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Niese Is the Way We Are Feeling

Thirteen thoughts after staying up late with the Mets and watching alongside them as their opponents crossed the plate thirteen times [1].

1. Jon Niese [2], per the late Dennis Green, is who we expected him to be. Three fine innings against those poisonous Arizona Diamondbacks, a dreadful fourth, gone in the fifth. You can’t say he didn’t provide distance, to judge by how far Rickie Weeks [3] and Yasmany Tomas [4] hit their home runs off him. To be fair to Niese, he was pitching in an unfamiliar time zone, in uniform tops that are described as alternate, on a Wednesday, which is a day that only occurs once a week, so how was he supposed to get comfortable?

2. The Mets did not cream Zack Godley [5]. Whereas Alibi Yikes’ earned run average drifted upward from 5.20 to 5.30, Godley’s seven-and-a-third effective (or effectively scheduled) innings yoinked his ERA down from 5.24 to 4.85. Real clash of the titans there, huh? Neither had started a game recently, but on this desert evening, Godleyness hovered far above Nieseness.

3. Anybody remember Niese shutting out the Mets for seven innings in June? He hasn’t been remotely as good, neither as a Pirate nor a Met, since. Godley, on the other hand, had never before taken a start into the eighth inning in his major league career, but he did against the Mets. Cripes.

4. There are two Met bullpens. There is the one that keeps the Mets in ballgames that often (or used to) become wins. Then there’s the Seth Lugo [6] Brigade, which should be ushered onto the field by the nearest Sym-Phony [7]. Lugo didn’t give up any runs last night, so he’s excused. His compadres gave up a ton of them. Josh Edgin [8], the pitcher who has made it back from a year-plus of rehab, is a ghost of his former self. I could swear Edgin was a fresh face five minutes ago, but it’s closer to five years; he’s been around so long that he — like mid-’90s stalwarts Josias Manzanillo [9] and Pete Harnisch [10] — can say he’s given up a home run [11] to Chipper Jones [12]. For all you kids out there, Chipper Jones was the Yasmany Tomas of his day. Gabriel Ynoa [13], we hardly Ynoa ye and probably won’t get the chance to familiarize ourselves further for a while. Erik Goeddel [14], also not executing his best work of late, I hope sticks around until next weekend to pitch to Tyler Goeddel [15] when the Mets play the Phillies, just so Ken Burns can direct and David McCullough can narrate how “the battle had again come down to brother against brother”.

5. Curtis Granderson [16] broke out of his 0-for-2016 slump with a home run in the ninth inning, perhaps the most useless home run in the history of home runs. If I may borrow the phrase my blogging partner enjoys trotting out for such occasions, even the pig was rejecting lipstick at that point, opting for the natural look (“it may not be glamorous, but at least it’s who I am”). The Mets were losing by eleven runs when Curtis struck. Of course, nobody was on base. Nobody ever is when Curtis connects. Pitching for the Diamondbacks was the 88th caller to K-WOW, Where the Valley of the Sun Comes to ROCK. It was such an innocuous home run that Curtis had to remove his own helmet when he reached the dugout. To his credit, Grandy — always a standup guy — called the press box and requested it not count in his statistics.

6. René Rivera [17] also homered off the contest-winner, which accounted for how the game wound up 13-5, despite the experiential score of a kajillion to zilch.

7. Keith Hernandez [18] repeatedly sounded the theme that no lead is safe at Chase Field. The Diamondback leads in this series couldn’t have been more secure had they been assigned a crack Secret Service detail. Also, there was a graphic that suggested Arizona is twenty games below .500. Gotta be a typo. That’s the best team I’ve seen all year. Nationals better watch out for them in the playoffs.

8. Now a dollop of praise dispensed from an eyedropper: Ty Kelly [19] hustles. Inserted in a fifth-inning double-switch — the same one in which bourbon replaced coffee in Terry Collins’s cup — he strung together an infield single, a walk and a double and made a helluva throw from left to nail Jean Segura [20] at the plate. He took Travis d’Arnaud [21] to block and circle got the square. It was truly the Met highlight of the game. Kelly may not survive the restoration of Justin Ruggiano [22] to his rightful place at the far end of the Met bench, but geez this guy hustles on everything. He’s not much of a hitter and doesn’t seem to have a grasp on a particular position, but in seasons that are going, going, gone to hell, watching a Kelly or an Alejandro De Aza [23] even run everything out like they mean it is sort of rewarding unto itself, especially after midnight as your team is losing by a cascade of runs to theoretically abysmal opposition. If this were a more fruitful year, we’d be praising guys like these as the Rod Gaspar [24] or Kirk Nieuwenhuis [25] of their moment

9. This isn’t a more fruitful year and the moment we hoped we’d live in for a spell has pulled over to the shoulder of the road while it waits for the truck the auto club is sending to give it a jump. Three-quarters done and the Mets have won exactly as many as they have lost. If Pythagorean is your thing, the Mets have been outscored by six runs across 120 games. That’s right, the Mets are playing above their statistically anticipated level. Isn’t it great rooting for a bunch of overachievers?

10. The Mets are only four games out of that second Wild Card spot that we keep hearing so much about; we have to hear about it, because it’s getting harder and harder to see. Depending on your worldview, that’s either our saving grace or loathsome burden. As long as you’re sort of in it, you’re sort of in it, and if you’re sort of in it, I believe (though you don’t gotta) you have to treat that as something approaching legitimate. Then again, three nights in the desert can make a person prone to mirages.

11. Nine games against the Western Division dregs yielded three wins. Perhaps seven games against the two current National League Wild Card occupants — four versus the slumping Giants, then three at depleted St. Louis — will be the second cartoon conk on the head that revives the guy who’s out cold after the first blow left him with stars and such circling his noggin. Sure, why not? Jacob deGrom [26] tonight, Madison Bumgarner [27] notwithstanding, represents as good as a chance to zoom an entire game above .500 as there is.

12. Things weren’t exactly sizzling with Asdrubal Cabrera [28] and Yoenis Cespedes [29] on board (plus Ruggiano, who you had no idea was here to begin with), but they’re good players and they’ll be playing this weekend, plus Michael Conforto [30] is rumored to be scalding the ball in Nevada. Maybe he’ll be sprung from Las Vegas purgatory sooner than September 1, though I’d prefer he get everything out of his system before ascending to New York once and for all. I’m not selling this roster-reshaping as hope, simply possibility. It’s possible that more better players lead to more better games. Then again, I was kind of excited to get Jay Bruce [31]…and not wholly discouraged when we got Justin Ruggiano.

13. For 42 more games, there’s Mets baseball. Do with that thought what you will.