You know that something has changed with the Mets when a night that featured a loss that felt like having your head stuffed into a toilet ends with a good feeling about the team.
The Mets lost to the Reds 6-3 on Wednesday night because their bullpen bombed. Terry Collins didn't suspect a thing when he turned Jon Rauch's key, but it would turn out to be a hideous mistake.
Up 3-2 in the eighth, Rauch gave up three straight hits before giving way to Tim Byrdak. The Reds tied the score on a sacrifice fly and then D.J. Carrasco came in to spread gasoline on the fire created by a bullpen that has an 8.69 ERA over the last seven days.
Carrasco served up a home run to Todd Frazier on his first pitch, the second straight night that Carrasco has been taken deep. He decided against hitting the next batter this time around, saving us from another round of Collins vs. David Wright in the dugout but offering no reprieve from the overstuffed book of evidence that Carrasco has no more place on this team than an actual DJ.
It's nice of the Mets relievers to come up with a night like this so that Frank Francisco doesn't feel nearly as bad about himself. Among a more competent group, Francisco would really stick out like a sore thumb but he's just part of the gang here.
There's a bit of backseat driving to do with this game, namely Collins' decision to pull Bobby Parnell after one out and five pitches got the Mets out of the top of the seventh inning. He went to Rauch instead of sticking with Parnell, even though Joey Votto was due up second and a perfect choice for Byrdak's lefty stylings.
Honestly, though, the Mets probably would have blown this thing anyway. Johan Santana was the starter responsible for handing a lead to the bullpen and one of the lessons learned this season is that the other 24 Mets have made a pact to do whatever they can to stand in the way of Santana winning games.
Sometimes it is the hitters refusing to hit, sometimes it is relief efforts like Wednesday's and, if need be, a Met fielder is more than willing to hide the ball on his body long enough for an opponent to circle the bases with the winning run. It's not fair to Santana and it isn't a winning formula, but at least its an ethos.
Now we get to the part where the Mets put a happy spin on the night. Before anyone could so much as dial their favorite sports radio station to moan about him, the Mets announced that Carrasco had been designated for assignment even though he has the rest of this year's salary guaranteed because of a two-year deal he signed before the 2011 season.
Under the previous regime, players in Carrasco's position just hung around and hung around until well past the point it was clear they had nothing to offer the team.
Call it the Luis Castillo Rule if you're so inclined, but celebrate that it no longer exists for a team that finally seems to understand that paying a mediocre or worse player doesn't mean you have to let them actively provide negative impact to your team.
Sandy Alderson might not wind up building a huge winner in Queens. That would be a shame.
It would be a much bigger shame if he was as okay with overseeing a loser as the Mets were a couple of years ago, though. A smaller victory, but we're sure you've been following it.