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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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Baseball Like It's Gotta Be

And to think it seemed mildly insane to have an off-day after a two-game series. After whatever the hell just happened for the last two nights, we could all use a week listening quietly to whale songs in a warm bath in a dim, candlelit room.

Worry of the moment: What if we make it to October and everybody's arms are on E? In this current turn through the rotation, Pedro has looked ordinary and both Ollie and Pelf have been awful. You'll find Aaron Heilman under that heading as well, as per usual, but tonight he was joined by the normally stalwart Brian Stokes, who couldn't locate anything but his fastball and found that wasn't enough. Joe Smith was impeccable (with a lot of help from David Wright), as was Luis Ayala, but when it was 7-1 Mets the devout hope was that tonight's blog entry would be a meditation on the long-delayed debut of Bobby Parnell, instead of more hosannas for guys who could have used a breather. As if. It makes sense that Parnell's baptism has been kept on hold pending a blowout, but there's no such thing as a blowout when the Mets are involved these days.

But still. Let's hope we wind up having October to worry about. If Wright hits the way he did tonight, that would be a big help getting us there — and would further build his legend. By now it's a famous story that David accelerated his rise to the big leagues by working less hard, learning not to exhaust himself in St. Lucie pregame. So it was a bit scary to see him out there yesterday afternoon in the batting cage, taking extra hacks with both Howard Johnson and Jerry Manuel offering counsel. But Wright seems to thrive on not doing things the easy way — he's like John Henry with a bat, convinced that even more hard work is the best way to break down whatever barrier's come between him and what he can do. Yet he's often right — when talk radio begins to buzz about how tired he looks, you know a big game is coming. So of course extra BP, instead of tying his mind into even more of a knot, was a preview of a 4-for-4 night and a home run on a nice, line-drive swing that gave us enough insurance to downgrade tonight's game from nightmarish to merely scary. And while it would take a truly magnanimous Met fan to say Wright deserved a Gold Glove last year, this year it would take a truly mean-spirited one to say he doesn't. In the late innings tonight Wright's glove — and sometimes just his bare hand — seemed to be all that separated us from disaster.

If the Mets are showing the kind of pluck and patience they sorely lacked a September ago, the Nats seem like a rowdy study hall that's stopped respecting Mr. Acta's authority. The talent is there — Ryan Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge and the somehow-resurrected Cristian Guzman have obvious firepower, and Elijah Dukes is nothing less than a force of nature, primal rage constantly boiling out of a vessel too flawed to contain it. But the Nats lost in no small part because they kept aiming the gun at their own feet. Exactly how many lineouts to center does Milledge have to convert into hits before he plays at normal depth? (Cracked Keith: “He looks like he's out there to pull the number off the wall.”) What lesson is learned when Dukes takes several hours to leave the field after a groundout, delaying his exit further to incite an already-hostile crowd? What makes Anderson Hernandez think he can automatically get time with Ayala nearly in his windup after the Nats took forever to get him up to the plate with an out to go? Then there was the surreal sight of no less than seven men converging on first base at high speed after Damion Easley popped up and left Fernando Tatis scrambling on the wrong side of second in the fifth. Who would get there first? Tatis? Easley? Kory Casto? Emilio Bonifacio? Garrett Mock? Wil Nieves? The first-base ump? Somehow none of them collided, and somehow Tatis managed to find first before anyone in the gray and navy scrum could. Nieves' amazed disgust at the blown play at his feet told you everything you need to know about the Nats' 2008 — yes, they're young and it's been a long slog, but the lack of discipline on the field was startling.

Greg was in the park tonight; so were Emily and her dad. (As the Nats stumbled around in the seventh, I text-messaged NO DAIRY QUEEN FOR ANY OF YOU!!! to her, a household joke borrowed and transformed from a wistful quote about a long-ago playoff game.) For attending they got 23 runs' worth of offense, a pretty nice night with a hint of autumn (which of course hints at autumn baseball), and generous portions of joy and terror. But they missed a great show by Gary, Ron and Keith. There was Keith's crack about Milledge, Darling's dry assessment of Pelfrey making Dukes fish after Elijah's mini-eruption (“fastball in, slider away — it's worked for a hundred years”), and Gary's observation in the bottom of the eighth that 11-10 would be a fitting final score for the Nats' last appearance at Shea Stadium, since the Montreal Expos began their existence with an 11-10 win there on Opening Day in 1969. As a collective those three — and Howie Rose on the radio side — are not only great play-by-play guys and top-notch analysts, but also Met historians of the highest rank. We should all of us spend a few weeks listening to lesser announcers chronicle our team, just to remind us how lucky we are. (Hmm. How about October?)

Granted, none of us much minded that Wright's home run made it 13-10 and so spoiled Gary's symmetry. Just as we may find a strange comfort in the fact that the Mets again have 17 to play but find themselves 3.5 games ahead, not seven.

We have half the lead we had last year. Fine. We also have twice the team.

7 comments to Baseball Like It's Gotta Be

  • Anonymous

    recently, as i've announced to my son each morning what his first-place new york mets have been doing while he slept — “2 and a half up with 18 to play,” etc. — i am dumbfounded anew by the degree of difficulty of last year's choke. how could they have possibly lost when they were 7 up with 17 to play?
    the last three games have shown this september is not last september. this year, our guys know what's at stake, and how to win late. last night was touched with lunacy, but i never felt the outcome was in doubt. nothing's guaranteed, of course, but i do really love rooting for this team, and isn't THAT a turnaround?

  • Anonymous

    we all lived through last sept., and I'm sure most of us are still a little befuddled.
    Great game, but I don't know how much more of this I can take!! I need a new bottle of tums.

  • Anonymous

    For some reason, 92.05 percent feels a lot more comforting than 99.80 percent felt a year ago…

  • Anonymous

    let's just hope they sew it up before they host the cubbies

  • Anonymous

    “…the Nats seem like a rowdy study hall that's stopped respecting Mr. Acta's authority.”
    Haha, well put. Hey, if the Mets made things easy they wouldn't be the Mets.

  • Anonymous

    In discussing Parnell's debut-in-waiting, I completely forgot Al Reyes.
    So, apparently, have the Mets. Too many Reyeses? (Reyesi?) Why is this man on the team?

  • Anonymous

    “But they missed a great show by Gary, Ron and Keith. ”
    I also liked when they kept asking each other who the Angels beat yesterday to clinch the AL West.