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There was a time when Yoenis Cespedes was the only hitter the Mets wanted at the plate with runners on base. We live in a time when Pete Alonso holds the same place in the fan base’s heart.

But in 2020, there isn’t much time for the team’s biggest sluggers to find their swings.

With multiple opportunities to help stop the Mets’ three-game slide, Alonso and Cespedes combined for one hit and four strikeouts, while being responsible for 11 of the 20 men left on base by the Mets in their 7-1 loss to the Braves on Saturday night at Truist Park.

Alonso went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts, and stranded six runners, as his batting average dropped to .200. The reigning N.L. Rookie of the Year now has just one hit in his past 11 at-bats and hasn’t homered in the past five games, leaving the all-time rookie home run record holder (53) stuck on one home run for the season. Last year, Alonso had five home runs in his first 10 games.

“He wants to do so much out there, and you know how much he cares,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “He’s been working really hard and he actually really looked good earlier in practice and everything, a little more calm, not a lot of moving parts, [then] not the same in the game. … He got out of the rhythm he had.”

Pete AlonsoGetty Images

After starter Michael Wacha was tagged for five runs in the first two innings, the Mets quickly found an opportunity to chip away in the third, following back-to-back one-out walks by Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil. Then, Alonso hit into an inning-ending double play.

Alonso came to the plate again in the fifth with Nimmo and McNeil getting aboard, but came up short again, chasing a 3-2 pitch from Luke Jackson out of the zone for the first out. Following a seventh-inning strikeout, Alonso slammed his bat in the dugout multiple times.

“It’s definitely something you need to regroup right away,” Rojas said of Alonso. “He’s got to get ready mentally and physically for [Sunday].”

Though Alonso will be given the opportunity to work through his struggles, Cespedes no longer has the luxury of a long leash given the appealing replacement options of J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith.

Outside of a pair of home runs — including the game-winner on Opening Day — one double and a pair of singles, the 34-year-old, injury-plagued DH has looked like someone who hasn’t played in two years.

Following Saturday’s 0-for-4 effort with two strikeouts — leaving five men on base — Cespedes now holds a team-worst .161 batting average while hitting 1-for-13 on the road.

With the Mets down 5-0 in the fourth inning, Michael Conforto and Robinson Cano opened the frame with back-to-back singles. Next came Cespedes, who struck out on three pitches. Following a Cano sacrifice fly in the fifth, Cespedes ended a potential rally by grounding out with two Mets on base.

One week earlier, Cespedes said, “I will return to being that player from back then.”

Now, it’s unclear how much longer the former All-Star — in the final year of his contract — will have that chance.

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Every New York team had their own Horace Clarke

The passing of Horace Clarke earlier this week inspired one splendid and loyal reader, Eric Schnipper (aka @drschnip on Twitter) to make a suggestion: “Name the Horace Clarke facsimile for all New York pro teams: a guy … who played for the better part of a decade and epitomizes the era of ineptitude — and, if possible, bridged winning eras.”

(Oh yes, consider us like the dueling pianists at either Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans or your local Howl at the Moon — remember piano bars? Remember bars? Just sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and — voila! — you, too have an Open Mike subject!)

It is a thankless task, sure, because as we all discovered this week a lot of us feel pretty bad about having laid all that ailed the 1965-75 Yankees at the feet of poor Horace Clarke. But, then, little about sports is fair, right? There are always way more lousy teams than good ones, far too many nights you want to punch a wall or kick a TV screen than you want to admit to.

Plus, as most of those repentant Yankees fans also admitted this week: It’s the bad times that make you truly embrace the good. So herewith, one man’s roster of the faces of futility for Our Teams, and let us remember: as Horace Clarke reminded us this week, you can still be proud to say you rooted for them. Losing doesn’t make you a bad person. Honestly.

Mets: Well, since it was Dr. Schnip’s idea, we’ll go with his choice here, and it’s a good one: Ron Hodges. Hodges actually broke in as a third-string catcher on the ’73 Mets and contributed a few key moments to that pennant drive but his great talent was, amazingly, to be a part of every successive (and successively awful) Mets team thereafter, right on through 1984 when they finally got good again. No relation to Gil, Hodges hit .240/.342/.322 and came back for more every year.

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Horace Clarke dies at 81: Face of losing era was ‘happy’ to be Yankee The voice on the telephone had a pleasing lilt to...

Yankees: Yes, this one will hurt every bit as much as Clarke, but it is impossible not to remember that Don Mattingly enjoyed a sublime (and borderline-if-not-better Hall of Fame) career while toiling for some Yankees teams that made Clarke’s clubs look like the ’27 and ’61 crews. Thankfully he got those 25 plate appearances in the ’95 playoffs to ease the sting a little bit.

Giants: Like Mattingly, they not only got to taste the playoffs late in the game but also got to share in the ultimate prize, Super Bowl XXI. Still, for many years it looked like the wonderful bookend careers of Harry Carson and George Martin were going to be wasted, playing for some downright rotten Big Blue teams from 1975-83 or so. For Carson, a nine-time Pro Bowler, that would’ve been especially hard to swallow.

Jets: Oh, my goodness, there are so many to choose from but the one I’ll go with is Richard Caster, who played at a reasonably high level from 1970-77, made three Pro Bowls and never once played for a Jets team with a winning record, let alone one that sniffed the playoffs (7-7 seasons in 1972 and ’74 were the best he got). He was the last favorite target of Joe Namath and finally did get a couple of playoff appearances with the Oilers later in his career.

Andy BathgateAP

Knicks: We’ll answer this one with the leap of faith that the Other Side of the bad-era bridge will eventually arrive, meaning we can look at any player since 2000 and give him this “honor.” And there are many candidates. But David Lee was a terrific player and a Garden favorite who played five solid years with the team, including his 2009-10 All-Star year when he averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds, and never played a single postseason game.

Nets: What I like about this column is that I believe we are honoring Horace Clarke by surrounding him with so many good players. Derrick Coleman belongs here, though there are other candidates, because the Nets never won a playoff series with him on the team, even though he was terrific (if enigmatic) most of his time here.

Hockey: For the Rangers, how can it be anyone other than poor Andy Bathgate, who played at a Hall of Fame level for 12 years and got a total of 22 playoff games (and no series wins)? For the Islanders: Let’s pile on and name John Tavares, just because it feels good to do that. The Devils? John MacLean hung around long enough to sip from the Cup, but he also was quite familiar with Mickey Mouse, too.

Vac’s Whacks

The true gift of Pete Hamill was the sheer number of people whose lives were made better by his words — writers inspired to write, public officials moved to do the right thing, readers comforted by the knowledge that someone had their backs. Godspeed to a genuine giant.

I honestly could get used to noon-time NHL hockey with my lunch every day. Especially when the Islanders take care of business at that hour as professionally as they did.

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How I scored a big laugh from the great Pete Hamill The Post was founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton and...

I must confess: I live in perpetual fear of being optioned to the alternate site.

It’s hard not to like the job Jacque Vaughn (right) is doing with the Nets right now, and harder to figure how much more he has to do to get a shot at coaching the varsity next year.

Whack Back at Vac

Bob Biscontini: Horace Clarke had a higher fielding percentage and OBP than Bobby Richardson, more stolen bases (Clarke 151, Bobby 73) higher lifetime WAR (Clarke 15.7, Bobby 8.1). Writers don’t always get it right and timing screws up perception. R.I.P. Hoss — you hustled on every play, and you were much better than history presents you.

Vac: I had a feeling writing about Horace Clarke’s passing might stir up a few memory banks among Yankees fans of a certain age, but even I have been amazed at the outpouring of affection. I’d like to think he knew how folks felt about him.

Yoenis CespedesCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Roland Chapdelaine: Don’t be surprised if Yoenis Cespedes tries to opt back in, claiming he was kidnapped from his hotel room by three men wearing wild boar masks. After all … this is the Mets!

Vac: I already miss Yo. He was never boring, you have to give him that.

@metsfan49: For all the talk of pace of play, it’s amazing how fast games go when the pitcher throws strikes and the team behind him plays defense. Offense slows the game down.

Crisp baseball will always be the most beautiful kind of baseball.

Neil Ptashnik: Travis d’Arnaud is the next Justin Turner because the Mets have no patience.

Vac: I still give them a pass on Turner, not only because he didn’t project anywhere close to what he’s become while he was here, but also because he was kind of a knucklehead while he was here. But releasing d’Arnaud when they did never, ever made any sense at the time, and of course makes less sense now.

Filed under new york giants ,  new york knicks ,  new york mets ,  new york yankees ,  open mike ,  pete hamill ,  yoenis cespedes ,  8/8/20

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