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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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Another Storyline So Ridiculous It Must Be True

When it happened I was sad. Michael Cuddyer had been having such a good game.

You know Michael Cuddyer. The Mets’ free-agent acquisition of the offseason, who became an instant Rorschach test for the fanbase. On the one hand, he cost money and was a former batting champ, which indicated a certain seriousness of purpose by ownership. On the other, he was old, had a history of injuries, and cost draft picks, which perhaps indicated a poor decision by the front office.

Cuddyer arrived not accompanied by much else in terms of new personnel, had a great spring training, and then looked like he’d used up all his hits in Port St. Lucie. We got to know him as a veteran with a silver buzz cut borrowed from the old mentor cop in a hundred police movies and a willingness to smile gamely from beneath a fedora. All of that was good, but not much else was: He was forced into near-daily service and didn’t look like he could hold up to the rigors of it. The hits weren’t there. He hurt his knee and spent weeks lingering on the pre-DL, that most Metsian of limbos. Somewhere in there he picked up a nickname that was cruel but undeniably clever: Michael Cadaver.

But when the Mets imported real players to replace the Quad-A slop they’d been inflicting on fans, something pretty neat happened. Cuddyer had time to heal up, and was put back into the lineup as the complementary player he should have been from the start. He kept on doing the small, admirable things he’d been doing, but he also started to hit.

On Sunday Cuddyer singled in the second off Wade Miley and scored the game’s first run. In the fourth he singled again and kept the inning alive with a hard (but clean) takeout slide at second. In the sixth he walked, then got a great read on Juan Uribe‘s double and scored right behind Daniel Murphy. When forgotten man Anthony Recker singled in Uribe, the Mets led 4-2, Noah Syndergaard was once more in line for the win, and everything looked wonderful.

At that point Cuddyer’s story wasn’t the day’s only good one. Syndergaard had thrown one of his best games in weeks, mixing up his pitches from the beginning instead of after getting in trouble and commanding both sides of the plate. (Though OK, Joe West’s plus-sized strike zone helped a bit.) The Mets, unfortunately, kept hitting in lousy luck — I lost track of how many balls they lined right at Boston fielders. The first run, appropriately, came off the bat of Syndergaard himself, a modest little arc of a single over Xander Bogaerts‘ head that followed hard-hit balls for naught from Ruben Tejada and Recker.

With the BABIP gods intent on denying Syndergaard a reasonable lead, he scuffled along with a 1-0 advantage, only to try and challenge David Ortiz on a 3-1 pitch with two out and one on in the sixth. The fastball Syndergaard threw was sizzling and low, but it had too much plate and Big Papi’s on his way to 500 homers for a reason. He turned it into a mortar shell off the facing of the Pepsi Porch for a 2-1 Boston lead. No matter: The Mets promptly grabbed the lead back. Syndergaard, clearly tired and losing his location, departed in the 7th on the right side of a 4-3 advantage.

Which is when Cuddyer’s sweet story turned sour. With two out, Hansel Robles got Mookie Betts to hit a pop fly to left. Unfortunately, Cuddyer was playing all the way over in left center and got what he’d later call “a little bit of a late read” on it. “Late read,” in this case, meant the ball seemed to be nearing the top of its arc with Cuddyer still cemented in place way too far away. It plopped in for a bizarre triple that tied the game and made me sad — sad for Cuddyer, for Syndergaard, for the Mets and for myself.

But perhaps you’ve heard baseball is a game of redemption. In the eighth, with two outs and Murphy on first, Boston turned to a reliever with the unlikely name of Heath Hembree. (Seriously, who names a child this?) Up came Cuddyer — and there went Murphy, the Mets’ not-so-invisible ninja and avatar of chaos, stealing second. This time we witnessed a manifestation of Good Murph — he got a big jump, the pitch was head-high, and the bag was stolen easily.

Two pitches later, Hembree threw a flat fastball right down the middle that Cuddyer smacked into left field. Murph came hurtling around third, pounding his chest, and all was right with the world.

Well, not quite right — the Mets had to survive Tyler Clippard throwing two hanging change-ups to Ortiz in the eighth (not recommended but it worked) and a misplay by Tejada to start the ninth off on a bad note. But Jeurys Familia bore down and faced Betts with the game in the balance. He showed Betts the slider, the splitter and then erased him with a high 1-2 fastball that hit 100 MPH.

Just your routine ridiculously great baseball story. The Mets specialize in those of late, don’t they? Here’s to a couple of months more of them.

23 comments to Another Storyline So Ridiculous It Must Be True

  • Steven

    Since his return from the DL, Cuddyer looks like the excellent hitter the Mets signed in the offseason. Nice to see him come thru with the big base hit. What could’ve been an ugly loss became a good, gritty win.

    The next three days could be huge if the Mets can bash the Phillies again while the Nats have to play at St Louis. It would be nice to head out on the next road trip with a 6 or 7 game lead.

    • Eric

      I agree. Pushing out the lead before the series at Nationals starting September 7 would be good.

      Big week.

      The Mets’ hitting cooled off against the Red Sox and the Phillies have their better pitchers on deck. If the Nationals are able to chip away more of the Mets’ lead going into next week’s series, it could be a turning point the wrong way.

      It’s good to see Cuddyer shedding the Jason Bay label.

  • eric1973

    At that point, Robles was TC’s 4th best option, at best, with victory so close at hand:

    1. Clippard – 4-out hold
    2. Syndegaard – leave him in – nothing wrong with giving up a run in the 7th – common occurrence

    3. Verrett, if he was still around
    4. Robles – usually disappointing

    • Eric

      Hopefully, Addison Reed is good.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Robles gave up a pop fly that turned into a lucky triple. Collins is trying to find someone besides Clippard and Familia that he can count on. With this much season left he can’t afford to burn those guys out or overextend starters. He did the right thing, it was just bad luck.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Wonderful description of the Cuddyer-Do. I’ve been trying to define what it reminded me of all season. Thanks!

  • Matt in Richmond

    The resurgence of Cuddyer has been wonderful to witness. He is the kind of guy that’s easy to root for. A great teammate, a hustler, a terrific base runner, a guy that plays the game the right way. I’m so glad he was able to get healthy, get some support around him in the lineup, and show that he has some hits left in his bat. I remember very early in the year Ron was saying he hoped they would be giving him ample days off, that he was at the stage in his career that he probably needed them. Boy was he spot on.

  • eric1973

    These guys do not need to be babied. One ‘extra’ out is not overextending anybody. It is end-AUG, not mid-MAY, and it is time to take these games a bit more seriously.

    Obviously, Sandy thinks Robles can’t cut it either.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Depends what you mean by “can’t cut it”. I don’t think with his relative lack of experience they want to put too much on his plate, but given that inexperience and lack of expectations he has performed admirably. Anything they can do to strengthen the back end of the bullpen is a plus and not a knock on Robles. They need to be able to rely on pitchers other than Clippard and Familia down the stretch.

      Robles, in this, his rookie year: 3.8 era 1.08 whip greater than 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Pretty tough to justify calling that disappointing or unable to cut it.

      • Dave

        I’ll take it a step further and predict that by this time next year, Robles is the 8th inning guy and that this winter, teams will be asking for him in virtually all trade talks. He has a great arm and just needs more seasoning and command. Familia needed some time before he could be thrown in the deep end of the pool too. Not one of the high profile young arms the organization has developed, but I think he’ll definitely be one of the success stories.

  • mikeL

    yes good to see cudyer become both hot and clutch down the stretch.
    rest has served him well.
    wish i could say the same for legares.
    while the rest has clearly helped him at the plate, he seems to be getting bad reads to combine with his relative slowness and compromised throwing. he feels like a liability in the field, especially with cespedes on board.
    i thought the bloop triple was bad luck for robles – he’s a work in progress but has the fearless makeup to go with his stuff.
    meantime i hope reed is the shutdown 7th inning guy that is sorely needed. yea i would have rather syndergaard be allowed to fight through the 7th that’s theoretically pitches in the bank for later…
    and yes now is the time to grow the lead after a few missed opportunites.
    the column in the daily news(?) the other day declaring the mets would win the division in light of span’s return to DL had jinx written all over it and
    gave me an uneasy feeling.
    a bulletproof lead will win the division, period.

    • Eric

      The Nationals were a 1st-place team without Span for most of the season. He would have helped them, but they don’t need him to score.

  • Steve D

    Something weird happened to that Betts popup…if you watch the replay, Betts himself waited a few seconds before running. It must have curved an odd way off the bat or some crazy wind burst hit it.

  • eric1973

    Robles has electric stuff, and, as you guys say, with more seasoning can indeed be the 7th or 8th inning guy, no doubt. Just not yet, so the other options mentioned above, including this new guy Reed, need(ed) to be explored.

  • open the gates

    Was just thinking what Dave said: Robles reminds me so much of Familia a few years ago. Give him patience – the kid’s stuff is electric. He just needs to learn to harness it.

  • Jack

    I just saw the nifty “roots” tee-shirt that the Mets are giving away. I wonder where they got the idea for the design with the retired numbers and the Shea plaque?!

  • LA Jake

    Tonight was a perfect example of why I dislike Collins. Colon was cruising along having retired 10 in a row, 6 by strikeout, and had a 3-0 lead. He had thrown exactly 100 pitches, none of them remotely stressful since the 5th inning. Familia had thrown 20 stressful pitches the day before and had pitched Friday as well. There was absolutely no reason to take Colon out and tax the bullpen at all, but it was a 3-run lead, so Collins managed to a stat.

    If Familia and Clippard run out of gas in the postseason, you can point to plenty of nights like this one where Collins brought them into games for no reason. And other pitchers end up getting overused as well because now Familia can’t pitch tomorrow.

    Collins deserves credit for keeping the team together when the offense was illegitimate. But he seems to have very little feel for the game and I expect it will eventually catch up to the team.

    • Dennis

      While I like Collins more than you,and I’m certainly no expert on managing pitchers, I do have to agree with you on this Jake. 100 seems to be the magic number with many of these managers, as if something terrible will happen once that number is eclipsed. I don’t see the harm in at least letting him start the 9th and see how it goes. But maybe that was a concern since he pitched in relief Saturday. Regardless, we will be entering September with a 5.5 game lead, which I’m sure we all would have signed for back when the season started in April. Let’s Go Mets!!

    • Bartolo said he was tired after eight and wouldn’t have been as effective in the ninth.

      There’s a lot that goes on that we don’t know about until later, if we hear about it at all.

  • LA Jake

    Jason, I can’t speak to what Colon said but Collins’ postgame comments basically confirm he managed to the save stat.

    From the NY Post:
    Colon retired the final 10 batters he faced, which included striking out the side in the seventh.

    But Collins said he didn’t give much thought to letting Colon, at 100 pitches, work the ninth.

    “I’ve got one of the best closers in the game,” Collins said. “We’re in a closing situation. I’m closing with him.”