David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Nearly 22 years ago, the last time the Mets were no-hit, by the late Darryl Kile at the Astrodome, they had a future Hall of Famer batting third in Eddie Murray and a borderline candidate for Cooperstown two spots behind him, a second baseman by the name of Jeff Kent.
What the Mets didn't have was motivation, and they pretty much mailed it in that night, just another mile marker on a highway to nowhere, which in their particular case turned out to be a 103-loss season.
Fast forward to Tuesday night at Citi Field, where the first-place Mets supposedly have everything still in front of them -- the thrill of contention, the possibility of a playoff berth for the first time in nine years.
And a pop-gun offense that seems utterly incapable of getting them there. We didn't need Chris Heston to spell it out for us, but the Giants' rookie -- who had a 4.29 ERA coming in -- did a masterful job anyway in no-hitting the Mets for the seventh time in franchise history.
Playing the role of Murray was Lucas Duda. The stand-in for Kent batting fifth? Wilmer Flores. Otherwise, there was Michael Cuddyer instead of Joe Orsulak, Anthony Recker for Todd Hundley, but you get the idea.
There is a huge difference between rolling over in September and playing dead on June 9. What Heston did to the Mets was inexplicable -- even for a lineup that desperately needs reinforcements. Afterward, the Mets still seemed dazed.
"I've never been no-hit before," Terry Collins said. "You figure someone's going to get something."
Of course. That's why no-hitters are so rare. They're supposed to be hard to do. But on a humid night, the Mets barely made Heston sweat. This was much easier than it should have been. The Mets hit only two balls that reached the outfield. That's kind of ridiculous.
"It's a little deflating," Cuddyer said. "Nobody wants to get no-hit. It doesn't feel good."
In the big picture, a loss is a loss, and the feeble effort in a 5-0 defeat doesn't make it count double in the standings. The Mets said that repeatedly -- perhaps to help soothe the stinging humiliation. But occasionally losses have a deeper meaning, and watching the Mets not put up a fight was sobering for a team that resides atop the NL East.
The other stunning thing about Heston's near-perfect night was the scarcity of hard-hit balls. Usually, a no-hitter features one or two highlight-worthy defensive plays. This had a nifty backhand by Brandon Crawford on Eric Campbell's groundout to end the eighth. Truthfully? Crawford, an excellent glove man, makes that play blindfolded.
So then, where do the Mets go from here? Well, Travis d'Arnaud is headed back to New York after what basically amounted to an extended layover in Las Vegas and will be activated on Wednesday.
That's only two games at Triple-A, after just five at Triple-A St. Lucie, for d'Arnaud, who is returning from a six-week rehab for a fractured finger. But we can't blame the Mets for getting anxious, and rushing d'Arnaud is their only recourse for now.
The Mets aren't going to solve all their problems with a single plane ticket. Or maybe they're just looking ahead to the next Vegas flight that brings Steven Matz back east. Either way, this group looks overmatched at the plate.
We highly doubt this is a case where Sandy Alderson is spurred to action. Knowing the Mets, they'll wait for d'Arnaud and see how the lineup performs for a while with him in it.
Put it this way. After watching Heston no-hit the Mets, it certainly can't get any worse.