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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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Doubling Down

I’ll accept the title of Fan Who Had Nothing to Do With the Outcome But Can Be Forgiven for Thinking He Did: a couple of seconds before the turning point of Saturday night’s marathon against the Twins, I looked up at the scoreboard and told my friend that “if this keeps up we’ll somehow be the last game on the MLB schedule.”


Nope, time to go home — and go home happy.

It was a late-developing thriller, though: for most of the night this was one of those close games that feels more sleepy than taut. Ervin Santana was dealing, changing speeds and leaving the Mets helpless at the plate; Seth Lugo was wild but managed to escape the jams he created, his night marred only by a curveball to Eddie Rosario that didn’t break and became a souvenir.

Nobody much minded — it was an absolutely perfect night for baseball, clear and comfortable. The 15,000 who arrived early enough to get their Jacob deGrom hair hats wore them proudly, even amid news that the man who’d inspired the giveaway would be pitching in front of the first zero fans for the rest of the 2016 season, felled by ulnar-nerve compression. (Oh, the maladies you learn about as a Mets fan.)

I was there in the company of kind friends gathered for a birthday outing, at the front of a section that contained a substantial minority of Twins rooters. Enemy fans are a fact of life in the online age, and a few fanbases — the Giants spring to mind — have become reliably irritating presences at Citi Field in recent years. The Twins fans, though, were excellent guests: heard from when something good happened for their side and otherwise conspicuous only by their gear. Chalk it up to a combination of Minnesota Nice and, well, rooting for a team destined to lose 100 games.

On our side, there was anxiety but also a steely-eyed sense that there was still a lot of baseball to be played. (We didn’t grasp just how much.) The crowd stirred when the Mets did, and really came to life when Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce arrived at the plate. Our faith in Cespedes was rewarded, as he hit a soft liner over the infield to tie the game in the eighth; on the other hand, I’m worried about Bruce not just as a player but as a person, as he’s worn out his welcome to the point of getting a rough ride even on routine plays. He did hit a couple of balls on the nose, with buzzard’s luck; for his sake as well as ours I hope things turn for him posthaste.

The game ground on, with Jeurys Familia besting Joe Mauer in a nifty 11-pitch duel in the ninth before giving way to Hansel Robles, which can be an iffy proposition. Robles looked fine for one inning, but then surrendered a truly mammoth blast to Byron Buxton, one that hit the facing of the third deck above the Acela club. And while the Mets were now into the Parade of Unreliable Relievers, the Twins still had their closer.

Uh-oh, except Brandon Kintzler arrived in the 11th and discovered it was one of those dreadful nights for a pitcher when he’s brought a cocked thumb and pointed finger to an actual gunfight. Curtis Granderson lashed Kintzler’s second pitch into the left-field party deck; Bruce just missed ending the game with a drive to center; T.J. Rivera and Brandon Nimmo singled; Kevin Plawecki nearly won the game with a liner that hit Kintzler and became a stupendously unlucky out; Kintzler hit Matt Reynolds; and finally after all that up stepped Jose Reyes.

The Reyes AB was the flipside of Familia vs. Mauer: a nine-pitch marathon, but one that ended with Kintzler slipping a fastball onto the inside corner. Somehow he’d survived, on we went to the 12th, and I started telling my friends that yes, there was a 14th inning stretch.

Josh Edgin came in and did nothing wrong; Michael Tonkin came in and got Asdrubal Cabrera on a loud but inconsequential flyball, then coaxed a pop-up from Cespedes, then departed in favor of Ryan O’Rourke. I confess I looked past Granderson and started fretting about the 13th, not because I doubted Granderson but because an extra-inning homer to win the game seemed like an awful lot to ask of a man who’d just hit an extra-inning homer to tie it.

It wasn’t. Granderson worked the count full (getting the benefit of a couple of calls, if we’re being honest) and then hooked an offspeed pitch down the right-field line. It wasn’t a bolt like the one he’d hit an inning before, but a looping drive headed for the shortest porch in the park. Max Kepler tracked it to the wall and then watched it plop into Utleyville for the win.

For those keeping track at home, Granderson now has 28 home runs and just 51 RBIs; a future generation of fans will scan his 2016 numbers and assume they’ve found a typo. But then the 2016 Mets are baffling as a group, too: they’re second in the NL in homers but just 13th in runs. More interesting stats here if you’re so inclined.

To keep track of happier things, the Mets are now tied with the Giants for the first wild card, and that’s not really a tie because we have the tiebreaker for home field in the play-in game.

Yes, I said happier things. DeGrom is the latest young gun to be snatched away, leaving the Mets rotation as Syndergaard and Colon and Hold the Phone and the lineup as a grab bag of Plan Bs and Cs. We all know this, just like we know that if the Mets survive to the play-in game and make it to the NLDS they’ll be given approximately zero chance of getting any further.

But so what? This is a patchwork team that keeps sewing up holes and rips, and now somehow controls its own destiny with two weeks left to go. No 163rd game is ensured, but in mid-August who even thought we’d be having this conversation? Get to that 163rd game and you’re into the Land of Random Outcomes, where strange things happen so routinely that we ought to stop thinking of them as strange.

We’re playing with house money when we thought we’d be out on the street with empty pockets. May as well double down, right?

24 comments to Doubling Down

  • Matt in Richmond

    On a day clouded by the unfortunate news regarding Jake, there was much to be excited about. Lugo continues to be excellent, and show a ton of moxie. Superb relief pitching from many guys (not just the big 2). Bruce hit the ball hard several times. The surprise return of Little Luke. The Marlins are flopping around like a fish out of water. Granderson demonstrates (again) why he is indispensable.

    Props to Robles as well. Yes he gave up the go ahead homer, but in his second inning of work, that was a good job to collect himself and set down the next 3. He has had a tendency in the past to let misfortune snowball.

    I know it’s way too early to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway. Does TJ have a bit of the (young) Murph in him? No real position, no real exceptional athletic ability, but dude just gets hits.

    • Eric

      Rivera seems steadier (and blander) in the field and on base than Murphy. As for his bat, too early to say whether he’ll turn out to be closer to Murphy or Satin. If he’s closer to Murphy, that softens the blow of trading Herrera for Bruce.

      Murphy’s 2nd best run as a Met was in his 1st year during a pennant race, too. Rivera repeating that Murphy is fine for now.

    • Greg Mitchell

      2nd time this week I’ve seen praise here for a relief pitchers who gave up potential game winning HR because he managed to get out of an inning or pitch a clean inning after.

  • mookie4ever

    Nice post, Jason, it does feel like our Mets are doubling down. Another essential pitcher (perhaps THE most essential one) down and out? Find a way to win anyway – check. They’re the Timex team; they take a licking and keep on ticking. I never, never gave up on them, but even I couldn’t imagine they’d be this resilient through this much bad news for this long. A game like this feels like maybe the baseball gods are paying attention to how our boys have carried themselves through all the adversity thrown at them this year. Maybe they’re getting ready to cut us a break. Wonder what in the world our Metsies would do with that?

  • Steve K

    Last night, I was at dinner for most of the “regulation” portion of the game. When I finally checked the score, I experienced a sinking feeling when I saw they were down 1-0 late…coming on the heels of the news about deGrom, a loss…especially to the Twins…would have been tough to take.

    When I saw the 1-1 score on the way home, relief coursed through me.

    At home, I had the game on TV while doing some light editing of my novel, my emotions ebbing and flowing with the events of the 11th inning.

    With bedtime approaching, I told myself I’d turn it off after the 12th, even if the score remained tied.

    Thankfully, Grandy made that decision a moot point.

    The Mets pulled off a gut-check win in a game where they overcame a sleepy offense. If they go on to capture the wild card, this game, along with the thriller against the Nats on Tuesday will be long remembered.


  • Shawn B

    LOOK WHO’S NO. 4

  • Ken K. in NJ

    So I guess the recipe for success is to have Granderson come up in key situations with nobody on base.

  • Eric

    The sequel to the book on the 2015 season is shaping up to be almost as fascinating in its own way.

    The Mets paid for another stretch-run win with the sacrifice of another key player to the baseball gods.

    This run since mid-August reminds of what I’ve heard about the 1973 run where unimpressive statistics don’t tell the story because those Mets just found ways to win the games they needed to win down the stretch by just enough to qualify for the play-offs.

    The Mets struggle against good pitchers (and many not good pitchers), whatever that team’s won-loss record, so any win against a quality pitcher like Santana is a bonus. Kudos to Lugo and solid relief work for keeping his side close while Santana was shutting down the Mets. The Buxton HR wasn’t off a bad pitch by Robles.

    With the need for Collins to moderate playing time for his remaining, playing wounded, 30-something regulars, the main things are taking series and resting the regulars where he can. Like eking out the win versus the Nationals checked the box, taking the 1st 2 games versus the Twins allows for Collins to rest his regulars for the rubber game.

    Bruce hitting the ball hard into outs, especially the 11th inning out, was worrisome because it looks like even when he makes solid contact, he has warning track power.

    In the Giants-Cardinals series, while the Mets benefit whichever team wins, once the Giants won the 1st game, I preferred the Giants to win the rest of the series to knock the Cardinals far enough back from the Mets for a series-size cushion for the 2nd WC slot. Plus, I expect the Dodgers to beat up on the Giants so the Mets could catch up on the Giants later. Still, it’s nice that the Mets are now the front runners for home field in the WC game.

    I’m relieved the Marlins have dropped back. I don’t want them to be in striking distance when the Mets play them. Now it’s the Pirates that look like they’ve found their footing. Both of them are running out of games to contend, though both will be in position to play spoiler.

    The get ’em on, move ’em over, knock ’em in Reyes run was as enjoyable as Granderson’s HRs. And of course, kudos to Granderson. I did not expect him to homer off the LOOGY. With all his continuing struggles at the plate, he’s come up with big hits down the stretch, which makes up for a lot. He’s also playing a credible centerfield.

  • mikeL

    yes bad news yesterday with jake – though i wasn’t expecting things to be all well if he pitched today.

    as mets fans we’ve been – for better worse – conditioned to expect the worst, and then worse than that!

    lugo and gsellman seem to be part of the magic/baseball gods-love – or whatever has gotten the mets to this place.

    we’ll soon see whether ynoa is also part of the ongoing script sooon enough.

    glad to see grandy of all people come up so big – and TWICE!

    yes, the big key looking ahead is to keep the marlins out of striking range and unable to play spoiler…been there, done that!

    doubling down!
    rolling LGM!

  • Dave

    On one hand, one can’t help but wonder how many games the Mets would’ve won this year with maybe just days on the DL cut in half. Then I think that maybe without the obstacles, some of these guys might not have had the fire in their bellies we see now. Life and baseball are rarely perfect, this was the hand we’ve dealt this time around, so we’ll see where it takes us. This may well be the gutsiest team in Mets history.

  • Pete In Iowa

    The eighth time was the charm and we’ve finally made it ten games over!! It wasn’t easy (it NEVER is), but now’s the time to put 10 over in the rearview and start to sew things up!
    Really, really liked the strung together AB’s of TJ, Nimmo, Plawecki and Reynolds in the 11th. Plaw’s shot up the middle should have won it, but by dumb luck the pitcher was not only in the way, but he happens to deflect directly to Dozier. Still can’t believe Reyes took a pitch right down Broadway to end the frame.
    LGM!!! (And LGG – Giants)!!!

  • Bob

    In my 53 years of being a Met fan, I’m still amazed…Was Grandy not on a 1-26 schnide before he hits game-tying & game winning HRs?
    The Baseball Gods have a sense of humor (sometimes)
    and I’m humbled (and HAPPY)this AM!
    Why, it’s just AMAZIN’!
    Enjoy the ride my fellow Met fans….
    Met Fan since Polo Grounds–1963

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • LeClerc

    The combined 2016 won-lost record of Harvey, DeGrom, Matz, and Verrett = 23-34.

    The rest of the staff (to date) = 56-35.

    I like our chances going forward.

  • Jacobs27

    The Mets are playing must-see baseball in late September. I’ll take it.

    Meanwhile, the Giants find themselves with some facsimile of the Mets bullpen circa September 2007. Ouch.

  • Luis

    WTH is Ynoa out of the game?? and now Goeddel?? good grief

  • Curt

    Once today’s games are in the books we’ll have scored the 2nd fewest runs in baseball – and we’re sitting in a playoff spot. I don’t know if that’s horrible or wonderful. Dan Warthen should get a BIG pay raise this offseason.

    • Eric

      Warthen and whoever is in charge of Mets minor league pitcher development.

      The Mets offense is struggling as much as ever, clutch hits notwithstanding. Yet the Mets are somehow leading the league in ERA (2.70) in September with the organizational leftovers after the starters and the pitching prospects traded away last season.

    • Steve K

      Second-fewest runs in baseball, despite hitting 200+ HRs. I’m not sure what to make of that stat.

  • mookie4ever

    Eric, I lived through 1973, and you’re right, this year really does have that feel. I don’t remember just why they were so bad up to August, whether it was injuries or what, but I do recall them turning it on in August & Sept and it was truly amazing. Tugger was pitching like a man possessed, they were coming from behind, winning games they shouldn’t, and having crazy fun in the dugout. I think Rusty was on fire with the bat, Willie inspired with his legend-ness. What a ride! So much fun, just like now.

  • Art

    I had a pinched ulna nerve about 4 years ago. It hurt to even bend my arm. Surgery happens when it is severe, and should be done ASAP as I believe it is a 4-6 month recovery.

  • Rob E.

    It means that they have no speed and poor on-base skills, which was exacerbated by abysmal performance with runners in scoring position; basically, they can’t “generate” a run. But you can put much of that in the rear-view mirror because the team of the last month is not the same team we had prior to that. And now it’s a 13-game season.

    • Curt

      We just finished a series scoring 9 runs against the team that has given up the 2nd most runs in the league. We scored those 9 runs while hitting 5 home runs and in the three games went 4-for-24 with runners in scoring position. The series before that we scored 5 runs in 3 games(not gonna check the RISP/HR numbers there but it can’t be good).

      We may not be exactly the same team as we were earlier in the year but there’s a close resemblance.

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