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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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Open Wide, This Won't Hurt a Bit

After more than a year-and-a-half in dental denial that those random pains in my mouth were nothing that couldn’t be artfully ignored, I submitted to inevitable oral surgery this past Tuesday. Though I wouldn’t recommend it for a lark, I put myself in the hands of capable, caring professionals who made it nothing like the horror show I anticipated. They couldn’t tell from my instinctive clenching and whimpering, but I actually handled the procedure pretty well. Still, recovery has been a drag: soreness, ice packs, disgusting salt-water rinses, antibiotics, painkillers, a persistent sinus headache, very cautious chewing on one side and a bonus overnight bout of nausea for my trouble. As Keith Hernandez might suggest (albeit between licks of a Tootsie Pop), let this be a lesson to you kids out there: go find yourself a dentist you like and make regular visits — you can’t mollycoddle your choppers.

In my post-extraction fog, everything that smacks of routine has come to annoy me, including sitting down in front of the television at 7 PM to watch the same old Mets take on the same old opponent night after night after night for…what was it now? Four nights? “Are we playing the Yankees again?” I asked in exasperation.

Then I snapped out of my fog and smiled as much of a smile as 30 teeth hampered by one slightly puffy cheek could generate. Why, yes, we were playing the Yankees again. And because we put ourselves in the hands of capable, caring professionals, it was nothing like the horror show I anticipated. You couldn’t tell from my instinctive clenching and whimpering, but the Mets handled the procedure exceedingly well.

Thus, for those of you who might have thought trying to sweep an entire home-and-home Subway Series from the Yankees would be like pulling teeth, I can assure you it’s not.

It was a lark…a lark in our park and a lark in their park.

We took a bite out of the Yankees and it was delicious, however we managed to chomp down on them. The Mets’ preferred method was by nearly flawless starting pitching, which in 2013 tends to mean Matt Harvey and several days of dreaming about Matt Harvey, yet this week it has meant everybody, encompassing the most unlikely of characters. Like Shaun Marcum, who kicked off this five-game winning streak by mowing down our former rivals, the Braves. Like Jon Niese, who didn’t let his non-serious shoulder issue stop him from elbowing aside the Yankees on Ted Nugent Appreciation Night. Like Harvey, who only counts as unlikely here because he had company in pitching brilliantly. Like Jeremy Hefner, to whom Mets wins are no longer chronically allergic.

And, finally, like erstwhile bulldog Dillon Gee who used to stand and fight until Terry Collins had to drag him off the mound, but this season had this unnerving habit of chasing the bullpen cart into traffic by his third time through the opposition order. That Gee had gone so wayward that we were about to find himself lost from the rotation. Oh, but Thursday, as the Mets’ Subway Sweep that I ordered in 1997 was finally delivered into my waiting lap? This Gee pitched and pitched and pitched some more. This Gee could have gone the full nine and another nine on top of it. I knew it, you knew it, my periodontist knew it.

Except Terry Collins. He somehow knew that removing a starting pitcher who had thrown all of 88 pitches, retired his previous 15 batters and struck out the last five in defense of a 3-1 lead with five outs to go was the move that absolutely needed to be made. If Terry were a contestant on Beer Money, you suspect he’d answer the $10 question and walk away unwilling to risk greater success. His decision to lift Gee while Gee was as completely unhittable as he was suddenly hairless was undoubtedly a minority opinion, but given that Collins is the manager, his opinion was also the only one that counted.

So out went Dillon Gee from the game of his life — and the night we’d all been dreaming of ever since somebody decided forcing the Mets to play the Yankees annually would create an irresistible, platinum-priced treat — and in came Scott Rice. Rice has been used so much that if a teammate gives him a particularly effusive high five, Rice’s left arm will fall off. But the important thing is Rice has earned his slaps and claps this season and, though it was still a weird call to the bullpen, Scott did it again. He popped up Ichiro Suzuki and struck out Brett Gardner, and the Mets were one inning from a sweep.

A four-game sweep of the Yankees. The Yankees of Reid Brignac and David Adams and Chris Stewart, yes, but the recently first-place Yankees nonetheless. The same Yankees whose pinstripes, we’ve been repeatedly informed, transform scrubs into stars; pump youth serum through the veins of dried-out husks of has-beens; and generally demand genuflection based on reputation and presumed intimidation. The current Yankees still have plenty of players who have proven they can beat the Mets, but most of them watched this series in navy warmup jackets from their dugout or, perhaps, luxury condominiums in the Tampa Bay region. The Mets, on the other hand, entered this series mostly with guys who haven’t proven anything anywhere. All told, the only two things the Mets and Yankees of the moment had in common were a city and a talent level.

The neighborhood is still the neighborhood, replete with ill-mannered neighbors who don’t mind letting us know which way the wind usually blows, which is why any of this garners our extra attention. The neighborhood’s playing field, no matter what the respective records say, had been leveled. Ours was a crummy team. Theirs, according to my friend Pythagoras, had been indisputably crummier for three straight nights (because crummy team beaten by crummy team equals crummiest team cubed). Then, in the bottom of the ninth inning on the fourth straight night, Bobby Parnell — who is closing ballgames like he expects to be presented one of those sweet commemorative fire hoses in a dozen or so years — did what Mets closers haven’t done routinely since before there were Subway Series to save. He retired Robinson Cano and two guys who used to be Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner.

Subway Series sweep. For the Mets. Not of the Mets, but by the Mets. The Mets ran 27 rings around the Yankees. Three of the four games were close but all four Mets wins were decisive. It was Gee and Rice and Parnell. It was Byrd with a massive homer and Buck with a perfectly poked infield hit. It was Wright starting a nifty double play to pick up callup Quintanilla after an error and it was Quintanilla walking to set up the all-important insurance run.

It was all about “up” for our Mets of New York, New York, this helluva town. Queens is up. The Bronx…not so much. And Broom(e) Street was where all the action happened these past four nights when the routine of plopping down on the couch in the wake of having my teeth pulled couldn’t have been much more enjoyable unless it had happened in some distant October. Can’t do anything about the calendar, though. We play ’em when we play ’em and we play whoever they suit up in their precious pinstripes. Here at the end of May 2013, we played the hell out of ’em.

As this week ends, I feel I’ve traded two upper molars for four magnificent wins. I also feel I got a very good deal.

And you get yourself a very good deal on some other very great Mets wins right here.

22 comments to Open Wide, This Won’t Hurt a Bit

  • Lovely, wasn’t it? Best Mets moment since 2006.

  • What a difference a week makes.
    Could hardly sit through a whole game last week and this week couldn’t sit still while rootin’ for those Mets against the two teams I dislike the most!

  • Andee

    I never thought, at the end of these four games, I’d be saying, “We only get four games with them? Shit.” The Marlins, BTW, have lost ten in a row and are 10.5 games behind us in the standings. And we have a better run differential than the Phillies’. But I always worry when going up against a team that’s lost ten in a row, you know they’re overdue for a win. Even though MIA’s offense makes ours look like the ’98 Yankees.

  • Pssst..’ey, bud…c’mere…don’t look now, but the Mets are 3.5 games out of 2nd, 2 back in the loss column…keep it under yer hat…

    • open the gates

      …and there goes the ghost of ol’ Tug McGraw whispering, “Ya gotta believe…ya gotta believe…”

  • joenunz

    Nice week…but I still may play my “Do Something Else This Summer” card if warranted…

  • Dave

    I’m realistic enough to know that no matter how good those last 4 games felt, the 2013 version of Mets Yearbook is most likely going to be filed alongside those filled with fans who rode the #7 train to Shea for 60 cents while listening to disco and new wave. But if this turns out to be the point where the Yankees’ smoke and mirror gap-fillers all turned back into pumpkins, confining them to the outside looking in come playoff time, then it’s all good.

  • azulnaranja

    I had the privilege of attending last night’s game, and while it was sweet at the end it seemed kind of… anti-climactic. You would have thought the Mets fans there would have been more exuberant, but I think we realize what we have and what they have, and it just wasn’t worth over-celebrating. But I’ll take it for now, beats the hell out of what we had the last five or six weeks.

  • March'62

    Even though there appeared to be a gap in talent, their lineup has plenty of cavities that you can’t just brush aside. The Mets get a crown for their efforts while the evil ones can only brace for the rest of the year. I think our Aim could be our Crest. All in all it was great that we drilled them but we shouldn’t lose our Scope. I’m not sure that things look Ultra-Brite for the Mets nor are they ready for a Close-Up but we’ll cross that plate when we get to it.

    Feel better Greg.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Hope you feel better Greg (the Mets are certainly doing their part), and who knows, maybe some October your teeth won’t be feeling so great and you’ll be excited to get them worked on!

    One factoid on SportsNite after the game last night that flabbergasted me: since 1900, the record for strikeouts over a 3 game span without allowing any walks was shared by multiple teams with 26. We struck out 34.

    I know strikeout totals are way way WAY up recently, but still: WE DEMOLISHED THAT RECORD. LGM!

  • mikeL

    heh! as i read your post in bed first thing this morning (something i’ll do on good mets days-after) you described my own ongoing situation – having submitted to an exodontia of my own a week ago weds after tooth aches, lost filling, ,breakage and finally a wake-up call abscess.
    i have fortunately not suffered the same level of discomfort, but found the lead-up to the tooth pull to be pretty damn scary; but the actual procedure – not so bad. thanks to likewise competent and caring pros.
    as for the nausea, take acidophilus if you’re not doing so already (via supplements,miso or plain yogurt). this should help keep your internal ecosystem in tune as the antibiotics do their killing thing.

    as for the game, so great to see Gee harness his inner ace, and keep this outstanding streak going!

    F the yankees whomever fills their pinstripes!

    feel better Greg!

    keeep it rolling Mets!

    • Thanks Mike. I think the recovery is turning a corner. Hope yours continues to come along as well. Four out of five dentists recommend not pitching to Greg Dobbs.

  • Lenny65

    I am speechless. I NEVER thought THIS would be the team that took out the Evil Empire for the sweep, but that’s baseball for ya. Terrific job, guys.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Sorry to learn you had been suffering with that tooth pain for a year and a half – but as Met fans we all know how it feels to be “kicked in the teeth”. Years ago I had to go through a total of five consecutive root canals – and as we know, Novocaine does not destroy pain, it just postpones it.

    You’re not the only one in denial – Scott Atchison who has been denying Tommy John surgery for years is still seeking another opinion in his latest episode of numbness. And as far as the sweep, many of us are denying that these were not the real Bronx Bombers we were facing.

    But Terry Collins wanting to protect Dillon Gee by not giving him the opportunity of going further in the game of his life was the biggest denial of them all – no matter if Mike Francesa feels it was the absolutely right decision to make.

    Pulling the starter no matter what is a world-wide epidemic. A few years back in the seventh game of the Japanese World Series the starter was pitching a perfect game through eight innings nursing a slim 1-0 lead. Forget about history being made – he was replaced in the ninth for not to do would have been a dishonor to the closer.

  • Walter Alvarado

    I now forgive Luis Castillo.