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Not So Funny

Long night, short turnaround. Let’s rip the Band-Aid off, shall we?

In the bottom of the fifth, Steven Matz [1] did something strange: he got his helmet and bat and headed for the on-deck circle, apparently all-business. Which was fine, except his spot in the order wasn’t up — it was several batters away. He wasn’t even close.

Matz was flagged down and returned to the bench, where he sheepishly endured a ribbing from his teammates. It all looked like great fun: the Mets were up 4-0 thanks to a pair of sac flies and another Neil Walker [2] home run, Matz was cruising, and Mat Latos [3] looked tired and ineffective and grumpy. It wasn’t quite a laugher, not yet, but the chuckling had begun.

Ready for the less-than-funny part? Matz never did get up to the plate. Latos retired the Mets 1-2-3, and when Matz went back out to the mound the proper procedure seemed to elude him there too. Jose Abreu [4] reached on a misplay by new Met James Loney [5], whose familiar No. 28 called to mind Daniel Murphy [6]‘s fielding misadventures but none of his hitting prowess. (One Twitter wag noted that Loney had been catlike [7] at first base — if the baseball were a laser pointer.) Matz threw a slider to Todd Frazier [8], a strategy he’d tried all night and Frazier was wise to. Boom, and now it was 4-2 Mets. With two outs, mustachioed Tyler Saladino [9] walked, stole second off an inattentive Matz and then promptly took third, where he was singled in by Dioner Navarro [10]. It was 4-3, and just like that Matz’s night was over.

Jim Henderson [11] held the White Sox at bay and gave way to Noah Syndergaard [12], getting his between-starts work in under the bright lights. Noah didn’t disappoint, rifling 100+ MPH pitches at the Chicagoans and flashing an ungodly slider and then, perhaps just for fun, a 92 MPH change-up that Frazier nearly lost his helmet flailing at. It was a great show, but just a cameo — Noah was there for an inning, next to be seen down in Miami.

Without him, well, things didn’t go so well. Hansel Robles [13] took his place on the mound, walked Melky Cabrera [14] and then threw a high fastball to Saladino that the young shortstop murderized for a 5-4 White Sox lead. More horrors followed, with Jerry Blevins [15] failing to execute and Logan Verrett [16] yielding an insurance run before the curtain finally came down. The stunned-looking Mets did nothing, and that was the ballgame [17].

I could cluck in sympathy with Robles’s sudden ineffectiveness (he’s basically naked when he located his too-straight fastball) and note that bullpens that are nearly automatic for a stretch are probably due for a dumpster-fire interlude. I could remind you that despite his gaudy career record and general air of pluck, Matz is still a young pitcher with some lessons to learn about predictability and focus. I could go back and craft some stirring lines to add to Syndergaard’s Saga.

But it’s late (or early, depending on when you read this), so let’s not. Rubber game tomorrow, matinee affair, Jacob de Grom on the mound. Let’s just move on and hope the Mets follow suit.