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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Happy Piazzaversary!

Nineteen years ago today, the course of the Mets changed for good and for the better. On May 22, 1998, a trade was consummated between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. Plainly stated, the Mets packaged an outfielder they’d recently called up, Preston Wilson, with two minor league lefty pitchers, Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnall, and they received from the Marlins catcher Mike Piazza.

You know what the kicker is going to be in a sentence like that but it always lands like a walkoff home run. No matter how you try to undersell it like it’s no bigger deal than any other deal you’d have found in the transactions box of your newspaper of choice the next morning, the Mets acquired Mike Piazza. In the baseball sense, he became theirs. In the emotional sense, he became ours.

It was a very big deal.

So many trades, few as humungous in Mets history, none more mammoth for impact. Mike had been a Marlin for a week and a megastar for half a decade. It was crazy that he was now a Met. It was crazy that he was at all a Marlin, but that was how the business of baseball played out in the spring of 1998 — essential Dodger to provisional Marlin to sudden Met in a veritable blink. Los Angeles had new owners who wanted to send a message about sizable contracts. Florida had a reluctant owner who didn’t want to be stuck with sizable contracts. New York, over here on the National League side of town, had owners who came to concur that they wanted and needed a marquee attraction, with cost not necessarily no object, but also not a deterrent to action.

Steve Phillips, under the auspices of Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, made hay. What remained of Mike Piazza’s $8 million salary for 1998 became the Mets’ responsibility. For their four-month investment, the Mets were able to insert within their lineup the National League’s perennial All-Star and Silver Slugger catcher. Whereas they’d been attempting to get by with backstops named Castillo and Spehr and Pratt and Tatum and Wilkins — all because they were deprived of the services of their heretofore offensive anchor Todd Hundley — they now had a state-of-the-art model. Mike was a catcher who could hit better than all of his peers and a hitter whose catching would do just fine. Upgrade was an understatement. The Mets got themselves all the difference in the world.

What would the Mets do with Hundley once he fully recovered from the surgery that had kept him out since the prior September? How would the Mets convince Piazza to stay beyond the expiration of his current pact? Would the intensity of New York agree with a player who appeared to be the quintessence of laid-back Californian? Could the Mets pick up games on the Braves and take back pages from the Yankees? Might there be playoffs in our relatively immediate future?

Nineteen years a Met and counting.

All of that would be figured out in the summer ahead. Right now, on May 22, 1998, the Mets had Mike Piazza. It was crazy, but it was true, it was tremendous, and it sent us, as Mets fans, on an incredible journey, one I set out to capture in the pages of Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star.

My book about the Met who changed how we remember an entire decade traces the parallel paths of Mike and the team he was destined to join, starting in the late summer of 1992 and leading up to this date in 1998 when their roads merged. From there, he, they and we became one, like something out of a Spice Girls ballad. We had Mike Piazza of the Mets on the field through 2005 and Mike Piazza of the Mets in our hearts and minds forever after. His election to the Hall of Fame in 2016, along with his subsequent induction into Cooperstown and the retirement of his number at Citi Field, marked the final steps of the journey. Conveniently, that’s where the book winds up.

When I wrote Piazza, I wrote a lot. When I was done, I had to condense some portions and extract some others to fit the agreed-upon parameters of publication. This is to say I wrote a lot that didn’t make it into what was published. What follows, then, is some bonus material I thought I’d share on this happy Piazzaversary. Below is an introduction I had to slice for space, one of the sections I was rather sorry to see go. The chapter was titled “Dual Identity,” and it strove to explain to the reader, so there was no mistake about it, that the book in your hands was written by a not-so-dispassionate observer of the Metsian condition, do with that information what you will.

Here’s how the book would have begun had length been no object.

***

Late on a Saturday afternoon, a writer sitting in on what is called a media availability had a question for a retired baseball player of significant renown: “Mike, you said in your [Hall of Fame induction] speech that it felt like the eight years here flew by. Did it always feel like that, especially in the second half of your stay when you weren’t contending as much, and maybe you had to play another position, things like that?”

The baseball player offered an answer: “That’s a good question. Well, I think, maybe when you get into the minutiae of the season, and you go through those tough parts like the team is going through now, it may not seem like it’s as quick. But, generally, I heard a great expression, that the days are long, but the years are short, and that’s what I would describe it as. Thinking and feeling like it did go by that quickly, you miss it. You miss the pressure of it and you miss the doubt. You’re never going to appreciate victory until you go through defeat.”

Not much later, on that same Saturday, early evening, the player was taking a ride in a golf cart around the track of the stadium where he’d answered that question. It was less a victory lap than a chance to say thank you a section at a time, if with no more than a wave or a nod of acknowledgement. When his vehicle rolled by a section that was literally at field level, this one fan, realizing he was close enough to make eye contact with the player whose name and old uniform number he was wearing on his own person, did what felt appropriate to the moment. He doffed his baseball cap in appreciation for all the seasons of joy the player had given him. The player might have nodded back to him in gratitude, or perhaps it was the fan next to him who caught his eye.

Given the sensory overload of the occasion and the thousands of faces vying for his attention, it’s unlikely that the old ballplayer who answered the question for that writer a couple of hours before recognized the fan doffing the cap was, in fact, the same guy.

Both of them were me.

***

Many with whom I discussed this book when it languished in its extended larval stage asked if I was going to talk to Mike Piazza. I told them I hadn’t planned to, yet I guess did…for that one “good” question and one thoughtful answer. So there ya go.

I’m a writer who roots for the Mets and a Mets fan who writes. When issued a media credential by the baseball team I “cover” mainly as a blogger, professional decorum will prevail. I will button my shirt and make dispassionate inquiries of interview subjects as I have for several decades, dating back to my days asking our high school’s soccer coach, “How do you think the team looks this year?” (I know almost as much about soccer now as I did then.)

On July 30, 2016, the night the Mets retired No. 31 and effectively ended the journey toward immortality I planned to write about — that of how a franchise went from claiming one certified icon to two — I could be that detached pro for only so many minutes. Once the availability broke up, I removed the media credential from around my neck, slipped into a nearby men’s room, unbuttoned the shirt I’d been wearing since setting out for Citi Field and pulled on my PIAZZA 31, the same black tee I’d owned since 1999. After adding a black cap of the same vintage to the ensemble, I strolled down the right field line to my seat in the Honda Club, formerly known as the Mo’s Zone, eventually known as something else when the next sponsor comes along.

Given that this book was already a work in progress, the night the Mets retired Mike Piazza’s number demanded I show up as a writer. But I had to stay as a fan. I had to be somewhere where cheering — verboten in the press box — was not only allowed, but encouraged. My entire experience with Piazza, dating back to the electric Friday afternoon in May of 1998 when word went forth that the best-hitting catcher in baseball was suddenly ours, had been conducted as a fan. The advent of blogging, specifically the blog Faith and Fear in Flushing, which I write with my friend Jason Fry, had allowed my writing and my fandom to coexist snugly. Now and then over the years, mainly when a media credential was in play, I had to act like someone for whom the Mets winning or losing didn’t much matter. Not only “no cheering,” but no “we” and no “our.”

Such dispassion would not do for long on a night when Mike Piazza was going to speak to more than 40,000 Mets fans. I was one of them. A Mets fan who writes, but a Mets fan first where Mike and what he did as a Met were concerned.

Just to be clear, this book was written by that Mets fan; its subject matter processed by that Mets fan who remembered how dismal it was a few short years before Piazza arrived; how intensely compelling it became while Piazza reigned; and how vital it seemed that everything Piazza accomplished and represented was properly validated and codified for history’s sake.

Having experienced Mike Piazza as a Mets fan is what made me want to write at length about Mike Piazza as a Met within the context of the life and times of the sport that surrounded him. The writer wrote it. The fan lived it. The writer decided to write it the way the fan recalled it, relying on a host of contemporary accounts to confirm or correct memory, and augmenting those with relevant thoughts that had been recorded since. But overall, this is the convergence of Piazza, the Mets and baseball, 1992 through 2016, the way it happened, recreated for your reading and reliving pleasure.

So, no, I didn’t go out of my way to talk to Mike Piazza, besides that one question I got in before the Mets retired his number. Being one more journalist going through channels and vying for time seemed beside the point. I paid attention to all the interviews he gave once his election to the Hall of Fame was announced and made note of all the answers he provided, but I wasn’t necessarily looking all that much for how Piazza remembered things in 2016. I wanted to remember Piazza through the prism of his era, the way it happened for me and so many Mets fans.

***

Like the day the Mets traded for him and I made or received at least three OHMIGOD! phone calls in a ten-minute span.

Like the pennant race night he took Billy Wagner deep in the Astrodome and I blurted out in my living room to nobody but my cats, “MIKE PIAZZA IS THE GREATEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED!”

Like the Subway Series afternoon my mouth dropped open when Mike blasted a Ramiro Mendoza pitch onto the picnic tent roof somewhere below where I stood in Row T of Shea’s Upper Deck, and once I was able to speak, I couldn’t form words, just sounds.

Like the time I refused to shout a syllable of encouragement from Mezzanine when Piazza was up against the Braves in a tie game, because I had kept quiet as the Mets had made their way back from seven runs down, and why jinx him before he could swing for the fences…which he did quite nicely.

Like on September 21, 2001, when Mike hit what instantly became his signature home run. Jason and I turned to and looked at each other in silence while others roared and shook miniature American flags. Neither of us had any advance clue that what had happened would happen, yet both of us knew there was no way it wasn’t going to happen exactly how it happened.

Mike Piazza made things happen. He made an era happen. He made a franchise happen. He made all of us happen. I was a Mets fan long before Mike came to the Mets and I’ve been a Mets fan since he left. But to be a Mets fan in the Age of Piazza was to be more alive as a Mets fan than at any time since there have been Mets.

The games were long. The years were sublime. I hope this book gets that across.

***

My thanks to Skip Clayton and Charlotte Reese of WBCB 1490-AM in Levittown, Pa., for having me on to discuss Piazza in Mike’s boyhood backyard. Skip’s been watching baseball since before the Phillies were Whiz Kids, so I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts as much as I enjoyed the chance to share mine.

I also wish to express gratitude to Matthew Cerrone who interviewed me for his MetsBlog podcast, which you can listen to here. Matt told me the Piazza trade coincided with the first kiss he gave his future wife. Mike always did have outstanding timing.

On Thursday evening, June 15 (ironically the anniversary of another Mets trade whose date lives on in memory not to mention infamy), I will have the honor of appearing at the beautiful Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, 67 E. 11th St., in Manhattan, hosted by the warm and insightful Jay Goldberg and signing copies of Piazza. I look forward to seeing you there.

Just a Loss

An occasional debate in these parts and elsewhere is whether there’s such a thing as a good loss. Does it make a difference if your team lost but put the fear of the baseball gods in the opposition? Lost but learned something about themselves? (Other than, presumably, that they lost.) Lost but exhausted the other guys so it might matter later? Lost but showed a certain quantum of fight, grit, vim, moxie or [insert name of unquantifiable and possibly imaginary substance here]?

I’ve never really made up my mind about that one — my opinion seems to be more an indicator of my mood on a given day than anything else. But I do know this much: there are galling, hideous, stick-in-your-craw losses that make you want to go scream in a dark room, and there are losses that are just the price of doing baseball business. After a solid week or so of the former, it was a mild relief to spend Sunday watching the Mets deal with the latter.

Let’s be clear: Sunday’s game against the Angels wasn’t exactly one for the ages. With the Mets somehow poised to sweep the Angels, Tommy Milone went out to the mound holding the broom wrong way up. Single, double, intentional walk, unintentional walk, grand slam, yikes: if you showed up a little late to the proceedings, well, it was already 5-0 without a lone out on the board.

It didn’t get much better after that: sent back out for the second to take his apparently predestined beating, Milone gave up consecutive home runs to Mike Trout and Jefry Marte. Once upon a time the latter was a Mets farmhand, sent west in exchange for the very briefly memorable Collin Cowgill. Trout, sad to say, has never been a Met anything, unless “object of admiration” counts.

Milone departed down 8-0; an inning later Trout made it 9-0 with a double off Rafael Montero, the modern Mets man’s Mike Maddux. At which point the Mets began, at first fitfully and then more compellingly, to fight back. Matt Reynolds homered to smear a little lipstick on this pig; Curtis Granderson added some more color; and then Jay Bruce‘s three-run shot made the pig look … well naw but you totally hesitated for a moment there, we all saw it.

At our house, we were engaged in the all-day cleaning that follows our annual Derby Day/Preakness party, and Joshua noted the score and started to extrapolate from 9-5 to something pretty amazing. Which I acknowledged amiably, but added a caution: the Angels were loose in the back end of the Mets’ bullpen, and the odds suggested that would stop going as well for us as it had.

Enter Hansel Robles … and scene.

The Mets lost, but it was just a loss — there was nothing heart-wrenching or astonishing about it. Milone showed he isn’t a long-term or even medium-term answer in the rotation, but we knew that. Robles showed that something has gone horribly wrong for him that needs fixing, but we knew that. The Mets scrapped and fought valiantly but futilely, which happens.

After all the recent drama, just a loss isn’t the worst thing to witness on a sunny Sunday.

The Potential Pleasures of the Eight-Inning Game

Here’s a new proposal for shortening the length of baseball games: shorten the length of baseball games. Or shorten the length of one baseball game in particular by one inning. Let us retroactively by 24 hours implement such a rule so it is applicable only to Saturday evening Interleague contests conducted in facilities constructed after 2008 yet before 2010 between National League franchises founded in 1962 that have never switched leagues and American League franchises founded in 1961 that have never switched time zones. Let us also stipulate that the rule has a sunset provision so we can say it was for one night and one night only.

The eight-inning baseball game would thus apply only to the most recent Saturday night affair that involved the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Angels of wherever. Consider it an experiment like the designated hitter was supposed to be an experiment, but in this case we don’t let a shaky idea take root. In this spirit, imagine a fairly fundamental summary of the game as it happened, changing nothing about the pertinent details except for treating the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth as if they never happened:

In the regulation eight-inning baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday night, May 20, 2017, the New York Mets defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-2. Jose Reyes recorded the 2,000th hit of his career in the bottom of the first. Michael Conforto, the Mets’ hottest hitter of late, continued to reach base at an impressive rate. Zack Wheeler (3-2) got the win, assisted by solid relief work from Fernando Salas and Robert Gsellman. Gsellman, until recently a starter, recorded his first major league save. The loss went to Alex Meyer (2-2), who could take solace in getting his first hit in the big leagues, even as superstar teammate Mike Trout went hitless. The game was Terry Collins’s 1,013th as Mets manager, earning him the franchise mark for longest tenure, passing Davey Johnson.

That would have been a lovely Saturday night in the Meadows of Flushing. Everybody would have gotten all the essentials that we know occurred in our nine-inning universe. The winners won, the losers lost, the noteworthy milestones were gathered, the highlights that led to a two-run victory by the hosts would be as they ever were. By calling it absolutely official and done once the home team retired the visitors in the top of the eighth, all we don’t get is:

a) The piling on and statistical embellishment in the bottom of the eighth that extended the Mets’ lead to 7-2 and had us feeling extra confident about the state of the game and the season; and

b) A thousand pounds of angst because OHMIGOD WE NEARLY BLEW THAT GAME!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT ALMOST HAPPENED? HOW DID IT GET TO THAT POINT? ALL THEY NEEDED TO DO WAS GET THREE OUTS BEFORE GIVING UP FIVE RUNS AND IT WAS LIKE THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT! NEIL RAMIREZ SUCKS! ADDISON REED…WHAT KIND OF SURGERY IS HE GOING TO NEED? TROUT…HOW DO YOU PITCH TO TROUT IN THAT SITUATION? WALK HIM WITH THE BASES LOADED NEXT TIME! THEY GOT LUCKY HE ONLY GOT A SACRIFICE FLY AND DANNY ESPINOSA SUCKS JUST A LITTLE MORE THAN REED AND WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THEM? CRIPES!!!

Under the actual rules of baseball, the Mets won by a score of 7-5 instead of 4-2 and the save went to Reed instead of Gsellman. Gsellman had been pitching with a two-run lead and held it with no drama in his improvised setup role. Once the Mets extended their advantage to five runs — a rally in progress made pinch-hitting Wilmer Flores for Gsellman a routine move and Flores doubled to commence the pleasing addition of insurance runs — it seemed unlikely Reed would have to pitch. Ramirez, acquired earlier this week based solely on availability, went in to mop up.

Some mop. The Angels loaded the bases in three hitters’ time. Reed needed to be recharged. Even though the Mets still led by five, Addison was entering a save situation, as the potential tying run stood on-deck (my eight-inning idea is no dumber than the save rule). Our post-Familia closer didn’t have his “A” through “Y” game. He walked Cameron Maybin to make it 7-3. He gave up a single to Kole Calhoun to make it 7-4. He was tasked with pitching to Mike Trout as the go-ahead run with the bases loaded and still nobody out.

Oh geez.

Trout didn’t kill him, merely filleted him a bit, launching a fly to right deep enough to score the runner from third to make it 7-5. If that’s the worst thing that happens when you play the Angels, then you’re doing all right, except there were worse possibilities looming and Reed wasn’t doing all right at all, yet his “Z” game continued apace. He induced Luis Valbuena to foul out but walked Andrelton Simmons on a full count to reload the bases. Espinosa, having the kind of year Reyes was having before Jose (3-for-4, 2 RBIs, now batting .205) remembered he’s not done, also got to a full count. Finally, Danny (.147) swung through strike three for the third out, letting the Mets get away with a less simple, less satisfying two-run win.

Same basic result, far different process. But, we must stress, same basic result. The Mets won. By two. In nine. Somehow.

They Did Win

The story is possibly apocryphal, but it’s worth retelling. On a Friday night in 2017, the phone rang in the office of a New York-area baseball blog. The caller had a question: “How many runs did the Mets give up today?” The person working the desk reported, “None.” The caller had a followup:

“Did they win?”

Yes, they did win. The Mets won a ballgame. It’s been known to happen, just not lately and not very often. It’s also unusual for the Mets to give up no runs. Before May 19, 2017, it hadn’t happened since April 3, 2017, a span of hundreds and thousands…no, actually just 39 games, but it felt longer. The good news is that with the exception of an eighteen-inning scoreless tie that crashed into a municipal curfew on the final Saturday night of 1965, the Mets have won every game in which they’ve held the opposition to zero runs.

Pitching and three runs by a homer and other means got the job done on Friday night, allowing the Mets to raise their all-time record when permitting nothing to 634-0-1 and their current-season overall mark to a less stellar albeit more relevant 17-23. They are also 51-0 after snapping losing streaks of seven or more games, the fifty-first of which was in desperate need of a snap entering Friday.

Desperate times call for deGrom measures. A team that used to be known in a good way for its starting pitching sometimes has to rely on its best starting pitcher for crackle and pop. Back when the most recent losing streak was a pup of merely three defeats, Jake came up something shy of awesome. To be fair, he was fine in Milwaukee, but he wasn’t virtually flawless. When you pitch for these Mets, you have to be pretty close to perfect. That may not be fair, but such is life in orange and blue.

Friday night, Jacob’s flaws were few across six innings. The Los Angeles Angels of wherever alighted at Citi Field for the first time since 2011, bringing with them Mike Trout and a passel of ex-division foes. The LAA’s weren’t the worst mix to be facing on paper, but the best player on the planet combining forces with a crew of old thorns can be tricky to pick through, especially when it is assumed by rational observers that another game will never be won by the Mets. (Seven consecutive losses will do a number on anybody’s ability to reason.) Trout was gonna Trout to some extent — a sharp single to left in his initial Flushing at-bat, thankfully with nary an Angel on, seemed inevitable — but deGrom otherwise effectively tamed the ghosts of NL East past. The Angels featured in their Friday lineup Cameron Maybin from the Marlins, Danny Espinosa from the Nationals and Andrelton Simmons from the Braves. Pending their exploits the rest of the weekend, they will likely always identify that way in my brain. Throughout Richard Thomas’s arc on The Americans, a friend of mine reflexively referred to the accomplished actor as John-Boy from The Waltons. First impressions tend to last.

Opposing deGrom for the Angels was Florida Marlins righty Ricky Nolasco. I was surprised to learn Nolasco is an Angel. I guess it’s indicative of how much local National League baseball we absorb to the exclusion of the junior circuit that my wife’s fandom-by-osmosis registered no more than passing familiarity with the all-world aura of Trout, yet the name Nolasco rang a clear and resonant bell. Ricky pitched 25 times in teal and other Fishy tones against the Mets between 2006 and 2013. Mike plays mostly after midnight and hardly ever against our team.

They both presented formidable obstacles on Friday. Nolasco the Marlin was not easy to reel in. Enough fumbling behind him in the first resulted in a lone Met run. No more than nibbles for a while thereafter, though, as the score remained 1-0 into the sixth. DeGrom locked in following Mike the Trout’s base hit, sailing without pause from the second into the sixth, much of his journey achieved via strikeout, all of it witnessed with great rejoicement. I could definitely see one run and one pitcher being the difference between a seven- and eight-game losing streak.

A moment of truth occurred in the visitors’ sixth. With two out, Kole Calhoun (there’s a baseball name for ya) singled. A wild pitch sent him to second, which was unfortunate since the batter in the box at that moment was Trout. The count had grown to three-and-two. What would be the outcome of a battle between an ace pitcher who had been stifling all comers and a premier slugger OPS-ing in the vicinity of 1.200?

Buzzkill Terry Collins prevented us from finding out, as he ordered Trout intentionally pointed toward first base. It wasn’t the wrong move by any means, but it did deplete the genuine drama unfolding before our eyes. How often do you see Jacob deGrom face Mike Trout with a game situation in the balance? Then again, how often have we seen plenty of hitters who are not Mike Trout take advantage of Mets pitchers, Jacob deGrom included? Collins hasn’t tied Davey Johnson for most Mets games managed by consistently playing to the crowd.

Two on, two out, Luis Valbuena up. Not as dramatic, but inarguably significant. Jake grounded him to second, inning over, Mets still up, 1-0. Then Mets up, 2-0, thanks to René Rivera doing what Valbuena couldn’t. He came through after an intentional point toward first base and singled in a runner from second. Rivera may be a stratosphere or ten removed from Trout most nights, but the way René’s been hitting (.395/.422/.558 in his last eleven games), it’s hard to fathom going out of your way to pitch to him.

DeGrom’s lead bolstered, the next mission loomed as Entenmann’s: get an out in the seventh inning. Cake, right? Yet it was something no Mets starter had done since Dennis Ribant in 1966. OK, it only felt that way, but it had been a few weeks and it explained to a great extent why the Mets were losing constantly. Here, at last, we were going to see the previously unaccomplishable. All a totally-in-command Jake had to was get an out and…

Hey, what’s he doing with his ring finger?

Is he picking at it?

What are he and René talking about?

Is he all right?

WHAT THE…?

It was just a blister. That’s all. A blister on a pitcher’s throwing hand doesn’t have to be anything big. Noah Syndergaard had one on Opening Day and the Mets won by shutout on that occasion. As for omens, it’s not like the blister presaged the downfall of the most crucial element of the organization’s plan for continued success and sent the season spiraling into a blazing hellscape from which it has yet to emerge.

Oh, fudge, it did. But not every blister is the same. No, this one appeared worse than Syndergaard’s. The sailing ceased. Jake appeared distracted and was suddenly less effective. Simmons doubled. Erstwhile White House press secretary C.J. Cron walked. Martin Maldonado was hit by a pitch. The bases were loaded. Fanning the flames of rising anxiety were multiple meetings with and without Ray Ramirez. Phone conversations transpired between Dan Warthen and Ricky Bones. Collins was surely going to remove deGrom with nobody out in the seventh because he realized that no Met starter was meant to ever again record a nineteenth out. And, by the by, isn’t Albert Pujols from the Cardinals on the Angels?

Ol’ Four-Finger deGrom, blister notwithstanding, stayed in and hung in. Espinosa looked at strike three. Hallelujah, we had a 6.1 IP in the box score, if nothing else. Mike Scioscia (speaking of haunting Flushing specters) could have next sent up Pujols, but either Albert wasn’t feeling up to destroying us like he did on the reg from 2001 to 2011 or the Angel skipper still twinges with guilt from his Dodger days. The pinch-hitter for Nolasco — National League baseball, y’all! — was Ben Revere from the Phillies. Revere looped a ball over the infield, the kind that falls maddeningly into the shallowest portion of the outfield and lands on the head of a team that has lost seven games in a row while Angels from Los Angeles of wherever circle bases.

But maybe not this time. This time, Jose Reyes made like Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees, his aging body lunging to snare the dying quail. With every last breath within his bedeviled body, Jose reached back, stretched his glove out and…

He didn’t catch the ball. It smacked into his leathery palm and smacked right back out. The Angels were gonna…

No, wait! The ball smacked right back down into Jose’s glove and this time he secured it! Two out! Nobody scored! Just like Joe Hardy, except Reyes didn’t turn exceedingly middle-aged right before our eyes (it only looks that way sometimes). The inning wasn’t over, but it was about to be. Maybin, who caught the final out at Shea Stadium, made the final out of the seventh at Citi Field. Only slight karmic payback, perhaps, but on an 0-7 skein, we’ll surely take it.

In the bottom of the frame, Michael Conforto homered off a lefty reliever to make it 3-0, so he can stay in the lineup, probably. In the top of the eighth, Jerry Blevins came on for the twenty-fifth time in the Mets’ first forty games. The last time a pitcher pitched that often that early for anybody was Steve Kline for the 2000 Montreal Expos. I can’t say for sure that sort of incessant deployment is detrimental, but when was the last time you saw either Kline or the Expos? Blevins, who doesn’t require GPS to find the Citi Field mound, got an out, gave up the most harmless possible bases-empty single to Trout and got another out. Terry then removed Jerry and opted for his new chew toy Paul Sewald. Paul was held in abeyance as Terry’s de facto closer in Wednesday’s game at Arizona, which is why we saw Rafael Montero pitch the eleventh and also why Sewald wound up sitting in abeyance with nothing to close. The burgeoning Sewald phenomenon is still in its honeymoon phase, so we should all enjoy it before overuse kicks in and we notice Paul wears the same number as Mel Rojas. The rookie gave up a bunt single to Simmons but struck out C.J. Crone, who I have just learned is not the same person as C.J. Cregg. The ninth was given over to actual post-Familia closer Addison Reed and Addy-Boy earned an Atta Boy, or perhaps a Way To Go. Technically, it was a save, which implies there was something to save.

Hold on, the apocryphal phone is ringing again.

“Hello?”
“Yeah, hi, can you tell me the final score of the Mets game against the Angels?”
“Mets three, Angels nothing.”
“Did they win?”

After seven straight losses, I guess you can’t blame a person for wanting confirmation.

***

We don’t take calls, but you will note we do take comments again. We were going to open the gates after this game regardless of outcome, but it is serendipitous that we get to do it on the heels of a Mets victory. If we made this win-dependent, we figured we’d be wading into Joan Payson territory, as mapped by Jimmy Breslin.

A few days after the Mets opened the [1962] season, Mrs. Payson and her daughter and son-in-law left for the Greek islands. She asked to be informed of the Mets’ doings by telegraph. The telegrams came as requested, one right after the other, with the score always spelled out so there would be no error, and finally the lady couldn’t take any more of them. She wired back:

PLEASE TELL US ONLY WHEN METS WIN.

“That was about the last word I heard from America,” she recalled.

In the spirit John Sebastian greeted Gabe Kotter, welcome back. Our mood is ebullient given the Mets’ sudden hot spell, but we are grimly serious about enforcing a modicum of decorum in our little corner of the Met world. If you wish to add your voice to the FAFIF community that has been generally wonderful for a dozen seasons but Jason and I have found irritatingly atonal during the course of this one, here are a handful of ground rules by which to abide.

• Intentionally inflammatory comments directed at a fellow commenter, whether offered in the second or third person, will be deleted and the intentionally inflammatory commenter will be banned.

• Expression of Metsian hopes, dreams, exultations, values, disappointments, devastations, disgruntlements and so forth are all welcome even if they’re not the same as yours. Variations on the phrase “some fans are so…” — when inserted in fairly obvious service to belittling or ostracizing those who have yet to come around to your way of seeing things — will serve as a red flag and be deleted. Persistence in this line of commenting will lead to banning.

• The phrase (or sentiment) “as I’ve said many times before” is a signal that you’ve said it many times before. Move on. Get some new material. Comments incessantly repeating what we know you’ve sufficiently stated previously will be deleted.

• Refrain from prefacing your remarks by proclaiming how prescient you were about some issue or other. We’re all occasionally right, we’re all occasionally wrong. Elias isn’t keeping track. Utter self-aggrandizement is discouraged and will be deleted.

• This is the comments section of a blog written by two guys who love the same team as you do, not a message board maintained by a major media conglomerate. It’s just us here. Keep that in mind.

• Management reserves the right to monitor, moderate and ameliorate as it sees fit.

• Be nice to one another, treat each other with respect, remember that even though Mets baseball is what we figuratively live for every spring and summer and spiritually die without every fall and winter, it’s still just a game.

Otherwise, have fun. The Mets have proven it is possible to do so.

Fun was had by all of us who recorded the latest edition of the Rising Apple Report podcast. We talked at particular length about virtually every Met who ever wore 44. If a stroll down memory lane that stops off to greet Harry Chiti, Leroy Stanton, Tom Paciorek, John Cangelosi, Lastings Milledge and a cast of dozens appeals to you, then listen in here.

Surrender and Acceptance

So who was betting on “Rafael Montero blows it almost immediately” when pondering how Wednesday’s game was going to end?

And how many of you astute folks were brave enough to put $100 down on that in Vegas?

If you did, I know you’re swaggering around wearing the grin of a person who’s got, say, $105.

This is what things have come to. When the Mets were ahead early I knew they’d give it back. When they were tied late I knew disaster was waiting in the wings. When Montero arrived on the scene I figured the game would be over sooner rather than later.

When the Mets lost — a lot sooner rather than even a little bit later — I wasn’t angry, depressed or particularly surprised. I just turned off the TV and shifted immediately to the non-Mets portion of my day.

Right now a Mets game can be summarized by randomly rearranging the following thought processes, experiences and mental states:

  1. Disgust that this hapless team is somehow even worse than the cruelest mathematics suggest it could be.
  2. Wan flickering hope that someone on the team not named Michael Conforto is not, in fact, completely and irredeemably terrible at baseball.
  3. Weepy gratitude that Conforto is worth watching and cheering for amid this dead-eyed wreckage.
  4. Wondering why some player generally thought of as at least a known quantity has started doing dunderheaded things.
  5. Fantasizing that Amed Rosario, Dom Smith, or some prospect you just heard about would fix things and stewing that they weren’t called up yesterday.
  6. Calming down and surrendering to the near-certainty that everything will soon suck.
  7. Realizing you don’t want Rosario, Smith or any other prospect up here because proximity to this dumpster fire might turn them into Fernando Martinez — or Ryan Jaroncyk.
  8. Witnessing everything suck.
  9. Accepting that you knew everything was going to suck and now that it has, the world is much as it was.

So, yeah, Conforto hit another home run — and off one of those diabolical lefties, no less; Jose Reyes had a decent day except for the play where he short-circuited an inning by imitating serial dipshit Jose Offerman; Matt Harvey left with a lead which the Mets squandered, but don’t feel bad for him because he was basically pretty terrible anyway; Paul Sewald pitched decently again, which probably means his arm will be hamburger by Flag Day (edit: eh, it was the other day — the losses just blur together, don’t they?); Josh Edgin made a nice play which we might as well call our World Series; the Mets slogged directionlessly through a few dreary dull innings; Montero came in and lost.

You can use those things — plus a free token for general dissatisfaction — to fill out your Suck Bingo card if you have nothing better to do. Or you can wait till Friday night’s game, in which the Mets are likely to come up with a vaguely new variation on that theme.

Either way, enjoy your Thursday. It’s guaranteed to be loss-free. Try saying that about any other day of the week.

Fatalism Prevails Again

In the aftermath of the Mets’ sixth consecutive loss, dropped at Arizona Tuesday night by a final of 5-4, I heard Terry Collins reason away something that went wrong by saying, “That’s just part of the game.” I forget what the question was, but I recognized the response. “That’s just part of the game” is one of Collins’s default explanations after the Mets don’t win. As analyses go, it’s probably as good as what he came up with the night before when he quoted somebody in the Met dugout after the club’s fifth consecutive loss as having concluded, “Right now, somebody has pissed off the baseball gods, because every move we make has been the wrong one.”

Managers don’t get philosophical or fatalistic after wins. At least I don’t think they do. It’s been so long since the Mets won a game, I no longer recall what Terry says on those practically extinct occasions. You win, you’re happy, you exude, you get ready for the next one. You lose and lose again, you grope for something or somebody to make sense of it all. “The baseball gods” are a handy collective of fall guys, but I prefer “that’s just part of the game,” because you can’t argue with that.

Thing is, the parts of the game that are defining the Met fortunes of late aren’t the parts of the game that sucked us into following this sport let alone this team. We didn’t fall in love with baseball so we could get caught up in disabled list dithering, contingency starters, waiver-wire relievers, opponents who persistently mash our pitchers like potatoes, bases-loaded situations that aren’t fully resolved, first basemen who still don’t throw home so well and Interstate traffic jams up and down the batting order.

Yet those are the parts of the game we couldn’t miss if we managed to stay awake Tuesday night. The Mets came to grips with Asdrubal Cabrera’s sprained left thumb and allowed him a chance to rest his barking ligaments by placing him and them on the 10-day DL. There, that only took three days. This allowed them to add to their ranks another reliever, righthander Neil Ramirez. Designating Neil Ramirez for assignment has lately become a major league rite of passage, but that just made him more available. Thus, Neil’s a Met now, following in the footsteps of fellow has arm/will travel journeyman Tommy Milone. Milone is one of the Mets’ five starters. He’s the one you didn’t see mentioned in any of the vast promotional material touting the deluxe rotation that was supposed to be holding court on mounds nationwide from now until autumn.

Nevertheless, Milone is part of the game in our neck of the woods every five or so days until further notice. Tommy gave the Mets about what could be expected from a chap whose services were going unengaged prior to Sandy Alderson giving him a jingle: less than six innings worked and almost as many runs surrendered. One was allowed via a Yasmany Tomas rocket, which is included with every ticket purchased for a Mets-Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. Another developed on a steal of home by Paul Goldschmidt, which isn’t something you’d expect. It unfolded on a double steal attempt that featured Goldschmidt breaking from third and Lucas Duda flinging the ball from first. The history embedded in such a scenario is not the encouraging kind.

In the current Met context, five runs over five-and-two-thirds innings from a starting pitcher to whom nobody gave a single thought in spring would have to be considered a serviceable outing. Before Milone’s measure was inevitably taken, the Mets had their chance against name-brand starter Zack Greinke. Not chances, but chance. It came in the second. Neil Walker lined a comebacker off the Arizona’s ace’s foot; Wilmer Flores bounced a ball over the right field fence and into a pool party; Duda struck out; René Rivera walked to load the bases; eight-hitter Curtis Granderson also walked. If you were scoring at home, that was a run. If you were scoring in Phoenix, that was all you were getting. Greinke struck out Milone, then Michael Conforto, both with the bases still loaded.

The Mets’ 1-0 lead eventually turned into a 4-1 deficit. Granderson (.153) grabbed a run back by going suitably deep and Rivera later sliced Arizona’s 5-2 lead to 5-4 by doing what Grandy did, except with a man on, but that was that. The top of the order — Conforto, Jose Reyes (.180) and Jay Bruce — went 0-for-12. No Met produced more than one hit. Fernando Rodney threw a perfect ninth, fired off an imaginary arrow to celebrate his actual save, and the Mets were pushed ever further from their hypothetical target. They are now nine games out of first place and not particularly close to the Wild Card. With the schedule nearly a quarter played, it’s neither too soon to notice the latter nor, regrettably, begin to forget about the former.

Pardon the pessimism. It, too, is just part of the game.

You Have to Admit That Was Kind of Funny

As chroniclers of the Great Mets Fiasco of 2017, we’d be derelict in our duty if we failed to record this sequence for posterity:

Hansel Robles, a reliever whose photo may actually appear next to the word “streaky” in baseball-centric dictionaries, faces Arizona slugger Paul Goldschmidt leading off the bottom of the eighth in a 1-1 game. After fouling one off, Goldschmidt demolishes a fastball right down the middle, sending it into the Phoenix night. The ball hits high off the center-field wall and is called a home run as Curtis Granderson fires it in, giving the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead.

But was justice served? The Mets ask for a review. Footage is scrutinized from an infinite number of angles in Chelsea as the umpires stand around pretending they’re not bystanders. The call is reversed — Goldschmidt’s drive merely dented the very top of the yellow line in center instead of clearing it.

With the Mets’ condition upgraded from “deceased and waiting for attending physician’s signature” to “critical,” Robles is directed to walk Jake Lamb and pitch to Yasmany Tomas.

Tomas hits Robles’s sixth pitch so much farther than Goldschmidt did. To capture its flight, the camera behind home plate reduces Granderson to a tiny figure, like a tourist in front of a mountain range in a bad vacation photo. The Mets now trail 4-1.

Honestly, it was kind of funny. A little bit the good kind of actually funny, a little bit forcing yourself to laugh because otherwise you might put a fist through something funny, and a little bit the bad kind of actually funny because the universe has dropped its pasteboard mask and revealed that it is an uncaring void created to devour everything that anyone has ever fought for, loved or mourned, leaving only an unidentifiable whisper of waste heat that will cool to nothing over trillions of empty, unmarked years.

That last part is why I added the qualifier. It was only kind of funny.

Later in the inning, Robles manages to give up a home run to Jeff Mathis, a career .195 hitter. Terry Collins, having seen things no manager should have to see, summons Josh Edgin. Edgin throws three non-disastrous pitches before giving up a home run to Daniel Descalso.

You can analyze moderately good teams and moderately bad ones until your fingers cramp and your keyboard locks up. For great teams, a shrug, a smile and an attaboy will generally suffice — they’re baseball’s happy families, all alike.

But truly bad teams defy analysis. They’re mutable horror shows, bleak shapeshifting carnivals that will deliver torment in whatever way a situation demands. The starters will bog down with not enough innings completed, the bullpen will be a slapstick dumpster fire, the hitting will wither and vanish, the baserunning will be corrupted by ineptitude, the decision-making will be suspect and the luck will be dreadful.

That’s the Mets right now — antimatter magicians who will improvise until they gag up a game in a way you’ve never encountered before, producing something that strikes you as simultaneously novel and tragically preordained.

You have to admire it, really. Or, if you can’t do that, at least try to laugh.

Blown

The question was posed by a classmate in AP History in twelfth grade: how did the United States did lose China? Our teacher, an affable sort named Mr. Friend, answered that the United States did not lose China, for China was never the United States’s to begin with. I’ve tried to remember that Friendly analysis whenever I can’t believe how the Mets have blown a game they had in hand.

I tell myself the game wasn’t really theirs to lose, that the game needed to go nine or more innings to determine a winner, that it doesn’t matter in what sequence the runs are scored, just how they are apportioned at game’s end. I don’t actually believe that, but I tell it to myself in the hope it will make me feel better.

It doesn’t.

The Mets had Sunday’s game at Milwaukee in their hip or back pocket, wherever a team carries victories in the making. They were up 7-1 at one point, which is indicative of a sure-ish thing. The Mets recently came back from trailing 7-1 to the Marlins to win 8-7, but a) we recognized that as something that doesn’t happen very often and b) it was us coming from behind, so it was supposed to happen, dig?

Blowing a 7-1 lead to lose 11-9? That should never happen, except it does happen and it did happen and if you were committing your time and mind to Sunday’s game, you weren’t terribly surprised it happened. Even with a 7-1 lead in the middle of the sixth…even with an 8-3 lead in the middle of the seventh…even with an ace Mets starter pitching in a fashion resembling that of an ace Mets starter…you didn’t think the Mets would find a way to lose, but when they did, you probably weren’t moaning in the “why…why…WHY?!?!?” desperation you still instinctively associate with the darkest of Benitez, Looper or Wagner innings.

You knew why this loss happened. The Mets went from winning 7-1 to losing 11-9 because Armando Benitez, Braden Looper and Billy Wagner at their shakiest would be an upgrade over everybody in the current Met bullpen; because a fashion resembling that of an ace Mets starter barely gets you into the seventh these days; because the Mets play dumb (Neil Walker not steaming home for a run that might have come in handy was a prime example), play short (the fascination with flogging Asdrubal Cabrera’s aching thumb is mystifying), just miss (Juan Lagares almost made a great catch during one of the meltdown innings, which is to say Jesus Aguilar doubled off the wall) and ran into a Brew Crew that pounds baseballs and loves life.

Let’s not sell Milwaukee short. They’re too big for that. They are the Morristown Frackers from Brockmire elevated into the National League, they wear enough body armor to have been engineered by Krieger the creepy scientist from Archer and they just produced — regardless of how their season turns out — about 40% of their 2017 highlight video. The Brewers were on a Magic Is Back June 1980 cloud all weekend. They made Mother’s Day pink the roughest, toughest color in the Pantone universe and I’d sooner give the green light to the Sausage Race Chorizo than René Rivera (René will be called out attempting to steal second in the fourth yesterday as soon as he gets anywhere near it).

So all hail the Milwaukee Brewers. Jonathan Villar is even better in actuality than he is in VR. Eric Thames does more than dredge Thames on 9 promotional spots from my television-watching subconscious. Should my Piazza book come out in soft cover, I will consider reidentifying Mike as the third-greatest hitting catcher ever, for Manny Piña and Jett Bandy both proved themselves the quintessential catchers, sluggers, icons and stars. The Brewers swung bad-ass brooms and finished the weekend with the sweep they deserved.

The Mets, too, got what was coming to them. They are suddenly light on star power and sooner or later that will definitively dim your chances. Jacob deGrom pitched pretty well and hit very well, but getting knocked out in the seventh — a leadoff single after 107 pitches is a decent sign that enough is enough in the modern era — wasn’t sufficient for a team that had put eight runs on the board to that point. Without Jeurys Familia (and with no starter ever lasting long enough to give the entire relief corps a meaningful breather), the whole gang gets bumped up a notch. Terry Collins used Jerry Blevins, Fernando Salas, Josh Edgin and Addison Reed. They’ve each had their moments this season, but few of them lately and none of them Sunday. Salas threw 38 pitches, which should put him on the shelf until Wednesday…or have him up in the fourth inning tonight. On the telecast, Gary Cohen said Collins would ask Reed to get five outs. He got two. The final three proved unnecessary. The Brewers don’t do bottoms of the ninth when the Mets are in town.

The 7-1 and 8-3 leads were not held. The three-quarters of a Michael Conforto cycle (everything but the single) did not add up. You could have laughed off the lousy baserunning from Walker and Rivera had their five RBIs been recorded in service to a win. All that offense didn’t do anybody who didn’t have those fellows in their fantasy lineups any good. The reality is they and their teammates were on the wrong end of a three-game sweep, are stuck in a four-game losing streak and stare up at .500 as they enter the Arizona desert. The games that are lost are lost. All hope is not because the season continues, but you just got a solid outing from deGrom and an explosive afternoon from the bats and no win to show for it. Too bad the Mets couldn’t hold on to what wasn’t yet theirs.

***

We have closed the comments section for the rest of the road trip. If you wish to share your thoughts on anything we’ve written, you can check in at the Faith and Fear in Flushing Facebook page, track us down via Twitter (@greg_prince; @jasoncfry) or drop us a line at faithandfearinflushing@gmail.com. If you wish to chronically bitch about the manager or chronically bitch about those who chronically bitch about the manager or declare again how right you have been all along on some component of baseball strategy, find another forum to do it.

Since starting this blog, we’ve reveled in the sense of community the comments section has provided our humble digital environs. In recent weeks, that sense is missing as is much connection between the comments and the posts on which they ostensibly comment. The tone, spirit and content are detached from what Jason and I strive to do daily. We call this the blog for Mets fans who like to read. We never said it was the place for repetitive trolling, baiting, sniping and bad manners.

Our apologies to those commenters who’ve proceeded respectfully and our thanks to our readers for your support.

Worse Every Time

Sometimes, to steal a line from my other dorky pursuit, you have a bad feeling about this.

I wasn’t particularly confident in the outcome of Saturday’s Mets-Brewers tilt before it started: in addition to the relentless winnowing of key pieces, the once-vaunted starting pitching has suddenly turned not just ordinary but considerably less than that.

But that bad feeling took on a more-personal dimension. I was returning a rental car to its proper abode after a day of navigating a sodden, bottom-of-the-aquarium New Jersey when I realized that the game wasn’t beginning in an hour or so, but had started half an hour earlier. MLB At Bat then decided to punish me for my negligence by refusing to let me listen, offering up AUTHORIZING instead of Howie and Josh from the Uecker seats in Milwaukee. And when I did get on station for the third inning, confronted with a Brewers catcher who’d transformed into a Hostess Sno-Ball … white catcher’s gear washed with Reds uniforms? witch’s spell? oh that’s right, Mother’s Day … I immediately realized that I was not just tired but exhausted.

Bland game, far away, exhaustion … it didn’t take a savant’s season preview to figure out what would happen next.

The first time I nodded off, the bases were loaded and Robert Gsellman was trying to keep Hernan Perez from erasing the Mets’ skinny 3-2 lead. That was an important moment, but ZZZZZZZ.

When I returned to consciousness, the Mets were batting and it was 4-2 for the Good Guys Wearing Pink.

More sanguine about things, I lowered my defenses, which was followed by lowered eyelids … and eventually by befuddled blinking at the TV and trying to process what the score had become.

Eventually I figured out it was 10-4 Brewers and Jose Reyes was in center field. That required a systems check to verify that this was real and not an odd turn in dreamland. Nope, it was all too real. Discouraged now, I dropped off again, woke up and it was 11-4.

Things were trending in an adverse direction.

I sawed logs through Rafael Montero‘s perfect inning — don’t miss those, they’re collectors’ items — and of course woke up in time for the less-than-inspiring top of the ninth.

Normally I feel cheated when I snooze through a game — baseball is the reward I look forward to while doing non-baseball things — but this was definitely a missable one.

Still, somehow the Mets’ wan performance and defeat left me philosophical.

You never know, as the philosophers say, but it’s beginning to look like it might not be our year. Which would be … OK.

For one thing, we’re not the New York franchise that treats titles as an expectation and waits impatiently to yell at management if they’re not handed out. For another, baseball is always a pleasure and there are Mets questions I’d be eager to see answered — questions that could have definite import for next season.

What can Michael Conforto do if allowed to play everyday regardless of matchups? What might Travis d’Arnaud accomplish if health and luck ever let him stay for more than a cameo? Can Matt Harvey figure out how to navigate the uncertainties of diminished velocity and earlier bedtimes? Is Amed Rosario ready to play shortstop in the big leagues? Is Dom Smith ready to do the same at first? Might it be wise to try and jump-start the future by letting both those guys start their varsity lessons now instead of later?

Prognosticators like to talk about teams’ windows for regularly racking up postseason berths, and it may look like vandals have thrown rocks through the Mets’. But while I’m regarding my October calendar as clear, I don’t see why 2018 couldn’t be a pretty interesting season. The pitching depth is still there, at least on paper: 2017’s woes may look like hiccups if lats heal, missing ribs are sorted and walks diminish. Meanwhile, the team has some actual young offensive talent to array around Yoenis Cespedes.

Should none of that pan out? Well, it’ll still be baseball and baseball’s still wonderful most of the time.

And if it’s not, you can always close your eyes.

No comments. Tired of it.

Energy Crisis ’17

Which Met crisis was the overriding one Friday night? It’s hard to keep them straight. Harking all the way back to April 27, Noah Syndergaard not being able to lift his arm was the worst possible news. Then it was Yoenis Cespedes limping into second hours later. Oh wait — Syndergaard grabbed something and left a game in the second inning. Could it get any worse than Ces and Thor both going on the DL? How about Matt Harvey being suspended, missing a start and being surrounded by loud whispers of discomfiting concern? That was huger than huge…until Jeurys Familia was found to be experiencing a serious-sounding condition that required immediate surgery and has him sidelined for the bulk of the rest of the year.

With Familia’s long-term absence the most recently spotlighted crisis, it was easy to forget Harvey was making his first start since his five-alarm suspension. The fall of the Dark Knight couldn’t have been a bigger story for a few news cycles. By the time Matt took the mound in Milwaukee, it all seemed so three days ago.

Unlike last weekend, Harvey showed up, so that was a victory of a sort. He gave the Mets five innings that positioned them for a victory of a more substantial sort, then a portion of a sixth that basically ended that possibility. We might have been able to look back on Matt’s return as gritty and gutty and an encouraging first step had his manager pinch-hit for him when the scored was knotted at two and the pitcher had danced through figurative raindrops — every other Brewer plate appearance seemed to take half-an-hour — to keep it that way. We won’t as much now because he was so thoroughly throttled in the sixth. Still, it was a start in the sense that Matt had to get going again somewhere, and a so-so Harvey, especially within the context of what the 2017 Mets have become, is better than no Harvey whatsoever…and no worse an option than erstwhile seatfiller Adam Wilk, now a member in good standing of the Minnesota Twins.

The Brewers looked alive in their 7-4 victory. The Mets looked obligated to be there. Their daubers weren’t irretrievably down (witness the fleeting ninth-inning rally that didn’t go as far as needed) but they just seemed outpaced. A Brewer stole a run. A Met got picked off second. That kind of night.

At least we didn’t have to immediately worry how the late innings would be structured in Familia’s absence. Addison Reed didn’t have to take care of the ninth inning save, somebody else didn’t have to be responsible for holding the eighth-inning lead. It was a night when relief pitching was deployed neither strategically nor tactically. The Mets used their bullpen because games have nine innings and their starter was done after five. He pitched into the sixth, but he was already finished.

Positives were discernible if you were of a mind to mine them from the Milwaukee muck. Neil Walker registered three hits, including a long home run. Asdrubal Cabrera was listed in the lineup, didn’t have to leave it and managed to double and score. Lucas Duda still exists and also doubled. Those old pros, however much they’ve been known to creak, will come in handy in continuing the pursuit of the 162-game schedule, 128 games of which remain, none of whose outcomes are preordained. Met tomorrows at Miller Park have been historically tricky to traverse, but another game awaits, and another game is another chance to get revved up.

Jaime DeJesus put together quite a feature on my new book Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star for Aspire magazine. I invite you to check it out here.