This was the game we’d been waiting for, the game we’d been dreading, the game we knew in our bones was coming. This was the game that you couldn’t hide inside the supposedly reassuring (and likely temporary) confines of first place. This was the game that came tumbling forcefully out of the closet of Metropolitan anxieties.
This was the game in which the infield defense of our nightmares was on full display, in which organizational depth felt like a pipe dream, in which the bullpen defied management, in which magnificent starting pitching was wasted, in which a last-stand rally crumbled in the face of fundamentally unsound instincts.
This was the game we imagined when we imagined the worst . We imagine the worst quite a lot. “To be a Mets fan is to exist in tension between hope and the muscle memory of much disappointment,” Mets fan and Times columnist Michael Powell wrote in Saturday’s paper . For two days, we had drifted back to hope. Later Saturday, we spiraled into the disappointment we remembered.
There was no certifiable closer to save the day. There was no major league-caliber third baseman to make the day easy to begin with. There was a shortstop who’s a helluva power hitter or perhaps just a helluva power hitter who plays shortstop and he didn’t play it well at the moment it mattered most. The second baseman, a pretty competent fellow at his position normally, didn’t look terribly slick either.
There was Jacob deGrom  definitively squelching almost every Brave batter’s run-generating intention for a good, long while, except for Freddie Freeman , which isn’t unusual in these New York-Atlanta matchups. There was Darrell Ceciliani  making one hell of a throw to cut down Cameron Maybin , the last villain of Shea, at the plate in the eighth, which would go down as the play of the game in a kinder, gentler game. The Mets had just taken the lead for deGrom in the seventh, finally getting to equally squelchsome Shelby Miller  for two runs and old friend Dana Eveland  for another. They had survived the comprehensively overmatched — batting average .083; fielding percentage .727 — Danny Muno ’s three third base miscues. They had survived Miller’s brilliance amid the Citi Field shadows. They had survived Jack Leathersich ’s learning curve and would survive Bobby Parnell ’s creakiness. All they needed to make a day of it was to survive the ninth.
They didn’t. Hansel Robles , in for unavailable papa Jeurys Familia , couldn’t keep runners from boarding the bases. Wilmer Flores  couldn’t quickly corral a grounder that was neither routine nor impossible to turn into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. Flores’s uncertainty of movement gave Robles one out when he really, really needed two. Maybin, whose cradling of the final out ever at Shea still rankles, singled in the run that transformed a 3-1 Mets win into a 3-2 nailbiter still in progress. Alex Torres  was brought on as the next best Terry Collins option. Freeman opted to single to tie the game and ultimately send it to extras.
The Mets provided no offense in the bottoms of the ninth and tenth. In the top of the eleventh, Carlos Torres , starting his second inning, allowed two singles, the second of which clanked of Dilson Herrera ’s otherwise steady glove. Fredi Gonzalez asked Jace Peterson  to bunt on Torres’s first pitch. He did so badly, but it got the job done because Eric Campbell  a) grabbed it before it could bounce foul and b) thought about a play at third from his unwieldly locale between third and home despite no Met fielder being on or heading for third (and Campbell, mind you, was the defensive replacement for Muno). Second and third, nobody out, might as well get it over with. Maybin, of course, singled in the go-ahead run and another for good measure.
It’s 5-3 in the bottom of the eleventh when hope reared its silly head. Earlier defensive stalwart Ceciliani singles. Recent defensive liability Herrera singles. John Mayberry , heating up like June, is the pinch-hitter. The cynical 21st-century Mets fan actually believes something wonderful is about to happen.
It does. For Braves fans. Mayberry lines to Andrelton Simmons . Simmons sees Ceciliani caught in the chasm between second and himself. Simmons tosses to Peterson at second. Ceciliani is nabbed off base for the second out. It basically negates the double play Darrell turned three innings earlier when he fired Freeman’s foulout to Travis d’Arnaud  to nail Maybin at home. It might as well have been three weeks earlier. The game ended exactly one pitch later when Juan Lagares  grounded to Peterson to force Herrera. There was no redemption. There was just the loss you knew was coming at some point in this season of depletion when the Mets continually trot out a depressing procession of undersized, inexperienced ponies and ask them, while they’re feeling their way around the track, if they can pretty please go win the Belmont. They don’t, natch, because that’s what happens when you don’t have the horses and are lavishly deliberate in reinforcing the paddock with adequate replacements.
It was just one game. But, oof, what a game.