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Quality Stops

The 25-minute sogginess delay at the outset. The third starting catcher in three starts. The unfamiliar opponent from the uninvited league. The ballpark and broadcast advertisements for a namesake casino that misidentifies his number. The odds that it had to happen eventually. The species of which every member is human.

Jacob deGrom [1] did not throw a quality start on Tuesday night versus the Minnesota Twins at clammy Citi Field. He did not pitch six innings or more. He did not limit opposing batters to three runs or less. The outs he generated were loud and infrequent. The hits he surrendered were louder and continual. There was nothing to deGrom’s four-inning, six-run, eight-hit, three-homer performance to suggest he is the best pitcher in professional baseball, let alone the pitcher who shares statistical space with Bob Gibson [2].

For that, we’ll have to rely on the previous 26 starts when No. 48 was the personification of beautiful music [3] and the comprehension that one ugly outing is a blip, not a trend. They don’t take action on sports [4], but even if they did, I doubt the savviest oddsmakers at Jake’s 58 [5] — which refers to an exit on the LIE, not our ace’s ERA — would bet on this kind of night befalling deGrom again soon, never mind often.

Sadly, Tuesday’s long shot wager that somebody would sooner or later stick it to deGrom paid off. That’ll happen when inverses are wild. Balls that normally confound did not move until whacked hard and far. Presumed put away pitches were never unpacked. The magic of Miami morphed into miasma versus Minnesota. Travis d’Arnaud [6], catching anybody for the first time in a year, was on the receiving end instead of everybody else. DeGrom persevered triumphantly with Wilson Ramos [7] on Opening Day. He elevated Tomás Nido [8] to such an extent that the relative neophyte last week referred to catching his teammate as an honor. We know the rapport Jacob built with Devin Mesoraco en route to the 2018 Cy Young.

D’Arnaud isn’t any of those backstops, but it’s not like he and Jake have never formed a functioning battery before (59 times before Tuesday). With Travis at last uninjured and Ramos requiring as many Buffalo breaks as can be rustled up, it’s not unreasonable to see Td’A penciled into the 2 position on our scorecards. If any pitcher figured to ease a long-absent catcher back into a big league groove, His Smoothness Himself was an optimal option. So let’s not hang this non-quality start on the catcher (except maybe the Twins’ catcher, Mitch Garver, who blasted two of those home runs off Jake). D’Arnaud will be there for deGrom again and deGrom will be there for all of us.

When Jake left shockingly early, the Mets trailed, 6-1. When everybody filed out, the Mets had lost, 14-8 [9], and Stephen Colbert was winding down his monologue. That and the ten baseballs Citi Field couldn’t contain should tell you deGrom wasn’t the only pitcher on either side several exits east of effective. Twin bats were smoking, sure (they ordered six of those taters), but their arms were in ashes. Minny starter Kyle Gibson couldn’t make it through five. Six relievers followed him, none exactly saving the bullpen unless you count Chase De Jong, who came on in the ninth to protect a 14-4 lead and expended 46 pitches in the service of the final three outs, the third of which wasn’t obtained until six Mets reached base and four those crossed home plate. Lest we feel high and mighty about our late-night momentum, the Twins had only (only?) 10 runs total entering the top of the ninth. Then along came Jason Vargas to get some work in, presumably because Kevin Plawecki and Jose Reyes are no longer on the roster. Vargas was VERY VARGAS [10], Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman nearly as much.

The Mets have been outscored 26-17 in their past two games. It doesn’t speak well for those who teed up the 26, but the 17 part implies certain inherent charms. I mean, runs…right? Who doesn’t like those? We simply request a more equitable allotment.

Six of the eight the Mets managed from perpetually behind Tuesday night were driven in by players whose names end in an “o,” which seems apropos given that their collective impact on the Mets’ fortunes in the game added up to 0. Yet solace is to be had in Amed Rosario stroking three hits; Brandon Nimmo lifting himself off the dinger schneid; Michael Conforto going deep day after day; and, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Swoboda, Pete Alonso [11] writing a new foreword to the Met record book. The first baseman whose service time clock ticks on sans regret hit two more home runs Tuesday to bring his season and lifetime total to five. No Met rookie before Pete had hit five home runs in his first ten career games. No rookie of any kind had accumulated eleven extra-base knocks in his first ten career games. Pete has. If his unprecedented power display doesn’t fully make up for the first Met losing streak of 2019, it sure as hell makes you look forward to the Mets’ next chance to break it.