They were dressed as latter-day descendants of the Good Humor men, wearing white-on-white costumes in a typically clumsy attempt by Major League Baseball to pretend to be woke when in actuality the marketing masterminds only want you to reach deeper into your pockets to buy yet another shlocky specialty uniform.
But humor was in short supply for the Mets in the aftermath of Friday’s long night in Queens that ended in a 2-1, 14-inning loss to the Braves in which Jacob deGrom fanned 13 through seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball that featured a string of eight straight K’s from the final out of the third through the first out of the sixth.
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And, by the way, that accounted for only half of the major league-record tying 26 strikeouts induced by eight Mets pitchers, the final three of which were racked up in the 14th inning by losing pitcher Jeurys Familia. The Mets struck out only 14 times in the game that lasted 4:37. So there was that.
This is Players’ Weekend, when the athletes get to wear their nicknames on the backs of their fun suits. Far too modest to select the moniker “Cy,” deGrom instead opted for “deGrom.” Not a nickname, but instead a synonym for excellence.
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The night was enervating. The Mets’ lone run came on an opposite field home run by who else but deGrom, leading off the sixth after he had yielded Atlanta’s first run in the top of the inning on a pair of base hits sandwiched around a stolen base. That was it for the NL East-leading Braves until the 14th. That was it for the Mets, who had won five straight, 14 of 18 and 21 of their past 26 to emerge as serious playoff contenders.
The Braves ran out of position players in the 10th inning and thereafter used a pair of pitchers to pinch-hit. The Mets ran out of position players an inning later and used Steve Matz to pinch hit with one out and none on in the 14th. He bounced out to third base.
The team that might have too many players once Jeff McNeil returns from a rehab assignment, perhaps as early as Saturday following his 1-for-4 for the Brooklyn Cyclones in Norwich, Conn., on Friday, didn’t have enough in this one.
Michael Conforto was 0-for-6. Pete Alonso, aptly nicknamed Polar Bear given the duds in which he and his teammates were swathed, went 1-for-6. The Mets loaded the bases with two out in the 10th, but Amed Rosario struck out. They got the winning run to third with one out in the 11th, but Conforto struck out and pinch-hitter Aaron Altherr grounded to short after J.D. Davis was intentionally walked.
If there was a silver lining to this one, it did not appear as trim on this uniform that was universally and instantaneously mocked by those who aren’t paid to endorse it. Instead, it was provided by the resurgent bullpen that constructed six scoreless innings while allowing only two hits and striking out 10 before Familia finally faltered.
“Our bullpen was fantastic overall,” Mickey Callaway said, and he was not exaggerating. “Seven innings and one run … you can’t ask for a better performance than that.”
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Seth Lugo continued his outstanding work with two scoreless innings. Edwin Diaz was able to get out of the 10th unscathed by striking out both Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies with a runner on third. That could represent a start for the reliever.
“That was a great big situation,” Callaway said. “He should take pride in what he did. It should get him going.”
It’s as if arsonists have become fire marshals. The incendiary first-half bullpen has been on virtual fire itself. Callaway doesn’t quite seem so overmatched when the guys on whom he calls — including Luis Avilan, Brad Brach, Paul Sewald and Justin Wilson in this one — pitch effectively.
“I think their resurgence is due to their ability to not give up, never quit, continue to work hard and get themselves in a better position where they can have success,” the manager said. “They’re thinking about the right things, they’re executing the right things and they continue to work hard as they have the entire season. It’s paying off for us.”
On Friday, there was no payoff. It was another night dominated by deGrom — 1.22 ERA, a .175 batting average against, 37 hits allowed with 79 strikeouts in 59 innings over nine starts since July 5 — but this time it ended in white noise.