You Don’t Boo ‘Em

Today’s game wasn’t a good one — that much was clear from the start.  And from my seat near the front of the upper deck, I was reminded, not of anything about the team itself, but about a certain type of Mets fan, that I can’t say I like.

Two men sat behind my friend and I, and did not hesitate to voice their extreme displeasure with the proceedings on the field — even when they were unequivocally positive.  We’re solidly above .500, and for the first few innings, were right in the game — but apparently, this wasn’t enough.

With Yoenis Cespedes on first, Neil Walker singled to right.  Daniel Murphy pretended to catch the ball, forcing Cespedes to hesitate before taking second.

“You can’t fall for that!” shouted a 55 year old man behind me, who would have fallen for it.

Then, with Cabrera at the plate, Cespedes took off for third on the pitch.  Cabrera drove it up the middle just as Cespedes slid into third.

“Run, you retard!” shouted the guy behind me, as Cespedes scored standing up.

“Hey!” I called, for their benefit more than anything else.  “It all ended up fine!  We scored!  A good thing happened!”

But this wasn’t enough.  They wouldn’t shut up about Daniel Murphy the traitor, Matt Harvey the bum, or David Wright the automatic out.  When Wright singled to right-center in the fifth, Granderson went to second, and stopped there.

There were a million fundamental reasons to do this.  You never make the last out at third base.  The ball was shallow, and Bryce Harper’s arm is formidable.  There were two outs, so being on third held no advantage.

“Granderson, you pussy!” shouted the guy behind me.  Sometimes, Mets fans are insufferable.

Disagreements in opinion, I can take.  Polite expressions of discontent, I’ll accept.  But there are some things you just don’t do.  And booing David Wright is one of them.

Let’s just look, if you will, at the things that David Wright has been through in his career.  A head-crushing beaning.  A broken finger.  A debilitating back injury.  Simultaneous shoulder problems.  A hamstring pull.  Another season destroyed by back and shoulder injuries.  Another hamstring pull.  And finally, Spinal Stenosis.

The fact that he’s still on his feet is incredible.  The fact that he’s still on the field, with an OBP above .360, making the plays and taking his at-bats, is nothing short of a miraculous testament to his perseverance through a maze of injuries that’s almost unheard-of.

So, no.  You don’t boo him.

And as far as I’m concerned, the same goes for Matt Harvey.  Harvey has had Tommy John surgery.  How many of the fans booing from their seats tonight have experienced Tommy John surgery?  The experience of having to learn to throw again, almost as if with a whole new arm?  Ask that question of yourself before shouting from the stands.  Ask whether Matt is giving everything he’s got — that’s the only question that should play into your decision of whether or not to boo.  Ask whether his hanging head as he walked off the mound in the third meant he felt just as bad, just as angry at himself, as you did.

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Of course, these players have one thing in common; asked the question, they’d probably both respond that with their performances, they deserved to be booed.  And that makes it all the more shameful to boo them.  The admission of their faults — they’ve both said that they want to, and should, be playing better than they are — is just another step in the right direction.  It’s not something you boo: it’s just the opposite.  Wright and Harvey are our guys, two cornerstones of our team who aren’t on their games right now, but can get there.  Booing two players who are quite obviously trying their absolute hardest to return to form doesn’t help anyone.

Listening to the soliloquy of complaints from the seats behind me, I wasn’t disgusted by the failure of the players on the field, or angered by our lack of fundamental success: I empathized with it.  These are baseball players; they’re doing their jobs just like everyone else, and like most people, they’re trying their best to do their jobs correctly.  That doesn’t mean we can win every day.  It doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to make mistakes.  We all fail sometimes, baseball players as well as everyday citizens.  It’s allowed, and no one deserves to be booed for it.

He’s David Wright, my childhood hero, the man who taught me to play third base, and even more importantly, taught me how to overcome adversity and get back on the field — in more ways than most people can see.  He’s — debatably, but probably — the second-greatest Met of all time.  He’s our captain.  You don’t boo him.

He’s Matt Harvey, one of our four aces, possessor of more pitching talent than any of us can dream of.  He’s been through Tommy John Surgery, and posted the greatest recovery season of all time.  You don’t boo him.

Neither of them played particularly well tonight.  That doesn’t change a thing.  They’re our guys.  You don’t boo ’em.

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A Blowout Of Competing Emotions

Sitting in the stands watching the Mets undertaking a futile attempt to oust the Nationals from the top of the division, reasons to give up and pack it in came at me, one after the other.

First, Bartolo Colón didn’t have it.  That much was clear from the first inning, when he walked two batters.  Bartolo is a control guy — when he’s walking the house, you know it’s just not his night.  It’s like Kevin James delivering a fat joke that falls flat; after that, you know it’s just not working out.

Second, we weren’t hitting.  Against Gio Gonzalez — not, as far as I’m aware, Steve Carlton, although based on how we looked at the plate, you couldn’t be sure — we simply couldn’t put things together.  Cespedes had two hits, including a monstrous home run, but that was about as far as we got: outside of some stray singles, our offense couldn’t muster so much as a fighting chance at a scoring opportunity.

Third, despite a clean forecast, it was raining.

In my seat in the rapidly emptying upper deck, I felt like Doug Heffernan, in that classic King of Queens episode, wherein Doug attempts to complete his delivery route as a blizzard rages around him.  (And it takes real talent to write multiple Kevin James references in describing a single Mets game; don’t try it at home).  He wants to pack it in and give up; supervisor O’Boyle won’t let him.  Thus, the following exchange ensues:

“I’m officially requesting a 317.”

“Heffernan, you’re not abandoning your truck.”

“Okay, then I’m officially requesting a 318.”

“Heffernan, you’re not opening your packages and eating the contents.”

The incompetence on display down on the field was my blizzard; leaving my seat was my 317; packing it in and getting home in time to catch King of Queens on TVLand was my 318.  And the fact that the game hadn’t ended yet was my supervisor O’Boyle.

I’m a Mets fan.  And to quote the sign man, real fans stay ’til the end.

It didn’t even require any thought; I would stay.  So I did, even as the fans around me filtered out and the only — or at least, loudest — people remaining were complaining about everything under the sun, from Daniel Murphy both being “overrated” and “a traitor” to Jim Henderson being overpaid to David Wright being “already out,” whatever that meant.

“Why are you still here?” I wanted to ask them.  If your greatest pleasure during a loss is yelling insults at anyone who can hear you, it seems to me that you’re not the type of person to stick out a blowout loss until the end out of a sense of fan loyalty.

And it’s not like there weren’t good things to see, either.  We saw Juan Lagares make another circus catch in center, reminiscent of equal parts ’14 Lagares and ’54 Mays.  We saw Cespedes get two more hits, both line drives, one a home run, not meaning much but still fun to see.

You can’t expect a win every time; the best teams ever have lost one of every three.  What you can hope for, day in and day out, is stories to remember, plays that stand out, a game that contributes to the ongoing experience of being a Mets fan.  Today wasn’t much fun to watch, but it was certainly that.

There’s genuine emotion involved in watching these games, from the frustration of multiple walks from so-called control pitchers to the hope when Matt Reynolds comes to the plate, looking for his first major league hit.  He did, indeed, line a shot to center.  It was caught.  But he’ll get there.

But most of all, the prevalent emotion was straight-up sadness.  Sadness, in one specific circumstance: David Wright, the captain, coming to the plate, working diligently to bring the count full, seeing the ball well, not chasing bad pitches, and then swinging through a fastball, or taking a curve, for strike three.

I’m not panicked about David; not yet, at least.  He’s had his bad streaks, and he’ll be back.  But he’s not the player that he once was: that much is clear, and I suppose, to be expected — no one remains at 33 the player they were at 24.  He’s just slumping, and he’ll get clear of it eventually.  But still — watching my childhood hero, with whom I formed a bond beyond normal baseball player and fan when we both began recovering from chronic ailments, finally succumb to the forces that have been attempting to bring him down his whole career, is far less than enjoyable.

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I don’t fault Wright at all — not for a minute.  With all he’s been through, the fact that he’s still out on the field, three days out of for, is completely miraculous, in defiance of conventional medical knowledge and a testament to the captain’s uncommon level of resolve and determination.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s got a free ride from here on out — he’s already accomplished Mets greatness, and everything else is just icing on the cake.

***

I left my seat in the upper deck for the bottom of the ninth, and moved down to field level, watching from the first base side.  Cespedes popped out, and Walker did as well, on — ironically — a nice play, going back into the outfield, from one Daniel Murphy.  With two outs, the final exodus for the exits had already begun.

Then Asdrubal Cabrera smacked a double to left.  The scant fans remaining did their best to get loud.

“Come back!” one fan yelled to a friend, already on their way down the stairs.  “It’s not over yet!”

Plawecki smacked the first pitch that he saw as well.  It was hit hard.  It was deep.  And it was right into Jason Werth’s glove.  Ballgame over.

So all in all, it wasn’t the best game I could have seen; not by a long shot.  But there were positives, and that’s all you can ask for.

And what’s more, now we’ve got a rubber game to look forward to, Matt Harvey on the mound looking for redemption.  And having observed the Dark Knight’s character over his few years in Queens, I’d say he’s got a decent shot at finding it.

The uniqueness of the Mets and Mets fandom — Mets exceptionalism, you could say — was on full display tonight.  Because even in a blowout, 7-1 loss, where nothing went right and the fans couldn’t get to the exits fast enough, I was reminded just how wonderful this team is to root for.

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The Lightning-Struck Nationals

Matt Reynolds

While perhaps not the star of the day, Matt Reynolds finally became a major league ballplayer, which is an achievement in itself – let alone becoming a Met.

Newly liberated from school, with the summer laid out before me, I returned home, and almost immediately, hopped the train to Citi Field, as the Mets began a critical series against the Nationals.

It wasn’t just any other game, although I would have been there if it had been: it was a great deal more than that. It was numbers one and two in the division, duking it out. It was the homecoming of Thor, after a two home-run game on the road. It was Max Scherzer’s first start since his 20-strikeout effort. It was Daniel Murphy’s return to Citi Field.

I arrived at the stadium, the sky threatening but the weather report reassuring, and made my way in through the crowd. Joined shortly thereafter by two friends, neither Mets fans but both fans of a thrilling duel of aces, I settled back in my seat to watch my first unencumbered game of the summer.

But before the action began, we were treated to a video tribute to former Met, Daniel Murphy. Murph stood on the field directly below me, the camera on him, while clips of him played on the screen, showing one home runs and diving stops, one after the other. None of Murph’s various imperfections were on display; his Mets tenure, in the video, was reduced to the positive.

I didn’t have a problem with it. When Murph waved to the crowd after the video, I stood, along with the majority of the stands, and applauded him. He never asked to leave; we showed him the door, not that most of us wanted to. He wanted to be a Met; as his tenure here ended, he gave us some of the greatest moments we’d ever seen. Murph was a great Met; the history books will tell you. It’s not his fault he plays for an odious division rival.

Then the game began, and bigger concerns took over. Thor was dealing: from the beginning, that much was obvious. A soft groundout, a strikeout, and a tapper up the first-base line from Bryce Harper ended a scoreless first.

Then Max Scherzer took the mound. And one pitch later, he’d given up more runs than Thor would surrender all game. Granderson got ahold of one, really got all of it, and put it where even Bryce Harper couldn’t bring it back.

It was a fine moment for Granderson, who’s due for a hot streak, and sure enough, was 2/2 with two walks. Before one of those walks, one of my Yankee-sympathizing friends turned to me.

“I hate Granderson,” he said. “He used to strike out every other at-bat for us. The one thing he’s gotten better at is knowing how to walk.” One pitch later, Granderson walked.

Two innings later, Michael Conforto came to bat. Conforto’s hit a cold spell — “isn’t his average down?” one of my friends asked me — but there have been positive signs, of late. He’d walked in the first, and had been hitting the ball hard for the past few games.

He smoked one, towards Harper again. Harper went back. Not far enough. Gone.

“In Yankee Stadium,” my friend told me as Conforto rounded the bases, “that might have hit the edge of the upper deck.”

We had the lead, and now we’d extended it. Meanwhile, Thor was still dealing; he’d been good, but not quite superb, and was due for a dominating, unhittable start. And today, he had it.

The Nationals put a man on third in the second inning. A double play ended that threat. That was as far as they got. Thor’s final line: seven innings, ten strikeouts, no runs allowed. 4-2 record, 2.19 E.R.A. An ofer for Bryce Harper, who was damn sure due for one. Completely unhittable, poised and controlled, not so much as a rustle of discomfort or uncertainty. The slider snapping in, the fastball blazing past confused bats, the sinker — “he throws a 97 M.P.H. SINKER??” my friend asked at one point — completely befuddling the Nationals’ hapless batsmen.

And what was that, amid the tightly played 2-0 win? What was that inconsequential strike-out in the second inning, some new guy batting in the nine spot? Why, that was Matt Reynolds.

Yes, Matt Reynolds — whose arrival I’ve waited for since 2013, with, until now, unsuccessful results — finally getting his shot. Reynolds, who had just arrived from Vegas to fill the slot vacated by Sean Gilmartin’s demotion — he just never seems to stick around, does he? — was a late addition to the lineup, taking David Wright’s spot at third after Wright was scratched. He complained of back pain, but he still wanted to play. Terry Collins said no. “He may have saved me a trip to the D.L.,” Wright said after the game.

So Reynolds played third and batted ninth, and although he didn’t have a hit, making one’s debut is an achievement in itself. Reynolds has been playing a steady shortstop in Las Vegas for a few years now, and finally being rewarded for his hard work is something he wholeheartedly deserves. And watching from the stands, his success at joining that most exclusive group of baseball players — major leaguers — is, at its core, what baseball is all about.

Reed came in for a perfect eighth, and in the ninth, Familia faced the top of the Nationals’ order. Working hard against Ben Revere, he struck him out after a few foul balls. Jason Werth lined a ball to Lagares, in center field as a defensive replacement. Bryce Harper came to bat, with Daniel Murphy onn deck.

I couldn’t help be reminded of a 2014 game against the Nationals, Mets down 5-2 in the ninth. Murphy was due up fifth that inning.

“If he comes up,” I thought to myself, considering the possibility with absolute certainty, “he’ll hit a three run homer.”

Sure enough, two runners reached base. Murph came up, representing the tying run. And sure enough, he lined a pitch to deep right field. It had the distance to clear the wall. But Jayson Werth interfered. He leapt, reached a few feet above the top of the fence, and pulled it back.

I’d been furious then. And as sure as I’d been that Murph would tie the game, I knew it today. If Murphy came up, the Nationals would tie it.

No reason to let Murph tie it up then.

Bryce Harper hit a sharp grounder to — who else? — Matt Reynolds. Reynolds scooped it and fired to first. Bryce Harper was 0-4. And with that, the win was in the books.

I did a lot of thinking on the subway ride home — I had ample time, as the express train had, mid trip, started making local stops due to “train traffic.” I thought about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. I thought about my growing appreciation for Taylor Swift’s vocals, and whether that conflicted with my avowed preference for classic rock. I thought about the young — by which I mean, “maybe a year or two older than me” — couple next to me, who were living a scenario — the Mets date — that I, so far, have only dreamed about.

But mostly, I thought about what a great win it had been. I thought about Thor and Conforto and Matt Reynolds, all young guys finally living the dream of major league baseball. I thought about Bartolo Colón, honored pregame by the Guinness Book of World Records and slated to start tomorrow in what will be a massive homecoming. I thought about David Wright and Lucas Duda and Steven Matz, laid low by injury but ready to return soon.

And most of all, I thought about how lucky I was to be a Mets fan. And how great it was to be back.

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Say Goodbye To Denver

It’s over, it’s done, we’ve got a new umpiring crew, and we’re coming back home.

That’s all there is to say.

Let’s hope this was the low point of our season, and we can move forward.

deGrom was pitching well until Terry took him out, because PITCH COUNTS!!!!!! But then Jim Henderson, who does not have a history of pitching well on back to back days, came in for the second day in a row and allowed a two run homer.

Lagares was making his way to third base in the eighth inning when he completely legally avoided Nolan Arenado’s tag. It’s called the rule book; it defines what is allowed. You have to follow it, umpires; you can’t just make things up as you go, calling someone out because it looked like they were out of the base line, or it really seemed like they’d left the baseline. There’s actually a base path; it’s not just an abstract construct that you’re free to interpret.

deGrom wasn’t great, but roughed it out for the second straight start. I’d love to see him back on form, but so long as he keeps pushing through and going what should have been seven innings, two runs allowed, and a win, I’m okay with that, if only as a less appealing substitute.

Cespedes homered. Conforto singled. De Aza was terrible. Campbell had two hits. Duda is done. Jim Henderson has the same E.R.A. as Jerry Koosman in 1968. Juan Lagares is freakin’ dependable. Asdrubal Cabrera kept doing his thing.

Maybe you can tell. Watching a sweep like this has a propensity to cloud my wont for verbal theatrics, and get to the bare bones of what the hell we just went through.

Last year, the low point of our season came in late July. A few days later, we were in first place to stay.

Now, we’re set for our first matchup with the Nats of the season. Thor versus Scherzer. Murph’s homecoming. It’s going to be crazy.

This last year or so, when we’ve needed to sweep the Nationals, we’ve been successful.

It was a bad series. It’s over. Now, back home to real life.

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Verrett’s Charm Is Broken

I don’t know what to say tonight.  I’m out of frustrated exclamations, and this is no time for upbeat speeches.  All that’s left, I suppose, is resignation.

Resignation that day after day, we allow runs in unusual fashion, whether on phantom strikeouts or outfield errors, that ultimately end up costing us the game.

Resignation that we continue to smoke the ball, and it continues to find opposing fielders’ gloves.  Cespedes, Wright, Conforto, Granderson.  All hit the ball right on the nose tonight.  All were fielded by defenders somehow, one way or another, in the right place to stop a screaming line drive.

And ultimately, resignation that, try as we might, even we are not immune to bad periods.  We’ve lost three straight, two that we could have won but simply didn’t.  We haven’t been awful: we haven’t been great, but we’ve hit the ball hard, while our opponents have snuck grounders into the outfield and reached base after dubiously fouling off third strikes.

What can you possibly say, when a good team doesn’t look so good?  You can’t say that we’re getting unlucky; it seems like you’re excusing bad play, making excuses for a team that might not be so good after all.  But right now, that’s exactly what’s happening to us: we’re just getting unlucky.

I know this with just as much confidence as I know we’ll turn it around eventually.  We’re hitting the ball hard; our lineup is dangerous from top to near-bottom; our pitching staff, while perhaps not the vaunted collection of aces we dreamed of over the offseason, is still formidable.  We will win.

The Phillies pulled ahead of us tonight with another one-run victory.  The Phillies have been our polar opposite: it was clear in the six games we played them.  They hit the ball, and it finds the grass for a hit.  They give up a deep fly ball, and it’s caught at the track.  They give up 12 runs, they score one: they give up three runs, they score four.

Their run differential is in the neighborhood of -26.  They should be substantially below .500.  They won’t last as contenders, irksome as they may be.

Even the most angry Mets fan has to be able to see, even after tonight, that we’re better than the Phillies have any shot at being.  Hell, to me, we’re better than the Nationals.  And we will return to the top of the division: you can quote me on that.  It didn’t look like that tonight, or yesterday, or the day before.  But we’ve got 126 games left to play, and with the talent we’ve got, they’ll go better than the first 36 have.

And what’s more, we saw some good things tonight.  David Wright seeing the ball well for two hits, working the count every at-bat.  Cespedes batting four times, and hitting the ball hard four times, twice for hits.  Walker homering again.  Conforto hitting the ball well three times, despite only one hit.  The bullpen keeping things scoreless again.

All the pieces are there, and nothing but bad luck and statistical flukiness has kept them from operating simultaneously so far.  But eventually, they will — sooner, I like to think, than later.  Against the Nationals, maybe they’ll start.  The bullpen will keep doing what it’s doing; the line drives will fall in for hits; the starting pitching will regroup and pitch like it’s capable of doing; the defense will keep being solid.

We’ll come home to face the Nationals needing a sweep to take back our division, after some ugly losses to west coast teams.  Where have I heard that before?

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Sticking With Harvey

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As I watched Matt Harvey lose himself in the middle innings once again, I became angry.  I won’t deny it.  I was going to take him to task for not working hard enough, for being unable to find his stuff, for, quite simply, not being, for one reason or another, the pitcher he was last year.

But then I saw him hanging his head in the dugout, upset beyond words by another sub-average outing.  And I knew that I was wrong.

Matt Harvey can find himself.  He will find himself.  And unless he’s injured, I’ll go into his next start, and the one after that, and every start he makes, with the mindset that this could be the day he brings himself back.

Logical?  Not particularly.  Sensible?  No, not that either.  But better to maintain a slightly unrealistic sense that good things may return than to wallow in self-pity at goings-on that may correct themselves.

And really, how unrealistic is it?  Harvey, for what seemed like the dozenth start in a row, was victimized by bad luck once again.  But for Michael Conforto’s error in left, the first two runs he allowed may not have scored at all, or at the very least, would almost certainly have been reduced to one.  The final run charged to him was allowed by Jerry Blevins, who has otherwise been solid out of the bullpen.  The fourth run he allowed scored on a soft ground ball through a shifted infield, one of far too many that Harvey’s given up this year.  And even the third, which scored on a ringing double, only scored because of an ill-gotten hit from opposing pitcher Jon Gray.

Clearly, Harvey wasn’t himself.  He may even be injured.  But he wasn’t fortunate either.  And in the dugout after he came out, head bowed, face invisible, he was simply awash in blame.  He knew he hadn’t been his best, and that tore at him, such that he could barely lift his head.

And that’s not something I’m interested in getting angry at.  Matt Harvey may find himself next start, away from Coors Field, or in a month, or next year, or never.  But he won’t stop trying.  The propaganda artists determined to smear Matt’s reputation would disagree, but tonight proved it, as part of a process that’s been going on all season: Matt Harvey is a hard worker, and, when he’s on, a harder thrower.  He’s giving us everything he’s got, and the fact that he can’t be better, we learned tonight, hurts him just as much as it hurts the millions of us watching.

They say that it’s not how you fall, but how you get back up.  Matt Harvey will have his chance, and if we’ve learned anything about Matt from watching him pitch through bloody noses and bruises, everything from snow to Tommy John surgery, it is that he’ll take that chance and run with it.  He may not immediately become the Harvey of old that we remember, but so long as he’s got a working arm to pitch with, he’ll be back on the mound against the Nationals giving us everything he’s got.  And at the end of it all, that’s all you can ask.

As for the offense?  It was quiet.  Our entire offense has gone quiet.  It happens.  You’ll remember what happened the last time our offense went quiet: we went 13-2, or something like that, and moved into first place.

Well, that works perfectly.  The Nationals moved into first tonight, and we play them, coming up next week.  And I don’t know about you, but I’m already sick and tired of Bryce Harper and the Nationals walking around like they’ve accomplished anything.

We had to go cold at some point: all teams do, and we’ve got a streakier lineup than most.  That’s not a bad thing: it just means that we’ll go 10-2 instead of 7-5, and 4-8 instead of 6-6.  But we weren’t going to stay hot all year.

With the Nationals coming up, Max Scherzer due for a beating, and Bryce Harper due to learn that you can’t walk your way to glory against our pitching staff, I’d say we picked the best time possible to cool down, just in time to heat up again.

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Aw Shucks, It’s Kershaw

It’s damn hard to root against Clayton Kershaw.

Sure, at the beginning, you look for a win.  You tell yourself that maybe he’ll have a bad day; maybe we’ll be able to score some runs.

Then you realize, it’s Clayton Freakin’ Kershaw, and he doesn’t give up runs.

Within two batters in the bottom of the first, it was clear that Bartolo didn’t have it.  By the end of the inning, that fact had become clear in abundance.  to his credit, he stuck around for five innings and managed to avoid passing over seven mop-up innings to the bullpen, but all the same, he wasn’t at his best.

Ah, hell, I’ll take it.  Even today, you could tell that he was out there for the fun of it, fully aware that you win some and you lose some, determined to do his best and nothing more.  You can’t ask for anything more than that.

Sean Gilmartin, too — after throwing 92 pitches Saturday, and pitching, in effect, on regular rest, threw three scoreless innings.  Sean Gilmartin, I must say, looks legit.  You don’t just run into legitimate arms coming out of the minors that often — if this is for real, it’s a gift, and we’ll cherish it as such.

Gilmartin also spared Terry the necessity of going to any of his other relievers, which was a shame, since I was quite looking forward to Hansel Robles or Addison Reed against Chase Utley.  There are no words to describe Utley right now — he’s a fake and a phony, undeserving of another hit the rest of his career and completely unworthy of playing major league baseball.  I thought we’d drill him eventually; maybe, when the Dodgers come to town in a few weeks, we will.  With luck, Bartolo won’t be on the mound for that.

And the offense…what can you say?  Certainly not much.  Sure, we’ve split the previous two games, but all of our runs those 18 innings have come off the bat of Noah Syndergaard.  Not that I expect this to continue, obviously: we’re going through a bad offensive stretch, which happens to everyone.  But that doesn’t make it fun when it happens to you.

We were up against Clayton Kershaw tonight, perhaps the best pitcher of the century so far, and as much as we told ourselves we had a shot, we never really came close.  And hell, I don’t mind.  At midnight in a game in the middle of May, it’s hard to root against greatness, even if it is pitching against you.

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Maeda Looked Mighty Thor

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It had been slightly less than a month since we’d lost a series.  It had been slightly less than a year since Noah Syndergaard had homered.  And before this year, it had been quite a long time since we’d had a player so captivating, so charismatic yet so innately talented, that his appearances on both sides of the ball were must-see TV.

Two of those have changed, and thanks to those changes, the third remains intact.  It’s still been a long while since we lost a series.

Noah Syndergaard hadn’t been at his absolute best in his previous few outings, and I’d been hoping for a return there.  So, when Corey Seager homered to tie the game in the third, then Yasmani Grandal hit one of his own to give the Dodgers the lead in the fourth, I wasn’t happy about it.

After the fourth?  Twelve batters faced, one hit, four scoreless innings.

The Dodgers had, of course, scored some runs of their own.  So we must have had some runs to counter them, mustn’t we?  Our offense must have been ticking!  Our lineup finally started working like it was supposed to!

Well, not exactly, but that didn’t make things any less fun to watch.  When Thor hit his first blast in the top of the third, it was nothing more or less than a stunning display of raw power.  It was a fastball over the outer half, and Thor blasted it through the proverbially home-run-crushing Dodger Stadium air and into the right field seats.  Stat-cast had its exit velocity a few ticks above 100.

We were down the next time he came to the plate, the seven and eight hitters having — completely improbably, in this hastily assembled mop-up day lineup — reached base to start the inning.  Thor versus Kenta Maeda.  Young versus youngish.  Superstar versus all-star.  Free agent signee extraordinaire versus homegrown, trade-swiped stud.

Sure, his talents lie chiefly on the mound.  That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to win this battle as well.

Sure enough, it was deep and it wasn’t coming back.  Straightaway center, perhaps a shade to the left side, the same place he reached, mind-blowingly, with his memorable Citi Field homer.

At that point, I swear, I thought he was going to hit three.  Hell, i thought maybe he’d hit four.  Thor looked invincible.  Put simply, against Kenta Maeda, he wasn’t going to make an out.

He didn’t, in fact, make an out against Maeda, although he didn’t hit his third and fourth home runs of the night either.  But his night was secure all the same.  Eight innings pitched, two runs allowed, a ninth that he should have pitched even though he didn’t.  Two home runs, four RBIs, both tying Mets records for pitchers.  Another brilliant argument against the National League ever co-opting the Designated Hitter.

How can you not love him, at this point?  He’s a soft-spoken behemoth, a laughing Norse God, a master on the mound and a purveyor of Big Sexy t-shirts.  He’s the kind of guy I want to know — the kind of Met who, as we speak, is receiving loads upon loads of fan mail, from fans eight to eighty, wondering, quite simply, how the hell he does it all.

But Norse Gods do not answer letters.

Honestly, though, what more can you ask?  Another series won (or, at least, not lost), another demonstration that our pitching is not to be toyed with.  All that could have gone better, I suppose, would have been Syndergaard pitching the ninth, although we’ve learned, subsequently, that he was apparently removed after eight out of precaution for a recently-examined elbow that, somehow, no one knew about.  It’s a scenario that reeks of LOL-Mets levels of incompetence — Terry Collins somehow claimed to have been unaware that Syndergaard had recently been to the Hospital for Special Surgery for an elbow examination — but honestly, having watched Thor hit 100 MPH on the gun in the eighth inning, I’m not sure how worried I can possibly be.

Back in the wins column, after a loss.  Still in first place, ahead of the all-out Nationals.  Headed to Coors Field, where we should demolish, after we take on Kershaw, who frankly doesn’t scare me anymore, with Bartolo, who should strike fear into his opponents.

As we’ve continually demonstrated over the last few weeks, there’s absolutely nothing we can’t do.  Defense up the middle.  Pitchers hitting.  Strong arms in the outfield.  Throwing out baserunners.  Being in every damn game right up until the end.  We can do it.  We are doing it.  We’ll keep doing it.

Tomorrow night, it’s Bartolo, who frankly has demonstrated that on the right days, he can go toe to toe with anyone in the game.  After that, it’s back through the turn again.

What a group of guys we’ve got, filling the ninth spot in the batting order!  And hell, they can pitch a little too!

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Ho Hum, No Runs

We were always going to lose this one.

I knew it, you knew it, we all knew it, we pretended we didn’t know it, but we knew it.  It was one of those games.  We weren’t going to score. We just weren’t hitting.  It happens to everyone; today it happened to us.  What the hell can you do.

It’s a shame, though, that we had to waste such a sterling effort from Jacob deGrom, despite still not having his best stuff.  deGrom is 3-1, with a 2.12 E.R.A.  After allowing two runs in the first inning, he went the next six scoreless.  If and when he does recover his best stuff, it’ll be downright scary.  Until then, however, he’s just gotta keep doing what he did tonight, absent the less than perfect first inning.

So it’s a game that, on a better offensive night, we could have — should have — won.  But it wasn’t a better offensive night, and that’s perfectly fine.  It happens to the best of us.

Our effort wasn’t a total waste, at least: Chase Utley struck out, made a stupid looking flip, and made a laughingstock of himself in the field, which, if we’re honest, was my prime objective from this series.  As of now, it looks like retribution for his itsy bisty infraction — sorry, I meant breaking a guy’s freakin’ leg — will either wait, or has been suspended.  Personally, I’d like nothing more than to see retribution when the Dodgers come to town May 27th-29th, 1986 celebration weekend.  Is there any better way to honor the1986 Mets than by starting a long-deserved brawl?  I didn’t think so.

We didn’t hit; it’s that simple.  There’s not much to say, no analysis to be done: we had a bad night.  First base apparently being coated in vaseline didn’t help, nor did Yasiel Puig’s presence in right field, but we just weren’t hitting.  It was obvious: we weren’t going to score.  Sometimes you have that kind of night.

Eh, we’ll be fine.  They’re the Dodgers, a failed team chasing a dream that simply doesn’t look attainable.  They’ve got Kershaw tomorrow.  Somehow, I’m not too worried about it.  We’ve got Thor, who, after something of a funk recently, should break out and rack up some strikeouts against an offense that’s mediocre at best.

Plus: the Nationals lost.  We remain atop the division.  All we’ve got to do is win, and in terms of winning, we’ve been more than fine so far.  We’ve won far more than we’ve lost: there’s no reason that should stop anytime soon.

Tonight was no fun: fun isn’t guaranteed.  But when you’ve got a team like we have, you’ll have fun more often than not.

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Matz Keeps Rolling

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Steven Matz continues reminding us that having four aces in five spots is nothing if not abjectly wonderful.

Who knew that Chase Utley’s dirty slide into Ruben Tejada would prove useful in both the short and long runs?

It certainly was in the short run: despite costing us our most proficient defensive shortstop, its negativity swung the series in our favor.  After everyone was through talking about Chase Utley, they realized that we’d already won the series in five, and were well on our way to sweeping the Cubs as well.

And in the long run?  Chase Utley was so scared of retribution, last night, that he was removed from the lineup.  He’d been the Dodgers leadoff man, one of the only parts working well on a team that’s barely clinging to .500.  And now he was on the bench.

He didn’t hit until late in the game, when he entered to make a pinch-hitting appearance.  And he made a harmless out.

Maybe it’s just me; maybe it’s irrational.  But I’ve got a feeling that after today, Chase Utley’s brief days as leadoff hitter and reinvigorated offensive player extraordinaire are over.  Playing the former team of the shortstop whose leg you broke will do that to you.

And again, while everyone was focused on Chase Utley, the Mets were going ahead and winning.

The pitching matchup, in its own way, was an intriguing one: lefty phenom versus former lefty phenom, upswing versus tail end, future versus past, you name it.  Steven Matz on one side, the unfortunately traded Scott Kazmir on the other.  And as if seeking revenge for everything, Curtis Granderson sent the first pitch of the night over the right field wall.

RBIs from Granderson, right there in the first, Plawecki in the second, and Matz himself in the sixth, to go with the daily RBI from Cespedes.  That’s how our offense works: everywhere, up and down, attacking from every angle until you don’t know whether to forfeit or just keep giving up runs left and right.  Sure, we only scored four.  With our pitching, that’s more than we needed.

The bullpen is bad. No.  NO.  GOOD.  The bullpen is GOOD.  Let’s get this through our heads, because we’ve all been denying its truth for far too long.  The bullpen is just GOOD.  Jim Henderson, Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Antonio Bastardo are all good, and then there’s Familia, who even bullpen skeptics have admitted is good.  It’s a damn good bullpen.  Against the Dodgers, they proved it, or at least, they continued proving it as well as they possibly could: three scoreless innings, only one walk and no hits.

You know?  Sounds like a good bullpen.

And this is what’s so great about this team: now we’ve got deGrom, and then we’ve got Thor, and whoever the Dodgers throw out there simply will not measure up.  Series win?  Let’s go get it.  Series sweep?  Same response.

And my favorite part?  Chase Utley was barely mentioned, because his contributions to the Dodgers are now so insignificant that his play doesn’t bear even a token mention.  Ah well, that’s what happens, and he deserves significantly less than he’s got left, but I’ll take what I can get.

We’re going to go out there tonight and win the series, and go out there tomorrow and sweep it.  And the Dodgers won’t go down easy; they’ll put up a fight.  But so long as they’ve got Chase Utley on their side, we’ve got fair fortune on ours.

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