Friday, June 24, 2016

Infernal Struggle

The 1985 New York Mets finished 98-64, which stands as the 4th best record in club history. They finished in 2nd place, 3 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals, and in those days, 2nd place meant that you got to go home and sit on your thumbs after the final day of the regular season.

One reason that they managed this was because their record for the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that went 57-104, was 10-8, and it was a difficult 10-8 at that. A better performance against a 104-loss team would have likely meant a different outcome for the season. One year later, the Mets did a much better job in cleaning Pittsburgh's clock to the tune of a 17-1 record. Oh by the way, the Mets won the World Series that year.

Right now, the Mets record against the Atlanta Braves, who might be lucky to match the '85 Pirates 104 losses is 6-5. And those 6 wins haven't exactly been easy. In fact, the 6th win, which they managed to pull off tonight, was downright horrifying.

Oh, sure, things looked great after 4 1/2 innings, because the Mets trashed Aaron Blair and ran out to an 8-0 lead, the sort of performance the Mets really should have been putting forth against the Braves all season. They had guys on base, guys getting hits with men in scoring position, and a coup de grace 3-run Home Run from James Loney.

And then Steven Matz, who may or may not have an elbow issue that he may or may not be telling the truth about had a complete meltdown in the bottom of the 5th and 8-0 turned into 8-6 real quick. Whatever the issue is here with Matz, he clearly wasn't the same pitcher after sitting in the dugout rubbing his elbow or his forearm during an lengthy Mets inning in the top of the 5th, and the Braves jumped all over him, knocking him from the game a few outs shy of being able to qualify for a win. Whether this is the harbinger of more injury issues, I have no idea but after a stretch in which I was ready to anoint him as the NL Rookie of the Year, he's come back to earth significantly.

On the other hand, Hansel Robles has, at least for this week, been the Mets savior.  Called upon to clean up the Matz Mess, Robles finished the 5th and for good measure pitched the 6th and 7th innings too, throwing all of 21 pitches after his 65-pitch effort on Tuesday night that saved that game. Again, like any reliever, Robles will run hot and cold but it looks like he's heating up again, and when he's going well, he looks really, really good.

So then after this, it looked like the Mets, who'd stopped hitting after they got to 8, were going to hang on, and when Collins went to Jeurys Familia with 2 out in the 8th, it seemed like they were bound and determined to hang on. Familia's no stranger to going more than an inning but it's still kind of a scary proposition. He didn't do anyone any favors by giving up a hit to Tyler Flowers and hitting Erick Aybar to start the 9th inning. With imminent disaster staring the Mets right in the face, Chase d'Arnaud came up, stood in front of his brother and bunted...badly. Wilmer Flores then tried to catch the popped-up bunt...badly. A surer-handed 3rd baseman might have caught the ball outright, but Flores dropped it. However, in dropping the ball, Flores unwittingly shit a diamond because he then essentially duped Flowers and Aybar from running at all, and further disaster turned into a Double Play. Because that's exactly how it was drawn up. d'Arnaud then stole 2nd off his brother, but Jace Peterson struck out to end the game, except that the ball got away from Travis d'Arnaud, far enough that it seemed like Peterson might actually beat it out. But Travis' desperation heave was somehow corralled by a diving Loney and after a brief replay the game was, in fact, over and the Mets had, in fact, won.

Whew. I know winning isn't easy but really, the Mets didn't need to make this game quite so difficult. On the other hand, I suppose I should just be happy that the Mets aren't getting swept again.

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