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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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Making a Good Plan Better

The Mets have used a simple formula to get past the Dodgers and 3/4 of the way past the Cubs:

  1. Combine great starting pitching with a shutdown ninth inning.
  2. Wait for Daniel Murphy to do something awesome.

It’s worked pretty well … but the Mets are adding ingredients to the recipe.

We’ll get back to the latest legends of Murphtober and the work of Jacob deGrom in a moment, but first, the new ingredients.

In Game 3 against L.A., Yoenis Cespedes launched a ball into the Citi Field night that threatened the International Space Station — perhaps the longest, loudest, exclamation-pointiest homer I’ve ever seen at our park. After that, though, Cespedes looked like every swing was an attempt at a sequel, with underwhelming results.

Until tonight.

Tonight Cespedes lashed a ball up the gap to give the Mets a first-inning lead, just missed a home run in the third, slapped one past second in the sixth, and hit a scorching line drive that ate up Kyle Schwarber for a single, however generously scored, in the seventh. Oh, and he stole third with one out in that wacky sixth and then tormented Trevor Cahill and Miguel Montero, scooting home on Michael Conforto‘s strikeout that bounded off between the Cubs’ on-deck circle and the big 14 for Ernie Banks to give the Mets the lead.

Another potent addition to the mix: David Wright. I’d had a feeling Wright would come around: He was working good counts and controlling the strike zone. But the small sample sizes of the postseason can be cruel as well as kind: Sometimes you’re not around long enough for the numbers to even out. So it was great to see David collect three hits, with a pair of identical line singles over shortstop and a hustle double down the left-field line. If the Mets can add a couple of hot bats to the insanity that is Murphtober, well, look out anybody and everybody.

Not that we aren’t pretty close to that point already. DeGrom had a somewhat similar game to the finale in L.A., albeit with fewer hairsbreadth escapes, which was just fine with me — he was searching for his fastball early and dealing with constant traffic, but toughed it out until the fastball clicked and let him zip through a couple of final innings.

And Murph? Well, my goodness, what can you say at this point? The latest home run was the headline-grabber, but the more impressive feat was that trip around the bases in the seventh. He ground out a tough at-bat against Travis Wood, then busted his butt to first on a little bounder to Kris Bryant, turning the Cubs third baseman’s brief feel for the seams into an infield hit. When Schwarber couldn’t corral Cespedes’s liner Murph went from first to third, never stopping on a ball that landed at Schwarber’s feet. Then he got a great break on Lucas Duda‘s high bounce to Anthony Rizzo, sliding home an inch ahead of Montero’s tag. Seeing the ball well is one thing, but Murph essentially willed himself through 360 feet of basepaths there.

That inning also erased the sour taste of the weird ending to the sixth. Conforto’s run-scoring strikeout may well join the decades-long litany of head-shakery for Cubs fans, but Wilmer Flores‘s roller into the ivy threatened to do the same for our side, with a hard-earned run snatched away — properly according to the Wrigley Field ground rules but appallingly according to common sense. After having disposed of a parade of Cy Young-caliber pitchers, were the Mets really going to be undone by vegetation?

The heroics of Murph & Co. made that but a passing bit of paranoia. De Grom turned in a strong final inning, Tyler Clippard worked around a Dexter Fowler double, and Jeurys Familia completed his task before the encroaching rain threw a joker into the deck.

And so, tomorrow. A ballyhooed New York team that’s playing golf right now could tell you that taking the first three in a best-of-seven is no guarantee of anything. Nothing is to be taken for granted. Nothing. But young fireballer Steven Matz gets the ball, while Murph and Cespedes and Wright and the rest of the gang get the bats, and Familia will be ready for the call. And that’s a formula that’s worked pretty well so far.

45 comments to Making a Good Plan Better

  • Lenny65

    Great post and you are 100% correct: you take NOTHING for granted until out #27 is firmly squeezed within glove. That said, what a huge win. To go into Wrigley and put up a 3-0 series lead, wow. Tomorrow night is going to be one of the most terrifyingly anticipated Mets playoff games ever and I never tire of saying that.

  • mikeL

    taking NOTHING for granted here either but it’s gotta suck even more TODAY to be a cubs fan.
    our mets have three chances to get their game 4 win. starting tomorrow.

    that ball in the ivy came in (a distant) second only to the chase ugly slide in moments of outrage for me during this post-season.

    a ball that has possible inside-the-park written all over it scores NOTHING??

    the ivy is quaint and all that but yes appalling. my solution: long term – no ivy for bottom 6″ of wall so rollers like that would be immune from ground rule madness. short term – mets need to put up a big inning and put this crap to rest.

    we know the rest!

    let’s go mets.

    go get ’em matz…and all the guys not named murphy; we KNOW he can’t hit another one tomorrow!

  • dmg

    i loved the scoring strikeout — that’s when you knew, and more importantly, the chicago fans at wrigley knew, that the mets mojo was more than a match for cubs karma.
    one more to go. one.

  • Mark

    I love how we’ve been underestimated ALL year – Nats were supposed to win the East easy. We win it by 7 games. Dodgers w/ Kershaw & Greinke? Not a chance – L.A. pundits pick a 3 game sweep. We beat em in 5 and drive the dagger in deep to clinch in their back yard. And once in the NLCS – Cubs Cubs Cubs. They hit homers all day – we never stand a chance. We are up 3-0. And yes, it aint over till it’s over and IF we are lucky enough to make the WS – I hope we’re STILL the underdog. And I have to say, TBS is supposed to be national network but Ernie Johnson doesn’t even try and hide that he wants the Cubs to win. They hit a fly ball out and he is creaming with excitement. The Mets score a run and he has a quiet dejection in his voice. It’s ridiculous.

    • mikeL

      well, IF these mets can wrap it up (in game 4-7) poor ernie will have to work through his cubs-homer pain on live tv.
      hopefully ron darling will have an orange hanky for him!
      as for all of the prognostications, i was rooting for st louis to win the DS, lest we have to face the ’29 yankees incarnate in the cubs. maybe they’ll rake tonite, maybe things will go their way (though i doubt it), but it’s
      such a strange place – after such a wild ride this season – to be feel like THE 2015 NY METS ARE THE BEST OF THE BUNCH STILL STANDING.
      tonite the mets need to keep the foot on the throats, put the pedal to the metal, give 110%, play to win and with no ‘i’ in team, and whatever-sports talking-head-vernacular fits… wrap this up, celebrate and take it all in for a few days!
      and for all of the earlier talk of TC now having to go up against the supremely-genius maddon (who i admire nonetheless), who has been making great move after great move?
      hoping matz pitches THE game of his young baseball life, in chicago, tonite!
      very excited!
      LET’S GO METS!

      • Eric

        Good point. The contrast is striking.

        In the DS, the Mets faced the toughest out in terms of a 5-game series against the Cy Young pitching of Kershaw and Greinke. Both pitchers lived up to their billing – deGrom simply outdueled them, plus Murphy and raking over Anderson in game 3.

        Against the Dodgers, we figured their weaker line-up helped the Mets pitchers match the Dodgers’ Cy Young favorites. In the CS, the formula flipped. The young athletic Cubs sluggers eliminated the cream-of-the-NL 98-win Pirates and 100-win Cardinals. The Cubs boasted a Cy Young favorite of their own, a reputable number 2, had just raked over the Cardinals’ vaunted pitching, and promised to wear on the Mets starters to expose the underbelly of the Mets’ middle relief. That hasn’t happened. They’ve handled the Cubs line-up as well as they handled the Dodgers, better even. They’ve caught up to a few, but there’s been no automatic double on the Cubs like Justin Turner.

        The team that in June looked like it had starting pitching, a closer, a lead-off man, and nothing else, right now looks like the superior team in every phase of the game. The Mets are even manufacturing runs now.

        Besides playing well, the Mets are clearly the better prepared team. Kudos to Collins.

        • Lenny65

          And there seems to be a certain “unflappability” about them too. They take it a game at a time, they’re not easily rattled, they don’t take the bait, so to speak. The way they handled the Utley thing spoke volumes IMO, no retribution, no ridiculous quotes, just win baby!

  • Daniel Hall

    Well we got another favorable pitching matchup in Game 4 before it would be two largely even games (although the Cubbies never score for Lester, and Arrieta’s arm is definitely ready to fall clean off).

    I’m grinning madly. I fear someone will call the cops on me. Gotta go outside though, earn some bread and such.

    What a magical month!

  • eric1973

    I’m not counting the money yet, I assure you, but this series has been so controlled, and so even-keel. No heart-thumpers, just everyone playing up to, and over, their potential.

    Pitching is frighteningly good. If the Mets of 1969-1976 had any hitting at all, the Seaver-Koosman-Gentry-Ryan-Matlack years could have been a dynasty.

    Overconfidence reaching such dangerous levels, I will need to watch tonight’s game in a Hazmat suit.

  • kdbart

    I wonder how all those in #MetsTwitter Town who tweeted “Season Over” at the slightest little bobble along the way are doing today?

  • open the gates

    Man oh man. This postseason has had everything. Daniel Boom continuing his Carlos Beltran (pre-Mets) impression. Cespedes coming home on the wild pitch strikeout, shades of Mickey Owen. Even the ivy thing adding to the suspense. Old Man Wrigley trying to beat the invaders, only to be stymied by Murphy the Goat. Surreal. And delightful. This season will not soon be forgotten.

    Let’s put ’em away tonight, boys. LGM.

    And I was going to say this at some point in the postseason. Wonder how Jenrry Mejia is feeling right about now?

  • Dave

    And to think that a few months back, many of us thought the April 11-game winning streak was where the 2015 Mets would peak. And with a roster filled with the likes of Mayberry, Muno, Monell, Ceceliani etc, who could blame us? How many of us feared the late season losing streak was a harbinger of a quiet and quick postseason exit? Like the late Joaquin Andujar told us, you can sum up baseball in one word – you never know.

    And how great is it to see New York belong to the Mets once again?

  • Left Coast Jerry

    We must congratulate Kyle Hendricks. With one swing of Murphy’s bat, Hendricks is now entitled to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kershaw, Greinke, Lester and Arrieta.

  • Eric

    Harvey, Syndergaard, and deGrom all have had statement games in the play-offs.

    Like Harvey in the NLDS game 3 win, Matz pitched just okay in the NLDS game 4 loss, but between his injury-riddled season and his rotation mates coming up big in the post-season, Matz has been overshadowed. It’s Matz’s turn now to announce his arrival as a Mets ace by shutting down a Cubs team that’s backed into a corner to clinch the National League pennant.

  • Dennis

    Terrific post Jason! Another great night in an October filled with them. Nice to see Cespedes and the Captain have big games. Hope they can put the hammer down tonight and get ready for the World Series! LGM!!!!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Not to give TBS any credit at all, but they did come up with a good clip of Conforto being taught the very same Ivy tactic in the outfield during the pre-game workouts.

    But, how come, after 54 years of the Mets and The Ivy (“Off the Ivy!!!”, perhaps my favorite Bob Murphy phrase) I never heard of this rule until last night.

    • Dennis

      You’re not the only one….I never knew about it either. Ball getting stuck in the ivy probably isn’t something that happens too often, and I’m sure it’s never happened against the Mets. Just glad the missed run didn’t come back to haunt them later in the game.

      • Eric

        I knew there were ground rules for the ivy. I didn’t know they were fixed ground rules and the fielder could just throw up his hands and the ump was obligated to call the play dead. I thought the fielder had to make an effort at the wall to field the ball and if he couldn’t retrieve the ball, then the ump made a judgement call.

        • kdbart

          I knew about the ground rule but I thought there was a stipulation that it was up to the ump’s discretion to allow a runner from first to score if they felt they would’ve scored easily if not for the ball being stuck in the ivy.

      • Daniel Hall

        Since the Cubs play lots of day games, and those are normally all I can grab during the regular season, I see the Cubs a lot. And I can confirm that the ball gets stuck all the time in the ivy, even on fly balls that would normally carom hard off the wall.

  • cleon jones

    Lets go Mets!!!!!!!!!

  • Ed Rising

    How about the Cubs pitcher throwing one ball after another in the dirt and then on strike three a wild pitch! – Cespedes scores go ahead run! I mean you just gotta feel something special is happening. Lets Go Mets!

  • EricO

    It’s just so gratifying that for every potential “head-scratchery” moment the Mets have been victim to, we’ve gotten at least one back in our favor. The Flores error and Conforto flop in NLDS Game 5, Familia not covering the bag in Game 2, line drive off of Harvey, and the ivy last night. Each could have turned into a disaster like the Toronto dropped popup. Amazingly, instead we get a bunch of fielding gaffes from uncovered bags to double-clutches by the opposition, the strikeout run, and a (figuratively) unconscious Murph!

    Another potential one was d’Arnaud’s play on the funky foul ball that mysteriously turned and went fair. In another time (*cough* Payton 2000 WS), d’Arnaud might have assumed it would stay foul and not pursue it, leading to a big rally. Not these 2015 Mets: he pounced and was right there when it came back and threw the dude out. No head-scratchery on his watch!

    Admittedly it feels weird to be the beneficiary of all this. Instead of our little mistakes adding up to futility like paper cuts, we’re actually overcoming them and getting our own! It’ll take some getting used to, but wow it feels good!

    • Rob E.

      I don’t look at them as being “beneficiaries.” All teams make little mistakes; the Mets have just outplayed their mistakes these past two series. They’ve been tight defensively, aggressive and heady on the basepaths, very focused…they’ve done the things that open the door for good things to happen. It DOES feels weird, but it’s weird because it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Mets team seize the moment like this one has, I don’t feel like there’s been some kind of cosmic shift (though if there WAS we’ve certainly paid for that many times over!). To their credit, they’ve played these two series as if they were 100% prepared. Let’s keep it going and let’s cross the next river!

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    Great read Jason! I love that the Mets won tonight with a lot of little things adding up.

    Cespedes steals 3rd, Murphy beats out infield hit and throw home, etc.

    Did Lucas Duda actually bunt down the 3rd base line? Do you suppose that was a called sacrifice or was he bunting for a hit?

    Let Go Matz!….Go for the throat!

    • Definitely bunting for a hit. Which wasn’t really a good idea, but whatever gets Lucas going mentally.

      • Rob E.

        I actually thought it was a great idea. The shift kills Duda, he’s a big double-play threat who’s slumping, they already had a guy on first with nobody out in a tie game, and they were giving him the single. I’ll take that every day of the week. The bunt wasn’t a great one (understandably so), but I’m down with the thinking. Even though we had to settle for the sacrifice, it still played a key role in helping them take the lead for good.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Watched this one in the Playwright on 35th with The 7 Line Army and boy was it WILD! A great night. Being here this week is Amazin and there’s more to come :-)

  • Pete In Iowa

    As I sit here in the heartland reading these comments — another great win, a memorable October, the WORLD SERIES for God’s sake — I am pleasantly reminded of how the late Casey Stengel described the Mets.

  • Gil

    First time long time for the F&F blog. Great job. been enjoying reading this for a while. Pure excitement has drawn me to comment.

    We have the Rally Parakeet, They have the black cat. We have the Rally Raccoon, they have a cursed goat. We have Seinfeld, they have Bartman. But most importantly, we have the arms, they do not. I wanted deGrom for the 8th, but Terry and Clip proved me wrong. Terry pulling all the strings. Metros on fire. Don’t touch the money, though. 3 nails hammered into the Cubs coffin. One more before the Cub funeral at the Wrigley morgue. Lots of ‘cub face’ in the stands there last night in the 8th/9th. I think the young Matz gets it done tonight. Perhaps with a little help from Don Bartolo.

  • Eric

    Kudos to Collins.

    The Mets are doing the little things right. Despite that Maddon owns the great reputation and Collins is oft-criticized, the Mets look like the team that went to school on the Cubs and the Cubs look like they just showed up and called ‘next’.

    In his first go at play-off baseball, where the manager makes a greater difference as the details become magnified, Collins and his staff have been outstanding.

  • eric1973

    I knew the ivy was a Ground rule double, but I didn’t know the umps had no discretion regarding the runner on 1B.

    For Fan Interference, I beieve they do have discretion.

    They are very discreet when it comes to that.

    TC was more animated on this play than on the Chase Utley play, where he really had a better case, and someone even got a broken leg.

    Go figure.

    I liked Duda bunting. He generally lacks confidence, and doing something helpful might give him a boost. TC should let him take out the lineup card tonite. Might do wonders.

    LG Matz!

  • 9th string catcher

    Loved Duda s bunt. Putting team before self to a huge degree. I wanted Eric young on the roster because he could manufacture a run in the late innings, but now the whole team is getting into the act.

    I hope he does more of it to make the other team honest. Could open up more ground on the right side if they have to defend the left.

    This team seems to be learning and growing with every game. It’s a wonder to watch.

  • eric1973

    Daniel Hall — What is the ruling if the OF is faking it, and he throws up his hands when the ball can be seen? Does the ump NOT rule the play dead, and runners can circle the bases?

    Daniel Murphy — For 8 years, I never heard this guy speak — not a single word. He was kinda portrayed as a dunce. But hearing him now, night after night, he sounds VERY smart about hitting, and sounds real down-to-earth rather than the self-conscious pap we get from Wright every night. Murphy is a breath of fresh air, and really too bad he did not emerge as a team leader until very recently.

  • 9th string catcher

    World Freakin’ Series. Now that’s amazing. Hats off to Matt from Richmond – he called it months ago!

  • mikeL

    too, too, much!
    we get nearly a week to soak it in.
    perhaps murph’s nightly HR’s won’t seem so darn routine(!) with a from a slightly farther vantage point.
    great to see duda break out, not a game too soon!
    (and they made it look easy getting there after shutting down LA!)
    cheers everyone!

    • Eric

      Complete domination of the favored 97-win Cubs who had eliminated the 98-win Pirates and 100-win Cardinals. Kershaw and Greinke were the big hurdle.

      The Mets can use the time off with the NLCS sweep. Cespedes and others nursing hurts. deGrom is running on fumes. The extra break will do them good.

  • sturock

    World Series!!! If you had told me this in July…

    They are just great right now in every facet and I love the way they changed their style for the NLCS, playing a much more aggressive game than they had during the regular season or the first round of the playoffs.

    To Greg and Jason and everyone who comments: Wow! We are in the World Series! This is Amazing!!

    • Steve D

      I sat there on July 23rd, embarrassed looking at the worst offense in baseball try to hit Kershaw. That was the low point. Nobody could have foreseen this. Only 1969 can compare. We swept the NLCS both times.

      Mets in 5.

  • Eric

    Raise the pennant at Citi Field.

    With a called strike 3 to clinch the league, the 2015 National League champion Mets just cleaned out the 2006 NLCS loss. Embrace the redemption.

  • Eric

    Mets 4-1 on the road in the post-season, including both series clinchers.

    American League team has home field advantage in the 2015 World Series … advantage Mets.

  • Lenny65

    What can you even say at this point? That was IMO the single most impressive post-season series the Mets have ever played. I don’t remember ’69 or ’73 but I’ve seen them all since then and this was the most flat-out dominant one of them all.