I must have been inspired by the incessant promotional buzz generated by those Steve Miller Band concert spots, because in the spirit of the narrator of “Abracadabra ,” I tried to conjure some rah. Maybe even some rah-rah. Undeterred by the six deadly frames that preceded them, I threw myself into the seventh, eighth and ninth innings Sunday.
I rode Matt Harvey ’s right arm as far as it would take me.
I took solace in Alex Torres ’s left arm making things bad but not measurably worse.
I dared to dream John Mayberry  could deliver PDQ (or at least RFD).
I saw in Carlos Torres  a savior and a harbinger.
Well, I wasn’t terribly confident Michael Cuddyer was going to do much of anything, but I also didn’t think he’d hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the ninth, the game, the series and the weekend with absolutely nothing to show for it in the win column and a surfeit of dreck stuffed into the doubt column.
There is much to doubt in these second-place Mets, starting with their ability to ever see the light of first again. They probably won’t. Using the three-game series just completed and thoroughly lost in Atlanta as a gauge, they’ll be lucky to be the second-place Mets by this time next week. True, they’re playing the lousy Brewers at Steve Miller Park next, followed by the lousy Reds at Citi Field — where they apparently benefit from reduced proneness to exhaustion  — but then again, those teams will be playing the Mets.
The Braves may not be an authentic contender, but when you sweep the team ahead of you and you pull to within a half-game of that team, who is to doubt the Braves? With the lost weekend now over, they’re only relevant in that if the Mets don’t find somebody  or figure out something, they’ll be one more team shoving the Mets further back in the playoff processional, and once you’ve faded from first and drifted from Wild Card territory…well, you know what all those years we’ve just gone through felt like?
Welcome back to the age of jive.
There are no doubt sophisticated metrics by which it could be shown the Mets aren’t nearly as bad as I’m convinced again that they are, let alone as bad as they’ve demonstrated themselves to be on this 0-5 thus far road trip (a.k.a. Gary Cohen’s brilliantly timed vacation). You could start with 36-35, a record that indicates this very team has won more game than it has lost since the commencement of the current season. That, like Harvey’s right arm, will only take you so far. Since cresting at 13-3, the Mets have won 23 games and lost 32. That extrapolates over 162 games to horrible.
The truth of the 2015 Mets probably lies somewhere north of the 68-win pace they’ve operated at since April 24, but I don’t see holding them to the standard of their record over slightly more than a third of the current season as somehow unfair. This is the team that’s going out and playing the games that count. In a parallel universe in which all variables are delightfully controlled, nobody vital has been injured, everybody worthwhile has been inked to sub-market contracts and distant potential has translated into immediately pleasing reality, the Mets are probably kicking Atlanta ass and taking Washington names.
In this one, they’ve scored 13 runs in their past 66 innings and looked like rank amateurs for the better part of a week.
Sunday was what certain segments of the northeastern United States used to celebrate as Harvey Day. The remnants of its sacred implications could be easily inferred, as its namesake persevered through two stressful innings then cruised through the next four. The seventh presented the Rubicon challenge — Ryan Lavarnway  doubled with two out, pinch-hitter Pedro Ciriaco  up — and the pitcher was unable to cross it successfully. The pinch-hitter singled to center, the center fielder with a once thunderous arm that seems destined for surgical rejiggering  couldn’t throw out the torpid runner at home and that was that for Matt.
Until this point in the game, I was resigned to another one of these types of losses, yet I let out a truly anguished “NOOO!!!” when Lavarnway’s molasses-like form blobbed across the plate. Two nights earlier, it was dismaying to watch Jacob deGrom  removed for some chump reliever when the game was better off in his hands. Now Harvey was getting the chance to keep the Mets alive. It didn’t pay off.
I assumed Alex Torres would make things worse as soon as he could, and he tried, issuing consecutive walks to load the bases, but when he got Kelly Johnson  to fly out instead of grand slam, I thought maybe I’d been too hasty in judging the Mets totally futile. When Eric Campbell  doubled with two out in the top of the eighth to raise his batting average to a rousing .177, I thought maybe we weren’t done. John Mayberry came up and I really began to imagine crazy things. Didn’t Mayberry hit a home run here in April? Doesn’t Mayberry have some kind of track record that made him appealing enough to sign in the offseason? Aren’t there fairies flying through the air who watch over babies and puppies and kittens and baseball teams with adorable baseball-headed mascots?
Yeah, I was carried away with the Mayberry fever. Johnny struck out. But so did Nick Markakis  and Juan Uribe , victimized by Carlos Torres to start the bottom of the eighth, and when ol’ Central Time (my personal nickname for the reliever with the initials CT) teased an easy grounder back to the mound from Andrelton Simmons , I thought I saw something fantastical developing. The Mets would rally in the ninth, Parnell would come on for the save, we’d bemoan Harvey’s non-decisioned fate, but otherwise talk about character and resilience, and with Milwaukee and Cincinnati on the schedule and the knowledge Max Scherzer  can’t flirt with perfection more than once every five or six days, everything that wasn’t hunky would be dory. The Maverick is back!
I can convince myself of anything if I really want it. I wanted Granderson’s leadoff single to augur great things. I wanted Lagares’s breathtaking bunt to represent a marker in the turnaround of 2015, one that would be featured in the highlight download narrated by Len Cariou  this November (“When things were at their bleakest, it was Juan who found a way to set up a win…”) First and second, none out, Lucas Duda, who hit 30 home runs last year and rates a growth chart next week, up. Has Lucas Duda grown enough to produce what Cariou and the rest of us would call the biggest blast of the season?
No. Just another flyout. But still two outs to play with. And once Cuddyer didn’t completely kill the ninth by not hitting into a DP, maybe Flores, the focal point of so much frustration of late, would…
What’s that? Cuddyer did the one thing he absolutely couldn’t do in that spot? He grounded into a game-ending double play?
The Mets went back to sucking with that ground ball. Or they never stopped sucking despite amassing three base hits in their final two innings. They lost, 1-0 . Harvey, who pitched extremely well, joined deGrom, who also pitched extremely well, as an absorber of loss in Atlanta. In between them, Noah Syndergaard  had his ERA fluffed up a bit. Thus, your three shiningest hopes on this otherwise mostly dim roster had their utility snuffed out. And if deGrom, Syndergaard and Harvey are going to start three consecutive games and the Mets are going to win none of them, what exactly is there to expect from the remaining 91 games?
“Anything” is the correct/hopeful answer. A three-game sweep at the hands of a divisional rival whose signature chant evokes such pleasant associations (genocide, Chipper Jones ) only seems prohibitive in its prevention of possibilities. I distinctly recall a similar weekend in Atlanta from fourteen years ago. Technically, it was a weekend at Shea, but I was in Atlanta on business watching on TV. The 2001 Mets were flailing and failing. The Braves were that era’s Nationals. Alex Escobar  was that year’s Michael Conforto , the guy we couldn’t wait to bring up. In fact we brought up Alex Escobar.
He didn’t help. Nothing did. The Mets lost three straight, fell double-digits out of first and all looked lost. A Mets fan spending a weekend in Atlanta found it was a destination that provided limited fun  then, too. Three months later, however, the Mets were in the thick of a September pennant race against those very same Braves. There’s not a huge moral to this, given that the 2001 Mets came up short in their valiant last-minute run at a division title, but they did make it more exciting than we could’ve imagined in June and at this point, I’d take having something to look forward to beyond constant entreaties to come out to Citi Field this Saturday to watch somebody who hasn’t had a big hit since 1982.
I’m referring, of course, to Michael Cuddyer.
Disgust and frustration at least make for lively conversation. Hear for yourself as I join Jason and Shannon Shark for the non-Star Wars portion of the latest episode of “I’d Just As Soon Kiss a Mookiee” here .