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Can’t Any Bunny Here Play This Game?

Fine with me if you dug into a basketful of chocolate bunnies, creme eggs and jelly beans on Sunday. Or macaroons, mandel cuts and leftover sponge cake. Whatever kind of peep you fancy yourself, I do hope you didn’t confine yourself to only sweets and treats. No matter how festive the occasion, filling up exclusively from the candy & cake plank of the food pyramid doesn’t make for a well-rounded diet.

You know what you can snack on too many of to the exclusion of what’s good for you? Solo home runs. I love a solo home run now and then. Everybody does. But that’s not a meal. It’s a sugar rush at best, and not the kind you get when Edwin “Sugar” Diaz rushes in from the bullpen to successfully protect a ninth-inning lead.

Nevertheless, the Mets attempted to create a feast from four leavened fly balls on Easter Sunday/the second day of Passover in St. Louis. Each was tasty. A couple were so brightly wrapped you were tempted to paste the foil in your scrapbook. But altogether they weren’t enough [1] by themselves to help the Mets pass over the Cardinals on the scoreboard or rise in the NL East standings.

You want clickable highlights? You got to press “PLAY” to your heart’s content, albeit in a losing cause. Pete Alonso [2] going 444 feet off erstwhile college rival Dakota Hudson was immediate social media gold [3], especially with the backstory that he beseeched Mickey Callaway to let him play the day after a pitch hit him in the hand. “I must rain down plagues on the House of Hudson!” Alonso righteously thundered as dramatic prelude to his eighth homer of the young year. Or Sweet Pete simply pestered his manager persistently [4] and, ultimately, effectively. Either way, Alonso got even with whatever forces he had it in for in the first inning, launching a ball so far that it was not only hit off a Dakota, it probably landed in one.

But it was one run.

Noah Syndergaard [5], this generation’s Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden when it comes to pitchers homering, was another video clip darling [6] Sunday. In the fourth, a long Thor fly cleared the Busch Stadium fence, spiked for a point by Cardinal middle blocker Dexter Fowler, whose unorthodox defense in the moment — the ball bounced off his glove — would have been welcome by the Redbird faithful had the wall been a net and the sport been volleyball. In baseball, however, the center fielder’s gotta catch those to keep the opponent from scoring. We who don’t dress in red didn’t mind the assist one little bit. We adore when our pitchers homer. We are practically used to having our anti-DH stance so brilliantly illustrated. Twenty Nineteen marks the fifth consecutive season in which we have witnessed two or more home runs slugged by Met pitchers, and Syndergaard’s latest raised the Met pitcher tater total for the 2010s to fourteen, tying the 1980s Mets for most in a decade, with 141 games remaining to set a new standard.

But it was one run.

By the time Noah crossed home plate with his fifth career home run — trailing only Gooden’s seven and Seaver’s six among Met hurlers — he’d already given up five runs. True, his shortstop’s leather wasn’t necessarily kosher for baseball…and the official judgment of balls and strikes was best suited for Charmin (please don’t squeeze the Syndergaard)…but Noah knew better than to blame Amed Rosario or Bruce Dreckman. “Unacceptable,” the starter called his pitching this season to date, clear through to his five innings of six-run ball in St. Louis, which left his 2019 ERA festering at 5.90. Nobody watching from New York was prepared to argue his self-aware point let alone accept his recent output. Syndergaard is a very talented pitcher who’s delivered some spectacular games for the Mets since 2015. Right now he’s more famous than good.

The rest of the Mets’ offense was Robinson Cano [7] hitting a solo home run in the fifth; Robinson Cano being hit by a pitch in the seventh; Robinson Cano writhing on the ground in pain; Robinson Cano having been deemed by crew chief and third base ump Paul Emmel to have swung for a strike despite being hit by said pitch before he swung; Robinson Cano leaving the game with a two-strike count; Juan Lagares entering to complete Robinson Cano’s jury-rigged strikeout; and Michael Conforto [8] hitting a solo home run two batters later. You can’t swear Conforto’s shot would have happened had Lagares been on first as a pinch-runner instead of on the bench as a technically blameless pinch-hitter, but he wasn’t, so Michael’s homer, like Robinson’s, wound up an exercise in not-so-splendid isolation.

Four home runs unadorned by baserunners was it for the Mets in what became a 6-4 loss to end a 4-6 trip on a 2-6 sag. It was also, per Baseball Reference, the fourth time in club history — and the first time on the road — the Mets attempted, however unwittingly, to get by on four solo homers and no other kind of run…and the fourth time it didn’t work.

On August 2, 1962, the Mets’ two prime power threats from their inaugural season, Frank Thomas (34 home runs) and Marv Throneberry (16) each whacked the Phillies’ Art Mahaffey for a pair of dingers at the Polo Grounds. Marvelous, right? Alas, Mahaffey whacked back by allowing nothing else but a single (to Thomas) across nine otherwise sparkling innings. Philadelphia won, 9-4.

On June 13, 1997, the Mets welcomed an American League opponent into Shea Stadium for the first non-exhibition time since the 1986 World Series. Fittingly, their initial Interleague foe was the Boston Red Sox. Less fittingly, the Mets lost, 8-4, despite two long balls from Carl Everett and one apiece from Todd Hundley and Alex Ochoa. The Mets totaled twelve hits in all, but future playoff nightmare Jeff Suppan and five relievers limited their damage to just that quartet of solo acts.

On August 5, 2017, Citi Field was the site of four solos, no winning. The trajectory was frontloaded in this one. Rich Hill surrendered a leadoff homer to Conforto, then, following two outs, back-to-back blasts from Wilmer Flores and Curtis Granderson. We had three hits and three runs. We were poised for rare greatness versus the Dodgers. Or so we fleetingly thought. Hill settled in for his requisite five innings, no longer giving up home runs or any other runs. Eventually, the Mets fell behind, 7-3. In the ninth, René Rivera added a touch of solo window dressing to make it a 7-4 loss.

Sixteen home runs. Sixteen runs batted in. Four vacuums. Four defeats: 9-4, 8-4, 7-4, now 6-4. The futility seems inevitable, but at least the games are getting closer.