At the beginning of the year I meticulously record the Mets in order of appearance, a bit of ceremony that sustains me until everyone from that initial version of the 25-man roster has stepped between the lines. (Met No. 25 usually comes down to the fifth starter, the reliever whose role is least defined, or the position player whose role is least defined.)
I attend to the end of the year with far less ceremony, but I’m still always conscious of players’ final bows — starting pitchers whose next turn will require a new calendar, guys exiting from Game 162, and players whose nagging injuries and/or workload preclude further work as a cautionary measure. We’re already into that part of the year: Zack Wheeler  will start no more, while Wilmer Flores  has been shut down with early-onset arthritis in both knees. Wheeler’s being excused further duty is nothing to fret about: he looked gassed early in his last two starts, understandable after his big jump in innings, and can begin the winter justifiably excited about having crafted a breakout season. Wilmer’s case is more frettable: arthritis can be a career-wrecker, and it’s already uncertain how he fits on a 2019 roster that will likely be clogged with first basemen natural and otherwise.
But those are stories to explore later; for now, guys and games are both coming off the board and the finish line is not just in sight but approaching rapidly.
All that kept bumping its way into mind as the Mets and Nationals played what started as an unlikely pitchers’ duel and degenerated into a hide-your-eyes farce  on Thursday night.
It started elegantly enough: Max Scherzer  was marvelous, fanning Mets left and right, but made bad pitches to Michael Conforto  and Jay Bruce  that proved worth three runs. And meanwhile Jason Vargas ‘s good doppelganger had shown up to shut down the Nats.
Except then the Mets’ bullpen got involved. This time the culprits weren’t any of the baby relievers, but Anthony Swarzak  and Robert Gsellman . (Are the rest of you as excited about another year of watching Swarzak as I am?) When they completed their work the game was tied, Scherzer and Vargas were long gone, and nothing that followed was any kind of advertisement for spending your night at the ballpark.
This is about the time of year that I get wistful knowing the curtain’s going to come down. But I’d rather stare out the window and wait for spring than see anything resembling what the Mets and Nats inflicted on us in extra innings. The added shame of it is that back in March or April, you could have looked at the calendar and plausibly circled NYM at WAS 9/20 as a potentially important game; when that date arrived, you got two crummy teams flailing spastically away at each other in an empty stadium.
The lowlights have smeared together into a merciful haze, but wow there were a lot of them. Jack Reinheimer  being sent to the plate to deliver a fly ball against a pitcher who’d just walked two guys and meekly tapping the second pitch back to the mound for a double play. Jose Reyes  proving utterly inept at bunting, making it official that he is now terrible at everything. The Mets insisting on having Jeff McNeil  bunt multiple times, a risible idea considering he can actually hit and success would just mean the Nats walking Conforto. Austin Jackson , whose one marketable skill is camouflaging his inability to do anything, striking out and freezing in center on contact. I could go on, but I’m getting annoyed all over again.
There are games where you can sense the inevitable coming and wait grimly for it to arrive, but extra-inning farces have no blueprint — you’re trapped in them, sometimes happily and sometimes not, until they spit you out. So of course the Mets got that long-sought run by sending Jose Lobaton  — last seen showing questionable judgment by trying to drive a rat out of hiding in the Fenway dugout — to the plate. And of course the Mets, having somehow already survived Jacob Rhame  on the mound, sent Paul Sewald  to secure the save.
The record books will show that the Mets won and the Nationals lost. But honestly, the L belongs to all of us who stuck with this one, including you for revisiting it from the safety of the next day and getting all the way to these words. Go sit somewhere and think about what you’ve done.