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Thor The Win

When you can’t hit water even after you fall out of a dinghy, then does it really matter who’s rowing ashore to presumably shut you down? Sure, Clayton Kershaw [1] has been all-world for a half-decade and the Mets traditionally maintain a safe enough distance from the Cy Young [2] and MVP award winner so as to never dare touch him, but of late, how many pitchers without such dazzling credentials have floated high above the reach of the Flushing Lumber Company?

Basically, all of them.

So, perversely, it was “Bring on Clayton Kershaw!” Friday night, because if we’re gonna have no chance against anybody, we might as well take our chances against the nominal best. And, son of a gun, the chances paid off, as the Mets’ water pistol offense squirted just enough hits around the drought-deprived Dodger Stadium lawn to grow two runs, or one more than spritzed by them.

This is to say the Mets won [3]. They appeared to have done so almost accidentally, but accidents happen: happy accidents, happy recaps, happy Thorth of July!

The secret weapon the Mets resorted to in neutralizing Kershaw — who pitches baseballs better than he does sandwiches [4] — was an opposite number worthy of the role. While Kershaw represented a formidable foe for our guys, Noah Syndergaard [5] was no trip to Picnic City for the Dodgers.

Neither starter was extraordinarily sharp (Kershaw 2015 isn’t quite as upper-echelon as Kershaw most of his preceding life), but they each bore down when they had to, choking off potential rallies and allowing only a run apiece. Each man got tougher as the stakes grew higher. It’s what aces do. The world knows Kershaw is an ace. The world is learning Syndergaard soon will be one.

Noah’s single run permitted was on a long fly ball that traveled over the fence via the bat of Adrian Gonzalez [6]. Tough break, that solo homer in the second, the kind of break that likely sent many an East Coaster to bed. The Mets were down, 1-0; what was the point of struggling to stay awake? Yet that was it in terms of scoring from a Dodger standpoint. Two ensuing threats went nowhere. Syndergaard put Gonzalez away at key moments, giving the bleary-eyed viewer the clear-eyed idea that the kid really learns as he goes.

The Met scoring attack didn’t seem terribly convincing, but a little luck carried two runs home, one in the fourth, one in the ninth. The latter came after Kershaw departed. It was mostly a matter of Mets making contact and balls finding holes, but given that every line drive hit in the Cub series landed in a Chicagoan’s glove, let’s hear it for holes, save for the ones in Lucas Duda [7]’s swing. Then again, let’s hear it for Lucas Duda’s glove, which emerged as an asset in the fourth, just as Justin Turner [8] seemed poised to add an addendum to a spate of “why did we let him go, again?” stories [9]?

The win went to Hansel Robles [10], the save to Jeurys Familia [11], but the all-important Nice Job [12] goes to Syndergaard. He could have fielded his position a little more attentively, but otherwise he was the primary reason the Mets hung in against Kershaw. All those outings when a Mets ace (we’re on the verge of having at least three) has to suck up a no-decision that turns into a team loss because the lineup is a no-win zone obscure how much pitching is keeping this team in games. Don’t take it for M. Donald Granted. When it’s good, it’s uncommonly good. And it’s good more often than not.

At the halfway point of the season, the Mets are statistically good more often than not, if just barely, at 41-40. Their shortcomings are familiar and don’t need to be catalogued at the moment. Their glaring strength is something to behold. You know that feeling of dread because Kershaw is Friday and Greinke is Saturday (putting aside that every opposing pitcher looks like Denton True Young to this team)? On the other side of the divide, whoever we’re playing, their fans are groaning, too. On Friday, it’s Syndergaard. On Saturday, it’s Harvey. On Sunday, it’s that rookie who’s supposed to be in their class. At least we miss deGrom.

Let’s hope that dreading Met pitching becomes an industrywide phenomenon. At the same time, let us not fear who lies ahead for us. When Friday night’s 2-1 win went final, I flashed back to a stretch in May 2004 when the Mets were mostly dismal but now and then showing a pulse. They were on their way to Arizona and Houston where in five consecutive games they’d be facing Randy Johnson [13], Brandon Webb [14], Roy Oswalt [15], Andy Pettitte [16] and Roger Clemens [17]. The smart money insisted you could go ahead and chalk up an 0-5 in advance.

The Mets won four of those matchups, losing only to Pettitte, who was good, not great, on his night, but the Mets got themselves buried early because they were trotting out journeyman James Baldwin [18], who a) hadn’t won a game since 2002; and b) would never start again in the majors. Eleven years later, you’ll notice the Mets are no longer signing end-of-the-line starters on spec. They’re also not coming up with any external help on the hitting end of things, but to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s advice to John Adams in the runup to this date in 1776, “First things first, John. Pitching; competitiveness. If we don’t secure that, what difference will the rest make?”

Actually, it is our fervent hope that a little rest will make a great deal of difference to a great announcer and at least occasional reader of this blog. Our best to Howie Rose, who is necessarily abstaining [19] from this road trip, courteously. You know, Ben Franklin told Judge Wilson in the climactic scene from the musical my wife and I will later today be watching together for the 25th consecutive Independence Day, “Every mapmaker in the world is waiting for your decision.” In that spirit of ’76, every firm that prints ledgers into which the results of baseball games are entered is waiting for Howie to return to the air.

Otherwise, who will inform them it is appropriate to put it in the books?