Less than 24 hours after the Mets lost to the Rays by one run on Friday night , the Mets were losing by one run to the Rays on Saturday afternoon , yet whereas Friday’s defeat grated deeply as a one-run loss will, the one-run deficit the Mets were alternately trying to overcome and maintain Saturday didn’t feel anything like a one-run deficit.
Which is why it burgeoning in a veritable blink into a seven-run blowout felt quite natural.
Unnatural, however, is “the bullpen game,” a clever concept until it crumbles, at which point it becomes an impediment to competing effectively…unless you’re the Rays, who brought this pox on baseball’s house in the first place. That you can’t beat the Rays with their own cudgel seemed karmically obvious all along.
If the Mets had five starters handy, one supposes they would be using five starters. At the moment, with Jacob deGrom  calmly and quietly healing from whatever’s not wrong with him (please, please, please), they’re down to three. With deGrom, they have four. Whenever mythic Thor character Noah Syndergaard  and mythical erstwhile Clevelander Carlos Carrasco  materialize, the Mets will have a surplus.
That day is not close. So we have a day with a barrage of relief pitchers and a hope that they live up to their name, especially relieving the residual stress from Friday.
Not so much on Saturday. “The opener” — all this stuff belongs in quotes — Drew Smith  raised the curtain adequately, giving up only one run in two innings. “The bulk guy” Joey Lucchesi , however, wasn’t able to ride his signature churve to a successful outing. On one hand, that’s bad, because we needed quality or at least bulk from Lucchesi. On the other hand, I don’t ever want to hear the word “churve” again, so the sooner Lucchesi is chased from the mound, the sooner “churve” hits the showers. Nothing against the pitcher. Nothing against the pitch, even. Everything against a word that sets my nerves on edge every instant it’s spoken. “Churve” sounds like a preppie pronunciation for what is commonly mixed with sour cream atop a baked potato.
Muffy, whatever have you done with Joey’s churve?
The combination changeup and curve NEEDS A BETTER NAME. And it needs to be thrown better. Thus ends the analytical portion of this program.
I wasn’t that crazy about the rest of the bullpen from the bullpen game and whatever they rest of the bullpen threw. When it was 6-5, with Tommy Hunter  (the only player whose identity suggests he should regularly wear the otherwise hideous Armed Forces Day camo cap) squirming out of jams and the Mets’ dormant power bats — specifically those belonging to bench mobster Jose Peraza , homecoming king Pete Alonso  and celery stalk-coiffed Francisco Lindor  — briefly stirring from their naps, it was close, but it never felt like a one-run game. The defending American League champions have had us right where they wanted us ever since David Peterson  gave way a little too late the branch of the Mets bullpen that sees consistent deployment. On Friday night, I couldn’t in all good conscience fume at Trevor May , Miguel Castro  or Aaron Loup . I could fume at the loss they left their fingerprints all over, but that game seemed destined to get away the second Gary Cohen told us Luis Rojas had nobody warming to start the eighth. We were up, 2-0, and it felt like we were playing catchup. The individuals within the bullpen didn’t feel culpable. Or bulpable.
“Bulpable” may not be recognized as a word by spellcheck, but neither is “churve”.
Saturday I wasn’t in the mood to cut the bullpen slack in light of it having been dubbed their game. Luis, presumably at the front office braintrust’s behest, emptied out the less depended-upon section of the relief corps and kept it warm all afternoon. This is why you don’t make the entire pitching staff out of the bullpen. Hunter may have blended into the offensive onslaught Tampa Bay was unleashing, but Sean Reid-Foley , Jacob Barnes  and former All-Star closer Jeurys Familia  couldn’t camouflage themselves from what the Rays were firing at them and therefore became sitting ducks. Mets fielders also failed to mount an adequate defense against what became a 15-hit attack, though the Tropicana Field carpet and positioning by shift certainly didn’t help Lindor on two balls that looked grabbable or smotherable or something that shouldn’t have gotten by him in the bottom of the eighth.
Then again, lose by one, lose by seven, what’s the difference? The difference is six runs, for those of you scoring at home, which is what the Rays did a lot.
With two out in the top of the ninth and the Mets trailing, 12-5, former Rays farmhand Jake Hager  pinch-hit. Having been a “farmhand” for a team that plays in a facility named for a leading brand of orange juice suggests that Jake, 28, patiently worked his way through the groves of Central Florida, but he was mostly playing baseball this last decade. The first-round draft pick from 2011 carries a metaphorical suitcase that includes stickers from four different Triple-A stops, Syracuse the most recent of them. There’s been a lot of close, but no cigar on Jake’s journey. No OJ, either, not until Saturday when Hager replaced Khalil Lee on the Mets roster and was instructed to bat for Kevin Pillar . Khalil was here for a couple of days with no opportunity to play, but Lee is only 22. Give Jake a break, kid.
It was the first major league at-bat of Hager’s ten-year professional career and the first time any Met player wore 86, a pair of digits — like the city of St. Petersburg  itself — that contains some Amazin’ championship cachet. New No. 86 Jake Hager finally getting this kind of chance was a reason to stay tuned, a reason to remain engaged, a reason to feel good.
Hager proceeded to fly out, thus ending the positive evocation portion of our program.