Every paean to the beauty of baseball dies somewhere above the vast acreage of the Petco Park outfield, not unlike the fate that awaited every fly ball the Mets hit from the first until the seventh inning Thursday night. Unkind dimensions, marine layer, jet lag, Met lag, not to mention shifts up the wazoo and the starter who wasn’t ours pitching like our starter was supposed to pitch…it was San Diego after dark, and that’s never beautiful.
But it was late. That’s the key. That’s what makes the whole package brutal. To watch the first game of a West Coast trip, we adjust our internal clocks and struggle against the external ones. It was a losing battle all around, especially aesthetically. It almost always is when we commence these California journeys in San (yawn) Diego.
The Mets lost, 5-3, unless you consider it a moral victory that they were not no-hit when such an outcome appeared a distinct possibility. In that case, count the Mets a winner; your standings must be a sight to behold. The final score reflects a brief scare put into Padre hearts in the ninth — Curtis Granderson solo homer, Yoenis Cespedes two-run shot — but, really, this was over not long after 10 o’clock Eastern.
Jacob deGrom slogged through five innings, surrendering eight hits, a walk and three runs. It was a little reminiscent of how he began the last game he started in the Golden State, which was only Game Five of the NLDS. Jake didn’t look swell from jump that night, but he hung in like nobody’s business, fended off the Dodgers for six and handed the ball to Noah Syndergaard with a precarious 3-2 lead that Thor and Jeurys Familia kept intact and shipped home for a date with the Cubs.
Now that was beautiful. This wasn’t. This was deGrom groping for answers most the 86 pitches he was active. He said afterwards he thinks he detected a flaw in his delivery, and if he has and he can correct it, well, we’ll all let our hair down in Jacobian style. As with Matt Harvey the other night, this performance can be categorized, if you squint hard, as a top-notch starter lacking good stuff keeping his team in the game to no avail, given that his offense supported him not at all.
That’s a mighty tight squint right there, but it was just one game. It was almost the one game of a lifetime for Colin Rea and the Padres franchise, however, as the 25-year-old righty I like to call “who?” carried San Diego’s potential first no-hitter twenty outs deep. By the time Yo broke it up with a shift-shattering single in the seventh, the Pads were up by five and a Mets fan really had to convince himself that the deficit wasn’t insurmountable. Otherwise, as long as we were staying awake and the Mets were going nowhere, maybe witnessing somebody else’s history wouldn’t be such a bad show. Cespedes saved us from absorbing that indignity and no-hitter maven Dirk Lammers from having to revise an already published manuscript.
Rea — throwing to Lucifer in the flesh Derek Norris (8-for-8 versus us since That Day In The Rain) — was better than deGrom and better than anybody who batted against him, but, at the risk of being a sleepy, sore loser, he wasn’t as unhittable as the box score through 6⅔ IP would indicate. Grandy was robbed right down to his freshly self-laundered socks by juggling Jon Jay in center in the third and a Lucas Duda grounder was gobbled up by third baseman Brett Wallace when he was stationed to the right of second in the fifth. The Mets were at least as luckless as they were clueless en route to almost going hitless and definitely winding up winless.
You can deduct all the style points you like, but it doesn’t change anything on the scoreboard. Props to Rea for taking a shutout into the ninth, however he arrived there. But kiddo, when you get pulled after coming relatively close to what no pitcher on your team had ever done, and you’re walking back to your dugout, tip your cap to the fans standing and applauding. Don’t they teach this stuff anymore? Or does the lack of experience starters in this century have at concluding what they have begun — 104 professional starts for Rea, zero complete games — make learning such niceties superfluous?
It’s something to think about until midnight tonight, or whenever the next game on this already stupid trip gets underway.
OTHER THINGS TO OCCUPY YOUR TIME WHILE YOU WAIT AND WAIT FOR FIRST PITCH FROM SAN (YAWN) DIEGO:
• Order a lovingly personalized and signed copy of Amazin’ Again, my book on the 2015 Mets that includes a chapter on That Day In The Rain and several more on all the good things that mysteriously followed.
• Listen to a riveting Mets conversation between me and host J.B. on The Happy Recap Radio Show. Tune in for the blatant promotion, stay for the dozens of digressions (including first word on my next book).
• Plan to join me at Turn of the Corkscrew Books & Wine in Rockville Centre — my first Long Island appearance on behalf of Amazin’ Again — Monday night, May 16, at 7 PM, an evening the Mets are off and an hour that decent people are awake to fully enjoy baseball talk.