- Faith and Fear in Flushing - https://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Baloney in the Sausage Race

I don’t consider myself particularly prescient, but I did have three recent thoughts that perhaps indicate I have a knack for sniffing out certain strands of Met debacle before they unspool.

1) “Miller Park is a stealth Mets disaster zone,” I wrote to my blog partner on May 7, looking ahead if not exactly looking forward to the Mets’ next series in Milwaukee. The Mets fan’s default selection for “we never win there” was long Turner Field, but there is no there there anymore. “We never win” at Marlins Park, either, except we swept at Marlins Park in April, so you can only complain about what is legitimately complainable. The Mets had won only one series at Petco Park in its first fourteen years of existence, but this year, also in April, we won another. One must update one’s perceptions as events dictate.

I haven’t missed an entire Mets game since July 29, 2010, a fact for which I deserve neither kudos nor pity. I bring it up to note the advantage inherent in not having missed an entire Mets game in nearly eight years: you tend to not miss telling trends as they develop. Though the Brewers are rarely on our radar, I noticed Miller Park trending in the wrong direction for a while, with the Mets having lost their last five games in the Land of the Overgrown Tube Steak entering 2018. That included a sweep in May of 2017 which, in my judgment, tore away the facade that the Mets would compete for anything other than a draft pick [1]. There was also the strange pattern I’d detected in which the Mets never win the second-to-last game of their annual Miller Park series [2], dating back to 2009.

2) On Sunday, after the Mets had predictably lost two of their first three in their ongoing Miller Park series (including that pesky penultimate game), they were on the verge of splitting with the Brewers, no mean feat considering the environs and the opposition. Although SNY continually dwells on the same handful of facts about Wisconsin’s home team every trip in — they used to be the Pilots; they replaced the Braves; they won the American League pennant before losing to Keith Hernandez’s Cardinals in the 1982 World Series; they race enormous sausages to great acclaim; and they didn’t complete a trade for Wilmer Flores — the Brewers are as good a team as the National League team features right now. We don’t hear that much, but we should. They own the circuit’s best record and lead the Central Division by four games.

Yet there were the Mets, carrying a 5-4 lead to the seventh inning. Zack Wheeler [3] seemed to be winding his way down Vargas Road in the first inning, but he put his troubles in reverse after giving up three hits to the first three batters. The Brewers got him for only one run in the first and the Mets mysteriously countered with four runs on five hits in the top of the second. True, Wheeler got bopped for a three-run bomb by Jesus Aguilar in the third, but Zack didn’t suddenly excuse himself to check on his parking lot tailgate. He hung in and hung tough, something not every Mets starting pitcher shows much predilection for (cough, VARGAS, cough). Zack buckled down and went six, delaying calls to the bullpen, which we could only hope was an area every telephone service provider extant refused to wire.

Then, in the top of the seventh, Asdrubal Cabrera [4] homered to increase the Mets’ lead to 6-4. Great, right? Who doesn’t want an extra run? Who doesn’t love Asdrubal Cabrera? Sure, you can spell “MVP” without “Asdrubal,” but why would you bother? Except I immediately flashed back to April 16, the night the 12-2 Mets led the 7-9 Nationals, 4-1. So many numbers. The Mets got two more good ones, a fifth and sixth run, when Cabrera followed a Brandon Nimmo triple with a seventh-inning homer to put us up, 6-1. DeGrom was on the mound, we were unstoppable.

Everything has been almost unrelentingly awful since that moment [5], leading me to the instant conclusion, upon Asdrubal’s dinger in the seventh Sunday, “whenever Cabrera extends a lead with a late home run, something horrible will happen.”

3) Robert Gsellman [6], one of our more dependable relievers, took over in the bottom in the seventh. The Mets were still up, 6-4. Victorious parameters, you’d think. That’s not what I thought. Instead, I thought, with no malice toward Gsellman, “the only question now is whether we’re gonna be losing 7-6 or 8-6.” After I scolded myself for such reflexive cynicism, what happened?

The Brewers took a 7-6 lead. Then an 8-6 lead.

I don’t know if you could see it coming, but I did. I didn’t see details, just debacle. I didn’t know Robert would give up a one-out single to Lorenzo Cain or get squeezed unconscionably by Rob Drake to create a two-out walk to Aguilar, putting runners on first and second. I didn’t know Mickey Callaway would toss a cursed coin and make another damned-if-you-do choice by replacing Gsellman with Jerry Blevins [7], who, when it comes to retiring lefthanded batters this year, is a heckuva clubhouse presence. I didn’t know Blevins would give up a run-scoring single to Travis Shaw, who bats lefthanded. I didn’t know Paul Sewald [8] (0-9 in his career) would bid to spread some of his distinct losing-decision mojo to Blevins (12-2 as a Met before Sunday) by surrendering consecutive doubles to Domingo Santana and Jonathan Villar.

To the Mets’ credit, the Mets didn’t lose, 8-6. They lost, 8-7 [9], thanks to Devin Mesoraco pinch-homering in the ninth to briefly if falsely raise our hopes. I was at the Mets’ prior 8-7 loss this month, against the Rockies on May 4, an evening when the Mets also briefly if falsely raised our hopes, except we probably had more hopes to be falsely raised three weeks ago. I was at the Mets game the very next night, May 5, which was a 2-0 loss, a more typical Met losing score of late, at least until the visit to Milwaukee. For a while the Mets couldn’t score. Now the Mets score plenty — thirteen runs tallied in the past two games — but not nearly enough to overcome their pitching — twenty-five runs allowed in the past two games. You can’t say they’re not versatile.

Maybe it’s not Miller Park that’s the disaster zone.