Trading Duda as the Mets begin pulling the plug on 2017

Lucas Duda takes his streaky slugging to Tampa Bay for the stretch run after Thursday's trade.

Lucas Duda takes his streaky slugging to Tampa Bay for the stretch run after Thursday’s trade.

The highest profile moment of Lucas Duda’s career happened not when he was hitting one of his home runs but when he helped throw the Mets’ World Series survival hopes away in Game Five, 2015.

Top of the ninth. Matt Harvey pleaded to stay in and finish what he started on a night he had his A game, a 2-0 shutout. Except that he walked Lorenzo Cain and fed Eric Hosmer an RBI double. Then manager Terry Collins lifted him for closer Jeurys Familia, who’d already blown two Series saves through no fault of his own.

Opening Day: Longoria, Archer pin the Baby Bombers

2017's first home run launches off Evan Longoria's bat . . .

2017′s first home run launches off Evan Longoria’s bat . . .

Opening Day in all fairness isn’t the complete, final measure of the season to come. The Yankees are probably thanking the spirits of Yankees past for that after the beat down Evan Longoria the Rays inflicted upon them Sunday afternoon.

But they’re probably also saying thanks to whomever aligned their bullpen to open. The pen showed the moxie the lineup lacked after the Rays piled up what proved the 7-3 final. Shame they couldn’t stop Longoria from hitting the season’s first bomb.

The Mariano, once more around the home park

The Mariano says goodbye to Yankee Stadium . . .

The Mariano says goodbye to Yankee Stadium . . .

The game meant nothing to the Yankees otherwise. They staggered out of the postseason picture one day earlier. These mostly old and mostly battered Yankees had nothing but will to get them far enough that they held onto postseason hopes by a frayed thread at best. Behind 4-0 to the Rays Thursday night in Yankee Stadium, a deficit that would hold up, there was only one reason for manager Joe Girardi to bring in his closer at all, never mind in the top of the eight.

A clearer postseason picture, without the Angels . . .

Mike Trout—The should-be AL MVP did what he could and then some, but even he couldn’t bury the Angels’ 8-15 season start . . .

Late surges did the Detroit Tigers all the good in the world and the Los Angeles Angels none of it after Monday’s proceedings were finished. The Tigers stood with the American League Central in their hip pockets and the Angels stood with no place to go the rest of October other than playing out a two-game string with the Seattle Mariners and praying what they managed to do down the stretch this time would mean anything better than what they didn’t do in the season’s first month.

A Slip of the Hip Sinking the Yankee Ship?

Make that a slippage to the point where the Baltimore Orioles—yes, those Baltimore Orioles—are one game behind the Empire Emeritus. In the American League East standings. The Orioles helped themselves there Monday by shutting out Toronto, but the Yankees held the door for them falling to Tampa Bay, 4-3, when Robinson Cano faltered in the bottom of the eighth on maybe the key play of the game.

And it’s no ordinary faltering if Cano wasn’t kidding about a barking hip as he went for the play and he, too, goes down on sick leave.

Roberts—Scoring on the turn of Cano’s hip?

Yes, children—minus Strasburg, this Nats rotation DOES have good postseason chances

Let’s try this again.

Assume the Washington Nationals will stick to the script and implement, some time in September, the exclamation point of the Strasburg Plan. Period dot period. Assume, too, that there’ll be enough blue murder screaming over the Nats torpedoing their own postseason chances. Maybe even some conspiracy theorists demanding a formal investigation, perhaps into whether someone isn’t buying the Nats off bigtime to tank. (Would the conspiracy theorists surprise you, really?)

Now, shove all that to one side and look at the Nats’ rotation without Stephen Strasburg.

Zimmermann—Without the Stras, he won’t be leading a rotation of pushovers . . .

A Perfect King

Sean Rodriguez could only look as strike three dropped in on him, the second consecutive strike at which he looked after opening with two balls and swinging and missing on the third pitch of the sequence, a nasty breaking ball that was nothing compared to what dropped in on him for the finish.

Felix Hernandez could only wonder if he was really there, when this happened to him, after opening all three Tampa Bay batters he faced in the ninth with ball one, then putting on a display of finishing what he started at a level once thought the exclusive domain of a Sandy Koufax. Maybe that was why, after he dropped strike three in on Rodriguez, he raised his arms as high as he could.

Damon Cut, But Is He Dried?

Add Johnny Damon to the ranks of aging veterans now designated for assignment. Barely a day after the Cleveland Indians did it to teammate Derek Lowe, the Tribe dropped it on Damon, which didn’t exactly surprise him. “If we’re not in contention, I’ll be the first one they drop,” he was quoted as saying to MLB.com in May. He was wrong in only one sense: he’s the second one to be dropped since the non-waiver trade deadline expired.

His last stand at an end?

The Dempster Backstory, and other heads and tales . . .

Turns out the Chicago Cubs got a pair of A-level minor leaguers, Christian Vilanueva (3B) and Kyle Hendricks (RHP), from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster . . . decent prospects but not necessarily blue chips. For the most part, few no-questions-asked blue chip prospects moved in the non-waiver trade period, Jean Segura (SS) possibly having been the bluest of the chips when he went to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal.

How and why did the Rangers—hungering for rotation help with Colby Lewis gone for the year (entering the final fortnight, his was the hole they needed to fill)—end up settling for Dempster when all was said and done? According to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal:

The Giants Sing a Song of Hunter Pence

They won’t be doing this with each other anymore: Hunter Pence (r.) will be doing it against Shane Victorino (l.), now that Pence is a Giant and Victorino, a Dodger . . .

Now we’re rolling. The Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants have finished a deal to send Hunter Pence to the Giants for major league-established outfielder Nate Schierholtz and two prospects, catcher Tommy Joseph and pitcher Seth Rosin. (Now, there’s a name for a pitcher!)