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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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Flip It and Reverse It

This, too, was the game we’d been waiting for, the game we’d been subconsciously groping for, the game embedded in our DNA. This was the game that signaled perhaps prosperity is neither illusory nor fleeting. This was the game that allowed us to quit looking over our shoulders to see if the worst was gaining on us.

This was the game in which deficits were limited after a harrowing start, in which there was enough talent on the field to make a hypothetical stand definite, in which a comeback moved inexorably from possible to probable to having actually happened, in which the Mets not only roared from behind but remained secure while ahead.

This was the game we imagined when we began letting baseball overtake our imaginations. There was a game at some critical point in our development as fans that told us a scenario like this could and thus would unfold when we needed it. It might have occurred in a pennant race or a postseason series or some seemingly random Saturday night exactly three-and-a-half decades before, but deep down — though we’ve trained ourselves to hide it well — we know how to believe. “To be a Mets fan is to exist in tension between hope and the muscle memory of much disappointment, Mets fan and Times columnist Michael Powell wrote in Saturday’s paper. On Sunday, we catapulted in the direction of hope.

There was a solid enough lineup to take on a less than stellar starter on the other side. There was a home team bullpen to apply sealant when our first Sunday pitcher leaked runs. There was a shortstop for whom tomorrow was the ideal antidote to the day before. The second baseman, a pretty competent fellow at his position normally, looked pretty slick besides.

There was Dillon Gee definitively permitting almost every Brave batter’s run-generating intention to come to fruition for a brief, painful interlude. Almost every Atlantan scalded the Mets’ fifth-and-a-half starter, a designation that seemed appropriate, considering Gee has not seemed fully himself since returning from the disabled list. He’s neither a starter nor a reliever, yet he’s not exactly a swingman. Gee is a free-floating anxiety for the organization to continually project onto the starting rotation. His utility seems like a better idea than it is reality. Dillon was a stalwart in his day. His day wasn’t long ago, but it might as well have taken place in another Met epoch.

Gee buried the Mets twice, at 5-1 and then 8-3. He was gone before the fourth was done. The excavating grace was provided by his opposite number, Mike Foltynewicz, previously seen at Citi Field surrendering Lucas Duda’s 30th home run on Closing Day 2014. I see the name “Foltynewicz” and I think Paul Foytack and Dave Lemanczyk were mashed up by some clever Baseball Reference DJ. I saw the pitcher Foltynewicz and I didn’t think of Shelby Miller or Alex Wood, the two capable Atlanta arms from the previous pair of games. We might not be able to easily spell Foltynewicz, I decided, but maybe we can come back on him a little.

We came back on him (and his successors) a lot. We came back with extreme force. It made for a delightfully bracing gust in a ballpark and season during which the Mets can go for days without plugging in the power. Darrell Ceciliani homered in the bottom of the fourth to make it 8-4. It could have been taken as a tease or it could have been interpreted as a surmountable score. One out later, the surmounting continued apace when Dilson Herrera went deep. Being down 8-5 isn’t easy, but it’s not crazy, not when you’re facing Foytack-Lemanczyk.

By the fifth, it was no longer a Braves kind of day. After Alex Torres finished the fourth for Gee, Terry Collins turned to Sean Gilmartin, the 25th man on the roster most days. Most days when I try to remember who’s available, I count to 24, wonder who I’m missing and then…“oh right, Gilmartin. When did he last pitch?” Gilmartin warms up more than he pitches. He’d warmed up so much in the past week that Collins couldn’t use him Saturday when he really could have used another pitcher.

He used Gilmartin Sunday and the tide kept turning. Mr. Rule 5 Lefty was fresh and untouched by Brave bats. The same crew that raked Gee was shown to its seats by Sean. Nobody reached in the fifth. Only a walk was issued in the sixth. In between, Travis d’Arnaud belted the two-run shot off Brandon Cunniff that made the score 8-7. It was a one-run game now. Atlanta was ahead, but their edge felt less tangible than the Mets’ divisional lead has over Washington.

Yet the Mets are still in first place, even with Max Scherzer dropping complete game, sixteen-strikeout, one-hitters at will. That’s because in the bottom of the sixth Juan Lagares (who looked distressingly human on two plays in center) walloped the necessary blow in the bottom of the sixth, a three-run job that added an extra ‘L’ to Luis Avilan’s name. The Mets now led, 10-8, barely two innings after they trailed, 8-3. Seven unanswered tallies lit the Citi scoreboard, all of them on the wings of young men’s home runs, the most desirable flights the LaGuardia area has to offer.

It could have still become one of those games, one in which the next Met reliever undoes all that good work and you’re left peering down the tunnel and praying Mike Piazza is swinging in the cages, preparing for when Terry Mulholland enters, but nothing that dramatic was needed. The Mets crafted their little miracle like it was no big deal in the middle of the game. In the innings that followed, Bobby Parnell resumed his reacclimation, Herrera reminded us what a true second baseman is capable of (robbing horrifying Freddie Freeman with a sparkling dive and glove flip to end the eighth), Wilmer Flores redeemed his Saturday misadventure by fielding perfectly adequately, Danny Muno graciously kept Anthony Recker company on their business trip to Nevada and Jeurys Familia shortened the game considerably. Once the Mets nosed ahead, my thoughts turned to the closer: Just get it to the ninth and we’ll be all right. Jeurys came on with two out in the eighth, setting up Herrera’s magic act, but the effect was the same.

I don’t know what was more remarkable: the Mets coming back from five down or being confident the Mets closer wasn’t necessarily going to screw it up. The Mets got to 10 runs and the Braves were kept at 8 and the psychic damage inflicted by Saturday’s debacle was, if not erased, then at least negated. Instead of losing one you were sure they were about to win, they won one you could have reasonably assumed they were destined to lose. If hitters can keep homering and the closer can keep closing and somebody settles in at third, we might actually convince ourselves a team that was good enough to win in unlikely fashion on Sunday is good enough to win any day.

It was just one game. But, oh my, what a game!

15 comments to Flip It and Reverse It

  • Rob E

    Great win, definite high point, it ROCKED, and when you look at the guys involved, let’s just credit that to the lessons learned when young players get a chance in Baseball School.

    It was Familia nailing it down, it was Lagares dropping a fly ball over the wall, and Ceciliani, a replacement for a backup (with 35 ML at bats) hitting his first major league HR (and if you want to credit him for being the spark that lit the fire, have at it). And Flores, Herrera, and d’Arnaud deserve koodoos, too. The resilience and determination I saw yesterday I liked a LOT. To be fair, Atlanta’s bullpen “left it on the bus” yesterday, but credit the Mets for making them pay.

    So rejoice if you will, revel if you must (you’ve earned that!), but don’t get post-season drunk just yet; what happened yesterday is NOT something that has happened many times in 2015. But it sure looked like it COULD be! Today is another day (and may it be just as bright!).

  • Shawn B

    I would have been so disappointed if the Hendu game was not referenced. But, Greg, you NEVER disappoint.

    Wonderful entry. Wonderful win.

  • LA Jake

    Another day, another awesome entry (and more fun to read because of the win). My six-year-old has started watching games with me at times and often (but not always) roots for the Mets with me. He’s always asking if somebody has hit a home run and yesterday we had been discussing how many runs score depending on how many men are on base.

    He had been playing in another room but walked in with the score 8-7 in the 5th and I told him two men were on base. He gleefully explained if the Mets hit a home run they would be ahead 10-8. Alas, the Mets didn’t score. But after leaving to play some more, he came back right as Lagares was about to hit in the same scenario in the 6th, and was as excited as I was when the ball left the yard.

    We may suffer mightily as Mets fans, but I do think it makes the good times feel that much better.

    • Dave

      Jake – your last sentence sums it up perfectly. We appreciate it when it happens. I dare any Yankee fan to really explain the feeling of any one of the Series wins from whenever it was during their most recent evil dynasty, they all blend together, they’re all like spoiled rich kid birthright. But I still remember exactly where I was and what my reaction was when the Mets won the 69 Series, when Seaver’s almost perfect game was broken up, when the ball went through Buckner’s legs, when Ventura hit the grand slam single, Johan’s no-hitter, etc, and I know other long-time Mets fans do too.

      Yesterday’s game was a very good sign…those are the types of games that show resolve and that good teams win. Next time they’re down by a few runs, even if they don’t come back, they’ll be more confident that they will come back next time.

  • Michael G.

    Brings back memories of the June 30, 2000, game in which the Mets, trailing the Braves 8-1 in the bottom of the 8th at Shea, scored 10 runs and prevailed 11-8, the hitting fireworks followed by the real thing. May the 2015 Mets follow the 2000 team’s example and make it to the World Series, winning this time.

  • LA Jake

    Michael G, playing by that script, does that mean you want another shot at the Evil Empire?

  • Lou from Brazil

    Farewell Dillon Gee, you always captured that blue collar, everyman spirit; albeit in millionaire pitcher form. Here’s to hoping you don’t latch on with someone in the NL. Unless of course, you wish to serve it up like you did yesterday…

    • Dave

      I’ve always thought that by the time Gee’s career is over, he’ll have 10-12 years in the majors under his belt, albeit with about 8 different teams. Standup guy, overachiever, easy to like as a fan, but not indispensable. But also evidence that while you can’t have too much pitching, you can have too many pitchers. And it’s better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late. If Alderson had shopped him around after 2013, at which point he had won in double figures 2 out of 3 years and was making next to nothing by starting pitcher standards, he could have gotten something for him and signed one of the Aaron Harangs/Kyle Lohses/Edwin Jacksons of the world as a stopgap until the prospects were ready. Now instead they’ll be lucky if they get a non-prospect minor leaguer for him.

      Losing track of who’s on the team at this point.

  • Mark

    I’m so glad I didn’t turn it off when it was 5-1. Obviously, Lagares is hitting better because his side injury is healing. He’s been playing hurt but in June – his bat is raking! Thrilled to see the bench contributing & for Ceciliani to come through BIG! Maybe Ceciliani can spell Grandy & Cuddyer at times. Still shocking how much Grandy strikes out – I believe he has surpassed Duda & Cuddyer for that dubious honor!

  • mikeL

    wishing dillon gee all the best and that he lands on his feet in a good situation, as a starter.
    definitely a rough go for it since the attempt to trade him during the off-season.
    especially rough for him to get shelled and booed after losing his grandmother. a change of scenery and a little time should do him a world of good.
    always a guy i wanted to root for – with the occasional flashes of brilliance that suggested something more.
    now though we will soon get to see just how good mr. matz’ stuff is!
    and yes, a stellar comeback yesterday.
    don’t know whether it’s done at citi these days, but those late inning blasts and the bullpen’s holding the lead sure warranted some mock tomohawk chop-chants!
    special props to mr d’arnaud for picking up where he left off, and to mr ceciliani for bringing some gutsy multi-tools to the bench. i like him alot.
    now to keep the momentum going against a juggernaut and some old friends!

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