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

The First Step Is to Stop Falling

Teams in freefall have a certain stink to them — a weird funk of despair and anger, disbelief and anxiety. The relievers will self-destruct, the bats will fail, the defense will falter, the umps and/or fate will intervene. Players and fans alike carry themselves as if they know it and are just waiting for the inevitable to arrive. It’s a malady that grows worse and worse, until the afflicted team takes the field looking like each player is carrying a pallet of bricks on his shoulders. Leading feels like cruelty; being tied feels like a death sentence.

That’s been the Mets of the last week or so — an outfit braced for impact.

What a team in the throes of such things desperately needs is a normal game, one that wouldn’t demand particular comment in other circumstances. And — thankfully, miraculously, wonderfully — that’s what the Mets got on Wednesday night. They won — holy shit they actually won — by an undramatic 4-1 score, concluding a 3-5 road trip that only felt like an 0-800 debacle.

And you know what? It was a pretty darn good game, too.

The signs weren’t exactly auspicious at the beginning. First, Jason Vargas [1] was pitching, which has generally not gone well this year. (Let’s add that he was taking the place of Noah Syndergaard [2], who will supposedly only miss a start, i.e. is most likely dead.)

Vargas, however, looked OK. In fact, he looked great, keeping the Braves off-balance for five innings. So of course he was pulled leading 1-0. (In fairness, he was pitching on three days’ rest.)

Enter … Tim Peterson [3]?

[4]

No, I didn’t make that up.

If you knew who Tim Peterson was before Wednesday, well, my cap is tipped. I had no idea. Neither had I heard of Scott Copeland [5], called up alongside Peterson and the briefly glimpsed Buddy Baumann [6] as part of a dizzy carousel of player moves. Copeland’s most recent baseball card, BTW, is a Korean League offering from a set called — and I’m not making this up — Foreign Attack.

Peterson put up a scoreless inning and nearly hit a line single in his first big-league AB, but then gave up a run to Johan Camargo [7], now enshrined as the 145,982nd Brave to torment the Mets in Atlanta.

The Braves had a run, but the Mets had put up another one for Peterson — and in heartening fashion. Amed Rosario [8] (whose plate discipline is rapidly improving) tripled, and Brandon Nimmo [9] (whose everything is rapidly improving) singled him in. Those two would be back at it again in the ninth, authoring a double-double that gave closer du jour Robert Gsellman [10] a 4-1 lead to defend.

In between, Rosario saved the Mets by making the kind of play neither he nor they have been able to make of late. In the eighth, Jeurys Familia [11] gave up one-out singles to Ozzie Albies [12] and Freddie Freeman [13] to bring Nick Markakis [14] to the plate with the tying runs on.

That was the disaster right there, the inevitable cave-in that would seem foreordained later. We all knew it. Markakis slapped a hard grounder past Familia, up the middle, and oh boy.

Except Rosario dove and corraled it, the ball almost tumbling out of his glove but remaining safely ensconced, and flipped it into the bare hand of Asdrubal Cabera, who pivoted neatly and fired to Adrian Gonzalez [15]. Just like that, the Mets were out of the inning and, as it turned out, out of danger.

Rosario and Nimmo. If you squint a bit, you can imagine those names being paired in a decade’s worth of happy recaps like this one. That’s getting ahead of ourselves, of course; for now, they’re young players figuring out the things young players have to figure out. But at least for a night, they gave the Mets two related things that they desperately needed: a win [16], and a normal, no-fuss game.