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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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As Cruel as It Gets

I need to find a hobby that’s better for my health than watching the New York Mets.

I’m thinking maybe Russian roulette.

A long time ago, when I was still innocent and believed there was good in the world, it was a beautiful night for a ballgame. I was sitting in the stands with my wife, enjoying a crystal-clear evening as Bartolo Colon rolled through the Braves and Asdrubal Cabrera and Rene Rivera hit home runs to give the Mets a 3-0 lead. In the middle innings, we looked at the clock in disbelief and wondered if we might be out of Citi Field at the end of a two-hour Mets win.

Yeah right. Those early innings were a feint, shadowboxing meant to distract us from one of the meanest right hooks I’ve experienced at a baseball stadium.

If there’s baseball in Hell, rest assured that the eighth and ninth innings of Wednesday night’s game will be in heavy rotation for Mets fans. Pretty much everything you can torture a baseball fan with was on display: overmanaging, ill-timed misplays, lazy and/or inept execution, and finally luck that was both terrible and fatal. It was torture by frustration, culminating with having your heart ripped out and showed to you.

Whoa it’s still beating but it’s no longer in my chest, so how am I — GAAKKK!!!

(Trigger warning: bad shit dead ahead. If you’ve had enough, by all means hit the back button. No one will blame you.)

So yeah, let’s go through that eighth and ninth. Seems like fun.

Actually we’re going to back a bit. Addison Reed faced the Braves in the eighth — the same Reed who’d been summoned with two outs in the seventh and the Mets’ lead cut to a single run thanks to a homer from old pal Anthony Recker. Reed struck out Blake Lalli to prevent further harm, causing me to think a) that Terry Collins was showing some welcome flexibility in departing from his usual rigidly scripted use of Reed and Jeurys Familia; and b) that a Faith and Fear post overloaded with adverbs would be a fun goof on Lalli’s name.

I was probably still distractedly humming Schoolhouse Rock as Reed returned to duty and an error by James Loney put Ender Inciarte on first with nobody out. (You’ll be hearing more of Mr. Inciarte’s work, alas.) Reed got 2016 Mets nemesis Adonis Garcia to fly to right, but with eternal Mets nemesis Freddie Freeman up, Terry opted for Josh Smoker.

Smoker throws hard and has guts; I’m glad he’s a Met. But he’s not Reed. Freeman singled and Terry summoned Familia for a five-out save, double-switching Jose Reyes out of a one-run game in the process. Inciarte and Freeman pulled off a double steal and then Familia went to work on Matt Kemp.

Kemp hit a ball to left, where Yoenis Cespedes was perfectly positioned — behind the ball, eyes on home plate. At third base, Atlanta coach Bo Porter saw that and put up the stop sign. Inciarte ran through it. Cespedes heaved the ball wildly and the game was tied.

In the bottom of the eighth, with one out, Cespedes connected off Brandon Cunniff.

It was an odd night at Citi when it came to baseball parabolas — yes, Rivera, Cabrera and Recker had hit balls out, but most balls weren’t traveling as far as you expected off the bat. That downtick in temperature and humidity robbed them of a bit of distance, as both Cabrera and Loney found out at discouraging points during the proceedings.

But Cespedes’s drive … it sure looked gone. Heck, off the bat it looked like it would be 20 rows beyond the Great Wall of Flushing. But as we all got to our feet I wasn’t quite sure. The ball was high — at first majestically so, then worrisomely so. Kemp went back to the wall, but he wasn’t getting as close as he could to spare his pitcher’s feelings. He looked like he had a play. The ball clanked off his glove and we turned to see Cespedes arriving at second instead of third — he’d been admiring his handiwork instead of running.

The Braves walked Curtis Granderson, and he and Cespedes pulled off a double steal of their own — take that, Braves! But Chaz Roe fanned T.J. Rivera before giving way to Aaron Krol.

Which is when Terry really started overmanaging.

Frankly, I thought Tuesday’s calling on Eric Campbell and Kevin Plawecki was a terrible idea that happened to work, which isn’t the same as a good idea. This time, Terry outdid even himself, burning Kelly Johnson in favor of Campbell. Campbell, you may recall, collected his first hit since May on Tuesday; apparently Terry decided Tuesday was the first day of the rest of Soup’s baseball life. When the Braves walked Campbell, Terry countered by hitting Plawecki for Loney. Newcomer Ian Krol was wild and went to 2-0 on Plawecki, who promptly expanded the strike zone, fanning in a remarkably feeble at bat.

(Let’s stop and recall that Terry didn’t have Wilmer Flores because Wilmer got hurt in a collision at home plate in Atlanta, a collision that wouldn’t have happened if Terry hadn’t forgotten to pinch-run for him.)

Onto the ninth in a tie game, with Familia returning to duty after sitting in the dugout during the whole excruciating mess. The Braves took the lead on a couple of soft singles and a perfectly placed RBI groundout from Inciarte. Enter Jim Johnson to protect the Atlanta lead, fresh off fanning Cespedes with a remarkable, Wainwrightian curve that ended Tuesday night’s game.

We were all hoping and praying the lineup would get to Cabrera and Cespedes, while wondering what parade of pinch-hitters Terry had in mind now. Brandon Nimmo hit for Rene Rivera and singled; Jay Bruce hit for single-thumbed Juan Lagares and arrived to an odd sound, a mix of determined cheers and anticipatory boos and possibly ironic BRUUUUCEs. He struck out, and I suppose it’s a small kindness that no one will remember that given what was in store for us.

Travis d’Arnaud, another Met who marked Bark in the Park night by finding himself on a short leash with the fans, did what Plawecki couldn’t and coaxed a walk. Cabrera hit a deep but playable fly ball. Two outs, and it was time for the Cespedes-Johnson rematch.

On Tuesday, Johnson attacked Cespedes with fastballs to set up that killer curve; this time he showed Cespedes the curve first, getting strike one with it. He then went to the fastball and threw one that didn’t sink. It arrowed right down the middle of the plate and Cespedes mashed it on a line to right-center.

It sounded good. Hell, it sounded great. It sounded like a walkoff, and we started to yell. But I remembered the ball that had looked gone and wound up just eluding Kemp’s glove, and so I felt a queasy dread as I watched Inciarte run to the fence and leap, his glove flicking above the wall. He came down on the warning track and held his glove up, radiating such joy that he looked like he was on springs, and the game was over.

I stood there in silence, trying to process everything that had happened and get it to add up to something different. The Mets put the replay up immediately, and if you watch the Braves’ highlight (not that I recommend this), you can hear the moment we all got a real look at what had just happened — an OHHHHHH rolls through the crowd as Inciarte is still making merry with his teammates.

Walking out of Citi Field, I let myself imagine how much fun it would have been if Cespedes had hit the ball just three inches higher, to paraphrase Charlie Brown. But on the 7 train the mood was … well, better than I’d expected. And I found myself oddly philosophical.

That Mets’ defeat had a lot of ingredients: frantic overmanaging, bad at-bats, errors, lazy baserunning, lousy luck. But the game came down to a line drive sizzling through the air and one guy who had a small chance at interrupting its journey.

There are lots of ways to lose a baseball game. Most of them aren’t terribly interesting, and the sting goes away once you see a game that isn’t lost. But this wasn’t one of those baseball games.

Years from now the name “Ender Inciarte” will come up and you’ll remember, and your jaw will clench. This was as cruel as the game gets — which means, inevitably, that it was also about as astonishing and thrilling as it gets. I wish I could erase the ending we got and write a new one, but I don’t have that power. It was going to happen anyway, and since it did, I don’t regret being there to see it and hear it and feel it and have to take it away with me.

When the talk turns to Pratt hitting it over the fence or the 10-run inning or the Grand Slam Single or Piazza’s 9/21 homer I smile broadly and say that yes, I was there. I cherish these things as a fan — the memories, and every chance I get to relive them.

And when talk turns to other games — to Willie Harris robbing Carlos Delgado, or Murph coming up too quick on a ground ball in the World Series — I smile wistfully and say that yes, I was there. So shall it be with the Ender Inciarte game. I don’t cherish those memories, exactly — they’re unwelcome companions when the clock says 4 am and sleep is nowhere in sight — but they’re as much a part of being a fan as those other, happier ones.

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