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June Gloom

A review of some emotions we were feeling not so long ago: amazement at the tenacity and resourcefulness of the Mets’ “bench mob,” pinch-me gratitude that the team was in first place, and perhaps even a little optimism that the starting rotation’s continued excellence would see it through such ancillary difficulties.

The Mets are still in first place, believe it or not, but the rest of those emotions have drained away, replaced by foreboding, depression and gloom.

The bench mob has produced far fewer miracles as its various Plan B players have been either exposed by too much playing time or reverted to statistical norms (take your pick), with the Mets losing six of their last eight and being shut out in four of those games. On Tuesday night, they got their first hit on an excuse-me swinging bunt by pinch-hitter Jerad Eickhoff [1] (there’s a sign of trouble right there) and didn’t tally another until James McCann [2] doubled in the ninth.

The Mets have also been swamped by yet another wave of injuries. Robert Gsellman [3] tore a lat muscle and may not be heard from until fall, while Jeurys Familia [4] has been shelved with a hip impingement. Joey Lucchesi [5], who’d seemed to figure things out and enjoyed a run of success, tore his UCL and won’t throw a pitch in anger until late next season at the earliest. Then, on Tuesday night, it was Marcus Stroman [6] at the center of a concerned group on the mound and eventually walking off and heading down that dark tunnel with the trainer, a phrase that’s taken on the air of a tragic Homeric motif, the baseball equivalent of clattering shields and faces in dust. The Mets didn’t seem too concerned about Stroman after the game, and the man himself tweeted [7] that “everything’s gonna be okay,” but the Mets weren’t terribly concerned about Lucchesi at first, either.

And it’s not just the pitchers — Tomas Nido [8] got hit in the hand, necessitating a hasty return for Patrick Mazeika [9], while the invaluable Jonathan Villar [10] is dealing with a calf strain. Even the good injury news comes with you-must-be-kidding caveats: Michael Conforto [11] returned earlier than expected but wasn’t available Tuesday because Syracuse had to do contact tracing after a Covid outbreak.

On Tuesday the Mets improvised after Stroman’s departure by calling on Yennsy Diaz [12], Drew Smith [13], Aaron Loup [14] and Trevor May [15]. Diaz didn’t warm up sufficiently (a frequent malady for young pitchers summoned in emergencies) and loaded the bases on an infield single and a walk, but somehow got out of it, fanning Ender Inciarte [16], opposing pitcher Charlie Morton [17] and big bad level boss Ronald Acuna Jr. [18] It was a heroic stand, encouraged by infield whip Francisco Lindor [19] and then celebrated with emphatic Lindorian fist pumps, but Diaz’s luck ran out an inning later as Dansby Swanson [20] crushed a pitch through the wind into the left-field stands for a 3-0 lead that was all the Braves would need [21]. Smith, Loup and May were nothing short of heroic in following Diaz, but moral victories mean little beyond word count in recaps like this one. Meanwhile, the Mets could do nothing against Morton, a well-traveled journeyman who bedeviled and frustrated them with a seemingly infinite number of variations on sweeping curves for his 100th career victory.

Reinforcements? The Mets picked up Robert Stock [22] on waivers — you may recall him as the big, action-figurelike Cubs hurler they beat last week, though perhaps you’re unfamiliar with his very entertaining Twitter account [23]. They’re calling up Tylor Megill [24] to make his major-league debut tonight, assuming he escapes Syracuse’s Covid woes. (Megill will also join Eickhoff in the ranks of Mets Who Frequently See Both Their Names Misspelled, if that’s a stat you track.) Nick Tropeano [25] and Thomas Szapucki [26] are down there at Triple-A, presumably doing something other than having swabs stuck up their noses. One figures all of these pitchers will have a role to play at some point soon; one also feels duty-bound to note that the list features no name to make you sigh with relief that the cavalry’s coming. Meanwhile, Noah Syndergaard [27] remains idle and Carlos Carrasco [28] isn’t throwing off a mound yet, with his hamstring injury having entered the realms of Lowrie-esque surrealism.

The Mets will have to endure these misfortunes, just as they endured the slings and arrows of May. Will they? Hell, if I could predict that with any degree of confidence, we’d have ads or be some kind of fancy subscription newsletter. I can’t and so we don’t. Stir the tea leaves, peer at the MRIs, and make your own forecasts. Share the optimistic ones with us; we’ve got the gloomy ones more than covered.