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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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The Hits Just Stop Coming

“Bobby Knight told me this, ‘There is nothing that a good defense cannot beat a better offense.’ In other words, a good offense wins.”
—Dan Quayle, Vice President of these United States for four years

Pitching and defense are splendid, except when they’re deployed against you. Jordan Zimmermann and three National relievers outpitched Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero Wednesday night. Washington’s fielders, when called upon, thwarted Met hitters. They weren’t called upon all that often. Nobody scored very much, but the Nationals scored just a little more than the Mets.

That’ll sully an undefeated season right there.

The Mets, despite the too many cooks who are or aren’t preparing their lineups, didn’t hit. When they did hit, it was right at somebody. No doubt there’s an advanced metric that suggests they did what they were supposed to do but dumb luck got in their way. As did the occasional well-placed Washington glove.

DeGrom could have been sharper yet was still plenty effective: six innings, six strikeouts, a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman and nothing else of substance. Perhaps he was taken out of his groove by the rained-back starting time, but that would assume Zimmermann didn’t have to deal with the same meteorological issue. He dealt just fine.

There was one promising inning-top at Nationals Park. It was potentially beautiful before it became incredibly frustrating. Down two-zip with one out in the second, Murphy singled. Then Lagares singled. Then d’Arnaud singled. Bingle, bingle, bingle, here comes a run. Then here comes the eight-hitter, who looked a lot like the pitcher.

Why, it was the pitcher. Or maybe that should be phrased as “why was it the pitcher?” I’m still not sure how this gimmicky little LaRussian wrinkle is supposed to yield wonders, but the Mets — at the behest of Collins or Alderson or mystery guest Bob Geren — continue to pull that adorable rabbit out of their hat now and then. Here and now, with runners on first and second and still only one out, was the time for Jacob deGrom to make the supposedly clever bunny appear brilliant.

What was up, Doc? Nothin’ good.

Jacob the decent-hitting pitcher was ordered to bunt and he bunted badly and Zimmerman (the first baseman with one ‘n’) dove and caught it before it could at least bounce foul, meaning there were two out and two runners unable to advance. Nine-hitter Wilmer Flores, who’s apparently the starting shortstop for his range, next cued an infield single to load the bases.

Curtis Granderson then came up and, with a full count, took strike three from Zimmermann (the pitcher with two ‘n’s). Strike three bore a striking resemblance to ball four; it was probably separated at birth from a pitch that was correctly called high for a bases-loaded walk in another stadium somewhere. Didn’t matter down by the ol’ Navy Yard, though. The Mets slapped the side of this ketchup bottle of a half-inning with four base hits, yet could get no more than a lone run to trickle out.

They proceeded to collect two hits over the next seven innings. Neither was proximate to the other and neither of them was a home run. The manager had referred to the lineup card as his “hammer” during the pregame. He neglected to use the adjective “Nerf”. DeGrom persevered and Montero took to his new role, but those performances served as consolation prizes amid the cold and the damp and the offensive futility of a 2-1 defeat. The sizzling bats of Port St. Lucie never seemed so far away.

Three observations to leave behind alongside the first loss of 2015 (besides the cloying Terms of Service reminders you’ve probably already clicked on yourself, including but not limited to it’s just one game; you can’t expect to win them all; Zimmermann’s an extraordinarily tough customer; sometimes you just gotta tip your cap; lineups don’t really matter; managers have practically no impact on outcomes; yada; yada; and yada):

1) There doesn’t seem to be a National of tenure who isn’t automatically described as “a real Met-killer”;

2) Sean Gilmartin has three first names, not even counting his middle name Patrick;

3) Matt Harvey is about to have himself a Day. Haven’t been able to say that in a while. Win, lose or no-decision, TGIHD.

13 comments to The Hits Just Stop Coming

  • Daniel Hall

    Can we stop auto-killing the second inning with this pitcher-batting-eighth brain fart right now, and fill in the lineup card like it is supposed to be?

    Sigh. At least it’s only about ten more hours till the Dark Knight Rises to slay the red-clad Nosferatu. Sounds like another 2-1 cruncher.

    Actually, I saw the Tigers twice already this season, owing to day game treats, and – wow – do they have an offense! Can’t argue against anybody in their lineup. With the Mets, the arguing starts in the leadoff spot and the burning question why Granny Granderson is plugged in there when we were sold for a month – and bought into – that Lagares would lead off. We approved. Now it’s back to the same old thing, with which I mean Granderson. I’d bat Granderson *eighth*, the automatic out right *ahead* of the *pitcher*.

  • Dave

    Or to paraphrase the gentleman from Indiana who for 4 years made a nation pray for Bush the Elder’s health, “what a waste it is to lose one’s offense, or not to have an offense at all.”

    All you who complained about how unbearably long Spring Training is, I hope you’re happy now. In Spring Training the Mets could hit. Need more opposing Double A pitchers wearing number 79.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    The theory of hitting the pitcher 8th, the way alleged genius Tony LaRussa explained it was that by batting Pujols 3rd, he always gets to bat in the first inning, and then after the lineup turns over with “the second leadoff hitter” in the 9 hole, Pujols becomes a cleanup hitter for the remainder of the game, and might get 20 more at bats during the season. Of course, the logic fails, because your 9th hitter, who is supposed to be a table setter type, gets 140 less at bats a season than if you hit him 1st or 2nd.

    Then again, I’ve always felt that applying the genius label to Mr. LaRussa is the equivalent of calling Randy Johnson Shorty.

    Terry Collins takes this whole idea beyond absurdity. In what bizarro world is Wilmer Flores a “second leadoff hitter?” And why is the only player we have who could be considered a legitimate leadoff hitter batting 6th? You could put the 9 starters names in a hat and draw them randomly and come up with a better lineup than Terry constructed last night.

    After watching the game and seeing the heroics of Zimmerman and Zimmermann, I can only think that Terry followed the advice of a Mr. Robert Zimmerman from Minnesota who said “Everybody must get stoned.”

    • Dennis

      Was never a fan of LaRussa either, but the “genius” has won 3 World Series.

      Still…..I really don’t get this whole picther batting 8th idea. I’m certainly no baseball strategy expert, but it’s like trying to reinvent the wheel. It really serves no purpose at all other than to be different.

      • Left Coast Jerry

        He won 3 World Series because he had the players to get him there. Terry Collins could win a World Series with the 1927 Yankees…well, maybe.

        • Dennis

          True, but you could say that about any manager who won the World Series…..they had the players. Although the 2006 team he won with weren’t exactly a powerhouse. On the other hand there have been many others who had the players but didn’t win either……so there you go.

  • Rochester John

    The Larussa strategy in question was, indeed, designed to get Albert Pujols more at bats and more RBI opportunities. When the Mets get themselves an Albert Pujols, I’ll be more than willing to reconsider my objections to said strategy.

  • Matt

    As the season rolls out, I’d like to see what else doesn’t matter. Line-ups was a new one. I congratulate sabremetricians for that. I never for one second thought a line-up wouldn’t matter.

  • Rob E

    I don’t know that any conclusive stats have been culled about batting the pitcher 8th, and in this particular case I don’t see what has been gained OR lost, except it has provided fodder to criticize Terry Collins simply because it’s unconventional. If that’s all you’ve got, that’s pretty weak (that goes to all the radio guys that were also killing him yesterday). I don’t see what was gained, but I don’t see what everyone is complaining about, either.

    deGrom can handle the bat, so Collins didn’t weaken the lineup batting him 8th; on the other hand, Flores isn’t an automatic out and isn’t particularly speedy, so Collins didn’t really gain anything by flip-flopping him & deGrom. In theory, you are trying to bunch “two leadoff hitters,” except your actual leadoff hitter isn’t really a leadoff hitter, and the guy you’ve moved to 9th isn’t a leadoff hitter either, so that point becomes moot. But I applaud Collins for at least trying SOMETHING.

    The takeaway here is that they did NOT lose because of the batting order, they lost because one of the best pitchers in baseball on one of the best teams in baseball pitched a great game against them (in which their own guys pitched an excellent game). But they’ve split against Scherzer & Zimmerman, and Harvey is pitching the rubber game. I’ll take that every day of the week.

  • Daniel Hall

    Harvey batting ninth today. Granderson still playing and leading off, though.

  • chuck

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2015/franchise_four.jsp?c_id=nym

    OT, but wanted to feed you guys another subject for a future post.

    And for me, Seaver, Gooden, Wright, Kranepool.

  • […] I only do wins. I haven’t done a loss since April 8, which was the second game of the year, and I was pretty prickly about it then. I don’t think I know how to do that kind of game anymore.” “Don’t give me that. […]