- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

When All is Ces and Done

As Metsian sequences of events go, the one that unfolded in the top of the first Friday night at Nationals Park was among the Metsiest of 2017. Asdrubal Cabrera was on first base, Yoenis Cespedes [1] was on second, Dominic Smith was batting. Smith singled up the middle. Cespedes came around to score. Except Smith’s ball struck second base umpire Andy Fletcher, rendering it dead, meaning Cespedes had to go back to third.

And Cespedes was clearly hobbling rather than running between third and home, and thus had to leave the game.

And his replacement was Matt Reynolds, not an outfielder, because the Mets were playing with no outfielders in reserve a day after Michael Conforto’s season ended from injury.

And the next two batters, Travis d’Arnaud and Amed Rosario, struck out to leave the bases loaded.

And it happened against the Nationals, the Mets’ nominal archrivals, who entered action approximately a jillion games ahead of the Mets in the National League East.

And the Mets were wearing silly-looking uniforms [2] while being yet again foiled and yet again injured.

The only elements that separated all this from being totally typical of how this season has gone were: a) the Mets had actually scored a run and taken a lead; b) Jacob deGrom was coming to the mound to skillfully protect the lead; and c) the Nationals’ uniforms looked just as silly.

In the opening game of Players Weekend, the depleted Mets in their Little League homage uniforms outlasted the disinterested Nats in their Little League homage uniforms, save for Cespedes, who didn’t last the first inning, straining the hamstring in the leg in which he hadn’t strained his hamstring before. There went Yoenis’s opportunity to display his MLB-approved nickname LA POTENCIA on his back for more than half an inning. For those of you who aren’t versed en Español, LA POTENCIA doesn’t translate to loose-limbed.

ROY HOBBLED would have been more reflective of what happened to Ces Friday and what too often happens to Ces once he challenges the basepaths to a race. What a pity, not so much in terms of what becomes of the Mets’ chances, which haven’t been seen since their likeness was emblazoned on the side of a milk carton ages ago [3], but because Cespedes had gotten all facets of his game in gear recently. Yoenis Cespedes at full tilt is a sight to behold. Now, likely, it will be a sight to remember until next spring, pending diagnosis, rehab and how soon he inevitably tightens up again.

Funny — or Metsian — how this season has reduced the franchise’s centerpiece player to a liability waiting to happen. Yo doesn’t always help his own cause, though from outside his carefully constructed shell you can’t always tell whether he’s calculating the discretion/valor quotient and being cleverly cautious with his valuable anatomy, or if his mind has gone on a little in-game road trip. Cespedes seems to march to his own drummer. Or hobble to it. When he’s going all out, he’s spectacular. When he opens up, he’s not bad, either. Earlier this week, David Lennon reported in Newsday that Ces, along with Cabrera and Jose Reyes, called a hitters-only meeting, instructing their callow teammates to, in so many words, get their cabezas out of their extremos traseros, no matter the standings. Eleven months ago, these three literally led the Mets to a Wild Card [4]. In this case, they were attempting to lead them through the figurative wilderness [5].

Through his ever present interpreter, Cespedes explained to Lennon the overriding message [6] he and his more experienced colleagues attempted to deliver: “We understand what the team’s situation is, and how it’s not necessarily our year. But these games are very important, because we’re here to play, to try to win, and the fans spend their money to see us.” It’s what you like to hear veterans say in any language.

What the Mets will have to do, until the next wave of Quadruple-A reinforcements is shuttled in from points far west, is get by with an outfield of Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares and pot luck. Can’t speak for the forthcoming mystery guest (Travis Taijeron, come on down! [7]), but the other two members of the Elton John Brigade — they’re still standing [8] — acquitted themselves nicely Friday night. Nimmo hustled to first three times, twice on walks. He’s worked out a celebratory routine for having extracted bases on balls. Tom Goodwin’s experience hiding his eye roll [9] probably comes in handy. Lagares issued one of his periodic reminders that he exists and then some, singling, doubling and stealing twice. The Mets actually stole bases by the plural. Two for Juan, one for Brandon, who’d never tried it before. The Little League-styled jerseys may have imbued certain of these Mets with a sense of discovery. You mean we’re allowed to run from first to second and second to third WITHOUT waiting for one of the other guys to get a hit? Wow!

The comfortingly familiar came in the form of deGrom resuming his road to 17 wins [10] by picking up his 14th. It was a performance commensurate with how we usually react [11] when he is on. Jake — or JAKE, per his sanctioned stitched nickname — overwhelmed whichever Nationals Dusty Baker chose to use after a long overnight trip from Houston, as if that’s our problem. DeGrom went seven-and-two-thirds, scattered five hits and struck out ten. Jerry “GORDO” Blevins reprised his kudos-inspiring role as queller of all things Murph [12] when, at the only sign of trouble, in the eighth, he replaced Jacob and neutralized his former teammate turned Dan the Man Musial.

The Mets’ 4-1 lead reached the bottom of the ninth in the hands of AJ Ramos, who promptly made it a 4-2 lead via a leadoff home run to Adam Lind. JUNIOR then attempted to no-decision JAKE. Ramos had no command and no clue. Despite the activation of Jeurys Familia (a Met coming back from an injury?), Terry Collins adhered to the old adage about sticking with your temporary closer who clearly doesn’t have it. My guess, based on having watched Ramos closely twice lately, is that he didn’t care for the Little League jerseys. Seriously, when he pitched effectively at Citi Field, his top button was unbuttoned, his undershirt appeared sheer and his necklace and tattoos were prominent. I think if this guy could pitch bare chested, he would.

Eventually, Ramos got it together and squirmed out of his self-created mess, preserving a good Met result amid another bad Met development. We win the game [13]. We lose the Yo [14]. We understand what the team’s situation is, and how it’s not necessarily our year. Boy, do we ever.