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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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Sometimes You Don't Know What to Think

How would you describe Friday night’s Mets game? Thrilling? Reaffirming? Anxious? Horrifying?

Maybe all of the above?

I spent most of the evening not knowing what to think, with good and bad arriving one after the other.

For openers, I wondered when I started trusting Steven Matz. Matz hasn’t had a bad outing in more than a month, and has only had a handful of bum starts all year. Credit an improved changeup, some hard-won maturity that’s helped him stay focused, and finally (and most importantly) being healthy enough to work on things beyond just getting on the mound. Somewhere along the line, I’ve stopped watching Matz through the gaps in my fingers, reflexively fearing that any moment a body part will start barking or some misfortune will cause him to unravel.

Which isn’t to say Matz has learned to pitch efficiently. (A failing which, to be fair, is hardly his alone.) On Friday he departed with 109 pitches under his belt but only five and two-thirds innings complete in a tie game. The Mets not only had to get a run off the Phillies but also had to play their stomach-turning nightly game of figuring out how to get a large number of outs from somebody.

On Friday night, the potentially tragic number of outs needed was 10. Luis Avilan wasn’t the answer, walking the only batter he faced. Enter Brad Brach, the lifelong Mets fan … and Cubs castoff. Brach isn’t a reliever I particularly trust, but he also isn’t Tyler Bashlor or Daniel Zamora or Paul Sewald or, God forbid, Jeurys Familia or Edwin Diaz. Beggars and choosers and all that. Brach was superb, escaping the sixth and coming back for the seventh, where he allowed a double to Corey Dickerson (subbing for Bryce Harper, who took a Matz fastball off the hand and very nearly off the face) but then fanned Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery on a mixture of cutters and fastballs.

After Justin Wilson took care of the eighth, the Mets collected the run they needed and one more besides off Hector Neris, thanks to RBI singles from Pete Alonso and Wilson Ramos. (His hitting streak is now one.) But with Seth Lugo unavailable after back-to-back appearances in D.C., their only reliable reliever had finished his work for the night. So closing duties would fall to … who, exactly?

One of the Toxic Twins, but which one?

The answer was Diaz, for which I can’t particularly blame Mickey Callaway, because who else was it going to be? And Diaz actually retired Logan Morrison to start the ninth, which made his appearance better than last time. But Jean Segura singled and up stepped J.T. Realmuto.

“Here comes the dinger,” I told Emily. “Be ready, fans in the left-field seats.”

Scout’s honor, I said that — but odds are you did too.

In Tuesday’s horror show, Diaz abandoned a slider that had looked sharp to throw Kurt Suzuki three straight fastballs at much the same speed in much the same spot, which was an excellent strategy if the goal was to help Suzuki dial in on a 100 MPH fastball. (This was not the goal.) Against the Phillies, Diaz’s slider was consistently up in the strike zone. He threw a good one to Morrison, but left two in the middle of the plate against Segura and two more there against Realmuto. That fourth slider became a souvenir.

What can you even say at this point? Diaz has otherworldly stuff, but he’s been astonishingly, bafflingly terrible. Emulating Jacob deGrom‘s slider grip helped for a little bit, until it didn’t. His location’s been horrible. His pitch selection’s been questionable. Everything’s been a disaster. Given Diaz’s arsenal, track record and arrival in a big-ticket trade, the Mets will do everything they can to fix him, and if you look at the back of his baseball card you’ll probably concede that’s a worthy undertaking. But not even the sunniest optimist could think that Diaz will be fixed this year. Whatever ails him needs attention in March in Port St. Lucie, not in September in a pennant race. Here’s hoping Callaway gives him and Familia the Mike Maddux treatment the rest of the way — incredible though it is to say, I’d feel more comfortable taking my chances with one of the frequent fliers from the Syracuse shuttle.

But say this for the Mets: They sure don’t quit. (You could also say the Phillies’ bullpen is really bad, but I like my version better.) The ninth started quietly, with Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo making outs, and I was wondering who was going to pitch the 10th and exactly how awful it would be. But then Juan Lagares and J.D. Davis singled, causing the Phillies to change pitchers and bringing Jeff McNeil up with a chance to win the game and ensure no horrible Mets reliever had to do anything besides holler and throw Gatorade on people.

“Don’t help him” has been one of my 2019 go-to’s on the couch, an exhortation offered to distant Mets who can’t hear me and wouldn’t listen to me if they could. I’ve yelled it at Rosario, McNeil, Davis, Michael Conforto and Alonso, all of whom sometimes get excited and expand the strike zone unhealthily.

Now I yelled it at McNeil, who helped himself by getting hit by a pitch. Up came Alonso with the bases loaded and Nick Vincent on the mound.

Now, Alonso’s been the best thing to happen to the Mets this year, but he’s also a rookie who loves “dieseling baseballs,” in his words. It would be so, so wonderful if he dieseled a baseball into the seats for a walk-off grand slam — but that approach would also play into Vincent’s hands. It would help him.

Don’t help him, Pete!

Alonso didn’t diesel anything, and given the stakes and how big his swing can get, that outcome was actually more impressive than connecting for a grand slam. With the count 2-2, Alonso laid off a fastball just below the zone. Vincent came back with a cutter around the numbers, which Alonso coolly took. Ball four, and a minute later a shirtless Alonso was talking to Steve Gelbs about teamwork.

It was, quietly, one of Alonso’s more impressive at-bats of the season, and a Mets win. And that’s the important thing, even if my reaction was to sink back into the couch. I was happy, sure, but mostly I was relieved … and still not sure what to think of it all.

18 comments to Sometimes You Don’t Know What to Think

  • Dave

    The key to winning games in the NL East is to outscore your own bullpen.

    And yes, Jason, go with the odds. I said it too. Such is our faith in Diaz that a bases-empty single with a two run lead essentially means “tie game.” Aaron Heilman, Frank Francisco, Mel Rojas, Braden Looper, Luis Ayala…sorry, you’re all forgiven (not so fast there, Benitez, I didn’t call your name).

  • Harvey P

    There was another big walk-off win in New York last night. The Cyclones won their semi-final playoff series 2 games to 1 with a run in the bottom of the ninth to break the 3-3 tie. All 3 games were decided by 1 run. The Cyclones move to the finals for the first time since 2010 and will play the Lowell Spinners for the League Championship starting Sunday night in Lowell with the final two games in Brooklyn. The Cyclones have never won the championship outright (they were co-champs in 2001, their first year after the deciding game was canceled due to 9/11. The hero last night was future Met Ranfy Adon who hit the game-winning double. Wilmer Reyes was 4-4 and the phantom (Jed Lowrie was 0-4.

    • Jacobs27

      Good for the Cyclones! Brooklyn emulating the big club in a good way (as opposed to Syracuse…).

      Ranfy Adon is an outstanding minor league baseball name.

      Wilmer Reyes is also pretty good nomenclature for a future Mets shortstop.

  • Fitz Cave

    Well said! (as always)

    Diaz’s stats are so bizarre: 15.4 Ks per 9 innings, yet 2.4 home runs per 9. I actually feel sorry for him (and to a lesser extent Familia). As much as Mickey has given me agita, I agree with his assessment that Diaz has to get right for the Mets to make it to reach the playoffs this year. If the game is close, the starter hasn’t gone seven, and Lugo isn’t available, it feels inevitable that Diaz is going to play a high-leverage role — for lack of more appealing alternatives. As for the future, I think the development of a change-up during the 2020 Spring Training campaign may help him.


  • Jacobs27

    I also don’t know what to think of this team, but I’m going with impressed with their unceasing resilience. Picking up Diaz like that.

    • otb

      And coming back from the previous night’s catastrophe in the final game in the Washington series. Resilient they are, bless them.

  • Michael in CT

    Diaz was Dr. Jekyll (striking out the side with mean stuff) and Mr. Hyde (an uncanny penchant for coughing up soul-destroying home runs) in the same 9th inning. Amazin’ly, he finished with the score tied rather than the Mets behind, so that there was less pressure in the bottom of the 9th and a victory was salvaged. Callaway after the game says as usual that he has to keep using Diaz despite all evidence pointing to the absolute absurdity of using Diaz to close out games. The Mets face two opponents in every game: the other team and the Callaway decision-making process.

    • otb

      I was thinking the same thing. He actually struck out the side in the 9th, but around Segura (that name reminds me of Pancho Segura, a fine tennis player in the 50s) and Realmuto, who did the game tying damage. Diaz has impressive stuff, but under pressure he seems to have acquired a supply of gasoline he brings to the mound. Let’s face it, a good closer is hard to find. I don’t know, maybe in the off season, he can get his head straightened out.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I’ll thank Diaz for one thing anyway. Even before Realmuto’s Home Run, Diaz, incredibly, who’da thunk, evoked a mention of Vinegar Bend Mizell from Howie Rose.

    Apparently (and I didn’t exactly catch the stat), Diaz has given up more home runs per inning than any Mets pitcher since Mizell in 1962 (50 innings mininmum or something like that). I was around in ’62, so of course I remember Mizell, but I don’t recall him being any more homer prone than like 8 of thier other pitchers.

    Also, for some reason it didn’t occur to me until I heard Howie mention Mizell’s name last night, Our Favorite Wilmer was actually Our Second Wilmer. But I’ll bet this blog has mentioned that somewhere along the line.

    • otb

      I remember Vinegar Bend Mizell, but as a good pitcher for the Cardinals, not as a Met. Leave it to Howie Rose to recall his penchant for the “gopher ball” as a Met. Thanks for the comment.

  • NostraDennis

    Edwin Diaz must be nowhere near the end of a game that matters, no matter what the score. And right now, they all matter.

    Just give him the Guy Montag Fireman of the Year Award and be done with it.

  • K. Lastima

    A win is a win is a win, I guess but that was a garbage win . . . and enough with the shirtless celebrations, complete bush league crap . . . if some other team was doing it, who among us would say: “hey that’s pretty cool”?

  • DanielG

    But why is Lugo sitting?!?! Thursday was an off day. Wasn’t it?

  • dmg

    I had a girlfriend who was big into rock climbing. We’d go up to the ‘Gunks and climb these cliffs, easy at the start, harder as you got higher, fewer cracks to jam your toes or fingertips into, less shade, steeper inclines, sheerer faces. 200 feet up, the view is sensational and the adrenaline is pumping furiously. But what she found exhilarating I found a little terrifying – ok, more than a little – and at the end of each day, when she’d ask, wasn’t that great? Don’t you feel ecstatic? I’d have to admit, no all I feel is a kind of numb relief that it’s over.
    Your post – and these late-inning collapses generally – remind me of those days. Exhaustion, yes. Joy? Not so much.

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    Probably like everyone else, I agree with our host’s assessment of last night and the general state of the Mets. Some questions.
    1. Are we all happy that the tighter seams that created all these homers makes it more difficult to throw sliders?
    2. When is Diaz going to learn a third pitch?
    3. Should the Mets try using an opener?

  • SeasonedFan

    The Mets managed to eke out another win after Diaz screwed things up again. That was good since their aim is to back into a Playoff spot via the Wild Card. Meanwhile, the first shirtless moment was surprising & (mildly) amusing. Constant repetition is bush league. Enough already.

  • Steve D

    I watched Diaz when he first came up and he was real shaky. When he became a superstar closer last year, I was kind of surprised. This may be the real Diaz. I will make one claim…that pitch to Realmuto was the worst slider I have ever seen thrown in 50 years of watching baseball.

    On a related note, I have been watching Hansel Robles lately and he looks real sharp…3 hits, no runs in last 10 innings.

  • Bob

    Watching game last night and after Mets scored 2 runs in bottom of 8th and I saw this bum Diaz coming into game, I walked outside to be with my German Shepherd rather than watch Diaz shit all over himself and blow yet another save.
    I figured he was good for giving up 2 HRs and at least 4 runs–so we only had to get 1 run in 9th inning as it turned out.
    This AM in box scores I don’t see a 7th BS for Diaz?–don’t they count them anymore?
    Nice stats on this stiff– 2-7, 7 BS, 14 HRs in 52 innings, ERA of about 5.8…..”come and get us” indeed!
    Congrats to this core of young Met players for not getting
    depressed after all these late inning collapses by out staff of Bullpen arsonists.
    Yes, Mets bullpen in 1962/63 was a joke–I recall being impressed by Larry Bernarth in about 1963/64 who closed some of our rare wins–perhaps he is still available?
    Let’s Go Mets!
    Fan since Polo Grounds–1963