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A Year of Sundays

We’ve rooted for good Mets teams in Septembers when they’ve lost ballgames badly [1]. When every game matters in pursuit of the playoffs, every loss stings deeply. One loss can be all it takes to end the chase for which we as fans live, so of course we’re gonna take it hard when it lands on our head.

Thus, if you’re looking for a saving grace from Sunday’s 5-2 seventh-inning lead over the Cincinnati Reds turning into a 10-5 defeat [2], it’s that it would have hurt a lot more had it come in service to an overarching goal.

Your 2017 Mets: It can always hurt more.

On principle, it was pretty bad, yet at its end, I all but literally shrugged. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have preferred a win. As a season of this nature winds down, I can get mighty granular in my Met priorities. For example, the Mets hadn’t swept anybody at home all this livelong year, so I embraced that as a goal once we had three of the first four versus the Reds in the books. Jacob deGrom [3]’s fifteenth victory — and my previously articulated 17 in ’17 [4] dream on his behalf — appeared within our collective grasp. My crudely cobbled mid-August forecast of 74-88 [5] for our final record appeared realistic a week after, at 58-78, it seemed to have dissolved into the stuff of Pollyannish lunacy. Further, the Mets could win on Sunday, take some momentum into Chicago (where by definition they’d have an impact on the pennant race) and inject some genuine substance into the nebulous concept of finishing strong.

There was a lot riding on the outcome, if solely in my imagination. But there was also the reality that the game was transpiring Sunday afternoon at Citi Field, and Sunday afternoons at Citi Field, it has been established, have been the absolute worst in 2017. It’s hard to decipher whether the Mets almost invariably lose on Sunday or lose to Sunday. The Mets can lose under any circumstance to any opponent, but they all but ask for it under this particular circumstance, when Sunday becomes the most daunting opponent on the schedule.

Ask, and ye shall receive, Metsies. They asked for it, all right. Everybody who had been in the process of contributing to a win in progress changed course and kicked in for a Mets loss. At least deGrom did his part in the opposite direction. His tough first inning dug the Mets a 2-0 hole, but his next five innings of work were characteristic of the ace who surged in midseason. Just one hit and no more runs surrendered en route to striking out ten Reds in all. Jake’s the Met who doesn’t give up. He wasn’t able to make hay of his two previous hay-makeable starts, a day game in Cincinnati, a home start versus the Phillies. Jake usually wins those like many of the rest of us tie our shoes, as if by instinct. But he was hit hard in each of those games, leading us to believe he’s probably injured, because every Met pitcher is presumed injured until proven…what’s the opposite of injured again?

Yet deGrom survived to pitch Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. He’s the only Met to have mastered Sunday afternoon at Citi Field this season, beating the eventual division champion Nationals on Father’s Day and hitting a ball over the fence on that occasion [6] to emphasize how far above his surroundings he has soared in 2017. DeGrom can’t win on demand, but you come as close as you possibly can to assuming maybe the Mets won’t lose when he’s on the mound.

You were excused for the ass-u-me aspect of assumption once the Mets supported deGrom’s cause in earnest. Facing Reds starter and erstwhile Sterling Cooper art director namesake Sal Romano, Travis d’Arnaud drove Jose Reyes home with a productive groundout in the first. Dominic Smith singled in the tying run in the third. With alphabet soup ingredient generator Asher Wojciechowski on in the sixth, Dom homered to provide deGrom a 3-2 edge, and Reyes confounded Reds right fielder Scott Schebler with a line drive double. Schebler stood his ground when he should have been on his proverbial horse. Jose was off to the races, landing on second having knocked in two more runs. The Mets were up, 5-2, taking it to one of the few opponents they’ve developed a knack for besting.

The home team had limited its exposure to losing. What could possibly go awry on this beautiful Fidget Spinner Sunday at Citi Field?

The first reason to fidget was deGrom was out after six, having thrown 102 pitches. The spinning out of control commenced with the entrance of Paul Sewald, who I am told is quite the competent rookie reliever, though I’m apparently in another room most of the times he’s recording enormous outs. Usually my two eyes on his right arm is bad news for all of our guts. Sewald taking the ball from deGrom was as unpleasant to witness as that every half-inning coffee commercial in which Rob Gronkowski grabs the megaphone from Odell Beckham. This is to say I’ve seen what happens enough already.

Sewald began his beguine [7] and our downfall by walking Schebler. Next, Tucker Barnhart singled. The next batter, Patrick Kivlehan, went down on strikes. The next, Jose Peraza, did something even more helpful. He grounded into a sure 6-4-3 double play. Amed Rosario whipped one out into Reyes’s glove. Reyes, alas, whipped the second half of the twin-killing wide of first. Smith reeled the relay in, but Peraza was plenty safe. No DP, no slithering out of the inning for Sewald. Instead, National League All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart came up with two on and reminded us why he earned a donkey from Joey Votto (that’s not old-timey baseball slang; it really happened [8]). Cozart dunked Sewald’s eighteenth and final pitch into the short left field stands to tie the game at five.

No fifteenth win for deGrom. Not much zest left in the #17in17 dream. And the year of Sundays at Citi Field continued unabated.

Good things could have happened still. Dominic, for example, could have moved up from second on a passed ball/wild pitch in the seventh with two out and set up a go-ahead score with birthday boy Phillip (or Phil) Evans batting, except when Smith attempted to run ninety feet, he found himself rumbling into a third out. Speed may not be our young first baseman’s strong suit.

Terrible things didn’t have to happen after. Jeurys Familia started the eighth, which was kind of optimistic, given that Familia hasn’t worked in consecutive games since he returned. He was sharp Saturday night. He wasn’t Sunday afternoon. Eugenio Suarez tagged him for a leadoff single. A sac bunt from Phillip (not Phil) Ervin bunted him to second. The Mets chose to walk Schebler, who had demonstrated his issues with running earlier in right. Barnhart doubled beyond the grasp of Juan Lagares. Ervin was sure to score to make it 6-5. Schebler was told to stop running by his third base coach to preserve his chance to score later.

But, nah, Schebler had figured out how to make tracks and he was gonna show off his new skill. Never mind Lagares is Lagares and that he made a peg to Rosario who relayed a laser a little to the right of d’Arnaud, but not too far right and in plenty of time to pencil in an 8-6-2 putout. All Travis had to do was turn and lay a sweep tag on the errantly approaching Schebler, and the Mets could still perhaps sweep this series.

Td’A made a beautiful tag…of home plate. He missed Schebler altogether. The runner who shouldn’t have been running was initially called out, but the camera, at Bryan Price’s request, ultimately spilled its truth. Schebler was safe. Terry Collins was livid and ejected. The Reds were ahead by two, preparing to lead and win by five once Hansel Robles emerged from hiding to enable souvenir collection up in the branded beverage pavilion for anyone who arrived too late to receive a fidget spinner. In the seconds after Barnhart went high and deep to right, I’d mentally traded, waived or unconditionally released every Met in uniform. So much for finishing strong.

Robles’s predictable rendering of another launch code was brought to us by Betty Crocker, as it was essentially the icing on the Reds’ cake. Once the dude who shouldn’t have run from third to home wasn’t tagged, this game was baked and burned. And once TC was thrown out post-review for asking an umpire, in so many words, “Huh?” the 2017 Mets were embodied in one extended sequence. All that was missing was Collins stepping on deGrom’s hand as he stomped back to his office, though I wouldn’t rule that out of appearing in Tuesday’s edition of the daily injury roundup [9].

Your final: Sunday overwhelms the Mets, 10-5. The Reds technically get the W, but we know the real score on a Sunday. Always on a Sunday.