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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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They Win the Dumb Thing

Acknowledging up front that a pair of regulation baseball games trimmed in advance from nine to seven innings apiece — with ties in the top of the eighth and beyond designed to be resolved expediently by dispatching a runner to second base before anybody stands in the batter’s box — is an affront to nature, we can at least revel in the Mets proving naturals at winning such atrocities. “Mets win! Mets win!” is always something so nice when we say it twice.

Is the modern twinbill travesty dumb?

Yes, it is.

Is taking each half of said travesty rewarding nonetheless?

You have to ask?

Except for fans supplanting corrugated cutouts at Citi Field, Tuesday presented us with an In These Challenging Times twi-night doubleheader straight outta 2020. Fortunately, our New York Mets were up to the challenge this time, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies and dislodging the Schuylkill Seguras from the top of the NL East. They won the dumb thing by scores of 4-3 in eight and 4-0 in seven. The part with the sweep sounds brilliant. As for the rest of the salient details, hey, we just play here.

After a scant five episodes of baseball in the first twelve games of the baseball season — and nine soggy pitches in a 72-hour period — anything under the sun might have looked good, especially baseball under the sun, which is what the Mets finally got to retry their hand at late Tuesday afternoon. For a while, it looked like Mets baseball as we’ve lately come to expect it. Fierce starting pitching, this time from the right hand of Taijuan Walker, and barely enough hitting to support it. The offense was a Brandon Nimmo walk, a Dom Smith home run and a sense we were gonna need a bigger bat. Taijuan’s eight Ks were impressive, but his portion of the day ended ahead, 2-1, in the fifth after Walker put the walks in Walker. Wiggle room is for the pitcher who has a larger lead than just one run and a game that has a later planned end point than the seventh inning.

The Phillies cobbled together a tying run off Miguel Castro in the sixth, as the Phillies of Jean Segura are wont to do. Ever since he arrived at the other end of the Turnpike, the Phillies appear to be comprised of Jean Segura; guys who drive in Jean Segura; and guys Jean Segura drives in. The Mets characteristically didn’t make anything of their three baserunners across the sixth and seventh — none of them the result of a base hit — and it was off to early extras. Or just “extra,” since the whole idea of the runner on second is to get these games over with out of an Abundance of Caution or plain old institutional impatience. I forget which.

Though Smith didn’t produce with two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh, he did the Mets a great favor by positioning himself to be double-switched out of the game in the eighth, ostensibly in the interest of pitching and defense, yet ultimately for offense. This wrinkle is contemporary baseball at its weirdest, but when in Rome, cleverly deduce a way to beat the team with Roman Quinn. See, third-outmaker Smith projected as the imaginary runner on second base in the bottom of the eighth, given that the batter who made the last out in the previous inning is directed to go stand at second like he’d actually achieved something…but when the batter who made that last out has been taken out of the game and replaced by a new pitcher, then the honor of standing at second reverts to whoever batted before the guy taken out.

Also, according to a source close to Rob Manfred, the guy in the top bunk has to make the guy in the bottom’s bunk. Unless we were in Germany.

Got all that? Luis Rojas did. By removing three-hole occupant Smith and inserting Trevor May in his slot in the batting order, he got to deploy the speedier two-hitter Francisco Lindor to kickstart the eighth, which was helpful since, by then, May helped put the Mets in a 3-2 hole. Not that giving up a go-ahead run was entirely Trevor’s fault. The Phillies scored in the top of the eighth in great part because, like everybody in these situations, they started with a runner on second and nobody out. Gads, what a dumb rule.

The Mets were behind by one in the decisive eighth until Pete Alonso lined a single to left to score the magically reappearing Lindor. The Mets may not hit with legitimate runners on base, but they sure can drive home the unearned kind. Score tied, the Mets ramped up their attack, Mets-style. A double play ball from Jeff McNeil yielded only one out, eliminating Pete at second but getting Squirrel to first. Michael Conforto walked. James McCann grounded not out for a change but into an infield hit. The bases were loaded, which isn’t necessarily encouraging news in Flushing’s RISP-averse circles, but Jonathan Villar had to lift only a long fly ball to win the game.

Which he did. It fell in for an unpursued single and a 4-3 win that snapped what felt longer than the one-game losing streak the Mets had been on, probably because they had gone five days without a win.

It wouldn’t be very long before there’d be a duplicate sensation. The nightcap belonged to all of the Mets, but particularly the two who leave no doubt how much they enjoy plying their craft. Marcus Stroman — six strong and effusive shutout innings (not to mention taking a walk and donning a jacket upon reaching first as a real National League pitcher should) — and Brandon Nimmo. For the first five games over those first twelve days, grinning Nimmo was the Mets’ most dependable plate-appearer, garnering seven hits and six walks. Of course he rarely had the pleasure of crossing that same plate after generating his glittering on-base percentage, scoring only two runs prior to Tuesday. Heretofore more a takin’ machine than the hitting kind, the eye of the Nimmo turned to swinging in Game Two, and boy did it get us rising up, straight to the top.

One particularly delightful sequence, in the fourth, encompassed Kevin Pillar singling; recent walkoff hero Villar doubling; Tomás Nido absorbing a hit by pitch; and good old reliable Nimmo singling. The end result was three home team runs and echoes of George and Ira Gershwin.

Pillar! Villar!
Nido! Nimmo!
Let’s call the whole thing Mets!

Brandon reeled off three hits and three RBIs in all, sweet music to Marcus, who doesn’t mind showing anybody watching how much he relishes competing and succeeding. Every inning he left the mound unscored upon was a cause for cathartic air-punching celebration, even if Stro was the only one taking part. The feisty righty is a veritable human exclamation point. As long as he’s getting outs, he can punctuate any way he wishes.

The 4-0 blanking, in seven MLB-mandated innings, vaulted the Mets over .500 and the rest of the division. That’s right, the Mets who haven’t played particularly crisp ball — or much ball at all — are alone in first place, albeit by percentage points and albeit after seven games, two of which didn’t even go nine innings.

Like we’re gonna albeit ourselves up over technicalities.

7 comments to They Win the Dumb Thing

  • Daniel Hall

    Those last two innings in the first game were about the most torture your team can inflict on you while still winning a ballgame. Like glue! They’re like glue! And nobody else believes me, but I think I saw John Mayberry jr. bat cleanup in the night game…!!

    I hope this gets better with sorta regular playtime for everybody.

    I also heard it’s supposed to snow where they go on the weekend.

  • Seth

    Why oh why is this happening to us (choose one)?

    1. An abundance of caution in an attempt to limit the spread of covid infections.
    2. Rule changes designed to speed up the game being shoved down our throats under the guise of #1.

    • Daniel Hall


      And it isn’t even working. The 8-inning game still took 3:15 or something. And then the dumb rules still have dumb loopholes that let the manager pick who the free, dumb runner is. Dumb rules made by dumb people for dumb reasons.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I think due to the brief and mostly unspectacular time he spent with us in 2019 and the COVID/calf opt out in 2020 many folks underestimated the impact that a healthy motivated Stroman could have. What a rotation we could have when Carasco and Thor return!

  • Of course, my best memory with my dad was the 1965 Memorial Day doubleheader vs the Giants. 32 innings at Shea noon till midnite. Willie Mays played SS in extras & Metsies made a triple play. And I engineered CBS Radio’s WS Game 7 broadcast in ’91 when Jack Morris threw that 10 inning shutout to win it all. As Roger Kahn wrote about Ebbets Field, ‘who will remember?’ Love the Gershwin riff!

  • eric1973

    “Call me crazy, call me nutsy!”
    “You’re crazy!”
    “You’re nutsy!”

    I apologize for saying this, but I like the 7 inning doubleheaders and the man on second thing in extra innings. It’s like 3 on 3 overtime hockey followed by the shootout.

    I also want the NL to have the DH, but only because pitchers cannot hit anymore, and do not even try (except for Jake).

    But they better not move the mound back a foot, and if I see the black uniforms this year, as purported, I’m gonna puke.

  • open the gates

    Villar/Pillar would only have been truly Gershwinesque if the original version had matched to-may-to with po-tah-to (or to-mah-to with po-tay-to). As for the ghost runner on second in extra innings thing, let’s call the whole thing awful.