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Not the Tonic We Were Looking For

Some games are burn-the-tape affairs. Brooding about them won’t help — you’d be better served casting them aside and taking yourself somewhere else as fast as possible.

We do have historical obligations, so I’ll make this speedy: Zack Wheeler [1] was pretty good but inefficient and still rebuilding his arm strength, so the Mets were forced to frog-march their exhausted bullpen through another campaign — and they had little room to maneuver, with the hitters having scored two runs off a shaky-looking Zach Eflin [2] in the first but then substituting wild haymakers for the knockout blow the team needed. The game slowed into an ugly slog and then degenerated into a wretched farce.

With two outs in the eighth, Fernando Salas [3] had thown 21 pitches with steadily diminishing effectiveness, pausing between each one to verify that his arm had not, in fact, fallen off and begun shriveling into a sad, mummified husk on the mound. (Give it time, Fernando — give it time.) Freddy Galvis [4] helpfully lofted the 22nd pitch into the neighborhood of the third-base line, near home plate. Jose Reyes [5] camped under it, drifted near an anxious-looking Travis d’Arnaud [6], then used his glove as a cesta to heave the ball over TdA’s head and send it rolling across the first-base line. That bit of slapstick kept the Phillies alive and moved the tying run to third.

Jerry Blevins [7] came in and gave up a long double down the left-field line to Andres Blanco [8], a hit that would have scored Galvis but for his own sloth on Reyes’s misplay. (Quite the showcase for the national pastime tonight!) The game was tied and went into extra innings, the one place besides Soilmaster Stadium the Mets would rather not be right now. Mercifully, they at least imploded quickly, giving us a dizzying sequence of misplays and balls not quite fielded before slinking off on the wrong side of a wretched 6-2 loss [9].

Analysis? Must we? Early-season gag jobs like this are Rorschach blots — everyone will have his or her own interpretation, united only by being equally depressing. The relievers are exhausted in general and a couple are being ridden onto the DL, which is one of Terry Collins [10]‘s less-amusing tricks … yet a manager has few alternatives when starters don’t supply length and offensive ineptitude removes all margin for error.

Jeurys Familia [11] will be back soon, which should help. Reyes’s career body of work and recent performance suggest that he only looks like he’s completely forgotten to play baseball, though the act has been pretty goddamn convincing. Should he play the role too well for too long it will be time for Amed Rosario or a combination of Wilmer Flores [12] and [I Dunno, Insert Someone Here] to report for duty instead.

But it’s too early for that. It’s too early for much of anything.

The season doesn’t have a story arc yet … which never stops us from playing fortune teller and writing our own. We stare into our cups and turn a few soggy tea leaves into a vast and woeful plantation when we’d be better off gritting our teeth and simply waiting. Every team has stretches where injuries, deficiencies and buzzards’ luck make you wonder if they’ll ever win again. From May through August we moan and groan but beneath all the noise we know it’s nothing personal, just the baseball gods telling us it’s our turn.

April and September aren’t like that, though. In those months we think we see destiny in a crummy week and go on a search-and-destroy mission for meaning. Most of the time we find nothing and only exhaust ourselves in the hunt. Soon enough it turns out it was just baseball, being wonderful and cruel and ridiculous without caring what we think of it.

This delightful game was my lone cameo between trips to Florida and California. Awesome! See you in a few days. Until then, be good to my blog partner, who’s taking on more than his share at a time when watching baseball’s not much fun.