did the occasional well-placed Washington glove.

DeGrom could have been sharper yet was still plenty effective: six innings, six strikeouts, a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman and nothing else of substance. Perhaps he was taken out of his groove by the rained-back starting time, but that would assume Zimmermann didn’t have to deal with the same meteorological issue. He dealt just fine.

There was one promising inning-top at Nationals Park. It was potentially beautiful before it became incredibly frustrating. Down two-zip with one out in the second, Murphy singled. Then Lagares singled. Then d’Arnaud singled. Bingle, bingle, bingle, here comes a run. Then here comes the eight-hitter, who looked a lot like the pitcher.

Why, it was the pitcher. Or maybe that should be phrased as “why was it the pitcher?” I’m still not sure how this gimmicky little LaRussian wrinkle is supposed to yield wonders, but the Mets — at the behest of Collins or Alderson or mystery guest Bob Geren [4] — continue to pull that adorable rabbit out of their hat now and then. Here and now, with runners on first and second and still only one out, was the time for Jacob deGrom to make the supposedly clever bunny appear brilliant.

What was up, Doc? Nothin’ good.

Jacob the decent-hitting pitcher was ordered to bunt and he bunted badly and Zimmerman (the first baseman with one ‘n’) dove and caught it before it could at least bounce foul, meaning there were two out and two runners unable to advance. Nine-hitter Wilmer Flores, who’s apparently the starting shortstop for his range, next cued an infield single to load the bases.

Curtis Granderson then came up and, with a full count, took strike three from Zimmermann (the pitcher with two ‘n’s). Strike three bore a striking resemblance to ball four; it was probably separated at birth from a pitch that was correctly called high for a bases-loaded walk in another stadium somewhere. Didn’t matter down by the ol’ Navy Yard, though. The Mets slapped the side of this ketchup bottle of a half-inning with four base hits, yet could get no more than a lone run to trickle out.

They proceeded to collect two hits over the next seven innings. Neither was proximate to the other and neither of them was a home run. The manager had referred to the lineup card as his “hammer” during the pregame. He neglected to use the adjective “Nerf”. DeGrom persevered and Montero took to his new role, but those performances served as consolation prizes amid the cold and the damp and the offensive futility of a 2-1 defeat. The sizzling bats of Port St. Lucie never seemed so far away.

Three observations to leave behind alongside the first loss of 2015 (besides the cloying Terms of Service reminders you’ve probably already clicked on yourself, including but not limited to it’s just one game; you can’t expect to win them all; Zimmermann’s an extraordinarily tough customer; sometimes you just gotta tip your cap; lineups don’t really matter; managers have practically no impact on outcomes; yada; yada; and yada):

1) There doesn’t seem to be a National of tenure who isn’t automatically described as “a real Met-killer”;

2) Sean Gilmartin has three first names, not even counting his middle name Patrick;

3) Matt Harvey is about to have himself a Day. Haven’t been able to say that in a while. Win, lose or no-decision, TGIHD.