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The Whimper of the Normal

The ample lady of renown may not be singing quite yet, but I heard another singer last night. Not exactly a matinee idol, this one — he had a puffy face, jet-black hair, and big black-rimmed Coke-bottle glasses. But his voice was a rich burr that rose to an unearthly falsetto.

It’s over, it’s over, it’s OHHHHHHHHH-VERRRRRRRRRRRRRR… [1]

There’s a fascinating race afoot in the National League, one that’s now expanded to include both wild-card spots and the N.L. Central title. But the Mets are no longer part of it in any meaningful way. When you’re five back with 12 to play, you’re not on the stage, but in the audience.

And I could feel that from the get-go Monday night. Brandon Nimmo [2] led off the game with a home run and a joyful romp around the bases — I imagined his monologue being something like, “Gosh, the ball went all the way over that the fence! And now I get to run! Neat! And see all my base friends! HELLO, FIRST BASE, GLAD TO SEE YOU! HOWDY, SECOND BASE! HI HI HI, THIRD BASE! GEE WILLIKERS THIS IS FUN! OH, HOME PLATE, YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND TOO! YAY!” That was a good start, but trouble awaited Steven Matz [3] in the fourth. Given a 4-1 lead, Matz lost the plate and then threw a high sinker to opposing pitcher Antonio Senzatela [4], who was 0-for-2019 and whose lack of hitting prowess had been marveled at on the broadcast. Anything with a wrinkle would have probably been a swing and a miss for strike three, but Matz threw a fastball and Senzatela bashed it into left-center to tie the game. The next batter was Trevor Story [5], who turned on an inside sinker and hit it over the fence.

Matz was self-lacerating after the game, lamenting “a stupid pitch” made to Senzatela. For me, the moment had an added helping of surreal — I was watching on the Spectrum app, which kept switching over to the Spanish-language feed for no apparent reason. That was fine with me — if it meant the Mets winning, I would have happily listened to commentary in Esperanto, click language or whale song — except Matz wasn’t any good in any available language. He lost focus, made poor decisions, and the game went down the tubes.

If that sounds like a quick dismissal of a game with postseason implications, well, that’s the point. It didn’t feel like it had any, a realization that arrived accompanied by a hollow feeling in my stomach that I couldn’t will away. This was just a typical Coors Field farce — early lead, mid-innings land mine, slog to the end [6] — similar to a couple of dozen others that I’ve endured. The Mets’ death struggle with the Dodgers [7] on Sunday night felt like the conclusion of something glorious and thrilling for all it turned out to be futile. This was just another game.

Just another game, but one that delivered a bit of goofball solace in the late innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, J.D. Davis [8] took an extra-base hit away from Story with a nifty running catch, then slammed into the fence, with the point of contact the same area where he took a fastball to the ribs from ludicrous-looking Dodger reliever Dustin May [9] on Sunday night. Davis held onto the ball but crumpled onto his back on the warning track, with Nimmo calling for the trainers.

Thankfully, it was determined that Davis had merely knocked the wind out of himself. (Though let’s verify that — given that it’s the Mets, it’s entirely possible he actually has two ribs piercing internal organs.) One of the Mets who came out to investigate was Pete Alonso [10], whose normal area of responsibility lies hundreds of feet away.

Davis, despite the whole needing-to-breathe thing, managed to ask Alonso what, exactly, he was doing out there.

“Gotta check on the Sun Bear,” replied Alonso.

So yes, Alonso has dubbed Davis the Sun Bear, a revelation Davis looked faintly embarrassed about during his postgame interview. It was a chuckle I needed, and more evidence that those two need their own buddy movie. One of my favorite moments of the season was when the cameras (and mics) caught Davis, post Alonso homer, yelling out a mocking question [11] for the Cubs: “Whaddya gonna throw ‘im? WHAT NOW?” Now, Davis has revealed a lot of talents in 2019, and become one of my favorite Mets. But despite his best efforts, his HWAR — that’s Heckling WAR, for the non-analytically inclined — remains below replacement level. This isn’t his fault: Some people have voices pitched to travel, but Davis’s is somewhere between “chirpy” and “pinched,” best suited for a cartoon sidekick.

And you know what? That works. In fact, it’s perfect. Catch Bear Patrol: Polar and Sun, coming to Disney+ this fall! In a few weeks, memories like that will make me smile, when the disappointment of a season that ended with an “almost” has receded.