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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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Inconclusive Closure

There's a winning Mets score you don't see any day.

A Unicorn romps around Flushing.

Sunday was ostensibly Closing Day at Citi Field. More like Door Left Ajar Day, I suppose. On paper — the glossy, accordion-foldable kind that fits easily in your pocket — it was what it sometimes is. September 25 versus the Phillies was definitely the final scheduled home game of the season, yet some Closing Days are less, shall we say, “Closey” than others.

Closing Day connoisseurs like myself have been blessed in recent regular seasons by Met years that end in Flushing. From 2004 to 2015, ten of twelve Game 162s have coincided with Home Game 81. Putting aside playoff action when we’ve been so lucky, only 2006 and 2012 had scheduled business to be taken care of elsewhere once the gates were shuttered at Shea or Citi. In 2006, we knew we’d be back in a flash, so the sense of “that’s it” on Closing Night a decade ago was nonexistent. In 2012, the overriding goal of R.A. Dickey’s twentieth win was reached on the last home date, and since nothing much else was on the line thereafter, the road trip that remained bordered on — to quote the most literate of pitchers — inconsequential.

The rest of our previous dozen Closing Days had been tinged by reflection and defined to a certain extent by their finality. 2015 had a postseason grafted onto it, but Closing Day, October 4, stood apart as its own occasion. Maybe it was the nip in the air, maybe it was the 90th win, maybe it was the lap around the track the managers, the coaches and all the players took upon the conclusion of the game. We knew we’d witnessed a season finale of sorts, even with a flight to L.A. on the horizon.

A year later, not so much. I went through the rituals of Closing Day, as I have every Closing Day since 1995 (twenty-two in a row for me personally, twenty-four in all), and they were fulfilling enough despite the shortfall of finality. Stephanie accompanied me as she has to every Sunday closer since 2008 — the weekday goodbyes of 2011 and 2012 she had to skip — and we swung by the traditional last-day Chapman tailgate in Lot E, an annually warm affair no matter the vagaries of the Flushing Bay breeze. We accepted our next-year magnets, we took our usual last looks around, we soaked in the scenery that we can’t count on seeing again any time soon, we lingered at our seats when the game was over, we took our sweet time meandering out of the stadium…but we didn’t want to believe this was it.

Not conceptually, but literally. There are six games to go that will determine if Citi Field hosts more baseball in 2016. I believe we would all agree that the place needs more baseball. One game on October 5 if possible, another game on October 10 absolutely, one beyond it on October 11 if necessary, and then, if we can beat the Cubs…

Ah, looking ahead, an instinct I nervously attempt to foul back into the crowd, because you have to take everything one game at a time, but the idea this week is to take as many of the six in front of us that are attainable, ward off at least one of the two teams directly behind us and move forward. With such a pressing agenda, dedicated reflection on the home season that is now technically complete might get in my eyes.

Though it wouldn’t have been the only thing Sunday. Even though the Mets didn’t quite imbue the day with its customary strong dose of Auld Lang Syne, the emotions were there if you left yourself vulnerable to them. Jose Fernandez’s death was known to us for all of four hours when we were asked for a moment of silence in his memory. Usually these gestures happen days, weeks, maybe winter months after whoever has passed has passed. If you’re moved, you’re moved to remember. Here, I must tell you, I was moved to tears.

Truth be known, I can cry quite readily if quietly on Closing Day, even when closure is elusive, even if the scoreboard is jubilant. Geez, this may be the longest a fan of a team that romped to a 17-0 win in the midst of a searing pennant race has ever gone without mentioning that his team romped to a 17-0 win in the midst of a searing pennant race.

So let us note Sunday’s final was Mets 17 Phillies 0 and that combined with subsequent Giant and Cardinal defeats, the Mets’ chances of playing and perhaps hosting at least one playoff game improved substantially. As the runs piled high and handsome, and half-games added themselves provisionally to the most critical column of the Wild Card standings, I can happily report my melancholy took a breather.

Because how can you not get giddy over a 17-0 win?

For those of you who track such sightings, yes, 17-0 is indeed a Unicorn Score, a result we define as a score by which nobody has ever seen the Mets win before or again. Again is hard to tell, considering this just happened — but anybody who can recall the exotic creatures who emerged in the Rocky Mountains on August 21 and 22 of 2015 can attest that a Unicorn doesn’t necessarily have to wait very long to be cloned.

Early in the game, while Robert Gsellman (7 IP, plus some seriously effective bunting) was on the verge of rescuing the Met relief corps from itself, the bats seemed to consist more of slumber than lumber. There were a ton of baserunners, if not enough of them crossing home plate for comfort. We didn’t know in advance that would one would suffice. After the angst that accompanied so many tight-as-a-tick contests on this homestand, I was just waiting for this game to be broken open beyond Philadelphia repair. A run in the second, a couple in the fourth, three in the fifth…6-0 seemed like a safe enough lead, but I was like my cat Hozzie when his internal clock insists it’s time to be fed again despite having just been fed. I simply wanted MEOW! And by MEOW, I mean more.

Consider me sated and purring. The game wasn’t broken open. It was smashed into a million little pieces, each one of them a glittering jewel. Five runs in the seventh. Six runs in the eighth. A blue and orange Unicorn hoofing it around the bases without pause. Certainly the Phillies didn’t seem capable of stopping the wildlife traffic at hand. The Mets had never shut out anybody by more than fourteen runs. Once the pinball machine tilted at 15-0, I maintained only two concerns.

1) Don’t give up a run in the ninth, because there is a 15-1 score in the Met past, and Uniclones (if not bred on the spot) aren’t as much fun as Unicorns.

2) Don’t get the Phillies riled up, because the last three games of the season will be at Citizens Bank Park, and we may very well need to win the lot of them. If anything, the Mets seemed almost embarrassed by their bounty, so I don’t think they unduly stoked any dormant competitive fires.

The reflex reaction of “save some of that for tomorrow” was pointless. The Mets generated 44 runs in four games (somehow losing one of them). When the faucet inevitably turns off, it’s not like we can go back and grab a bucket from Sunday. I enjoyed the output. I enjoyed Closing Day despite the lack of closure it encompassed. I anticipate, albeit with fingers crossed and no guarantee available, additional baseball in our ballpark. I said merely “so long” on Sunday. “Goodbye” is best left for some other day.

8 comments to Inconclusive Closure

  • open the gates

    Well, for me, fear number three was “Don’t let anyone get hurt trying to score the 18th run”. Fortunately not an issue. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of Citi this year. LGM!

  • Stan Phillips

    It is good to see Mets fans are as sentimental as me when it comes to opening and closing day….for me always a feel good buzz at the park on these days

  • Art

    Kind of an odd feeling at the park yesterday. I think few people believed it to be the last home game, and fewer failed to believe the results of the past few weeks and the Mets Magic required.

  • LeClerc

    On a day of offensive onslaught like no other, what really stuck with me was Rene Rivera’s determined guidance of Gsellman through seven scoreless innings.

    For the six games to the wire, let D’Arnaud catch Colon. Let Rene squire the young’uns straight through to the play-offs.

  • Dave

    While I don’t have Greg’s Closing Day track record, I do try to get there most years, and yesterday was one of the really outstanding ones (and not just because they had two TD’s more than the Jets). Last year’s was fun because we already knew there would be more games and it was so unexpected it felt like, as has been noted before, we were playing with house money. But yesterday’s felt like a more intense buzz with the faith that there will be more games, knowing there’s still unfinished business at hand. Hard to imagine this team close to done, and another crack at the Phillies bullpen will sure help.

  • mikeL

    yea a bittersweet feeling from the couch as well. that new CF camera reminded me a bit of the view from getting off the train at shea, and made me especislly wish i had been there. it looked like a beautiful day, aside from the gargantuan unicorn onslaught.
    it was especially heartening to see gsellman get to the third time through the order, finish strong, and really look like he belongs.
    if we can GET to the playoffs (of the multi-game variety) and score a few runs, i like our chances.

    thor, bart and lou gosellman has a nice ring if it hasn’t been proposed here yet.
    to more games at citi!
    and magic on the road.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    It was great to see you at the game Greg, as always. I was a bit rushed out of the park to really take in what might be my last home field sighting of 2015, but I stole a glance at Citi as I waited on Roosevelt Ave for my ride to MCU Park, and I felt in my gut that I would be back next Wednesday. That’s the faith part.

    The fear part exists in my 2 tickets to Citizen’s Bank Park on Sunday. Please god have the wild card game decided before then. I couldn’t handle it otherwise.

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