- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Try, Try Again

Up they haven’t given, though up they haven’t gotten. After every Mets loss, of which there’ve been myriad, I hear the manager and selected players tell postgame questioners, “Nobody here has given up.” That’s admirable on the surface, implicit in the job description, ineffectual in the final score.

The Mets don’t give up. They come to the ballpark, put on uniforms, more than go through the motions of pitching and hitting, throwing and catching, losing and more losing. Trying your best doesn’t always produce your best in any endeavor. Against the Cubs, Phillies and now Braves over these past six games, it produces nothing.

Unless you count heartache, and that regenerates in abundance.

The one thing the homestanding Mets accomplished Friday night in dropping a 6-2 decision to first-place Atlanta [1] was not blowing a lead. They didn’t blow it because they never had it. They came close to taking one. In the seventh — after Jacob deGrom [2] had pitched well if not as well as Mike Soroka, and Pete Alonso [3] snapped his endless four-game homerless drought — the Mets looked very serious about closing the 3-1 advantage the Braves held on them. Todd Frazier [4], Dominic Smith [5] and Tomás Nido [6] and strung together singles, scoring Frazier to make it 3-2. Soroka was chased. There was one out. J.D. Davis [7] pinch-hit and singled within the infield to load the bases. Jeff McNeil [8], batting .342, was up next. Alonso, sitting on 28 home runs, was on deck.

The only thing that could go wrong was the presence of Anthony Swarzak [9]. That’s something we found ourselves thinking in 2018, when Swarzak was a Met. To prevent Swarzak’s direct impact on Met fortunes in 2019, Brodie Van Commission shipped Anthony to Seattle as part of the plot to undermine the season ahead…I mean beef up the bullpen with Edwin Diaz and strengthen the lineup with Robinson Cano. It was a great idea. No matter what Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn grew into, no matter how much Jay Bruce bounced around — even to Philadelphia, where he could haunt us like he never left (yeah, like that would happen) — at least we knew whatever Anthony Swarzak did would be irrelevant to us this year.

Or so we thought we knew. The Mariners tired of Swarzak quickly and traded him to the Braves. Swarzak tired of his Met persona and recovered his talent. Friday night, at Citi Field, he was back to overwhelm our perceptions and two best hitters. McNeil battled. Alonso battled. Of course they battled. These are the Mets, more than any of the Mets, who don’t give up. Alas, McNeil struck out swinging and Alonso lined to Austin Riley in left.

The Mets therefore would not have a lead to hand to their next reliever to blow, but that didn’t stop Robert Gsellman [10] from acting like that was his assignment. In the eighth, Robert created a virtual blown save, loading the bases with two out before serving up a sinker for Johan Camargo to fire as if from a cannon clear to the base of the left field wall. The three Brave runners became three Brave runs and, as happened in games entrusted earlier in the week to Wilmer Font, Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz, the game got away.

I’d say, “Welcome to the club, Gazelle Man,” but I’m pretty sure he was already one of their secret society’s officers.

The defeat, illustrated on the cleverly Sheatrofitted scoreboard [11], may have been the first of the last six to not involve the Mets falling behind from ahead, but it otherwise fit in snugly with the current leitmotif of winnable games that lacked that certain something. The big hit. The clutch pitch. The lucky break. The beatable opponent. It’s not like the Cubs, Phillies or Braves can’t be beaten. It’s that the Mets haven’t been the team that’s proven capable of beating them. This is what leads to Mickey Callaway and his temporary charges to talking afterwards about how close the score was, how good they were at certain aspects of the game, how frustrating the sport can get, how nobody here is giving up.

Except for pretty much everybody who watches them.

Sacrilege on 1969 weekend, perhaps, but the 1969 Mets never lost more than five games in a row, and they cleverly weaved that wrong turn toward futility into their legacy early. The Mets’ longest uninterrupted stretch of doldrums came after they finally reached .500 at 18-18 — the franchise milestone Tom Seaver pointedly informed the press [12] his team considered no milestone at all — and was obliterated immediately by the eleven-game winning streak that catapulted the Mets into winning ways for the rest of the year. Eleven wins in a row is still the club record: matched four times since 1969, but yet to be exceeded.

Pending further notice, 2019 isn’t 1969, though it would be nice to forget that this afternoon when we welcome a slew of our first world champions back to Flushing, weather permitting. Oh weather, not you, too. The forecast is rather grim, and not just because Julio Teheran is pitching for the Braves. It always seems to rain when the Mets plan a day like this. It rained before they retired Mike Piazza’s number, which was the last time the Mets had a day like this. It rained ahead of the 20th anniversary of 1986 and the 40th anniversary of 1969. It rained enough to delay the last day at Shea. Clouds follow the Mets around quite a bit. So do obvious metaphors.