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The Sound of No Dog Barking

I hate that the Miami Marlins exist, I doubly hate when the Mets have to play them, and I quadruply hate when the Mets have to play them in their Pachinko parlor-cum-fish tank-cum-mausoleum in south Florida.

I looked it up on Baseball Reference, and as I suspected, the Mets are 4-12,429 all time at Soilmaster Stadium in its various corporate aliases, with approximately 9,000 of those losses (the records are weirdly spotty here) coming in extra innings on 19-hoppers through the infield by anonymous Marlin utility players never to be thought of again, except of course when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re fuming about why a benevolent God would allow this shambling zombie franchise to exist. At that moment, one thinks about such utility players and their maliciousness at painful length.

Anyway, the Mets arrived in annoying Miami having played an annoying series in Houston, in which they lost both games and Jeff McNeil [1] and Carlos Carrasco [2] got hurt. Therein lies an irony — whenever the Mets are in Miami every injured player shows up in the dugout to mock us with the enigma of their being present but not actually available: Max Scherzer [3] was front and center despite needing another rehab start, and various team notes indicated Jacob deGrom [4] and Joey Lucchesi [5] were present as well.

Oh, and the game started at 6:40 for some other annoying Miami reason, which I discovered when I turned it on at the regulation time and found Taijuan Walker [6] pitching with a 1 on the scoreboard in his favor. I blame Jeffrey Loria, but then I usually do.

Walker seemed perpetually on the edge of disaster but actually pitched pretty well, which was fortunate because the Mets were up against the annoyingly capable Sandy Alcantara [7]. Alcantara, though, was undone by a four-minute stretch of some of the wackiest baseball I’ve seen in some time.

It all transpired in the top of the sixth, after a gimpy Jazz Chisholm Jr. [8] exited the game, leaving the sessile-looking Willians Astudillo [9] at second. Tomas Nido [10] reached on an infield single (weird in itself, but just wait), and Brandon Nimmo [11] bunted for a hit. Starling Marte [12] then hit a double-play ball, with Astudillo tagging Nimmo in the baseline and then throwing to first, where Marte was called out.

The back end of that apparent double play looked incorrect from the jump, and the Mets challenged the call — as well as the call on Nimmo, who’d been tagged by Astudillo’s glove while the ball was in his throwing hand. Nimmo made no attempt to get to second and was tagged out once more after the play, but Buck Showalter [13] objected that the ump had incorrectly called Nimmo out, causing him to abandon the play. (Or something like that — it was a little peculiar.) The Mets won the double challenge — something I don’t believe I’ve seen before — and just like that, they had the bases loaded with nobody out instead of a runner on third with two out, while Don Mattingly [14] stood with the umpires and argued half-heartedly before going back to having a staring contest with the void.

Alcantara, understandably somewhat perturbed, left a 3-1 slider in the middle of the plate for Francisco Lindor [15], who hammered it up the right-center gap and ushered in more slapstick. In rapid succession, Nimmo nearly collided with the second-base ump, who was inexplicably in his path; Marte nearly caught Nimmo between second and third; Joey Cora [16] tried to wave in Nimmo but stop Marte and was nearly clocked himself as both runners steamed past him; Nimmo slid into home and was nearly stepped on by Marte, who missed home plate and had to scamper back to touch it.

All this wackiness gave the Mets a 5-2 lead, which it briefly seemed like they’d surrender, as Drew Smith [17] walked in a run at the conclusion of an eventful appearance, handing the ball off to Adam Ottavino [18] with the bases loaded. Ottavino wouldn’t be my choice for a situation with no margin for error control-wise, but he was sharp, getting Jesus Aguilar [19] to hit a loud but harmless fly to center to steer the Mets through the seventh, then escaping the eighth on a Lindor/Luis Guillorme [20] double play that ought to be preserved for posterity as the Platonic ideal of the form.

Edwin Diaz [21] didn’t look particularly sharp, but there was Guillorme again, jamming his foot between Jon Berti [22]‘s cleat and second base on a steal attempt with one out in the ninth. (Defensible with the slow-footed Astudillo at the plate, but you better make it.) The Mets won that challenge and a batter later Jorge Soler [23] spanked a sharp grounder to Lindor’s backhand — not another domino in the chain of disaster, as has happened so often in this horrible place, but just the precursor for another nifty play by the Mets’ infield. That one sealed the victory [24].

No one should ever have to play the Marlins, least of all us, and we should never have to play this tacky parody of an organization in Miami, where everything is reliably terrible. But if one has to, you hope for a game like Friday night’s — one that confounds every instinct by somehow turning out OK.