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The Loss Store Called

Betcha didn’t realize that twenty years after Seinfeld went off the air, George Costanza really did get that executive job with the Mets [1]. You can tell by the way the Mets decided to institute the same “opposite [2]” policy George put to such good use where changing his luck was concerned.

“Instead of starting Jacob deGrom [3] against the Phillies in the daytime on roughly his regular rest, we’ll start him against the Marlins, at night, with more than a week between starts!”

Never mind that deGrom owns the Phillies, is the king of daylight and was scheduled to deal per usual on Sunday. The Costantzan Mets took a look at the forecast and judged it ready to rain all that afternoon.

But it didn’t rain on Sunday, Jerry. It didn’t rain. Or it didn’t rain enough to delay the game once it commenced. And it didn’t rain enough to play havoc with the starting pitcher. The Mets scored a half-dozen and won, supporting not Jacob deGrom, but Drew Gagnon [4]. Gagnon’s Cy Young chances remained unaffected.

That was OK, George or whoever is in charge of such decisions said. We’ll pitch Jake on Monday. Monday it will be just fine.

But it rained on Monday, Jerry. It rained enough so that you would have needed a marine biologist [5] to find the mound at Citi Field. It rained so much that the Mets actually postponed a game hours before anybody would have shown up (though not that many would have shown up).

Thus, we got Jake on seven days’ rest versus a team that seems to find a way to beat him more than anybody else does. DeGrom aficionados (deGromcionados?) will always remember that time Jake struck out the first eight Marlins he faced [6]…and was no-decisioned as the Mets lost.

That happened at night. Not that Jake pitching at night is night & day versus Jake pitching during the day, but when you’re seeking every possible edge, every little bit helps. And that’s what the Mets gave Jake on Tuesday night: every little bit.

Correction: a very little bit.

Jake pitched seven innings against the Marlins. Six of them were typically brilliant. One, the fourth, was perfectly Marlinian. Two outs, then two soft hits, then an oh-two pitch that Lewis Brinson, whom I now detest, hit far enough that even a defensive specialist center fielder like Austin Jackson couldn’t reach before it banged off the wall. Two runs scored on the double, which is to say the Mets trailed by two. As previously reported, the Mets did a very little bit to help Jake, and none of it involved generating offense versus Jose Ureña to that point.

I had the feeling Brinson would get to deGrom, I swear I did. Never mind that it was oh-and-two. Never mind that nobody had doubled, tripled or homered all year when Jake had a batter oh-and-two (batters were 10-for-103 in those situations entering Tuesday, according to Sports Info Solutions’ resident maven Mark Simon). The freaking fourth had that sense of doom hanging over it. Two were out, nobody was on, McNeil can’t corral a grounder, Conforto can’t get to a bloop, the booth is telling us what a disappointment Lewis Brinson has been…the feeling was palpable. For the record, I also had a feeling on Sunday that the whole “let’s hold Jake back for Monday because maybe it won’t rain then” was gonna not yield paydirt come Tuesday.

The Mets are being operated by George Costanza and I’m channeling Morris Albert [7]. Feelings. Nothing more than feelings.

The Mets — Michael Conforto [8], specifically — eventually produced an entire run for deGrom. Many nights or days that would be generous. Tuesday it represented a half-hearted gesture. Jacob was removed from the game trailing, 2-1. When the Mets took great care not to score for him in the bottom of the seventh, he couldn’t get a win. When Anthony Swarzak rematerialized from purgatory to surrender a home run and Robert Gsellman tossed a couple more on the fire, a no-decision landed out of his reach. Kevin Plawecki prettied up the final (5-3) with a two-run jack in the ninth, but it was too late [9] for Jake’s Cy Young case to look any better.

DeGrom has a 1.71 ERA; it was 1.68. He’s thrown 26 consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs, a record nobody knew existed until he set it. The only opponent to whom he’s surrendered a fourth run in a game this year? Why, the Marlins, of course (on April 10, when no Mets fan’s wardrobe was complete without a crisp new Salt & Pepper tee). He’s Quigley Quality when it comes to executing nothing but that kind of start since early in the season. He’s an absolute clinic [10] in pitching every five or six, seven or even eight days. And, um, he’s 8-9. We forthright citizens of Metsopotamia don’t recognize that as valid or legitimate or relevant, but they do keep track of that noise.

At least he didn’t get rained on on Sunday, huh?

Hindsight’s quite the smug bastard. Had the Mets not adhered to their inner Costanza, Jacob would have pitched when he was supposed to, taking on the opponent he regularly dominates, in the daypart during which he’s untouchable…and cats and dogs would have come down in buckets, and we’d wonder why the Mets hadn’t had the sense to hold out Jake as gray skies clearly threatened.

Clouds follow this team and its ace around. No matter how you try to strategize this stuff, it backfires. Now there are only three deGrom starts remaining instead of four (unless Jake is permitted to go on three days’ rest in the last game of the season, after which he’ll have all winter to recover). It’s hard to imagine one start will make the difference between our man accepting a prestigious trophy or a sincere pat on the back. The earned run average seems pretty secure in its sub-two subdivision. Baseball is simply better when Jacob deGrom is pitching [11]. However many fewer innings of that there is, we are that much more diminished.

No wonder it rained so hard on Monday in New York. Surely the heavens did the math, realized Jake was about to be shortchanged a start, and started to weep. That’s my feeling.