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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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The Ugly Ones Still Count

In any year your team will win some classic nailbiters, ones you’d like to bottle to break out for a baseball newbie ready for his or her first game. Your team will also win some dopey games, which come in a number of flavors: 4-1 snoozers, 11-2 trashfests in which only one team seems to be playing, and 7-5 contests in which each team is trying to one-down the other.

Friday night’s game was a stranger variety: the kind that warningly flashes DEBACLE for a solid hour, somehow turns into a win for the good guys, yet is such a hot mess that you feel vaguely ashamed to have cheated scoreboard death.

On Friday night Noah Syndergaard was good but less than Asgardian. His pitches lacked their usual sizzle, and his time on the mound featured too many looks at Noah turning after another hit, looking puzzled and faintly offended. The other Mets were a lot less Asgardian than that. No one could field: Jay Bruce lost a ball in the lights, to plantar fasciitis, or both; a wild pitch set up the tying run for the Braves; and Asdrubal Cabrera flubbed a throw and turned a highlight-worthy Yoenis Cespedes assist into nothing. Wilmer Flores got thrown out at first, second and home, leaving him one base shy of the out cycle. There was a fair amount of other mess, which I’m mercifully forgetting because I’m tired.

Fortunately the Braves were a bit red-faced themselves. Nick Markakis doubled leading off the sixth, but the Braves didn’t collect another hit until Mac Suzuki singled in the bottom of the 11th. That was farther than I figured this one was going to go: after the seventh-inning stretch it was positively radiating teeth-gritting loss. I figured the leadoff walk issued by Seth Lugo to start the seventh would prove fatal, and when Lugo did the same thing to start the eighth (Good Lord don’t do that) I just sighed and waited for the inevitable.

Except it didn’t come. In both cases Tomas Nido short-circuited threats by throwing runners out at second, a capability that hadn’t been demonstrated by any of 2018’s four Mets backstops. The Mets survived Freddie Freeman ABs in the eighth and 11th, disproving the hypothesis that you always see the killer coming. They also survived ABs by the likes of Preston Tucker and Charlie Culberson, disproving the hypothesis that you never see the killer coming.

The game moved along to the Let’s Throw Random Relievers Out There and Shrug portion of the proceedings, with the Mets turning a runner on third and one out into nothing in the eighth and first and second with none out into nothing in the 11th. With anonymous Atlanta relievers ducking trouble I figured it would be the Mets who’d wind up unlucky at reliever roulette, with Gerson Bautista the object of my suspicions.

But no, Lugo survived and A.J. Ramos looked terrific for an inning and then Robert Gsellman looked great for two. And then, in the 12th, the Mets staged the kind of near-accidental rally that was perfect for the evening. Gsellman led off the inning (really?) and was hit by a pitch, though actually the only harm was to his uniform. Some miscommunication followed: Glenn Sherlock needed to speak directly to his comrades in the dugout and then directly to Amed Rosario (I guess the next step was to write out instructions and tape them to Rosario’s bat) before Rosario sacrificed Gsellman to second.

Michael Conforto popped up as part of a miserable evening, suggesting further stretches of futility. Up came Cespedes, who’d spent the night convincingly imitating an offshore wind farm. He poked at a pitch and served it through the infield. Gsellman scampered home, crossing home plate with the one actually graceful slide glimpsed all night. Cabrera then doubled in Cespedes for an insurance run, but fell down rounding second and was tagged out, because that’s the kind of evening it was. Jeurys Familia then came in for a no-muss no-fuss save, perhaps because everyone was too embarrassed for additional tomfoolery.

It wasn’t a good game. Frankly, it was an awful one, with spasms of lousy defense and bad base-running interrupting up a dull slog. Additional demerits go to the Braves AV crew for encouraging fans to ram plasticware through their own eardrums by playing the tomahawk chop after every single pitch in the late innings. (Ron Darling suggested someone needed to kick the jukebox.)

The saving grace, at least, is fairly obvious: Friday’s hot mess of a game counts just as much as any comeback win against the Nats or Wilmer walking off the Brewers. You want to win every damn game you can, even the ones even the greenest intern would reject for a future edition of Mets Classics. The Mets won ugly, but they won. The season’s blur will quickly render this game forgotten, and mercifully so, but the standings will remember.

In other news:

Our t-shirt vendor seems to have gone MIA, which annoys us even more than we fear it will annoy you, seeing how we’ve been separated from money earmarked for server costs and our inventory. Our apologies; we’ll pass along better news if and when we get it.

A cheerful reminder that you’ll be able to see the proprietors of this blog on the TV Sunday night, sporting very handsome, extremely limited-edition Faith & Fear caps. For more about our journey to TV stardom, read Greg’s account, which includes his interview with our new favorite person Sam Hoffman.

6 comments to The Ugly Ones Still Count

  • LeClerc

    Very pretty pitch-out executed by Nido.

    But Gsellman gets the laurel crown for adroitly getting “hit”, and then scampering to victory.

  • Michael in CT

    “Cespedes, who’d spent the night convincingly imitating an offshore wind farm.”

    Great line. Add “Green” to the list of Met attributes.

  • Dave

    My vote for Biggest Mets Surprise of April 2018, if there were such a thing, is that Gsellman is on the short list of most valuable players on this team right now. I assumed he’d be on the Vegas/Flushing shuttle all year. I was confident that he’d develop into a decent major league pitcher, but maybe in 2019 or 2020. Hope I’m not jinxing him by saying all this, but so far so good.

  • This is what I meant, earlier this year, when I said the Mets were “better than this”. Not that we’d go 160-2, but that we’re better than the defensive miscues and baserunning brain farts that still occur far too often. The 2018 Mets are better than that. The difference, though, is that these are the games the Mets of recent vintage would lose while the 2018 Mets are going to win these games more often than not. The 2018 Mets did not allow the Nationals to return sweep (the ’17 Mets certainly would have). The 2018 Mets were not going to lose this extra inning game to the Braves (the ’17 Mets would likely have lost it in regulation). This is our year. But there’s no doubt it’ll be a lot easier for us if the 2018 Mets stop creating extra hurdles for themselves. A little more attention to the fundamentals and this team could dominate. We’re not even firing on all barrels, yet. Just wait until this team gets truly hot.

  • Pete In Iowa

    And just another bizzare footnote Jason: The Mets also lost three challenges last night, two of which came in the SAME inning (fan interference and Wilmer at the plate). Is that some sort of record??

  • Greg Mitchell

    Mets just announced Harvey moving to pen. Now, you might say, Wheeler may also be awful and Matz may well get hurt again as usual (also has not pitched well). I’d guess Mets now favor Gsellman and Lugo as starters especially since they have them wrapped up for a few more years and Harvey will be gone….So this could be permanent move…