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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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Baseball Is Fun

Baseball’s beautiful and elevating and timeless and pastoral and all those good high-minded things, but it’s also a lot of fun — particularly when things go off the rails and the game is played roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble, like it was in the ninth inning tonight. And when you win. That’s important too.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — there was a lot more to like about this game than the frenetic, I-don’t-believe-what-I-just-saw way it ended.

To start a little earlier:

It’s the second series of the year. That may not mean “instant fun” to you, but it does for me. Opening Day is great, and so are the wild overreactions we all have to whatever happens in that first series, when you’re so keyed up that it seems obvious Player A will hit .667 with 100 homers while Pitcher B will go 0-22 with an ERA near 81.00. But the second series is the one that really makes me happy. Teams have stopped doing something silly in Japan, the annoying empty day for April rainouts is behind us, and you have the pinch-me realization that there will be baseball to keep you company pretty much every day or night for the next half-year. So much to discover, so much to dream about, and my goodness it’s wonderful to contemplate that mostly blank schedule and its yet-to-be-written dramas and morality plays and tearjerkers and low comedies and farces and tragedies and triumphs.

I did not freak out about Mike Pelfrey. To my co-blogger’s mild (or perhaps merely suppressed) annoyance, I have a habit of making one Met a year into my personal scapegoat. With Luis Castillo and Alex Cora having vamoosed, Big Pelf has inherited this role, and in the early innings he showed every sign of earning those honors, nibbling and throwing high sliders and stalking around the mound and generally looking as if he didn’t have a plan out there — in other words, looking exactly like Mike Pelfrey looks every single start. After some venomous tweets I threw up my hands — he’s Mike Pelfrey and we’re stuck with him until the farm yields some fresh produce. But Pelf, as he sometimes does, confounded his detractors as well as his defenders, perhaps because that way he can annoy everybody. He hung in there, somehow striking out eight despite Todd Tichenor’s smaller-than-a-breadbox strike zone, and kept the Mets in the game, exiting with a half-full/half-empty pitching line and a no-decision. Of course he did — Mike Pelfrey is the ultimate no-decision.

Ruben Tejada is awesome. He’s working counts with a jeweler’s eye, drawing walks, ramming doubles up the gap and generally looking much improved at the plate, a year after a season that was also much improved. His at-bat in the ninth against Henry Rodriguez was pretty impressive: I never played baseball at a competitive level (or was competitive at any level), but I’m betting it’s not easy to butcher-boy a fastball coming in at nearly 100 MPH. The pitch he finally did bunt was impressive too — Tejada initially pulled the bat back, sensed the pitch was a strike and coolly angled the bat to catch the ball and send it to the right of the mound. In the field, well, we already knew he was awesome — witness his stretch as high as he could reach without coming off the bag at second to sno-cone Ike Davis’s potentially errant throw. His one blemish was an ill-advised cross to third in front of a shortstop with the ball, but hey, let’s call it Ruben’s Amish stitch. (Besides, he got away with it.) I miss Jose — I will always miss Jose — but I really think Tejada is going to be an Edgardo Alfonzo-type player, the kind you know will do everything right and therefore the guy you want in the right spot when it really, really matters.

Josh Thole is learning. The bat looks better, he knocked down several errant pitches … and there was his quick visit out to see Ramon Ramirez, who’d missed with two pitches that might have been strikes on a Tichenor-less night. Ramirez looked agitated and the Nats smelled blood. I don’t know what Thole said, but Ramirez gathered himself and a few moments later the Mets were safely back in the dugout.

Is that the old David Wright? Wright struck out in the bottom of the fifth … for the first time in 2012. He got erased on a very good slider from Edwin Jackson, one close to the plate and not bouncing in the opposite batter’s box. He went down after climbing out of an 0-2 hole to force a 2-2 count. He looked, in other words, like the David Wright of Shea, for whom an 0-2 count meant only that the at-bat was beginning. Hitting .583, alas, is not sustainable. But perhaps calm, cerebral, controlled at-bats are.

Captain Kirk went where he had never gone before. Kirk Nieuwenhuis may not know it, but there’s now mo’ of the Mo Zone — enough mo’ for the kid’s first big-league home run. Who knows how long Nieuwenhuis will be around, but hopefully it’ll be long enough for his fluffy mullet to become the cult symbol it deserves to be. Maybe it can make one of the Mets’ Tuesday t-shirts. (Points also to my wife for noting that Fluffy Mullet would be an excellent band name.)

Murph for President! We all know he can hit. But man, that play to end the top of the ninth — that was a thing of beauty, Murph sprawled in the dirt, Tejada in perfect position, Ryan Zimmerman foiled.

Which brings us, finally, to that nutty bottom of the ninth.

Deep breath before we get it down for posterity.

Mike Baxter hit for Jon Rauch because Rauch is a relief pitcher with a strike zone the size of a minivan and Baxter walked and then Tejada bunted and Henry Rodriguez the pitcher who is not the cheating Expo of years ago alligator-armed the ball into the dirt at Danny Espinosa’s feet and the ball caromed by him and Espinosa turned just far enough to get Tejada’s knee or hand or something in the face as the ball squirted behind him and Baxter took off for third and Tejada took off for second and Espinosa crawled a step and then got up without his glove and chased after the ball and Baxter turned third and came like forty feet down the line and the camera caught R.A. Dickey high-stepping down the dugout and Terry Collins hanging on the railing with his eyes huge like a little kid and Thole actually got over the railing to celebrate at home plate but then Tim Teufel had second thoughts and sent Baxter back and Espinosa got the ball and tried to shake away the cobwebs and Thole scampered sheepishly back over the railing and Baxter fell on his face and everyone in the stands and at home in front of their TVs and looking up in bars went AUUGGHHHH!!!!!! and the gloveless Espinosa grabbed the ball and fired a seed to Zimmerman but it was too late and Baxter was safe and he got up and thought about strangling Teufel but didn’t do that either and everyone involved in the play or watching it needed oxygen and a moment to double-check what had happened.

And than Daniel Murphy came to the plate and rifled one through the infield and got piled on and emerged with both knees intact (like you weren’t thinking the same thing) and the Mets were 4-0 and everything, at least for one more day, was officially awesome.

* * *

Speaking of awesome, a reminder that Sharon Chapman is off and running once more to support the Tug McGraw Foundation‘s ongoing fight against brain cancer. Her next run to raise funds comes at the end of April, in Nashville’s Country Music 1/2 Marathon. When Sharon runs with Team McGraw, it’s always for a good cause in the name of a great Met. Find out more (and maybe contribute if you can) here.

15 comments to Baseball Is Fun

  • Whatever..Just create- and with your help fans- a home field advantage for this team! Win at home first- Keep it simple!

    Rich P

  • 9th string catcher

    I love me some bad new mets! That 9th inning was classic – the only thing missing was the 1812 overture. Watching Tejada made me realize just how much I took Reyes for granted – Tejada is very good; Reyes is a superstar- but I like what I’m seeing. I’m also happy I won’t have to wait for him to return from the DL anymore. And what about that bullpen?

  • [...] Faith and Fear is reminded how much fun baseball can be. [...]

  • InsidePitcher

    Thanks for the plug Jace – I truly appreciate all of the support you and Greg have given my Team McGraw efforts. Ya Gotta Believe!

  • cleonjones

    Keep up the good work! Lets go Mets !!!!!!!!!!

  • cleonjones

    By the way- what is the deal with Jason Bay- third year here and he looks lost.

  • Flip

    Wow, this is fun. You knew if everything fell just right this could be a decent team. But with everything that’s happened the last several years, what are the odds of THAT. I’m still steeling myself for a catastrophic injury or two, Santana petering out, that kind of thing. All the more reason to enjoy games like last night’s with gusto. And cleonjones, you’re right, Bay does look lost, but so does Ike. He of the hitless variety. How does Ike hit with all that motion in his hands. I know it’s a timing mechanism, but it seems even more pronounced this year, doesn’t it? Yet, somehow we have much more faith that he’ll get it together much more quickly than Bay will, if Bay ever does. WHAT AN ENIGMA!(BAY) He actually managed 12 HR’s last year and eked out a .245 average while looking just as lost as he does this year. That tells me he CAN put it together, albeit all too briefly. If they could only just get him going, just think of what this team could do.

    • cleonjones

      Flip, I would love for Bay to get hot. That would really boost the middle of the lineup. But, my gut is telling me it is not going to happen.

  • 9th string catcher

    Bay has lost every shred of confidence hes ever had and will never produce in flushing. He’ll show signs of life here or there but opposing pitchers will never feel threatened when hes up. He has a better chance in another uniform. Ike is rusty and is probably one of those guys who plays better in warm weather – he is from arizona. Also, the four spot in the lineup might be too much pressure right now. But he’ll be fine.

  • Dak442

    You were indeed not the only one hoping Murph would come out of that celebration intact. After what happened to that guy on the Angels, couldn’t a nice high-five and a hearty man-hug suffice?

  • Will in Central NJ

    I was at the game last night but had to leave early (after the top 9th) with the wife and kiddoes to catch the LIRR (not many trains back to Central NJ after a certain point!)

    We were trudging on the boardwalk between the #7 station and the LIRR when, in the darkness, we could hear the distant but unmistakable roar of the joyous crowd’s eruption….twice! It took a half second to realize we WON!! Two eruptions: probably once for the Murphy GW RBI hit, and a second time for the Turner-on-Murph shaving cream pie! Man, this is a fun time…enjoy it, Met fan brethren!

  • vertigone

    It was probably the Tejada bunt/defensive debacle, and then Murphy’s game winning hit.

    Greg Amsinger on MLB Tonight was losing his mind with the following stat…

    “The Mets are 4-0 for the first time since 2007!!!”

    As if,

    A. 2007 was a long time ago
    B. Teams go 4-0 almost every season (except the Mets who haven’t done it since 2007!!!)

    • dmg

      the 2007 start was very deliberate, perhaps more intense than typically found in opening week. the mets had 4 at st. louis, and sweeping the cards was meant to send a statement: that was OUR championship flag you guys are raising. that fire was warming while it lasted.

  • Rob D.

    …..aaaand Wright has a busted pinky. You knew the goos times couldn’t last.

  • 5w30

    It IS the old David Wright. He’s injured. Employee #5 might spend some time on the DL.