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As Seasons Die

Applause for Kelly Johnson [1], upon the ninth-inning, one-out, two-run home run that tied Wednesday night’s game, was hearty at schvitzy Citi Field but not universal. The Metsnoscenti recognized false hope as soon as they saw it. Huzzah, Kelly, for you did what you were supposed to do, what none of your teammates managed to do in the eight innings before, but by firing a cannon shot into the branded beverage pavilion, you also prolonged the inevitable.

This was not hindsight. My old buddy Jim predicted this turn of events hours before, when the Arizona Diamondbacks sat and sat some more on an early 1-0 lead. You just know, he said, that this is one of those games where the Mets will tie it in the ninth only to set up a loss that will feel far worse because it was tied. I’d credit Jim with outsize prognosticatory abilities, except I was thinking pretty much the same thing.

We’re all Kreskin with this team. We’ve all seen this movie, yet we keep coming back for the next show. Maybe they’ll change the ending, we try to convince ourselves. But they don’t.

Pick your precedent of choice to best explain the Diamondbacks’ twelve-inning 3-2 win [2]. It wasn’t altogether different from any of the Mets’ one- or two-run losses of late. It reminded me a bit as well of the thirteen innings spent shaking my head at the Mets and White Sox at the beginning of June [3], mainly because my companion at that game departed an inning before the whole thing went into the dumper, just like Jim did Wednesday. Sticklers for facsimile might recollect along with me back to another Mets-Diamondbacks game, played at roughly the same juncture of a season that refused to kindly go away until it completely, grudgingly and scarringly disappeared.

August 3, 2002, first game of a Saturday doubleheader at Shea. In the bottom of the eighth, Edgardo Alfonzo [4] launches a two-run homer. Talk about your huzzahs. The Mets take a 5-4 lead. Fonzie is so clutch. Now all that has to be done is record three outs in the top of the ninth. We’ll simply call on Armando Benitez [5], and…

Yeah, right. Craig Counsell [6] leads off with a home run. We’re tied. We go to extras. Scott Strickland [7] hits a guy, gives up a single and then a three-run bomb to Erubiel Durazo [8]. Mets lose, 8-5. Mets lose the second game. Mets are swept in the series. Mets don’t recover until maybe 2005. No kidding.

But who requires precedent when the present is doing a splendid job of cultivating fresh agony? Johnson was The Man for a minute, just as Bartolo Colon [9] was the Mets’ Big Sexy finger in the dike for seven innings of seven-hit ball. Bart, in his quest to defeat the only major league team he’d never beaten, gave up a single run. Silly veteran. Doesn’t he know one run is a trick too tough for the Mets to untangle? Especially when you’re facing Robbie Ray [10] and his cabinet full of Cy Youngs?

Correction: Robbie Ray has no particular portfolio of success in his relatively brief major league career, and he entered the evening with a 4.83 ERA. His peripherals suggest he sucked a little less than that, but not nearly enough to shut out the (try to hold your laughter) Defending National League Champions (giggle) on three hits and no walks over seven innings.

Robbie Ray, not Randy Johnson [11], not Curt Schilling [12], not Brandon Webb [13], not Patrick Corbin [14] before Tommy John. Robbie Fucking Ray. This is the fucking Diamondback the Mets couldn’t touch except to shake his hand in a complimentary fashion inning after inning as he set them down.

Jesus Marshmallow Fluff on three slices of Wonder Bread. I swear. I’d use real curse words there, but the Diamondbacks stole the rest of them when Travis d’Arnaud [15] threw his Funk & Wagnalls into center.

The simple 2-0 loss toward which the Mets were on a glide path (Addison Reed [16] having been less invincible than usual) was averted when Johnson took Jake Barrett [17] to the soda pop palace. We’d be lobbying Congress for a commemorative Kelly Johnson Home Run postage stamp had it been followed by an additional run of some sort. Neil Walker [18], who was Tuesday night’s innocent hope-raiser, singled. Jay Bruce [19] didn’t single, but he accidentally moved Walker to second on a groundout. A team that is seriously contending from two games out of a playoff spot — which is where the Mets found themselves entering the inaction thanks to a Marlin matinee loss — gets Walker home. Chip Hale [20], however, changed pitchers a few more times and ultimately arranged the matchup he wanted: anybody against a Met hitter.

We went to the tenth. Jeurys Familia [21] joined us. It wasn’t a save situation, unless you count saving the season, then by all means, get Familia in there. Jeurys did what he could for two innings (approaching midnight in advance of a noon start). He and Colon could compare notes on keeping their team afloat with zero support, just as perhaps they swapped stories on their flight home from San Diego about not being used by their manager in the All-Star Game. The only Met who tried to help Familia on the offensive side of the ball, or at least the only one who succeeded a little, was the newest Met, rookie T.J. Rivera [22]. Credit Rivera, Met third baseman No. 162 ever (so we have one for every game of a given year), with some nifty defense and his first major league hit, a single delivered to no avail leading off the home tenth. Also, T.J. comes to bat to Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz’s “Déjà Vu (Uptown Baby),” which samples Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” and had its video shot at Shea Stadium [23], so anything he does once he actually bats is a bonus in my book.

The Diamondbacks have a player named Oscar Hernandez [24]. Did you know that? On a team swimming in interesting monikers — Tuffy Gosewisch [25]; Socrates Brito [26]; Phil Gosselin [27], your State Farm Agent of the Day for all your pinch-hitting needs, to judge by his Jumbotron portrait [28] — Oscar Hernandez doesn’t necessarily stand out, but he’ll be wandering through our nightmares alongside Craig Counsell and Erubiel Durazo for a generation or two. Hernandez, who had never homered off anybody in the majors, did so versus Jerry Blevins [29] (whose status as “not chopped liver” I’m beginning to reconsider) to start the twelfth. The Mets trailed by one. They stayed in that position through the bottom of the twelfth, confirming the 3-2 loss that left the Mets 2½ games and a million emotional miles out of the last Wild Card slot.

These Mets reminded me of a postseason team in one sense, for I was overcome by my own déjà vu, baby, when Wednesday was over. I hadn’t been up on the first base side of Promenade quite so late after a stinging loss since Game Four of the World Series. That night I was pretty certain 2015 had reached its death throes [30], though it would take one more game to make it official. This loss to the Diamondbacks had that much in common with that loss to the Royals. Here, of course, 49 games remain and one hot streak (or three lukewarm spurts) could conceivably make all the difference in determining 2016’s fate. But sooner or later, our boys have to actually win games by the plural. They’re not doing it and they’re not exactly throwing off sparks in their sputtering attempts to be victorious.

Your individual Defending National League Champions (snicker) are the worst offenders. D’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores [31] and Curtis Granderson [32], honest-to-god baseball heroes this time last year, went a combined 0-for-13, each of them failing at the most crucial juncture they could uncover. Travis was a disaster with opposing runners on base as well. The D’Backs have been robbing him sight-impaired. Catchers may take too much blame for stolen bases, but d’Arnaud appears to be aiding and abetting the thefts, which have totaled nine in eleven attempts these past two nights.

The 2016 Mets have not swiped my affection for the game they attempt to play. I had a wonderful experience talking up their immediate predecessors at beautiful Little City Books in Hoboken [33] on Monday night and appreciate all my Jersey compatriots for coming out. Stephanie and I were tickled to spend Tuesday night literally behind home plate (you may have seen us on camera) alongside our friends Rob and Ryder as we executed our seventh consecutive August good-time get-together. And on Wednesday, in seats generously passed along by the geographically absent but spiritually present birthday celebrant Skid Rowe (in a section adjacent to the heretofore uncrowned Queen of Beers; she wore a t-shirt that identified her as such), Jim offered a multi-inning interpretation of Lorinda de Roulet that Elaine Stritch would have envied on her best day. It’s only when the games end and the season’s aspirations wither with them that this whole Met thing grows inexorably morbid.