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Above Average Tuesday

It was supposed to be one of the seminal moments in the revival of a franchise that was taking its sweet time returning to life. Tuesday, June 18, 2013, a day-night doubleheader in Atlanta. The afternoon portion would be pitched by baseball’s hottest star, the evening’s focused on the premiere of potentially its next one. The hyperbolic among us cottoned to the billing Super Tuesday [1].

And it was super. Matt Harvey [2] flirted seriously with a no-hitter for the third time in ’13, struck out 13 and raised his record to 6-1. Business as usual, in other words. Then the Mets unveiled their next ace, Zack Wheeler [3]. The highly touted prospect making his major league debut wasn’t as sharp, but he was essentially as successful. Wheeler gave the Mets enough to win, sweep and look ahead excitedly.

Four years later, the projected dynamic duo of this decade threw in succession on another Tuesday. How Super it was is in the eye of the beholder.

Matt again went first, except he did his pitching from a podium, going before the press — and, by extension, the fans — to explain away and apologize for [4] what became New York’s most infamous lost weekend since Ray Milland [5] couldn’t hock his typewriter. Harvey’s target was no longer John Buck [6]’s mitt. It was contrition. Yes, he said, he was out late Friday night “past curfew”. Yes, he added, he was golfing Saturday morning. He didn’t mention a migraine splitting his head or a supermodel breaking his heart [7]. The reasons he allowed himself to get to a place where he couldn’t get to his place of employment he kept to himself.

“I put myself in a bad place to be ready for showing up to a ballgame,” the pitcher admitted publicly, proceeding to take “responsibility” and “full blame” for not appearing at Citi Field Saturday, which led to his three-game suspension and a journey-weary journeyman taking and losing what was supposed to have been his start Sunday [8]. “I’ve apologized to my teammates, I’ve apologized to the coaches, and I’m doing everything in my power so that never happens again.”

How much he meant what he said about being sorry and not repeating his detrimental course of action was beyond the measurement of Statcast. We don’t need to be sincerity monitors. We just want a heretofore imposing righthander to stand in the center of the diamond and impose his will upon opposition hitters…or at the very least take the ball as scheduled. We as fans require his availability and clearheadedness in that pursuit. We shall see what happens this Friday night when Matt gets his next chance in Milwaukee. The rest is about being human beings and wishing the best for another member of our species. The way Terry Collins dropped phrases [9] like “support group” and “he’s got people in his corner,” it’s reasonable to sense something’s more than a little awry in Matt’s world beyond an outsize taste for good times and a recurring disregard for team rules. We don’t really want to think in those terms. We want to think, “Harvey’s going today,” and let his actual pitching say the rest.

Wheeler’s turn came a few hours later, from the Citi Field mound. It was a more conventional outing and it went swimmingly. Zack’s path from 2013 to 2017 was disrupted by surgery and physical rehabilitation. So was Harvey’s, it’s worth noting, but there was never a discernible level of drama attached to Wheeler’s struggle. It just took him a while longer than he and we would have liked for him to make it back to us. But he’s back, and he’s doing all right. Tuesday he did very well for all concerned, save for the organization that traded him to us. Zack pitched six innings against the Giants and gave up only two hits and one run, facilitating a 6-1 victory [10], the same score by which the Mets won his big-league debut at Turner Field. He walked five then, four now. It would be great if he could cut down on those — more efficient outings would presumably lead to less reliance on a perpetually cranking bullpen — but in a rotation that between last Friday night and this Wednesday afternoon has encompassed Rafael Montero [11], Adam Wilk [12] and Tommy Milone [13], you’re willing to accept a little work in progress.

The Mets are themselves again a work in progress, as they were in 2013, as they inevitably always are. Even fully revived and picked to go far in 2017, we found ourselves looking up at .500 after thirty-one games. It’s taken winning eight of eleven just to reach 16-16. There have been injuries. There has been pathos. Improvisation has been necessary. Michael Conforto [14] is our leadoff hitter. T.J. Rivera [15] is the starting first baseman, batting second. René Rivera [16] is behind the plate nightly. Michael’s batting .330, T.J. .309, René .333. They combined for seven hits against San Francisco, or five more than Zack gave up. It all led to another win on a Tuesday when one Met was maybe doing better and none of the rest of the Mets seemed to be doing worse.

Call it Superb Tuesday if you like. Or just another day at the ballpark for this bunch.