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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 Hare, the Tortoise and Other Strange Creatures

Even by the Mets’ standard of absurdity, the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader was something: A stately chug out to a 9-0 lead, unbelievably blowing that 9-0 lead, then somehow winning anyway. (Followed by the seemingly inevitable hangover loss.)

For me the game was a blogger’s version of the tortoise and the hare: A couple of minutes after Michael Conforto‘s two-run homer ran the lead to nine runs, I turned off my in-laws’ car and Emily and I trundled down to a lake in Connecticut that’s become a favored weekend/holiday getaway. I swam and kayaked and did healthy outdoor stuff; Emily read and snoozed; both of us were blissfully unaware of the disaster unfolding in Met Land.

When I picked up my phone again it was double-take time: 9-7? C’mon, really?

Yeah, really. And I had an unhappy feeling that things were about to get worse, as indeed they did: No sooner did I walk back into my in-laws’ house than Andrew Stevenson connected off Seth Lugo to complete the disaster. Insult to injury: The radio feed on my phone was a couple of pitches behind the TV, meaning I watched Stevenson’s ball plop down over the outfield fence while Lugo was still dueling him on my phone.

My reaction wasn’t the calmest one I’ve had as a fan:

So of course the Mets somehow won, escaping an eighth-inning execution by the skin of Trevor May‘s teeth and riding the highly traditional leadoff two-run homer from Francisco Lindor to a victory secured by Heath Hembree, of all people. Lindor homered off Kyle Finnegan, who was celebrating his birthday and just back from paternity leave. That seemed mean; on the other hand, the disaster came two years and a day after Kurt Suzuki‘s soul-killing, season-destroying homer off Edwin Diaz, one of the Mets’ regular-season moments I still find myself muttering about at random 3 ams. That game was no fault of Kyle Finnegan’s (let alone his wife), but the fact that it happened absolves any Met from any meanness inflicted on any National until the day several billion years from now when the sun finally gutters out.

Anyway, Game 1 was the Mets in a thoroughly confounding nutshell: They did something impressive, did something mind-numbingly horrifying, and stubbornly zigged each and every time a zag was obvious. Oh, and someone got injured, which is also a daily occurrence with this team. Unfortunately, Saturday’s victim was Brandon Nimmo, who makes the team immeasurably better with his play in center, jeweler’s eye at the plate and reliably high tempo on a team that has bouts of being logy. Hamstrings being hamstrings, Nimmo is probably done for the year.

His absence was certainly felt in the second game, dropped 4-3 by the Mets to Tommy John returnee Josh Rogers. The nightcap was low on absurdity but high on discouragement: The Mets scored a run in the first but shrank from adding on, scuffled along with a depleted lineup to no particular effect, and lost when Pete Alonso was caught looking with the tying run on second.

What did it all mean, beyond the obvious fact that baseball is cruel, exhausting and bad for one’s health? Damned if I know. On the one hand, the Mets have taken the first two of three from the Nats, blew a nine-run lead but didn’t lose, and actually made up half a game on the Phillies and the Braves. On the other hand, the Nats are hapless and yet against this mighty competition the Mets have blown a two-run lead in the ninth, given back a nine-run lead, and lost a game more conventionally.

It’s all absurd. But we’ve covered that.

8 comments to The Hare, the Tortoise and Other Strange Creatures

  • Iowa Pete

    You simply CAN’T sit two of what are supposed to be your better players for the flimsy reason of fearing an injury after playing a lot of innings (NINE!!!!!) in the opener. Winning game 2 was a chance to assure yourself of gaining ground on both of the teams you are trailing with the season dwindling down. As it turns out, we could have gained a game and a half on both. An opportunity to never return.
    Could this be the final straw for LOOOIE the gasbag??
    We can only hope….

  • Eric

    Another excruciating win followed by another frustrating loss, capped off by Alonso called out on pitches he should have smacked with the tying RISP. Rogers is another soft tosser with a journeyman’s ERA that the Mets made look like a Cy Young candidate.

    “Confounding” is right.

    Of course, just as it looked like the Mets found an offensive upgrade with Villar, Nimmo 1-2, poof, Nimmo’s off the board and most likely done for the year.

    Of course the game-winning HR was hit by the usually light-hitting 2015 Royal.

    With no Nimmo and Smith already out, sitting Lindor and Baez in game 2 seemed odd at the start and worse as the Nimmo-less offense shriveled again in a 1-run loss. I guess they’re playing hurt and Nimmo’s injury quashed any temptation to ‘up’ Lindor and Baez in game 2 after the game 1 ‘down’.

    The .5 gain feels like a wasted opportunity with a 1.5 gain there for the taking. The competition level jumps up on Friday, and the Mets should try to make up as much ground as they can until then, yet it seems like they decided to compromise game 2 for rest.

    At least the Braves and Phillies are limping, too, and the wildcard isn’t too far out of reach.

  • Gianni Privacio

    The key thing you missed was the Nats 6th, where the Mets new “dynamic double play tandem” blew three straight plays (abetted by Alonso on one). Lindor had his hands on at least two of those, and the error stats don’t tell the entire story, summary: they opened the door for the Nats with complete fielding incompetence, which in turn turned what should have been Stroman 5, Castro 2 innings, save the rest of the bullpen for the nightcap into yet another endless nail biter, burning through Hand and Lugo. So another example of the favoritism of those two getting in the way of winning games.

    What’s startling is how even the vicious NY press turned the story into a “Lindor hero” theme – could not have been farther from the truth. He is clearly damaged goods, at least from the mental part of the game. And yet Rojas continues to treat him and his BFF Baez as if they were both Freddie Freeman. Absurd that he’s batting third, and the damage to the rest of lineup comes in the form of the inconsistency of starts and position in the batting order of Conforto, McNeil, and to some degree Smith.

    Ironic that the best infielder on the team this year, and probably the team MVP, has been Villar. I hated the Lindor trade the moment they made it, and Cohen getting pressured into that contract basically triggered the team’s downfall this year: creating a weird protective environment for him that belied his actual contributions. In doing so, they wrecked the chemistry – which was actually one of the best in team history early on. I’m sure McNeil is looking forward to a long future with the team after getting turned into role player with no set position yet again. Conforto, never able to get his groove back with the limited starts after return from injury, mark my words, will sign with the Braves – so cross off the next 5 years as well.

    All of the above to accommodate two jokers dumb enough to try to challenge NY fans’ right to boo terrible play.

    What we witnessed yesterday was the air coming out of the bag. Actually thought they might make a run here, and Atlanta and Philly continue to leave the door open, but playoffs or not it is a complete disgrace that this manager, having been given well more than enough talent and reinforcements, is at .500.

    Stick a fork in them.

  • 9th string catcher

    Breath time, folks. Team is tired and you get injured when you play tired or hurt. If lindor or baez are tight, it might have been a correct call. Of course, we’ll never know because communication from Metsland is Pravdaesq at best.

    Rojas is average at best, and while he could be worse, an upgrade is in order. Give Sandy his retirement papers, clean house and have the new exec bring in a coaching staff that can lead this team that has a lot of potential and a developing farm system.

    In the meantime, even after a disastrous August, the division and wild card are still not out of reach. The team won 7 in a row which shouldn’t be underestimated, even if it’s not against anyone great. Take a breath, start a new streak and get to 83 wins. If that’s enough for a berth, take it.

  • Eric

    I don’t blame Rojas for sitting Baez and Lindor in game 2. I believe that’s a “performance staff” call, and Rojas doesn’t seem to have real power as manager to override the performance staff.

    I further believe the performance staff is flummoxed by the injuries and the only or best preventive tool they have is rest, so they’re prioritizing rest over that there are only 26 games and less than a month left in the season.

    If rest is mandatory, better for Rojas to sit Baez and Lindor against the Nationals for a 7 inning game if that keeps them on the field for the upcoming contenders.

  • Greg Mitchell

    As players in their 20s continue to suffer regular injuries and need frequent rest even when healthy: Fun stats for Willie Mays, who played all-out every day plus in a time when there were more scheduled (9-inning) doubleheaders and with tiny training/medical staffs. Year and games played:

    1954: 151 (out of 154 until 1962)
    1955: 152
    1956: 152
    1957: 152
    1958: 151
    1959: 152
    1960: 153
    1961: 154
    1962: 162
    1963: 157
    1964: 157
    1965: 157
    1966: a lousy 152 (but he’s now age 35)
    rest of career until he’s 41 every year in 130s or 140s except one year
    –At age 40 he played 135 games and stole 23 bases in 26 attempts as he willed Giants to a division crown.

  • Havelock

    I think game two should not be dismissed as a “hangover loss.” Rojas lost it by, typically, paying no attention to lefty/righty matchups. Baez has an .888 OPS against lefties and would have eaten up the Nationals young lefty, IF he had been in the lineup. Smith is hitting an .834 OPS against lefties but he was yacking it up at a funeral somewhere.

  • open the gates

    Gotta say, this is the most depressed response to a 7-1 run that I’ve ever seen. Good thing they didn’t go 6-2 or something like that. Yeah, I know, the Nationals, ya gotta beat them, but sometimes the winning habits stick around against the good teams also. I’m not ready to call it quits with this team yet. What’s the fun in that?