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The Joys of Not Losing

The Mets played a baseball game in Cincinnati Monday night — and, for the first time in eight days, ended the night as winners.

That’s the unalloyed good news. The rest, well, it’s a matter of perspective.

The Mets hit the baseball with authority, something they hadn’t done in quite some time. Michael Conforto [1] — who may be injured, rusty, slumping, unlucky, or some combination of those things — hit the second pitch from Homer Bailey [2] into the nearly empty left-field seats. Jay Bruce [3] homered. So did Adrian Gonzalez [4] — twice. Amed Rosario [5] had a pair of doubles and a sacrifice fly, which is close enough.

It seems cruel to squint at such welcome events, particularly after so lengthy an absence of themt. But Bailey hasn’t been an effective big-league pitcher since 2014, the Reds hit three home runs of their own, and after an initial flurry of scoring the Mets did a depressing number of lunkheaded things on the basepaths and in the coaching boxes. And if the Mets have become a tire fire, the Reds are an underground blaze eating away at a coal seam below an abandoned town. The scoreboard says the Mets won [6], 7-6; it gets closer to the heart of the matter to suggest the Reds proved better at losing.

But hey, Yoenis Cespedes [7] played and didn’t seem to damage anything. And we got a chance to see the 1,050th Met in club history, in the person of Irish-born lefty P.J. Conlon [8].

I had no particular awareness of Conlon beyond hazy spring-training memories and knowing he’d ascended the prospect ranks high enough to be considered Potentially Useful, which sounds snarky but is actually high praise given the pitiless filter of minor-league ball. Viewed with more careful attention, Conlon is a lefty chucker with Rube Goldberg mechanics that hide the ball while making the team physician blanch — he looks like a shoulder and/or elbow injury waiting to happen. He doesn’t throw hard and never did, but that meant he arrived having had to outthink hitters he couldn’t overpower, learning to change speeds and live on the edges of the strike zone.

Conlon did that for a while, until the Reds got a longer look at him and started centering balls. I suspect that one-game scouting report may describe his career — a few trips through the league and the ubiquity of video may well make that deceptive delivery less mysterious. I’d love to be wrong, of course; even if I’m not, it’s always fun seeing a big-league debut. Conlon looked like there wasn’t enough air out there, and his every move was cheered by a large rooting section featuring his parents, well-wishers (one kissing a prayer card in particularly tense moments) and jubilantly displayed Irish flags.

Conlon wasn’t around enough to give those folks the reward of a win, but he did collect his first hit. Which, it turns out, hastened his departure — he jammed his thumb, couldn’t feel his pitches, and was pulled in the fourth.

And honestly, can you imagine a more perfect introduction to life as a Met than that?