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Sticking the Landing

For most of Tuesday night, the Mets stuck to their horrific 2018 script. After the evening began with grim real-world news [1], as opposed to the ultimately meaningless baseball variety, the team went out and scored two early runs against the Pirates, who seemed so comically discombobulated that you wondered if you’d stumbled into some MLB wacky skit: The fans are here for a baseball game, but what they don’t know is that we took the Pirates and switched them with the Mets! Let’s see if anyone notices!

Uh, we noticed. The Pirates committed three errors (and could easily have been charged with a fourth), and contributed four wild pitches to the fray, meaning they basically gifted the Mets half a week’s worth of offense just for showing up. Was that enough to win? Don’t be silly: if the Mets can lose on consecutive nights marked by late-inning three-run homers, a bushelful of extra bases is no guarantee of anything. Steven Matz [2] pitched well, aside from a Leiteresque few minutes where it seemed like he’d forgotten how to pitch, yielding a single, double and two more singles in a head-scratching sequence that erased the Mets’ early lead. The Mets being the Mets, that was enough to leave him stuck with a 2-2 tie.

All right out of the dreadful playbook the Mets really ought to burn already, along with Matz hanging around over 100 pitches and giving up what sure looked like a fatal home run to Gregory Polanco [3]. Except the Pirates weren’t covering themselves with glory, either: with the good guys down by one in the bottom of the seventh, Michael Conforto [4] connected to tie the score again.

Foolishness followed: Josh Harrison [5] broke up a double play with a hard but clean slide into Asdrubal Cabrera [6], an encounter that seemed to incense Jeurys Familia [7]. The real issue was likely Jeurys’s recent inability to throw strikes, stay healthy or escape the putrid mire of this season, but Harrison made for an easier target, so Familia started barking at him. Harrison, who’s voluble to the point that one suspects he carries on a running conversation in his sleep, took objection to the taking objection, and there was yelling and semi-pushing and a vague amount of posturing, complete with the bullpen catchers arriving a minute later, wheezing and hoping there was no chance they’d have to actually hit anyone.

There wasn’t, because Cabrera had recorded his opinion by embracing Harrison out there in the scrum. That caused Keith Hernandez [8] and Ron Darling [9] to grumble old-man things about today’s game — honestly, it wasn’t a good night for anybody — but Cabrera’s peaceable gesture prevented further nonsense. Perhaps he figured the Mets couldn’t fight either, which strikes me as wise. This season’s bad enough without having to extract meaning from, say, Kevin Plawecki [10] slipping mid-haymaker and breaking Brandon Nimmo [11]‘s orbital bone, causing him to fall on Noah Syndergaard [12]‘s elbow.

Familia somehow escaped harm after everyone got all worked up, and the game ground into extra innings, which made me sigh. Free baseball isn’t exactly a blessing this year; rather, it suggests additional indignities must be endured. The question remaining was how, exactly, the Mets would lose and how much it would sting. That’s a question with no good answer: “a lot” is obviously no fun, while “not at all” is actually worse, and this season has given us ample supplies of both.

Except this is where the Mets somehow departed from the script.

Oh, they tried to mump it up. With Conforto on second and Todd Frazier [13] on first, Cabrera either decided to bunt or was ordered to do so. He popped his first attempt up to catcher Elias Diaz [14], who dropped it as part of one of the worse days I’ve seen for a catcher in a good long time. Given new life, Cabrera managed to bunt even less effectively, lollipopping the ball out to pitcher (and sometimes singer of our national anthem [15]) Steven Brault [16]. Brault could have let the ball drop for a double play, a triple play or possibly some as-yet-unheard-of play where all 25 Mets were declared out, giving the Pirates another 7 2/3 free innings to score a run. He settled for merely catching it, and faced Wilmer Flores [17].

Flores whistled a liner down the third-base line. First it looked foul. Then it looked like it had clipped Brian O’Nora, who’d earlier forgotten there was a force at that same base. (Seriously, I wasn’t kidding when I said no one had a good night.) It definitely wasn’t foul and it may or may not have grazed O’Nora’s pant leg — by the time everything was sorted out Conforto had scampered home and Flores was being attaboyed out beyond first and the Mets, somehow, hadn’t lost [18], which was an outcome both unfamiliar and a lot more pleasant than that to which we’ve become accustomed.

There’s no game Thursday, but chalk up a victory by attending OFF NIGHT FOR METS FANS: READIN’, WRITIN’ & RUSTYTwo Boots Midtown East, 337 Lexington Ave., between 39th and 40th Streets. Thursday, June 28, 7:00 PM. Join a trio of Mets fan authors, grab a slice of Two Boots pizza and have a fine baseball time designed to improve all our perspectives.The details are here [19]. Hope to see you there.