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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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Died Hard, But Still Died

It’s an age-old fan question: Your team’s down seven runs, and not destined to win. Given this, how would you prefer them to exit stage final? Biting and scratching and clawing, even if all’s in vain? Or quickly and quietly, so as not to waste valuable pluck and luck? (Pluck and luck don’t actually work this way, of course, but there are no rationalists in baseball foxholes.)

The Mets died hard tonight, leaping out of the casket to all but tear the face off the Phillies before being clubbed back into submission in a curious, ultimately futile game. There were bad omens early — despite what happened Tuesday night, I moaned and groaned over Jose Reyes reaching third with nobody out and not scoring in the first, a missing run I kept coming back to as the night got weirder. Granted, for a while that lack looked merely cosmetic: Mike Pelfrey was horrible in about every way a pitcher can be horrible, from bad location to flat pitches to a truly original mental lapse in the field.

One of baseball’s many totally 100% all-true cliches is that if you pay attention, you’ll see something you never saw before. And most of the time I appreciate that. But not when the thing I don’t think I’ve ever seen before is a pitcher making a smart play under pressure as precursor to making a dumb play moments later. In the second, with one out and a runner on first and a fair number of horses already out of the barn, Joe Blanton popped a bunt up behind the mound. Pelfrey let it drop, leaving Pete Orr stranded a step off first. Great play — and one few fielders make in the heat of the moment, and fewer pitchers even try. Pelf had Orr dead to rights at second and was about to record an easy double play or at least replace Orr on first with Blanton, but before I could even bring my hands together to applaud, Pelfrey plucked the ball out of the grass and fired it to first … past Brad Emaus. I’d say I’d like to hear an explanation of that one — I guess Pelf thought going to first initially would let them get Orr in a rundown, which is too greedy — but in truth I’d rather expunge it from memory this instant. Orr would come around to score, and an inning later Pelf got no one out and wound up perched in the dugout looking like he needed smelling salts.

For that, the Mets did come all the way back, removing the hook from Pelfrey’s back with an Angel Pagan homer and then a barrage that chased Blanton in the fifth and dented Antonio Bastardo, who’d like to pre-emptively point out that Fry is Low Alemannic for “basement scribbler,” so shut up. If Bastardo continues to delve into etymology, perhaps he’ll emerge to tell us that, ironically, Rollins is derived from an archaic Dutch word meaning “stationary” — on multiple plays Jimmy displayed the approximate range of a stack of boxes being pushed over. Between that and Chase Utley’s injury and the fact that Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino have the arms of Johnny Damon crossed with a boneless chicken, the Phillies had better hope their vaunted aces strike out guys in bushels.

One of the things about baseball that’s either comforting or galling is that over a large enough sample size it’s usually pretty fair — stuff evens out. In the bottom of the fifth, Blaine Boyer was victimized by a Victorino check-swing double, a little parachute by Placido Polanco that evaded Carlos Beltran by six inches or perhaps another three weeks of right-field experience, and a Ryan Howard grounder that Boyer deflected to land 20 feet in front of a horrified Emaus. Buzzards’ luck, to be sure, but an inning later Boyer was greeted by a Ben Francisco drive that might have landed in Portugal if it were summer. After that the Mets and Phils both seemed pretty spent, or all the randomness had already been squeezed out of the game, and things loped along to a tidy but unhappy conclusion.

The Mets fought back for seven runs. Wish they’d gotten that eighth run when it was there for the taking, that Pelf’s brain hadn’t unhooked itself when it did, that Boyer and Beltran had placed their gloves slightly differently, that Reyes’s fifth-inning drive had risen a bit farther as Ibanez staggered under it. But none of that happened, and so the Mets lost. If you shut this one off in disgust when it was 7-0 and did something else with your night, did you salvage the evening or miss out on something inspiring? You tell me.

18 comments to Died Hard, But Still Died

  • Lenny65

    That comeback from seven down was fun; the ’09 & ’10 teams usually slipped into one of their sleepy-eyed, ponderous-to-watch coma states when faced with an early deficit like that. Granted, it’s a very small sample size but so far there seems to be a liveliness to this team that’s been lacking for a long time. The big concern coming out of this loss is obviously Pelfrey’s terrible showing. Too soon to panic, plenty of time for him to shake it off and find his groove but that was a pretty poor effort tonight. Here’s hoping it doesn’t become a trend.

  • Andee

    Oh, I’d much rather see them make the comeback than not. Are you kidding? Once they tied it, I didn’t even much give a shit what the final score was. They didn’t roll over and play dead, and there’s been way too much rolling over and playing dead the last couple of years to suit me.

    But if, in fact, Pelf has lost a few MPH since last year, that does not bode well for his (or our) future. The best sports shrink in the world can’t fix that. At this point, I’d almost rather see Dillon Gee in the rotation than him, never mind Jenrry Mejia (who might have to get ready a lot sooner than he thinks).

  • BlackCountryMet

    A great and well put review of the game and reason why Greg SHOULD let Jason keep posting,I’m happy to read critiques like this(although I wish we’d won!!)

    • He gives me an occasional post as a break from gilding copies of The Holy Books.

      Ha ha, actually we both write whenever we want of course.

      I’ll be stuck on a train this afternoon (to Philly, actually), so Mr. Prince will be today’s chronicler.

  • March'62

    If the team has to lose occasionally (it’s in the rules), then at least have them go down with a fight. Clutch hits (see Murphy, Daniel) only breed more clutch hits (oh please be listening Mr. Wright and Mr. Beltran). Now if the Mets really want to send a statement, how about Niese outdueling Halladay this afternoon?

    P.S. There must be something seriously wrong with the Game-Winning RBI rule if Wright just passed Piazza for the Mets record. I guess you really don’t need to hit fly balls to the outfield or groundballs to infielders conceding the run when there’s a man on third and less than 2 outs to set that record

    • The GW RBI is one of the dumbest stats in the history of the game. I didn’t know they even still tracked it.

      OTOH, it makes me remember late-80s baseball cards, so that’s something.

  • Mike

    After the Mutts were down the seven runs, I turned to the Knicks (vs. Sixers) game. I turned back to baseball at 7-6, slightly enthused to see that they did have life in them, and then glad to see them tie it up. However, watching them feebly give up two runs, immediately, and continue on to the loss, was much like watching the Philthies sweep a double-header.

    I’m not convinced that there’s any difference in this season’s version of the Mets, but at least the Knicks held on.

  • The incomplete/trumped comeback is a fact of life in sports. Certainly in Mets. Better in April when we’re still inhaling that new season smell than down a stretch when every loss looms as fatal.

    Better it not happen in Philly, but in their last two stadia, the ball seems to travel well, so it tends to happen a lot.

  • March'62

    I actually like the idea of a GWRBI, the problem is that it should only apply when a player knocks in the go ahead run from the 7th inning on. A solo home run in the 2nd inning that puts a team up 1-0 in a 9-0 victory or a solo home run increasing a lead to 7-0 in an eventual 7-6 win should not be credited with a GWRBI. If it’s clutchness you want to measure, any stat that has Wright over Piazza is faulty even with all of the additional opportunities. Maybe the failed opportunities should be factored in like a ‘blown save’.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    We could have still won last night’s game had Buchholz and Boyer did not make the hole bigger than Pelfrey had left it, combining for 8 hits in four innings of relief. Bucholz allowed all three inherited runners to score while Boyer gave up three runs on his own.

    Half the new bullpen bargains acquired by Sandy Alderson this winter have not done the job this first week. Though too early an indication, the figures through the first five games are:

    Boyer: 3.2 innings, 8 hits, 1 walk, 1 K, 9.82 ERA, 2.45 WHIPS
    Buchholz: 4 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 6 Ks, 2.25 ERA , 1.75 WHIPS
    Capuano: .2 innings, 3 htis, 2 walks, 4 Ks, 13.50 ERA, 6.00 WHIPS

    On the other hand, that other trio of the new bullpen bargains has been doing a great job so far. Again, too early an indication but the figures for them through the first five games are:

    Beato: 3 innings, 3 hits, 0 walk, 0 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIPS
    Byrdak: 2 innings, 2 hits, 0 walk, 2 Ks, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIPS
    Carrasco: 2 innings, 1 hit, o walks, 2 Ks, .0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIPS

    Only Beato pitched in last night’s contest.

    • Very small sample size. They’ll likely all meet in the middle.

      I see hopeful signs from all of them: Buchholz has got a bunch of Ks, and Boyer was very unlucky last night — the hits by Victorino, Polanco and Howard were all crapola. And I think Capuano gets a pass for one outing that isn’t his intended role anyway.

  • Andee

    …aaaand one need only look at what happened today for contrast. By the time I woke up (West Coast vampire’s hours), it was all over, and I didn’t even bother looking at highlights, because there really weren’t any.

  • Well-Meaning Phils Troll

    I was at these games, and with the exception of Thursday Night (which doesn’t count, because you ran into a buzzsaw called “Doc”), your boys showed a tenacity, aggressiveness and persistence, the kind of which they’ve seemingly been half a quart low the last couple of seasons. To a Phils Phan, it was both surprising and annoying.

    Put another way, to paraphrase the immortal Lou Grant:

    Your guys have got spunk.

    I HATE Spunk.

    ; )