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

The Mets That Didn’t Bark

A cliche of whodunits is the dog that didn’t bark — the detective’s first indication that something odd is afoot, not because something happened but because it failed to happen.

A detective would have taken a definite interest in Tuesday night’s tilt with the Twins, the start of a two-game, 20-hour whirlwind tour through Minnesota. Because pretty much nothing went as expected:

— The normally sure-handed Twins played aggressively clanky defense behind Michael Pineda [1], leaving their hulking hurler two runs in arrears before Minnesota got to take its first hacks against Steven Matz [2]. That was fortunate, as the Mets only tallied one more run the rest of the way.

Michael Conforto [3], who as a center fielder is more loyal grunt than special forces, ended the third inning with a leaping grab above the fence, taking a home run (or at least a game-tying double) away from long-ago paper Met Nelson Cruz [4].

— Conforto, whose swing has gotten rather long and whose health is once again a question mark, also chipped in four hits, with the quietest one proving the loudest in the box score. In the top of the fifth, with the game tied, the Mets had Amed Rosario [5] on third with one out and Jeff McNeil [6] at the plate. McNeil struck out, which I suppose does have to happen, though his look of peeved disbelief mirrored mine. No worries: Conforto then poked a little single through the left side, just past Miguel Sano [7] and Jorge Polanco [8], to score Rosario.

— The Mets bullpen committed no arson, set fire to no dumpster, and failed to self-combust despite being given every chance to do so. There should be an asterisk here, as Robert Gsellman [9] was somehow unscathed despite giving up two walks, hitting a batter and yielding a sizzling liner down the first-base line. (All you kids out there, don’t try that at home.) And Edwin Diaz [10] … well, we’ll get to that. But Luis Avilan [11] got the first two outs of the sixth, Jeurys Familia [12] got a key out to end the sixth, and Justin Wilson [13] and Seth Lugo [14] turned in clean innings.

— Yes, Familia came into a big spot and reduced that spot to nothing, coaxing a grounder from Jonathan Schoop [15]. No, I can’t believe it either.

For all that, the game came down to a depressingly familiar situation: Diaz in for the save and nothing going right. He started by fanning Sano with heat on the corner, or perhaps slightly off of it, looking for all the world like the free-and-easy-throwing, 99-MPH-gas-powered Diaz we saw at the beginning of the season, the one we thought we were getting from Seattle and could rely on for seasons to come.

Diaz then worked an 0-2 count against Schoop, who left with tightness in his side, or some similar malady. But after that, things somehow fell apart. Again.

Young Luis Arraez [16] inherited this unfavorable count, but battled Diaz and walked, a gritty at-bat that seemed to rally the Twins and their fans. Diaz yielded a single to Mitch Garver [17], got Polanco to fly out, and gave up an infield hit to Marwin Gonzalez [18].

Bases loaded, two out, and here came Cruz, Diaz’s former teammate, whose 377 home runs are seemingly etched in his face. After beginning with a cameo with the Brewers, Cruz has forged the entirety of his impressive career in the American League, meaning his exploits have left little impression on me. He went to work, and as Diaz’s pitch count mounted all of the potential outcomes seemed terrible, from a grand slam to a hit batsman. (No seriously, the latter nearly happened.)

But then the game ended with a whimper. Diaz jammed Cruz with a fastball on his hands — probably not a strike, but close enough that Cruz had to swing. The ball went up instead of out and Cruz followed it briefly with his eyes, standing stock still and dispirited at home plate. Behind third, Todd Frazier [19] hurried into foul territory, avoiding the Twins’ third-base coach and the runner hustling from second, to cradle the ball near his waist. With his prize secured, he snuck a glance into the Mets’ dugout — a well-can-you-believe-that aside.

If he couldn’t, neither could I. The ghosts of John Franco [20], Braden Looper [21], Armando Benitez [22] and other merchants of panic wavered and dissipated from my living room: Diaz had escaped and the Mets had won [23]. After a season marred by enough racket to fill a dozen or so kennels, for one night the dog, somehow, didn’t bark.