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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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Record Scratch

Collecting the first 23 outs went well enough.

Yes, Bryce Harper hit a broken-bat home run that you’ll see forever and/or will go down in infamy as an emblem of this new juiced-ball era. I’ve seen broken-bat homers, but they’re usually the stuff of a few flakes and splinters and a short porch. The heavy end of Harper’s bat went flying, as did the ball — it came down a cool 406 feet away. The man’s prodigiously good at baseball, but even by his lofty standards that was absurd.

Absurd, but apparently no big whoop. The Mets quickly tied the game and then pulled ahead, and Jacob deGrom was cruising along, riding fastball variants and a killer slider to drop Nats like bowling pins. He came out for the eighth with 11 strikeouts and a five-run lead. The Mets had turned a 4-1 cushion into what looked like a rout thanks to a Brandon Nimmo triple and an Asdrubal Cabrera homer into whatever the Pepsi Porch is called now, on an 0-2 pitch no less. The fans were serenading a chilly Harper, the Mets were about to be 13-2, and all was not just well with the world but so freaking good that as a Met fan you needed to pinch yourself hourly just to check you wouldn’t wake up with a yelp and discover it was 3 a.m. and the Mets were actually 4-11 and mired in nagging injuries and dumb controversies.

DeGrom allowed a leadoff single to Moises Sierra in the eighth, but fanned Michael Taylor and went to work on Trea Turner, who’d done the opposite of covering himself in glory earlier in the game by stealing to take the bat out of Harper’s hands. DeGrom got two quick strikes on Turner, but he refused to bite at three bait pitches, fouled off a pair of fastballs and singled, ending deGrom’s night. Which was the right call — deGrom had expended 19 pitches in the eighth, taking him above 100, and the Mets’ bullpen had been more or less impeccable.

Well, at least until tonight, when the record scratched.

(Aside: Is that term something nobody understands any longer, or will it linger despite no one actually connecting it to a now essentially unknown physical event?)

Seth Lugo faced Howie Kendrick — and walked him. Exit Seth Lugo.

Enter Jerry Blevins to deal with Harper and the bases loaded. Not ideal, but the Mets still had a 6-1 lead. Blevins surrendered a two-run single. 6-3 Mets. Exit Jerry Blevins.

Enter A.J. Ramos, who struck out Ryan Zimmerman on a somewhat generous call. The Mets had a three-run lead with four outs to get, and it seemed like the preceding drama would be a minor bit of added excitement.

Ramos remained to deal with Pedro Severino, who looks like he’s developing into an annoyingly capable catcher at a time when the Mets are going with Plan C and Plan D. Severino singled to reload the bases.

Ramos remained and walked old friend Matt Reynolds to make it 6-4 Mets. Exit Ramos.

Enter Jeurys Familia, with a side of Wilmer Flores at first. Familia promptly surrounded a two-run single to the other Wilmer, Difo of Washington. Tie game, disaster official.

Familia then hit Sierra, batting for the second time in the inning. Bases reloaded.

Familia then walked Taylor. 7-6 Nats. Did you know the Mets walked in 20 runs in 2017? I had either never noticed that excruciating factoid or suppressed it.

Turner then lined out, but yeah.

All that was bad enough, but the Mets had more horrors to inflict. In the ninth, with one out and the Mets down 8-6 thanks to a Kendrick homer allowed by Hansel Robles, Cabrera doubled to left to give the Mets at least some faint hope — that was Michael Conforto at the plate, after all. A ball in the dirt squirted away from Severino and Cabrera … took off for third? What in the name of Jay Payton did he think he was doing?

Cabrera was called out at third. The Mets challenged, because Difo’s tag had been ill-advisedly aimed at Cabrera’s leg instead of the bag and because why not. Cabrera was reaffirmed as out, not just on video evidence but also on general principles dating back to King Kelly and Wee Willie Keeler. He slunk back to the dugout, somehow having had the worst 4-for-5 night imaginable, and Conforto lined out to make things officially dismal.

I mean, shit. We all knew 12-2 was not a sustainable pace, the bullpen wasn’t this good, the Mets would not in fact always come back to win, and so on and so on and so on. But that’s not to say we all thought regression to the mean would get crammed into a single inning of relentless, slow-building suck.

This was one of those games that leaves a mark. After it was over, everyone connected with the Mets — Cabrera, the bullpen, the ill-advised Citi Field taunters of Harper, and all of us fans on our couches who smugly dispensed with Very Important Fan Rituals — needed to sit in a dark room for an hour and Think About What They Did.

Now that the sentence has been served, it’s time to move on to the next game, for better or suddenly how the hell is it possible we’re feeling like this for worse. The Mets are 12-3. That’s pretty good. 12-4 would still be pretty good, but it would feel shakier than it ought to. So let’s not do that. Guys who actually play: no shaking off the catcher, no missing location on 3-2, no streaking for the next base when your run is cosmetic. Guys and gals who form the vast non-playing auxiliary: no serenading still-dangerous MVP candidates, no tweeting snickering questions about whether Washington is still in the league, no switching rooms with the game still in doubt. We’ve all seen what can happen. We don’t need it happening any more.

19 comments to Record Scratch

  • After checking in at 1pm and not seeing a recap, I thought old frontrunning FAFIF had bailed on the Mets after a horrible, disheartening loss…

    oh, no I didn’t.

  • Mike

    I was busy last night and didn’t turn it on until that Turner at bat. Turned it off after Ramos threw a 4 pitch walk with the bases loaded. Tossed and turned all night. Finally woke up at 4:30 with night terrors. Life has lost all meaning.

  • Dave

    Jason – the youths should know what a scratched record is, because they like vinyl as something old-school and I guess ironic. Now, whether they actually play it frequently enough between listening to Spotify or whatever to have ever experienced an actual scratched record, who knows. They even sell vinyl in Urban Outfitters, or at least they have on occasions when I was too dumb to say “no, I’ll stay home” when my wife and daughter have asked, “going to the mall, you want to come?”

    I once encountered a weird experience of becoming very ill on an airplane and then fine again within a very short time, as if I had a virus that could only exist while flying over Kentucky or something. Hopefully what we saw last night was the bullpen (and baserunning) equivalent. Real, real bad, but out of the system almost instantaneously. Like Greg, I’m in Year 50 of being a Mets fan, and in all that time, there’s no way I’ve ever seen anything that painful in April before last night.

  • Cleon Jones

    Even if you win 100 games you will still lose 62. Its a loooong season. Move on to tonight’s game. Lets go Mets!!!!!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Have to disagree with call to the bullpen for Lugo–he is a long reliever who needs to get a feel, not be called on to face one batter. Jake had struck out Kendrick 3 times running and was hardly out of gas–109 pitches vs. 103 no different, and Blevins was to face Harper anyway.

    It’s also time to face the possibility–not yet fact–that Calloway is over-using pitchers, a la Collins. Could get away with it early with all those off days and occasional snow/rain outs. But now playing every day, it’s a different stretch, and these are the numbers: Familia, Blevins and Ramos have pitched in 10 of 15 games (you read that right). Gsellman and Robles in more than half (8 of 15). Has to catch up to you. Maybe is starting to–or maybe not. We will see. Open question.

    • Matt in Woodside

      I think pulling deGrom was the right call. He had already thrown 19 pitches in the eighth and was up over 100 for the night. And Callaway did such a good job with the staff in Cleveland that I’ll definitely give him the benefit of the doubt about bullpen use. Unfortunately, even with the off days, he’s running into the same problem Collins had last spring, when it seems like most of the starters have only been getting through five or six innings. What were they saying the other night? Harvey hasn’t gotten through the sixth in 11 starts?

      • Stuart Miller

        I’m with Greg (Mitchell) on this one, both in the choice of Lugo and, more importantly, in the idea of giving deGrom one more batter. He should be able to pitch to 110 pitches– he is not Harvey or Matz or Wheeler, he is one of your two aces and can/should be asked to shoulder more of the burden given how the bullpen has been overworked. (Yes, Lugo faced only one batter but he also warmed up for it. Save him for another night completely.) And given how awful Kendrick looked against deGrom all night it just seemed like the one batter you would leave him in for. If it had been Harper at that moment or Murphy limping up with only one knee it might have been different. I’m not gonna crucify him or start yearning for Collins again, but given that this came right after that weird Jay Bruce pinch-hitting move in the previous game, it makes you wonder if some of what seemed like Callaway’s magic touch in the beginning was also just a bit of beginner’s luck. Still, if Cespedes and Bruce and Conforto get hot in the next week or two the team can get on another roll and we can all exhale.

    • MetFanMac

      Considering Familia has publicly praised Calloway as “finally someone who knows what he’s doing” with the bullpen, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

      Also, this induced some acidic flashbacks of the 2006 Billy Wagner Game.

  • Curt

    Until the 8th inning I was thinking about how much fun the 6th inning was. Granted, Washington helped but I loved stealing bases and the suicide squeeze by DeGrom. My only regret was that since we had a man on third again and one out with a speedy guy at the plate then why not do the same play again with Rosario? That would have REALLY been fun.

    Washington didn’t deserve to win that game. Baserunning mistakes, booted balls . . . Nope, they didn’t deserve to win it. We, however, did deserve to lose it. Except for DeGrom. I think it will take the full season before I see him with short hair on the mound warming up and don’t wonder for a moment, “Who’s that guy?”

    There was a game in Milwaukee last year – late May or early June I think – where we gave up something like a 5-run lead in the 9th. This felt similar except for one detail. That game mostly confirmed what we were starting to realize – that the 2017 Mets weren’t very good. This one I’ll call a temporary blip. Except it came against the Nats. If it wasn’t for that I could almost laugh about it.

    • This game reminds me of the rain-delayed 2015 game against San Diego. Big lead, but freak occurrences all happened that day–like Norris’ bloop hit, Kemp’s seeing-eye single, and then the stupid rain delay with two outs in the ninth. Yesterday’s game was similar: seeing-eye hit by Difo (I really hate that guy), walks by relievers, lead surrendered with Familia on the mound again. On the bright side, none of this happens with regularity, so yesterday was a fluke and Washington was damn lucky. Expect a return to normalcy and a Met win tonight! There is precedence. Right after the San Diego game, that’s when the Mets beat Washington three in a row at Citi Field to capture first place, and they never looked back. Here’s hoping they respond in similar fashion from tonight onward!

  • Bob

    Jason/Greg–
    A stinker—
    My fellow Met fans may be well advised to hold off on any chants at Harper till we have clinched something in Oct–THEN CHANT!
    OY!

    Let’s Go Mets
    Bob in LA –Met Fan since 1963-Polo Grounds

  • Greg Mitchell

    Robles gone today for a fresher arm (so they recognize the usage problem)–Bautista, young guy they got from Red Sox in one of last summer’s clearance deals. But he’s up from AA, so beware.

  • Gil

    It was hard to believe as it unfolded. One very terrible inning.

    Familia is starting to drive me a little crazy. He gets the results, but my god he loses the strike zone badly in every single appearance. It seems there is a walk, hit batsman, and a base hit in every single one of his innings yet he miraculously ends up striking out the side.

    Conforto and Nimmo looked good in the corners. Great to have young talent.

    LGM!

  • LeClerc

    The Callaway-Eiland Credo: “Stay aggressive in the strike zone.”

    DeGrom threw 103 pitches, 76 strikes (74%)

    The 8th inning suicide squad threw 34 pitches, 13 strikes (38%).

    Ramos – an established set-up man & closer, has a delivery that combines calisthenics and dart throwing. How could he walk 25th man Matt Reynolds on four pitches? AJ said after the game “One of those nights. That’s baseball.”

    Say it ain’t so.

  • Toon15

    >>(Aside: Is that term something nobody understands any longer, or will it linger despite no one actually connecting it to a now essentially unknown physical event?)<<

    1) Vinyl sales actually hit a *ahem* record high in 2017. Sales were up for the 12th straight year. LP and 45s sold more than digital MP3 sales in the UK, and were about tied in the USA. So…maybe not? Ed Sheeran, La La Land, and Guardians of the Galaxy combined to sell about 200,000 vinyl albums in 2017. Those records aren't probably *all* going to senior citizens.

    2) We still "dial" a telephone number, even on our iPhones. And then we "hang up"…even though there is nothing to hang.

    We will "CC" our young co-workers on e-mails, even though they have no idea what a Carbon Copy was.

    If I can't watch the Mets game live, I'll just "tape" it…on my DVR or TiVo. If I miss a key moment, I can just "rewind" it!

    Have you ever tried "turning off" your computer? Can you find the thing that "turns"?

    I could go on with more examples, but…I would just end up sounding like a broken record. ;)

  • Pat

    Throw strikes, throw strikes, throw strikes, throw strikes, throw strikes! When ahead, throw strikes. When behind, throw strikes. When in doubt, throw strikes.

    My biggest complaint about modern pitching — even excellent modern pitching a la deGrom, Syndergaard, etc — is way too many wasted pitches. Get ahead on a guy 0-2, okay, maybe you try to bait him once with a bad ball. Once. Maybe. But running the count full after getting ahead 0-2 is wasteful and reckless, and we see it happen all the time.

    Here’s a question: how many pitchers today have higher swing-through rates on their balls out of the strike zone than BABIP allowed on balls in the strike zone? I’ll bet such pitchers are pretty rare. Which means: Throw strikes!

    Especially if it doesn’t say deGrom or Syndergaard or Scherzer on the back of your jersey.

  • My big complaint with Callaway’s bullpen usage is that he seems to pull relievers pretty quickly when the game is on the line. I realize this style of bullpen usage is not uncommon, but perhaps it doesn’t work when starters are not expected to go 7+ regularly. Blevins, who is tough on righties and lefties never should have been pulled last night. In fact, he probably should have been the first option out of the pen.

    Full disclosure: We moved downstairs at the end of the 7th so this was all our fault. I apologize to the baseball gods profusely.

  • Stuart Miller

    Now the Mets have lost two straight and suddenly their phones are completely out of order– the main #, the ticket #, individual account executive #s. Maybe their phone lines strained an oblique. Is this a bad omen?

  • […] made it two horribly blown games in one week for the Mets. The first, against Washington on Monday night (also a waste of deGrominance), felt extra horrible because it punctured the hot air balloon in […]