We’ve not yet reached the longest day of the year, but Zack Wheeler  was off the mound and in the clubhouse before literal darkness descended over Citi Field Tuesday night, so either it’s staying light later or the pitchers are growing short.
Wheeler’s reign as undisputed Mets ace  lasted one turn of the improved rotation, as he was shelled, shellacked, schlemieled, schlimazeled, what have you by the defending world champion Chicago Cubs in a stint that was both disturbingly brief (1.2 IP) and dragged on interminably (62 pitches). It was a Zack kind of an evening, except for the lack of nightfall and the part where Wheeler guts it out admirably for five to seven innings.
Joe Maddon shuffled the Cubs’ lineup and his alchemy produced its desired effect. First baseman Anthony Rizzo  batted first and hit a leadoff homer. Second baseman Ian Happ , born the day the 1994 baseball strike began, batted second and belted a second-inning grand slam to raise Chicago’s lead to 6-1. The Mets’ aspirations toward a fifth consecutive victory pretty much walked off the job right there. Pitchers named Josh and Neil and another Josh were asked to soak up inning after inning after Zack was removed. Cub batters continued to spawn more runs. Jon Lester  notched his 150th career win. He could’ve nailed down his 151st and 152nd if they’d let him.
Yoenis Cespedes  left the game as a precaution against everything that could go wrong going wrong. Asdrubal Cabrera ’s left thumb returned to the disabled list, taking the rest of Asdrubal with it. Michael Conforto ’s back stayed stiff and was again kept out of harm’s way. Nobody else seemed to get hurt, though with this team you never can tell.
The final was 14-3 , the lone Met bright spot being the re-emergence of the Topps card crate Gary, Keith and Ron dig out of their broadcast lair to make these recurring thrashings go down smoother. The Mets have never come back to win a game in which the announcers pluck cards at random and riff accordingly, yet once Topps time rolls around, my sole rooting interest is for lengthy plate appearances and baserunners galore, no matter who’s up. Fewer outs equals more cards, more cards equals more riffing.
My favorite find in this particular blowout treasure trawl was Keith’s 1970 Skip Lockwood , pictured then with the Seattle Pilots who were already the Milwaukee Brewers by the time the unassuming righty from the transferred franchise infiltrated my consciousness. By the end of the ’70s, Skip Lockwood would be the Mets’ closer  and I would maintain a vested interest in securing his cardboard image. At decade’s dawn, when I was seven and first buying packs, I was inundated with 1970 Skip Lockwoods. Didn’t want ’em; got ’em anyway. When I wasn’t getting a Skip Lockwood, I was getting a Skip Guinn , yet it never crossed my mind to skip a chance to accumulate more cards, just as I never dreamed of skipping out on Tuesday’s night’s debacle. By the third inning, at which point it was Cubs 9 Mets 1, I was honestly thinking, “Oh boy, maybe they’ll do the cards tonight!” I was like a kid in a candy store, or, more precisely, “the candy store,” which is what we called Belle’s Luncheonette, the place where I committed dimes to packs, straining futilely to discern which ones might contain within them the stars who were destined to never appear.
I’d go through all those packs in hope of a Seaver or a Mays. I learned to accept the Lockwoods and the Guinns. I sat through a double-digit pasting forty-seven seasons later and I considered myself rewarded when Skip Lockwood appeared. And to think, the summer solstice is still a week away.
Many thanks to WOR Sports Zone host Pete McCarthy for having me on to discuss Piazza . Listen to Pete before and after every Mets game on 710 AM. You never know who you’re going to hear.