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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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Destination Somewhere

The 2016 New York Mets will play a 163rd game.

We know that much, even as we’re desperate to know more.

The Mets beat a lifeless-looking Phillie team on an odd night at Citizens Bank Park, with a brisk, chilly wind knocking down anything hit to center or right. In the early going Ryan Howard tried to hit one out and failed, as did Lucas Duda. When behemoths like that come up short, you realize a different game is afoot.

Fortunately, the Mets have diversified their offensive portfolio in recent weeks. In the fourth, after three innings of working Alec Asher into hitters’ counts with nothing to show for it, they broke through with four straight singles by Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and T.J. Rivera for a 2-1 lead. Add in a home run by Bruce and some late-inning slapstick and five runs was more than enough to support Robert Gsellman, who turned in six innings of fine work before handing the ball off to Fernando Salas, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

Extra credit goes to Granderson, who ran down Jimmy Paredes‘s drive at the center-field fence in the sixth, squelching the Phils’ best bet to come back in the game. And a tip of the hat to the baseball gods for whatever that was in the eighth. With runners on the corners and one out, Cespedes hit a pop into the wind behind first, above Howard’s head. The breeze didn’t drag the ball very far away from Howard, but by now he’s become a sessile fielder, and it was enough. The ball just missed plunking a retreating Jose Reyes in the helmet and caromed off first base. A befuddled Cespedes wound up on first, a wide-eyed Reyes was forced at second, but meanwhile Alejandro De Aza was scooting home for a run. No one in the booth could recall such a play in their collective decades of experience; from the expressions on the faces of Reyes and Cespedes, it was new to them too. Come to the park and you really might see something you’ve never seen before.

Before we move ahead to ponder a rather important weekend, let’s stop for a moment and appreciate the key personnel behind what would have been a ho-hum win if not for the intersection of the calendar and the standings.

  • If you’d heard of Gsellman before his big-league debut in late August, you’re probably also named Gsellman. If Jacob deGrom is Snoopy, the bulkier, shaggier Gsellman is Spike — a real-life version of GEICO’s mistaken-identity gag. But he’s not a cameo character anymore: he’s got a plus fastball and good breaking stuff, throws strikes and doesn’t scare. That’s a remarkable discovery at any time, let alone when the Mets needed it the most.
  • The offensive star was Bruce, whom you may recall being pinch-hit for by Eric Campbell and unable to put his hand over his heart for the national anthem without someone booing him. No, not at some painful-to-recall but now distant time earlier this summer. That happened last week.
  • The key defensive play was turned in by Granderson, whose reassignment to center field was greeted with a collective gulp, given the mileage on his 35-year-old legs and the small-caliber bore of his arm. I’m not quite sure how, but he’s been fine. Hell, he’s been pretty darn good.
  • Supporting roles were played by Reyes, Salas, T.J. Rivera and De Aza. Taking them one by one, that’s a guy released by Colorado and free for the taking, a guy who’d been toiling anonymously in the Angels’ pen, an undrafted free agent turned minor-league batting champ, and a spare-part outfielder any of us would have gladly driven to the airport to be rid of in June.

And yet this band of irregulars, deployed in ever-shifting combinations through Terry Collins audibles, not only beat the Phillies but has the Mets guaranteed of playing extra baseball this year.

So who do we play and when? We can’t answer that one, not with the Mets, Giants and Cardinals stacked up like 86-, 85- and 84-win airplanes trying to land on a runway with two spots. We could play the Giants, play the Cardinals, or watch as those two teams play each other in a play-in game for the play-in game. We could play in San Francisco, in St. Louis, or at Citi Field. We could even join a modern barnstorming campaign to break a three-way tie, a spectacle that would end with the surviving team staggering into Chicago and activating its bat boy to pitch against the Cubs.

(Hey, if that’s the way forward, we’ll take it.)

But right now we know one thing the Giants and Cardinals don’t — we’re getting a 163rd game. After the dismay of August, I won’t call that a miracle — we only bring that word out for once-in-a-generation events — but it sure is amazin’.

25 comments to Destination Somewhere

  • eric1973

    Love this team. Won without Duda and Wright, which was really sweet to see, as their replacements were better than they were, with Lonely and Flores coming up with clutch hits on a nightly basis. Really miss Flores.

    • DMC

      Losing Wright may just have been a positive. Would they have gotten Reyes without him going down? He was batting .226. Removing that dead weight for Reyes and Flores was a plus.

  • Mikey

    Oh how badly i want this win tonite. That would assure thor in the wc game right?

    • DMC

      Correct! It would be fitting if Bartolo clinched it and also it would mean Collins could save Syndergaard for the WC game.

  • eric1973

    Don’t forget, 1pm start.

    Great article in N.Y. Daily News on TC’s clubhouse management. Sure wish we had that plus good strategy.

  • Jason

    Geg, your hardball perceptiveness and wit are as acute as ever here; “unable to put his hand over his heart for the national anthem” without getting booed is about the best description I’ve heard for the guy on the team that can do no right by the fan base (and, sad to say, not even hyperbolic). As for the DeGromm-Gsellman Peanuts analogy, I’d buy that shirt if someone drew up said caricutures.

    Considering, now, the myriad possibilities of extra baseball for our Amazins, the one that sounds sweetest to my ears (and, not to hex us, but maybe even the most statistically likely!), is Bart and the boys taking care of business today vs. the Phil’s lowly ‘pen (and there’s another great animated parallel– there’s a little bit of Simpson in our Bart, ain’t there?), affording the opportunity of letting the team rest for game 162 tomorrow, and watching the Giants and Cards end up tied after tomorrow so’s they have to slug it out and deplete their resources before Wednesday!

    • Curt

      To add a detail or two, my dream scenario is for the Cards and Giants to be tied and to have a 24-inning play-in game with a final score of 16-15. Game ends around 5 a.m., (after several rain delays of enough length that they need to pull out a new pitcher) the winner flies in to NY, after flight delays arriving about 2 hours before game time . . .

      I should stop now. But sometimes it’s nice to think we live in Narnia.

      PS – I generally am a Collins supporter but every day that goes by where Flores can’t swing a bat reinstates a slow burn remembering a game where no pinch runner was used.

      • mikeL

        yes, that one nags at me every day a bit as well. for guy who became so clutch after such a rough, role-depleted start…and that he was able to flash such a nice glove at so many positions!

        that said, wilmer will be part of the re-reenforcements resting, rehabbing and planning their decisive comebacks for 2017.

        we got duda back, we got bruce bat, tj rivera doing a solid scrappy clutch post-murph 2B and many good vibes all around.

        a shame we don’t have wally back in the dugout, he might have been able to fill in some of the real-time gaps in attention and action…but tne mets do control their destiny.

        yes a SF/StL tie-breaker would be perfect, all the better if drawn out and exhausting for all involved.

        and yes, we don’t have to wait all day for the next game!

        LGM!

  • Jason

    Sorry, Jason! You guys both write like nobody’s business. :)

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Ryan Howard has “become a sessile fielder.” Thank you, Jason. I learned a new word. But, does that mean that someday Ryan Howard’s son will become a prints fielder, whatever that might be?

  • Matt in Richmond

    We all miss Wilmer Curt, but Terry didn’t make him recklessly dive into home. That was a foolish move by Wilmer, and could have happened at any time.

    Loney has done an admirable job filling in, but is a net negative compared to Duda as supported by statistics. I’ve done this several times already, but here goes again. Loney OPS 14,15 and 16 .716, .680, .693. Duda 14, 15 .830 and .838. The area where you would figure Loney to be a significant upgrade would be batting average but he’s only hit .263. Combine that with far less power and far fewer walks and I don’t even think there’s an argument to be had here. You just don’t like Duda, and that’s fine. But the Mets would have won more games with a healthy Luke for a full season.

    As for Wright, it’s trickier. We’ve used so many guys at third. It’s hard to imagine Wright at his age providing the jolt that we got from Reyes. I think missing him was a significant blow early, but with the acquisition of Jose we weathered the storm. Either way, there’s nothing sweet about losing your captain.

    • Dave R.

      I agree about Wright, Matt, but of all the ways this season could have gone better, having Wright the way he was before he went down doesn’t feel like one of them.

      I can’t criticize Loney. He was an awfully nice fill in. I hope to see a lot more of him in late inning post-season situations.

    • metsfaninparadise

      Re Wright–we’ve definitely missed his leadership on and of the field, but I agree that his low-average power bat would just have been more of the same in an attack that desperately required diversification. Reyes has been just what we needed at the top of the order, and has allowed Grandy to return to a lineup spot more suited to his natural talents, also lengthening the lineup. Signing Reyes was almost like getting two players at once

      • DMC

        Wright’s leadership? What in the Met’s performance in key situations during his tenure would lead you to believe that had an value? He’s a below .200 in the post season.

        • sturock

          You really can’t talk about what might have been. Just talk about what was and what is. Somehow, Alderson and Collins pieced together the right group of replace-Mets, who somehow got hot at the right time and stayed hot through the clinching game. Everything else is just speculation. It worked out, just like it did last season. For that, I’m thankful. Everything else? Whatever. Figure it out in the off-season. Enjoy the playoffs!!

  • metsfaninparadise

    And with our recent luck, that bat boy would turn out to have a hellacious knuckleball

  • 9th string catcher

    I don’t think Wright vs Reyes at 3rd makes a major difference in wins and losses. Reyes hasn’t stolen a ton of bases or changed the offensive approach in a significant way. Reyes has exactly 6 more SBs than Wright has. Forget average – Wright actually has a higher OBP and a lot more power. Defensively they’re about the same – both prone to 9th inning errors that drive me up the wall. The key is that Sandy found the perfect replacement at the right time.

    I think Duda is probably worth a couple more wins than Loney, especially for a team built on power. Duda’s bat for protection is key. However, Duda is very streaky and while he can carry teams for weeks at a time he can go into slumps and stop being selective at the plate. Loney has been very consistent. Given Duda’s back, it’s important to have both of them available so there’s no loss in defense towards the end of the game. Duda’s glove won’t hurt you in the field, but Kelly Johnson’s could.

  • Team, given injury issues and other holes, needs to keep one extra guy for bench and one fewer reliever (will still be plenty). You can debate who that player should be but crazy to go with short bench.

    Note: reporters had declared that Duda would start all 3 games this weekend partly to test if he can hold up in playoffs and maybe keep Loney off roster. Already he is sitting for today’s game. So there you go.

  • eric1973

    Typical Loney:
    1-4, game-tying double in 8th inning

    Typical Duda:
    2-4, 2 home runs, Mets lose 4-2

    It’s more important WHEN you do it, not how often.

  • Mets come to senses, will not risk Thor throwing even one inning, as Terry declared as late as the after game celebration–now will just do a bullpen as Ynoa starts. Much needed off day for all, including us!

  • eric1973

    Sandy must have told him. Sounded like a TC move.

    • Terry said flatly after game “you won’t see much of Noah tomorrow” but he would start…half an hour later Noah is telling press he is only doing a bullpen and asked if he thinks that’s best he said “yes.”

      I guess no need to sent Thor out there with instructions not to cover first, don’t throw too hard, and duck if ball hit at you…