Collecting the first 23 outs went well enough.
Yes, Bryce Harper  hit a broken-bat home run that you’ll see forever and/or will go down in infamy as an emblem of this new juiced-ball era. I’ve seen broken-bat homers, but they’re usually the stuff of a few flakes and splinters and a short porch. The heavy end of Harper’s bat went flying, as did the ball — it came down a cool 406 feet away. The man’s prodigiously good at baseball, but even by his lofty standards that was absurd.
Absurd, but apparently no big whoop. The Mets quickly tied the game and then pulled ahead, and Jacob deGrom  was cruising along, riding fastball variants and a killer slider to drop Nats like bowling pins. He came out for the eighth with 11 strikeouts and a five-run lead. The Mets had turned a 4-1 cushion into what looked like a rout thanks to a Brandon Nimmo  triple and an Asdrubal Cabrera  homer into whatever the Pepsi Porch is called now, on an 0-2 pitch no less. The fans were serenading a chilly Harper, the Mets were about to be 13-2, and all was not just well with the world but so freaking good that as a Met fan you needed to pinch yourself hourly just to check you wouldn’t wake up with a yelp and discover it was 3 a.m. and the Mets were actually 4-11 and mired in nagging injuries and dumb controversies.
DeGrom allowed a leadoff single to Moises Sierra  in the eighth, but fanned Michael Taylor  and went to work on Trea Turner , who’d done the opposite of covering himself in glory earlier in the game by stealing to take the bat out of Harper’s hands. DeGrom got two quick strikes on Turner, but he refused to bite at three bait pitches, fouled off a pair of fastballs and singled, ending deGrom’s night. Which was the right call — deGrom had expended 19 pitches in the eighth, taking him above 100, and the Mets’ bullpen had been more or less impeccable.
Well, at least until tonight, when the record scratched.
(Aside: Is that term something nobody understands any longer, or will it linger despite no one actually connecting it to a now essentially unknown physical event?)
Enter Jerry Blevins  to deal with Harper and the bases loaded. Not ideal, but the Mets still had a 6-1 lead. Blevins surrendered a two-run single. 6-3 Mets. Exit Jerry Blevins.
Enter A.J. Ramos, who struck out Ryan Zimmerman  on a somewhat generous call. The Mets had a three-run lead with four outs to get, and it seemed like the preceding drama would be a minor bit of added excitement.
Ramos remained to deal with Pedro Severino , who looks like he’s developing into an annoyingly capable catcher at a time when the Mets are going with Plan C and Plan D. Severino singled to reload the bases.
Ramos remained and walked old friend Matt Reynolds  to make it 6-4 Mets. Exit Ramos.
Familia then hit Sierra, batting for the second time in the inning. Bases reloaded.
Familia then walked Taylor. 7-6 Nats. Did you know the Mets walked in 20 runs in 2017? I had either never noticed that excruciating factoid or suppressed it.
Turner then lined out, but yeah.
All that was bad enough, but the Mets had more horrors to inflict. In the ninth, with one out and the Mets down 8-6 thanks to a Kendrick homer allowed by Hansel Robles , Cabrera doubled to left to give the Mets at least some faint hope — that was Michael Conforto  at the plate, after all. A ball in the dirt squirted away from Severino and Cabrera … took off for third? What in the name of Jay Payton  did he think he was doing?
Cabrera was called out at third. The Mets challenged, because Difo’s tag had been ill-advisedly aimed at Cabrera’s leg instead of the bag and because why not. Cabrera was reaffirmed as out, not just on video evidence but also on general principles dating back to King Kelly  and Wee Willie Keeler . He slunk back to the dugout, somehow having had the worst 4-for-5 night imaginable, and Conforto lined out to make things officially dismal .
I mean, shit. We all knew 12-2 was not a sustainable pace, the bullpen wasn’t this good, the Mets would not in fact always come back to win, and so on and so on and so on. But that’s not to say we all thought regression to the mean would get crammed into a single inning of relentless, slow-building suck.
This was one of those games that leaves a mark. After it was over, everyone connected with the Mets — Cabrera, the bullpen, the ill-advised Citi Field taunters of Harper, and all of us fans on our couches who smugly dispensed with Very Important Fan Rituals — needed to sit in a dark room for an hour and Think About What They Did.
Now that the sentence has been served, it’s time to move on to the next game, for better or suddenly how the hell is it possible we’re feeling like this for worse. The Mets are 12-3. That’s pretty good. 12-4 would still be pretty good, but it would feel shakier than it ought to. So let’s not do that. Guys who actually play: no shaking off the catcher, no missing location on 3-2, no streaking for the next base when your run is cosmetic. Guys and gals who form the vast non-playing auxiliary: no serenading still-dangerous MVP candidates, no tweeting snickering questions about whether Washington is still in the league, no switching rooms with the game still in doubt. We’ve all seen what can happen. We don’t need it happening any more.