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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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There Are No Moral Victories*

The standings do not recognize moral victories. A 2-0 perfect game counts the same as some hideous crapfest against a second-division opponent that you win 9-6 despite walking the ballpark. The same goes for losses — the manager turning over the buffet after sending the backup catcher to the mound doesn’t mean the defeat was hideous enough to cost you an extra half-game.

But Saturday night’s depressing, aggravating, ludicrous, exciting, fun, absurd and ultimately tragic loss was about as close as you can get to a moral victory. It won’t help in the standings — the Mets start Sunday tied with the Giants and a half-game in front of the Cardinals — but it does earn an asterisk, at least on this blog.

It also strikes me as a miniature version of the 2016 season. Which we’ll come back to in a bit.

The game defied description, but I’ll try: Sean Gilmartin was bad and so was Rafael Montero, with their combined efforts putting the Mets in a 10-0 hole. Shame on the shitty Mets fans who booed Gilmartin, pressed into service after a month in which he didn’t throw 20 pitches in any appearance — there’s another New York team that’s a better fit for their likes. I hope those fans left, because once Terry Collins wisely sat down the varsity to save them for Sunday, weird things started happening.

A division of Met relievers sent into battle held the Phillies at bay, and the Las Vegas 51s started making some noise. It was 10-4, which is still lipstick-on-a-pig territory, but then it was 10-6, which is when you catch yourself thinking the pig has some good qualities, and then … well, let’s not pursue that metaphor any further. Once the Mets were within four it was fun — the Phillies looked like they were trying to wake up from a nightmare, while the Mets looked like they were determined to keep dreaming.

Baseball tugs you in different directions — towards the cool logic of statistics and then towards the hot rush of fan enthusiasm. The latter is often a funhouse mirror for assessing the former — it’s what we’re looking into when we think we spy hot hands, players being due, clutch, grit, karma, destiny and all the other intangibles we like to argue about. With that in mind, our pals at Amazin’ Avenue end each game recap with a graph of both teams’ Win Probability (it’s courtesy of FanGraphs) and the chart for this game is instructive.

It shows that the Mets’ chances of winning Saturday night bottomed out at 0.2 percent after Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into a fourth-inning double play and barely budged from there until the uprising began. In the ninth, with Michael Conforto on first and Eric Campbell on second and the Mets trailing 10-8, the chance of a Mets victory had risen dramatically, ascending all the way to … 17.5 percent.

Those aren’t wise betting odds, but it sure didn’t feel that way to me, not with Lucas Duda looming at the plate with one out and the tying run on first. Hell, I could practically see it — Michael Mariot would get into a count where he’d need to throw a fastball, and he’d try to put one on Duda’s knee, except the ball would drift just slightly towards the center, ending up exactly where Duda likes it. Duda would golf the ball on an arc, his eyes coming up and his mouth opening as he tracked it into the night. The ball would wind up in Utleyville, maybe clattering off the pole that Lucas just missed the other night, or crashing into the facing above it. In play, run(s), as At Bat likes to say, which would mean 11-10 Mets, and we’d know that my God, anything is possible.

When that didn’t happen, my confidence was only moderately shaken. Because hadn’t Travis d’Arnaud found his way to the right place through an 11-pitch at-bat? If d’Arnaud connected the ball would head for left-center and wind up in the Party Deck, maybe hitting off the railing above the head of Roman Quinn, and we’d just hope that Travis wouldn’t shatter a tibia jumping on home plate or go on the DL with sunflower seeds in his ear canal or suffer some other Extremely Travis d’Arnaud Calamity.

And if those two stalwarts couldn’t quite manage that level of heroics, why, Gavin Cecchini was behind d’Arnaud! Cecchini and I were tied in the career hits column when he entered the game in the fifth, but since then he’d doubled twice, ascending the ladder of our affections from Oh Yeah That Guy to Comforting and Reliable Presence. (Yeah, it was that kind of game.)

Alas, this is where the dream ended. We all awoke, Duda popped up and TdA hit a little bouncer to Mariot. Pumpkins again.

But still, wasn’t it fun?

And hasn’t this year wound up being fun?

The Mets were essentially down 10-zip in August: below .500 with an All-Star team worth of DL residents. They then went insane, vaulting to a tie atop the wild-card ranks despite having player after player snatched away — no Neil Walker, no Jacob deGrom, no Steven Matz, no Wilmer Flores. Now there are seven games to go over eight days, and somehow this band of stepbrothers has something to play for and nothing whatsoever to lose.

If they fall short next week, I’ll be disappointed but look back on 2016 as a year whose finishing kick was a rollicking good time, a county fair every night. And if they do make it to a 163rd game, I’ll enjoy whatever that means, whether it’s one extra day of baseball with a disappointing ending or a championship that will launch a million columns bitching about wild cards.

Think of these last seven games as the ninth. There are 51s coming up and guys who haven’t panned out and guys who just got back and guys we’ve quit on and then embraced, and of course Bartolo Colon. And maybe, just maybe, they have a rally in them — because haven’t they come this far?

Here’s to cheering them on.

10 comments to There Are No Moral Victories*

  • Matt in Richmond

    Great job describing the nearly indescribable. And yes, my ultimate takeaway no matter what happens the next week will be how fun this season has been….despite such incredible misfortune.

  • EdK

    I dunno, about 3 games ago it was misery and gloom. Going 2-4 vs the Braves and Phillies isn’t that fun. Two worst offenses in NL averaging over 6 runs a game. StL and SF lose almost every day, if not for that this would be for nothing.

  • 9th string catcher

    A terrible, wonderful, forgettable,memorable,lunacy of a season. Collins is brilliant and horrible, the team is starved for offense and a juggernaut. The starting pitching is dominant and in complete disarray. The best and worst season imaginable. It really just depends on the day.

    If the mets did get to the playoffs, the pitching matchups would be hilarious. The Cubs or Dodgers or nationals would trot out their number 1,2 and 3 starters,. The mets would counter with their number 3, 5 and 10th. (Unless they get injured in the next week).

    What a ride. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • NostraDennis

    Greg says in the previous post that every game is a season unto itself. Now, Jason says in this one that every season is a single game. I believe you’re both right. Eight games left…bottom of the ninth, (virtual) tie game. Let’s go Mets!

  • Eric

    10 runs are too many, but with the kind of pitching that started the game, the Mets were supposed to surrender runs. It’s only with the wonderment of this WC run that it seemed realistic the sub-grade pitching lined up for the game would manage to hold the line.

    The trade-off of falling behind big early in the game is the loss paid for a day off for the back end of the Mets’ exhausted bullpen. A little extra rest for the playing wounded 30-something regulars helps a little, too.

    7 games left in the season are a play-off series, except the Mets probably will have to win better than 4 of 7 games.

    There’s no room for error – the Mets are tied in the loss column with the Giants and Cardinals. The Mets should be starting Syndergaard and Colon 4 of the 7 games with Gsellman and Lugo filling in the other 3 games.

    Today: Gsellman
    Monday: Colon @ Miami
    Tuesday: Syndergaard
    Wednesday: Lugo
    Thursday: Off day
    Friday: Gsellman @ Philadelphia
    Saturday: Colon
    Sunday: Syndergaard

    That’s a far cry from the 2015 Mets post-season rotation, but at least it’s the best they can muster now.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Horrible news: Jose Fernandez of Marlins has died in boating accident. Puts things in perspective.

    Just hours earlier reports had circulated the “bad news” for Mets was that Marlins were giving him extra day of rest and he would now face Mets tomorrow.

  • Mikey

    Omg that is so horrible about fernandez….and the other three that were on the boat.

    Reminds me of 1993 or so when i lived in cleveland and steve olin and tim crews were killed in a boat accident and bob ojeda who was on that boat somehow survived.

    RIP jose….thoughts amd prayers to the families

  • mikeL

    holy crap. i went to bed PO’ed that ty kelly was allowed to be up and then out after one pitch, making bruce’s HR much less relevant…
    i hated seeing the mets face fernandez because he was clearly an elite and very special athlete – and one who didn’t seem to lose at home.
    very sad news for the families of all involved, not to mention the marlins and their fans.
    RIP jose and friends…

    yes, must be happy whatever the mets do at this point. every game feels like a playoff. and we don’t need to wait all day for the reboud win! i hope!

  • Dave

    The news about Fernandez puts injury woes into perspective, doesn’t it?

    Based on the premise that you can’t win ’em all, last night’s game certainly was the most late 2016 Mets loss of the season. No quitting…except of course for Cespedes half-speeding it on that ball that should have only been a double.

  • mookie4ever

    Great effort, Jason, to record that incredible most fun loss I’ve ever watched. Oh, well, the Mets’ surprisingly studly pitching steeds were bound to turn back into pumpkins sometime (or was it mice?) But in rode the bats to the (almost) rescue. Two takeaways from the game for me. 1 – The future is bright and it would be a damn shame if a few of those 51s didn’t break camp with the big club next spring. And 2 – I’m glad the Nats were forced to watch as the Mets served notice on the league that even their JV players never, never quit, no matter the score or the dire circumstances.

    Some team out there, hopefully more than one, going to regret not finishing off our boys when they had the chance. But whatever happens, I’m just so proud of this team and how they’ve turned this season from a hopeless slog into an exciting run at the brass ring. Let’s Go Mets!