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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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There Comes A Point When You Will Exhale

Phew. Or whew. Or new.

I'll definitely take new. There was too much old in the atmosphere, and I'm not talking about Ralph Kiner in the booth or Jimmy Carter in the stands or Julio Franco in a beautiful doff of the helmet. Them I like. Everything else I feared.

Whether it was the presence of Roger McDowell and Terry Pendleton in the same dugout or the creaky continuation of Brian Jordan as a Major League player or the unwarranted return of Lawrence Chipstein Jones or just about every late loss in that hot tub of horror engrained deep in my gray matter, I could barely function in the bottom of the ninth. It begged to be lost. It cried to be lost. It was bound to be lost.

Only the Braves in Turner Field could make a three-run deficit seem like a tie. Only the Atlantans could find a way to cancel insurance runs just by coming to bat. Only the 11-for-11 National League East champions could make Billy Wagner look like Braden Looper look like Armando Benitez look John Franco look like a cheap watch.

It was only a matter of time before this one got away. Renteria never hits Wagner, Cohen said. So he gets a hit. Chipstein, he of the two-run homer off Pedro (he never hits him either), strikes out, but there's the more dangerous Jones and Dangerous Jones made his elbow a part of it all; HBP, two on. Some nonentity strikes out but then Jeff Francoeur relives his rookie glory. Somehow Renteria doesn't score on the sophomore's hit. It's the bases loaded and it's Billy Wagner showing this uncomfortable habit of not being quite what we paid for and who is he facing?

Todd Pratt.

Forget Arizona and 1999. Don't forget it, of course, but I didn't think it was relevant. It's not like Todd Pratt could touch Wags last week, but then Gary had to go and remind us that Tank caught Billy for the past two years. I've always assumed catchers who face their old pitchers should be able to own them. Then I remembered that Todd Pratt, for his many, many impressive attributes, isn't really much of a hitter. Never was and he sure isn't now. And Billy Wagner, even a Billy Wagner who is more of a Mad Hatters Tea Cup Ride than a monorail, is never going to be mistaken for Matt Mantei.

Like that matters to the man wearing a Braves uniform in Turner Field against the Mets.

But it wasn't Looper and 2005. It wasn't Benitez and 2001. It wasn't Franco and 1998. It wasn't even Jolly Roger getting taken deep by Terrible Terry in 1987 when everything looked so good. It's when everything looks so good that we're in trouble. I'm back in Shea in my mind to the night the magical comeback was close but so gone 19 Septembers ago. And I'm back at Shea in 2001 when Brian Jordan was Andruw Jones (though Andruw Jones was pretty much Andruw Jones then, too) and he was squashing our spirited surge. I'm in whichever ballpark Franco is coughing up a thousand deaths by nicks and cuts and mixed metaphors. And mostly I'm in Turner Field watching Braden Looper turn to goo a year ago.

Except it isn't last year anymore. It really isn't. It isn't any of those years when Braves are giants and Mets are mutts and Turner Field swallows us alive. This isn't one of those years when we're gasping and grasping and trying to move up. We can't move up because we're already on top. All we can do is bring the hammer down.

And we do. Billy Wagner strikes out Todd Pratt on three pitches.

Game over, you tomahawk-chopping dilettantes. Pedro beats Smoltz again. President Carter gets dragged under by a changing tide again. (Sorry, sir, we have to part ways when it comes to that cap you were wearing. But didja catch the size of that footlong Rosalynn was working on? It oughta be suspended for ingesting performance-enhancing substances, not Iriki). David Wright was David Wright for the first time in a little while and Kaz Matsui was Edgardo Alfonzo for the first time in his life and Paul Lo Duca was taking no guff and as much as we need Carlos Beltran back, I sure like what Endy Chavez is doing. Sanchez was perfect and Reyes was clutch and Carlos Delgado made the most productive out of the year.

But I still couldn't breathe fluidly until the bottom of the ninth was history. This is not an outfit against whom you hatch a single chicken ahead of time. This is the bunch that has made an ASS out of U and ME more times than I am able to count. This was the Braves in Turner Field.

Was.

Mets win 5-2, lead the East by six. It doesn't mean a whole lot when there's another game Saturday night, but it means everything right now.

4 comments to There Comes A Point When You Will Exhale

  • Anonymous

    I got a little cocky there. In the sixth, I was starting to think, yeah, we can do this, 3-run lead, Pedro's cruising…but then Smoltz singled off Pedro (literally) and Chipper had his demonic bomb and I knew we were going down. Andruw was gonna launch one too and it would all slip away. But Pedro struck him out. Then Wright with the wide throw…but how about Matsui? He's been a revelation lately, hasn't he? And Sanchez is really starting to worry me. He's too good. It's gotta catch up with him sometime, right? One of those deep fly balls the Braves hit against him periodically is gonna be gone eventually…I don't want it ever to come…But even after that, and after Wright's second smash, looking at that ninth inning I knew again that we were doomed. All those Joneses…but we weren't. Turner Field's foul black magic has lost some of its potency–at least for one night….And I guess it's now safe to say that Pedro's gonna go roughly 30-0. Sounds reasonable, right?…

  • Anonymous

    Ya know…I'm glad you mentioned Kaz. Because of what he did. We've seen too many of these not to know how they go. And long before there was insurance, old friends, and memories of Langerhans and Looper, Kaz Matsui just about singlehandedly saved the game.
    I could see the tailor hemmed double play ball going to right field before Wright even threw it. But once it left his hand, I could really see it.
    And with it, I could see the misery of a thousand Turner losses all rolled into one…
    [I was crouched over my radio, watching the screen through peripheral vision only, as Smirky McFuckhead held the bat high and Murphy told us how it had all ended. I was crouched (again), this time with both pupils in full view of my screen as Johnny Be Good found the strike zone for the very first time on an 0-2 pitch to Brian "Fuckface" Jordan. And I was sitting, glued to my chair, forehead on chin, in utter disbelief and silence as several seasons worth of hopes and dreams were methodically shattered over one long weekend, by a couple of robotic dunderheads named Glavine and Maddux, a manager surnamed for dirty places, and one ghastly pinch-running moron named Payton.]
    The ball was in right field, bouncing toward a bobbling Nady. It had whizzed past every one of us, horizontally from left to right, like a blurry little aspirin. Runs were scoring. Calls were being made to the bullpen and they were brought to us by Bell Atlanta. Some guy named Jones was twisting the knife with a well-timed grand slam and a new baby boy named, less subtly, Fuckyoumets. Sanchez' streak was over, Pedro's toe-bone had broken through the foam, the X-factor was a Non-factor, Monster was more like muenster, Heilman was Bileman, Glavine was complaining about Questec, and Julio Franco had grown a mustache, lost his tan, and was wearing an orange NYC Department of Sanitation t-shirt while warming up in the bullpen. And he was just…older. We were four games up and then three. Then two and then one. Then it was September and we were in a mad scramble for the wildcard; and it just didn't end well. Then it was 2007 and the same tune was about to play again.
    It was crazy.
    But then… something magical happened. Something…magical. We discovered that Kazuo Matsui had put the Phone Booth in San Francisco to good use. His glove was faster than Wright's speeding bullet. He had leapt tall Pete Orr in a single bound. I looked, up in the sky. But it wasn't a bird and it wasn't a plane. It was a…
    [...swing and a drive, deep down the left field line, toward the corner. I was kneeled in dying amazement as it was...outta here. Outta here. The Real Superman had just hit a line drive three run homer just inside the left field foul pole. The Mets had tied a club record with a ten run inning. And they had taken the lead, 11 to 8...]
    And on April 28th, 2006, at Turner Field in Atlanta, for one stomach-turning game-turning dare-we-wish division-turning moment, I swear to you it was bedlam at Shea.

  • Anonymous

    I'm glad someone pointed out the enormity of Mrs. Carter's hot dog. That was truly impressive.

  • Anonymous

    You're absolutely right. Thank God for Kaz. I could just hear Howie Rose's voice in my head (cause I was listening on the radio), even if Matsui had managed to catch the ball, that would have enough to open the floodgates in Turner Field: “…Wright's throw is wide! It pulls Matsui off the bag and everybody's safe!” And that would've been it. Confidence gone, Turner Field would have just swallowed us up like it has almost every other Met team before it. But that's not what happened. And for once, maybe the first time ever, of the two Matsui's in New York, ours was unquestionably the better one.