For some, the story can be told exclusively in grit and feistiness — your Miami Marlins, for example. The Marlins have no players, they hadn’t played a game in nine days before Tuesday night, and yet they shut out the Orioles, 4-0. Now, the 2020 O’s will never be confused for the ones of championship vintage, but still.
That’s some serious grit.
The Mets aren’t afforded such things. Not with the team they have, not with the expectations they harbor. So yes, if it makes you feel better as a fan to see how the Mets, with half a lineup, were able to stay very much in a game the Nationals should have run away with, knock yourself out.
But as a wise man once said about another pro sport in town: There are no medals for trying. And the fact that 5-0 Nats, ended up 5-3 Nats, instead of 11-2 Nats is of some small, hollow consequence right now, truth be told. The season isn’t even two weeks old and it already feels exhausted. That wasn’t how this was supposed to go at all.
Are they hurt? Sure, they’re hurt. Robinson Cano, who is hitting .400, landed on the injured list before the game. Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario weren’t available. You take out three-quarters of any team’s infield, it’s going to hurt.
So what the Mets could have used was a solid effort from Steven Matz, their purported No. 2 starter. What they got, instead, was the kind of inexplicable stinker Matz has thrown into the mix far too often across the years, a non-competitive three innings in which he put the team in a 5-0 hole.
What the Mets could have used, after getting a taste of them Monday night in Atlanta, were a few well-timed hits after they sliced that 5-0 lead to 5-3. There were plenty of opportunities. But there the score stood, frozen to the end.
Nobody is going to feel sorry for the Mets, so they can’t afford to pity themselves. Nobody is going to weep for them if they continue to spin their wheels and bury themselves deeper in the muck. Feel good about the positives last night: the bullpen with six scoreless innings, Pete Alonso with an RBI single, Michael Conforto with a home run.
The Mets are supposed to be beyond that point. They aren’t the Marlins. They were never supposed to be about feel-good, just good.
And right now, they’re a long way from good.
And unless they figure out a way to get that changed quickly — starting (yikes!) with facing Max Scherzer today — well … it could get late early. Even earlier than usual.
“One of the things you have to have in this game is to recover quick,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said earlier in the day, before he knew for sure if he’d have access to his banged-up players or not. “It’s tough to lose three guys like that regularly in your lineup. Plus, they were all swinging good bats. All you can do is knock wood and hope it’s a minimal thing.”
Consider it one more thing to deal with for a rookie manager, in what is a daily checklist of chuckles. On Sunday he got to see up close what happened when an unhappy baseball marriage ends, the Mets and Yoenis Cespedes finally succumbing to irreconcilable differences. Early Tuesday morning the Mets’ team plane arrived in Washington seconds ahead of an epic storm, but not before bouncing it all over the sky.
And a few hours later he was pondering a lineup — once thought to be circular and deep — that ultimately included Tomas Nido, Andres Gimenez, Brian Dozier and Ryan Cordell.
“This game,” Rojas said, “is all about adversity.”
The Mets skipper is a quick learner.
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