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Damned When They Didn’t

It would have been nice had somebody gotten three outs without giving up three runs in the eighth inning of a Jackie Robinson [1] Night celebration that rapidly deteriorated into, as a Twitter correspondent of mine so aptly put it, the Bummer of 42. Jacob deGrom [2]Fernando Salas [3]Jerry Blevins [4]…the Easter Bunny…whoever. That remains my takeaway ample hours after a postgame loaded down with ping-ponging recriminations.

DeGrom, dazzling almost without pause since a couple of early belts from Elijah the Passover Gopher, could have started the eighth, considering there is no confirmed scientific evidence that his right arm, unquestionably valuable as it is, was going to fall off for him having thrown a few more than 97 pitches.

Salas, whose right arm might have already fallen off (it’s amazing what they can do with CGI these days), could have been led away from the mound after surrendering a troubling two-out walk and an anxiety-inducing two-run homer.

Blevins, one of four lefties populating a bullpen so crowded that the manager doesn’t want to go there anymore (yet does, frequently), could have been the choice to face lethal lefty Christian Yelich [5]. Instead, Blevins sat and Yelich did a very unChristian thing to Salas, sending one of Fernando’s pitches in the direction of Jerusalem, or at least Boca Raton.

My takeaway doesn’t matter. The Marlins did the taking away that mattered, taking away a 4-2 Mets lead and converting it into a 5-4 win [6] for their own insidious Saturday Night purposes. DeGrom (7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, THIRTEEN STRIKEOUTS and probably the best 2017 Met who has yet to wear The Crown [7]) wound up with a no-decision after Terry Collins made one of his Terryble decisions — not necessarily terrible, just characteristically typical. He opted to protect the business limb of one of his tri-aces in the belief that pitches not thrown in April will preserve his viability for starts up the road. In doing so, he potentially sacrificed a win now for who knows what later. Making deGrom go one more inning, per the manager’s cranky explanation [8], might have destroyed the republic, or perhaps done untoward damage to a pitcher who needed to pay down the deduction on his Ramirezcare and have an ulnar nerve repaired.

Would one more inning have killed deGrom or at least made him untenable in the 2017 long-term? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really don’t know. I understand why Terry wants to proceed with caution. I also assume Terry wants to win, and winning behind a starting pitcher who’s been turning out the lights all night — thirteen frigging strikeouts! — seems the best bet to lay down in any South Florida fronton.

But the S.S. deGrom had sailed and Fernando Salas’s tugboat was again being asked to blow its horn with whatever fuel it had in its tank. It’s a seaworthy vessel, all right, so much so that the skipper takes it for a three-out cruise virtually nightly. Two-thirds of the journey was splendid. The last part washed ashore when Miguel Rojas [9] walked, Giancarlo Stanton [10] went deep and Yelich yanked Salas and the Mets into the depths of the deep blue sea.

Presumably Blevins had a good view of the wreckage as he trotted in after Salas’s seahorse was out of the barn.

There are no foolproof answers to, “What should have Terry done?” because hypotheticals refuse to contain them. There are educated guesses, though, and the ones that speculated, “Bring Salas in” and “Leave Salas in” probably needed to go back for more educating. The best answer was, “Win the freaking game,” an option that didn’t seem to top the manager’s priorities, but he’s got the whistle, the clipboard and practically the longest tenure in Met managerial history and I’m just some guy trying to figure out which 42 is which.