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Hold It Like an Egg

“Don’t hold the ball so hard, OK? It’s an egg. Hold it like an egg.”

So says Crash Davis to Ebby Calvin LaLoosh. It’s good advice for us all.

The Mets suddenly look … OKish? They’ve remembered how to hit, the defense has been reasonably sound, and the bullpen offers depth, and not just because of the additional roster spots. (Though those help too.) On Tuesday night Brandon Nimmo [1], J.D. Davis [2] and Amed Rosario [3] all went deep, with Rosario’s drive particularly impressive — a no-doubter into the second deck in left field, with accompanying bat flip — and desperately needed to soothe the young shortstop’s psyche. Dom Smith continues to look locked in at the plate, and Robinson Cano [4] is playing with a fluidity and ease we’ve never seen from him, even in his brief September renaissance. On the pitching side, Justin Wilson [5], Jared Hughes [6] and Dellin Betances [7] contributed solid relief, and Edwin Diaz [8] finished his lone inning looking sharp after starting it looking less than that. Is that too generous? When you win [9] you can afford to be generous.

What the Mets can’t afford is any more blows to their already rickety starting pitching, and that’s how Tuesday began, with news that David Peterson [10] was hitting the IL with shoulder fatigue. His replacement was Corey Oswalt [11], who looked better than he had in previous Mets tours of duty but still got cuffed around the third time through the Marlins’ order. Say what you want about Luis Rojas [12], but he’s not sentimental: He pulled Oswalt two outs short of qualifying for a win, handing the ball over to Wilson.

“Shoulder fatigue” is one of those vague baseball maladies that can mean everything from “needs to skip a start” to “career in jeopardy,” so let’s wait for more information about Peterson before freaking out or conclusively not doing the same. On Wednesday Jacob deGrom [13] will pitch, and then after that, well, no one will say. Thursday’s starter will probably be Steven Matz [14], since even his current gopherball-prone, deeply-frustrated/ing incarnation is likely better than Starting Pitching Plan D or E or whatever the Mets are up to by now.

The thin starting pitching should be a hard pump to the brakes for any optimism you can muster about the Mets — the old expression “momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitching” isn’t just about staffs full of aces, after all. But, I dunno, squint a little and you can at least imagine the extra bullpen depth taking up some of the innings slack, the Mets toying with openers, and the offense overcoming some of their teammates’ messes. Hope’s free, and in this topsy-turvy year you can get by with a modicum of it: grab one of your league’s extra playoff slots and then play small sample size/short series roulette for as long as the scoreboard indicates you can keep going.

Maybe that’s not squinting a little but squinting a lot. Maybe deGrom grabs at his neck tomorrow night and Matz gets shellacked on Thursday and on Friday we’re all trying to hang ourselves with our masks. We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, hope’s an egg. Don’t hold it so hard.