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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Loyalty Rewarded ... for One Night

It was probably the eighth inning when I realized I’d been watching the entire game between the Mets and the Rockies yet wasn’t sure I could name a Rockie who was on the field. I taxed my brain and managed to come up with Michael Cuddyer, but that was because he’d hit a home run. Beyond that? Drew Stubbs or Drew Storen or Franklin Stubbs or someone sort of familiar was in center. And what’s his name who isn’t William behind the plate. You know. That guy.

This isn’t to make fun of the injury-ravaged, ludicrously depleted Rockies. I’m sure there were more than a few viewers out in Denver wondering who the heck Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera were, and in whose mind “Nieuwenhuis” was best left as an auditory smear of vowels. It was a snoozy game even for garbage time, a 1-1 duel that was more flat than taut, played with autumn hammering at the door demanding to be let in.

So I wasn’t paying much attention and the game wasn’t particularly punishing me for it. On Twitter, a member of Mets nation wondered why she was watching this and I noted idly that it was better than the best possible day in January. Which is true, I guess — look out the window and wait for spring, donchaknow. But truth was, I imagined the wait for spring beginning, as it will in a couple of weeks, and I wasn’t particularly sad. It didn’t feel like the end of something, but like a rest.

David Wright doubled with two out in the eighth to bring Lucas Duda was up, but Duda is at one of those points in the development of a hitter where the pitchers have the upper hand. He’s being starved of fastballs, fed nothing but junk and dared to change his swing and sacrifice his power and slap one to left field. So far he can’t or won’t do that; he’ll either adjust and force pitchers to find another way to get him out, or fail to adjust and be exposed. Nothing is decided yet, but Christian Friedrich had read the scouting report and tortured Duda with sliders. He struck out, left Wright at second, and the Mets were down 2-1. It sure felt like a last gasp: The Rockies went down 1-2-3, and old friend LaTroy Hawkins arrived to end things.

Which was when the Mets came leaping out of the coffin.

It only took six pitches. Travis d’Arnaud rifled the inning’s third pitch up the left-field gap for a double, with Eric Young Jr. jogging out to second to take over and do the only thing he can sometimes do. I braced myself for a bunt (which would have been a defensible call, actually), but it wasn’t needed — Curtis Granderson spanked the inning’s fourth pitch for a game-tying triple. I still hadn’t picked my jaw up off the floor and the Mets had gone from giving it a shot to being poised to win it. Up came Wilmer Flores, who lofted the sixth pitch to mid-center.

It wasn’t deep.

It wasn’t anywhere near deep.

Surely Tim Teufel wasn’t going to try it, not with Herrera on deck. (Who would have been walked, leaving it the hands of one of numerous pinch-hitting options.)

Nope, Teufel was going to try it. Granderson looked to me like he was going to be out, either through a tag or a ludicrous application of the Posey Rule. But Stubbs heaved it in the direction of the Rockies’ on-deck circle, Granderson was home free, and the good guys had won.

So a 68-75 team took a garbage-time game away from a 59-84 team. Not exactly the stuff of baseball legends, perhaps, but I had a good time hooting and hollering and watching the highlights. And I’ll still smile about this one when the next 40 or 50 snoozy 2-1 games produce no such reward. If you’re not a fan that probably sounds like madness, but it makes me smile. It’s what we do, win or lose, but it’s nice to be rewarded now and again.

9 comments to Loyalty Rewarded … for One Night

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Amen brother!

  • dmg

    it was increasingly aggravating to watch the punchless mets bedeviled by a team with the worst pitching and road record in baseball. (20 road wins this season. 20.)

    when the mets did nothing in the eighth, i figured that was that.
    then i saw latroy was going to close and thought, ah, the probabilities have just shifted. the outcome brought less joy than relief. that was one dog-ass throw to the plate. an ugly walk-off, though, is still a walk-off.

  • Dave

    The lasting memories of that game will be the stink eye that Td’A gave Hawkins for quick-pitching him, and Gary Cohen somehow saying that EYJr was being sent in to “do what he does best.” Last time we saw EYJr perform his specialty he single-handedly killed a rally by failing to keep his damn foot on 3rd base.

  • The Jestaplero!

    With all due respect, Jason, a bunt in that situation (bottom 9, no out, speedy runner on 2nd), is not only defensible, it’s the right move.

    To bring the runner home from second requires a hit – and even then, scoring from second is not a sure thing. On average, our team currently has a .238 chance of getting a hit.

    A runner on third can, obviously, score under any number of scenarios, fly ball to the outfield, wild pitch, error in the infield.

    This is all assuming, of course, that someone on your team knows how to bunt. Admittedly, I don’t know the stats on this, and brace myself to be corrected…

    • A bunt in that situation raises the chance of scoring a run from 63.7% to 67.4%. (You’ll find different numbers but they’ll generally agree.) Pretty marginal considering outs are precious and there are other ways to move the runner, including a triple past the right fielder. But as I said, it’s defensible.

      The idiot move is wasting an out moving a runner from first to second. Defensible only if you have a pitcher or Ruben Tejada at the plate.

      • The Jestaplero!

        I looked up the stats and apparently yes, the chance of scoring increases marginally in that situation. HOWEVER, if you look at the breakdowns, the chance of scoring ONE run in that situation increases even more. Since the home team tied in the bottom of the ninth needs only one run, the move looks even better.

        Two more points to consider: 1) a significant amount of bunt attempts go for errors and hits, and I think the stat you cite only considers true sacrifices, i.e. bunts that result in outs. 2) moving the runner to third draws the infield in. That fact might already be taken into account in the stat you provided, but I just thought I’d throw that in there. :)

        *Update: I realize my error, that we were actually down by a run and not tied when this happened, but I think my argument still stands.

  • Dak442

    I was folding laundry watching the Giants in my basement and found myself wondering “Why am I watching this?”. It almost felt like another chore – Giants are on, have to watch, even though they are boring and I don’t really care. Until I realized, no I don’t have to watch this! Switched over to the Mets in time for the 8th inning thud, and stuck with it for a very rewarding 9th. Friends and family always wonder why I continue to watch games after the season is a lost cause. Because I get to cheer for things like this!

    Hey, we’re only 6-1/2 out of the wildcard. Didn’t some team blow a 7-game lead with only 17 games to go?

  • Rob

    They have actually played pretty well since September turned, and with several guys auditioning for jobs and an outside shot at .500 (not to mention a bone to pick with Washington), this is not the usual “garbage time” sleepwalk. As far as the races go, yes, the games are meaningless, but in the scheme of Mets development, this September is VERY meaningful. Still not the stuff of baseball legend, but maybe a pebble early on the road that leads to baseball legend.

    • Lenny65

      I agree fully. No, these games don’t “matter” in the grand scheme of things but they matter to us. Some of these guys will be part of the future, some will not. But we’ll never know unless they get the reps and the time for those reps is now. Plus getting to .500 on the year would be a moderately big deal IMO. The Mets need to shake the label of “hapless losers” and finishing at .500 would help destroy that perception a little bit.