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Nobody Knows Anything

Rain in the area, Gio Gonzalez [1] and Bartolo Colon [2] on the mound. One team scored seven. The other team scored one.

You remember, right? It was five days ago [3], just the other side of the Brewers Interregnum. Gio was masterful, except for a cannon shot lined into the stands by Yoenis Cespedes [4]. Bartolo was not masterful. He walked more people than he typically does in a fortnight, the Mets didn’t hit, and by the middle innings the game was a fallen souffle that polite guests pretended didn’t exist.

With the Nationals now hosting, Monday’s first inning sure seemed like more of the same. The Mets put the first two runners on thanks to a Bryce Harper [5] misplay on Curtis Granderson [6] and an excuse-me pool shot up the third-base line by Juan Lagares [7]. But then Gonzalez got David Wright [8] to swing at a pitch that passed by his nose, got Cespedes to swing at a pitch that kicked up dirt six inches in front of the plate, Neil Walker [9] grounded out to first and the Mets’ rally had fizzled.

Disheartening — and then in the bottom of the inning, Bartolo couldn’t corral the third out as Daniel Murphy [10] and Ryan Zimmerman [11] singled. Disheartening squared.

It was already 1-0 Bad Guys, and the discussion in the booth and on Twitter was about who’d play first with Lucas Duda [12] felled by a stress fracture in the back for … well, let’s just say the foreseeable future, since this is the same injury that cost Wright 58 games in 2011. ( I don’t really get the mystery: unless the Mets are about to reacquire Kelly Johnson [13], Wilmer Flores [14] will take over on Friday. Moving Wright across the diamond would be madness, as would forcing Michael Conforto [15] or Walker to an unfamiliar position.)

Anyway, with all that swirling around us, we nearing compound-interest disheartening. A full-on Panic City sell-off hasn’t been seen in these parts since John Mayberry [16] Jr. was batting cleanup, but it seemed somewhere between likely and inevitable.

Fortunately, it’s baseball. Traditionalists talk about fundamentals and instincts and red-light players and reaching down deep inside, but if they’re being honest they’ll tell you that on a given night nobody knows anything. Sabermetrics fans will talk small sample sizes and statistical noise and regressing to norms, but they’ll also tell you that on a given night nobody knows anything. Baseball is perverse, fickle and maddening, which is part of its charm.

In the top of the third, Gonzalez threw 22 pitches — not ideal for an inning, but by no means extraordinary. Twenty-two pitches often indicates nothing more than a spot of bother, perhaps a two-out walk after some stubborn fouls. Somehow, Gio threw those 22 pitches to eight batters. Two of them — Colon and Kevin Plawecki [17] — saw five each, leading to an inning-starting K and an inning-ending groundout, respectively. Nobody else was waiting around: Granderson took the second pitch off his forearm, Lagares swatted the first one to right for a single, Wright hit the first one just over the glove of hairy annoyance Jayson Werth [18] for a three-run homer, Cespedes singled on the third one, Walker singled on the first one, Asdrubal Cabrera [19] hit the second one past Murphy for a run-scoring single, and Eric Campbell [20] drove the second one to center field for a sac fly.

When things don’t go well, Gio has a grating habit of stalking around muttering to himself and casting his eyes heavenward, like a helicopter child whose instant affirmation is late. In that frame, though, no one could blame him — it was fluky crossed with ridiculous.

When the dust settled it was 5-1 Mets; in the fifth they added two more on back-to-back shots by Cespedes and Walker and the game had completed its weirdo transformation into the antimatter version [21] of last Wednesday’s matchup.

Nobody paid much attention to anything else that happened, including the principals. In the bottom of the sixth, Zimmerman singled with two outs. With Anthony Rendon [22] waiting on a 1-1 pitch, Zimmerman “broke” for second. You know how every bar has some doofus who assesses some lackluster performance on TV and insists that he could do that? Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of 1,000 that guy deserves the derision he never gets, but this was No. 1,000: Zimmerman took a walking lead that turned into a kind of shuffling jog and ended, uncontested, at second. Yes, doofus in the bar, you could have done that. Rendon, apparently mesmerized, watched strike two thud into Plawecki’s glove. Every one involved looked vaguely sheepish, particularly when Rendon then struck out a pitch later. Returning from break, the cameras supplied the missing piece of the puzzle: Colon had thrown the pitch from the windup because he’d forgotten Zimmerman was there.

Goofy, but it fit. Blowouts in tightly contested series are funny things, with a few taut early innings dissipating into lassitude better suited for a spring-training game. One team’s fans are sleepily content, the other team’s rooters are grumpily dismissive, but either way it’s footnote baseball that no one will remember. Well, until tomorrow, when you might be reminded that you can know everything that’s happened and still not have a clue what’s coming.