Win, Win, Win

When Jacob deGrom left Thursday night’s game, and social media was immediately swamped with reports that he had retreated to the clubhouse and brought Ray Ramirez with him, the doomsday predictions immediately began.  But I looked at things slightly differently.

“We’ve been winning a game and losing a player every night,” I said to myself.  “I guess we’re going to win.”

But most of Mets fandom, judging from twitter, wasn’t quite so cavalier about the loss of the third of our alleged four aces.  I couldn’t tell for certain whether the concern sprang from deGrom’s having a problem that necessitated Ray Ramirez’s attention, or the fear that Ray Ramirez would somehow exacerbate the otherwise minor condition (hey, it ain’t exactly unprecedented), but either way, we had some trouble on our hand.

Mets fans always do this, don’t we?  The minute everything goes wrong, we convince ourselves that the end times are upon us; we swear up and down that everything always goes wrong for us; we shout to high heavens that no one else has luck as bad as we do.  Now tell me, why on earth would we do that?

Ok, so maybe — again — it ain’t exactly unfounded.  Which is what deGrom said after the game: it’s a mechanical issue, nothing wrong, no drama to report here, now move along.  Is that what Matt Harvey said?  Yes.  Is it also what Steven Matz said?  Probably.  Is it what we’ve always heard from Mets pitchers the day before they announce that they’ll be out 12-18 months?  Indeed it is.

So is there cause for alarm?  I don’t know.  Ray Ramirez is involved, so by no means can we rule out the possibility.  But maybe deGrom is being absolutely straight with us: maybe there’s no problem at all.

deGrom got 14/15 of the way through a very good start before it all came undone.  A grounder that barely evaded a barely mobile Wilmer Flores, a base stolen barely successfully, then two doubles.  That’s not even to mention the two single but not quite double plays in the third inning, or the pitches around the plate all day on which Jake wasn’t getting the calls. If the dice fall differently, we’re triumphant right now, congratulating deGrom on a well pitched, albeit short start, and celebrating a mere 1.0 game wildcard deficit.

And speaking of cause for alarm, Jay Bruce got two hits — is that allowed?  One of them was a homer; the other also drove in a run — is this stuff that you could call “offense” or “hitting” going to be something that Jay Bruce does regularly in the future?  Jose Reyes had two more hits, frozen ropes the both of them, and is batting .295 — are washed up old guys allowed to do that?  Asdrubal Cabrera hit another home run — isn’t it alarming that he’s having, out of nowhere, what looks like a career year?  Can’t we also be alarmed positively?

Returning to the formula of win a game, lose a player, it all — for now — seems to have worked out just as planned.  We didn’t — yet — lose a player.  We lost a game.  At least there’s something we didn’t lose.

There’s always at least one win when you — that is, I — go out to Citi Field for a game: I win for getting to watch my ballclub play.  Everything else is just a bonus — and maybe not losing Jacob deGrom after seeming to most definitely lose Jacob deGrom is a bonus not quite on par with winning, but certainly up there.

I can’t help be reminded of that classic episode of The Office, entitled “Conflict Resolution,” wherein Michael attempts to become a mediator and must learn the different styles of resolution.  He wants everyone to win, obviously: don’t we all?

He brings the parties together in the conference room, and starts the mediation process: what kind of settlement do they want to reach?

Michael: Okay, this is important. The first style is lose/lose.

Oscar: What's the next one?

Michael: Just hold on, please! Okay, if we do lose/lose, neither of you gets what you want. Do you understand? You...you would both lose.  Now I  need to ask you: do you want to pursue a lose/lose negotiation?

As I headed for the subway after the loss, I wasn’t sure yet: would it be a lose/lose?  Would we blow the game and lose deGrom’s arm?

But then Michael moves on to other, much more palatable resolution options.

Angela: Can we just skip to whatever number 5 is - win/win or whatever?

Michael: Win/Win is number four, and number five is win/win/win. The important difference here is with win/win/win, we all win. Me too. I win for having successfully mediated a conflict at work.

But the news came soon enough, and until further notice, it’s what I’m going with: deGrom had mechanical issues, nothing more, and will be fine and dandy on his next turn in five days.

It didn’t look like the best of days, Mets-wise, at the outset.  But then we pull back to the big picture.  Jay Bruce may have gotten going.  Cabrera is still slugging away.  Reyes is hitting like he’s 24.  Despite our injury-a-day program, we’re two games out with 28 to play, going up against a Cardinal team that frankly doesn’t appear all that threatening, compared to Cardinals teams of years past.  And what’s more, I had one more chance to get out to Citi Field, sit under the New York sky, and watch my guys play one last time.

Win, win, win.

And hey, Thor goes tomorrow.  There’s another win right there.

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A Three Inning Change In Perception

What is this bug the Mets have come down with lately?  I’m not talking about the winning bug, although that’s been fun too: I’m talking about this tendency we seem to be developing, to play complex, interwoven games where events of the fifth inning come back to play their roles in the eighth, and what seems inconsequential at 8:30 makes all the difference in the world ninety minutes later.

Yesterday’s turning point initially proved a false alarm, but ultimately came on a Granderson home run.  Tonight’s was different — and about as Metsian as can be.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, with Jake Esch tiring in his major league debut, Don Mattingly went to his bullpen.  And with Granderson coming up, he went to a lefty.

“Mattingly using his only lefthander in the fifth inning,” said Howie Rose.  I was driving along a dark, lonely road somewhere in the middle of Long Island.  At the time, I thought nothing of it, save the fact that it was extremely frustrating that Don Mattingly’s only lefty was shutting us down so easily.

A few times, we should have scored: the two double plays grounded into by Bartolo (but what the hell can you do?), as well as Granderson’s bid for a 23rd home run on the year that Ichiro pulled back in his trademark sigh-inducing fashion.

But we didn’t.  Several times, I thought the Marlins would.  They didn’t either.

So we went to the eighth, which you had to think was our last chance to win in any kind of normal fashion, before embarking on a 22 inning odyssey that would inevitably end at 3:00 in the morning and make us wish we’d been born in San Diego and had never chosen to root for this team.  So, we had to score in the eighth.  It was that simple.

I don’t like A.J. Ramos — that’s pretty simple as well.  I don’t like his lack of command, which put Travis d’Arnaud out of commission for more than half of the 2015 season with a broken finger.  I don’t like the way he dove violently into Jose Reyes in an ostensible attempt to cover the plate, which almost, but not quite, put Jose on the bench as well.  I just don’t like him.

So up until now, I’d enjoyed watching us score off him this series.  And here he was again.

A single, a walk, a productive out, and an unproductive out later, Travis d’Arnaud came to the plate.  Kelly Johnson, I knew, somewhere in the back of my head, was on deck.

And right then, I knew it.

“d’Arnaud’s going to walk,” I said.  “And Johnson’s going to get the runs home, because Mattingly doesn’t have a lefty.”

You know the story.  d’Arnaud walked relatively easily.  Johnson came up.  In my head, I’d expected a walk to drive home the go-ahead run, for no other reason than A.J. Ramos’ evidently chronic lack of control.  And sure enough, he went ahead in the count 2-0.

Then he swung over a fastball.

“Beat him with a sinker,” said Howie Rose.

“That was probably ball three,” I thought to myself.

Then a slider for strike two.  A fastball up and away.  Full count.

Just then, I had the good fortune to come up to a red light, hemmed in on either side by construction of the Second Avenue Subway.  Surrounded by metal, the radio turned to static.

But then, as if a miracle, in what I’m sure was caused by nothing more than Howie’s voice temporarily breaking through the steel curtain, I heard Ramos deliver.  And fifteen seconds later, we had a 5-2 lead.  And a few minutes after that, Familia had sealed the win in record setting fashion.

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The Marlins defeated again, A.J. Ramos humiliated again, and once more, a story that didn’t go quite the way any of us expected it would.  But once again, the ending is what matters, and the ending was everything we wanted, and then some.

You don’t think much of those little, nondescript events, like a manager opting to use his only lefty in the fifth inning.  Isn’t it amazing how often games are won and lost on the strength of those same nondescript events?

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