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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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Jeurys Prudence Redefined

Four consecutive losses could have made a person think the stop after 111th Street on the 7 local to Flushing had been redubbed Mets-What’s The Point? The young season was clearly too callow to know it was already over (otherwise, it would have had the good sense to suspend its campaign). The plunging Mets might as well have dared those of us coming out to meet them and greet them to enjoy them.

Yet we did. Stephanie and I made a rare midweek day trip to Citi Field on Wednesday. Not so rare for me, but rare to the point of exotic for her, especially in April. My wife loves her Mets, but generally from a distance when there’s a literal chill in the air, not just the figurative kind coming from the home team bat rack. The relentlessly gracious Chapmans — Sharon and Kevin — had invited us and some other friends of theirs to join them for a treat bordering on indulgence: an afternoon not just at the ballpark, but in an Empire Suite. Wonderful people, team loyalty and a guaranteed modicum of climate control combined to make my usual solo act a couples activity.

A game in a suite is like a game anywhere else if you’re dedicated to the game. And we were. But I’d be kidding you if I didn’t admit an amenity or two beyond the functioning heat lamps infused the gathering with a little extra zest. At a less desperate Metsian hour, I could regale you with tales of the tray of Shackburgers in our midst and speculate as to why a perfectly sated man matching my general description lunges for an available eighth-inning sauerkraut-laden hot dog just because, like Everest, it’s there. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, as is wrath, and I’m sure that on Wednesday I could’ve been brought up on charges of both. (Throw in sloth, too, if you like; I’m no prize.)

Alas, self-examination will have to be tabled, somewhere next to the suite’s popcorn-filled batting helmets, for the business at hand in this final game of the first homestand of 2016 was not about what was partaken of too heartily, but what was provided in servings too small.

The Mets, you’ve likely noticed, haven’t scored very much this year. There were seven runs during the Home Opener, and otherwise they’ve generated as close to nothing as they can without provoking a copyright infringement lawsuit from the Porgy and Bess Society. Their scoreboard lines have featured plenty of nothing, particularly very recently: 0 runs on Saturday; 2 runs on Sunday; 3 runs on Monday; 1 run on Tuesday; 2 runs on Wednesday.

When you have starting pitching like the Mets possess, you can get by to a certain extent on a scoring-optional plan, but it requires needles being threaded and puzzles being solved.

The 0 doesn’t work whatsoever.

You have to be exceedingly fortunate to make the 1 stand tall.

2 or 3 makes your pitching staff’s day exceedingly difficult, but not altogether impossible.

This mathematical approach sure as shootin’ didn’t grease the skids of glory for spot starter Logan Verrett when the Mets went with zero for the six innings while he was in (hadn’t any of his teammates thought it a good idea to produce Logan’s run?). Yet Verrett — in the best tradition of backup quarterbacks who looked great in preseason and candidates who compile “surprisingly strong” showings without actually winning in early primary/caucus states — really gave us more than we could have expected. Our sixth starter went six innings versus Miami, allowing no dents whatsoever. The young man has the makings of a cult hero. Surely somebody called WOR or WFAN and suggested Verrett’s a better bet than Matz or Harvey or, for that matter, Kasich, based on late returns.

In so-called Panic City, where the streets are not zoned for small sample sizes, Verrett deserves a spot on somebody’s ticket. Perhaps he could be appointed Commissioner of Exactly What We Needed by Mayor Collins, who would eventually endorse every reason to lift the longstanding curfew on bullpen overuse and declare martial law.

Terry’s draconian measures didn’t take full effect until after Logan gave his 85 pitches of all to the civic cause. Jim Henderson came on for the seventh. Jim Henderson is shouldering quite the workload for a fella who throws hard with a surgically repaired shoulder. Maybe he’s throwing not quite so hard as he had been, given how much he’s being asked to throw. The New Toy Syndrome is a familiar one to anybody who’s watched Collins cling to whoever’s arm is freshest and hottest until it’s neither.

It wasn’t Henderson’s day, even though it seems every day is a day that includes Henderson, especially on Tuesday night when he threw 34 not particularly effective pitches. He faced three batters Wednesday. Three batters reached. Enter Hansel Robles, who bailed Jim out two-thirds of the way, then Jerry Blevins, who finished the provisional job. Hallelujah, the bases that were loaded with Marlins never led to a home plate stained by their slimy gills.

Then again, the plate was a pristine dish of 0-0 proportions clear to the bottom of the seventh, which was when the Mets’ bats creaked slowly awake. Wilmer Flores, first baseman for the first time in his MLB career, led off with a single and took second on a wild pitch. Asdrubal Cabrera and his one run batted in to date came up. I mentioned wrath before. I feel no wrath for Cabrera, who strikes me as a more pleasant Rey Sanchez-type, one with something left in the tank and no impulse to visit the clubhouse for an in-game trim.

Yet I can work up a quiet froth when I see a prospective rally broached by a prospective rallykiller, which is what, in the moment, I decided Cabrera was. I said, sotto voce, to Stephanie, “This guy is never going to get a big hit for us this year.” And with that, Cabrera got a big hit for us, singling hard to right, chasing Flores to third. After Juan Lagares moved Cabrera to second — which is a nice way of saying he tapped back to the mound — Kevin Plawecki and his no runs batted in to date (albeit in limited utility) came to bat, inspiring in me precisely as much confidence as Cabrera had. Without irony or desire to be adorable, I said the exact same thing to Stephanie about Kevin as I had Asdrubal: “This guy is never going to get a big hit for us this year.”

Color me a satisfied shade of corrected when KP did his duty and drove in a pair with a single before optimistically getting himself thrown out at second. I guess you can spell his last name with two RBI. Hurrah for being shown up! The Mets led 2-0; the Marlins, despite their innate despicability, weren’t imitating their manager in terms of causing their lumber to smolder; and now all that needed to be done to get the Mets headed to Cleveland in relatively fine fettle (the only kind of fettle anybody ever embraces) was the stitching together of six outs.

The first out, in the top of the eighth, was a simple fly ball to left, preceded by a leap and dive into the stands by the left fielder who makes nothing simple, which previews as alternately pleasing and horrifying where the next 154 games are concerned.

My, but does Yoenis Cespedes add spice to every facet of the action.

In this case, Ichiro Suzuki lifted a pop fly into the shallow seats down the line. It didn’t appear from my suite perspective, also out in left, that it was catchable. It appeared different to Yoenis, who threw himself into his pursuit with such force that it looked like he might crash through the grandstand and plummet down to the primeval salt marshes below. He didn’t catch the ball and he didn’t rise immediately. All who watched assumed he was out for the season, because these are the Mets, who were 2-5, and how is it plausible that anything that could go wrong wouldn’t go wrong?

Nothing went wrong. Yo swore he was only a little sore, but was otherwise just swell…so swell, that he made the putout on Ichiro when play resumed. That pitch was thrown by Blevins, whose charge is retiring lefthanded batters. The last one he’d face would be Christian Yelich, who’d single. With Giancarlo Stanton emerging from the on-deck circle, Blevins would have to exit, and into the game would come not Addison Reed (too exhausted), not Rafael Montero (too untrustworthy), but Jeurys Familia.

You might recognize Familia from such films as Matz Was Knocked Out Early and We Were Short In The Pen Tonight. Where you were used to seeing him was in save situations, which have been sparse in 2016 and too often come with their own set of confining constraints. Familia had pitched in defeats Saturday, Monday and Tuesday (none of the losses his doing). With an off day to follow on Thursday, it wasn’t necessarily demanding to ask him to go an inning on Wednesday. It was, however, surprising to find him asked to go an inning and two-thirds. Jeurys’s arm is, as much as any limb, the Mets’ ticket to ride. You don’t want to ride it into the ground.

Then again, you didn’t want to lose a fifth consecutive game and discover that Panic City had passed a town charter. The occasion of a 2-0 lead and the absence of anybody better-suited to protect it five outs shy of victory called for a certain style of Jeurys prudence on Terry’s part. It would be preferable to save Familia’s innings for down the road. The preference would be irrelevant if the road led off a cliff before the middle of April. “We had to win this game to get us going,” the skipper said afterwards, fully cognizant that 2-6, à la Dean Wormer’s advice to Flounder regarding “fat, drunk and stupid,” is no way to go through life.

Thus, Familia. And thus the most must-win eighth game a season has ever known. The eighth inning of the eighth game wasn’t clean — after retiring Stanton, Familia allowed consecutive hits that plated Yelich — but the Mets still led at inning’s end, 2-1. And when the Mets didn’t score in the bottom of the eighth, Jeurys came back for more thin-ice Marlin fishing in the ninth. Nevertheless, he reeled those suckers in 1-2-3 and snapped the losing streak. The Mets were winners again, packing a 3-5 record ahead of their nine-game road trip, a mark that isn’t at all impressive when compared to a tray of Shake Shack or reasonable expectations, but bloody brilliant when stacked against what could have been a whole lot worse.

11 comments to Jeurys Prudence Redefined

  • Dave

    Well, this is what we all signed up for; the dentomandibular gnashing, reaching for the drugs that enhance our blood pressure’s performance, the burial of our faces in our palms, the breathlessness prior to the entry of the game into The Books, the collective SMH at managerial decisions…8 games in, and from an emotional perspective, we’ve already had what feels pretty close to a full season.

    I know that frequent repetition is what the hitters have missed, but boy, this day off couldn’t have come at a better time for the pen.

  • BlackCountryMet

    The benefits of a day game are two fold for UK based Mets

    1) The opportunity of watching the game live at approx. 6pm

    2) Going to sleep knowing the Mets result, not waking up and anxiously scrambling to check ones phone/tablet etc

    Fortunately this game had the added ingredient of a win which iced a pretty sparsely decorated cake. Onwards to Cleveland to continue the streak ;-)

  • Mikey

    wow, these Mets don’t do anything easy, do they? I am self employed and have my office in what used to be called our den. With a 65 inch TV it is now an office/man cave. And I thought having the game on while working would be great. turns out it is hard to turn away when you are hanging on every pitch like it’s October. And so I need to determine if my boss is going to let me have the day games on while working going forward.

    A couple of observations. Terry Collins manages his bullpen like I manage my junk food cravings–recklessly. He is clearly going to ruin Jim Henderson, who everyone but him could see didn’t have it after one batter. Just like when he should have pulled Harvey after that walk in our only November game, but I digress. The guy threw like half a game Tuesday night, and he’s back out there as the first option Wednesday afternoon? we’re going to need him for 8th innings when we start getting on a roll….but Terry might send this guy to see Dr. Andrews if this keeps up.

    Secondly, my hate for the Marlins just keeps ratcheting up. Dee Gordon is one thing. But suddenly Christian Yelich and Adam Conley are reason to hate them even more. Martin Prado, who manages to always come up with runners on base and always manages to drive them in against the Mets. oh and then Bryan Morris comes within an inch from breaking Cespedes’ hand? thankfully Ces survived that as well as his attempt to fly earlier in the game. but this series couldn’t be over quickly enough

    Thirdly, the reason we are so on edge is because the freaking Nats keep winning. We don’t wanna be 10 games out by the end of April, but we would have been 4.5 back if we’d lost the game yesterday.

    Seriously, how are my nerves this fried on April 14?

  • Rob E.

    Terry Collins took a lot of hits on talk radio yesterday, and some more in today’s Newsday (and Mike Francesa killed him for letting Plawecki hit). He could have chosen his words better (he basically said he wanted to shut up the media), but I understand what he was doing. Yesterday WAS a big game for them. Maybe not under the usual circumstances, but they lost four in a row at home to teams they should beat, they lost games that Matz, Harvey, and Syndergaard started, and the Nats are off to a fast start. That’s how bad things start. He was right to take it more seriously than your typical eighth game of the season.

    It would be premature to call it a “must-win” game, but it was important. Riding Henderson that hard seems a little odd, but he did lose a reliever when Verrett started, Reed was unavailable, there is an off-day today, the game was on the line, and Familia is the best you got. The usual second-guessing is in play, but I don’t see anything egregious here.

    • Matt in Woodside

      I agree. Although I think part of the problem with bullpen management has been Collins being old school. His relievers say “Feeling Great!” and he goes with it. Henderson had thrown 2/3 of an entire game between Monday and Tuesday (innings not withstanding) and Collins probably could have gotten the same result with less agita by calling in Robles and Blevins without using Henderson. I’m just glad everyone had a day off and I’m hoping the lineup starts producing soon.

  • Dave

    Somewhere Tug McGraw is shaking his head, wondering why a one and 2/3 innings save is such a big deal.

  • Sam S.

    You have a real gift with words. Always a pleasure to read.

  • Seth

    I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of last year’s 11-game winning streak in April. You can use the “small sample size” argument, but what that streak did was enable the Mets to stay close, within striking distance. Sure, had the Nats rolled off a big winning streak of their own in July, or earlier, 2015 could have turned out a lot different. But they didn’t, and the Mets had the opportunity to strike by making some roster moves in late July. And they did… but that 11-game streak is what kept them in the hunt. They didn’t play well enough from late April to late July to keep them in the race; it was the winning streak (and Nats’ failures) that kept them there.

    This underscores the importance of getting off to a good start. I’m tired of reading the “don’t panic it’s only 7 games” articles. Every game is important, and April is just as important as August.

    I’m not saying all (or any) hope is lost. I’m just saying — stop comparing 2016 to 2015, because it isn’t going to go the same way. We may get there, but we’ll be taking a different road. :-)

  • Mikey

    Seth im with you…we are 4 full games back already…thats not good because the nats seem on a mission. Oh and freaking murph is hitting 500!

    • Rob E.

      I don’t want to excuse the Mets’ early flatness, but the Nats have played six of their eight games against the Braves. The Mets had to open the season in KC, face three guys on PHI who currently have a combined ERA of > 1.00 and 12k/9, and Jose Fernandez. This is why you play 162 games.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Jeurys Prudence Redefined. Love the title, Greg. I can’t wait to see what yu do with Asdrubal.