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Two-to-One Odds

Brewers 2 Mets 1 [1]. Not the outcome of choice in these parts, but a reassuring baseball score for a sunny Thursday afternoon. If you’re gonna lose by a run…well don’t, but if you have to, do it neatly, quickly and move on. Two-one without extra innings implies satisfying efficiency.

Yet this game lingered too long to be filed away so squarely. It lasted just past three hours. Three hours for three runs? Shouldn’t have that been over sooner? For comparison purposes, I sought out a 2-1 game I recall from many moons before: Padres 2 Mets 1. It’s featured toward the end of Mets Yearbook: 1978, wherein mic’d up manager Joe Torre [2] urges Jerry Koosman [3] — “Koozy,” he called him that Wednesday afternoon — on to no avail.

That 2-1 decision, on August 16, 1978 [4], in which the Mets totaled four hits and the Padres nine, took 2:21 to complete at Shea. The most recent 2-1 loss in Mets history, which occurred at Citi Field over 3:02, encompassed the same number of home team hits and two more from the visitors. There were three walks combined in 1978, five in 2017, though one was intentional, which doesn’t require the messy issuing of four balls anymore. There was one error this Thursday, none 39 years ago. Five more batters struck out now (21) as compared to then (16), and batters didn’t stray from the box then as they tend to now. Plus commercials. Always commercials.

A little extra time here, a little extra time there…nah, it doesn’t add up to a fan watching and wondering why the heck one 2-1 loss in which the Mets bat in the bottom of the ninth takes forty-one minutes longer to conduct than the other 2-1 loss in which the Mets bat in the bottom of the ninth.

I suppose a few minutes needed to be devoted in modern time to Terry Collins barking at Fieldin Culbreth. And Culbreth needed a moment to eject Collins. Collins was upset that the umpires reinterpreted an interpretive-to-begin-with call. You rarely see managers strenuously emote at umpires anymore, now that we have video replay review. But this call — stemming from Wilmer Flores [5] getting entangled in the wayward Milwaukee bat boy and thus not catching a foul pop hit by Eric Sogard [6] — fell outside the purview of the crew in Chelsea. All Collins could do was gripe once the call went from out on interference to never mind, just a foul ball that didn’t get caught. All Culbreth could do in response was lend an ear and give a thumb.

So you needed some time for that fourth-inning escapade. Zack Wheeler [7] needed time to make a few more pitches before getting Sogard to ground into an inning-ending double play that eased even if it didn’t erase the irritation surrounding Wilmer and the bat boy (Wilmer and the Bat Boy — coming to ABC this fall!). Also, the Brewer hit just prior to Sogard’s at-bat unfolded in slow motion. Chase Anderson [8] bunted a ball in the air that Travis d’Arnaud didn’t catch and didn’t throw to second, which was the whole idea of not catching it. Travis threw to first, but Chase, the pitcher, beat it out. That seemed to take a while.

A Thursday afternoon shouldn’t be the place to hurry baseball along, but 2-1 works better when paced better. Anderson gave up only three Met singles and one Met walk across 104 pitches that covered seven innings. One-hundred four pitches and no runs allowed sounds like it should get you to the ninth, but Anderson didn’t see the eighth. The Met offense didn’t see the scoreboard until Chase was chased by his manager, Craig Counsell [9]. Flores got even with that benignly clumsy Brewer bat boy (presumably a Met employee not suited to the outfit he was assigned…a lot of that going around Flushing lately [10]) by taking Jacob Barnes [11] deep on the first Brewer pitch not delivered by Anderson. It got out with enough exit ferocity to shave at least a few seconds from time of game.

Think about it: One guy throws 104 pitches and can’t be touched. One guy throws one pitch and the lead he was bequeathed is instantly halved. Then again, Wheeler threw 102 pitches, wasn’t nearly as untouchable as Anderson, yet lasted only two-thirds of an inning less and gave up only two more runs.

Juggling these numbers about doesn’t change the 2-1 equation. Zack gave up one run in the third, another in the fourth, but survived into the seventh thanks to three double plays. Ten hits allowed in 6.1 IP could do you more damage. But three hours in the sun should probably yield more than three runs in all, and ideally the Mets would wind up with more than one of them.

Could have been worse. It was exactly a year earlier, on a Wednesday afternoon, I sat through thirteen innings that required four hours and forty-one minutes and resulted in the same 2-1 loss for the Mets [12]. Well, not the same. No two ballgames, whatever their scores, are precisely the same. I guess that’s why they keep making new ones and we’ll keep watching every one that they make.