Monday night's loss, brutal as it was, re-sparked a rivalry that has been laying dormant.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: that game sucked. Fans remember all too well the nightmare losses that derailed seasons against the Braves in the '90s and the Phillies in the late 2000s, and this series-opening loss was reminiscent to those. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It brought back the all too familiar “here we go again” feeling.
There has certainly been some animosity between the Mets and Nationals that stems back to 2015. But save for that lone season, there hasn't been much of a true rivalry. In ’15, the Mets caught fire and won the NL East by beating the Nationals in every series down the stretch that they had to. The last two seasons, the Nationals won the division with ease, without the Mets putting up much of a fight.
It's early, but Monday night’s loss felt like one that could set the tone for what’s to come between these teams for an entire season; Both sides treating every match up as if playoff implications are on the line. In what might be his final year in D.C., Bryce Harper is playing the role of a super villain, as he delivered when his team needed it. That’s what Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins all used to do on a routine basis. As Harper’s significance in the game grows, so too does his place in this budding rivalry. And if the Mets want to come out on top this year, they need to find a way to do it with Bryce at his best.
If the Mets and Nationals are ever going to be involved in a season-long feud, it might be now or never. As Ric Flair so poetically said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” As Monday night showed us, the Nationals aren’t going to give up their stranglehold of the N.L. East easily.
For the first time this year, all eyes will be on how the Mets bounce back from a crushing defeat. They need to get back on the ball right away, and throw that counterpunch. That's what happens in good rivalries. So shake it off, boys, and get back to grinding.
Photo credits: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Paul J. Bereswill
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Not only did it seal the victory, Yoenis Céspedes' monster grand slam taught Mets fans a lesson worth remembering this season: Don't panic over a couple of losses. Not with this team.