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Albert’s Supporting Cast

I suppose what I’ll remember from this game is the look of anguish on Raul Valdes’s face as he watched his curveball not curve.

Or, rather, it did curve — very gently, so as to offer itself politely to Felipe Lopez’s bat and thereby begin its long trip to a final destination beyond the left-field fence. Grand slam, Cards up by three, Oliver Perez’s singularly unlikely masterpiece ruined. The Mets held Albert Pujols in check, but boy did his supporting cast do a number on them.

Maybe if Ollie can repeat that surprising performance consistently we’ll see this as the beginning of hope instead of as a doubly cruel tease — a duel evaporated and a comeback turned aside [1]. (From the Cardinals’ side, justice was served for Chris Carpenter, gone after a scintillating performance but still the pitcher of record when Lopez struck his blow.) More likely, we’ll remember this one as yet another reason to question Jerry’s use of the bullpen. Pedro Feliciano was laid low with a stomach bug, but wouldn’t it have been better to see Ryota Igarashi — who’s had a long record of success in Japan — than the iffy Fernando Nieve and Valdes, a 32-year-old rookie recently the property of Tabasco? The game was on the line right there, and Nieve and Valdes failed in spectacular fashion.

And before we get too excited about the bullpen, most of its early success has come during garbage time. The relievers have made four appearances in games where the Mets were up by a run or tied, and the only successful outing has been Hisanori Takahasi’s second appearance. The other three appearances saw Takahashi, Jenrry Mejia and now Valdes give up fatal home runs.

I could unearth positives. Yes, there was Ollie — what an odd turnabout to be hoping the Mets live up to Ollie’s fine work — and some nifty plays by David Wright, and contributions from the so-far underwhelming Frank Catalanotto, Gary Matthews Jr. and Mike Jacobs. But the Mets blew the lead in excruciating fashion and then failed to regain it in excruciating fashion. I have trouble extracting any kind of moral victory from that.