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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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Neil Before Clods

People go to the movies and yammer. They go to the symphony and fail to silence their phones. They go to museums to take selfies and be dumb. There’s no art form created by humanity that can’t be ruined by the presence of humans. Why should baseball be any different?

The always-dizzying Mets have had quite the run of self-induced drama recently. They’ve mismanaged injuries, thrown luckless journeymen to the wolves and are now embroiled in a made-for-talk-radio pissing match with recidivist prodigal son Matt Harvey.

If you were paying attention, Monday saw the Mets not disable Asdrubal Cabrera (because this approach has yielded such spectacular results over the last couple of years) and dominate Twitter timelines as various people yelled about whether Harvey had been golfing or at some douche-bro club, felled by a migraine or brought down by up-whooping, texted no one because he was sleeping or texted the wrong people too late, and (presumably) whether he answered the door in Greenwich Village dressed in Batman PJs or his ESPN the Body ensemble.

(By the way, I’m trying to imagine what’s less fun than a late-night tete-a-tete with Mets security goons who want to take my temperature and assess whether or not my eyes are suspiciously red. I can think of stuff, but it’s a short list.)

I didn’t pay it much mind and don’t plan to, because I don’t really care — when I checked Twitter on Monday it was because I wanted to know if Gavin Cecchini had been activated. (He hasn’t — presumably he’s been stashed in one of those depressing hotels by La Guardia, one hopes unaccompanied by Tony Tarasco.)

What I really wanted, once night fell, was a baseball game unencrusted by barnacles of nonsense. I wanted a theater without yakkers, a concert hall without cellphones, a museum without selfie sticks.

Fortunately, baseball can generally be relied on to provide that.

The Mets and Giants — a stubbornly enigmatic team and an inexplicably terrible one, respectively — collaborated to produce a perfectly serviceable baseball game that was exactly what I needed, particularly since it came with a happy ending.

It was an odd one — close but somehow not particularly taut. Part of that was Jacob deGrom‘s inefficiency — his pitch count escalated dangerously, leading to his departure after six so-so innings. Yet he left with 11 Ks, and he got strikeouts when he really needed them, fanning Gorkys Hernandez with a high fastball to end the fourth and Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence to end the fifth.

Points also for the curveball that Jerry Blevins threw Belt to end the top of the seventh. It was pure evil, starting on a path that looked like it would hit Belt in the upper thigh yet winding up barely above the plate. Belt swung and missed, but shouldn’t feel too bad — he couldn’t have hit that pitch if he’d been armed with a machine gun.

Still, it looked like the Mets might fall short, and I was gritting my teeth thinking about having to write 500-odd words about losing by a skinny run because a stupid ball just barely hopped over a stupid fence. That happened to Neil Walker in the first, as his double was transformed from the happily up-the-gap variety to the no-way-that’s-not-fair ground-rule variety, forcing Jay Bruce to return to first instead of following Michael Conforto home with the tying run. Instead of 2-2, it stayed 2-1 Giants.

The Mets tied it up in the fifth on T.J. Rivera‘s double, fell behind immediately on a long Buster Posey home run, then tied it up again on a pinch-hit double by Curtis Granderson. But my mind went back to late-inning ties at Citi Field against the Giants and didn’t like the potential outcome. Nor was I particularly enamored of the idea of the two teams playing on and on before a chilled and punch-drunk clientele, not after having been sucked into the Yankees and Cubs re-enacting Verdun last night.

Fortunately, the reliable part of the Giants’ bullpen chose this night to prove un-, which is really all Bruce Bochy‘s team needs right now. Derek Law wiggled out of serious trouble in the eighth by coaxing a double-play ball from single-thumbed stalwart Cabrera, and then Hunter Strickland looked poised to do the same with two outs in the ninth, runners on first and second and Walker at the plate.

The pitch Strickland threw wasn’t that bad — it was a slider diving below the knee. But it was meant to slide to the outside of the plate, and instead it slid from the inside to the middle. Posey reoriented his mitt and stabbed at it, but he’s done this long enough to have suspected the ball wouldn’t reach its destination. Walker whacked it down the line into the exurbs of Utleyville, chasing Conforto home and the Mets’ latest misadventures away.

Well, at least a little. And at least for a night. Hey, sometimes that’s all you ask for.

20 comments to Neil Before Clods

  • I think most pitches can’t be hit with a machine gun. Seems like a very inappropriate tool for attacking a thrown baseball.

  • Curt

    First game in a while where something about the infield defense didn’t make me cringe. Good ballgame, nice to have one of those, we really haven’t in a while. It’s been blowouts or excitement like Friday but it was good to sit and appreciate the precision artistry that is baseball even if nothing spectacularly artistic occurred last night. From a baseball perspective, the world made sense last night in a “there’s that game I fell in love with” sort of way.

  • LeClerc

    Positives:
    Walker (obviously). Conforto’s lead-off excellence. Salas, Blevins, Reed and Familia.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’d add Granderson and DeGrom. Huge pinch hit double and 11Ks in 6 innings.

  • Gil

    Fantastic stuff as always, Jason. This mangy team playing small ball and gritting it out is an awful lot of fun to watch. If you are following the Mets on social media, the papers, or WFAN, they are the worst organization in the entire world followed by The Peoples Republic of North Korea in a close second place. If you just watch them play baseball every night, they are RED HOT. deGrom brought his lunch pail again. Just keeps working, despite some command issues. Never seems to let it get out of hand. Signs of life from the guys who got off to a very slow start, and all around fantastic stuff from the guys getting every day reps who normally wouldn’t. And the bull pen has been great. And also, Asdrubal’s hand didn’t shatter in his plate appearance! How about a big hand for Ray Ramirez and the training staff.

    • Dennis

      Excellent post Gil! Against my better judgment, I was listening to WFAN yesterday and Mike Francessa was painting so much doom and gloom about the team you would think that they were 15 games out already with no hope at all. While the injuries can possibly end up taking a toll on the team in the long run, the thing is that you just don’t know what players are going to step up, contribute and play together as a TEAM. All I know is that they have been playing well lately and hopefully will continue to do so as we start to get some of the guys back.

  • sturock

    Just keep winning games and the Matt Harvey BS recedes into the background. It would be nice if Matt starts pitching well again, though. Then the Mets could get something good for him in a trade! ;)

  • I was so wishing one of deGrom’s, Salas’s, Blevins’s, Reed’s or Familia’s fastballs would have found its way into Conor Gillaspie’s ear, but ya can’t have everything.

    And once again, Citi Field was nearly overrun with braying Williamsburg hipsters rooting for the Giants. Stupid panda hats…

  • greensleeves

    What’s the over under on when the Harvey melodrama dies down? I’m betting never. Also, couldn’t agree more with your take on the Strudel Cabrera sitch. Yes, I call him Strudel. What on earth are they thinking by not giving him a solid ticket to one month of R&R with an able bodied infield depth chart waiting in the wings?
    Ok, I will exhale now.

  • Eric

    The Nationals lost so the Mets are 5.5 games out. Still in reach. Also, a bunch of teams are in front of them for a WC berth, but it’s a close cluster. The Mets fell back of the pack, but for this early in the season, they’re keeping pace okay.

    The past 2 seasons have shown that this edition of the Mets wins better when steeped in handwringing angst and bottomed out with Plan A fallen over. They’re ahead of schedule, though, so it remains to be seen whether this will be a rest-of-season run or they haven’t hit the springboard at the bottom yet and it’s just a streak.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Hey ESPN….. I tune in to a baseball game to watch a baseball game. If I want 40 minutes or so of comedic schtick I go to a nightclub or tune into the Comedy Channel. Just thought I’d let you know.
    As for my boys from Flushing, I’m at the point now where I don’t give a rip about injuries, drama, tentative apologies and/or security men in the dead of the night. All that matters to me anymore is what happens for the three hours each day between the lines and playing winning baseball. No matter who’s in the line up.
    Let’s Go Mets!!!

  • Lenny65

    We’ve all heard more than enough about What Matt Did. He either comes back and pitches well or he doesn’t, I guess we’ll see. In the meantime being 5.5 games behind in May is nothing. The clown-shoes antics between wins gives “the world” the impression that the Mets are woeful again but they’re winning regularly lately in spite of it all and winning, regardless of how, is the important thing.

  • eric1973

    Hey, luckily our Plan B lineup is better than our Plan A lineup, and when Ces gets back, watch out.

    Rumor has it that the pajamas the Diva Knight had on when the feds busted in were NY Rangers pajamas.

  • Neil

    Excellent, excellent blog post title. Where’s Terence Stamp when we need him?

  • 9th string catcher

    Interesting having Duda and Cespedes out of the lineup. More OBP guys playing small ball, not waiting for the big HR to save the day. Hope that when they come back TC can keep the lineup balanced. This is an offense that is working.

    • Eric

      Until TJ Rivera is exposed as Josh Satin, which hasn’t happened yet, he’s got to play. Rivera batted .333 last year and his BA is back over .300 this year. His 2014-2015 World Series Royals-type righty contact bat is valuable in the Mets line-up, or any line-up.

      Small sample? Sure, but 150+ big-league ABs is edging towards the big side of small. He’s earned the chance to fail.

      What would we rather … Rivera’s (so far) consistent sprinkle of singles and doubles? Or wait for weeks for cold Duda to get hot, carry the team for a week, and then go cold again?

  • eric1973

    Guess TC using JF in the 9th with a 5 run lead was ok this time, as he figured he won’t be needed today.

    It’s Giveaway day at Citi , with Milone on the mound, so get Seward (and Plawecki, unless he is busy doing something else) warmed up early.

    I remember Milone with Oakland, and he had a lot of promise, so who knows.

    When people apologize, it shows you something, so NOW it is time to move on.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Rivera is a fun guy to root for, but this is a non issue. If he maintains his level of play he will get plenty of chances. But Duda carries on OPS over .900 (like a real 1st baseman), he draws walks, hits the ball over the fence, and plays the position properly. Rivera almost cost us a routine out the other day when he stretched in the wrong direction as Keith illustrated. I’m not knocking him. He’s done a great job. He’s just the type of player that gets exposed if left out of position for too long. The other element that is almost never taken into account by the casual fan is lineup construction. Duda strengthens a lineup by protecting the person he’s hitting behind and causing pitchers to gameplan for him and worry about him. Singles hitters that don’t draw walks don’t do this.