Did anyone really expect anything different than this? What else, if we’re honest, could have happened?
I did expect something different, for one. I expected the Mets, based on the veritable mountains of luck due to them after that travesty of a World Series, to pull out a win. But then the Royals propaganda office went to work, brought in what, from the best I could tell, were two dying fire fighters to raise the championship banner, and got their crowd screaming over whatever was happening, which as far as I could tell was mostly a bunch of highlight reels and the like that reinforced the idea that, whatever else, the Royals were pretty damn good.
How could we win after that?
For those of us at home, meanwhile, we were stuck watching the game on ESPN, listening to commentary that consisted mostly of talking about how relentless the Royals were for doing things like hitting ground balls, not to even mention the occasional fly ball. Everyone knows that this is a load of nonsense; the Royals have been lucky when they put the ball in play, and it’s as simple as that. That didn’t stop the booth: for every Eric Hosmer grounder through the hole, we were treated to a lengthy explanation of how while Hosmer hadn’t really hit the ball well, he had put the ball in play, and because it had happened to find a hole, he had done so relentlessly and scrappily, with the heart and hustle befitting an underdog.
This is not even to mention the “K-Zone,” which seemed to be the main objective of the entire broadcast. “We’re going to take a break now and show you some baseball,” I kept expecting to hear, “but after that, we’ll be right back to take another extended look at the K-Zone.”
But there was baseball, between the lengthy treatises on the K-Zone and the tiresome dogma spoutings regarding how the Royals PLAYED THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY, GODDAMMIT, there was a ballgame, and if we’re honest, again, did we really expect it to go any differently?
For the first seven innings, the Mets appeared to have not even a semblance of an offense, which is nothing more or less than a disease that strikes once in a while. The Mets could put together a lineup to rival the 1927 Yankees: every once in a while, we’d simply know, deep in our hearts, that we had absolutely no chance to score. When your lineup is not the 1927 Yankees but a mix of inconsistent aging sluggers and left-handedly flailing shortstops, it happens more often. Not necessarily too often to preclude a winning season, but it happens.
Meanwhile, Edison Volquez, on the mound, was just having one of those games. Maybe our lineup was just bad; maybe he was just good; it was probably a little of both. Everything he threw fell just right for him, and on the multiple occasions when the Mets hit balls harder than anything the Royals hit all night, they went directly to fielders. Pitchers have those days: it’s yet another thing that just happens.
Then the eighth came along, and against a pitcher who by the numbers alone is very ordinary, but because he’s part of the Royals self-proclaimed super-bullpen must be a mound wizard, we finally pulled ourselves together. We scored three. We couldn’t score a fourth, because Asdrubal Cabrera came up with two outs, and Asdrubal Cabrera’s swing just doesn’t do things like driving in runs. We went to the ninth down 4-3.
Mets/Royals. 4-3 going to the ninth. A hard-throwing reliever on the mound. Sound familiar?
Well, not for the Mets, it seemed. A walk, a fielder’s choice, a single, a strikeout, and another strikeout combined for three outs without a run. With two outs, Michael Conforto was three batters away – three batters too far, as it turned out. Cespedes gave Wade Davis a bit of a battle before striking out, which frankly is more than he usually does before striking out, but he couldn’t hold off his free-swinging tendencies forever, and he chased a pitch a foot off the plate to end it.
So there we were, same old one-run losers despite two hits from Conforto and an effort from Harvey that wasn’t as bad as his final line would indicate. And with that, the perfection of Opening Day dissipated, and we were the same old Mets, not enough offense, pitching not quite good enough, just a little too old, not quite good enough.
Or maybe not, because three runs today is three runs more than I thought we’d get over the Royals rumoredly-deadly bullpen, and, dare I say it, three more than we would have scored in 2014, or 2012, or 2010, or a bad year. This is a good year — even with the disheartening loss, that much still seems evident. One League Champion had to lose today, and it was us. But we’ve got Thor on Tuesday, and they’ve got someone, almost by definition, who is nowhere near as good.
No, Opening Day didn’t go the way we wanted. Yes, there’s a lot we need to improve. But that’s the point: that’s why it’s Opening Day. This is not a good game 160. But for game one of a whole lot, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
We’ll be back Tuesday, ready and rearin’ to go with a long tall Texan on the mound and a fresh fire in our bats. And now that we’ve got a real team, those obscure terms actually mean something beyond being angry.
They mean the Royals need to watch out for an opponent with something to prove and the means to prove it. And they mean that we’re going to win on Tuesday, and a whole lot besides. And disheartening as it seems, one Opening Day loss doesn’t change that one bit.