One of the things I’ve enjoyed about this Mets era — 2015, 2016, 2017 — is the sense that even when these guys aren’t quite playing good ball, they know how to be good ballplayers, particularly good teammates. That probably comes from a proliferation of decent fellas playing the game for a decent interval. Live and learn and pass along what you’ve learned seems to be the prevailing ethos, and it’s heartening to watch it in action. For example, after the top of the fourth was over Friday night, and Dominic Smith was converting from baserunner to fielder in the wake of his having collected his first major league hit, you could see the warm veteran influence blanket the newest Met. There was Yoenis Cespedes congratulating him, elder to youngster. And Neil Walker doing the same. And three-time All-Star Curtis Granderson, who’s in his fourteenth season. And one-time All-Star (so far) Michael Conforto, who’s in his third. And, of course, good old Amed Rosario.
Amed Rosario is a veteran of ten games, but I’m pretty sure he came into the world a big leaguer.
Friday night against the fifth-place Phillies was exciting on principle because it was Smith’s major league debut. Dominic (or Dom — somebody will have to clear up his Chase/Chasen issue) was born on June 15, 1995. Joe Orsulak won the game the Mets played at Shea against the Marlins on that date, singling home pinch-runner Tim Bogar in the tenth after helping along a three-run rally in the ninth with an RBI double that plated young Edgardo Alfonzo. I once heard Joe Orsulak referred to as “the club pro,” the epitome of calm, cool, sweet-swinging veteran presence wherever he alighted, including his three seasons as a Met. I could think of worse things for a future Met than to have been born under the Sign of Orsulak.
Someday, maybe, Smith will be spoken of in such terms. If he lasts as long as he should — first-round Met draft choice of 2013, second-rated Met prospect of 2017 — and remains as ebullient as he appeared just from the sensation of being here, he’ll be the one knocking in winning runs and delivering brotherly hugs. It won’t necessarily take long for Smith to begin building that kind of sterling reputation. Based on what we witnessed Friday night, it took Rosario a week-and-a-half.
Every player needs to be viewed as an individual, and no two trajectories are going to run precisely parallel, but it’s difficult to resist suggesting that if first baseman Smith follows shortstop Rosario’s example, he will be a heckuva Met soon. The only thing biologically young Amed — born five months after Smith (and seven months after Orsulak took his last Met swing) — hadn’t done much since rising from Triple-A was hit consistently. On Friday night, he at least temporarily took care of that perception with a pair of singles and, oh yeah, the ninth-inning home run that broke a 6-6 tie and positioned the Mets to win  an intermittently sloppy slog of a ballgame at home away from home Citizens Bank Park , 7-6.
Conforto went deep for one in the second. Cespedes went deep for three in the third. Seth Lugo went not quite six, shaky early, stable eventually, departing ahead by two. Wilmer Flores attempted to go from second to third in the eighth, apparently uncertain of how many outs there were. When René Rivera struck out, there were two; when Flores inexplicably took off toward the next available base, there’d be three, leaving the Mets clinging to a one-run lead, a tenuous edge about to be wiped out by Cesar Hernandez’s one-out solo shot in the bottom of the inning off Jerry Blevins.
We’ve all tacitly agreed that wins and losses at this stage of 2017 aren’t imbued with the garment-rending importance we attached to results during the previous two Augusts, but the games do get played, and while they’re getting played, it’s way preferable to win. You didn’t want to lose on the night of Dominic or Dom Smith’s major league debut. You didn’t want to lose on the night Dom’s mom beamed so darn hard for her 1-for-3 son (he was double-switched out with Lugo in the sixth). You also didn’t want to lose on the night Brandon Nimmo, still in his extended initiation phase of big league life, heroically withstood a half-inning deluge of sunflower seeds and assorted other projectiles while conducting the longest legitimate in-game interview regarding pinch-hitting preparation anybody has ever seen. Brandon sat with SNY headphones on, helpfully dissecting every detailed question Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez suddenly had to have answered in the bottom of the second. Asdrubal Cabrera flung everything but the on-deck circle in his general vicinity. Tom Goodwin floated by with an impressive videobomb. The shoulders of Nimmo’s jersey grew suspiciously damp. Yet he sat and he smiled and he explained how critical Kelly Johnson and Jay Bruce — veteran presence! — were to his development as a hitter off the bench and, six innings later, he made like Le Brand Orange and delivered the pinch-single that sent Flores to second, from whence Wilmer would take off obliviously for third.
Hmmm. Maybe that was part of the gag.
Blevins, so dependable for so much of the season, surrendered two more singles. Jerry had to be rescued by Hansel Robles, which is not usually how Met relief proceeds, but baseball dares you to make assumptions. Hansel retired the last two Phillies of the eighth, setting the stage for Rosario to become the 59th Mets position player to have hit exactly one home run in his Met career. That’s a list that encompasses short-timers and “in there for his glove” types. It’s a list that will probably say goodbye to Rosario soon, perhaps as quickly as the ball Amed launched off Hector Neris landed in the right-center field stands. We knew Rosario could field. We knew Rosario could run. We’re getting the idea Rosario can hit and hit with power.
With AJ Ramos showing us he can indeed cleanly save a game, Robles garnered his seventh win (second on the club to Jacob deGrom in that make-of-it-what you-will statistic) and the Mets emerged victorious where they almost always emerge victorious, but if there was going to be a night when they didn’t, this one looked like it. They fell behind early, gave up the tying run late, wasted a golden add-on opportunity…but nah. Not in Philadelphia. Not with Smith joining the cast. Not on Rosario’s watch.