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Oy, the Dodgers

We may not yet know how to most accurately describe the 2019 Mets as they shift between dismal and decent, but after several hours spent witnessing some gruesome proceedings [1] from Dodger Stadium, we are comfortable confirming the Dodgers are still quite good. They’ve got this long haul thing down pat, winning one division title after another since 2013, poising themselves to carry their streak into 2020. Is anybody in the NL West capable of keeping up with them? An eight-game lead indicates they’re ensconced in a region of their own. Watching them thwart the ultimately helpless Mets at every turn Monday night fast-forwarded my Sheadenfreude toward deep October.

“Well,” I thought, “at least they have a chance to lose another World Series.”

Lingering Utleyan resentment notwithstanding, it’s too early to cast our lot with the Red Sox or Astros or whoever isn’t the Yankees. There’s much to look forward to between now and then, like this Friday when we’re playing somebody else. To borrow from the anti-war posters of a half-century ago, playing the Dodgers is not healthy for Metsies and other living things.

The Mets need everything to go right when taking on an outfit like L.A. I came to that conclusion after much went wrong against the only outfit like L.A., which is L.A.

• They need Jacob deGrom [2] to be at his sharpest; he wasn’t, lasting only five stressful innings, departing having given up but two runs, for he is still Jacob deGrom.

• They need their bullpen to provide a serene pathway toward the late innings when their starter is gone before the sixth; ha, fat chance.

• They need to run the bases flawlessly; having two runners cut down at home and another at third, albeit on excellent throws the likes of which they don’t usually encounter, indicates sleek baserunning wasn’t a Met core competency.

• They need to hit in the clutch, whatever that means; they roughed up Clayton Kershaw for ten hits and his successors for five more, yet were outscored, 9-5, which, by the end of the night, felt like 19-5, what a way to take a beating.

The Dodgers are a lot better than the Mets. They’re a lot better than the Tigers and the Nationals, who the Mets proved just enough better than for a week. Every game starts zero-zero, of course, and anything can happen in any game, but with the benefit of nine innings’ hindsight, it didn’t seem possible this game would go any in any direction that didn’t wind up with Randy Newman reaffirming his fondness for Los Angeles.

Yet for a couple of minutes there, we led. We were ahead, 3-2, in the fifth. You could look it up. J.D. Davis [3] had homered with Amed Rosario [4] on second — off Kershaw! — and despite several frames of frustration, the Mets were on top. DeGrom took that 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth and made it stick through 105 pitches.

In the sixth, the Dodgers saw Tyler Bashlor [5]Daniel Zamora [6] and Wilmer Font [7]. SNY’s sophisticated field microphones could pick up the sound of lips being licked in the home dugout. In brief, six runs scored. Chris Taylor homered. Kiké Hernandez homered. Mike Trout might have swung by from Anaheim to drive in a few. I lost track. Sure, you could blame Met relievers for being the way they are, but I put the onus on the analytics department for not adequately emphasizing to Met hitters the importance of RAB, or Runs Above Bashlor. It was gonna take a lot bigger lead than 3-2 to keep the Mets in front.

Down 8-3 after six, I was reminded that perhaps the least tasteful flavor of Met loss is the Sisyphus, the kind where the boulder is pushed strenuously uphill for an eternity only to have it come rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ down on the ol’ coconut an instant later. In this sort of game, I’m inevitably taken back to an August night at Shea in 1982 [8], when the Mets trailed the Cubs, 3-1, and, finally, a successful, seemingly momentous rally was staged in the sixth, highlighted by Rusty Staub’s pinch-hit three-run double to vault the Mets ahead, 5-3. There weren’t many of us in the ballpark that night, but we all exploded the explosion of satisfaction. Our boys had done it. We were winning. Everything was gonna be all right.

The 1982 Cubs, who were never going to be mistaken for the 2019 Dodgers, came up in the seventh and scored eight runs. We lost, 13-6. Not far from where I sat, two tipsy businessmen began ironically cheering the Cubs, clowning louder with every run the visitors tallied. This behavior elicited the clearly unironic ire of a thoroughly unamused biker type. He also may have been heeding the gigantic ad suggesting that This Bud was for him. To be fair, Mike Scott, Jesse Orosco, Terry Leach and Pete Falcone combining to give up eight runs (abetted by a George Foster error) would have been enough to make the most sober of souls apply for membership in the Hell’s Angels.

Unlike the 1982 Mets, the 2019 Mets convinced themselves the game wasn’t over after handing back a tenuous lead. Slugging second baseman Adeiny Hechavarria [9], for whom Robinson Cano [10] can anticipate caddying once he is physically able, belted a two-run homer off Joe Kelly in the eighth to pull the Mets to within three. Things appeared on the verge of growing even closer when, in the same inning, the Mets mysteriously loaded the bases with one out, compelling Dave Roberts to call on Kenley Jansen earlier than the closer is accustomed to being disturbed.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect setup: Tomás Nido [11] on third, Carlos Gomez  [12]on second, Rosario on first, Davis at the plate. Even a fly ball would push across one run, keep the momentum building, keep hope alive. Sure enough, Davis delivered a representative fly to medium right. Nido, who is either deGrom’s personal catcher or deGrom is his personal pitcher, could pretty much jog home from third. Even better, speedy Gomez could aggressively take third so he’d that much closer to scoring when Michael Conforto [13] came up next.

A little problem with that recipe for chicken salad, however. Cody Bellinger was the Dodger right fielder. Bellinger, the .383 hitter who’d already blasted his 19th homer and thrown out Conforto at the plate, felt he hadn’t ruined the Met night enough. So he loaded his cannon and took aim at third base. My first thought was it was a misguided throw, that it’s gonna sail wide, that Gomez might just trot home when the ball goes in the dugout.

My second thought was to be amazed by Bellinger’s amazing accuracy, as his throw landed exactly where it was intended, in the glove of Justin Turner, who applied a tag on Gomez’s rear end a microsecond before any of Carlos’s fingers reached the bag…and comfortably ahead of Nido crossing the plate.

So it was an inning-ending 9-5 double play that foresaw the final score. Oy.

I thought Gomez was gonna be safe. I couldn’t imagine Nido hadn’t already scored. I was mind-boggled that the Mets, who had had one runner gunned down at home in their first 52 games, had two tagged out there in their 53rd — not only Conforto in the first, but Nido in the fifth — along with what just happened at third.

To ice the cake, the Dodgers added another run in the eighth, this one off Drew Gagnon [14] (because why should he be left out?). The Mets, still not fully clued into their fate, threatened in their own adorable manner in the ninth. Pete Alonso  [15]tripled withone out, which is to say he came about an inch from a solo home run that wouldn’t have made that much difference in the overall story of the game, but it was just one more elbow to the ribs to see his ball not leave the park. Pete neither got thrown out at home nor had any reason to approach it when Jansen struck out Todd Frazier [16] and Hechavarria to dash the last iota of a comeback dream.

And if Adeiny Hechavarria can’t save you, who can?