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The Night the Mets Didn’t Lose

For not long would they tell of the night the New York Mets of September of Two Thousand Seventeen didn’t lose. An ostensibly memorable win in a month that begged to be forgotten never stood much of a chance to survive amid a forever unspooling narrative whose natural bias leaned toward critical mass. Wins sprouting gloriously among more wins can be celebrated into eternity [1]. One win briefly noted deep within a forest of losses is a tree that tends to hide from view.

But the night — the night the Mets didn’t lose — really and truly happened. Partake in its tale before it is fully committed to obscurity.

It was a night when the Mets were expected to lose because the Mets lost most every night in September of Two Thousand Seventeen.

It was a night when the Mets were expected to lose because the Mets lost especially frequently and extremely painfully to their evening’s opponent, the vastly better equipped Washington Nationals.

It was a night when the Mets were expected to lose because these Mets were not constructed to win. They were not constructed. They were accumulated, mostly.

In September of Two Thousand Seventeen, there were Mets and there was winning, and the two were almost invariably kept a respectful distance from one another.

It was a night at Citi Field when the Nationals led the Mets six to one in the middle of the fifth inning, suggesting an inevitable final score of Nationals twelve Mets two by the end of the ninth. The numbers were on pace to pile up on and topple all over the New York Mets of September of Two Thousand Seventeen.

Yet it didn’t unravel that way. It didn’t unravel at all. The Friday night ballgame surprised its onlookers and probably itself. From six to one in the middle of the fifth, the game turned to six-six by the top of the sixth. And by the top of the seventh, somehow, the Mets led the Nationals seven to six. These, mind you, were not exactly the Nationals who had been division champions officially for nearly two weeks and essentially for more than five months. Those Nationals were on hiatus, resting and refueling in advance of their next significant contest, sometime in October, sometime after the New York Mets of September of Two Thousand Seventeen will have ceased to exist.

No, these Nationals did not play their regulars. But then again, these Mets did not have regulars.

In a previous life — a September earlier, two Septembers earlier — these Mets were not these Mets. They were other Mets. Those Mets preceding these Mets were different. They were successful [2]. They were popular. Surprisingly, a knowing look at these Mets revealed connective tissue between those Mets and these Mets. There were players who played for both versions. A few even predated the predecessors, going back to the Mets who were not yet different, successful and popular. It wasn’t so long before — three, maybe four Septembers earlier — that those players were striving to make a difference [3], achieve success, generate popularity. How it all rose upward and then plunged downward so quickly was too dizzying to consider accurately. Were we sure this was the same franchise?

It was. There had been a Travis d’Arnaud [4], a Juan Lagares [5], a Jeurys Familia [6] before the Mets would fairly be assessed as good. Then there were those same players as the Mets commenced to being indisputably good. Finally, in September of Two Thousand Seventeen, they were still Mets, part of the irregular Mets, the Mets for whom there was no expectation of victory, no sense of capability, little hint they could do anything well.

Somehow, though, for one Friday night they did. D’Arnaud hit two home runs, including the three-run shot that tied the score at six. Lagares registered two base hits, crossed home plate twice and took away from the Nationals a chance to ignite a response rally when he dove, he caught and he betrayed no obvious physical agony, a rarity when Mets would meet ground. Familia, mostly missing from these Mets, returned to prominence if only for a batter, striking out the last National and earning his first save since the world was young…or at least since he was being aided by teammates named Walker and Rivera and Granderson and Bruce.

They were all gone by this Friday night, the night Familia achieved his fourth save of the Two Thousand Seventeen season. So were erstwhile teammates Salas and Reed, two who pitched in front of Familia on the occasion of his previous save. So was Duda, who was on the disabled list at that intersection of time and space, foretelling where practically everybody who was known as a Met would sooner or later land if they hadn’t landed there already. In all honesty, hope was gone before the lot of the former Mets were off to other, happier precincts. Familia’s third save of the Two Thousand Seventeen season had occurred on May the Fifth. The Mets already trailed the Nationals by six-and-half games.

September of Two Thousand Seventeen eventually arrived. The Mets barely appeared, and then primarily in highly irregular fashion. Mets you thought would be gone, too, like Cabrera. Mets you were surprised to discover were Mets, like Aoki. Mets who pitched in relief in lieu of Familia (including a faux closer named Ramos who was still so enmeshed in his innate Marlininity [7] that their new prospective ownership probably schemed [8] to dismiss him all over again). Mets who started instead of perceived ace Syndergaard (though Syndergaard was suddenly deemed ready to start again, albeit just a touch [9]). When Washington came to New York on September the Twenty-Second, the Mets trailed the Nationals by twenty-seven games.

After that Friday night — after d’Arnaud, Lagares and Familia reminded those who still maintained vigilance that they were the same Mets they used to be; after Cabrera and Aoki contributed as meaningfully as any Mets could; after every Mets reliever not named Ramos warded off whichever Nationals the Nationals chose to unleash upon the Mets — the margin was twenty-six. Oh yes, these Mets had won, seven to six [10]. What seemed anywhere from unlikely to impossible had, in fact, occurred.

September of Two Thousand Seventeen went on. It was remembered, when it was remembered, for the nights the Mets didn’t win. Those were plentiful and pervasive. But perhaps now that you know there was a night the Mets didn’t lose, well, maybe you’ll kindly mention it to somebody else someday, just so somebody else understands it really and truly happened.