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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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Magic Good, Bad and Exceedingly Strange

You know you’re in a bad stretch because your team wins and you don’t feel good — just relieved, if you’re lucky. Or exhausted, if you’re not.

That was me after the Mets somehow beat the Marlins and their own demons by 5-3, a game that felt much closer than that. It was a strange, vaguely seasick affair, as the Mets jumped out to what seemed like a big lead for them given recent events, inevitably surrendered that lead, gained it back in pretty much the least efficient way possible, stubbornly refused to expand that lead, and then held it with a little help from a longtime nemesis.

Like I said, exhausted.

The magic was good at first — Javier Baez broke for home from third on a sharp grounder to first from Tomas Nido in the second and was going to be a dead duck, except as he slid home he somehow pulled his left hand back, used it as a brake to transfer his momentum to his right hand, and rolled over and onto the plate as a dumbfounded Alex Jackson regarded the space where the other hand had been. Even on replay, it still looks like a magic trick. Instead of 1-0 Mets and an inning short-circuited, it was 2-0 Mets and the discombobulated Marlins promptly handed the Mets a third run on an error. El Mago indeed.

Carlos Carrasco rode a very effective slider into the fifth, but the Mets refused to add on, leaving anyone who’s been paying attention with the grim feeling that three runs wasn’t nearly enough. Which proved correct: It was 3-2 heading into the sixth, when Jeurys Familia got ambushed by Jesus Aguilar, who slammed a ball into the left-field seats to erase the lead. The Mets flailed and failed and were generally annoying until Baez poked a leadoff homer into the right-field seats off an Anthony Bass slider that got too much plate, giving them back a lead it felt like they no longer deserved.

Bass kept throwing bad sliders in the eighth and the Mets kept missing them, mulishly refusing to score until a passed ball gave them no choice. With Edwin Diaz away on paternity leave, they handed a two-run lead and the ball to Trevor May, whose primary objective was not to walk the leadoff hitter.

So of course May walked the leadoff hitter, throwing a 3-2 fastball to Brian Anderson at the knees that missed the outside corner by a good three inches.

Angel Hernandez called it strike three.

I cannot believe I typed that and the world didn’t explode.

Hang on, I appear to be dreaming.

Angel Hernandez called it strike three.

Nope, still here. Huh.

Angel Hernandez, whom John Franco, Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza would still gleefully jump in an alley for something that happened during the Clinton administration. An umpire who deserves a place on the Mets’ Mount Rushmore of misery alongside Chase Utley and Chipper Jones. Somewhere out there that little bastard Michael Tucker is gaping at his TV in amazement.

It wasn’t a strike. That wasn’t the shocking part, since Angel Hernandez is terrible at his job (he’s blown replay reviews, for God’s sake) and should be separated from that job for the good of the sport and to preserve the idea that fair arbitration of anything is still possible in this cruel, fallen world. No, the shocking part was that an Angel Hernandez mistake was to the Mets’ benefit. I couldn’t have been more surprised if I’d fallen out of bed and wound up mashed against the ceiling.

After that, well, there was tension because there’s always tension when your team can’t get out of its own way, but it wasn’t really tension, because the impossible had already happened and so what did anything mean? The Grim Reaper had wandered off to someone else’s village, Thanos’s snap had vaporized the other guys, and so with two more outs secured the Mets left the field, blinking and amazed, to figure out if they still knew what to do after a win.

They’d won through some shake-your-head Baez magic and tried not to win because of some dysfunctional, all-too-Metsian antimagic and then won anyway because of whatever it is Angel Fricking Hernandez channels, and having witnessed all of that and survived it I find there are no words left.

10 comments to Magic Good, Bad and Exceedingly Strange

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Thanks, Jason for staying up late to comment on the game. A little easier for me here on the left coast. I figure the only legitimate run the Mets scored was the Baez Homer. And I agree with you that Angel Hernandez should have been separated from his job a long time ago. And he should take Joe West and Larry Vanover with him.

  • eric1973

    Lanny Harris, replacement ump in 1979, provides flashbacks of a guy who always screwed the Mets.

    And how soon can Diaz make his wife pregnant again?

  • Eric

    The Baez slide was fun all the more because the Marlins executed well on the play. Jackson looked confused, deservedly because he did everything right. He even swept the tag into the body and Baez rolled around it. Jackson would have had to dive to reach Baez.

    Imagine Baez didn’t strike out so much and gave himself more opportunities to do fun stuff on base.

    Promising start by Carrasco. Now he needs to stretch out.

    • Greg Mitchell

      What do you mean needs to stretch out? Rojas let his pitch count jump from 58 last start to…62 this one. At this rate he may be able to clear 90 by October. Pulled him last night needing 4 2/3 from bullpen and with no Diaz….Well, they’ll have Jake Reed ready for a few innings tonight….But warning: We are told Eickhoff had a quality start last night for Syracuse! He’ll back! And Tropeano DFA-ed.

    • greensleeves

      Yes, and imagine Baez being receptive to coaching that advocates greater patience/selectivity at the plate. Almost every Little League swing is for the fences. Free swingers are mucho costly. Can he listen to reason? Will he?

  • Eric

    Hill’s limit is roughly 5 innings or 2 times through the order — and that’s if he pitches well. I wonder how Rojas will manage the bullpen tonight with the Phillies series in mind.

  • Iowa Pete

    Baez’ act is going to get someone hit squarely in the ribs. I just pray it doesn’t put that unfortunate lad — whoever it may be — on the injured list.

  • Seth

    I loved that 3-run second inning. Despite the weird way of scoring runs, the Mets kept trying to hit into a double play, but the Marlins weren’t buying. Eventually it worked, and that’s how the inning ended (on a double play).

  • Seth

    An excellent description of the 2021 Mets: “generally annoying.”

  • mikeL

    yup. for weeks now the mets wins have been nearly as annoying as their losses. their increasingly rare on-field celebrations seem forced…as though the team’s depressed and depressing state of play is somehow comforting to the individual players (save anyone who appears to really be trying on a given day)
    lindor for his part is as more effective as bench mascot than player, for in that we can see the resplendent color of his curls. if he weren’t getting paid so much…never mind.
    hard to believe i once really, really loved this team – though that was back in the day when the bench mob and said mob’s replacements were doing all sorts of magic, even giving jake run support.
    i was not looking forward to the starting guys coming back for their spots, even though it became clear the mob and co were like one of those elements that exists for a mere nano second in an accelerator. they weren’t gonna last as a magic-making unit. like all the rest, they were far too accident prone.

    with jake in limbo, syndergaard who-knows-where? – this team really feels like an assemblage of characters i don’t much case for – like the characters in Succession or any number of similar tales lacking a living, moral center.

    i’m ready to start biking during gametimes. so easy last season as it didn’t start til july…but never, never too late!