For all those calendar-markers out there, you might want to circle yesterday's 8-1 loss as the day the 2016 Mets not only showed they weren't a playoff team, but that they forgot how to play baseball entirely. That way, even if the completely unexpected happens and the Mets do make the playoffs, you can point back to your calendar and marvel how far the team came in the last 40 games. You could then look back and clap your knee and regale others with tales about how there was great commotion and confusion on the field, that resembled not so much the ongoing Olympics but an animal version of it involving less rings—specifically three rings.
Because really, the Mets were consistently inept throughout this one—on the bases, in the field, on the mound, at the plate, in the dugout, in the front office; I even suspect that the caterers had a bad day. This was no way to treat Ron Darling's birthday.
So, all this happened on a team meant to compete for the highest honor in baseball six weeks from now:
In the fifth inning with the game tied at one, emergency starter Seth Lugo reached base not through virtue but because he—like many Mets pitchers before him—laid down a poor bunt, in this case allowing the lead runner to be eliminated. He reached second base when Jose Reyes singled, and then when Kelly Johnson followed with another single, Lugo lumbered to third with Teufel waving him around to score. Yet as Lugo was reaching third, Tuff changed his mind and put the stop sign up. Lugo had his head down and apparently ran through the stop sign and was well around third base before he himself decided that it was a bad idea to try and score. Unfortunately, Jose Reyes had been watching Lugo's progress and was now most of the way to third and was hung out to dry. Instead of letting the fastest man on the Mets try and escape the pickle, Lugo heroically took it upon himself to also then get in a run-down, where the result of him tumbling to the ground helmetless while being easily tagged out was all but inevitable.
Gary and Keith faulted Lugo on the play, but you can easily put equal blame on Reyes for poor instincts. In this contest, we were reminded that even when at the height of his powers, Reyes was/is still susceptible to head-smacking gaffes; he didn't do much to acquit himself as he was earlier thrown out by a mile trying to advance to second on a ball in the dirt, and later inexplicably watched a ground ball trickle by him in the shift to open up the obscenity that was the eighth inning. It was if his brain told him that he was already on the wrong side of second base as a third baseman, and that he should foray no further into this strange ground. Perhaps he was visited by the ghost of Kaz Matsui for a brief harrowing moment. Either way, It's probably not worth mentioning that he had four hits tonight.
Reyes was far from the only one experiencing issues in the field or with communication. Jeurys Familia failed to make contact with the right side of his leather on a weak dribbler back through the box which could have ended the eighth with no damage and a manageable 3-1 deficit. Instead: damage. A run scored on that play, and then two scored on the next one as Asdrubal Cabrera—highly lauded by mainstream pundits for his grissiony ways and heads-upedness—bounced a throw to first on a routine play, which WFAN-approved gloveman James Loney whiffed on entirely. The game was officially blown open at 6-1 at this point.
Somehow this play was one of only two official errors the Mets were charged with today (a Loney boot on a routine grounder being the other one), but plenty of ugly moments went under the box score radar, like a routine pop-up to shallow center that Cabrera ended up belly-flopping at and missing when neither he nor Curtis Granderson called for it.
Then there were the seemingly unavoidable mishaps like Terry Collins bringing in Erik Goeddel for the seventh time in 11 days despite him getting rocked each of his last two times out. The game was already quickly getting out of reach in the eighth and Goeddel just helped get it there quicker, offering up a meatball that was smacked out of the park to finish the scoring in a five-run eighth.
Then there was the perhaps longer-term mishap of Jay Bruce continuing to unfold. The first two Giant runs of the night scored when they got base knocks to right with a runner at second. On both plays, Bruce looked wooden-legged in approaching (coasting towards?) the ball, and even somewhat surprised that he had to throw home—if his slow-motion delivery was any indication. Despite good throws in each case, you have to feel the plays would have been closer if an average-or-above major league outfielder was out there.
Bruce was supposedly brought in partly because he is an 'RBI guy', but he now has just three of those in the last 14 games, with his latest best chance at one with two runners on in the eighth resulted in a double-play grounder to end the inning. He will get Saturday off as Collins says he has been 'pressing'.
The newly-returned Yoenis Cespedes even got in on the act in the ninth, getting caught off third base on a comebacker, but it didn't really matter at that point. It doesn't even matter that everything I just explained is kind of jumbled and out of order. Detailing everything above now seems a bit pointless. I could have just said "the Mets stunk. Ask anybody." Like, it doesn't matter talking about how they got 11 hits when they only scored one run.
It doesn't really matter now that Lugo turned in a perfectly competent start with a pitch-count efficiency that would make Bartolo Colon proud—65 pitches got him to two outs in the seventh before an intentional walk which preceded his removal. He mixed speeds well in succession, running between 92 and 95 on his fastball, and dropping as low as 77 on his biting curveball from a high of 81, while mixing in sliders and change-ups as well, as all his pitches hung around the zone. Truth be told, the Giants helped the pace along by swinging at virtually everything, and they did hit the ball hard off him pretty consistently. In the end, he realistically seems like what he's already been pegged for—a middle reliever who could maybe make some spot starts in a pinch.
And what is Josh Smoker like, since he made his major league debut? Who knows? He only faced three batters, two of whom hit grounders—the aforementioned Reyes misplay and a subsequent forceout—and one of whom singled before Smoker was removed. He hit 95 on the gun and stayed around the plate. His career ERA is 27.00 (one more thing about this game that is meaningless) as both of the runners he left ended up scoring.
Hopefully the Mets can start investing their efforts with more meaning. At this point, at five-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot with three teams ahead of them, I think fans would rather develop their accounts of guys like Smoker and Lugo—even if the games themselves don't matter—than continuing to watch the ongoing recital of frustration that this season has become. All the Mets have to do is get out of their own way and then maybe everybody can lighten up a little.
As the Ol' Professor Casey Stengel himself once said: "There comes a time in every man's life and I've had many of them." LGM.
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