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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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A Banquet and Then a Food Fight

Pitchers’ duels are one of the earliest tests of budding baseball fandom — dull to the casual observer who wants action and doesn’t get why those around him are oohing and aahing over hitters swinging and missing or just looking flustered at balls zipping from hurlers’ hands to places they weren’t expected to wind up. It takes a certain amount of time watching the game to understand that there’s a whole lot of something underpinning what looks like nothing — a labor demanding incredible physical skill as well as tactical cunning and laser focus.

And when both starting pitchers are operating at that level, it’s something special. One of my fondest baseball memories is standing in a bar on a beautiful May night in Rockaway Beach watching Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens battle it out at Yankee Stadium — a pitchers’ duel so riveting that diehards and casual fans alike instinctively arranged themselves into perfect rows, as if the bar had become baseball church and we’d assigned ourselves to invisible pews.

But pitchers’ duels are premised on the promise that one of the combatants will yield, cruelly but inevitably. Someone will tire or make a lone inexplicable mistake or be done in by bad luck — two pitchers deserve to win, but only one can. That’s the classic template, but sometimes the game doesn’t cooperate.

Sometimes it’s a draw, which means the duel ends without a resolution, giving way to the anticlimax of middle relievers alternating to see who’ll draw the black spot. Which can be entertaining baseball but is lousy storytelling: Picture a showdown on a dusty western street where the guy in the white hat and the guy in the black hat stagger away, wounded but alive, allowing a parade of drunks to take turns blasting away at nothing in particular. Or a battle of the bands where the headliners never return for encores, leaving the opening acts to come on and say they guess they’ll play a few songs you’ve never heard of.

And sometimes the script gets torn up into little pieces and you get insanity.

Max Scherzer — he of the chewing-up-glass intensity, terminal hat head and relentless dugout pacing — simply annihilated the Cardinals’ tough lineup, trotting up his ungodly array of pitches and looking like he could do whatever he wanted with them. His counterpart, Miles Mikolas, might not have been as flashy but was every bit as good, befuddling a tough Mets lineup. (I felt vaguely bad for knowing almost nothing about Mikolas, and a little better when I realized his track record against us consists of a single start two years ago — he won — and a lone inning long before that as a baby Padre.)

Both Mikolas and Scherzer were done after seven, meaning it was time for reliever roulette. The Cards’ Genesis Cabrera — whose name I now know isn’t pronounced like the start of something — passed his test while Trevor May did not, giving up a leadoff single to perpetual nemesis Yadier Molina and another to lavishly locked Harrison Bader. May is the Mets’ most Jekyll-and-Hyde reliever and this was one of his unfortunate transformations — the Mets scratched and clawed through various defensive and pitching strategies but to no avail, as May left an offspeed pitch in the middle of the plate for Tyler O’Neill to whack into the outfield for a two-run single.

That looked fatal, particularly after Robinson Cano flied out as the tying run in the ninth — perhaps when the team doctors get done poring over Jacob deGrom‘s MRI they can evaluate Cano and what sure looks to me like a case of utensil-spinal impingement.

Mark Canha was the Mets’ final chance against Giovanny Gallegos, whose pace on the mound makes one want to give Rob Manfred permission to institute the pitch clock a year early. Canha has been an intriguing player so far, an Olerud-like professional hitter with a calm demeanor and a sneakily ironic sensibility. (This bit of MVP deadpan is from an interview as a A’s rookie.) He fell behind against two Gallegos sliders, refused to bite at three out of the strike zone, and then slapped Gallegos’s seventh pitch up the third-base line. That looked like a solid AB with an unfortunate outcome —  it was a tough play for many third basemen, but not typically for Nolan Arenado.

Arenado, though, couldn’t get the handle. He took extra steps searching for the grip, ran out of time and uncorked a high throw to first, making the score 2-1 and leaving the Mets still alive. Travis Jankowski took over for Canha at first and took off when Jeff McNeil laced a pitch down the right-field line. Jankowski flew around second and steamed into the neighborhood of third, the precinct of the so far famously aggressive Joey Cora. Cora held him — which made me gasp in dismay, though the replay showed that to have been a good decision. And so the game would come down to Dom Smith, who’s been saying all the right things or rather not saying any of the wrong things despite finding playing time hard to come by.

Smith smacked a Gallegos fastball up the right-field line, where it was smothered behind the bag by one of the Cardinals’ many annoying Gold Glovers, in this case Paul Goldschmidt. But Gallegos had been caught spectating. Dom hustled to first as Gallegos tried to close ground and then dove in safely — the one time in approximately 5,000 where diving into first is indeed the right play. Gallegos belatedly looked home, just in time to see McNeil diving across the plate in Jankowski’s wake as the go-ahead run.

That was it for Gallegos but not for the Mets; SNY wasn’t quite back from break when Brandon Nimmo slammed T.J. McFarland‘s first offering into the right-field stands for a two-run homer. The Mets led 5-2, and while the much-ballyhooed best fans in baseball weren’t booing, it was only because they were as shocked as everyone else. Edwin Diaz navigated the bottom of the ninth with only minor fuss and they’d won somehow — I mean, just look at this record scratch of a win-probability chart.

If the Mets make something of this season, we’ll tell Just So stories about this game and throw around words like fire and grit and heart. And even if they don’t, that was the kind of game that keeps you in your seat for dozens and dozens of grindingly dull non-comebacks, waiting for the karmic wheel to come back to that giddy, gleeful space that makes all the misfires worthwhile.

9 comments to A Banquet and Then a Food Fight

  • open the gates

    Couldn’t sleep, so I headed over to the Mets webpage and treated myself to video recaps of the Mets recent wins. Now I understand that watching the team that way could even make the ’79 Mets look good. Having said that, I saw a lot to make me happy. I love how the Mets are manufacturing runs that no recent Met team could ever have dreamed of. The new bunch of professional hitters we got in the offseason has shocked the Mets system like no bunch since the Cespedes gang hit Flushing in ’15. Starling Marte is all over the place, stealing bases, stretching singles into doubles, making trouble on the basepaths. Mark Canha has been a revelation. Lindor has morphed back into the player we thought we were getting last year. The “old time” Mets – McNeil, Alonso, Nimmo – are scorching. Alonso is helping with the bat and glove, and he hasn’t even really gotten the HR machine warmed up yet. And I haven’t even gotten to the pitching yet – it looks like we might have stumbled on our “Five Aces” without any of the original Five Aces currently pitching for us. Carrasco and Bassitt pitching (mostly) lights-out, Megill’s up-from-nowhere story is starting to look positively deGrom-esque, even Peterson seems over his sophomore woes, and the reality of Max Scherzer actually pitching in a Mets uniform is still pinch-me-I’m-dreaming magical. And deGrom hasn’t actually pitched a ball for us yet, and somehow we’re still the best team in baseball right now. I know we won’t look this good all season, but this is the best I’ve felt about this team in a long time. LGM!

    As an aside, your description of Cano’s “utensil-spinal impingement” made me laugh. Seems like an unfortunate number of Mets have suffered that particular condition over the years.

  • CharlieH

    Right up there with Steve Henderson/Allen Ripley, believe it or not.

  • Boomboom

    Perfect encapsulation of not just the game but of what it is to be a fan. Recaps like this are what make this the best written Mets space online. Related to every word. Kudos.

  • […] Choose Your Recap: Amazon Avenue shorts and long, DailyNews,, Newsday, New York Post, New York Times, North Jersey, Faith and Fear in Flushing […]

  • Steve

    I was at that game in The Bronx and to this day, it is the best regular season baseball game I have ever attended.

  • Eric

    “Olerud-like” is high praise.

    Scherzer deGrominant again, down to the 7 shutout innings and ND.

    Fun comeback, but the bullpen continues to warrant worry.

    Gallegos throws a surprisingly pedestrian fastball for a closer of an elite team.

  • Surly Duff

    I’m confident Cano will be given his walking papers this weekend when rosters have to be cut.

    Considering the 24 million *other* papers the Mets will be giving him this year, I think Robbie will be happy to say farewell and ride into the sunset.

    • Eric

      I’m inclined to hold onto Cano for his bat, but I’m not confident his bat works anymore without PEDs. Based on his last look as an elite hitter came with a PED suspension, I wonder if Cano believes his bat works without PEDs.

  • […] the Mets rose up in indignation to snatch a win away from the Cardinals, I said it was the kind of unlikely comeback that would keep me on my couch for umpteen nights when no such […]