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You Knew This Was Coming

You so knew this [1] was coming, you could’ve baked a cake [2]. The Mets were leading, but they could’ve been leading by more. Five batters in, you realized the Mets were bracing you for what lied ahead three-plus hours later. With two out in the top of the first, Jay Bruce [3] homered. Mets up, 1-0. Great. Then Neil Walker [4] of Pittsburgh of New York singled. Fine. Lucas Duda [5], in full bloom as he will be for an explosive week or two across six months of the season, doubled to right. Fantastic. I looked for Walker to round third and make the score 2-0 and get the rout fully on versus Gerrit Cole [6]. Except Walker stopped or was stopped at third, and I just knew that was that.

A homer, a single and a double, registered all in a row, and one run was in. There was no reason another hit couldn’t be forthcoming. But no hit came. Asdrubal Cabrera [7] flied out and one run was all there was going to be from the first. The only batter you could count on as you looked ahead was the cake batter.

Perhaps, I thought by the second, I was too hasty in assuming not getting more runs home in the first was a surefire omen. Zack Wheeler [8] had been perfect in the bottom of the first and Curtis Granderson [9] led off the top of the next frame with a triple. Travis d’Arnaud [10] drove him in ASAP, it was 2-0 and maybe it didn’t have to be one of those nights. But nuance would nag the Mets throughout. Zack couldn’t bunt Travis to second, yet an error moved him to third. One out, another runner standing ninety feet from home. Yet Jose Reyes [11] struck out and Bruce flied out. In any language, that’s nada good thing. A few blinks later, Andrew McCutchen [12] — whose demise as a threat to pitchers and opposition fans appears greatly exaggerated this weekend — homered with David Freese [13] on and it was tied at two.

Get that cake in the oven. It’s coming.

Wheeler got back on track. D’Arnaud hit one out to recapture the lead, 3-2. A couple more Mets got on — Michael Conforto [14] via single, Reyes on a double — but Bruce left them there. Right around then, the bridge between how much the Mets were ahead by and how much the Mets should have been ahead by was wider than the Roberto Clemente [15]. Duda’s solo homer in the fifth helped, but not enough, for it, too, was followed by two more baserunners (Grandy walk, Td’A double) who didn’t cross home plate.

The Mets ousted Cole after five. Zack made it through six. He allowed a third run in his last inning after a double play wasn’t turned by Walker and McCutchen again refused to play dead. Andrew doubled past a diving Reyes to make it 4-3. Only some really horrible baserunning or basecoaching, augmented by some heady shortstop play on the part of Cabrera, kept it 4-3. Cutch attempted to go from second to home on an apparent Asdrubal misplay, but there was enough possum in that Cab to turn McCutchen into a dead duck. It was all folksy as hell, but the Mets weren’t leading by multiple runs anymore. They were fortunate to be leading by any runs whatsoever.

Zack’s night was over at 94 pitches. Knowing all we knew going in about Zack, you’d look at that total and understand he could go only so far. Watching Zack, you’d have enjoyed another inning of competition, because we also know about the Mets bullpen. We didn’t know there was a blister developing (the Mets really need to renew their subscription to the Gus Mauch Brine of the Month Club). Birthday boy Terry Collins — presumably in no mood for the cake that was heating up all around him — revealed that later. Zack said it wasn’t a biggie. Pitchers mostly do that when asked.

The Mets should have had more runs by now, but as long as we’re being wishful in our thinking, the Mets should also be able to approach nine outs as if not on a death march. If that were possible, though, we wouldn’t have been choosing our frosting and icing. The cake was baking for sure the second Neil Ramirez [16] appeared on the mound. The first thing he does to start the seventh is give up a double to Jordy Mercer [17]. The next thing he does is give up a grounder to get Mercer to third. The last thing he does is head for the dugout to the applause of a grateful nation. Overall, it would have to be judged an outstanding Neil Ramirez outing, for the roof had not yet caved in.

When you have roof problems, call Jerry Blevins [18]. He may not answer at first because he’s usually busy. Blevins is on alert 24/7. Saturday he responded to an SOS from Collins. He does that a lot. Jerry got the Mets out of Neil’s mess. The roof held. You knew…I mean you knew it wouldn’t forever, but it was nice to make it to the eighth with the Mets ahead by a run. If doom is coming, enjoy those moments when it’s still circling the block looking for a space.

Say, the Pirate bullpen was nothing like the Mets bullpen. Once Cole was replaced, the Mets did nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all. They really should have driven in a few more runs when they were there for the driving in. Stuff like that really informs your cake expectations.

Blevins, Fernando Salas [19] and defensive replacement Juan Lagares [20] got through the eighth without a baserunner allowed. It could have signaled everything was gonna be OK. It didn’t, for once Juan Nicasio [21] completed his second scoreless inning (after Wade LeBlanc [22] had done the same), Addison Reed [23] came on for the save. In 2016, Reed was one of those setup men who seemed to outshine the closer for whom he set up. When Jeurys Familia [24] became utterly unavailable to close in 2017, the glamour role fell to Reed, which translates to another of those cakeworthy instances you can feel coming. It’s not that Addison hadn’t closed before in his life. It’s that it’s never that easy to move pieces around. Or maybe it is, but I watch the Mets and have no frame of reference for hypereffective bullpen management.

Based on what we saw Saturday, Lagares should close games for the Mets. He was all that stood between them and a regulation defeat, playing Gold Glove center on one of his infrequent assignments within his natural habitat. The newly named spokesperson for the Metropolitan Bacon Saving Council did amazing things 400 or so feet from home, which indicates Addison wasn’t having the best of times a mere 60 feet 6 inches away. But Juan couldn’t do it all. Addison did allow a double that Juan wasn’t tall enough to corral, and there was a wild pitch that put the tying run on third and, oh, look, a John Jaso [25] single to left to knot the score at four.

Every Mets visit to beautiful PNC Park [26], give or take one or two, encompasses this kind of game [27]. It can be lost in the ninth, it can be lost later, it rarely gets won. Addison Reed can be in there. Braden Looper [28] can be in there. Anyone in between can take the ball. The Pirates will take the game. So even though the Mets evoked the early innings by getting two on with two out in the top of the tenth — only to have near-cycler d’Arnaud go down swinging — there was no reason to not start setting out the cake plates. Seriously, I checked in with five parallel universes: four had the Mets losing in horrible fashion, one said horrible fashion plus lengthy rain delay.

The bottom of the inning saw Tyler Pill [29] make his major league debut. Maybe someday it will make a great story [30], like how Bob Apodaca [31] was tabbed by Yogi Berra [32] to pitch for the first time in the bigs in Pittsburgh in the midst of a pennant race and Dack walked two batters on eight pitches and was summarily removed, not to return to the rubber until the following season. Apodaca went on to a solid if injury-curtailed pitching career. Pill should be so lucky. He wasn’t on Saturday.

A long out facilitated by there but for the grace of Lagares.
A hit to Freese.
A hit by pitch to McCutchen.
A walk to Cervelli.
A second out, somehow.
Then Josh Edgin [33] in to do what Jerry Blevins did earlier, except he was handed a far more daunting task.

The daunt was too much. Jaso singled again, this one to right, well out of the reach of Bruce to make it Pirates 5 Mets 4, meaning gametime was over, caketime was upon us and the 20-27 Mets were served their just desserts.