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Remember the Maine (and the Santana)

When the Mets don’t play, the Mets don’t get eliminated. We may have found the 2020 formula for relative success.

On Friday night, the Mets were rained out in Washington. As the evening went along, the palest of suns shone on their fortunes. Philadelphia lost. San Francisco lost, despite the best efforts of heretofore lovable scamp Wilmer Flores [1]. Milwaukee and St. Louis split, though I’d be hard-pressed to discern exactly how that was good, bad or indifferent to our cause. When I awoke this morning, I pored over the scores, the standings and the statistical possibilities for about an hour, or about hour more than I had in toto in this mini-season.

Here’s what they used to call on W. 4th St. the bottom line: the Mets are still alive for a playoff spot. Or they’re not dead yet. They remain one of the precious few MLB teams that doesn’t have a denotation next to their name indicating all the way in or please stay behind the velvet rope. Their chances are thinner than the diner patron who consistently orders the Slenderella, subsisting on no more than a naked hamburger patty, a cling peach slice, a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese, a single Melba toast and unlimited parsley. But if that’s all we’re getting for lunch, we’ll take it to go and savor it at one of the outdoor tables.

Here’s what we — us and our 26-31 team, who are one and the same when the situation suits us — have to do to keep going today, this penultimate Saturday of the irregular season:

1) Stop laughing that a team five games under .500 with three games remaining is somehow passing itself off as a playoff contender. It’s too late for judgments.

2) Win the first game of the doubleheader against Washington, scheduled to start at 3:05 PM.

3) Win the second game after winning that first game. The second game will start thirty to forty-five minutes after the completion of the first game. If the first game is a loss, you’re excused from the rest of this game plan.

4) Revoke every sympathetic sentiment we ever held for Zack Wheeler missing out on the Met playoff runs of 2015 and 2016. He pitches tonight for Philadelphia at Tampa Bay. Wheeler’s been waiting all his life for this moment. Let’s ask the Rays to make him wait a little longer. It’s the least they can do for us after we were such gracious hosts for their division-clinching.

5) Get the Brewers out of the way. I believe we need them to lose one of their final two games versus the Cardinals, so their fate isn’t immediately intertwined with ours where Saturday is concerned. But we do need them to lose one of two. If the Brewers start winning everything in sight, then maybe the Cardinals and their potential Monday makeups with the Tigers become our concern, which already sounds like six bridges too far.

6) Root the Padres on to another win over Wilmer’s Giants…if we haven’t lost the first game against the Nats and/or aren’t on our way to losing the second once the Padres and Giants get underway out west, which is where we’re striving to fly to days from now to face L.A., but sure, let’s get way the bleep ahead of ourselves; we’re still five under .500, still in nothing resembling playoff position, still needing to land coins on their edges rather than heads or tails and I’m that reporter asking Jim Mora about playoffs?. But if steps 1 through 5 come through, brew up that Bigelow and prepare to stay awake.

7) Remember the Maine! We were almost dead on the penultimate day of 2007, then John Maine went out and pitched the game of his and almost everybody else’s life by nearly no-hitting the stupid Marlins [2] that Saturday and setting us up for Game 162’s devastation, but at least it was one more day of life.

8) Remember the Santana! We were almost dead on the penultimate day of 2008, then Johan Santana somehow outdid what Maine had done by shutting out the stupid Marlins [3] that Saturday and setting us up for Game 162’s devastation vu, but at least it was one more day of life then, too.

9) Congratulate the stupid Marlins on breaking their seventeen-season postseason drought [4]. Good manners suggest it. Good karma demands it. They’ve changed their address since 2007 and 2008 from “Florida” to “Miami,” though they’re still “stupid” and can still rot in “Hell” for those final weekends thirteen and twelve years ago, but let’s be sports about this. Besides, beating the Yankees anytime deserves at least a virtual elbow bump.

10) For cleaner precedent, remember we clinched a playoff spot on a penultimate day, in 2016. It was a Saturday. It was an unlikely haul to get there, rising from 60-62 on August 19 to 87-74 on October 1, but we got there. It didn’t get us more than one Wild Card game, but it was something to behold [5] in its time.

Going 27-12 in a span of six weeks and surpassing several contenders to make the postseason was cake compared to the crumbs we have on our plate today. if everything goes right today, it doesn’t get us into the playoffs. It gets us to Sunday and another set of gymnastics. Still, a few months ago, I wouldn’t have bet on any baseball team getting to the end of September at all, but here we are, with baseball and the Mets playing dare I say something approaching a meaningful version of it. We’ve got our Cy Young winners going today, Rick Porcello and Jacob deGrom. No, Porcello didn’t win one for us, but neither did Santana. I’m grasping at straws and groping for possibilities, if only because if I don’t now, I won’t have this opportunity again for at least a year.

The pursuit of better than nothing continues until it doesn’t. When it ceases, we can return to retroactively mocking that we ever took it remotely seriously; entombing it for obscure posterity; and looking forward to maybe a real owner in a couple of months and maybe a real season a few more months beyond that. For now, there’s little we can say definitively, except this: Let’s Go Mets. One or two or perhaps three more times with feeling.