There’s a point in every typical Mets season when their astonishingly dependable ineptitude tips over from being a source of amusement to being a source of genuinely unpleasant secondhand embarrassment. Probably for Mets fans that moment reliably passes before the first day of summer; for the rest of us, it takes a little longer for your various hand, foot, and mouth disease diagnoses and calcified heels to lose their comedic kick.
For me, a Nationals fan already hating the absolute hell out of this baseball season, schadenfreude powered my enjoyment of Mets fuckery even past the point of Jeurys Familia getting traded away for a bucket of stale popcorn, even past Yoenis Cespedes missing nine weeks with an unexplained injury, returning for one game, then immediately going back on the disabled list with a chronic condition the team says they somehow knew nothing about. But my ability to derive sick joy from Mets misery ended in the seventh inning of Saturday night’s shutout loss, when the whole thing just started to look too much like the universe piling on.
Jacob deGrom pitched beautifully against the Pirates, but that’s nothing new. In the fifth inning, with the game scoreless, deGrom reached out and slapped a one-out double down the line in left, recording his first double of the season. He was a happy, smiling man, having put himself in scoring position with the Mets’ first extra-base hit of the game:
Amed Rosario followed deGrom’s double with a four-pitch walk, but the big chance petered out two batters later on a Brandon Nimmo strikeout and a harmless Wilmer Flores popout, with deGrom still standing on second base.
DeGrom surrendered the game’s first run the following inning, on a pair of singles around a stolen base. But all hope was not lost! deGrom took the plate again with one down in the top of the seventh inning, and punched a liner to center field for his second hit of the game. It was his first multi-hit game of the season, and it came during the 14th start of the season in which he pitched at least seven innings while allowing three or fewer runs. By the way, the Mets are 5-9 in those 14 games.
Because they are the Mets, they again squandered the good fortune of a pitcher hitting his way on base, this time on a lousy fielder’s choice grounder and another strikeout. So deGrom was still on the mound, and on the hook for the loss, at the start of the seventh inning. The Pirates touched him for another pair of singles, this time around a sacrifice bunt, and drove in their second run on an RBI groundout. And then this happened:
It’s just a regular-ass baseball thing: deGrom hung a slider and Adam Frazier pulled it into the right field corner for an RBI double. But, man, deGrom’s face and body language when that third run crossed the plate, on a night when he’d supplied his team’s only extra-base hit, communicated pure hopelessness:
That was the moment when I lost the ability to enjoy the Mets sucking and failing for the remainder of this season. The RBI double left the score at 3-0, and it was still 3-0 at the end of the inning, which was also the end of deGrom’s night. But for all the punch and confidence evinced by New York’s lineup, the score might as well have been 19-0. That third run put the Mets a galaxy away from having a chance at pulling out a win. The Mets could’ve and maybe should’ve let a couple utility infielders pitch the remainder of the game. deGrom can pitch superbly, and he can even knock the ball around and get on base, but he also cannot make any mistakes at all. Baseball needs to find a way to get him onto a serious baseball team.