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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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Inside Their Heads

Addison Reed looked tired. Travis d’Arnaud looked lost. Asdrubal Cabrera looked determined. Jeurys Familia at first looked vulnerable, then unbeatable. Eric Campbell looked happy to be there. Josh Smoker looked ecstatic to be there.

It’s not enough for me to watch the players on my team play ball. I now find myself thinking along with them, or thinking along with what I think they’re thinking, as if I’ve developed Extra Metsory Perception. That’s how locked in I am to these Mets and this playoff chase.

I can’t read minds, and analysis of facial expressions amounts to no more than a wild guess, but I have to do something to help/not hurt the cause. My contribution is thinking hard about what should happen next in the course of a game, but not prematurely concluding what will happen, because then I’d be ruining what could happen next. Surely I don’t say out loud too much about what I’d prefer to happen, lest it change what will happen.

This is how I behave in September when it’s really September. This is 1999-, 1985-, 1973-level behavior. This is, at heart, who I really am as a Mets fan, a layer of me I’d sort of forgotten existed. This surpasses whatever I was thinking/doing last September, a relative cakewalk once the 2015 Mets flipped the switch and script in August. There’s no cakewalk now. The cake is up the road a piece. A brisk pace and a discernible route are advised if cake is truly desired.

Do you see what I’m doing? I’m tempering my words and expectations, because if I get too carried away (like this isn’t carried away?), I might disturb some grand baseball plan.

Let the Mets do that. They’ve performed a phenomenal act of disruption these past three weeks, emerging from almost-certain demise to clutch a valuable Wild Card. The latest evidence was provided Friday night when they came back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat Julio Teheran’s Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, 6-4. Both Teheran and Turner traditionally bewitch, bother and bewilder our Mets (though Turner’s rep, we have learned, is a little out of code). My credo since the resurrection of 2016 is Win Every Series. Two out of three, three out of four. Sweeps strike me as gravy. You sop it up on your roll and savor every drop, but you don’t plan to make a meal out of it. No, your meat and potatoes in September is series win after series win.

Hence, I, in my benevolence, could allow a loss to Teheran, who’d allowed the Mets one hit over nine innings the last time we saw him in New York and no runs for a very long time anywhere. Lose to Teheran, you still have two games to win. Not impossible to beat the Braves when they don’t have their ace going. Not possible to beat everybody every day and every night. It will be all right if we don’t prevail.

But we did, either because I tempered my words and expectations once Teheran commenced to mowing down Mets and Robert Gsellman wasn’t quite as baffling as he’d been previously, or because the Mets are playing very well regardless of my mental machinations.

They also have good aim. I don’t think it was a coincidence that 4-0 became 4-2 shortly after Yoenis Cespedes’s sixth-inning liner grazed Teheran’s elbow before confounding Atlanta’s middle infield. We arrived in that uncomfortable moment where you want to be a human being and root for the athlete to keep competing and you’re a fan of the team he’s not on and you’re hoping that he’s not hurt, but, you know, maybe go in the clubhouse and put some ice on it, Julio. As it happened, Teheran stayed in the game and, whether he was officially affected by it or not, gave up a two-run homer to Curtis Granderson.

When that baby cleared the right field fence, I snapped out of my ridiculous “it’s OK if they lose tonight” posture, because I remembered these Mets are capable of overcoming four-run deficits, same as they were capable of overcoming five-and-a-half game-deficits. Besides, it wasn’t four runs anymore. It was just two. You can trust these Mets to reduce two to zero and then go ahead by at least one. Elbowing Julio out of the ballyard was the vital first step.

The first post-Granderson step was a stumble. Jim Henderson was directed to hold the fort. He was trampled. We may be at that point where Henderson must be Parnelled, nudged aside in the mixing and matching of relievers. Jim worked hard to return from injury and has some key outs to his credit, but if we’re gonna default to the hot hands on offense, I don’t see how we rely on arms that don’t consistently rise to room temperature to give them every possible chance. (Assessment subject to change, because what the hell do I know?) Henderson put two Braves on and gave way to Josh Smoker, and he’s, well, Smokin’ hot. Josh faced two hitters who have bruised the Mets badly, A.J. Pierzynski and Ender Inciarte. The first guy he struck out, the second guy he grounded into a nifty 3-6-3 double play. No wonder he emoted so effusively. Calm enough to throw into a big spot, excitable enough to appreciate his accomplishment. You gotta believe we love lefties who are like that amid pressure-cooked Septembers.

Six outs remained in which to make something happen. Our fort was held. Now to storm theirs. Alejandro De Aza, who used to walk down the street and hear people say, “There goes the greatest sub-.200 hitter who ever lived,” but is lately batting a robust .204, started the top of the eighth with a base on balls. De Aza, who was batting for Hansel Robles, who had succeed Smoker, is often walking if he’s not hitting. Sure, his batting average has wallowed all year, but surely his on-base percentage must be in the stratosphere.

It’s .293. That’s not extraordinary. Maybe it was less characteristic than it seemed that De Aza accepted a walk from Mauricio Cabrera and the Mets got the leadoff man on. The point is he was on. Alejandro can run, as can Jose Reyes, which is a good skill to have when you aggressively bounce a pitch up the middle, as Jose did. Balls up the middle used to automatically mean base hit, but these days, with shifts, shadings and loads of video, you’re guaranteed of nothing. Both runners here were fast. The shortstop, who I’m still surprised isn’t Andrelton Simmons, seemed conscious of their speed. Dansby Swanson appeared poised to attempt to turn two. Instead, he turned none, letting an admittedly tricky ball clank off his person. The Mets had two on and nobody out.

Cabrera, who you’d trust with your life if not your hair, walked. Cespedes, who you’d trust with the bases loaded and nobody out if you weren’t worried it was one enormous setup (tempered in-game expectations and all that), walloped a mighty helpful fly ball to deep right. It went for a sacrifice fly. De Aza had no trouble scoring and Reyes took care to scoot to third. Cabrera and his cranky knee tagged, too, which should earn Asdrubal a best supporting actor nomination. He drew the throw that let Reyes arrive at third unaccosted. Heady stuff from the man with the dyed blonde head.

Granderson, who you trusted for five months to not muss up his RBI total but is suddenly driving in runs on demand, dunked a single into left. In came Reyes to tie the game. Over to third darted Cabrera, knee and all. That guys comes to play. As does Granderson. As does everybody on this team, even the fellas who don’t always or often succeed.

Kelly Johnson came on to pinch-hit, which is logical in the sense that he wasn’t in the starting lineup, but I swear I’ve so adjusted my view of the Mets that sometimes I forget who’s already in the game and who’s coming off the bench. This isn’t inattentiveness so much as my judgment that on the Mets, nobody’s a scrub, nobody’s a fill-in, nobody’s part-time, nobody’s full-time, there are no “B” lineups at all. Everybody’s an element of the whole. You know who’s getting it done for the Mets? The Mets, that’s who.

Johnson’s one of those Mets, we are delighted to report, and he did what he’s been doing from whatever role he is assigned. He doubled to right to drive home Asdrubal and put the Mets up, 5-4. The game the Mets were permitted to lose was now one they led, albeit by not enough for sheer comfort. Therefore, they were required to tack on some more runs. With Kelly on second and Grandy on third, the Braves opted to walk Jay Bruce (sound tactic, but have they scouted him since he left Cincinnati?) and pitch to T.J. Rivera, except Rivera was pinch-hit for by Michael Conforto, and Michael Conforto Mauricio Cabrera hit with a pitch. Our MC won that rap battle. Granderson trotted in to make it, 6-4.

The bases were still loaded, there was still only one out and one more hit would have broken this affair wide open. D’Arnaud was up next and, like Bruce, he’s still struggling as a 2016 Met. The Mets have as many outfielders as the 7 Line Army has acolytes, so you can almost overlook Jay’s difficulties. Travis’s travails are a little more troubling. He’s going to be in there more often than not. He appears out of it at the plate most at-bats. This time up, he struck out. So did De Aza, but De Aza was on his second go-round in the eighth, so he can be excused.

A two-run lead is better than a two-run deficit. The Mets’ back end was summoned. I got a little antsy at the sight of Reed, who has pitched so much and so well. Would have Fernando Salas, a little hotter and a little fresher, been a better bet? I don’t dabble all that much in bullpen management, but Reed made me nervous. I wished it was 9-4. I settled for 6-4. It stayed 6-4 on Reed’s watch, despite his giving up a hit. It took some swift defense around the first base bag to keep the score in place. It took Eric Campbell.

Yes, Soup is on again. He’s been chilling in the shadows for several days since his unlikely callup from Las Vegas. The Mets called everybody up once the Triple-A season ended. It would have been impolite to leave Eric behind. After the copious pinch-hitting and pitching changes, somebody needed to play first. Soup played it with aplomb. Good for him. Great for us.

The top of the order — Reyes, Cabrera, Cespedes — was up in the ninth. It went down suspiciously quickly and quietly. Really could have used those extra runs in the eighth. Then again, we have Jeurys Familia. Shouldn’t he be able to maintain a two-run lead over a three-out span?

He should. Despite a double, a productive groundout and a walk, he did. Familia’s probably also tired, but he perked up at just the right junctures. Freddie Freeman, for instance, struck out instead of tying the game. So did Tyler Flowers (if not Madame). I had each of them in my “they’re gonna ruin everything” pool in my head. I also had Familia in my “nah, he’s gonna be fine” pool. So I broke even once Jeurys nailed down his 48th save and the Mets won their sixth in a row and the Wild Card race stayed exactly where it was.

I’m in a little deeper, but that’s what happens in Septembers like these.

6 comments to Inside Their Heads

  • Paul Schwartz

    Does this make the Turner top 20? It should.
    BTW the Mets aren’t the only thing that is on fire.
    Messrs Prince and Fry are also sizzling.
    LGM!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Another great game, and great writeup, thanks.

    What is it with Braves Shortstop names? First Andrelton Simmons, which sounded like a Law Firm (I think you guys first pointed that out), now Dansby Swanson, which sounds like a town in Vermont or something. But when it comes to a key ground ball up the middle by a Mets bat, I was sure happy it was Dansby and not Andrelton.

  • Greg Mitchell

    I admit I wondered why they bothered to call up Soup. Even Terry groused about too bodies on the bench (a record 37). That final grab was, as announcers used to say, a Campbell’s “can of corn.”

    We used to mock Grandy for his low RBI count. D’arnaud, perfectly healthy, has 13 ribbies in almost 250 ABs. That, too, must be a record. As I noted earlier, Matt Reynolds with his 91 ABs, has 14. And weak-hitting Rivera twice as many.

    Prediction: Nimmo will deliver a walk-off hit before the weekend is out….

  • 9th string catcher

    Agree with the commenters – a stellar year for the fafif site. For me, the game isn’t over until I’ve watched the postgame, checked the standings, looked at the upcoming schedule and read the blog. keep up the great work!

  • Bob

    Greg-Your writing keeps getting better!
    Makes my mornings–

    WHY–It’s just AMAZIN’!
    Met Fan since Polo Grounds –1963

  • Eric

    Teheran has the Mets’ number and was pitching well. Gsellman was finally roughed up. Yet the Mets still managed to buy one more rotation turn for the sidelined, and hopefully recovering, deGrom and Matz (not to mention Harvey and Wheeler) without taking a loss in a game they should have lost. The Swanson error – that’s fairytale stuff.

    Smoker saved the game. The 3-6-3 DP was pretty. He’s been much needed help for a worn out bullpen. Reed has been doing heavy-lifting all season. He’s spent. I agree Salas needs to take over some of his load. Familia is tired, too. What the Mets are now couldn’t be counted on to last a season. But they don’t need to. They only need to keep this up for 21 more games. That’s little more than a play-offs-sized sample and anything can happen in the play-offs.

    Meanwhile, the Cardinals and the Giants are working just as hard for their wins against lesser teams. The Marlins and Pirates have dropped back into a 2nd tier, but not far enough to be counted out. I expect one of them, I’m guessing the Marlins, to find their footing for a last do-or-die run at the WC.