“You don’t know how to ease my pain…”
The Mets lost 7-3 to the Diamondbacks on Friday night, one night after losing to the Diamondbacks, 6-3. Three runs scored on each of two consecutive nights might very well be taken as, per the least intuitive manager on earth, a sign that the Mets are “slowly coming out of” their seemingly permanent offensive coma, but the giving up of that many runs may also be telling us that the outstanding starting pitching that’s been oblivious to a lack of support is reverting to merely decent — with the bullpen providing no help whatsoever. On this ballclub, merely decent starting pitching will get your starting pitcher no more than a half-hearted pat on the ass.
“You don’t know how to play the game…”
Seth Lugo earned a pat on the ass that had some thrust to it even if he wasn’t as on point as he’d been in his previous rotation cameos. Only Jacob deGrom can stay on point forever without someone standing behind him to prop him up on an off night. Seth had an off night. He wobbled. Then the Mets fell down. The Mets were never much up to begin with. True, they had baserunners, which was a charming change of pace from most games, but the key word within the word “baserunners” is “run” and the Mets avoided posting many of those.
Against Zack Godley (not to be confused with Zack Greinke, but definitely conflated with Kevin Godley in my musically attuned mind ), the Mets got Michael Conforto to third in the first, but didn’t score. In the second, Jose Bautista led off with a walk, “raced” to third on Dom Smith ’s double and charged home on Amed Rosario’s fly ball to definitely not deep, really more like shallow center. Jarrod Dyson’s throw not only beat Bautista to the plate by ten feet, Bautista slid closer to Chase Field’s old-timey moundward dirt path than he did that white, pentagonal object that was presumably his goal. The third brought something resembling results: Lugo singled (because Met pitchers have to be doing it for themselves); Conforto switched bodies with Brandon Nimmo and absorbed a hit by pitch; and defensive specialist Todd Frazier doubled to bring Lugo in from second. Todd made with the salt-and-pepper grinder motion upon landing at second, as if that’s a totem still in its prime. He might as well have cued up the Mojo Risin’ refrain from “L.A. Woman”.
With runners on second and third, the Mets were set to make Godley cry. Yeah, right. Nimmo struck out, Cabrera struck out. Bautista struck out. Inning over. The part of the game that seemed remotely promising over. Paul Goldschmidt had already homered and his teammates began to follow his example. The Mets were down by two when Smith, turning 23 with a flair, homered to start the fourth. Kevin Plawecki, the nearly invisible catcher, walked. Then he walked too far from first and was picked off. In the best of times, Kevin Plawecki reminds me of Hawkeye Pierce’s description of a doctor back home he didn’t care for: “incredibly average Vernon Parsons”. These are not the best of times. With Devin Mesoraco’s status as savior not as sturdy as it once was, it’s becoming hard to not notice what a black hole catcher has again become. Perhaps Jose Lobaton and Tomás Nido weren’t such an aberration after all.
Here’s Sandy Alderson on the subject, or at least Sandy Alderson saying what I imagine he’d say, based on listening to him these past eight seasons:
“I wouldn’t say we’re ‘satisfied’ with our catching situation, but right now the industry is experiencing something of a developmental drought at the position, so when you view it through the most relevant prism, I wouldn’t characterize an upgrade as a priority for us.”
Thanks for weighing in, imaginary GM.
Where were we? Oh yeah, losing. Losing 3-2 after four, losing 5-2 after five (Daniel Descalso doing the longball honors), losing 6-2 after Jon Jay drove in pesky Dyson, who had walked, stolen second and stolen third off the inspiring duo of Plawecki and Chris Beck , the latest Mets pitcher you’d never heard of until basically just now. Jay also stole a base, except replay review was mercifully inconclusive when he was mysteriously called out at second. And don’t think Goldschmidt put his bat away. A seventh-inning single off legendary missing bullpen piece Anthony Swarzak plated Jay, who skipped the uncertainty of stealing and opted to triple.
That made it 7-2 going to the ninth. My man  Jose Reyes led off, worked an eight-pitch at-bat and doubled. For an instant I was transported out of 2018 and into 2006, specifically that four-game series in June when the Mets extracted every last ounce of venom from the Diamondbacks’ bloodstream, outscoring them 11-0 in just the first innings of that series and 37-9 overall. Reyes scored five runs in those four games. Goldschmidt has almost all by himself outscored the Mets this June.
Do I have to come back to the present? Well, like the Mets, we’re almost done. With one out, incredibly average (if that) Plawecki reached on an error, allowing Jose to motor to third. With two out, the suddenly active and relatively spry Wilmer Flores doubled. That’s two doubles in one inning, adding up to…let me check…yes, we got an additional run. We also had seven hits, a total we hadn’t summed in literally nearly two weeks.
Then we lost . But you already knew that.
“You don’t even know how to say goodbye.”
Flores got to reacclimate to first base late and Smith roamed left field for a few innings. These Spring Training games are ideal for switching guys around. True, this wasn’t a Spring Training game, but who can say any longer that they count for anything, except for counting purposes? In the “Two Cathedrals” episode of The West Wing the ghostly presence of Mrs. Landingham demanded of President Bartlet, “Give me numbers.”
Here’s the set I find most telling: 17-37. That’s the Mets’ record over the past 54 games. That’s easy math in our Base 162 system of keeping track. You multiply your 54-game record by three and you’ve got a full season’s total. Multiply 17-37 by three and you have 51-111.
That’s the record posted by the 1963 Mets, who were an immense improvement over the 1962 Mets, who were the first Mets, so they, like their immediate successors, had an excuse. They also had a manager who made the torrent of defeats tolerable. We have Mickey Callaway, whose postgame analysis honest-to-god centered on how much more the Mets would have scored had they just hit a few more grounders to second when they had runners on third with less than two out.
I am reminded of one more exchange, this from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which I first saw right around the time Godley & Creme’s “Cry” was in heavy MTV rotation.
MOTHER SUPERIOR: Oh Rusty, you are an inspiration to us all!
PEE-WEE: I’ll say! I’m going to start a paper route right now!
Here is my pro bono communications consultant advice to Mickey: Next time you’re surrounded by reporters asking you about the loss you’ve just managed, dig into your pocket, fish out your phone, tell them you’ve really got to take this call and walk away.
And keep walking if you like.