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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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Pinball Wizards

I’m not sure what game the Mets and Rockies were playing out there in Denver, but it sure didn’t look much like baseball.

“Playing pinball,” Keith Hernandez blurted on a night he seemed alternately entertained and horrified by the bloodletting down there on the field. That’s pretty close, I suppose. Still, whatever the game was, I’m glad the Mets won it — even if they had to sandwich mini-laughers around a near-death experience to do so.

I mean, my goodness. Twenty-three runs on 29 hits. Sixteen of those hits were for extra bases. Eight of them were home runs. There was no full inning without scoring by one team or the other. There were just three 1-2-3 innings — Christian Bergman in the top of the fifth, Sean Gilmartin in the bottom of the sixth, and Jeurys Familia to end the game. All three of them should receive miniature Cy Young awards. If you took your eyes off the action for a minute you’d turn around to see outfielders chasing a ball up the gap or a pitcher turning away in disgust. It wasn’t safe out there for anyone paid to throw a baseball in anger.

The apex predator to worry about was Yoenis Cespedes, who’s probably thinking that Coors Field might be a pretty good place to set up shop next year. After his second-inning grand slam off the luckless Jon Gray, I asked Twitter how one says “throw that weak-ass shit again, meat” in Spanish. (If you’re curious, I’m told it’s Tirela Otra vez y come mierda, which roughly translates as “pull again and eat shit.” Definitely the spirit.)

Cespedes wasn’t done — he’d crack two more home runs, resulting in the curious stat that the generally underpowered Mets are the first team since the ’11 Brewers to have three different guys hit three home runs in one game. (Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are your other ’15 fence-busters.) With Cespedes rather terrifyingly locked in, it seemed entirely possible that he might become the first Met (and 17th player in big-league history) to hit four. In the top of the eighth Cespedes poked a single through the right side against Tommy Kahnle (pronounced KAIN-lee, for some reason), making him 5-for-5. He came up again in the ninth with a chance to a) hit that fourth home run; b) tie Edgardo Alfonzo with a 6-for-6 night; or c) stroke a triple for the Mets’ 11th cycle. Unfortunately the outcome was d) watch the ball just get intercepted by Carlos Gonzalez‘s glove, because CarGo hates fun.

It was a good night to be a pitcher; not so much to be a pitcher. Poor Bartolo Colon looked like an infantryman sent out to clear mines even before he threw his first pitch; a flyball pitcher and this particular night was not a kindly combination. Colon was excused after 3 2/3 rather terrible innings and being hit by a pitch that made his forearm look like someone had inflated a water balloon beneath the skin.

The heroics of Cespedes and his supporting cast (including Michael Conforto, who hit the most impressive homer of the night) somewhat obscured the fact that the Mets managed give up a six-run lead. It was 8-7 when Gilmartin arrived to try to clean up Colon’s mess and should arguably have been worse than it wound up. In the fifth Gilmartin gave up a single, followed by a game-tying triple. He struck out Brooks Barnes, but pinch-hitter Kyle Parker hit a medium-depth to Curtis Granderson, who has a shallow-depth arm. Say what you will about Granderson, but he makes the most of his abilities: He Granderson positioned himself perfectly and put everything he had behind a one-hop throw to Travis d’Arnaud, but the ball took an odd bounce and Nick Hundley gave d’Arnaud a neat little deke as he slid into home, with one leg coming forward and one pulling back and a hand emerging from the windmilling legs to snatch at the plate. D’Arnaud tagged something, at some point, and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in New York while Schrodinger’s Mets were half-on and half-off the field, the out was confirmed as such.

Was it so? Well … they said it was, didn’t they? Let’s leave it at that. They said it was, and so it was the Mets’ turn to blast away at the paddles and plungers and hope nothing flashed tilt so that someone unplugged the machine and sent everybody home to do something more productive. It wasn’t elegant, but we ended the night with the high score. Hell, you could look it up, even if you’ll barely believe it.

9 comments to Pinball Wizards

  • dmg

    a memorable night. josh lewin on his wrapup called it three games in one — two 7-1 blowouts, followed by a 6-1 game. i’m just glad the mets took the series.

    i didn’t know granderson had that throw in him — looks like he sipped some of cespdes’s powerade. i’m perfectly willing to give him the call on style points alone.

    • Eric

      I liked that, too. Good call by Lewin. The Mets have the best play-by-play men in the business east of Vin Scully.

      Colon knocked around again. True, he was hit on the wrist by Gray, who’s probably counting the days until he can escape the Rockies and Coors Field, and pitching at Coors Field, but it fits his continuing pattern of a pitcher at the end. Hopefully, being shelled last night means Colon’s next start will be a good one.

  • Dave

    Jason, you and I both used the term “arena baseball” in tweets last night. Ridiculous. I was getting tired and Gilmartin didn’t take long to let it get tied at 8, so I had enough at that point.

    But a W is a W, and the Nats are a train wreck. All good.

    • Eric

      Poor Gray. Coors Field is no place to call home for a top pitching prospect.

      It’s a good place to skip a start for Harvey, too.

      Too bad Syndergaard’s turn didn’t come up in this series because right now Syndergaard looks he needs a break to steer away from his rookie wall more than Harvey needs a break for his TJ recovery.

  • Eric

    The Mets lost 4 of 5 games and only dropped their lead from 4.5 games to 3.5 games, then in 2 days, regained the lost ground + .5 games. That’s gotta hurt for Nats fans. Still, I don’t relax as a Mets fan until the Mets’ lead in the loss column > 6 head-to-head games.

    Encouraging sign that Cespedes’s hits were hit the other way except his homer to straight-away center. That’s the kind of adjustment that may herald a Beltran 2004 Astros type of hot streak.

    Glad that Collins didn’t mess around and used Clippard and Familia to finish the game. There’s no such thing in baseball as a really safe lead, which the Mets have demonstrated in more pitcher-friendly venues this season, but no lead is large enough to relax at Coors Field.

    Duda’s back looks like another day-to-day Mets injury that lingers uncured by rest and then segues to the DL. But Wright, at least the Mattingly 2.0 version of Wright, is back on Monday. Swapping Duda for Wright maintains the roster balance by switching infielder for infielder and Duda’s LH bat for Conforto’s LH bat. However, the roster may unbalance again if the Mets carry an extra pitcher (Alvarez) to shore up the bullpen with the spot starter (Verrett). At least it’s only ~10 days until roster expansion, which absorbs roster balance issues.

  • 9th string c

    I’m still really surprised at Washingtons swoon, and really expect them to get it together eventually. Important for the Mets to keep winning games and get to 15 or 20 over .500. I’m pretty sure it’s going to take 90 wins for the division, so regardless of their lead in the standings, they have to get wins like they did last night one way or another.

  • Eric

    I’m generally an anxious Mets fan who remains traumatized by 2007 and 2008, and I expect the Nationals to fight back, but here’s a little happy perspective for today.

    Except for the Royals’ 12.5-game lead over the Twins, the Mets’ 5-game lead over the Nationals is now the largest division lead in the majors.

    • Dennis

      I agree Eric. For the most part I’m an optimistic fan, but I won’t feel comfortable until they are 5 up with 4 to play. Still, this has been a fun season so far an I hope it continues deep into October.