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Two for the Price of One

I’ll take two wins in three games, even if the price is one loss in the middle. Not that that’s how series of baseball games work, exactly, but that is how the Mets-Braves to-do went down. We won Monday [1]. They won Tuesday [2]. We won Wednesday. That’s math as good as it gets when you don’t sweep.

Such simplicity in viewing the world of the National League East through this prism…it’s very relaxing. The Mets were in first place when they arrived in Atlanta; they’re still in first place; they’re in first place by a little more than they were 48 hours earlier. It’s a good three days’ work. It’s not a definitive statement. It may not even be a statement. It may just be three games. Better to have captured more of them rather than drop a majority of an admittedly small sample size.

The strong starting pitching that has been the club’s trademark since at least last week continued on through the finale at Truist Park. Chris Bassitt [3] was mostly impenetrable for six innings. By the time he gave up a solo home run to Chipper Olson, the Mets had five on the board. The rotation is five starters deep at the moment. It’s a good moment to be in.

Whereas Met power has mostly flickered of late, it returned all bulbs flashing Wednesday. If you couldn’t for one day embrace Luis Guillorme [4] batting cleanup, you have no soul (besides, he hit the Mets’ previous home run, on Monday night). Luis’s slump seems to be closing up along with the cut on his hand that none of us knew about because the Mets are pretty good about minimizing excuses. He didn’t homer off Charlie Morton on Wednesday, but his presence in the four-hole seemed to inspire several of his teammates. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Eduardo Escobar [5] made like a groundhog and saw his power stroke’s shadow in the second. Francisco Lindor [6] drove in runs the way the most productive RBI shortstop in the majors should (three-run shot). Mark Canha [7] made like an orange and blue green giant and opened his own Canha taters. The power trio, accounting for the five runs that amply supported Bassitt, dined out on what Morton served up and nobody here protested. Later came Luis doubling home a sixth run and Lindor scoring on a balk, all of it in service to the eventual 7-3 victory [8].

Seven runs. Plenty for Bassitt plus Drew Smith [9] (2 IP) and Tommy Hunter [10] (1 IP). Granted, each reliever, like the starter, gave up a solo homer. The Braves are gonna go deep. They went deep off Scherzer and Peterson, too. Nice to see nobody on base when they did. Hunter was mopping up. As for Smith, I had a dream that he sent my wife and me a note of apology on a folded, horizontal, cream-colored card for having given up a two-run homer. He also included a drawing of some sort that I don’t remember. Isn’t it enough that I remember the color of the notecard?

Anyway, Smith giving up a solo home run with a large lead doesn’t concern me. The other Smith on the team, Dom, never homering is a more of an issue in my consciousness. I grew curious enough to search via Baseball-Reference’s Stathead tool to see where Dom Smith [11]’s homerless drought ranks within franchise annals. Now that it’s reached 103 games (that’s games with one or more plate appearance(s) and no home runs hit), it is the 45th-longest in the 61-season history of the New York Mets; Luis Guillorme’s longest homerless streak was 89 games…broken on the day in 2021 that Smith last sent a baseball over a fence. Mind you, almost everybody ahead of Dom on this list is either a middle infielder who was in there every day for his glove — Buddy Harrelson [12] holds the record, with 299 consecutive homerless games, and has six streaks of more than 100 homerless games — or an aging pinch-hitter or a backup catcher who played once or twice a week or a then-youngster still developing into an occasional home threat or a singles hitter you forgot didn’t hit many home runs.

There’s one genuine outlier. John Stearns [13] went nearly 200 games without homering between 1979 and 1981, making his third All-Star team in between regardless. Stearns hit 46 home runs as a Met. His drought ended with a bang (he beat Steve Carlton on a night when Carlton struck out 15, an echo of Ron Swoboda a dozen years earlier). Dom Smith has hit 46 home runs as a Met. He wasn’t exactly a classic slugger when going yard wasn’t a novelty for him, but you didn’t find yourself counting games between his home runs. Dom nowadays usually plays a position that contains “hitter” in the title, so it’s more than a little concerning he’s neither hitting (.198) nor slugging (.294). On Wednesday, he came to bat four times. He walked once (.280 OBP). He didn’t homer (and hasn’t since July 21 of last year). Let’s hope Wrigley Field shakes the clout out of him.

Or, if it doesn’t, maybe somebody else will pick him up (and I don’t mean on waivers, wise guy). Twenty-six players compose the active roster. The Mets have won two out of three and 55 of 89 by getting something out of just about all of them when they really needed it. Keep that math going.

With the All-Star Game fast approaching, it’s time to remember how to root for players representing teams we usually can’t stand, because for one night those players will be teammates of Mets players we really do like. This week, then, join National League Town in a spasm of National League Solidarity [14]. Warning: nice things will be said about opponents.