There are two words of encouragement for the Mets: Bob Moose. He is the Pirates pitcher who threw a no-hitter against the Mets on Sept. 20, 1969, which obviously didn't prove toxic. Twenty-six days later, the Mets won the World Series.
This is not to say that Max Scherzer just clinched the championship for the Mets by thoroughly dominating them and throwing a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts. It just means that it was only one game. It was a reminder that this season is another historic moment for the Mets. And it says that the Mets always seem to do things the hard way.
As coronations go, Saturday was not particularly royal. It was the first day that the Mets played at Citi Field as 2015 National League East champions and they lost a doubleheader to the Nationals. The first game was played on a raw afternoon and many ticket-holders didn't make it. The second was embarrassing as Scherzer pitched his second no-hitter of the season. It was odd, seeing the Nationals celebrating on the Mets' field.
"Look, I get that they won the division, they're trying to get home-field advantage. They're trying to give everything they've got. I understand what's at stake," Scherzer said. "But as a major-league baseball player, it doesn't matter if you're in it or you're out of it, you have to give your 'A' effort no matter what. I thought tonight as a team we did that."
It continued an annoying stretch for the Mets, who have scored one run in their past 35 innings and lost five straight. That is partly because Terry Collins has chosen to start a spring training-caliber lineup twice in the past three games, preferring to rest many regulars over going full-bore after home-field advantage in the National League Division Series (the Dodgers clinched that Saturday night). It is partly because they have been unable to shake their emotional hangover after clinching the title in Cincinnati a week ago Saturday.
Of course, it was largely due to an effort by a superstar pitcher in Scherzer, who eclipsed a stellar effort by Matt Harvey (no earned runs, 11 strikeouts) and made you wonder how the Nationals' season went so wrong and how a heavy favorite lost the division to the Mets.
"It's been a disappointing season for our team. There's no doubt about that," Scherzer said. "That's why this is bittersweet. We wish we were playing longer in October but we're not."
Still, words do not easily describe what this title means to Mets fans. The Mets themselves probably don't even know, although Noah Syndergaard has an inkling. A rookie who has not been here a full season, he acknowledged -- after a 10-strikeout no-decision in the first game -- that a big reason he pitches so much better at home than on the road is that there is something in the air here.
"I walk outside my apartment and I get recognized at least one or two times just walking around. It's awesome," said Syndergaard, who is 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA at Citi Field and 2-5, 4.23 everywhere else. "Every time I see somebody, it's 'Let's Go Mets!' or they call me Thor or something along those lines. It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm extremely blessed to be here."
Innately, he knows that Mets fans are a special breed. They live in a market dominated by the most accomplished sports franchise in the history of American sports, and in many cases, they share an office or even a dinner table with someone who points that out a few times a day. Undaunted, Mets fans live for moments like the ones they've had late this summer and early this fall.
The problem is, nothing ever comes easily for the Mets. Not in 1969, when Moose had them off their game, nor in 1973, when Tug McGraw's "Ya Gotta Believe" began as a sardonic mimicry of M. Donald Grant's pep talk and became a trademark. Not in 1999, when they were almost eliminated in the regular season before lasting two playoff rounds.
And definitely not Saturday night. This was a night that made you worry a little about the Mets, and made you use Mets lexicon to talk about the opponent.