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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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The Tradition Continues

What used to be trivia is now widely disseminated fact, so there’ll be no wowing you with the historical nugget that the Mets have never won the first game of a World Series. Don Buford, Ken Holtzman, Bruce Hurst, Jose Vizcaino and Alex Gordon — among others — have seen to that. And if the first game of the World Series is truly the Super Bowl of baseball, then it’s no wonder that each of those Met opponents has gone down in franchise lore as the ultimate knife in the back of Metsian destiny.

Ah, but wait a second. The first game of the World Series truly isn’t the Super Bowl. Despite the multiple days of advance hype, despite the relative (for baseball) overload of pageantry, despite the unfortunate involvement of Joe Buck, there is no comparison between Big Events where the Super Bowl and the World Series are concerned. George Carlin can rest easy.

The Super Bowl would be over by now. The World Series is just getting started. Yes, there’s more, though Tuesday night’s opener would have seemed to have had everything for everybody, save for a Mets win for Mets fans. I’m surprised Game One isn’t still going on, Chris Young tossing his one-hundred thirty-seventh hitless inning.

Or are the Royals saving that for Game Two?

In a sport whose guiding principle after its actions didn’t go the way you wanted them to is “whaddayagonnado,” well, what are you going to do? The Mets lost their first World Series game in fifteen years in fourteen innings, 5-4. They led Kansas City by scores of 3-1 and 4-3, the latter in the ninth inning, which is definitely the inning during which four out of five dentists who watch baseball games recommend leading. That really happened.

It also happened that at various turns in Game One, the Mets did not look like much of a World Series team. They appeared neither sharp, crisp, fluid, ship-shape nor Bristol fashion. Yet they led twice and remained very much eligible for victory as of the fourteenth inning, which concluded at, I think, a quarter after eternity. They weren’t dead, merely comatose.

And they still lost by only one run. They could have pulled the damn thing out.

• Despite a first pitch from Matt Harvey to Alcides Escobar that confounded the combined outfield wits of Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes and evolved at the speed of light from a 7 or 8 on your scorecard to a leadoff inside-the-park home run, as if you see one of those every day.

• Despite Harvey’s six innings of Dark Knightness looking more twilighty than pitch black.

• Despite immortal slugging Daniel Murphy reverting to regular singles-hitting Daniel Murphy (like Fox, he must’ve opted out of his satellite feed).

• Despite Michael Cuddyer, which rhymes with retire, which if you’re thinking that’s what he should do — three DH ABs, three Ks — then it’s confidence his continued participation positively does not inspire.

• Despite a collective 1-for-10 with RISP and 11 LOB, not all of which can be pinned on K-K-Kuddyer.

• Despite the enormous GDMF!!!! when Gordon took Jeurys Familia to the deepest part of Kauffman Stadium, or practically onto the entrance ramp for I-70 two outs from a 4-3 Mets win. That NSFW reaction, which rang out all over Metsopotamia, won’t show up in the box score, but it sure spilled oodles of India Ink across the agate type of your morning newspaper (and ultimately kept your blogger up so late that he eventually slept through his self-imposed pre-dawn deadline; sorry ’bout that).

• Despite Young, the epitome of “serviceable” during his two-year Met tenure, revealing his given first and middle names are Denton and True as he shut down the Mets in the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth innings, frames which are great to be playing in but frightful not to be hitting during.

With the reincarnation of Denton T. “Chris” Young towering above them from the Kauffman mound as the clock struck It’s Still On?, it was clear the Mets would have to dig deep and be perfect to somehow win a game that stayed tied forever. It was clear the Mets weren’t in their perfection mode let alone their most Amazin’ mode. Mostly they were in Mets mode. They played all night, they sprinkled moments of delight amid hours of frustration, and after getting all they could have asked for out of the likes of Addison Reed, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, they were at last bound to give out if they couldn’t take what was there for the snatching.

So they gave. Colon, in his third inning of doing what he doesn’t normally do, was undone from jump in the bottom of the fourteenth as valiant Captain David Wright first misplayed and then flung indiscriminately a hot leadoff grounder from Escobar. Escobar was safe and doom hung heavy in the night air. Ben Zobrist, who the Mets really should have picked up at the trading deadline just to avoid confronting him repeatedly and futilely in their first World Series game in fifteen years, singled Escobar to third. Runners on the corners, nobody out…this would have been the ideal moment to have Fox’s picture and sound disappear.

Anytime Fox’s sound disappears is ideal, actually.

Terry Collins went to his intentional walk tactics, moves that twice allowed Colon to wriggle out of the twelfth (and if Bartolo can wriggle, there’s hope for us all). When your only reasonable answer to first and third is to make it first, second and third, you’re not playing to your strong suit. The Mets had their strongest suit, Familia, fold for the first time in three months in the ninth. Maybe it just wasn’t going to be their night.

And it wasn’t. After walking Lorenzo Cain to load the bases, Eric Hosmer lofted a deep fly ball to right that Curtis Granderson — who’d already homered and made a superb leaping catch — threw home as if imbued by the spirit of Ellis Valentine. Curtis has no arm to speak of, so it was a phenomenal sight to see the ball arrive only a little to the first base side of the plate and only a little too late to be of any use whatsoever.

The Royals, who filled their own barrel with a mess of despites and drawbacks, prevailed, 5-4. They got to bounce around like silly schoolkids who’d inhaled one too many Pixy Stix past their bedtime. Once they pulled themselves apart from their glorious embrace, they were invited to relax and pull up a chair on all the postgame gabfests. The Mets, who lost their fifth World Series Game One (but the only one that counts this year), were assigned the unenviable role of other team. Their interrogations were 180 degrees removed from giddy, grimly conducted among tight spaces and sullen faces. Just one game, they probably said. It was too late to pay a whole lot of attention.

Yet they were probably right. Just one game. Just as it was in those first games of those other World Series, none of which was decided because of just one game. The Mets won two of those World Series, took another to its maximum capacity and didn’t easily give up on the other. Just one game.

And some good things were embedded somewhere in there, paramount among them is that they have become a full-fledged experienced World Series team. Eighteen Mets besides Juan Uribe can now say they’ve taken part in a Fall Classic, some initially doing more with it than others, but the unfamiliarity factor (not to be confused with the unFamilialike factor) is gone. If they were nervous about being in a World Series, there’s no longer cause for it. They withstood fourteen innings, five hours and nine minutes of prime-time intensity. Perhaps not as well as the Royals did, but better than most regular people could. Definitely better than Fox did. They’re still in this thing. They have to win four out of six instead of four out of seven is all.

As for how one fan watched his team’s first World Series appearance in fifteen years…

My car that’s been my car so long that it could have been used to ferry baby Noah Syndergaard from the hospital chose the other night to make the kind of noise the lot of us did when Gordon homered off Familia. Like our reaction, it was not good. That car is presently in repair, which is relevant to this portion of my Game One account because some of you will recall my goal was to drive to my father’s current residence, a nursing and rehabilitation facility not particularly convenient to where I live, and watch the World Series with him. It is not easily reached by means other than automobile (never mind that I’d usually rather watch replays of Michael Cuddyer flailing and missing than get behind the wheel of anything).

But a promise is a promise and a plan is a plan, no matter mechanical issues that skew the plan. So off I went on the Long Island Rail Road, west to Jamaica, east to somewhere else, into a cab at a mostly foreign station and I made it to his room before first pitch and stayed until after final pitch. A kinder script would have given my dad and me a World Series triumph (to say nothing of a less expensive 1:30 in the morning cab ride back to my neck of the Long Island woods), but a kinder script would have had Dad at home without the problems that have landed him where he is.

Like the Mets, the important thing is we got to the World Series together. The setting won’t be confused with your sports bar of choice, but every TV in the joint seemed to have the Mets game on…which, come to think of it, makes it nothing like a sports bar before the Mets became big-time enough to capture all of New York’s attention. Those stories you hear about walking down the street in Flatbush and never missing a pitch because every radio in every window carried forth the voice of Red Barber? It was kind of like that every time I had reason to step into the hallway so my father could be attended to by some selfless soul who chose a most unglamorous profession. The World Series provides some unlikely scenarios, even less projectable than Familia serving up that lifeless fastball to Gordon. For example, one male nurse didn’t mind at all the chance to linger in Dad’s room and complain to us about the lousy umpiring.

In no baseball preview that I read last spring did I see that mentioned as a potential late-October development.

True, my father slept through a good bit of the evening’s festivities (emulating, perhaps, his favorite team’s offense), but he was impatient for the game to start at the beginning — his yelling at the TV was about as effective as any of Fox’s technological wizardry — and plotting along with Terry Collins at the end. (“Strategy!” he summarized when Cain was put on to bring up Hosmer.) With his permission, I tacked one of those orange towels from Citi Field to his bulletin board, which brightened the scenery exponentially and, I think, increased his propensity to chant “Let’s Go Mets!” now and again. If only they had listened.

He also authored the line of the night when he woke from his slumber to find me and the Mets continuing to hang around:

“This is still Game One, right?”

My first World Series memory is Game One from 1969, a Saturday afternoon. Why I, six years old and already hooked, wasn’t planted in front of a television mystifies me, but I clearly recall sitting alongside my twelve-year-old sister in the back seat of our old light blue Chrysler, a car that predated even the manufacture of my currently inactive light blue Corolla. Dad, whose patience for baseball was limited, turned the radio, likely at my request, to the Mets and Orioles as we pulled into the TSS parking lot. It was there that I heard Don Buford hit a home run off Tom Seaver to give Baltimore a painfully quick 1-0 lead. First enemy batter in the first Mets World Series game and already they were losing. I was prepared to fret as a neophyte would, but my dad told me not to worry, there was still a long way to go.

It was a message that echoed 46 Octobers later in the aftermath of Escobar scoring what for us was the losing run. Dad and I told each other we had to Believe. At first I wasn’t in the mood to say it or hear it, just like I wasn’t when Buford’s fly ball eluded Ron Swoboda’s outstretched glove. Then it sunk in: yes, of course, it was just one game in 1969 and we won the next four. It’s just one game in 2015 and we’ll see what happens starting tonight in Game Two. Hell, even my traditionally baseball-disengaged sister, for whom our National Pastime has always been a vague rumor at best, chimed in with text after text of encouragement as the eleventh became the twelfth became the thirteenth. Jesus, I thought, it’s like we’re all in the Chrysler going to TSS again.

If the Mets can make that feeling happen, they can do anything. Maybe even win.

33 comments to The Tradition Continues

  • Usha

    Don’t forget the opposing pitcher lost his dad the same day. Maybe that put a little extra blessing in their balance! Happy to hear from you, and we will all pick up our towels and get ready to send some positive energy to our boys today…#LGM

  • Steve2916

    Greg, once again, you have found a way to eloquently meld the stories of the Mets, and the time with your Dad into your blog. Well done!

    As to the game, I think an underappreciated big play was in the top of sixth inning by the Royals’ 3B, Moustakas. After Conforto’s sac fly put the Mets up 3-1, Flores drilled a shot down the third base line, only to have Moustakas make a tough play and throw Flores out at first, saving a run; otherwise, it would have been 4-1. The line on the play-by-play page on…

    …”Flores grounded out to third.”

    is a great example of “what does not show up in the box score.”

    In spite of this discouraging loss, I remain upbeat. I like tonight’s pitching matchup (deGrom/Cueto). This series is not over.

    One more thought: let’s not lose sight of the fact that, tonight, the Mets will play Game Two of the World Series. I think any of us would have signed up for that event in March, even on July 30.

    #LGM, and Greg, all the best to you and your Dad.

  • Greg

    Agonizingly on-point, as always

    Better luck tonight

  • Lenny65

    The strikeouts were highly alarming IMO, particularly when Chris FREAKING Young was chalking them up. Granderson and Murphy (and maybe Lagares) aside, the rest of these guys have to start raking a little here. And yeah regarding Cuddyer, might as well have the pitcher bat. Get Uribe in there or something.

    On the plus side, KC did enough to win but they didn’t look especially imposing while doing so. We were one bad pitch away from a win, we can overcome this. Remember, in 86 they lost the first two games at home and they had to go to Fenway and we all know how that turned out.

  • Tony Byergo

    Mr. Prince —

    I’m a KC native and lifelong Royals fan, but your writing is excellent. It captures exactly the joy and fear, the faith and frustration, of the longtime fans of any long-suffering team. Thank you for the good sports read.

    And thank you more for sharing the personal story of making the extra effort to watch the game with your dad, and staying to the bitter end. It brought me to tears to know the happiness you must have given your dad to watch with him, and I wish I still had my dad to do the same.

    I want my Royals to win. But, with your story, I won’t be mad if they don’t.

    Good luck (next season, preferably). But good luck.

    Tony Byergo

    • Thanks Tony. Means a lot coming as it does from your side of the temporary divide.

      Best of luck in 2016.

      • Dave

        With apologies for nudging in on this conversation, this is so odd…Mets fans are used to the opponent and their fans hating the Mets and their fans with a passion that’s sometimes hard to figure out, because it’s there when the team is irrelevant and completely non-threatening. Now here we are with the Cubs gifting DWright with the bag used at 3rd base after the NLCS, a dear Cubs fan friend texting me last night to let me know that she’s literally praying for the Mets to win, Larry Jones taking to Twitter as a born again Mets fan, and Tony being a good sport about our new-found rivalry in KC (although I’ll credit you for that, Greg)…who ever thought the Mets would be seen outside our community as warm and cuddly?

  • joenunz

    “It was there that I heard Don Buford hit a home run off Tom Seaver to give Baltimore a painfully quick 1-0 lead. First enemy batter in the first Mets World Series game and already they were losing.”

    I recall that the 1969 Highlight Film (or maybe the World Series highlight film) featured Bud Harrelson saying that Buford said “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” as he passed him on the bases during his home run trot. Harrelson replied, “First batter, first game. YOU ain’t seen nothing yet!”

    Hopefully we ain’t seen nothin’ yet and we can play the traditional BTO/Mets tune tonight and three more nights.

  • Eric

    Familia’s mistake that Gordon walloped in the 9th inning? That was the same pitch – as far as location and batting-practice flatness if not velocity – that looked like a game-tying HR off of Utley’s bat then petered out as a routine F9 in the 9th inning of DS game 5.

    Other than his mistake to Gordon, Familia was sharp. To me, the HR was the baseball gods balancing the books. Better it happened in WS game 1 than with Utley! threatening elimination in DS game 5.

    I wouldn’t mind another LCS-like sweep, but that was out of character.

    The chief characteristic of the 2015 Mets is their resilience. They bounce back. When they’ve bounced back in 2015, they’ve bounced up high. Yet what doesn’t fall down can’t bounce up.

    The Mets just fell down in game 1 in a setting where every loss hurts, so I expect them to be back in character and on the bounce for game 2.

    Kudos to the Royals. They just beat Harvey and Familia and taught the lesson that the Mets can’t count on pitching alone to carry them to the championship. If the Dodgers were a test of pitching and the Cubs were a test of slugging, both of which were passed mainly by the Mets’ young stud starters and young stud closer, then the Royals are a test of character.

    Cuddyer looked awful, again. At this point, he reminds me of the stories I’ve heard about Mays in 1973. On the other hand, Collins’s faith in veterans has been rewarded by Niese, who’s exceeded my expectation, and Colon in the play-offs, so I accept giving Cuddyer a chance to audition for the WS in game 1. But the ‘hit or sit’ policy needs to apply.

    I support DH’ing Conforto. Whatever nervous energy he had that would have degraded his DH’ing, the rookie should have burned it off in game 1. Regardless, the DH alternatives – Cuddyer, Johnson – aren’t better than Conforto at DH and Lagares in CF. Maybe Uribe has learned some Murphy-esque hitting trick in his time away.

    I liked Flores and Granderson’s games. Hard contact, good ABs, solid in the field.

    Mixed bag for Wright and Cespedes. They need to be better. The 1st and 14th inning plays needed to be made.

    Impressive AB by Lagares on Herrera.

    I’m not sure what to make of Clippard. He’s thrown good fastballs and his signature change-up, but not consistently, and when he doesn’t throw his signature change-up, it’s a batting practicing pitch. I’m nervous with Clippard but there’s no clear alternative in the bullpen to set up for Familia.

    deGrom’s on extra rest and he just witnessed the Royals come back on Harvey and Familia. The stage is set for deGrom to deepen his case as the lead nominee for 2015’s MadBum, who made his case on the same stage.

    • argman

      Regarding Clippard, he makes me nervous too, but he seems to always be coming in when the heart of the other team’s lineup is coming up. Darling pointed this out in Chicago – Clippard had done the “heavy lifting” in the 8th he said.

  • Steve2916

    I just watched the Wright at-bat in the 11th on “High Heat” on MLB Network. I wish people would get off David’s case. First, it was a great at-bat; he battled to stay alive. Second the 2-0 pitch looked like Ball 3 to me, but was called a strike. Finally, give Maddsen Credit, he got David with a great pitch. Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap.

    David had went 2-for-7 last night, against a great pitching staff, certainly decent. Granted, he did not come through in the 11th, but it happens. It amazes me sometimes, how people (not necessarily on this blog) forget that even the best hitters succeed only 33% of the time, if that. An all-star will not get a hit 2-out-of-3 times. If you want an athlete who succeeds 90% of the time, try a field goal kicker in football. :)

    Let’s not forget Wright’s big hit in Game One of the LDS, and other contributions he’s made.

    He has come a long way to recover from his injury, working his bu** off. Let’s show the Captain the respect he deserves.

    • dykstraw

      look, i have the greatest respect for cap’s career with the mets and his tough road back from injury. i think he’s a great guy and i (kinda) love that he’s the face of my favorite franchise. that said:

      1. he is not the hitter he once was, and does not hit for very much power anymore. unlike the rest of the top of our order, pitchers are outwardly gleeful to pitch to wright with runners on, because if he beats them, he’s beating them with a single.

      2. trying to steal a base on perez was a stupid idea even if it very nearly worked out, and reeks of a diminished player trying too hard on the big stage.

      3. that grounder to open the 14th was a real tough play but it was one a lot of other third baseman make, including moustakas, and ultimately it was one of the most direct reasons we lost last night.

      DW is due $87M over the next 5 years, and i don’t see how on earth his performance can be worth even half that money as he gets older. so when the time comes that we “can’t” resign cespedes or “have to” trade harvey because of payroll…he’ll be the biggest reason why.

  • 9th string catcher

    Real rollercoaster having Clippard in the 8th. Seems like Addison is the stronger and more reliable arm. Also, I like the comment above putting Conforto in as DH and putting Lagares in CF. Better defense, and Lagares had a statement game last night. As much as we appreciate Cuddyer as a person, he is lost at the plate. I honestly think the pitchers could hit better at this point.

    Just my opinion. TC knows what he’s doing, and I trust him to figure it out.

  • mikeL

    i’m glad you made it to your dad’s, car trouble, care-fare not withstanding. seems old cars put one’s plans to the test at the most important times.
    (i finally gave up on my last after my car failed me on my dad’s birthday)

    i remember ths mets losing game 1 of my first series – in ’73 – and my dad telling me as we that it was…yes a series.

    i remember being really sad when that one was over – and i hadn’t watched the majority of the games that season!

    the ending sucked but it was a good a gutty baseball game last nite. though wright’s called strike 3 with 2 on in the (13th?) reminded me of beltran’s final out in 06? but on a fastball? glad it was only game 1. wright has time to avenge that moment. ditto for ces missing the line-up and then the line-out.
    and familia hopefully threw enough
    pitches last nite to develop the fatigue that makes the ball sink out of his hand.

    it’s a new series tonite.
    i hope.

    (and still in 5!)

  • Ken K. in NJ

    So, after what, six days of Harvey and the collective Mets Braintrust strategizing his approach to the Royals hitters, his first pitch is a 95 mph meatball right down the middle. I wasn’t happy all night after that.

    Eerily reminiscent of Granderson slamming the first pitch from Kershaw out to Right Field. Different immediate outcome, but same tone set.

  • open the gates

    Mets, as a group, played well last night. Royals played better. That will happen on this stage and in the other guy’s park. Tip of the hat to the boys from KC.

    Having said that, the first thing deGrom needs to do tonight is establish his ownership of the plate. No more first-pitch swinging for the fences. DeGrom’s first pitch of the game should be high and tight cheese near the neck. I wanna see that guy sitting on his kiester. Don’t want anyone hurt – just give ’em something to think about. All those first pitch smashes, and I kept thinking the same thing. Bob Gibson wouldn’t have stood for that nonsense. 100-plus MPH pitches past your nose – well, that’s food for thought. And we want those Royals hitters thinking a little more. Just my 2 cents.

    • mikeL

      yes, if these guys like the fastball so much, it’s important to let the see it really close up! hopefully tonite finds some readjustment of game plan. degrom>syndergaard could bring the high heat with requisite off-balancing that was lacking last nite. up 2-1 with 2 to go
      at home and last nite won’t look so crushing!

      one game at a time, of course…

  • Dave

    When Gordon took Familia deep, my thoughts raced immediately back to the dinger that McDowell gave up to Pendleton all those years ago. I hope that the next few games make it so they have nothing in common.

    And if you’re playing against a team that is renown for making contact, you need your best defense on the field, and it only took one pitch for that point to be driven home with an exclamation point. TC sometimes overdoes the righty/lefty matchup stuff, and it’s not like Kelly Johnson is some kind of “oh, gotta get him in the lineup” guy. I like tonight’s lineup much better, with Lagares in CF and Conforto DH’ing (although that young man might be in need of a day off to readjust).

  • Bob

    Met fan since 1963-Polo Grounds–

    Greg–Most important thing is you & you father watched our Mets in a World Series in 2015!

    on a lessor note-last night my mind was back to WS Game #1 in the billion $$ sewer in the Bronx in 2000 with old friend Armando Benitez blowing a lead late….OY!

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • open the gates

    Oh, and one more thing. No more quick pitches. Not against these guys. Someone should give Robles the memo, in case he ever gets into a game.

  • Lenny65

    Gotta make this Cueto guy work for his dinner tonight, he’s volatile and they have to work those counts. Too many batters swinging at garbage last night (looking at you Yoenis although he was far from the only offender). If they can make him labor and we can get to their bullpen it’d obviously be ideal. And STOP SWINGING AT PITCHES IN THE GOD****ED DIRT, GUYS!!!!!

    I hate saying this but perhaps Wright needs to come out of that two spot and move down a bit in the order. Hope he bounces back tonight, last night was not one of his better moments.

  • eric1973

    Didn’t I say FOX was a minor league operation?

    Let’s hope Robles/Cuddyer/Parnell(who?), who some people on here love a little too much, get some ‘Joe Hardy’ inspiration, and turn into talented ballplayers right before our eyes. Alas, I fear that is only in the movies:
    ‘Damn Royals.”

    I was wrong about something, though. I said Wright’s throwing woes were a thing of the past.

    Silly me, should have known better.

  • eric1973

    Rob E. — Great analysis the other day, and thanks.

    Q: If everything bad happens to all the other teams, too (albatross contracts ((Wright), TC’s decisions (Cuddyer)), at what point do we all throw up our hands and say the entire thing is pre-determined by the stars, and you can’t change the future, no matter how hard you try?

  • Matt in Richmond

    For all the grousing about Cuddyer’s 3 bad at bats, this entire lineup is looking pretty impotent at the moment. Hopefully the friendly confines will get them going. Cespedes and Conforto in particular have looked dreadful so far.

    • Eric

      Cespedes’s price will still be high, but it’s coming back down.

      Conforto now batting .050, 1/20, in the post-season. Weak contact, too.

  • Eric

    I guess this is what Cubs fans felt like after Lester and Arrieta got beat at Citi Field and their line-up was stymied.

    Game 3 and game 4 are must-win games for Syndergaard and Matz.

    The game 1 loss hurts now.

  • Lenny65

    Welp, you’re probably not going to win if you’re not hitting a lick and they’re not hitting a lick right now. I’m not going to pretend to know why but for whatever reason they’re in one of their punchless phases at the worst possible time. It’d be unfair to single anyone out, it’s just a total team thing with very few exceptions. And our starters are looking tired, dare I say, which is understandable but disappointing too.

    If they win on Friday it’s only 2-1. But it was a decidedly downbeat night, for sure. Here’s hoping the trip home helps.