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Top of the Mess

The first two games of the much-anticipated Mets-Dodgers series showed the Mets in an unfamiliar light: They looked like a good team up against a better one, with that better team riding dominant pitching and waiting for its opponent to make a mistake, then taking full advantage.

And in the early going, Saturday night’s game looked like more of the same. Yes, Francisco Lindor [1] served a home run off Walker Buehler [2] in the first — something that presumably couldn’t be done with a finger too damaged for duty — but that only made the score 1-0, and when Pete Alonso [3] made a poor throw in the bottom of the second the Dodgers stormed through the breach, and as quickly as you could say “oh God Mookie Betts [4] is up” it was 4-1 L.A.

But this time other factors were at work, perhaps starting with the fact that the Dodgers’ City Connect unis made them look like oversized blueberries, as if 26 Violet Beauregardes [5] had been sent out to play. Buehler had an off-night, quarreling with the home-plate umpire but mostly with his own location, and in the top of third Alonso more than made up for his earlier misdeed, capping a rally by spanking a two-run homer on a slider he somehow pulled into the left-field stands. (Analysis: Man strong.)

David Peterson [6] would have his own discontents before all was done: He was woefully inefficient, needing 90 pitches to not quite complete the fourth inning. His last pitch was a curve that didn’t live up to its name, turned into a projectile by Betts and landing just foul in the stands — a fractional recalibration by Betts and the game would have been tied.

Buck Showalter [7] didn’t like what had just transpired, and decided to excuse Peterson further duty, removing him and handing his 0-1 count over to Colin Holderman [8]. Would it be a reach to say it was a bit of Gil Hodges [9] managerial tactics on the night the Dodgers retired No. 14 for Hodges? Probably — it’s not like Hodges invented the intra-AB pitching change or it was put it mothballs after his untimely death — but I think it’s a forgivable one given the circumstances. (Points to the ever-sterling SNY booth for being ready with Hodges pulling Gary Gentry [10] in the NLCS playoffs and handing his count to Nolan Ryan [11].) No one’s likely to confuse Holderman with Ryan, but he got Betts looking to get the Mets safely through the fourth, just as long ago Ryan got Rico Carty [12]. (Speaking of efficiency, Holderman wound up with a win for five pitches’ worth of work.) Peterson was pretty obviously enraged at being removed, stalking off the mound and doing violence to his glove and sundry equipment in the dugout, and it was fairly entertaining to watch his postgame press conference: Asked if he’d been upset, he went full Sad Affleck [13] before gathering himself to offer bromides about it being a good win and note that he’s been working on things.

As it turned out, that was the Dodgers’ shot and for once they’d missed it. In the seventh, Alonso hit a three-run homer, this one an opposite-field shot off a 99 MPH sinker from Brusdar Graterol [14], whose expression of disbelief was entertaining to see. (I don’t know how he did that either, Brusdar.) In the eighth, an attempted Blueberry Revolution was put down by the soft hands and speedy release of Luis Guillorme [15]. But before concluding, we should stop to admire Pete’s numbers at this still-early stage of the season: 16 HRs and 53 RBIs. His own home-run record is probably safe, but on the RBI front Mike Piazza [16] and David Wright [17] may be looking over their statistical shoulders.

It was something of a messy game, to be honest: subpar starting pitchers giving way to bullpen parades, about a billion pitches needed to yield an outcome, and that’s without mentioning the 12-minute farce that followed Dave Roberts [18] trying to finish up with a position player in ignorance of one of many tickey-tack new rules inflicted on the game by the genius of Rob Manfred. But better to wind up on top of the mess [19] than on the bottom of an elegant affair that also brings defeat. That’s a baseball truth Showalter would attest to, and that a certain Mr. Hodges knew as well.