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To Those Sticking It Out

Bravo to all the stalwarts who came out to Citi Field on a night water droplets were falling from the sky, accompanied by hits sprinkling a perplexed Noah Syndergaard [1]. Winter-hat night seemed perfectly well timed. Imagine the attendance if a certain third baseman who most definitely is not experiencing [2] a rift with his employeers, no absolutely not thank you nothing to see here, had been activated, but oh well.

Noah looked pretty good early, a start after throttling the Giants for a complete game, but the middle innings saw the Phillies racking up both walks and hits. Noah’s 109th pitch was a 98 MPH fastball that Cesar Hernandez [3] turned around into a 110 MPH fastball to Syndergaard’s ribs, dropping him on the mound to crawl after the ball and then leave the game.

It was an awful moment, but X-rays were negative, Noah was full of jokes after the game and all seems well, so … exhale.

Fortunately — to use the word in the lesser, between-the-lines sense — the Mets were raining hits of their own down on Zach Eflin and his successors (his many successors), who collectively hung an absurd number of breaking pitches. The Mets certainly showed their gratitude. Tomas Nido [4] picked up strikeout victim Dom Smith by whacking a one-out, bases-clearing double in the second, Todd Frazier [5] launched a three-run homer an inning later, Michael Conforto [6] chipped in a solo shot, and the Mets had enough firepower to keep the Phils at bay. (Tip of the cap to Jerry Blevins [7], who fanned old friend Jose Bautista [8] after Syndergaard’s exit, preventing a laugher from threatening to become a groaner.)

Mets 10, Phillies 5 [9]. Somewhere Jacob deGrom [10] is being stoic.

The box score has a couple of interesting stories in it — and here, I’m using definitely “interesting” in a “September of a lost season” way. Nido’s career began in a rather surreal fashion, as he collected his first hit at Wrigley Field and three minutes later ended a game by being tagged out approximately 25 feet from home. (Narrator: “That’s so 2017 Mets!”) Nido’s not being billed as the Mets’ catcher of the future, perhaps because the previous owners of that tag can be found on the disabled list or hitting in the .230s, but his defense has drawn plaudits and he does have a Florida State League batting title on his resume. That guarantees success about as much as a three-run double on a misty night, but it ain’t nothing.

Blevins’s year began miserably. Regarded as one of the trustworthy components of the Mets’ pen, he walked two guys in his first appearance and stumbled through horrific stretches in mid-April and late May, with his struggles perhaps not helped by Mickey Callaway [11]‘s decision-making. (Remember Blevins getting caught shaking his head in disgust when not called upon at Citizens Bank?) His ERA sat at an unsightly 5.84 on Memorial Day, but since then Blevins has whittled it down to a more palatable 3.65. It’s still not a year Blevins will want to discuss when he’s on a porch in his rocking chair — hey, maybe the problem was that he finally got a Topps card as a Met — but it and he look a lot better than they once did.

Finally, how will the Phillies view 2018? They vaulted back into contention a year or two ahead of schedule and are battling for the division title with the equally precocious Braves, but neither team is exactly coming to the wire like a thoroughbred. Odds are that won’t mean anything come October, when the Mets and their own implosion of a season will be a memory. But the Mets are at least getting a chance to play spoiler, battling two teams that had fun summers but look like they’ve suddenly become all too aware of what’s possible.