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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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Hit Me With Your Laser Beam

Two people at Citi Field were proven wrong Wednesday night in the ninth inning. There was Braves third base coach Ron Washington and there was me, perched in the first row of Excelsior on the right field side. We were both off in our projection of what was about to happen after Ehire Adrianza lined a single to right with Abraham Almonte taking off from second. Washington was certain Almonte was going to score and tie the game at two apiece. So was I. Washington, per Jerry Beach of the Associated Press, “emphatically waved home Almonte,” while I muttered to my friend Kevin with whom I annually watch the Mets scratch and claw with the Braves only to too often come away competitively gouged, “he’s gonna be safe.”

Not consulted by either Wash or me was Mets right fielder Michael Conforto. He returned Adrianza’s liner with a liner of his own — a clothesline of a throw upon which you could hang your unmentionables. Unmentionable were the thoughts one nurtured about Edwin Diaz for letting Almonte on base to lead off the ninth and now facilitating his crossing of the plate.

But not if Conforto had anything to throw about it. Oh, and he did. That clothesline…that Frankie Goes to Hollywood-level laser beam…that straight-on lightning bolt…insert your own metaphor of choice. It was a strike from Conforto to James McCann that didn’t waste time with grass or dirt. Instead, it landed square in the catcher’s mitt, just enough up the third side of the plate to enable a swift tag to the leg of Almonte. The throw beat the runner. The tag beat the runner. Video replay was called for by a desperate Brian Snitker, but all that accomplished was an entertaining interval for Kevin and me and the vast majority of fans who hadn’t believed our own eyes but were happy to believe the big screen.

He’s out from this angle.
He’s out from that angle.
He’s out from all angles.
Thanks for the highlight package, Snit!

The only other thing wrong regarding Conforto’s bullet from right, besides Ron Washington and I misreading the impending outcome, was that it was fired in service to the second out of the ninth inning. That’s a play at the plate designed to end a game that for three hours felt tighter than the trousers Tom Jones wriggled himself into a half-century ago.

Tylor Megill dueled Max Fried, zeroes at sixty-and-a-half paces. Jeff McNeil found a hole to push Megill across the dish for the game’s first run in the third. Tylor simply hummed along for the first five innings. He had a shutout, a hit, a run…some kind of 26th-birthday haul for the rookie. And how about the party favor McNeil brought when he unwrapped his fifteen-game hitting streak?

Kevin and I discussed and signed off on Tylor batting for himself in the fifth and going out to continue his budding masterpiece in the sixth. This sort of decision would have required no discussion in another era, say when Tom Jones references were, like Tom Seaver complete games, not unusual, but we were conscious of Megill’s pitch count, frequency through the order and generally slight (if extremely solid) track record. Two batters later, Austin Riley docked a Megill pitch at the World’s Fair Marina. Goodbye birthday boy. And eff you Austin Riley for ruining the party.

One of the many conversational detours Kevin and I took between innings, batters and breaths was whether there’s any Met on the current squad we distinctly dislike. Yes, I said, there’s one: whichever reliever is on the mound. I exaggerate, but only a little. But here we were, as we inevitably are, pacing about the waiting room hoping to be told the delivery of our bouncing, baby win is going to come through without complications. It’s out of our hands when it’s out of the starter’s hands. Technically, it’s never in our hands. We’re fans. At best we have a few pretzel nuggets in our hands (Kevin treated me to both a great seat in Excelsior and a new snack from its concession stands). But when our starter’s on the mound, especially if he’s throwing strikes and recording outs, we are one with him. We’ve been with him since the first inning, maybe since we found out he was going to start the game. When it’s a reliever, we’re inherently convinced control has been ripped from our fingers.

That’s my theory, anyway. I was wrong about Almonte scoring, maybe I’m wrong about this. Either way, my new least favorite Met, once Megill exited, was — through no fault of his own — Seth Lugo. But Lugo somehow didn’t get beaten by the always sadistic Dansby Swanson nor the foreshadowy man from the foreshadowy planet Almonte.

Good news, Seth, you’re off the hook. I can go back to liking you.

In the seventh inning, Trevor May, in whom I currently invest zero faith, retired the Braves in order, including the preternaturally vengeful Guillermo Heredia. If you blinked, you missed Heredia’s seven-game Met tenure last September. Heredia remembers it, however, and he’s clearly pissed his unimpressed employers gave him the Eickhoff’s rush, DFA’ing him as winter wound down. I shall make them pay, he cackled demonically as he signed his contract with Atlanta. I shall make Ender Inciarte expendable and then I will BECOME Ender Inciarte!

Why else would Heredia bat approximately .864 against the Mets and basically nothing against everybody else? Again, another theory of mine. I’m full of them.

Brandon Drury came off the bench and homered to give the Mets the lead in the bottom of the seventh. I thought I’d say that casually. Brandon Drury casually gets hits off the bench. They’re often homers. Considering that this one was off Fried and gave the Mets the lead and that it soared very high and that it landed very far from whence he initially made contact, casual may not be the proper tone to take when it comes to Brandon Drury’s pinch-homer. Our reaction in Section 310 as the Mets went up, 2-1, was actually quite delirious.

We thought we had a chance to calm down in the eighth with the arrival of Busch Light spokesmodel Aaron Loup. Loup is the reigning exception to the Whichever Reliever is Pitching is My Least Favorite Met rule. It used to be Lugo. Maybe I’m doing this in reverse alphabetical order. More likely it’s based on Loup’s extraordinary effectiveness. I’m easy that way. Naturally, Loup didn’t make it easy. Two hard-hit singles from Joc Pederson and Ozzie Albies and a productive tapper from Freddie Freeman led to Braves on second and third with one out. Three batters meant a change could be made. To which about–to-be reviled reliever, though?

Jeurys Familia? I didn’t want to revile Familia. Familia has revived too much to be reviled. Kevin had earlier wondered if, generally speaking, a 1986-style Lee Mazzilli was in our future, somebody who’d come back to us from the mists of time and contribute memorably to championship drive. Kevin once thought that was a job for pre-retirement Daniel Murphy. I remembered that I predicted it would be the fate of a late-’90s Dave Magadan. Our respective scenarios never came to pass. But Kevin insightfully determined we were looking on the wrong side of the ball, for we were watching our modern-day Mazzilli trot in from the pen right this very instant.

It was Familia. Never mind that he’d made his return to the Mets in 2019 after being away for the equivalent of a semester abroad with Oakland. It’s the not the lack of recent recidivism that tells Familia’s comeback tale. It’s that he hadn’t looked anything like the Jeurys we remembered at his best from ’14 to ’18 in ’19 or ’20 or our first queasy sightings of him in ’21. Yet slowly, almost imperceptibly, he’s become a bona fide bullpen asset. True, now that I’ve said that, he will soon go the way of Lugo and Loup, commit the sin of imperfection, and force me to revile him.

We’ll put aside recriminations for another day. On Wednesday, we had to trust Familia to go after Riley and Swanson with runners on second and third with one out. And wouldn’t ya know it — Riley struck out and Swanson grounded out. It was a renaissance inning of the highest order, as if Mazzilli was sparking a rally against Boston while burning down the wilderness years he’d definitively left behind him.

Just as it would’ve been great had Conforto’s eventual “WHOA!” throw secured the final out of the ninth, it would’ve been great had Familia’s bacon-securing outing represented the save. You’d think Rob Manfred might have slipped in a rule about dramatic eighth innings precluding ninths. Nope, we still needed three more outs. Those would be on Diaz. He was hit hard — the Almonte ground-rule double that led off the ninth was no joke — but he gave up no runs and therefore was credited with a save as if the scoreless last half-inning was implicitly his doing. Edwin could thank his right fielder for throwing with better command than he had, but it’s a team game and this was a team win. The team was the Mets. That part is 100% correct.

12 comments to Hit Me With Your Laser Beam

  • You were sitting right above us and I imagine that section was peppered by foul balls from Freddy Freeman all night!

    Diaz currently occupies a special place in my heart that Familia previously occupied. I can’t remember a pitcher whose best and worst were so far apart, and often in the same game. Last night, he was just lucky, and so were we.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Always a treat to invoke names of obscure Mets with you for 9 innings (or more). An even bigger treat to be on the winning end of a 2-1 game. Until next year, or until we bump into each other in the canyon of heroes, whichever comes first.

  • greensleeves

    Terrific, Mr. Prince. Only Terrific. Put a “41” on your sleeve, Sir.

  • Danny

    My fellow Promenade denizens and I were flummoxed when the PA announcer told us the Braves were challenging the play at the plate. Hadn’t they already lost their challenge on a play at first in the third inning? Subsequent play-by-play perusal revealed it was an umpire review, not a Braves challenge, but it’s yet another glaringly obvious reason they should really mic the umpires–us Promenadians should be fully clued in.

  • Dave

    McCann’s glove say hit me with your laser beam. Mikey say relax.

    Of course I never expected Conforto to join the Gaspar/Valentine/Franceour team of “he’s not hitting, but my god, what an arm,” but you take the contributions you get. Combined, those contributions have kept them in 1st place.

  • Seth

    You can’t really blame Ron Washington — it took a perfect throw to get him at the plate, so seemed like a good gamble. A few inches off and he would have been safe.

  • Eric

    Agreed: The umpire crew chief should have a mic to summarize replay reviews. He doesn’t need to wear the mic. It can come out and go back with the replay set.

    On microphones, Chavez’s dream catch should have dropped the mic, but in the end, the mic dropped on the Wainwright curveball to Beltran. When Sandoval’s game-ending pop up first went up, I thought it was a Texas league gapper that would render Conforto’s assist a footnote. Fortunately, it hung up long enough and traveled far enough for Pillar to run it down.

    It wasn’t a bad send by Washington. Conforto took some time to get to the ball. My clock was telling me it was taking too long to catch the runner. That was an Ichiro throw.

    I believe the Braves picked up Hechavarría to channel his revenge on the Mets while fresh. It wouldn’t surprise me if they went back to that well with Heredia.

    Drury filling in for Peraza with the Bench Mob clutch magic. I guess Fried was surprised that a Met squared up a curveball. I was.

    Megill collects a 2-out hit and scores the team’s 1st run in a 1-run game. Admirably deGrom-like. That said, 3 hits and 1 walk bunched — and only 1 run scored. Offense remains a problem.

    Megill passed another rookie test by besting a good offense that’s faced him multiple times over a short span of games. The Riley home run wasn’t off a bad pitch. 4-seamer top of the strike zone. 2 or 3 inches lower than intended maybe, but that’s it.

    Imagine no Megill and the Mets needed to follow up Eickhoff’s TBD by scraping down even further for another TBD starter last night.

    I hope Loup carried a beer or two over to Familia’s locker after the game for the earned run or two that Familia kept off Loup’s ERA.

    Interesting that the Mets and Yankees have very close won-loss records and a similar mix of gritty wins and frustrating losses. Which is to say, if the 2 NYC MLB teams traded divisions, they’d trade narratives, too.

  • eric1973

    Loved the Tom Jones references, and on a somewhat related reference note, in 1983, it was said that Kingman’s theme song was Humperdink’s “Please Release Me, Let Me Go.”

  • Seth

    The joke’s kind of on us, because now the Braves have their own highlight package from this 5-game debacle.