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Not How the Story Was Supposed to End

Zack Wheeler [1] had a bad inning, not a full-game meltdown but an uneasy, Leiteresque mix of wildness and poor BABIP luck. That bad inning was enough to put the Mets in a 4-0 hole, but then Tanner Roark [2] couldn’t get anybody out either. The Mets crept to 4-2 and then Roark became the latest opponent to get excused further duty by his manager despite having the lead and being close to qualifying for that hoary but still valued stat, the win. With two outs in the fourth but the bases loaded, Roark walked Pete Alonso [3] on four pitches, prompting Reds skipper David Bell [4] to opt for Wandy Peralta [5] … who rewarded him by walking Brandon Nimmo [6] on four more pitches.

Tie game, and this is the kind of thing we ought to remember when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves: The Mets do not, in fact, have a monopoly on misery and all-encompassing woe-is-me baseball hangdoggery. Tie game, and it seemed all but certain that the Mets would break through and untie it, finishing an unlikely comeback and authoring a feel-good story for Wheeler a day after writing a feel-good story for Steven Matz [7]. Why, that’s the kind of thing that can give a ballclub confidence and a sense of lift, which …

Oh that’s right, there was the remainder of the game to be played. Which, alas, proved to be more than a formality.

The Mets had their chances: there was the bases-loaded opportunity after Nimmo’s walk, of course, but they also put runners on first and second with two out in the sixth and got a one-out double in the seventh. All for naught; it was the Reds who were knocking on the door.

In the eighth, Mickey Callaway [8] stubbornly went once again to Jeurys Familia [9], whose dumpster fire of a season has to be one of the Met storylines most worthy of concern. Familia walked Scott Schebler [10] and hit Jose Iglesias [11] in the shoulder, leaving the Mets looking at miles of bad road. Tucker Barnhart followed with a perfect bunt up the third-base line, which Todd Frazier [12] pounced on and turned into an out; Familia then gave up a sharp grounder over the third-base bag to Jose Peraza [13], not an impossible play but also one that routinely ends with an errant ball bounding down the line and a left-fielder frantically exploring the corner and way too many enemy baserunners gamboling around. Frazier coolly converted it into a double play and Familia had somehow escaped his own mess.

He escaped and handed the ball to Edwin Diaz [14], working his third straight game in a row. And before you could say “Conor Gillaspie [15],” Jesse Winker [16]┬áhad spanked a sluggish slider over the right-field fence. Winker’s home-run trot was so enthusiastic it called for a choreographer, but you know what? If fortunes had been reversed, Alonso’s bat would quite possibly have wound up in geosynchronous orbit. Winker was enjoying the moment, even if I decidedly was not, and my objections are confined to the outcome.

The Mets couldn’t answer and in rapid succession they lost [17], fell to .500, and tonight will send Jason Vargas [18] out against Luis Castillo [19], who is not that Luis Castillo but a pitcher whose early-season successes are bad omen enough. None of that was lost on me, as I fumed and vindictively decided to let recap duty wait until morning. (A mistake: Why begin a day rubbing your own nose in the previous night’s loss?)

So why did I have the feeling that the story had gone wrong, that the Mets had been destined to win that game and something had malfunctioned? It’s an interesting question to ask as a fan of a statistically mediocre outfit whose expected strengths are so far proving flimsy.

I’d wax literary about this reservoir of good feeling and its secret wellsprings, except I don’t know where they come from.

Maybe on Monday night it was simple arrogance: the Reds are a mess and desperately need someone to tell them that their road uniforms look like late-aughts throwbacks, about which no one on the planet is nostalgic. (I mean, seriously? Two-tone caps, drop shadows and whatever’s happening with that number font? There’s so much “Oh honey, no” going on there that I wanted to watch the game peeking through my fingers.) Maybe it’s simply the presence of Alonso, the baseball equivalent of a golden retriever who just ate a sleeve of coffee pods and a bag of sugar and is so glad to see you he can’t even. Maybe it’s that when they actually manage get out of their own way, the Mets are still capable of sending out a starting pitcher who will throttle the opposition in merciless, highly watchable fashion. Or maybe it’s just that it’s still early spring, and I catch myself being surprised that baseball is something I can watch instead of just daydreaming about.

Whatever the reason, there’s a disconnect, and I remain stubbornly optimistic about a team whose results would suggest wariness as a wiser response. Is that a problem? Maybe, but I think I’m happier without having it fixed.