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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 Feelers on Wheeler

When they’re tired of a player, fans have been known to opine that they’ll drive him to the airport themselves. I’ve certainly said it a few times. Heck, I’ll give Jose Reyes a piggyback ride to LaGuardia if that will end the current farce. But what we don’t hear often enough is the opposite sentiment — a promise, say, to lie down on the runway if the Mets try to get rid of someone rumored to be on the move.

Someone like Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler has attracted plenty of scouts and rumors ahead of the trading deadline, and on Sunday he showed why he’s a hot commodity, scattering five hits and a walk over six innings. Which doesn’t capture how dominant he was: he was throwing strikes and working quickly and aggressively all day. Know how many times a Pirate saw a 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1 count from Wheeler on Sunday?

Zero. That’s good.

The Mets being the Mets, they went out and backed Wheeler up with another zero: no offense, for which some credit should go to hulking hurler Joe Musgrove, who was pretty awesome himself as Wheeler’s opposite number. So Wheeler took care of things himself, burying a fifth-inning fastball that got too much plate in the right-field corner to chase Luis Guillorme home from first.

Wheeler departed after six on the right side of a skinny 1-0 lead, but Seth Lugo rebounded from Friday’s lousy outing to hold the fort, helped out by a good throw by Kevin Plawecki, whom I’d just taken to Twitter to declare myself officially sick of, and perhaps even willing to drive to the airport myself. (No piggyback rides, though — not for backup catchers.) With one out in the eighth, Starling Marte tried to steal first and was cut down by Plawecki, an erasure that held up under replay scrutiny and seemed to take the sap out of Gregory Polanco, who’d tormented us all series. Polanco, deprived of a runner in scoring position, swung at a ball out of the strike zone and was done.

That left the ninth in the hands of Anthony Swarzak and his train wreck of a season. But of late Swarzak’s been more like the pitcher the Mets thought enough of to give a two-year contract. He buzzed through the Pirates 1-2-3, and Wheeler’s 1-0 victory was secured.

If you’re scoring at home and have been for the last 49 years, you knew immediately that was the sixth time a Met pitcher had driven in the lone run in their own 1-0 win: the others to have done it are Jerry Koosman, Don Cardwell, Buzz Capra, Ray Sadecki and Nino Espinosa, with Koosman and Cardwell inflicting said indignity on these same Pirates (or, OK, on utterly different Pirates) in their respective portions of a Sept. 12, 1969 doubleheader. I remember that Koosman/Cardwell factoid from all the Miracle Mets insta-paperbacks I devoured as a kid; you know some veteran fan somewhere in Pittsburgh remembered it too on Sunday and went off, muttering, to clean out an already immaculate garage.

Anyway, Wheeler’s been good for some time, winning his last three starts to go to 5-6 — the sign of ace stuff in this Mets rotation. After losing two years to injury and one to accumulated rust, he looks like he’s figured out who he is, what he can do, and how he can do it consistently. Maybe it’s just my stubborn optimism at work again, but that strikes me as the kind of thing to build around rather than trade away.

* * *

Addendum: I’ll be at Tuesday night’s Mets-Nats game in D.C., and then seeing five more big-league games live over the next 10 days, part of a ballpark trip that will take me to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, both Chicago stadiums and Cincinnati. Will it be awesome, or the baseball equivalent of an ice-cream headache? Stay tuned!

10 comments to The Feelers on Wheeler

  • Nat DiDonato

    I saw that doubleheader. Pretty sure it was on a Sunday. However, I believe they scored the runs and didn’t drive them in.

  • Gene F.

    Stats like the 1-0 factoid are one of the many reasons baseball is so intriguing. It happened twice in one day, five times in nine years, then not again for another forty.

    The best part of the doubleheader stat is that Cardwell was a decent hitter for a pitcher (15 career HR), and Koosman often looked like a guy swatting mosquitoes up there.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Ah, the 1-0 doubleheader in 1969. So good it made the Miracle Mets record album which chronicled the 1969 season. If I only had a clue of what I did with that album…..
    When you go to Milwaukee Jason, I recommend eating prior to attending the game. A decent enough ballpark, but the concession food, while reasonably priced, leaves much to be desired. It’s like they haven’t figured out what 2018 concessions at a MLB park should be.
    I’d also recommend buying the Uecker tickets for a buck. While you’re supposed to sit upstairs behind the plate AND behind the towers which house the roof gears, the reality is you can sit anywhere you like. The ushers never check tickets…. if you can believe that. They’ll also let you go down to the rail if you’d like to see any players up close during BP.

  • eric1973

    What, Pete, no sushi? Just give me an old-fashioned hot dog, and get off my lawn!

    And since I’m not into all that book-learnin’, and research, I kinda remember that by the time Seaver was traded, that Koosman became a better hitter than Seaver.

    • Pete In Iowa

      Never mind the sushi Eric. I’d like to get something freshly cooked and/or prepares as opposed to something wrapped in foil which has been sitting under a heat lamp for God knows how long.

  • Michae in CT

    They should keep Wheeler. He’s found it.

  • Bummer. With every additional occurrence of a Mets pitcher driving in the only run of a 1-0 victory, no doubt my authentic Buzz Capra-autographed NL game ball becomes worth that much less.

  • Steve D

    Anybody know the most lopsided loss in Mets history?