This chaotic play serves as a microcosm for the Mets' week

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NEW YORK — The internally embattled New York Mets swept the hapless (and Harper-lessWashington Nationals this week and there are so many statistics to emphasize just how disappointing the first 50 games have been for two of the teams that were actually trying in a division that was supposed to be one of the most hotly contested. But maybe you’re more of a visual learner.

The four-game series — which started with everyone assuming Mets manager Mickey Callaway was going to get axed and ended with it looking increasingly likely that Dave Martinez’s days as the Nats’ manager are numbered — can be unfortunately illustrated by the following play from the sixth inning of Thursday’s 6-4 Mets victory. It’s not exactly emblematic — nowhere is the Nats’ bullpen imploding and there’s no direct manifestation of the Wilpons’ tiresome meddling — but it is certainly A Mood.

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MLB.com Gameday described the play as follows:

Brian Dozier singles on a soft bunt ground ball to second baseman Adeiny Hechavarria. Juan Soto scores. Throwing error by second baseman Adeiny Hechavarria. Brian Dozier out at 3rd, pitcher Steven Matz to third baseman Todd Frazier.

I would describe it as: A surprise bunt that didn’t do exactly what was expected of it served to upend the order on the infield and resulted in a series of compounding mistakes and corresponding reactions. The whole play lasted 18 seconds from contact to ultimate out at third. It’s the kind of play that lends little to the overall analysis, in part because the chaos is poorly captured by statistics, even ones like errors. If anything, it’s a reminder that for all the talk of Three True Outcomes and all the ways that baseball can be distilled into a series of discrete, measurable moves, that players are not chess pieces and so much of the game is decided in the messy margins of mental lapses and quick thinking.

In a way, now that we know the Mets went on to win despite giving up the tying run on the play, it also serves as a microcosm of the week, in which they were able to stop the skid from their own failures by running into a team that’s showing even more confoundingly bad fundamentals — with just a little bit of flailing along the way. Or maybe I’m just reaching for a reason to have been so captivated by this very dumb bit of baseball.

Todd Frazier recorded an out on a wild and bad play Thursday that sums up how the Mets and Nationals are playing this season. (Getty Images)
Todd Frazier recorded an out on a wild and bad play Thursday that sums up how the Mets and Nationals are playing this season. (Getty Images)

And because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I talked to some of the guys involved.

Todd Frazier explained that when Brian Dozier started running toward third, he was screaming at Stephen Matz to throw the ball.

“Whether he heard me or not is another story,” Frazier said. “But it’s actually a big play in the game. Nobody out, a runner on second, he tried to advance to third and it kind of changed the momentum cause it’s a tie game still and kind of got Steve like ‘All right, I gave up a run but I made a big play there.’”

“Well I guess he was assuming that I was just kind of looking down after the play, but I just was facing that direction so I saw him right in my vision take off running,” Matz said. “We actually practiced that the other day, just getting over there when the ball is hit to that side of the field, so I was ready back there. He tried to catch me sleeping, but fortunately, I was somewhat aware. I must have given the appearance that I was not paying attention.”

Martinez defended his guy, saying, “Dozier was just trying to be ultra-aggressive today. We watched, Matz had his head down the whole time and he was off there pretty good. And he thought he had a shot to take third base. That’s just playing. At least he’s aware and trying to play heads up, you know? Trying to make something happen.”

(No, I do not know that Dozier was aware. Anyway.)

“Obviously nobody out, runner at second, [I was] trying to get him over, especially in a tight ballgame,” Dozier said. “Did that. When I was at second, which I’ve done my entire career, I like to put pressure on the opposing team. I kept just walking out about halfway and Matz had his head down with the ball. I quickly realized I’m not as fast as I used to be, and he made a really good play. I think it was a smart play and just a really good execution by him.”

Perhaps the takeaway is that pitchers should be feigning oblivion more often. Or perhaps it’s simply that even when two bad teams play a baseball game, one of them has to come out on top.

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