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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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The Penultimate Defeat

If it wasn’t exactly déjà vu all over again, I was nonetheless struck, well before its outcome became obvious, by a near-certainty Saturday that the game I was watching was not going to be won by the Mets. This was before thousands of miles worth of home runs were blasted by Brewer batters off of Logan Verrett and Antonio Bastardo and preceded by Met batters’ insistence on stranding their brethren on base.

“Do the Mets,” I asked myself, “ever win the second-to-last game of a series they play in Milwaukee?” The answer, which I just got around to looking up, is, “No.”

Really, they don’t. I suppose the operative term should be they haven’t, not since 2008, anyway. From 2009 forward, inclusive of 2016, the Mets have come to Miller Park for eight series and, in the game before the last game of each series, they have gone back to the hotel with a loss.

I checked Ultimate Mets Database, which for the purposes of this hunch-driven narrow research served as Penultimate Mets Database. Penultimate Mets games in Milwaukee consistently go down as perennial defeats.

It’s happened in second games of three-game series.
It’s happened in third games of four-game series.
It’s happened on Saturdays.
It’s happened on weeknights.
It’s happened in walkoffs.
It’s happened in slugfests.
It’s happened to aces like Johan Santana.
It’s happened to journeymen like Shaun Marcum.
It’s happened eight times in a row now.

Just because it keeps happening doesn’t mean it had to keep happening. Unlike the Brewer bats, there is limited power in precedent. Most likely it’s just one of those things, but after seven consecutive episodes of such unhappy days, it’s tough to shake the sense that an eighth will be right back after these commercial messages.

Did it have to happen this time around? Depends where you stand on the spectrum between utter randomness and preordained destiny. Verrett pitched a spotless bottom of the first and Asdrubal Cabrera hit what seemed like a long two-run homer in the top of the second. The Mets were up, 2-0, and the Brewers, who absorbed the worst from Friday night’s dual debacle, were perhaps mired in a haze that would also smother the heretofore undetected not-quite-getaway day jinx. It certainly couldn’t hurt the Mets’ cause that they were facing Wily Peralta. Peralta entered Saturday with an ERA (6.79) measuring greater than the amount a person pays for an overpriced Nathan’s hot dog at Citi Field ($6.75).

That next sound you heard was that of pitches Verrett threw going for joyrides. Or perhaps they were screaming in agony. Either way, it wasn’t good from a Met perspective. Chris Carter hit one to the occupying 7 Line Army in left. Ryan Braun launched one last seen headed toward NATO headquarters in Brussels. To paraphrase Crash Davis, anything travels that far oughta have a damn warhead on it, don’t you think? Missiles were flying everywhere. Kirk Nieuwenhuis got in on the act in his way, which consisted of a double, a stolen base and a run scored. Even Peralta, who surely knows what a home run looks like from his vast experience giving them up, sent one deep into Braun territory.

Pitchers hitting home runs: not as much fun when the gopher is on the other foot.

Curtis Granderson kept the Mets viable with a homer of his own in the fifth, cosmetically cutting the Brewer lead to 5-3, but his signature blow Saturday was the leadoff triple that didn’t quite go out in the third. Terry Collins challenged the yellow-line vagaries of Miller Park’s right field fence but was rebuffed. You’d take an immediate tally, for sure, yet the consolation was Grandy on third with nobody out. He was gonna come home eventually, right?

The Mets will board a flight to New York after today’s game, so yes, Curtis Granderson will come home to wherever he lives during the baseball season. But in the immediate context of Saturday’s third inning, home was a concept not easily grasped. Grandy retreated to third when Michael Conforto lined out nearby and then was statistically stranded there after Yoenis Cespedes walked and Neil Walker grounded into a double play. Man on third, nobody out, nobody scores…what fun. Also, Walker’s apparently chronic bad back — the Met version of a fraternity pin — acted up and he had to leave. It’s either no big deal or an enormously big deal.

That, like most things in the Met universe, will be determined by a visit to a doctor, a surprisingly lengthy inactive stay on the active roster and then who knows? By the time we find out, it will likely be little remembered that the Mets lost their second-to-last game in Milwaukee, 7-4 (with Scooter Gennett and Braun mashing Bastardo). Perhaps the Mets will have captured their Sunday Miller finale and enjoy a cheery flight into LaGuardia. Perhaps whatever has plagued them physically, mentally and spiritually on this road trip — a clunky three-city tour during which they’ve nonetheless gone 5-4 — will dissipate when they return to Citi Field, where, at least until his next start, the price of a frank will list higher than the number of earned runs Wily Peralta allows every nine innings. In defeating the Mets, the otherwise beleaguered Brewer starter lowered his ERA to 6.68 while jacking his slugging percentage to .250, or just a little lower than the figure key Met pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza (.279) is packing these days.

Maybe they can pack one last win in Milwaukee, too. You know, they’re 8-1 in their last nine Miller Park getaway games.

Come to WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Tuesday night at 7 PM for an evening of Mets book talk. I’ll be joining Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers and D.J. Short of NBC Sports. Full details here. Hope to see you there.

17 comments to The Penultimate Defeat

  • eric1973

    And the Award for ‘Best Revival’ goes to:
    “Waiting for d’Arnaud”

    Each year, the plotline is the same:
    Millions of people wait for this mystery man to show up to lead them out of the darkness. It seems to work, and that appears to be the case this year as well.

    Plawecki? We hoped, we tried, appears to not be the answer.

    Riviera? We still hope, but can you afford to start a catcher who cannot hit .150, even with this pitching staff, and even if his defense is unparalled? Maybe.

    • Eric

      Starting Rivera is about winning 4-2, not losing 7-4 with the opposing team staging a HR derby led by their .078 hitting pitcher.

  • Ray

    Perhaps the oddest fact within a fact?

    The Mets won their first-ever penultimate game in Milwaukee- against the Braves in 1962.

    And never won one against them at County Stadium again.

    http://ultimatemets.com/oppteams.php?ThisTeam=06

    They did a little better against the Brew Crew in their pre-Miller days, but overall they’d be better off just forfeiting to save arms (and legs and backs and spines).

  • Eric

    The freeze-frame of the game was the look on Conforto’s face when he thought he had somehow hit into a double play with Granderson on 3rd with nobody out.

    The clip of the game was, 2 batters later, Walker raising his hand for a time-out in a 2-0 count, then when it wasn’t granted, swinging at a pitcher’s pitch to top the ball weakly into an inning-ending double play. And then not running it out.

    Peralta was pitching like he was ready to be lit up, and the Mets hitting just couldn’t put it together. In hindsight sure, but 3 years, 37.5 mil for 2015 Murphy, never mind 2016 Murphy, keeps looking better and better.

  • Bob

    Casey Stengel used to say–“You could look it up!”–so I did–sigh–
    About 40 % thru season-Mets are “hitting”— of 30 teams-
    BA .233—27th
    Runs 28th
    RBI 27th
    Hits 29th
    RISP .214—30th
    RISP–2 out–.165–30th
    OY!
    Met fan since Polo Grounds
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Matt in Richmond

    All things considered a 5-5 road trip isn’t all that bad. The defensive blunders early today were uncharacteristic of this team and not something I’m very concerned about. The continuing inability to cash in on scoring opportunities is more of a concern, but I still think it is partly due to bad luck and partly due to statistical anomaly. That bullet that Flores hit in the eighth that Braun caught is emblematic of how it’s been going lately.

  • Daniel Hall

    So, who will the Mets trade for this deadline to pull the cart out of the quagmire? Cespedes is already here and nothing works, so maybe they need to step it up and get Mike Trout. Yeah, that sounds realistic…

    Nope, this one is not gonna work out.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Daniel Hall, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about? Considering all the injuries and bad luck this team has faced we’re still well above .500, well in contention for a wild card, and still in plausible reach of the division. How is that a “nothing works quagmire”?

    Remember, we’ve got d’Arnaud coming back soon, Duda and Wheeler a bit after that and hopefully Cap later on (although I’ll admit we can’t count on that one). But still, that’s like 3 pickups right there. And Sandy and TC more than proved they know what they’re doing last year. Try to stiffen that upper lip a bit pal. There’s much to be optimistic about.

    • Daniel Hall

      d’Arnaud was awful in all aspects even before getting hurt, and what is a staff with Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Big Sexy going to do with Zack Wheeler? Even the reduced 2016 version of Lucas Duda would be an improvement over the sad shadow of James Lonely, but that’s about all.

      And who knows when poor Terry will be back after they carted him off the hospital feeling ill, and I read that he watched the Sunday Mets game there. Whatever ailment befell him, it certainly wasn’t bettered by that hair-raising botch job. I suspect the “Bring us Backman” faction flicking on the TV in his room and hiding the remote.

      At least it was a team effort, something coaches like to see, starting with Matzie looking for the strike zone in the ninth row, the second-tier position players coughing up a dozen errors, not all of which were charged, and a measly single through six against a pitcher that looked like he couldn’t pour himself a glass of milk without the help of an adult.

      I’m glad they play all night games this week. That way perhaps I will stop grinding my teeth by Thursday or so.

  • Matt in Richmond

    If your wish is to support a team that never plays an ugly game you need to find a different sport. Over the course of a 162 game season, the very elite will have a number of games that make it look like they are totally inept. That’s why any short term analysis is pointless. Small sample sizes are meaningless. I would wager that somewhere in the neighborhood of 22-26 teams right now would love to trade their problems for ours.

  • Daniel Hall

    *Nobody* wants to trade for a .165 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs. And the Mets have been awful for four to six weeks. At some point, small sample size ceases to be an argument.

  • George Armonaitis

    One of the aspects of this team that is killing them is a lack of speed. When Juan Lagares is your speed threat (and he as someone who never mastered stolen bases anyway) you can’t get something going with your legs. Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are the slowest middle infield combination since, well, last year, when Daniel Murphy decided not to steal bases (only had two) and Tejada and Flores, well we know.
    The biggest problem is this system. The Mets look to players who can not run, don’t play small ball, and seem to think that taking a billion pitches (which leads to strikeouts and walks, and very passive play at time) is the way to go as long as you can hit a bunch of home runs.

    Getting a bad feeling that this team is much like some of those teams like 2008, 2001 (another dreadfully slow-footed team).

    And one more thing – When does management start questioning the effectiveness of Curtis Granderson in the leadoff spot? Worked last year after a slow start, but at what point are you what your numbers say you are.

    Chip

  • APV

    Eh, between Terry’s hospitalization and the shootings in Orlando this weekend, I’m not exactly caring about what happened in Milwaukee. They did go 5-5 on the trip and they still have a solid record with no Duda, Walker, Wright, and D’Arnaud. I know why we’re all antsy around here: Every time we lose, those bastards in DC win. Perhaps that will stop now that the Cubs are playing them.

  • Gil

    Its not championship baseball. Not even close. They kind of stink, actually.

  • Stephen Kairys

    @APV – Great perspective about the on-the-field results vs. Terry’s health issue and the tragedy in Orlando. We sometimes forget it’s only a game.