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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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Anxiety Meets Expectations

Gary Cohen called Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss “stunning” the moment after it happened. Gary Cohen makes mostly accurate statements. This wasn’t among them.

The Mets had led the Marlins, 1-0, since the fifth inning. Brandon Nimmo had put us on the board with a home run. Whatever distance it traveled, Jacob deGrom propelled it exponentially further. With deGrom in the game, a 1-0 lead feels more than adequate. It feels impenetrable. Give Jake a run, Jake will do the rest. Jake carries a league-leading 1.54 ERA.

It’s low enough to be the Mets’ team batting average.

In that era of yore to which we continually and fondly refer no matter how inoperative it is within the current parameters of baseball, deGrom would have taken that 1-0 lead into the eighth and ninth and, quite possibly, been the pitcher of record on behalf of the 132nd 1-0 win in Mets history. We don’t live in that era any longer. Jake was removed after seven deGrominant innings. He had thrown more than 100 pitches. There’s nothing unusual about that anymore. You’re not suddenly going to hyperextend deGrom beyond any starting pitcher’s normal limit, not even a starting pitcher who resides high above the norm.

But when you take out your best pitcher, the chances that somebody else will give up a run would seem to rise dramatically. Afterwards, when deGrom’s phenomenal seven innings were no more than a vaguely pleasant footnote to the horrifying ninth, Mickey Callaway said, “You can’t expect to win games 1-0 all the time.” I doubt anybody expects that, just as I doubt many of us moderately deep down expected the Mets to win Wednesday night after deGrom exited. We should have been able to even if you wouldn’t think we should have to. Winning 1-0 has happened 131 times, though not since 2016. We were due for a 1-0 lead to hold clear to the final out.

Conversely, perhaps Jeurys Familia was due for a ninth like he and we experienced, one in which he doesn’t strike out the side (as he did last Friday night in attaining his twelfth save), one in which a close final play goes the Mets way (which happened Monday night, his thirteenth save). Figuratively burying your accomplished closer on the heels of his not accomplishing what you wished is an understandable and incredibly familiar impulse, but Familia isn’t normally incapable of getting three outs without allowing a run or more. His career has been built on preserving slim leads. That is the definition of his career.

But jeez, Jeurys, how about getting three outs without giving up a run last night? Blow another lead another time. We won’t be happy about it when you do, but this was the one to hold onto. Hold onto it for deGrom, who deserved the dopey W starting pitchers still compete for. Hold onto it for your team, which was enjoying a pretty fine homestand until very recently. The Mets are off to Milwaukee for four versus the first-place Brewers, then Atlanta for four more versus the first-place Braves. Losing a three-game set to the last place Marlins in Flushing is not advisable in the big picture.

You can’t expect to win games 1-0 all the time. You can’t expect Familia to save games all the time. Our anxieties expected the outcome we got. Familia’s sinker didn’t sink. Four Marlins got hits in the ninth. Two Mets, Gonzalez and Conforto, made clutch defensive plays around them, but you can only choke off so much rallying before you’ve been rallied into falling behind.

DeGrom wasn’t going to stay in. Lugo could have. He pitched a scoreless eighth. Theoretically, any number of relievers could have pitched the ninth if Seth the former starter was mysteriously deemed one inning and out. But, y’know, Familia is the closer. Like pitcher wins and losses, we still have saves and pitchers who are assigned most of the obvious opportunities. Even allegedly innovative pitching-savvy managers are susceptible to the gravitational pull of traditional roles. Besides, if you’re not going to use your generally successful closer — third-most saves in the National League this season — to protect a slight ninth-inning advantage, when are you going to use him?

Oh, by the by, the Mets scored only that one run, one of four they registered in this distressingly punchless three-game series. Let’s not let everybody else who isn’t deGrom and Nimmo off the hook for the defeat we and the official scorer have no compunction about hanging squarely on Familia. Dan Straily pitched pretty well, as did the three Marlin relievers who followed him. Were they deGrominantly impenetrable? For all intents and purposes, they were practically unhittable. The Mets collected six hits, with only Nimmo’s worth a damn. The other five were singles that led nowhere except to an outcome that, in retrospect, wasn’t remotely stunning.

Disappointing, devastating, disgusting…all of that. But not particularly surprising. You’d like to expect something different.

The New Old Mets

The deal came together with startling speed – in far less time than even one of today’s foot-on-the-accelerator news cycles, Jose Bautista went from possible New York Mets target to likely signee to announced acquisition to standing on the field wearing No. 11.

No day or two to get his affairs in order, no needing to find a flight from wherever – he arrived with the speed of the delivery order that leaves you wondering if the guy was circling the block with a miniaturized kitchen between the handlebars of his bike, waiting impatiently for you to figure out that yeah, you were getting the General Tso’s this time too.

All of this is ignoring the question of whether or not Jose Bautista, New York Met, is in fact a good idea.

The Braves had no use for Bautista, calling him up for a fortnight’s look-see and deciding that they could do better with what they had – a similar decision to the one they made about another superannuated Met, Adrian Gonzalez. One might make a joke about not being good enough to make the Braves, except have you seen the standings lately? Maybe the Braves were the first ones to get the memo about the value of what they have.

Bautista’s a new old Met in multiple ways – because fans of a certain vintage will recall that he was once technically Met property, laundered by the team on July 30, 2004 on his way from the Royals back to his original employer, the Pirates, as part of the deal that brought back Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger but somehow not a title.

There’s a lot of that on the field these days. Jay Bruce is a recidivist Met. So is Jason Vargas, who gets the added currency of having been a Shea Met. Ditto for Jose Reyes, Bautista’s fellow Jose and fellow former Blue Jay. (I’m probably forgetting one or two. Sorry — frantically typing in the airport on very little sleep.)

Reyes remembers Bautista from his glory days north of the border, when Bautista was a feared home-run hitter and playoff hero, the man whose joyous lumber launch sparked a brief inferno of bat-flip hot takes. (Between Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Mets can lay claim to three stalwarts of the genre.)

So does Bautista have anything left? Well, for the short-term he’s a hard-to-argue-with shrug, a chance at counteracting left-handed pitching and filling in for Cespedes and Todd Frazier, Yo’s counterpart in the very Metsian club of Guys Who Will Be Missing Longer Than First Thought.

And he’d certainly seem to have more left than his aforementioned fellow Jose. Which is where I got a little annoyed.

Bautista replacing Reyes on the roster would have been a lottery ticket with a side of sweet relief, as Reyes continues to make us painfully aware on a daily basis that he is no longer even a shadow of what he was. He’s dreadful at third, not much better at short, punchless and inept at the plate and nothing special on the bases. Given all that, unless his mentorship of Amed Rosario includes necessary life-saving instruction in the body’s normally autonomic systems, it’s difficult to see what anybody’s getting out of the deal.

But no, Reyes remained and Bautista took the place of Phillip Evans, who honestly would probably be the wisest of the three players to employ on a semi-regular basis. Which leads me to a recent criticism of the Mets from baseball analyst Joe Sheehan, plucked from his very smart newsletter. To paraphrase. Sheehan noted that the Mets have had some recent success in developing young talent but seem determined not to trust it: Dom Smith is trying to stay thin in Triple-A and Brandon Nimmo is fighting for playing time while their at-bats go to Gonzalez and Bruce. Why not throw Evans into that mix for good measure?

Anyway, Bautista doubled in his first Mets AB, which could be a good sign or could prove he’s recycling Jose Lobaton’s material, but didn’t do much else Tuesday night. He had plenty of company in that, as the Mets were stymied by Caleb Smith.

Smith threw one of those easy oh-fors at the Mets lineup, looking ordinary while mowing down hitter after hitter with a well-placed and well-chosen mix of pitches. His opponent, a newly unhirsute Zack Wheeler, had one of his more encouraging outings, walking no one and working six innings.

But encouraging isn’t the same as a win. Wheeler was undone by the second inning, in which everybody had a part: Wheeler gave up several rockets, but Reyes muffed a Smith bunt and another run came in on a perfectly placed Luis Sojo special up the middle by J.T. Realmuto. That gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead that proved more than enough, particularly when AJ Ramos’s relief work looked more like the Ramos who’s had us bracing for impact this year.

Look, you’re gonna lose baseball games – a good 60 of them are ticketed for that column even in pinch-me campaigns. Day One of the Bautista regime isn’t a fair referendum on him, or anybody else. It takes longer than that to form a judgment. But judgments do arrive. And sometimes, like Met injuries, they linger far longer than one would think necessary.

Tell You Why I Don’t Mind Mondays

I noticed an SNY banner displayed by the bourbon-branded club on the Promenade level, which I found odd (the banner, not the bourbon) until I remembered Gary Cohen mentioned something Sunday about broadcasting Monday night’s game alfresco. Our announcers were out of doors, and so were Stephanie and I, along with assorted colleagues of hers. The Queens-based social services agency for which my wife does wonderful work receives from a benefactor a batch of tickets for at least one game every year and conducts a drawing for all interested employees. She always enters and she always wins a pair. I’d like to believe the fix is in, given her status as one of the office’s Mets superfans, albeit on a prorated basis. Being married to me may not be worth much in other contexts, but it will get you inextricably associated with the baseball team eleven local stops away.

Stephanie’s name was called and I continue to be her guest of choice for these games, which makes me very happy on multiple levels. Aside from my implicit fondness for my spouse, I like a ticket to a Mets game as much as the next tasteful New Yorker. And I kind of dig being dropped into a Promenade Box of people at a Mets game who are genuinely enthused to be there without much investment in the outcome. Some get a chance to bring a kid. Some are into the refreshments. Some probably relish having gotten a little something extra out of the job. None is ever on Twitter demanding to know when somebody will be designated for assignment. Good moods abound before the novelty wears off. Eventually it’s Monday night with the Mets and Marlins and you realize such a gathering is not everybody’s bottomless cup of tea. (Crazy, I know.) The ranking member of the agency’s delegation admitted, quite good-naturedly, “you know, I’d forgotten how boring baseball can be,” before bolting in the sixth for a long commute home. Actually, pretty much everybody from the agency bolted by the sixth.

Of course Stephanie and I and a handful of others stayed to the chilly but not at all bitter end, and we were not at all sorry. We got to see the Mets win. Stephanie and I would have seen it on SNY had these tickets never materialized, but that’s a TV show. A great TV show — the best nightly programming our cable subscription offers — but I discovered in April, when I avoided Citi Field in deference to the cold, that I didn’t quite feel like the fan I allegedly am without a little Flushing exposure.

So I’ve exposed myself (phrasing!) six times during the past two Met homestands. My first three visits were losses, which makes mathematical sense considering the Mets failed to win any of their games that week. The second three have all been wins, which is much, much, much more fun. Winning allows me to not say something like, “I had a great time anyway.” Not that great times are to be taken for granted, but how great can a time be if it encompasses a Met defeat?

That’s an intriguing philosophical puzzle, yet I don’t need to solve it after being on hand to see the Mets beat the Marlins on Monday, three nights after I was on hand to see the Mets beat the Diamondbacks on Friday, three nights after I was on hand to see the Mets beat the Blue Jays last Tuesday. The every-three-night plan seems like a winner, but schedules and luck don’t really function that way.

Jason Vargas didn’t seem to function at all during his reimmersion into Metsdom. Has a 9.87 ERA ever appeared more impressive? That’s what Vargas sports after throwing five shutout innings Monday. What was once stratospheric (13.86) is now merely vertiginous. The Marlins, who signed him as an amateur, couldn’t touch him as a professional. Viva Jace Vargas!

The only drawback to Vargas’s five frames of zeroes is the decision by Mickey Callaway to not send him back out to the mound for the sixth. Yes, we live in a world where we occasionally crave more Jason Vargas. Perhaps Gary, Keith and/or Ron explained the decision to go the bullpen, but I was at the game, so I could only guess it was because Jason threw 86 pitches in his first start in thirteen days. Or maybe Mickey doesn’t like not imprinting a game for very long.

On came Sewald to not quite optimal results (two outs, two baserunners).

On came Blevins to no good effect (one walk, no outs).

On came Ramos, who somehow pulled us through the sixth intact.

I can say “us” because I, like my wife and a few others in our section, was still with the Mets by then.

AJ Ramos makes us all nervous, and sure enough, he began the seventh by walking a Marlin. Then there was some standing around that was hard to discern from 428. It turned out to be Met savior Devin Mesoraco being inspected for dings from a backswing. I learned that later. The worst place to glean details from a ballgame is by going to that ballgame. I could have availed myself of technology (or even my trusty little radio), but I decided to hope the meeting of manager, trainer and catcher on the foul side of the white line was a clever method of avoiding being charged for a mound meeting. When all concerned dispersed, Mesoraco was still deemed squatworthy and Ramos survived the seventh.

Then all three of us who remained where we were sitting stood and stretched. I’m amazed how few people around me (when there are people around me) stand and stretch in the middle of the seventh inning these days. All six games this season and every game the last few years I find this tenet of the national pastime’s tradition is withering. It’s as if nobody knows what the seventh-inning stretch is anymore. Baseball and this country are going to hell.

Now back to our game.

The Mets were winning 1-0 to this point. The Amed-Asdrubal connection clicked Monday as it had Sunday, though without going over walls. Rosario singled in the third. Cabrera doubled. Rosario ran. That was a run That was the only run until the seventh. Fortunately Mesoraco the upright proceeded to double, Martin Prado clanked a grounder from Luis Guillorme (sweet instincts from whoever assigned the rookie “Brother Louie” as walkup music) and the indefatigable Wilmer Flores pinch-singled Devin home to make it 2-0.

That’s right, Marlins. We will, we will Meso-rock you. And we will hold on to beat you despite squeezing only two runs from nine hits. Guillorme will leap and grab a liner headed to left field. Nimmo will dive and grab another destined for grass. And when you think you can be all Marlin about it, Rosario will go into the hole and throw out your final hope to keep the game going. Sure, challenge the call; interrupt the ritual blaring of “New York Groove”. Your runner slid headfirst into the base where that never helps avert a forceout. Replay review will confirm Lewis Brinson is out and Ace Frehley will resume kvelling instantaneously.

From back in the New York groove to strolling down those left field ramps that slope gently onto Field Level, through the Rotunda and into that good night. Four in a row for our team. Three in a row for your correspondent. We won a drawing, we won a game, we won a Monday. Nice going, everybody.

The Good Stuff

Every year we have a horse-racing party, which is pretty fun. Then, the next day, we have to clean up, which is less fun. You realize just how many bits of chip have been crushed into carpets. You find quarter-glasses of booze in unexpected, even baffling places. All the stuff that got stowed downstairs needs to be put back where it belongs. Garbage has to go to the curb, recycling needs to go to the bins, the dishwasher and the vacuum need to be run repeatedly, the floor has to be mopped, and all day you’re heading up and down the stairs trying to get all these things done in a moderately efficient fashion.

As a kid trekking in to Shea from the wilds of Suffolk County, I learned pretty quickly that the Mets didn’t respect the quirks of my personal calendar. Tom Seaver was not a guarantee to pitch on whatever day my parents agreed to take me to a game. Dave Kingman might not homer. Mike Phillips — my favorite player once Rusty Staub was exiled to Detroit — probably wouldn’t even play.

I got used to this idea back when Jimmy Carter was president. But still, the day after the horse-race party always sees me offer a plea that the Mets rouse themselves to be reasonably entertaining and good company.

Sunday’s game was promising, what with Noah Syndergaard on the mound, the Diamondbacks on the ropes and an unfamiliar sight up there in the sky … why yes, it was the actual sun, returning from its apparent stay on the 10-day DL.

And the early doings were interesting enough, as taken in while hauling trash and pushing mops and trying to figure out if the vacuum cleaner was broken or had just become inadequate for handling its one essential task. Eventually the distinction was ruled to be meaningless; ironically, the vacuum has been DFA’ed for failing to do what the still-employed Jose Reyes now does reliably.

Syndergaard is having a perplexing year, one in which we’re all faintly cross with him but can’t figure out why. He’s being less efficient with his pitches and seems to be lacking that Asgardian something … yet you look at the numbers and see he’s 4-1 with a sub-3.00 ERA, fanning more than a hitter an inning and walking basically nobody. Honestly, Syndergaard’s biggest problem this year has been being a Met — he’s been undone by crap defense, lousy relief and anemic hitting, and could easily be 7-1 with less Metsiness around him. If only the rest of our rotation had such flaws.

At least on the scoreboard, Syndergaard was outdone for a while by Clay Buchholz, last seen throwing a big-league pitch in anger more than a year ago. Buchholz mixed his pitches well and was the recipient of a lone run, the product of consecutive singles from reliable annoyance Jarrod Dyson and Nick Ahmed and a modest little grounder from Jeff Mathis that Wilmer Flores correctly saw couldn’t be turned into an out at home or second. But he went unscathed after that, with Jay Bruce throwing out Mathis at home to prevent further trouble.

Amed Rosario got Syndergaard even with a solo shot in the sixth, but it looked like Noah would once again come away with nothing for his efforts — at least until Asdrubal Cabrera connected as a pinch-hitter off Jorge De La Rosa. That was immediately followed by Rosario’s second homer of the day (and year), and both the Mets and their starter were ticketed for wins.

Cabrera’s having a quietly amazing season, the kind that turns a player from fondly remembered to eternally beloved. I enjoy how furious he gets with himself when he fails to execute the way he believes he can, flinging bats into the earth and stomping toward first with jets of steam whistling out of his ears, like some unholy mingling of Paul Lo Duca, Al Leiter, and primeval human rage. You can’t really be mad at Cabrera for failing at a baseball-related task because he’s already so comically furious with himself. There was no need for any of that today, happily — Cabrera waited for his pitch, unloaded on it, coolly admired the result, trotted 360 feet and returned to a now even more enjoyable day spent mostly off.

Rosario’s offensive outburst, of course, is potentially of greater import — if things go right, he’ll still be stationed on the Citi Field infield when Cabrera’s being chatted up by Steve Gelbs or some successor. The Mets are clearly trying to teach Rosario plate discipline, but he’d mostly processed that as “don’t immediately swing at the first pitch,” pitchers knew it, and Rosario was left with a lot of 0-1 counts and creeping dismay. Not today — he crushed De La Rosa’s get-me-over four-seamer instead of waiting for a better pitch that might never come. (While we’re applauding the youth, props also to Robert Gsellman, who looked thoroughly in command in recording his first career save.)

By the time the afternoon was waning, the house was clean, the Mets had won and hope abounded. That’s a pretty good day.

Black Box Offense

When the Mets struck for two tying runs in the eighth inning and then the winning run in the ninth Saturday night, I thought of the ghoulish if sort of logical question that gets asked after aviation disasters and applied it to our at least temporarily aloft carrier of choice:

Why don’t they make the Mets’ offense out of the same material they make the black boxes that manage to survive wreckage and preserve flight data recordings?

To put it in a baseball-specific context, if the Mets can generate runs as desperately needed in the eighth and ninth, why can’t they just do that in the other innings and spare us the suspense, the angst and the general sense that we’re going down yet again? It probably has something to do with human beings competing with other human beings and some buzzkill “regression to the mean” pedantry. After all, if the Mets could just score at will, why couldn’t the Diamondbacks?

Because that would be no fun to theorize over, not from our standpoint. The fun was mostly packed into the final two frames Saturday, first on the two-run, eighth-inning homer swing Devin Mesoraco put on an Archie Bradley four-seam fastball to cut through the fog that hung over Citi Field all night, then on a succession of clutch connections made by the top of the order in the bottom of the ninth. Bradley had given way to Andrew Chafin, and Chafin gave way to standin’, cheerin’ and rejoicin’ as Brandon Nimmo doubled to right; Asdrubal Cabrera bunted for a base hit that placed Nimmo on third, and Wilmer Flores put enough wood on enough horsehide to send Brandon home via sacrifice fly.

It wasn’t quite Justify slogging through the mud at the Preakness, but our race was won, 5-4. Toss in the two-run homer from Michael Conforto in the fourth and the five post-Matz innings of shutout ball the bullpen threw, and you had a result that resisted gravity for a change. The Mets took a one-game winning streak and extended it for the first time since they won nine in a row in essentially another era. Getting on this minimal roll means we can sublimate our daily catalogue of Metsian gripes, including East Setauket Steve’s inability to reach the fifth; the battery of umpires who refused to see erstwhile Royals pest Jarrod Dyson should’ve been called out stealing in the fourth; the Mets producing no runs from a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth; and the front office having cobbled together, for these DL-intensive times, the shortest and least useful of allegedly major league benches.

Instead, we can celebrate the most obvious factors that contributed to victory. A walkoff is never not fun, and nobody’s more fun to pound on the back and drench with liquid than Wilmer. Certainly no current Met has been the cause/object of more walkoff affection. Saturday’s was the eighth game in Wilmer’s six-season career that he was directly responsible for ending in the best way possible. We can also high-five over Mesoraco’s continued revival. There’s no figure baseball treasures more than an old catcher in a new locale, provided the catcher has a track record of success (he was an All-Star in 2014), was set back by circumstances for several years (he was injured and on the Reds) and is now considered reasonably healthy, preternaturally wise and the kind of hard worker directors of pickup truck commercials linger on lovingly. We adore unsung professionalism and sing its praises to the high heavens when it gets our attention. Nobody is more of an unsung professional than a veteran backstop who coaxes the young pitchers, mentors the young catchers and socks a few dingers. Too often our Kelly Shoppachs and Jose Lobatons don’t rise to narrative-quality performance. Mesoraco has already attained René Rivera knows-what-he’s-doing-back-there status behind the plate and is verging on John Buck territory when it comes to sudden, surprising power.

True, Devin couldn’t nurse Matz past trouble (irony of ironies, it was Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt who put the most hurt on Steven), but the Cincinnati import put down all the right fingers for Lugo, Sewald, Ramos and Familia. Mickey Callaway said prior to Saturday’s game that Tomás Nido — up for the DFA’d Lobaton — was recalled so he could study under Prof. Mesoraco. The manager and his coaches value the way Devin prepares and they want their main catching prospect to absorb some lessons. Jacob deGrom, fresh off his thirteen-strikeout masterpiece Friday night, gave his new receiver all kinds of credit, too: “You come in and he’s already got a full scouting report written out.”

That the Tao of Mesoraco is so impressing the Mets underscores what they must not have been getting from their sidelined platoon of Travin d’Arwicki, which can be interpreted as a telling commentary on the state of contemporary Mets catching. For as long as Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki have been fixtures around here (albeit of the easily detachable variety), they’ve never particularly emitted the air of knowing what they’re doing back there. Perhaps they never had a Mesoraco mentoring them. Perhaps not every catcher is constructed the same way, inside or out, just like not every inning can give us all the runs we need.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“Give it a listen. What do you hear?”
“‘DeGrom.’ Definitely ‘deGrom.’”
“You’re crazy. It’s ‘Conforto.’ Listen…‘Conforto.’”
“You’re the one who’s crazy. Can’t you hear the pitching? Seven innings. Thirteen strikeouts. No walks. ‘DeGrom.’”
“No way, it’s all hitting. You listen: four-for-four, a couple of RBIs. ‘Conforto.’”
“‘DeGrom.’ Plain as day.”

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but are you guys doing that thing where everybody hears something different?”
“Yeah. Except I hear it right and my friend here hears it wrong.”
“Says you. DeGrom!”
“Here’s the thing, fellas. I think you’re supposed to hear them both at the same time.”

“It’s not just about pitching, though deGrom mowing down the Diamondbacks and paving the way for a 3-1 Mets victory Friday night in a crisp 2:36 was sublime. And it’s not just about hitting, though Conforto breaking out made sure the great starting pitching — and equally good relief — wouldn’t go to waste. C’mon give it another try. You, the guy who only heard deGrom, listen again. What do you hear?”
“I hear ‘deGrom.’ DeGrom drowns out everything.”
“C’mon, listen harder.”
“DeGrom. I’m not changing my answer.”

“What about you, Conforto guy? Use these Q-tips, clear out the wax and try again.”
“Conforto. And my ears are fine.”
“Forget it. There’s no getting through to either of you.”

“Hey, you guys are doing that deGrom/Conforto thing? I heard about that. Can I play, too?”
“Sure. Maybe you can break the tie. Honestly tell us what you hear.”
“I hear…I hear ‘Lagares.’”

“Lagares? Everybody hears either deGrom or Conforto. How the hell do you hear Lagares?”
“It’s all I can hear. That and a faint yowl of agony. Wait, I think there’s something else in there.”
“A gaping hole where there should be an additional major league outfielder.”
“You can hear all that?”
“My audiologist says I process sounds on a very finely tuned frequency.”
“Meaning I hear mostly defense — or the lack thereof.”

“Ooh, you guys are doing that everybody hears something different thing. I want in!”
“Why not? What, pray tell, do you hear?”
“Chaos? What the fudge does that sound like?”
“It’s Lagares going on the DL for the year for what was supposed to be a sprain, it’s having no suitable replacements for him, it’s Cespedes not immediately going on the DL when we all knew that’s where he was ultimately headed, it’s the free agent innings-eater never lasting more than four innings, it’s the Mets batting out of order, it’s weeks of minor league catchers, it’s failing to put back-to-back wins together for more than a month…”
“You hear all that?”
“I heard it on the way over. I was listening to the pregame show.”

“That’s not how this is supposed to work.”
“Nothing’s ever how it’s supposed to work with the Mets. That’s what makes them them not just chaotic, but dysfunctional.”
“Conforto’s functioning fine. Except for the long slump until now.”
“DeGrom’s functioning flawlessly. Except for the hyperxtended elbow.”
“Right. And Lagares won a Gold Glove four years ago and basically hasn’t been heard from since, and won’t be heard from again. Just like d’Arnaud. Just like Swarzak. Just like…say, anybody heard from T.J. Rivera lately?”

“Pardon me, I’ve overheard what you’re doing. Do you mind if I have a listen?”
“Everybody else has, go ahead.”
“Ooh, I hear winning record, bunched up divisional race, three-quarters of a season remaining, maybe not everything going wrong for the Mets despite everybody being determined to believe otherwise.”
“That’s because of deGrom.”

“Actually, I hear rain is in the forecast.”
“Yeah, I heard that, too.”

The Cure-All

Earl Weaver, a wise man, once cracked that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. Games take the form of stories as they unfold, but all those stories start with the guy on the mound. If he’s got his full arsenal, recent frustrations and failures are likely to dissipate. If he’s got nothing, a run of positive outcomes will likely come to a screeching halt.

Fortunately for the shooting-at-their-own-feet Mets, Jacob deGrom had everything working Friday night, most notably a fastball with movement and bite, one that seem to grind up Diamondback bats and batters. Paul Goldschmidt looked particularly helpless, lost in one of those fogs during which a hitter can’t remember ever doing anything positive, but no Diamondback looked excited to be in the batter’s box. DeGrom did his job and more — I didn’t think it was a particularly good idea to send him back out for the seventh given recent events, but he struck out Alex Avila with a runner at third and one out, then retired Jarrod Dyson to walk off the mound to much-deserved applause.

The Mets, meanwhile, seemed determine to do as little as possible against Zack Godley, who had little feel for the location of his breaking ball. But with deGrom good as he was, a little was a lot. Michael Conforto went 4-for-4, a breakout that was really the BABIP Gods finally smiling on him: Conforto, you may recall, was robbed of two hits in Wednesday’s soakfest.

Conforto shaking off the rust of his freak shoulder injury and curtailed spring training would be a much-needed jolt for a flat, injury-riddled club that’s been shorn of Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier, is getting nothing from Jay Bruce, and just lost Juan Lagares for the year. Lagares’s erasure left Mickey Callaway talking about Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes as outfielders, which sounds like a terrible idea even by Metsian standards; more likely is that the job will go to Ezequiel Carrera, just signed to a minor-league contract along with infielder Christian Colon.

Carrera did nothing in the Braves’ system this year and is now on his third organization of the calendar year, but he did hit .280 with 10 steals for Toronto last year, and is certainly a better idea than witnessing Wilmer Flores aiming a terrified look heavenward while staggering around in left field. (It’s even a homecoming of sorts — Carrera began his professional career as a Met farmhand way back in 2005, departing in 2008 in a deal that was more Roman orgy than baseball transaction, involving three teams and 11 players.)

So the Mets got a stellar pitching performance, hit enough, didn’t take the field wearing uniforms that made you want to flush your eyes with lye, and won in a tidy two and a half hours. That will do nicely … at least until tomorrow night, when they continue their thrilling, monthlong quest to win two games in a row.

Steven Matz will be your starting pitcher. For a read on the momentum, check back in 24 hours or so.

Was It Something I Said?

X-rays were negative but he may not play Friday. He’s day-to-day, which in these parts is known as foreshadowing with a side of foreboding. Cue the uneasy minor-key music, buckle up, and if you’re a believer, say a prayer for Lagares.

Well, this doesn’t seem so funny any more. Juan Lagares likely out for the season with a … wait for it … hyperextended big toe and ligament damage.


Wet and Wild, Meek and Mild

Absent a perfect, um, storm of unfortunate factors, Wednesday’s matinee would never have been played.

It was a miserable day in New York, a gloomy, continuous soak. But the Mets and Blue Jays had only two scheduled meetings here, and while the Mets had an off-day Thursday, the Jays did not. That left both clubs out in the elements, with the umpires gloomily hunkered down in the rain, occasionally joined by doggedly laboring groundskeepers and managers and players checking in to wonder WTF and being told essentially, This TF.

You understood the why behind This TF, but it was a forest-for-the-trees why, an argument that began with demanding you accept an absurd premise. This game should have been moved to Toronto, or held in abeyance to see if its outcome mattered to either of the mediocre outfits involved. But absurdity was the order handed down from on high, and so the Mets and Blue Jays played in front of a few hundred fans who I can only assume were there because they were visiting from Toronto or had lost bets. I love baseball — I really really really love it — but I can’t imagine anything that would have convinced me to spend the afternoon sitting out at Citi Field watching that.

At least J.A. Happ had fun. The Jays pitcher was on base three times while allowing only two Met baserunners, which is quietly kind of amazing in an I-wish-it-hadn’t-happened way. The Mets might have made a better offensive showing of it if not for the presence of Kevin Pillar, who was out there in center doing Juan Lagares-like things. Lagares did a Kevin Pillar-like thing of his own in the ninth, running down a drive to center from Gio Urshela and banging his big toe into the fence. X-rays were negative but he may not play Friday. He’s day-to-day, which in these parts is known as foreshadowing with a side of foreboding. Cue the uneasy minor-key music, buckle up, and if you’re a believer, say a prayer for Lagares. (The Mets did at least finally come to their senses and put Yoenis Cespedes on the DL — how depressing is it that that can be considered progress?)

As for Zack Wheeler, he was good until he wasn’t, with the “wasn’t” following an 18-minute stoppage in the third inning during which an army of groundskeepers essentially blanketed the infield in Diamond Dry. Wheeler’s crumbling afterwards was blamed on the long spell of inactivity, but I can’t get too worked up about it. Wheeler losing it isn’t a new phenomenon, he was apparently offered the chance to throw more than the usual between-innings warm-up pitches but passed on it, and the absurdity was his being out there in the first place.

Anyway, he got pounded and so did the reliably hapless A.J. Ramos (there’s a joke in there somewhere about Happ, A.J. and J.A. but this stupid game doesn’t deserve the effort of landing it), and the only item of interest left as the Jays collected their first-ever win in Flushing was the arrival of Buddy Baumann, who escaped weirdo ghost status and spared me years of explanations and arguments by pitching the eighth. Baumann looked good in his first inning of work but terrible in his second, establishing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s suited to be a member of this ridiculous, ramshackle franchise.

The Rainy Season

The deluge prior to Tuesday night’s game between the Mets and their infrequent visitors from the north rattled trees and plans. The deluge during the affair, on the other hand, was an offensive blessing. Runs rained down on Citi Field, almost all of them in the bottoms of innings, which is how we prefer they land upon our soggy but efficiently draining home turf. The weather kept the show from starting until nearly an hour-and-a-half had passed beyond its originally intended curtain, but the Mets’ suddenly lively bats made the delay worthwhile — while the atmospheric commotion did not disturb in the least the Toronto Blue Jays’ established migratory patterns.

The Jays come to Queens, the Jays lose in Queens. Tuesday the Jays gave up twelve Mets runs and lost to the Mets in the greater Shea area for the twelfth time since 1997. You’d think somebody would arrange to schedule these guys more often, but no point in putting too much stress on the Blue Jay that diplomatically lays its golden egg in our nest.

After such a scary late afternoon and early evening of thunder and lightning and assorted precipitation-related mishegas, we got a beautiful night, both in terms of calm skies and busy basepaths. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend an 8:36 PM first pitch, but there was something almost civilized about the improvised start time for this ticketholder. I took a later and mellower train than normal; I ogled a rainbow in the vicinity of Woodside (every sophisticated New Yorker whips out a phone and records the phenomenon for posterity); I found security delightfully less handsy than I’m accustomed to. When I climbed the steps of 509, my choice of rows awaited me. Every seat was damp, but I had the foresight to pack paper towels.

The Mets had the foresight to pound out sixteen hits, several of them in bundles, leading to multiple clusters of runs. The Mets really did score twelve and they really did give up only two. That adds up to winning baseball across leagues, across borders and at home for a change. The Mets hadn’t won in their own ballpark since April 17. They hadn’t won in front of this particular fan since last September. We all got what we came for. Maybe not the Jays, but they’re welcome anytime anyway.

It was good to stand for “O Canada,” something I don’t think I’ve done in public since the Expos ceased to exist. It was good to notice the Maple Leaf flying, however limply, from one of the right field flagpoles. It was good to see Curtis Granderson once more. The Mets played him a returning-hero video and we gave him a couple of richly deserved standing ovations. I don’t know how the Blue Jays felt about seeing Noah Syndergaard, the pitching prospect they gave up in 2012 in the name of Going For It. We gave them R.A. Dickey. Dickey was pretty decent for them, but Thor was young and limitless. He still has potential, some of which has yet to be delivered upon. You looked up in the first and Noah struck out the side. You looked up in the fifth and Noah was past a hundred pitches. Whatever the context of his remarks passed along by the Post’s Mike Puma, Dave Eiland wasn’t altogether off base when he suggested Syndergaard has “yet to do a whole lot at the major league level”.

No doubt the Jays prefer Noah was doing it for them. Even with their former minor league pitcher still grasping for optimal efficiency in 2018, they only reached him for two runs in five innings. The Mets were altogether on base the rest of the time, giddily rounding many of them in rapid succession. A five-run fourth; a three-run fifth; a three-run eighth. Yes, the Mets.

Everybody did something that made coming out in the rain the wise choice. With Michael Conforto sitting versus lefty Jaime Garcia and Yoenis Cespedes’s quad/hip flexor floating unmoored within the mysterious confines of Mets injury protocol purgatory, Juan Lagares emerged from under wraps to knock out four hits, including a triple, and drive in three runs. He even stole a base, which is something Mets are usually too polite to try. Former and perhaps future phenom Amed Rosario was legitimately phenomenal, chipping in three hits, featuring a double that was nearly a homer, but whatever didn’t go out on Tuesday simply kept the carousel spinning. Devin Mesoraco, he of the Devin Mesoraco Trade, homered and scored four times. Luis Guillorme notched his first career RBI. Noah drove in a pair of runs, or as many as he allowed. Seth Lugo didn’t drive in any runs, but he was nearly perfect for three innings of relief.

Baseball should always be so civilized.

The only drawback to the late hour was it eventually cost me my compadres. This outing was organized by Met Maven First Class Matt Silverman, but he had to bolt after seven innings, as he lives about as far as a Mets fan can live from Citi Field while still saying he lives somewhere remotely in the vicinity of Citi Field. The other half of our contingent was the intrepid Uni Watch team of Paul Lukas and Phil Hecken (credit to them for noticing the Mets’ starting infield of Flores, Cabrera, Rosario and Reyes represented four shortstops manning four different positions). They were gone by the fifth in deference to Paul’s stubborn head cold. For a moment, around the eighth, left to my own devices in a mostly deserted Promenade, I thought, well, should I go, too?

Then I realized my own devices are set to being at a Mets game, especially when the Mets are wining by a lot and in the process of adding to their advantage. Of course I stayed. I stayed until Jacob Rhame recorded the final out and Ace Frehley confirmed we were back…BACK in the New York groove, a helluva place to be. The Blue Jays may beg to differ, which would explain why they come around so rarely.