- Last Updated: 9:46 AM, April 12, 2012
- Posted: 1:06 AM, April 12, 2012
Well, Roger Craig was in the house for this one, of course, so maybe there was no celestial way to avoid what the Mets delivered at Citi Field: an endless tribute to 1962, three hours and 36 minutes of enfeebled offense and forgettable pitching (at least across the four innings when someone other than Johan Santana was throwing the baseball).
Fifty years to the day after Craig got everything started with a three-inning, five-run appearance that foreshadowed his 46-loss contribution to the Mets’ 231 losses of 1962 and ’63, the Mets dropped a yawn-inducing 4-0 game to the Nationals that inspired a hearkening to one of the oldest baseball jokes of all.
Question: How do you suppose Roger Craig (15-46, 4.14 ERA in those two years with the Mets) would have done against the Nats yesterday?
Answer: Probably not as well as Manny Acosta, Ramon Ramirez, Miguel Batista and Tim Byrdak. But, in fairness, he IS 82 years old.
“I really don’t remember much about it,” Craig quipped before the game, speaking of the 11-4 decision the Mets dropped to the Cardinals on April 11, 1962 in St. Louis, a game that featured Stan Musial driving in the first-ever run against the Mets with a single, Gil Hodges driving in the Mets’ first run with a solo homer against Larry Jackson, and four Mets pitchers accounting for only one base on balls in a game that took 2:53 to play.
“I wonder why? It was only 50 years ago.”
By day’s end, it only seemed like that much time had passed between the Mets’ feel-good 4-0 start and this feel-numb 4-0 loss that took 43 minutes longer to play than the ’62 lid-lifter, mostly because the Mets’ pitchers were allergic to the plate, issuing 10 walks and trying, mightily, to drain the last drops of optimism built by their boffo opening weekend.
“We have to throw strikes,” manager Terry Collins said, using his finest deadpan expression to prove he knew precisely how obvious an observation that was. He took only a smidge off a little bit later when he offered his cure to the Mets’ hitting woes, which not-so-coincidently coincided with the removal of David Wright from the batting order: “We’re taking pitches we can hit. Once in a while we need to swing at some pitches we can hit. We can’t take pitches right down the middle.”
All in all, it wasn’t a terrible game to get yourself ejected from. That’s what Collins did after watching home plate umpire Larry Vanover identify a wide 2-2 pitch from Stephen Strasburg as a corner-hugging strike that dismissed Jason Bay for the last time, even though Collins publicly admitted he felt a little silly debating strikes on a day when his pitchers refused to throw any, while undoubtedly realizing privately that all Vanover did was end Bay’s inevitable misery one pitch early.
A mission of mercy, really.
So the Mets close out their opening homestand 4-2, and maybe it’s an indication of how good they looked early that there is some disappointment greeting their first venture onto the road following two straight ugly outings against Washington. Collins remains hopeful Wright and his busted-up pinky can return tomorrow (though regular Mets observers are far more dubious).
They are every bit as fragile as we thought, judging by how much Wright’s absence the past few games threw the offense out of whack. Their success is every bit as tenuous; the bullpen, brilliant for four days, has looked like a samba line of sparring partners the past two.
This is what the Mets are right now: a team with a razor-thin margin for error. It is good that Johan Santana has now thrown 10 innings and permitted only one run; it is bad that he has been outscored 1-0 across those 10 innings. It is good that someone like Josh Thole has the gumption to declare, “You got the right group of guys in here to not get down about not having David.” It is not so good that yesterday’s 3-4-5 heart-of-the-lineup — Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and Bay — are now a robust 6-for-61 on the season.
The past two days won’t define the Mets any more than the 4-0 start did. But the next week might. Philly and Atlanta have been burial grounds for past Mets seasons. This one should survive those cities. But in what kind of shape? By this time next week, we ought to know.Follow @NYPostsports