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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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Cespy-YES

OK, that was fun.

If Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman represented Plan F and G, or some letter fairly far along in the stack, what letter was reserved for Rafael Montero?

Montero hadn’t started a game since last April and had done nothing since then to make any member of the Mets brass think well of him. He spent last summer idled by a shoulder injury that the Mets thought was between his ears, a diagnosis they all but made public. He spent most of this year getting racked around in Las Vegas, leading to a banishment to Binghamton, where his pitching well seemed of no particular import. It was a long fall for a guy who not so long ago was regarded as an electric arm to be talked up along with the likes of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler — a fall that sure looked like it had reached terminal velocity in terms of Montero’s Met career.

Montero didn’t erase two wasted years Monday night — he threw too many pitches and walked too many guys for that — but he used all his pitches instead of stubbornly sticking to his fastball and looked like he wanted to be on the mound. In a kinder situation, the result might have been a win, but the Mets were facing Jose Fernandez, against whom they never accomplish anything, and they were doing so with their latest patchwork lineup: no Neil Walker, no Asdrubal Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes playing on one leg again, Jay Bruce sitting, and almost no bench.

Under those circumstances, fighting Fernandez to a draw was no small accomplishment — Montero got help from some nifty defense from an out-of-position Kelly Johnson — and the game was thrown into the bullpens with no score.

It wasn’t a tense pitcher’s duel exactly — there were too many walks for that, and in May this game would have been viewed as a slog worthy more of sighs than applause. But of course it’s not May — it’s nearly September, and both the Mets and Marlins are tattered and battered but still alive despite all that. Maybe it was still a slog, but the calendar dictated that it was a slog that mattered.

After all the pushing and shoving, Miami drew first blood with startling speed in the eighth: Ichiro Suzuki willed his 42-year-old legs to bear him to second ahead of Alejandro De Aza‘s throw, and Xavier Scruggs pounded a ball past Cespedes to make it 1-0 for Team Loria.

But the Mets struck back in the bottom of the inning, with Jose Reyes doubling, taking third on a De Aza sac fly and then breaking for the plate on a wild pitch by A.J. Ramos. That’s a dangerous gamble given Citi Field’s brick walls, and indeed the ball came right back to J.T. Realmuto, who fired it at Ramos. The pitcher came skidding in on his knees, with the ball going over his head, but elation turned to horror when Ramos crashed into Reyes’s head and shoulder, sending both players sprawling and spinning in the dust. Fortunately Reyes seems to be all right, though God only knows since these are the 2016 Mets; for now it was a double sigh of relief as the game was tied and Jose was able to report for duty.

And then it was a question of who’d break first. Bruce hit a ball hard but it wound up in the first baseman’s glove; James Loney led off the ninth with a long drive to left that sounded good but died; Reyes led off the tenth with a drive to right-center that left the bat with similar promise but yielded nothing. With two outs in the tenth, Cespedes dug in against Nick Wittgren.

Wittgren’s strategy was simple and sensible: keep the ball the hell away from the Mets’ most electric hitter. For two pitches it worked: Cespedes looked at a ball low and away, then took a called strike on the corner. Wittgren’s third pitch, though, drifted over the middle of the plate, and Cespedes did not miss it.

The ball was instantly and obviously gone — Wittgren regarded the mound in despair, Christian Yelich looked like he’d been turned to stone in left, and Cespedes flipped his bat away happily as the Mets poured out of the dugout. Ballgame.

That’s one team run down, if still to be surpassed, in the crowded wild-card chase. Who knows what will happen as the calendar turns to September? There are still Nationals lurking out there, a rotation assembled by improv, a lineup put together based on doctors’ notes, and the possibility of more Ray Ramirez in-game sightings.

But “you never know” can suggest good things as well as bad. Maybe next year we’ll get Yoenis Cespedes Dubble Bubble Bucket Crown Day, which we’ll spend in the stands happily recalling how that home run — no one will have to specify which one — was the blow that led to everything else.

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

Or maybe the Mets won’t be able to run down a playoff berth, but they’ll give it a gallant enough try that the season will be remembered with some fondness in addition to the frustration, as I’d argue 1987 and 2001 are recalled once the conversation around them deepens.

Or, hey, maybe this win was the high-water mark. If so, it was a moment to cherish: a ball flying this-a-way, a bat flipping that-a-way, and another day of life.

28 comments to Cespy-YES

  • LeClerc

    Triage baseball at its best.
    Montero put eight base runners on in five innings – but yielded zero runs.
    Mattingly even worked the Mets bench to zero.

    But Reyes took a hit to tie the game.
    Smoker joined Lugo and Gs in the first win club.
    and, appropriately, Cespedes was the hero.

  • mookie4ever

    Winning a game they had no right hoping to win, the Mets lifted up their flickering but stubborn candle of playoff hopes against the black hole that has been this season. Even less likely, they were led by 3 players who had no chance to be playing for this team as of New Year’s Day 2016. Reyes, Cespedes, and Montero. Totally unbelievable that they won this game. You never know in baseball. Truer words were never written.

  • Matt in Richmond

    What a game. What a week. What a season. I should hope that at this point, regardless of what happens in the next month, this team has solidified a position of appreciation and respect amongst true Met fans. It hasn’t been a pretty season by any means, but these guys just keep battling through every thing that gets thrown their way.

    Special nod to Blevins who continues to be as clutch as he is underappreciated. Running out of kudos to throw Reyes’ way. He just keeps solidifying his case for biggest and smartest mid season pick up. And in 2 cases of admittedly looking hard for positives to say I will mention that Grandy reached base 3 times and Bruce hit the ball right on the nose in his one AB. If, (a dicey proposition I’ll grant you), they could get going, that could make all the difference down the stretch.

    In the meantime I’m just begging the baseball gods for Walker and Cabrera to get healthy and NO MORE INJURIES.

    LGM

    • Dennis

      I agree Matt. If you couldn’t get pumped up by that game last night, then you have no pulse. That tying run was vintage Reyes. Hopefully they can stay healthy down the stretch (and with this team that’s a big “IF”)and take advantage of a somewhat favorable schedule. LGM indeed!

  • eric1973

    This is one of the 54 in the middle that determine a season. Reyes is a godsend, as he looks like a ‘ballplayer.’ His frame of mind is he is just ‘happy to be anywhere.’ Jay Bruce hit the ball on the screws, and hopefully in this random world, he can play above his recent ‘norm,’ and get some ‘new normal’ going.

    Yes, Mets develop young pitching like it’s going out of style.

    See Smoker’s excitement after his pitching. Very exciting, and keep it rolling.

    LGM!

  • Dave

    These are the types of games that teams with weak leadership lose. This is the type of season where teams of that description fold.

  • GroteFan

    Hey Guys-first and foremost, you will not find anyone who hates Terry Collins more than I do, but second on my list of dislikes is how our front office can never seem to have 25 guys ready to play a particular game.
    Last night is exhibit A. Recognizing Cabrera pinch hit, the Mets had two available players on the bench in the back up catcher and Jay Bruce, he the owner of 7 strikeouts in two games over the weekend-sigh.
    I watch one team primarily and lucky for me it resides in Queens. But I live in the tri-state and the guys in the Bronx seem to have this roster thing figured out, but the Mets with their 37 general managers are constantly playing short. And they make decisions like moving their AAA team from Norfolk to Las Vegas so it’s almost impossible to shuttle players back and forth, unless of course the Mets are in Arizona, Denver or California…
    Does anyone know if the Mets have the ability to send down one of their relievers and keep T.J. Riviera for a day or 3? The Mets got lucky that A) Reyes was not hurt as the boys pointed about above, and B) Cespedis ended it in 10!
    Jason, one other thing. You mentioned that the Mets thought Montero’s issue (s) were between his ears…and the team has such a wonderful history in treating injuries, right?

    • They didn’t choose Las Vegas but got stuck with it … though the story has been that that was a product of Buffalo wanting nothing to do with Jeff Wilpon.

  • I was waiting for Bartolo pinch run for Cabrera if he got on base. This season has been quite the bumpy ride. These players though, they are not quitting.

  • Gil

    Sitting in bed with a terrible cold I was drifting in and out, but I was awake in the 10th and thinking the same thing everyone watching that game was thinking – can Superman save the day again?

    CRAAAAAAACK! The necklaces come out of the jersey for the long jog around the bases. My god, I love that man. Fly parakeet, fly!

    All aboard!!!!! LETS GO METS!

  • 9th string catcher

    I am generally positive towards FO and TC, but I do think some of the roster moves have been crazy! Looking at the August transactions show a whole crapload of indecision. It’s a lost year for conforto, we don’t know what we have with Reynolds or Nimmo and even Flores remains a mystery since he’s been moved all over the place. Although I think he’s the righty side of a platoon. And let’s not even get into the middle relief – it’s anyone’s guess outside of 8th and 9th innings.

    I feel for TC because I don’t think he ever knows what his roster is going to be from one day to the next. Don’t be surprised if he does his best work starting sept 1 when everyone should be available.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    If the team lost because Terry ran out of players, it’s on Sandy. Why option TJ Rivera when you have the walking wounded on the bench? It would have made more sense to option Gsellman, since he wouldn’t be available for a couple of days.

    Think about it. If Reyes was injured in the play at the plate, we might have seen Bartolo playing shortstop.

    I also want to give a shout out to James Loney. He’s in a slump now, but his defense hasn’t falter. While he doesn’t make the picks the way Keith did (and as Keith continues to remind us), he still gets it done. How many throws from the infield has he saved, that Duda would not have come up with?

    And what can I say about Smoker pitching the third day in a row, and pitching a 1-2-3 inning. He’s showing the stuff that made him a first round draft choice.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Agree with you that Loney has played a wonderful first base, although in fairness to Little Luke he (Luke) had made enormous strides the past couple of years getting rave reviews from Keith and company. I actually think they are fairly even at picking balls in the dirt, Loney probably has the better arm. Either way, great job yesterday by James, and we don’t win that game without all his picks.

      Regarding the (common) complaint about having a limited bench; I am not going to say that the Mets brass has handled things perfectly. But, they have been put in awkward situations time and again, with no easy answers. Deciding whether or not to DL a guy when you have reason to hope he may only need a few days off is a really tough decision, particularly when he is a key player and your lineup is already in dire straits (what up Mark Knopfler). Add to that the fact that the AAA team is in freaking Las Vegas, which makes one or 2 day moves logistically brutal and you’ve got a legitimate conundrum.

      • kdbart

        MLB needs to adopt a 7 day DL. It’s a big decision to put a player on the 15 day DL if you think the injury is only going to be for 3-4 days at most. Teams rather play short a day or two than cost themselves a key player for 7-10 days when the player is healthy enough to play. A 7 day DL would help ease that decision.

        • Dennis

          That’s a great idea and makes too much sense for MLB to adopt it.

          • Matt in Richmond

            Or as the guys were discussing the other night, do what football and hockey do. Expand the roster by a few slots, and then have 25 active per game. That way you can choose to not dress a guy that’s nicked up and needs a day or two off, or a pitcher who you know you won’t use for that particular game. It makes all the sense in the world. Better for the players, better for the teams, better for the fans. Can someone tell me why we don’t have this?

  • sturock

    Just keep winning! A month ago, two weeks ago even, I never imagined we’d be in this thing. But we are!

  • Mikey

    I knew Greg was on to something a couple weeks ago when he said something like “who knows, we get Reyes, Cespedes and Cabrera back soon and you never know”…..now we are seeing that yes, it’s possible. some luck was needed last night, some good fortune and the fact that the Marlins looked more like the Phillies at the plate for a change. if we win 3 of 4 I think we’ll all be thrilled. and taking 2 of 3 from the Cards may wind up being huge.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Last night was a perfect example of the beauty of baseball. You just never can have any idea of what will transpire in any random game.
    Montero v. Fernandez?? No shot.
    Six walks in five innings and no runs?? Come On!
    Giving Cespedes a pitch to handle?? No way!!
    Gs, Lugo and Smoker all getting their first MLB win within a week of each other and all in huge games?? Not possible!!
    It’s all just beautiful in a way no other sport can possibly match, day-in, day-out.
    BTW Jason — ALL games, yes slogs included, DO matter. Even the ones in April. None of them are throw-aways, they all count the same.
    It’s just another thing which makes baseball the most beautiful game of them all!
    LGM!!!

  • mookie4ever

    Immensely fitting that this Mets team, left for dead after AZ series (was that really < 2 weeks ago?) was led to this crazy win by 3 players who'd been left for dead themselves. Montero, Reyes and Smoker. After SF series split, most fans said show me something that proves they got a run in them and I'll believe. Well 7 Ws out of last 9 has really been something. They're not quitting. Ya Gotta Believe!

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Heh, is “Plan F and G” a direct reference to the military term “FNG”, or just a very happy coincidence?

  • Eric

    Meaningful September baseball.

    I agree with your conclusion, Jason. This team is broken down and worn down to the point there are no lesser opponents. They should be out of the running for the play-offs. But with this last stretch, the Mets have willed themselves into meaningful September baseball.

    If we were at the halfway point with the team in the same condition, I wouldn’t believe they could stay afloat enough to make a run at a WC slot. With only 31 games left, though, and their WC rivals stumbling along, too, there’s a chance.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Now Terry says very serious concerns about Walker going forward. And this after he had four days off last week. This team will really capture public imagination if it stays in this in September with patchwork lineup. Note: Cecchini up to .329 in AAA and better every week. Surely will be called up in September–more likely to provide fill-in spark than Matt Reynolds. And could be starting SS next year with Cabrera solving 3B problem (he has enough power for it)–or if he is weak fielder at SS then Cecchini becomes starting 2B.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Whoops, adding to this theme, now they say Matz has had a setback and can’t start Thursday (not a surprise for me). So–Logan Verrett and his 5.66 era returns! Or maybe Shawn Estes out of retirement.

  • Dave

    Most of the Mets are roughly half my age, no one has ever accused me of being particularly athletic, I could stand to lose a pound here and there, yet I have a much better back than half the team.