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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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The Tiger or the Other Tiger?

It’s an ancient baseball conundrum.

No, not “are sacrifice bunts mostly dumb or mostly super-dumb?” And not “is something wrong if you’re giving that many ABs to Eric Campbell?” I mean something even tougher to contemplate and more scarring to one’s inner fan: “would you rather lose meekly, or come back and then lose hideously?”

It was reunion weekend lots of places: the Mets welcomed the heroes of ’86 down from Orange and Blue Olympus to alight at Citi Field, while a bit farther north I was attending my 25th college reunion. Emerging from dinner Saturday night, I looked at my phone and felt my stomach knot up: why had Noah Syndergaard come out after 2.1 innings with no earned runs allowed? My immediate thought was an awful one — elbow ligament — meaning I was one of very few Mets fans who was relieved to learn of the farce that had taken place. (The news that Chase Utley had dropped five runs worth of homers on the Mets? That was less easy to turn into a positive.)

Sunday night, freshly unreunited, I was back on my couch, weary and dopey and ready for three hours of baseball that would explore whether the Mets could somehow dent the armor of Clayton Kershaw.

The answer: no, not really. Curtis Granderson doubled to lead off the game and was standing on third with one out, but Yoenis Cespedes struck out and Neil Walker did the same, and I wanted to fume about the Mets doing that way too much except, hey, it’s Clayton Kershaw. On the other side of the ledger, Bartolo Colon was pretty good, but he wasn’t quite Kershaw. Kershaw got nicked by an Asdrubal Cabrera fly ball just long enough and high enough to intersect the party deck and survive a perilous-looking umpire review, while Colon was touched up by despicable assassin Utley, vengeance-minded prodigal son Justin Turner and always-dangerous Adrian Gonzalez to leave the Mets in a 2-1 hole late.

The good news, if you squinted, was that Kershaw seemed to be tiring. His pitches were less sharp in the 7th, but overeager Met bats and a great sell job by A.J. Ellis on a ball fouled into the dirt got him out of that frame. In the eighth he was still Kershaw, but a Kershaw near the end of the line on a hot night: Kevin Plawecki singled, Campbell flied out after some lamentable attempted bunting, and pinch-hitter Michael Conforto hit the ball solidly, though straight to the center fielder. Finally, after 114 pitches, that was enough. Dave Roberts summoned the hulking Adam Liberatore, and Granderson hammered a 2-1 pitch to right-center.

You want too many emotions packed into too small a space? At first I thought Granderson had hit the ball over the fence. Then I thought Yasiel Puig had snagged it with a nifty running grab. Neither was the case — the ball eluded Puig, sending Plawecki home and Granderson all the way to third. Liberatore, taking a page from the Annoying Middle-Reliever Handbook, blew Cabrera away on three pitches, but the damage was done, the game was tied, Kershaw hadn’t beaten us, and hey, who knew?

So of course Jeurys Familia came in and was terrible yet again, completely unable to command his sinker. He somehow got Utley, shattering Chase’s implement of evil before it could be used against us. But he walked Corey Seager, then walked the not evil but definitely infuriating Turner, then surrendered a fatal single to Gonzalez.

I’m sure there will be lots of grumbling about Familia in non-save situations; until you show me a statistically rigorous examination of closers pitching in such outings, I’m going to shrug and say it’s One of Those Things. Relievers have runs of innings marred by bad luck/poor performance just like starters do, except relievers’ innings dribble out over a horrific week or two instead of taking up a couple of wasted evenings. That makes the whole ordeal feel longer and grimmer than it really is, and when it’s your closer who’s off the mark, victories careen into defeats and sympathy is harder to summon than it should be.

So yeah, anyway. We could have gone down meekly before the amazing machine that is Clayton Kershaw, muttered and shrugged and tried to move on. Instead we escaped Kershaw and promptly did ourselves in. It was cruel, but then baseball so often is.

24 comments to The Tiger or the Other Tiger?

  • Stephen Kairys

    Am I the only one who thinks that Terry should have pulled Familia after he loaded the bases? I admit the above is a second-guess, as I did not see the ninth inning.

  • Dave

    Jason, I’ll leave the stats to somebody else, but my observation is that some closers simply suck when there’s no chance to pile up the very flawed statistic that their payday is based on. As unflattering as the comparison is, Benitez was the same way. I’m confident that Familia will bounce back, but there have been plenty of outings this year where he’s been absolutely, positively lights on. And if he doesn’t bounce back, a lot of people have wondered about Robles as a closer.

    Didn’t even watch last night…after leaving Saturday night after the second, oh, you know, don’t make me say it, my blood pressure needed a day off from the Mets.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I have warned that Terry (as is his long-standing wont) is burning out Familia–now on pace to hurl 85 games this year, an unsustainable number for any closer, and aggravated by using him (again) with 4-run lead and then in tie game. He’s given up 8 hits in 3 innings since used in three straight games last weekend. Yes, all relievers have bad spells but often it’s due to tired arms. Knowing Terry, expect him to ask Familiar to get a 5 out save this afternoon…

    Also: why are they giving Loney 3 days to report? Oh, right, Campbell is the next Goldschmidt out there. And I don’t buy that he can’t start against a lefty–especially with Campbell only option–the guy doesn’t hit .285 lifetime and .342 in AAA this year if can’t hit lefties. Also would have been available to pinch hit.

    • Dennis

      Maybe they’re giving Loney an extra day or two for personal reasons. I don’t see the need to pile on Campbell. While no one will mistake him for an All Star, he seems to be a pretty decent guy who has limitations playing consistently on the MLB level……where every team has a player or two like that.

  • eric1973

    I am more surprised TC didn’t use Familia in the 9th inning on SATURDAY night. After all, he did have around 24 hours rest. And did you catch that lame excuse for why he used him on Friday?

    “Well, if one man got on, that would have made it a ‘save’ situation.” That’s the exact reason NOT to bring him in.

    Also, TC left him in so long on Friday, that he was unavailable on Saturday.

    How really dumb is that.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Rumor has it that Reed was once an elite closer. Also, Henderson. If Terry can’t trust anyone but Familia in a 9th inning–and it seems over past two years he does not–then the Mets need to get at least one more elite RP. But even then one senses that Terry would over-use Familia.

  • dmg

    as excruciating as this loss was, espn’s fawning sewage of kershaw lovelust made it infinitely worse. iirc, the guy has yet to win a world series game or a pennant, and has a postseason record of 2-6, all in the division series (including last year against the mets). get back to me when he does.

  • Stephen Kairys

    Nothing against De Aza, but why isn’t Conforto playing today? Mets are already down three starters (Wright, Duda, d’Arnaud). Or, if Terry doesn’t want to play Conforto against a tough lefty, why not keep Grandy in the lineup?

    I know it’s day-game-after-night-game, but (1) Conforto did not start last night and (2) Grandy had a huge hit last night…

  • Greg Mitchell

    Squandering good pitching (even from Harvey) with AAA lineup. Pitchers may feel they have been optioned to Vegas for a start or two. Silly to sit Grandy.

  • Dennis

    Nice win today. Great to see Harvey back on track.

    I guess Familia was OK as well.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Harvey. Familia. Collins. Rendering all the whining and second guessing moot and inaccurate. Clearly, nothing wrong with Matt’s arm. Clearly, Familia not tired. Maybe just maybe the pros who are actually with the team full time know what’s best. Really nice win, and huge to see Harvey turning in a vintage performance. Anyone still want him to go the minors?

    • Dennis

      Well said Matt….especially with the experts thinking that Collins has forgotten how to manage this team. Sounds a lot like last year!

    • Matt in Woodside

      I was floored when Collins sent Familia in for the ninth this afternoon, considering how much he had pitched in the past two days. But it really was great to see Harvey and Familia both bounce back today.

  • Mikey

    Ok jason i have to tell you…..i was at my wifes high school reunion in clevelanď on saturday. The same thing happened to me exactly. Went to take a leak and checked yahoo sports and looked at stats and saw thor with 2 innings pitched and not getting shelled. Elbow exploded!! I panicked. Then did a google search on thor and all this stuff came up about the ejection. WHEW. but dammit!

    But then my wife intros me to a classmate who now lives in rego park. Her husband is from down south but has become a huge mets fan. I found someone to talk mets with in cleveland….it was awesome.

    Then today on way home im following the game on my phone again ….i see familia coming in and start going nuts. The overuse is bordering on criminal. Also conforto HAS to be in the lineup. He may be our best pure hitter….how many managers would sit him 2 games in a row?

  • Matt in Richmond

    Mikey, and yet Familia retired the side in order with 2 strikeouts and a ground out to the mound. So that was the right call. As to everyone whining about Conforto not being in, he has mostly struggled against lefties, has virtually zero experience playing right field, Lagares has been on point at the plate and the field, De Aza needed a few ABs, Grandy hardly ever takes a day off but today was the perfect time to do so.

  • Mikey

    Im not really talking about familias effectiveness, just that he is being positively abused and terry could have easily had reed finish the game or start the 9th.

    • Dennis

      And then if Reed gives up the tying or go ahead run, everyone gets on Collins case that Familia didn’t start the 9th in a 1-0 game. I’m pretty sure that Terry knows what he’s doing and has a handle on his pitchers a little better than us.

  • Mikey

    Also im watching nats phils now. Murph has a double and home run….he just missed a second homer by about a foot and was retired on a liner in the gap that eric goeddel cut off (and doubled bryce harper at first on the fly).

    Anyway they showed a stat that murph is hitting .411 in may. I keep refusing to believe he is now ted williams but he keeps doing it. Its insane

    • sturock

      But he still can’t field, and Walker’s been fine. I am concerned about how they replace Wright. Do you trust Wilmer at 3B? We’re going to have to find out. And, yes, I bet Loney plays every day at first, not just against righties.

      Does anyone think Rivera should be the regular catcher? He handles pitchers better than Plawecki, I think, and Plawecki is not adding much offense.

      • Eric

        I agree on Rivera. The Mets win with pitching, especially with their hitting sinking down to a 2015 pre-Cespedes level. Rivera appears to enhance the pitching.

        Murphy is below-average at 2B, but not so bad that his glove overshadows his bat. More importantly, his glove is serviceable at 1B and 3B, where he was valuable last season and the Mets need him again now.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Rivera does seem to really get the best out of the pitchers, and his arm is phenomenal. I think he’s at least earned himself some more playing time. Plawecki has been a bit disappointing so far.

  • […] few weeks back, I emerged from a college-reunion dinner to see Syndergaard had exited with 2.1 innings under his belt and no earned runs allowed. My first […]