Never mind the cliché about a team beset by injuries resembling a M*A*S*H unit. The Mets of the moment — with 16 players on their injured list — are closer to a M*A*S*H episode. A specific M*A*S*H episode in my mind, the one titled “Carry On, Hawkeye,” from the second season of the series. In it, a flu epidemic sweeps through the 4077th, flooring every surgeon but Hawkeye. Henry can’t operate. Trapper can’t operate. Frank can’t operate (Frank never could operate). Thus, it’s basically up to Hawkeye and Margaret to hold the OR together as wave after wave of wounded are choppered in because war waits for no epidemic.
I thought of this episode Friday night, after Pete Alonso  and Tommy Hunter  went on the IL, after Jose Peraza  got hit with a pitch and had to leave the game, before the Mets put surgical scrubs on Father Mulcahy and Radar O’Reilly because when you’re down doctors, nurses and corpsmen, everybody’s gotta lend a hand. Who, I wondered, was going to be the Mets’ Hawkeye Pierce, the wisecracking healer who almost never loses his composure and almost never loses a patient while all around him are either terribly sick or potentially dying?
Not that I take baseball games seriously as death.
The answer became nobody, even if enough Mets cobbled themselves together to save the day and night. The primary heroes, if we may use such a word for a baseball game, wound up being the approximate Igor, Zale and Rizzo of the roster. No, wait, not even that’s an apt M*A*S*H analogy for the roles played by Jake Hager , Khalil Lee  and Johneshwy Fargas  in the twelfth inning at Terrible Corporate Name for Marlins Park Friday night. Peraza was a supporting player. Kevin Pillar  was a supporting player. If we’d been simply down to the Met supporting player equivalents of Igor, Zale and Rizzo, our chances wouldn’t have looked scant. But our supporting players were confined to their metaphorical beds.
So it was down to the background players — the extras — to come to the forefront and carry the story to its pleasing conclusion . Hager, who had pinch-run in the tenth for unearned runner Tomás Nido , leading off and delivering his very first base hit in the majors and singling Dom Smith, unearned runner in the twelfth, to third. One Wilfredo Tovar out later (to reiterate, Wilfredo Tovar  is back from seven years ago), it was Khalil Lee pinch-hitting for Drew Smith . Khali Lee had the distinction of being both the last guy you’d think of to pinch-hit, considering he was 0-for-8 with eight strikeouts in his brief career, and the last guy you had who roughly answered to the description of “hitter” left on the bench. Lee therefore was distinct enough to get the chance to break his ohfer.
And he did, doubling like he’d done it before, driving in Dom to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. After two first major league base hits had been strung together, veritable veteran Johneshwy Fargas, who got his “get him the ball!” moment out of the way four nights and three career hits earlier, tripled to score Hager and Lee and provide whoever would be the next of Luis Rojas’s non-Lucchesi relievers some breathing room. Johneshwy could have used some, too, as he nervily attempted to turn his triple into an inside-the-park home run. What the hell, he’s young, he’s fast…he was out. Nevertheless, the guys in the background of the guys in support roles had put the Mets up, 6-3, in the twelfth inning, as if twelfth innings happen anymore.
Ah, but they do. For all of MLB’s attempts to make everybody go home no more than one inning after regulation (lest they have to pay their cockeyed umpires overtime), this tie squirmed away from the immediate resolution the placement of unearned runners on second base is designed to induce. The game itself got away from the Mets in the seventh, when Luis ordered Marcus Stroman  to stop pitching at the first sign of trouble. The Mets were ahead, 3-1, Stroman was basically cruising, but then he made the mistake of walking Brian Anderson on a full count. It was only a mistake in the sense that his manager pulled him at 89 pitches, replacing him with Miguel Castro , who wasn’t necessarily going to give up a two-run homer to Garrett Cooper, but did. There went the 3-1 lead, built aggressively in the first by recognizable cast members Jonathan Villar , Francisco Lindor  and Dom Smith , and bolstered in the third by breakout character actor Nido. Stroman was well-positioned to be the Hawkeye of this production, giving us the heroic, nearly deGrommish performance we craved, but his commanding officer dismissed him a tad too soon for the script’s taste.
The Mets, as we note nightly, are amazingly undermanned. The Marlins, we don’t care, operate in a perpetual state of blank space. Do they even have 26 men on their roster? We asked the same last year and they rode their anonymity to the jury-rigged playoffs. Like us, the retrofitted  Sugar Kings found guys and put them on the field. Like us, the red-clad opposition didn’t go away. They seemed poised to take one of those aggravating trademark Marlin leads in the eighth when Tim Timmons helped Trevor May  walk a pair of batters. Timmons is not some Donnie Stevenson-style figment of South Florida imagination. He was the home plate ump with a strike zone as loopy as the Clevelander night club that used to throb beyond the outfield fence. Somehow May escaped a bases-loaded jam not entirely of his own making. Jeurys Familia  put on two baserunners in the ninth as well, but also managed to stretch a velvet rope in front of home plate.
Despite Rob Manfred’s dumbest efforts, the tenth came and went. Same for the eleventh. The scoring column had become as difficult to get into as Studio 54 in its heyday. Whatever purpose there was to slotting a runner on second to start every extra half-inning was coming to naught. Both sides were running out of players. The Marlins in particular essentially ran out of pitchers. Don Mattingly had tried to engineer a bullpen game from the start, because what are the odds you’ll need your bullpen to do a bunch of bullpen things much later? True, the Mets hadn’t played an eleventh inning since Closing Day of 2019, with the dopey new runner-on-second rule having prevented periodic detours to Sudolvania, but eventually you were going to approach the outskirts of a marathon. In 2021, a twelfth inning looms as the 26th mile.
Finally, against Adam Cimber, working a (GASP!!!) second inning of relief, we had Hager come through and Lee come through and Fargas come through. Maybe the Mets would just keep ripping heaters all night long. Then, however, James McCann  came up, reminding us that if hitting is contagious, James McCann is fully vaccinated. The catcher who nowadays caddies for Nido grounded out and sent us to the bottom of the twelfth.
Aaron Loup and those pesky Marlins disguised as regal Sugar Kings wouldn’t let the game go gentle into that good night. Jazz Chisolm, which is something your great grandfather warned your grandmother against, singled Miami’s unearned runner Magneuris Sierra to third. Miguel Rojas singled Sierra home to make it 6-4. Chisolm zipped to third. Corey Dickerson then shot a ball up the middle, guaranteeing speedy Jazz would improvise his way across the dish and…and nothing else, somehow. That’s because Lindor, who’s been almost as disappointing as McCann, pivoted sharply to grab Dickerson’s hot grounder; secure a forceout at second; and fire the ball to Smith at first. Smith, who’s quietly been almost as disappointing as Lindor and McCann, did some nice digging in the dirt to prevent catastrophe on the relay. It became a double play that averted disaster.
Smith is a first baseman by trade.
Alonso is the first baseman unless Alonso is hurt.
Alonso is hurt.
Smith started in left field.
Brandon Drury  started at first base.
Brandon Drury is on the Mets.
Maybe Lindor was our Hawkeye at the end. That was some sweet shortstop orchestration of a twin-killing to reduce the threat of our own demise. And you know that buried somewhere beneath his infinitesimal production is a megastar leader struggling to emerge. Francisco actually embraced Dom at the mound while the infield gathered for the ritual shooing away of Aaron Loup  while Rojas summoned Jacob Barnes . That is not the sign of someone stuck in own head until he starts hitting for real. Lindor may not have earned his Captain’s bars in New York yet, but he’s still conducting himself as chief surgeon of the infield. As with McCann when stationed behind the plate and Smith when transferred temporarily to first, Lindor’s ability to contribute through defense shouldn’t be overlooked just because of his glaring lack of offense.
Lindor did get two hits Friday night, or as many as Fargas did. Lindor did make a keen extra-inning, game-saving play, or as many as Cameron Maybin  had. In the eleventh, Cimber, Mattingly’s tenth pitcher, lined a ball to right field with runners on second and third. It was May 21, 2021, the sixteenth anniversary of Dae-Sung Koo’s double and subsequent trip around the bases off Randy Johnson. Don’t doubt what can happen when relief pitchers swing a bat on May 21. Maybin (0-for-5) snagged Cimber’s liner and kept us going until we could stagger to the twelfth and revel in the exploits of Hager, Lee and Fargas in the top of the inning and Lindor and Smith in the bottom of the inning. Oh, Barnes, too. Jacob flied out Adam Duvall to say goodbye, farewell and amen to the Marlins in a mere four hours and thirty-eight minutes (or the approximate running time of the egregiously padded M*A*S*H finale “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”).
Commendations all around. Drinks in the swamp are on Lindor.