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Changing of the ’Gaard

When you’re sending your ace of aces out to face the dregs of the dregs, you can’t help but have high hopes…high in the sky apple pie hopes. In this corner, we had the undefeated Matt Harvey [1], author of the best day (sometimes two days) of every week. In the other corner, there sat the oft-defeated Philadelphia Phillies, who — an inside pitch or two notwithstanding [2] — had barely laid a glove on our heavyweight champ in any of their previous meetings, dating back to 2012.

It looked good going into Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

So good.

Too good.

Mortal Matt wound up no match for the fickle fates and lost to the remnants of the once-mighty Pennsylvania Proprietors of the National League East. Up from their basement apartment rose Ryan Howard [3] (a homer and two ribbies), Cole Hamels [4] (seven easy innings) and Jonathan Papelbon [5] (who wasn’t a Phillie until they started falling apart yet is now somehow their all-time co-leader in saves; go figure). Freddie Galvis cranked his batting average above .350, Chase Utley [6] took his below .100 and, most relevantly, Matt Harvey saw his mark drop to 5-1 [7].

Oops, there went another Harvey Day start, kerplop [8].

As Monty Python taught us [9], every Harvey Day is sacred, so it’s a shame to let one go for naught, especially in foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia. Matt threw a quality start in the most minimalist sense (6 IP, 3 ER), but the other guy happened to be that thing where you’re not worse and you’re not the same but you’re…you’re…

I can’t bring myself to admit anybody could be better than Harvey, particularly Hamels, but yeah, something like that. It would have helped had the Mets hitters brought their bats on the trip, but perhaps they’ll arrive in time for tonight’s game.

On one hand, it’s always nice to be reminded of the presence of several relief pitchers whose existence you’d pretty much blanked on. Hansel Robles [10], it can now be confirmed, is still alive. On the other hand, the 3-1 loss left the Mets’ record at 18-11, which appears exceedingly healthy to the moderately trained let alone perfectly sane eye, yet stares back at me hauntingly through the prism of 2002, when the first-place Mets were 18-11 after 29 games, with Pedro Astacio [11] moving to a Harveyesque 5-1 the night they reached that plateau. Yet it was all downhill from there for the next five months (57-75), then further downhill (137-186) for the next two seasons.

In a similarly pre-emptive gloomy vein, because that’s how I roll when Matt Harvey doesn’t win and Matt Harvey’s teammates don’t hit, Bryce Harper [12] socked another couple of home runs [13] down in Washington last night, as the Nats whittled the Mets’ first-place lead to a precarious 3½ games (with, granted, 133 to play). In an eleven-day span, the foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Federals have picked up 4½ games. So that’s bad news. The Mets not taking full advantage of Harvey’s rotational presence is bad news. David Wright [14] reporting lower back pain [15] and having his hamstring rehab shut down is bad news.

Then there’s Dillon Gee [16]’s groin, which sounds like it should be a private matter between Dillon and his doctor, but you know how it is with athletes’ body parts. In exchange for extraordinary pay and exclusive perks, we get full access to their medical records. Thus we learned on Friday that good old reliable Dillon’s groin is strained and he has to go on the DL, making way for Noah Syndergaard [17] to take his turn on Tuesday [18].

Quit smiling. An injury to a Met is never good news. Dillon’s a good guy. He’s one of my favorites on this team. He is to menschen what Harvey is to aces: state-of-the-art. Last Sunday he likely became the first Met in the 54-year history of the franchise to use the word “finagled” in a postgame interview. That may not sound like much, but when a boy from Cleburne, Tex., comes to New York City and takes on the tongue of the natives, it gets you right here.

I’m pointing to my heart, not his groin.

Then again, if you have to reach down to Triple-A and call up another pitcher (another Texan, it so happens), you could do worse than Syndergaard, who ranks somewhere between ninth and eleventh among all prospects in baseball, depending whose forecasts you follow, and has been doing to minor league hitters lately what Harper’s been doing to major league pitchers.

He’s been bleeping owning them.

So yeah, there is a silver lining to the Mets presently having ten players — including eight pitchers — unavailable due to injury/suspension, even with the caveat that chickens absolutely detest getting counted prior to hatching. Still, if you can’t summon an anticipatory froth over seeing the guy you’ve been hearing about for almost two-and-a-half years make his major league debut, then mister, you might need another sport.

Also, Syndergaard can hit [19], which is no small favor the way this offense is going. Come Tuesday at Wrigley, Terry’s gotta bat him sixth.

Only kidding. He should bat him fifth.