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The Spirit of 17–6

Saturday’s Mets game was one for the ages. I know I aged significantly during the three hours and thirty-six minutes it took for the Mets to lose the hell out of it.

When the game and I were comparatively wide-eyed and callow, I could imagine a world in which the Mets, behind Jason Vargas [1], could beat the Brewers. Vargas won a game as recently as Monday. The Mets won in Milwaukee as recently as Thursday. They held a 3-0 lead Saturday. A 5-3 lead, too.

Then we all aged like crazy as the Mets lost and lost some more [2]. Hard to believe it counted as only one loss.

Vargas was pounded for five runs in three innings, par for the course at which Jason usually golfs, that one solid start versus the Marlins notwithstanding. Jacob Rhame [3] gave up runs at a slightly more accelerated clip, but was given only an inning to do so. AJ Ramos [4], who not so long ago was considered by experts a major league closer, a major league setup man and/or a major league pitcher, was called on next, perhaps as some sort of immersion therapy so he and we could face our worst fears. We all feared seeing Ramos facing the Brewers approximately ten psychic minutes after he walked them to victory the night before. Our fears couldn’t have been any more founded: three runs in a mere two-thirds of an inning. Ramos truly puts the frack in fraction.

Strangely enough, even as we swirled amid the dust of Ramos’s debris, the Mets were just one conceivable swing of the bat from tying Milwaukee. Granted, it was 10-6 after five, but that’s not an impossible mission. Load the bases, go for the downs, who knows? Brewer pitching hadn’t exactly choked off the Met attack. Nimmo had homered. Conforto had homered. We had a fighting chance.

Then we had Chris Flexen [5] on the mound.

Chris Flexen from the fabled flaming trainwreck known as the 2017 Mets.

Chris Flexen from the mostly unnoticed roster move a week earlier that returned Buddy Baumann to the land of desert winds and towering ERAs.

Chris Flexen who’d languished out back of the bullpen where he was sneaking a smoke for all we knew because Mickey Callaway hadn’t seen fit to ask him to pitch, hit, run, field, pass, punt or kick.

Flexen started nine games for the Mets after being elevated from Binghamton last year. Few of his outings were encouraging, but the lot of them represented experience a pitcher not yet 24 could theoretically build on. Experience used to be enough to rate a starter with any kind of track record — Jae Seo, Dave Williams, Pat Misch — a day pass to join the rotation as needed and maybe stick around if he exhibited the slightest adequacy in a pinch. Experience blended with desperation was enough to snag Rafael Montero a clean slate every fifth day for a month in 2017. Yet when Callaway was asked who might start the nightcap of this Monday’s doubleheader in Atlanta, instead of volunteering, “Flexen, that’s my guy,” he hedged, innovatively suggesting it was more likely he’d employ a grab bag approach such as the kind favored by your trendsetting Tampa Bay Rays and such. (The Braves aren’t a division rival we’re trying to gain ground on in vital head-to-head competition, are they?) Flexen wasn’t out of the mix, but he didn’t loom as the lead ingredient.

After Saturday, one presumes he is toast for Monday, if not forever. Young Chris threw 57 pitches, almost of all them (at least the ones in the strike zone) scalded. Flexen entered at 10-6 in the fifth; he exited at 17-6 in the seventh. Only three of the seven runs he allowed were earned, but that seemed a technicality. Oh, and the Mets stopped scoring, transforming a potential slugfest into a standard-issue blowout of epic proportions, the kind in which you’re grateful nobody grabbed a lat muscle, yet you’re a little disappointed a catcher didn’t pitch.

I got old just watching it and I’ve gotten even older just now reliving it.