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The Dog That Didn’t Bark

Lots of seasons don’t go quite the way you fantasize — your team’s undone by some combination of poor performances, bad decisions, ill health, lousy luck, or just by not being as good as the competition. By late spring you figure your October will be free; by summer you’re thinking about next season. Which is all OK — it’s just baseball, after all. For us, a bad harvest doesn’t mean famine or foreclosure, just needing to diversify our sources of entertainment.

So far, the 2017 Mets haven’t lost a spectacular number of games — once things normalize a bit, they’re probably some variation of a .500 team, which is only heart-rending compared with preseason rankings. What feels different this year is the way the Mets have lost those games. I know it’s the confirmation bias talking, but the 2017 Mets seem allergic to run-of-the-mill losses. Every single one seems to be a tragedy or a farce, leaving you with a ragged hole in the chest where your battered orange and blue heart used to beat. Lose 6-3 on a sleepy afternoon? No sir, not this squad. They’re going to load the bases with nobody out and still fail, or find a new reliever to melt down hideously, or gag on a game-ending double play.

Which made Saturday all the more extraordinary: with all the pieces arranged for disaster, the Mets walked away from the puzzle. The dog didn’t bark. No murderer came to the door. They actually won.

Perhaps it helped that they were playing the Pirates, a team having a similar season of perplexing disappointment. (Though in a far kinder division in terms of second chances.) Or that Neil Walker [1] was playing the Pirates, whom he treats like a scorned ex hell-bent on showing you how wrong you were.

Robert Gsellman [2] didn’t go deep enough to make us stop sighing about the shell-shocked bullpen, but he did pitch well enough to make us scrutinize the starting pitching and ask Whither Gsellman? without being ironic. (Seriously: Whither Gsellman?) Fernando Salas [3] entered with a skinny lead and exited with that skinny lead intact. Jerry Blevins [4] came in and did his usual masterful work (his strikeout of Josh Bell [5] was pure and simple cruelty), even with his teammates providing their usual bout of sabotage.

And then Terry brought in Addison Reed [6] an inning early.

At first I thought Terry had gone modern, reasoning the closer’s job was to dispatch the toughest hitters in the order when they arrived instead of automatically handling the final inning. But Terry doesn’t do modern, and I’d forgotten Andrew McCutchen [7]‘s slide down in the Pirates’ order. No, Reed was going to get six outs or die trying.

Which Reed did, somehow. John Jaso [8] didn’t ruin everything, as he has before. Nor did Gregory Polanco [9], David Freese [10] or Bell. Reed walked off the mound with 36 pitches thrown and a victory secured, and the Mets had won a 4-2 game [11]. If that sounds relatively ho-hum, well, 2017 will remind you otherwise soon enough.