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When It All Goes Wrong

It’s a truism of baseball that no matter what you’re going to win 54 games and lose 54 games, with what happens in the other 54 determining your season.

Which is a pretty good rule, even if the Mets broke it for the first four years of their existence and came within a whisper of busting it in a good way in ’86.

But why stop there? I suspect you could make all sorts of corollaries to that rule, perhaps starting as follows:

We’d have to divide and subdivide pretty far to get to games like Wednesday night’s, though: contests where your team isn’t going to get its brains beat in, exactly, but nothing will go right, a big neon L is flashing from at least the middle innings, and it takes forever and a day for the whole mess to limp to its foregone conclusion.

Jacob deGrom [1] had nothing for the second start in a row — no velocity and no location, two fatal flaws that were masked for a while by some ridiculously good luck: Yadier Molina [2] thought he’d drunk a Daniel Murphy [3] invisibility potion, Randall Grichuk got thrown out at the plate even though I still haven’t seen Travis d’Arnaud [4] touch him, and the Cardinals repeatedly hit screaming rockets right into the gloves of Mets.

We’ve seen deGrom somehow parlay such bad hands into victory — just ask the Dodgers — but on Wednesday he was out of magic tricks, and all that luck meant was he got to hang around while nothing worked, sweating and waiting to be excused further frustration. The Cardinals wound up with 19 hits; it seems like a kindness that they only scored eight runs [5]. Meanwhile, the game’s official time was clocked at 2:55, relatively tidy for modern baseball, but I call nonsense on that one — having watched the entirety of this mess, I recall it taking closer to 20:55.

There’s really nothing else to be said about this one. DeGrom doesn’t know what’s wrong with deGrom and in all likelihood his malady is just fatigue, unhappy random number generation or some of both. Jay Bruce [6] finally got a hit essentially by accident, then departed with a leg cramp; Kelly Johnson [7] continued to look iffy at second base; d’Arnaud unaccountably swung at the first pitch to short-circuit a potential Mets rally.

But all that’s window dressing: this was one of those 54 we were fated to lose, and one of the subset of those 54 that arrived without competitive or aesthetic merit. Some games you endure and hope to never think of again: they don’t make anyone saw on the violin while Ken Burns pans a resonant photo, but they’re part of baseball too.