OK, 161-1 isn’t actually going to happen — and at the risk of disappointing someone, I’m guessing 151-11 will be a stretch too. But such giddy enthusiasm seemed eminently sensible after Jerry Blevins shuffled off the mound with a strikeout and a grounder on his 2017 resume, a combination that kept the game tied 1-1, simultaneously denying old friend Bartolo Colon a win and cleaning up Hansel Robles‘s mess.
On the couch, I was almost vibrating with glee, not just about the outcome but also about the tension that had preceded it: That was exciting! My goodness have I missed baseball!
But the returns on the excitement were diminishing. What had begun as a taut, nifty pitching duel between Colon and Jacob deGrom (looking great coming off surgery) had slowly decayed into a listless slog, one of those games where you catch yourself wondering if the pitchers are doing well or the hitters are doing terribly, decide it’s the latter and has been the latter for a while, and wind up watching the rest of the game with the vague sense of shame that accompanies the realization that you’ve been had.
Eventually Montero surrendered a double down the line to the irritating Matt Kemp, the Mets failed to fight back against Jim Johnson and a 3-1 loss ended the dream of a perfect season. The game lasted 12 innings and 3 hours and 51 minutes; it felt quite a bit longer.
(Though, hey, baseball’s new intentional-walk rule did keep the proceedings from taking 3 hours and 53 minutes. Quelle révolution!)
It ended messily, but things had been untidy for a while. The Adonis Garcia double that tied the game in the seventh would have been run down by a right fielder better than Jay Bruce, who’s lead-footed even once he gets going and doesn’t help his cause with curious routes to balls. On the other hand, the Garcia double should have scored two — except Brandon Phillips seemed thoroughly confused, stopping and starting his way to third instead of home.
This isn’t to pick on Bruce, who is what he is — and if he keeps on collecting three hits a night, what he is will be pretty awesome. But when I catalog my anxieties about the 2017 Mets, the list doesn’t begin with “injuries to starting pitchers.”
No, the first thing on that list is “outfield defense.”
- Even with his bouts of carelessness, Yoenis Cespedes is a fine left fielder with a cannon arm, which is to say he should be a right fielder.
- Curtis Granderson should be a left fielder, but is now playing center — the one outfield spot he’s less suited for than right.
- Bruce should be a left fielder, a first baseman, or a designated hitter.
- The bench provides little solace: Michael Conforto‘s yet another left fielder who needs to hit to justify his defense, and not even Juan Lagares can run down balls while sitting in the dugout.
I can come up with reasons to be worried about each and every Mets’ starting pitcher: the currently injured, the recently injured, the please-not-destined-to-be injured. But there are many scenarios where those worries prove unfounded or overwrought. It’s hard to say that about the outfield. Another decimation of the starting-pitcher ranks is a possibility; the Mets being hurt by their poor outfield defense is a certainty.
But we’ll see — and I’ll remember that logjams have a way of clearing themselves in the outfield, as they do on the mound. And crummy loss and all, I still enjoyed a night being reminded of things that make me happy.
Some were big things, like having my eyes jump to the clock and register that it was 6:55 p.m. and I had an appointment. And some were little things, like remembering how Blevins always looks sheepish and vaguely disappointed even when he’s just succeeded at something difficult. Or the way Addison Reed ends an inning by shoving his cap back on his head, squinting as if looking into the sun, and walking unhurriedly away from the mound like a gunfighter who took no pleasure in the recent unpleasant business but knew it had to be done.
We’re going to lose at least one game, and probably a fair amount more than that. Balls will get by Bruce and Granderson and even Lagares now and again. Relievers will find that third out elusive — or, on occasion, the first one. The first week will remind you of all that too. Which is as it should be, because those things are also part of the game — the best damn game there is, finally back to keep us company again.