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Things That Go Thump in the Night

Sunday afternoon found me driving a rental car through deteriorating weather from Boston to New York, listening to the Mets try to salvage a game from the Marlins and their recently-civilian manager. The Mets were trying to escape their Miami enemies and what the weather would do to departures at New York’s airports. Between these two perils, I didn’t have a lot of hope for how they’d acquit themselves when they reappeared the next night on the other side of the continent to play the Padres.

In fact, I was dreading it. The smart money would have predicted … oh, I don’t know, three hits and some sleepy defense?

Which goes to show there’s a reason they play ’em.

It was the Padres who looked like they were sleepwalking, letting down Andrew Cashner [1] with a lazy first-inning misplay that let Daniel Murphy [2] score to put the Mets up 2-0. Cashner looked disgusted on the mound — Jon Niese [3]‘s head would have exploded after such an affront — and he did the smart thing by resolving that he’d just get all the outs himself. He caught Juan Lagares [4] looking for the final out of the inning, racked up three more backwards Ks in the second and kept rolling, amassing 12 strikeouts before his duties were through.

Sounds impressive, but Cashner was also giving up hits: He stranded runners on third in the third and fourth innings before the roof caved in, with Murph homering in the fifth and Darrell Ceciliani [5] and Lagares following with run-scoring singles that pushed the Mets’ lead to 6-0. Before it was all done, Murph would have a 4-for-5 night and Ruben Tejada [6] would have a 3-for-5 next to his name.

(I don’t want to alarm anybody, but it appears someone has kidnapped Tejada and replaced him with a lookalike who can hit. I think we can all agree that this crime should not be solved any time soon.)

And Jacob deGrom [7]? He was pitching like he wanted to remind us what happened three June 1sts ago [8]. Jake struck out the side in the first and looked simply unhittable, retiring the first 15 Padres without particularly breaking a sweat. Clint Barmes [9] ended the dream with a clean single to lead off the sixth, but the Mets kept playing like a no-hitter was in the cards, making the kind of Baxterian plays that would have made you go hmm if not for that vertical line already in the San Diego H column. In the end, it was no contest [10] — the Padres made the most noise barking at umpires, and were drowned out by the large contingent of West Coast Mets fans.

(This is not a new phenomenon for Petco, BTW: Last time I went there the Phillies were in town, and the park and surrounding streets were easily a third Philadelphia rooters. I don’t know if San Diego is a great place to relocate while retaining one’s sports loyalties, or if Padres fans are just laid back to the point of invisibility, but the out-of-town contingent seems larger and louder here than in most other parks.)

As for the Padres, granted it’s only one game, but they look like a mess. DeGrom dismantled them, and tomorrow night they get Noah Syndergaard [11], whose pitching prowess is so amazing he can lower his ERA by 0.73 [12] without even stepping onto a mound.

Which means they’ll undoubtedly shell Noah, because baseball.

Before the game, Shannon Shark of MetsPolice [13] and I got together for our latest I’d Just as Soon Kiss a Mookiee show, which we can confidently say is the world’s best Star Wars/Mets podcast, and discussed the dread of plunging into a West Coast trip. As we noted, West Coast games can be a blast if your team erupts with a bushel of hits — when that happens, the middle-of-the-night delights feel like a gift, like you’re a kid given free rein to gobble down candy when you should be in bed. Unfortunately, such sleepy-time laughers are rare — and there are few things worse than enduring a West Coast beating in which the East Coasters can’t wait to finish losing and crawl back to the hotel already.

(Other things on the IJASKAM agenda: No-Han revisited, Mike Piazza [14]‘s post-9/11 home run, Tim McCarver, proper accounting for the no-no-hitters streak, and more. Give us a listen [15]!)

The Mets, bless them, delivered that rarest of things — a West Coast laugher. And so they begin June as one of the more confusing Mets squads of recent memory. They’re capable of thumping the tar out of any team on the planet, and then lying down and offering an excellent imitation of a baseball corpse. It feels like we’re in the middle of the pack, biting and clawing with the mediocre teams and yearning of unattainable glory, but the standings say something else, and despite the late hour it isn’t a dream: The standings say that the Mets are in a flat-footed tie for first with the Nationals.

My reaction to that is more or less a bemused shrug. You can react with gleeful cackles, dour premonitions, or alternate madly between the two. Because both extremes have fit this Mets team so far in 2015, and there’s no reason to predict the weirdness will pass any time soon. Certainly not in the middle of the night.