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Game of Inches (Reprise)

Useful reminder: Baseball will drive you crazy if you let it.

Every so often a thought creeps into my head that I immediately try to shoo away: It’s that the team that wins the World Series will be the good team with the best luck, the one that has the fewest guys injured and the most bounces go its way.

For a small-scale illustration of the point, I present last night’s Mets-Nats tilts. It went 1-0 to the Nationals [1], with Gio Gonzalez [2] topping Jonathon Niese in a matchup of pitchers who were pretty good and mainly separated by the quality of their luck.

It’s not exactly a secret that I don’t like Niese, but tonight there wasn’t much to criticize. His location was off, but he hung in there and pitched an excellent ballgame despite having to deal with an umpire’s random strike zone, a really good team trying to beat him, and a whole lot of bad luck.

Every time you looked up a ball was glancing off the end of a Met’s glove, or drifting just over a leaping Met’s head. The fatal blow struck by the Nats came in the second on an infield single that Daniel Murphy [3] couldn’t quite reach at third. Meanwhile, everything went Gonzalez’s way. Lucas Duda [4]‘s long drive to left in the third wasn’t quite long enough to escape Citi Field, and the Mets had two runners erased trying to push things against the Nats’ defense.

The first erasee was Juan Lagares [5], who tried to score from first in the first on a double by Duda. Lagares was out from me to you, sparking muttering, but I thought it was a good gamble by Tim Teufel [6]. Look at the replay and you’ll see both Jayson Werth [7] and Ian Desmond [8] made terrific plays to get Lagares. If either man is less than perfect, Lagares probably scores, Duda’s on third and the Mets are threatening to grab a decent-sized early lead against Gio.

The second erasee was Dilson Herrera [9], who hit a Baltimore chop through Danny Espinosa [10] with two out in the sixth and saw a chance for a 100-foot double. Herrera ran through first and immediately scooted for second, left unoccupied amid the tumult — but Desmond quickly retrieved the ball and Espinosa had the presence of mind to beat Herrera to the bag and record the out. An error of enthusiasm, Terry Collins [11] called it, but I liked the instincts Herrera showed — runs were precious, and Washington had to do everything right to get him out. It didn’t work out, but it was far from a terrible idea.

That’s how it goes — baseball can be maddening, which is why players retreat into placid cliches. Sometimes things bounce your way and sometimes they don’t, and sometimes the bad breaks arrive one after the other. When that happens, the only thing you can do is hope it’s not true the next day.

So. I hope it’s not true the next day.