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Shackleton’s Team

Lots of things can go wrong for a baseball team.

Tuesday night — which bled painfully into Wednesday morning — brought cruddy relief, an absence of hitting and some bad luck, all familiar maladies of late. Matt Harvey [1] looked better than he has in a while, with life on his fastball and sharp breaking stuff, but was chased off the mound by rain, an opponent for which no scouting report is adequate. Through no fault of his own, Harvey departed before the middle innings that have been his 2016 downfall, leaving us all to wonder how much progress he really made; through some fault of his own he allowed the Nats to grab a 1-0 lead, which was too much given that Harvey got his usual run support.

When the rain finally passed through, Harvey had turned into Erik Goeddel [2] and newly minted Nat Lucas Giolito [3] (who’s very tall) had turned into Yusmeiro Petit [4]. Goeddel then turned into Jerry Blevins [5], who surrendered a two-run homer to Bryce Harper [6] in the fifth. The Mets had a chance of sorts in the sixth, loading the bases against Petit with one out, but old friend Oliver Perez [7] came in and erased James Loney [8] on sliders, then coaxed a lazy fly ball from Wilmer Flores [9]. In the seventh Hansel Robles [10] surrendered a two-run double to Wilson Ramos [11], and by then you just wanted it to be over [12].

But back to the things that can go wrong.

Sometimes one flaw jumps up with maddeningly regularity: the starters can’t get through the middle innings, the bullpen develops a yen for arson, the hitters seem to freeze up with runners in scoring position, the defense gags when it really matters.

Sometimes these flaws show up in apparently random order, like a really unfun game of Whack-a-Mole: the bullpen loses a game, keeps the team in the next one only to have the hitters fail, watches in horror as a starter implodes the day after that, then regroups and induces ground balls, which the middle infielders promptly flub.

Sometimes all of these things go wrong at once.

And now and again all of these things go wrong and on top of that key players are injured and the team is facing a parade of good teams for which everything is going right, and a leadoff single for the enemy leaves you feeling like you can’t breathe. Which is pretty much where the Mets find themselves right now.

As a fan, what do you do when that happens? Well, if you’re a dummy you call the FAN and rant about the will to win or grit or players not trying. Which, to be fair, is tempting even for us non-dummies: stretches like these are frustrating and as human beings we’re determined to find patterns in randomness and search for explanations. If you’re not a dummy, in fact, you’ve got it harder. All you can do is endure, and remind yourself that every baseball season is full of ebb and flow, teams’ fortunes wax and wane, and try not to let it make you crazy.

Good luck with that, though. Because it’s not going to get easier, not with Max Scherzer [13] trying to pitch the Nats to a sweep on Wednesday and the big bad Cubs coming to Citi Field after that, followed by the always aggravating Marlins and then — that’s right! — the Nats again. The Mets have no reinforcements coming health-wise, unless you think an aging Jose Reyes [14] will be a game-changer; if anything they’re in danger of losing more players to bone spurs or as-yet-undisclosed ailments. Ya gotta believe and all that, of course, but by the time the All-Star Game rolls around things could be grim around here indeed.

Reminder: Debate all you want, but if you make the debate personal you’re doing it wrong, at least on this blog. There’s been too much of that around here of late, and for your proprietors it’s become a bone spur that’s harder and harder to hide from the media. Be nice to each other, y’hear?