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Somehow Even Worse

The bad taste of Friday night’s Mets disaster lingered into Saturday, with Twitter moaning and comment sniping and unhappiness all around.

Fortunately, I thought, there’s another ballgame today. Because one of the least-celebrated but most important aspects of baseball is that winning fixes things. A crisp win is like a cleansing breeze that airs out everything and leaves you feeling renewed.

And for a little while there, it looked like we’d get that cleansing breeze — why, the Mets immediately scored two runs, doubling their output from last night.

But the wind turned foul. And by the end, we were stuck — almost unimaginably — with a game that was worse [1] than Friday’s.

Some of the things that happened were just bad luck, such as the fourth-inning Baltimore chop from Eury Perez [2] that gave the Braves a 3-2 lead and left a sweat-drenched Noah Syndergaard [3] to flail his hands in helpless dismay.

Or another unlucky play, one that initially looked far worse: In the sixth, Pedro Ciriaco [4] lofted a fly ball to Michael Cuddyer [5] in left. It didn’t look deep enough to score A. J. Pierzynski, but the 38-year-old catcher was sent anyway. Cuddyer’s throw beat him, but was up the line, and Pierzynski’s torso snapped Travis d’Arnaud [6]‘s arm back, flipping the baseball into the dirt and spinning d’Arnaud onto his face with his elbow as a fulcrum. It looked Cliff Floyd [7] bad at the beginning, bad enough that Pierzynski lingered by home plate to check on a fellow member of the backstop fraternity. X-rays revealed a hyperextended elbow instead of a break, which is bad but shouldn’t be disastrous — though no Met fan who remembers David Wright [8]‘s exit because of what we thought was a mild hamstring strain should take much solace in “bad but shouldn’t be disastrous.”

Other things that happened were unfortunate but understandable. Syndergaard, for instance, had one of those nights that a 22-year-old pitcher will have — no command, no confidence in his pitches, and no answers after things went awry. Syndergaard is in the rotation to stay, and deservedly so, but he’s got things to learn and lumps to take during the lessons.

That, unfortunately, brings us to the end of the unlucky and understandable. Because the other things that went awry were the product of unacceptably stupid baseball.

Take Dilson Herrera [9] not covering second on a steal attempt, leading to d’Arnaud firing a ball through the comically large space between Herrera and initial shortstop Ruben Tejada [10]. That sent Jace Peterson [11] to third, setting up a tie game.

Or take Juan Lagares [12] inexplicably trying to barehand Andrelton Simmons [13]‘ single to center an inning later, allowing two runners to advance and leading to two runs.

Or, perhaps most amazingly, take whatever it was Eric Campbell [14] thought he was doing in the sixth: With the bases loaded and time to get Simmons at home, Campbell stepped on third for a force, letting an insurance run score. That one sent Jim Duquette into Ojeda Mode on the SNY postgame, pointing out (correctly) that a high-school player needs to know what to do in that situation.

I mean, the Mets had just intentionally walked the bases loaded!

On my couch, I was gaping at the screen like Dallas Green [15] after the early-90s Mets did something so mind-bogglingly dumb that he couldn’t even manage to be angry about it.

It probably won’t be remembered, but the Mets actually did mount an eighth-inning rally, with Lucas Duda [16] singling through the teeth of the shift and Cuddyer whacking a ball into the 5.5 hole. It looked like it was going to be first and third and nobody out, but Juan Uribe [17] smothered the ball, starting a double play and killing whatever slim hopes were left to us. Instead of a rally, we got a hideous baseball morality play: Hey, look! Defense! It’s important!

So what to do now? The blithe answer is to review this little thing I posted yesterday [18]. Failing that, wait until Tuesday. That’s when Daniel Murphy [19] should return, presumably to take over third base.

Wilmer Flores [20] isn’t going to move off short, so there’s no point asking — the Mets are sticking with that experiment. Which I reluctantly agree with: Flores is one of the only semi-capable bats in the lineup, and I wouldn’t disrupt his development at the plate or in the field (where he is progressing, albeit painfully) by moving him off the position.

That leaves second, which a few days ago I would have handed to Herrera for the duration. But no more: I think Dilson has a bright future, and we should remember he’s still very young, but he’s struggling at the plate and making dopey lapses in the field. He should fix those things in Vegas, with Tejada taking over. (Unless the Mets want to give Matt Reynolds [21] a try, which would be fine with me.) Campbell, meanwhile, simply has to be kept away from third base, having repeatedly shown that he’s unreliable even on routine plays.

Yes, it really has come to believing that Daniel Murphy, avatar of baseball chaos, will stabilize the infield defense. Amazin’, as we used to say in better circumstances.