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Burn After Losing

If MLB plans to sell gameworn home team apparel from this past weekend’s Mets-Braves series at Citi Field, it had better come in an urn. There should be nothing but ashes left from those ghastly ghostly getups [1] that we never need see again. They weren’t pleasant to squint at as you tried to figure who was warming up in the bullpen and goodness knows — save for a home run here and there — few pleasant associations are to be derived from the sight of them.

As for the third and hopefully final game in which those uniforms were modeled, I’m far more mellow on the substance than I am the style. This is not an upvote for getting swept, but Sunday’s affair struck me as just one of those things. Sometimes you wind up in a pitchers’ duel and half of that time you’re likely to wind up on the short end of it. It’s happened to Mets teams en route to fantastic finishes just as it’s happened to Mets teams going nowhere. It’s happened and it happens.

Dallas Keuchel stymied the Mets completely. Steven Matz [2] did the same to the Braves, except for a high fly to left that carried. Had Josh Donaldson not sussed out a jet stream that allowed his second-inning would-be putout to clear a wall, LIOSM would have been home free until a blister ended his day. Still, he had a splendid outing: six innings, one hit that wasn’t Donaldson’s dinger, and a sense that if Steven’s the lesser link in our rotation, our rotation must be pretty good.

Keuchel, though, gave up no balls that traveled as far Donaldson’s. Lots of ground balls “tailor-made” for double plays, as Keith Hernandez kept emphasizing. Nobody saw fit to sign Keuchel for the longest time when he sat untouched on the free agent market, yet the Braves were eventually smart enough to grab not only the pitcher but his tailor.

Matzie left the game down, 1-0. Paul Sewald [3] entered the game and instantly doubled the deficit. Donaldson again. This time there was no rationalizing the ball’s flight. It was the kind of bomb some people think you could aim at a hurricane [4] to make it go away. The Bringer of Rain is probably capable of climate change on his own, provided a Met pitcher is on his radar. Donaldson has hit nine home runs against the Mets this year. That’s practically Stargell-level harassment.

Despite making it 2-0 as soon as he showed his face, Paulie wasn’t abysmal. He hasn’t been in his umpteenth return from Triple-A. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the Mets righty who comes up from the minors, finds his form for more than five minutes and makes a positive impact in that pesky bullpen of ours. Why not dream big?

The bottom of the ninth represented a bit of a revelation from my perspective. In this year of the home run, I’ve been as prone as anyone to fall in love with the mere idea of one big swing being all we need. It’s a very tempting proposition. Those 41 the Polar Bear has pounded [5] have been plenty fun. So have the two we’ve witnessed from Jacob deGrom. Nothing wrong with a Mets home run, right? Only problem is they are not conjured just because we want them to be. For thirty-one consecutive innings versus Atlanta, I wanted them to be. We got only two. Now, in the ninth inning on Sunday, I found myself a mantra.

“Baserunner.” I just kept saying it with every new batter, every few pitches. I didn’t ask Pete Alonso to go unconscionably deep. Get on, I asked. Be a baserunner. And Pete responded affirmatively, doubling off Mark Melancon.

“Baserunner.” I tried it again, this time with Michael Conforto. The suggestion wasn’t as well received, as Forto grounded out. But J.D. Davis (who earlier hit a Donaldson-like fly to left that didn’t travel suitably far) was on board. He singled to center, sending Alonso to third.

“Baserunner.” Todd Frazier — the Toddfather — was not an unalloyed success but proved useful in the overall quest of the ninth inning, which was tying the game. Frazier grounded into a fielder’s choice that offed J.D. at second, but also got Pete across the plate. We were still down, but not by as much. At 2-1, with Frazier on first, you could see a happy ending as easily as you could see the names on the back of the ivory jerseys. It took some doing, but I swear you could do it.

“Baserunner.” Wilson Ramos, who had been given a little R&R with René Rivera back in town, pinch-hit for Juan Lagares. Ramos was on an 18-game hitting streak. Tough to ask him to maintain it by coming in cold in the ninth. Tougher to ask him to keep awake a game that had slept the afternoon away. But what’s tougher than a Buffalo? Wilson singled. Todd was on second.

“Baserunner.” Due up next was the starting catcher Rivera, whose second Mets tenure commenced once Tomás Nido went to the concussion IL, but Mickey Callaway opted for Joe Panik as pinch-hitter. Panik or no Panik, calm and cool is what I was determined to remain, sticking with my mantra. Don’t be a hero, Joe. Just get on base.

Panik was neither a hero nor a baserunner. He grounded out to end the threat, the game, the series and the unfortunate sweep. Oh well. Couldn’t do anything about the first two games by Sunday and Sunday’s game [6], we’ve established, was just one of those things. Still, I liked the ninth-inning rally. It seemed to encompass the right idea. Or maybe I thought I had the right idea and decided I’d project. Whichever. The Mets just lost three games to the Braves and are pretty much unharmed (if not much aided) in their pursuit of the Wild Card. They’re two behind the Cubs, who were swept by Washington, and we’ve got those very same Cubs coming to Citi Field, where normally we don’t get swept and usually we wear sharp-looking duds.

So let’s look sharp, get some baserunners, drive them in and win the next game we play. Surely the Mets are aware of what they should do. I’m just here for the helpful reminders.