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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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Is That All Ya Got?

A grand slam? The Marlins thought they were gonna beat the Mets with a grand slam? Hey, Marlins, I got a team I wanna introduce you to: the Phillies. The Phillies thought they were gonna beat the Mets with a grand slam. Hey, Phillies, tell the Marlins how that worked out.

Yeah, I thought so.

The Phillies tried to beat the Mets on Wednesday night with a grand slam like they thought one big swing is the baseball equivalent of an incontrovertibly lethal weapon. What happened? The Mets left Philadelphia on a winning streak. We’d ask Maikel Franco for further comment, but he, like his teammates, were last seen eating the Mets’ dust.

Do the Marlins get scouting reports? Watch tape? Listen in on the grapevine? Don’t they know that grand slams don’t kill, don’t wound and don’t stop the New York Mets?

Apparently not, because in the very first inning Thursday night in Miami, the Marlins went straight into the Phillie playbook — load the bases, hit a home run, put four runs on the board. What, that again? Yawn. Marcell Ozuna took Robert Gsellman pretty deep, but not deep enough.

We acknowledge that Ozuna or later, the Fish are gonna get ya, especially in their own often haunted aquarium, usually later than Ozuna got Gsellman’s early-evening goat. But a grass roots grand slam was not the bait these Mets were gonna swallow whole before calling it a night.

The night, you understand, wasn’t going anywhere until we said it was.

Our boys trailed, 4-0, after one. Then they tied it in the second. We’ll see your grand slam with a catcher tripling in three runs — who said these Mets can’t triple? — and the catcher being driven in from third shortly thereafter. The catcher was Travis d’Arnaud, generating approximately as much offense in one trip around the bases as he did during last year’s trip around the sun.

By the third, the Mets were homering rather than tripling, one from Yoenis Cespedes, one from Wilmer Flores. In the fifth, Yo did it again. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Citizens Bank Marlins Park. Cespy and Flo “settled” for socking solo blasts, so it was only 7-4. More runs would have made more sense on paper, but clearly the Mets had already calculated how ineffectual grand slams have become in the current climate.

Gsellman, on the other hand, was growing in efficacy. His first inning was rough, but his second, third and fourth were spotless and scoreless. Three more outs would position him for the win, that curio that continues to linger from Henry Chadwick’s well-meaning 19th-century bookkeeping.

Gsellman, co-founder of the Metropolitan Bacon-Saving Consortium (established in conjunction with Seth Lugo, August 2016), pitched like he didn’t care about wins or losses. Dismissing ancient metrics with a flair nearly as postmodern as his coif, Bobby G put a few batters on. A couple scored. He left. Josh Edgin came in.

Soon enough, we could cheer a great delivery to the plate. True, it was from Jay Bruce in right gunning down Justin Bour after the Marlins had strung together four runs to take an 8-7 lead, but what an arm on that guy!

Edgin gave way to Rafael Montero, yet the Mets didn’t panic. No, they patiently waited for Cespedes to set things right. Sure enough, in the seventh, Yo struck out but took first anyway, because Yo’s on one of his torrid streaks during which outs land him on base. Did I say first? Yo not only struck out, but then proceeded to second via wild pitch. It was like he was going to score on nothing more than a single.

It was, in fact, remarkably like that when Bruce (who’d earlier confounded one of those awful shifts with a beautiful bunt) singled to left and Cespedes motored around third before rumbling across the plate. Among those patiently waiting to greet the triumphant baserunner was Neil Walker, a genuine student and fan of the game. He knows Yo is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, and when you’re fortunate enough to have the vantage point Neil was afforded as on-deck batter, you stand and you watch and you appreciate the athletic miracle that is Yoenis. You surely don’t make any crazy motions telling your teammate to get down and slide. Neil didn’t motion, Yo didn’t slide and Angel Hernandez of all people called Cespedes safe with the Mets’ eighth and tying run.

So, yeah, it was like Yoenis could score, but somebody with a replay button somewhere got confused and called him out, taking away that run. Imagine the nerve of a person overruling Angel Hernandez.

The Mets didn’t score in the seventh. That’s what they make eighth innings for. Travis, a certifiably high-functioning offensive machine in odd years, singled with two out, and Michael Conforto, a.k.a. Le Grand Ingenue, leapt from the bench and pinch-doubled home the best-hitting catcher the Mets have had since the 2015 rendition of Travis d’Arnaud. For the second time in two innings, the score changed to 8-8. For the first time in two innings, the score stuck.

Consistency would reign for a fashion. Mets relievers stopped giving up runs and Mets batters chose not to add any. Jacob deGrom pinch-hit. René Rivera played some first. Juan Lagares rematerialized. The score stuck at 8-8. The Marlins, having ridden their one-trick grand slam pony to no avail, couldn’t take advantage. Montero, Blevins, Salas, Reed…oh, we’re not done…Josh Smoker for three innings, human rosin bag Hansel Robles (you can find him on the mound every night) in the fifteenth…what’s the matter, Marlins, cat got your grand slam?

Finally, in the sixteenth, Td’A decided he had somewhere better to be and stroked a home run to put the Mets up, 9-8. Robles walked Christian Yelich to start the bottom of the seventh extra inning, but then took care of Stanton, Bour and old news Ozuna to preserve the first-place Mets’ fifth victory in a row, their second straight in which an opponent’s grand slam served little purpose other than decorative.

The entire exercise lasted five hours and thirty-eight minutes, surely enough time for the Marlins to brush up on their history. Maybe they didn’t know about Franco’s futile gesture from the night before. Maybe they didn’t know that on twenty occasions prior to 2017 the Mets have laughed in the face of grand slams — HA! —  and gone on to win ballgames.

It had happened most recently in September of 2015, the afternoon the Mets brushed off Wilson Ramos’s four-by-four-bagger en route to executing the Nationals altogether. It happened in May of 2014 at whichever Yankee Stadium was around then. Gnattish Brett Gardner drove in four with one swing, but we had whichever Chris Young was around then and prevailed, 9-7.

Twice in 2012, grand slams were no more than showy window dressing, once off the bat of Todd Helton, once flying from the lumber of lumbering Ryan Howard, who pulled the same bit in 2008…also without it helping his team win. A Mets Classic staple, the Beltran walkoff versus Isringhausen and the Cardinals, was set up in part by an Albert Pujols grand slam that did not prevent that sterling August 2006 contest from ascending to heavy-rotation SNY status.

You know the guy who stands adjacent to first base and pats Met baserunners on the rear? Tom Goodwin? His grand slam at Coors Field for the Rockies in April of 2000 didn’t stop the Mets from getting Rockie-mountin’ high. Two years before Goodwin, there was Ryan Jackson of the Marlins slamming in a losing cause versus the Mets, and if you don’t remember Ryan Jackson of the Marlins, you probably vaguely recall a Larry Jones from the Braves. Of course he Chipped in a grand slam at Turner Field against the Mets in 1997. And of course the Mets won anyway.

When we’re talking grand slams that don’t fatally pierce Met armor, we’re talking:

• former Mets like Mike Vail (for the Cubs in 1979 as part of a five-run onslaught in the bottom of the eleventh that couldn’t quite answer the Mets’ barrage of six in the top of the eleventh, the scoringest eleventh inning there ever was);

• former Met farmhands like Jody Davis (for the Cubs in 1987, a footnote amid the Mets’ franchise-best one-game run total of twenty-three);

• former/future Mets like Hubie Brooks (for the Expos in 1989 while Gary Carter, for whom he’d been traded five years earlier, was driving in five);

• future Mets Spring Training invitees like Terry Puhl (for the Astros in 1982, the otherwise polite Canadian-born outfielder slammed closer Neil Allen to tie things up at nine, but Allen, batting for himself in the twelfth, stole the lead back on behalf of Bambi’s Bandits thanks to a Houston error and George Bamberger’s steadfast belief that closers should just keep closing);

• and future Hall of Famers like Willie Stargell. Stargell hit sixty home runs against the Mets during his Cooperstown-bound career. Nobody — not Howard, not Jones, not anybody — has hit more. One of Stargell’s shots was a grand slam off Jon Matlack, launched August 5, 1976. Matlack simply shrugged and went about defeating Pops and the Pirates in Pittsburgh, 7-4.

The remainder of the relevant ranks don’t share the rarefied air of a Stargell, a Pujols or a grown man who prefers to be called Chipper, but they could be sharp thorns in the sides of Mets pitchers: Melvin Nieves of the Padres in 1995; his San Diego teammate Brian Johnson in 1994 (Johnson’s lifetime OPS versus the Mets over more than a hundred plate appearances was nearly a thousand); Phillie backstop Darren Daulton in 1992; Giant infielder Ernest Riles in 1990; Pirate first baseman Jason Thompson in 1983 (in the first game of the cherished Banner Day doubleheader the Mets swept when Mookie Wilson scored from second on a groundout in the twelfth inning of the nightcap, the second twelfth inning that Shea Sunday); and the first batter who probably mistakenly believed a grand slam at the Mets’ expense would lead to a win, Vic Davalillo of the 1969 Cardinals at Busch Stadium. More than two months before Steve Carlton’s nineteen strikeouts went for Swobodan naught in the same ballpark, Davalillo pinch-hit against Ron Taylor after Jerry Koosman loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Vic vaporized Ron for a plenty potent pinch-hit — the Mets had been up, 4-0, but were now knotted, 4-4. Yet it wasn’t that potent. Six innings later, the Mets scored twice and went on to win, 6-4.

It took more than an opponent’s grand slam to slow the 1969 Mets, just as it’s taken more than opponent grand slams on consecutive nights — the second of them an extraordinarily long night — to impede the 2017 Mets. Good tries, Maikel and Marcell. Just not good enough.

29 comments to Is That All Ya Got?

  • Eric

    Good catch on Walker not motioning Cespedes to slide. Cespedes is taking some grief for that play, which isn’t fair if Walker made the mistake.

    I’m not going to fret about Gsellman yet. If he’s hit hard again his next start, though, I’ll start.

    Impressive work by the bullpen to hold the line again after, once again, a bad start to the night.

    Robles got lucky with Ozuna’s last out of the game, but he can be forgiven and appreciated for gutting out the finish while pitching on fumes.

    I was impressed d’Arnaud hit the game-winning HR after catching 15 innings. He’s the one position player at that point of the game that would have been forgiven for tapping out on offense. I wondered why Collins didn’t play Rivera at C and move d’Arnaud to 1B to give d’Arnaud a break. I guess Collins wanted to tire out Rivera as least he could in case Rivera was needed to pitch short or even long relief.

    I’m interested in seeing tonight’s line-up. Artificial turf is better than it used to be, but sixteen innings is still a lot for a veteran team. d’Arnaud would be off, anyway, with Syndergaard pitching. I expect Lagares and Conforto to start in CF and RF. I expect at least one of Cabrera and Walker, maybe both, will come off the bench and Reyes will be back in the line-up.

  • dmg

    An underappreciated heads-up move in a game stacked with great moments: in the 2d, the mets down 4, there’s a runner on 1st with no outs. jay bruce is at bat, looking into a right-field shift. and he bunts to the left side of the diamond.
    hallelujah! not only did that make it first and second, no outs (with d’arnaud’s bases-clearing triple soon to follow), it sends a message to teams that bruce at least will stick it to ya if ya insist on shifting.
    great game. i’m gonna have to shut up about d’arnaud for a while. he’s been coming through like a champ.

    • That was worth an edit, so it is no longer overlooked.

    • Eric

      Agreed on Bruce’s bunt. Granderson’s 2-out RBI same inning off the lefty was a big hit, too.

      d’Arnaud going the other way was also a good sign. His triple wasn’t an excuse me grounder down the line. It was hit hard the other way. Rivera’s a better defender and a much better thrower, so d’Arnaud has to hit to play. Big difference for the team when his offense is locked in.

  • eric1973

    When they called Yo out at the plate, I half-expected Bud Harrelson to go nuts, and for Willie Mays to come out and drop to his knees in disbelief. Same exact camera angle as back then.

    The replay guys are crazy. Not enough there to overturn.

  • Curt

    I haven’t heard the story behind the Rivera/Duda/Flores switch in the – was it the 5th? 4th? (I’ve forgotten). Granted, the Rivera non-error helped set up the Marlins’ 1st (just like the Walker non-error in the 5th though that scorer decision is at least defensible). I’m curious on that one.

  • Ken

    Will Sandy Alderson bring another relief pitcher up from Las Vegas to give the Met relievers some much-needed help tonight?

    And, will T.J. Rivera go down to Las Vegas to make room for a new reliever?

  • Kevin From Flushing

    1. I love the fact that we all fret over who wears the crown now.
    2. There were arguments for Robles and Smoker to wear the crown, but those pleading their cases (and I forgive them for this) forgot the 2nd inning triple from d’Arnaud to put us immediately back into the game. That was massive. If Travis is hitting like he was promised to hit and we have him batting 8th, boy oh boy, we’re going to set new team records (again).

  • BlackCountryMet

    A loooong game. Some good stuff, some not. Watched live as get Easter Friday and Monday as Holidays in England. Was thankful for Red Bull by the end. The game finished at 5 53am which is normally what time I get up! Hoping for a shorter game tonight

  • eric1973

    Again, Flores not making a good case for starting fulltime. Makes a bad throw from 3B, and can’t do a thing against righties. Looks like this ‘Miguel Cabrera in waiting’ (my humble opinion) will need to wait a bit longer.

    Clutch hit by Grandy, and clutch pitching by Robles. Great game by TDA. If he hits, this lineup is tough to beat.

  • Matt in Richmond

    So much interesting stuff in this game. One thing I particularly enjoyed about it was the way it highlighted the importance of defense. Reyes took a seat and it nearly cost us the game right in the first inning, as Riviera’s error (that was not a hit) allowed 4 runs to score. Rubbing salt in the wound he proceeded to strike out in both his ABs, once with the bases packed and zero out. Duda came in during the middle innings and immediately made 3 plays I doubt anyone else manning 1st base would of made-saving Wilmer (another defensive liability) an error on a terrible throw, gunning down a runner at second on what was a decent bunt, and charging aggrsssively to make a diving catch on a popped up bunt. Duda’s defense has long been underrated by casual fans, but those in the know have appreciated it. Bruce made what turned out to be a game saving play gunning down a runner at the plate, helped by a terrific tag by Trav.

    It’s very gratifying to see Trav making so many people eat crow. It was always odd to me how so many were eager to give up on a young guy with his pedigree who had suffered through so many injuries. To anyone with a whit of baseball sense his upside was always apparent. Catching is a thin pool of talent. Riviera is great to have as a backup, but Travis is THE #1 catcher, which I think he just announced pretty clearly. Even defensively the gap isn’t what some make it out to be. Catching is about more than just throwing. Travis is great at framing pitches, is miles more athletic, and does a good job receiving throws and tagging guys at the plate.

    Lastly, what a gutty effort by the bullpen! 11+ scoreless innings with many of those guys getting by on fumes. Tremendous.

    I love this team

  • Left Coast Jerry

    After Robles walked Yelich to start the 16th, I was sure Stanton was going to go deep, and I wouldn’t have blamed Robles if he had.

    Angel Hernandez has the most inconsistent strike zone in baseball. Little League umpires are more consistent.

    If Gilmartin is coming, I hope Edgin goes. I don’t care if he’s out of options. He’s useless. I feel about Edgin the same way Jason feels about Niese.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Thanks for indirectly answering a question I had as soon as the Mets tied it up at 4-4. First time they’ve ever won two consecutive games in which the opposition hit a Grand Slam. In fact it’s barely ever happened twice ce in one season, only in 2012 if I read you correctly.

    Re: Walker not giving Cespedes the “get down” signal on the play at the plate (Keith went nuts), it seems obvious to me that Cespedes does not like to slide (his fragile leg muscles maybe?). I’m guessing Walker did not want to be the one to have Yo wind up on the DL because he prompted him to slide. I can live with a non-sliding Cespedes, BTW.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Has anyone heard Collins explain why he had Robles pitch to Ozuna in the 16th with Conley on deck and no position players left to pinch hit?

    • Andrew in Boynton Beach

      I wondered about that at first but then I reasoned that it would put Yelich in scoring position, and he is a very fast runner. Yes, Conley would be the hitter, but sometimes the worst hitters just happen to get their bat on the ball. And it was with Robles on the mound…not Cy Young.

    • Eric

      Not from Collins. d’Arnaud says Warthen reminded them that the pitcher was on deck. It looked like they opted for a pitch-around to see if they could get Ozuna to fish rather than a straight intentional walk. d’Arnaud set up low and outside, but Robles’ pitch, which looked like a bad slider, was in the middle of the plate.

  • eric1973

    We’ve had our disagreements in the past (and will in the future), but Matt in Richmond is dead-on with every single word. Duda is great defensively, and for a big lug, one would mot think so.

    Flores needs to do better on defense, and the sky is the limit for TDA if he continues to hit. He frames pitches better than anyone I have ever seen.

    Looking forward to tonight.

  • FYI, Sean Gilmartin up, T.J. Rivera down. Three-man bench for Friday night.

    Pitch deep, Noah.

  • LeClerc

    A great game. Grit. Endurance. Heart.

    Quite a list of heroes: D’Arnaud, Conforto, Blevins, Salas, Reed, Smoker, Robles…, and of course – Cespedes and Flores way back in the third and fifth innings.

    Gotta start Conforto tonight. Here’s hoping Noah can go seven or eight.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I appreciate that eric1973….particularly your compliment to Duda coming literally one day after you said he’d been a nothing his whole career. I guess that was one of your not so subtle attempts to bait me. Good to know you didn’t mean it.

    Totally agree with Greg about not walking Ozuna. I had flashbacks to “Fat” Albers too!

    Conforto in for Yo today. He’s apparently got the flu.

  • Dave

    With Yo getting a night off on top of too much free baseball last night, Thor needs to go deep on the mound and at bat. 8 innings and 2 dingers would be nice.

  • eric1973

    As an armchair psychologist, I think Yo does not run to first when the third strike is dropped or gets away, is because he has a lot of pride and does not want to be given first base in that manner, after doing a bad thing, striking out, that is. I thinks he feels sheepish, even ashamed, and feels it is like being given charity.

    He had no choice last night, as the ball almost went into the stands.

  • Ray

    Since you beat me to the Grass Roots effort, I’ll just riff on Wilver: it was embarrassing, mid-innings, when the SNYguys asked about Tom Seaver’s first Met appearance 50 years ago that night against Those Same Pittsburgh Pirates, and specifically asked whether we could name the three future HOFers he faced.

    I got Wilver in an instant, Maz as the Trick Answer,…. and stalled. Pains in the Blass of my brain. Finally, it came to me: What about Bob?

    I had that card, of course. Long lost.