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The Penultimate Defeat

If it wasn’t exactly déjà vu all over again, I was nonetheless struck, well before its outcome [1]became obvious, by a near-certainty Saturday that the game I was watching was not going to be won by the Mets. This was before thousands of miles worth of home runs were blasted by Brewer batters off of Logan Verrett [2] and Antonio Bastardo [3] and preceded by Met batters’ insistence on stranding their brethren on base.

“Do the Mets,” I asked myself, “ever win the second-to-last game of a series they play in Milwaukee?” The answer, which I just got around to looking up, is, “No.”

Really, they don’t. I suppose the operative term should be they haven’t, not since 2008, anyway. From 2009 forward, inclusive of 2016, the Mets have come to Miller Park for eight series and, in the game before the last game of each series, they have gone back to the hotel with a loss.

I checked Ultimate Mets Database, which for the purposes of this hunch-driven narrow research served as Penultimate Mets Database [4]. Penultimate Mets games in Milwaukee consistently go down as perennial defeats.

It’s happened in second games of three-game series.
It’s happened in third games of four-game series.
It’s happened on Saturdays.
It’s happened on weeknights.
It’s happened in walkoffs.
It’s happened in slugfests.
It’s happened to aces like Johan Santana [5].
It’s happened to journeymen like Shaun Marcum [6].
It’s happened eight times in a row now.

Just because it keeps happening doesn’t mean it had to keep happening. Unlike the Brewer bats, there is limited power in precedent. Most likely it’s just one of those things, but after seven consecutive episodes of such unhappy days, it’s tough to shake the sense that an eighth will be right back after these commercial messages.

Did it have to happen this time around? Depends where you stand on the spectrum between utter randomness and preordained destiny. Verrett pitched a spotless bottom of the first and Asdrubal Cabrera [7] hit what seemed like a long two-run homer in the top of the second. The Mets were up, 2-0, and the Brewers, who absorbed the worst from Friday night’s dual debacle, were perhaps mired in a haze that would also smother the heretofore undetected not-quite-getaway day jinx. It certainly couldn’t hurt the Mets’ cause that they were facing Wily Peralta [8]. Peralta entered Saturday with an ERA (6.79) measuring greater than the amount a person pays for an overpriced Nathan’s hot dog at Citi Field ($6.75).

That next sound you heard was that of pitches Verrett threw going for joyrides. Or perhaps they were screaming in agony. Either way, it wasn’t good from a Met perspective. Chris Carter [9] hit one to the occupying 7 Line Army in left. Ryan Braun [10] launched one last seen headed toward NATO headquarters in Brussels. To paraphrase Crash Davis, anything travels that far oughta have a damn warhead on it, don’t you think? Missiles were flying everywhere. Kirk Nieuwenhuis [11] got in on the act in his way, which consisted of a double, a stolen base and a run scored. Even Peralta, who surely knows what a home run looks like from his vast experience giving them up, sent one deep into Braun territory.

Pitchers hitting home runs: not as much fun when the gopher is on the other foot.

Curtis Granderson [12] kept the Mets viable with a homer of his own in the fifth, cosmetically cutting the Brewer lead to 5-3, but his signature blow Saturday was the leadoff triple that didn’t quite go out in the third. Terry Collins challenged the yellow-line vagaries of Miller Park’s right field fence but was rebuffed. You’d take an immediate tally, for sure, yet the consolation was Grandy on third with nobody out. He was gonna come home eventually, right?

The Mets will board a flight to New York after today’s game, so yes, Curtis Granderson will come home to wherever he lives during the baseball season. But in the immediate context of Saturday’s third inning, home was a concept not easily grasped. Grandy retreated to third when Michael Conforto [13] lined out nearby and then was statistically stranded there after Yoenis Cespedes [14] walked and Neil Walker [15] grounded into a double play. Man on third, nobody out, nobody scores…what fun. Also, Walker’s apparently chronic bad back — the Met version of a fraternity pin — acted up and he had to leave. It’s either no big deal or an enormously big deal.

That, like most things in the Met universe, will be determined by a visit to a doctor, a surprisingly lengthy inactive stay on the active roster and then who knows? By the time we find out, it will likely be little remembered that the Mets lost their second-to-last game in Milwaukee, 7-4 (with Scooter Gennett [16] and Braun mashing Bastardo). Perhaps the Mets will have captured their Sunday Miller finale and enjoy a cheery flight into LaGuardia. Perhaps whatever has plagued them physically, mentally and spiritually on this road trip — a clunky three-city tour during which they’ve nonetheless gone 5-4 — will dissipate when they return to Citi Field, where, at least until his next start, the price of a frank will list higher than the number of earned runs Wily Peralta allows every nine innings. In defeating the Mets, the otherwise beleaguered Brewer starter lowered his ERA to 6.68 while jacking his slugging percentage to .250, or just a little lower than the figure key Met pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza [17] (.279) is packing these days.

Maybe they can pack one last win in Milwaukee, too. You know, they’re 8-1 in their last nine Miller Park getaway games.

Come to WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Tuesday night at 7 PM for an evening of Mets book talk. I’ll be joining Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers and D.J. Short of NBC Sports. Full details here [18]. Hope to see you there [19].