If you were watching tonight, you noticed something: the Mets had it for five or six innings. Then they didn’t.
The runs came early and often, two in the second and two more in the fifth. A third set of back-to-back home runs to round out the series nicely.
And then we stopped hitting, and lost. But hell, we can lose sometimes.
It’s a series win against the Phillies decided by a wild pitch and an infield single. It’s hard to panic about something like that, even if, purely in terms of emotion, it’s the hardest kind of loss to handle. A few times, it looked like we had it won, but we never had it long enough to actually bring the win to fruition.
We’ll almost certainly hear something about how the Mets can’t score without the home run, how they only scored four runs despite 14 hits, and how there just has to be a problem somewhere. I’m not buying it; Wright and Conforto were a combined 0 for too many. That won’t happen every day, and every day that it doesn’t, we’ll have the hits in the middle of the lineup that drive the runs home.
We left 22 men on base today. That’s not futility in the clutch; by and large, it comes down to luck. Five hitters had multi-hit games, including three for Duda and four for Walker. That’s a formula for winning. It didn’t work tonight, but all the same, it’s reassuring to see the lineup ticking along just as it was supposed to.
I’m still ambivalent at best on the logic of visiting teams not using a closer in a tie game in extra innings; it makes sense when you have quality alternatives, but when your choices are the closer or Hansel Robles, I go to Familia, especially when he’s coming off an off day and likely good for six outs. But as I say, not using the closer is convention; if it’s not going to work today, it will work tomorrow.
After the Phillies tied the game in the seventh, we had our work cut out for us: our offense was due to cool down just as the Phillies were due to heat up, and the Phillies’ bullpen had been so bad that they were due, for their own mental health if nothing else, for one good outing. They’re not a good bullpen; I have no doubt that tomorrow, they’ll be back to their run-allowing ways. We won’t be hitting against them; we’ll be hitting against another team whose bullpen isn’t perfect, and we’ll keep right on scoring.
Even that last inning — sure, it wasn’t fun to watch, but you knew as you were watching that we sort of had to lose. Robles makes a pitch about six feet outside, and then forgets that he’s not walking the next hitter until it’s already halfway done — that’s a formula for losing, but I’m not quite so beaten down as to think that we have some kind of systematic problem with intentional walk communication. Then Peter Bourjos popped up in foul territory near the third base stands, and David Wright, while he may have had the slightest bit of room, couldn’t find it. A third baseman who has played 11 innings in the field, looking up into the lights and struggling to find a ball coming down even as he tries to navigate a low sidewall…again, it wasn’t fun to watch, but I wouldn’t call it worrisome. And then the speedy Bourjos hits a sharp grounder to Wright’s right — Wright, who is playing in and is lucky to spear the ball at all — and beats out the weak, hurried throw to first. A positive outcome? Absolutely not. A soul-crushing, season-complicating loss? No, not that either.
So far, I’ve seen two types of headlines, mainly divided between “Phillies avoid sweep” and “Mets give game away.” Personally, I’m inclined to think that the former catches the sentiment of the game much more accurately. We went into Philadelphia with Thor, a spot starter, and our 43 year old fifth arm, and took a decent shot at sweeping the Phillies. Even as badly as we played today after the fifth inning, it took an 11th inning full of mistakes and a well-placed infield ground ball for the Phillies to manage to pull out a single win. We played badly for half of today, after playing well in the previous two games, which we won — a series win, which pulled us back ahead of the bottom three in the division and closer to the Nationals.
From 2-5, we’re now 7-7, and have found our offense, even if it did appear lost for a brief stretch today. We’ve got the heart of our rotation — a big inaccurate, seeing as most hearts don’t compose 3/5 or even 4/5 of the whole — coming up, and a Braves team to beat up on. Until proven otherwise, Matt Harvey, having finally acknowledged his mechanical issues, has repaired them, and Jacob deGrom has returned good as new, and Steven Matz is ready to continue where he left off. On a start-by-start basis, it’s easy to forget about the pitching staff we have — but wait until that same staff, with a chance to prove themselves big-time, goes up against a weak Braves lineup. Then we’ll all see.
Was it a loss? Yeah, a bad one. We should have won. But there will be other games, games that we should lose but manage to inexplicably win. We had some pretty disheartening losses last year too, whether in extras or not — usually, those games seemed like we’d given them away as well. And then we realized we were in the World Series, and all those losses we’d thought had been our undoing hadn’t mattered all that much.
Friday, 7:35, Atlanta. Matt Harvey with something to prove. The last time Matt Harvey had to prove his worth, he pitched six scoreless innings, on his way to a 2.71 E.R.A. in his return from Tommy John surgery. Previously when dared to justify his stardom, Matt took on the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg, and by the end of the night, had the fans chanting that Harvey was better. He hasn’t looked good; he’s also Matt Harvey, and we know damn well how good he’s capable of looking.
We should have won tonight, and we didn’t. We should sweep the Braves — or maybe not, if Harvey hasn’t found his stuff. Maybe Friday’s is a game we should lose. But as we learned today — and have learned thousands of times throughout the annals of Mets history — games don’t always end the way they should. Harvey may give up four runs in five innings on Friday — and still, we may win, just as the Phillies did to us today.
The point of all this? We can win. We will win. A lot. A flukey Phillies win doesn’t change that one bit.