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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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Six Games Before April Sixth

These Mets are so good, they deserve to be televised on television. These Mets have so much magic to do, Pippin has to planning another Broadway revival. These Mets have dispirited the Nationals to such an extent that D.C doesn’t wanna come out and play on a Friday.

Helluva start we’re off to. Helluva conclusion we’re all drawing in unison that this team and this season have a chance to be pretty special. Did I say “a chance”? Did I say “to be”? Precautionary disclaimers are so some other team and some other season. These are the Mets of 2018. No further proof is required.

We’ve played six games before April Sixth. We’re five-and-one following an 8-2 thrashing of our ostensible archrivals. Save for off days and unknown fates, we can’t be stopped.

Did you catch Thursday’s matinee from Washington? By whatever medium you tuned in, you had to feel the destiny seeping through the speakers. Everything went right for the Mets. Everything went wrong for the Nationals. Nine innings of sample size was extraordinarily convincing. Someone get word to Nate Silver — we can call this race.

In their dreams, the Mets have three primary sluggers. On Thursday, all three slugged like a dream come true. In the fourth, Yoenis Cespedes golfed one toward the Treasury Department (because he’s so money). Come the fifth, Michael Conforto sent one to the opposite field, which was appropriate because playing one week after Opening Day was the opposite of what it was expected he’d be doing. It was expected Conforto would still be trying to shake the ache from his left shoulder. Bah to theoretically reasonable timetables. Conforto was back in the lineup for Game Six and, in his third at-bat, he homered by a matter of inches. It took the umpires and their replay compadres a few minutes to determine Conforto’s shot was no mere double, but that’s OK. It was either George Bernard Shaw or Robert F. Kennedy who put it best:

“Some men see Conforto on second when his ball has left the ballpark and ask what’s the holdup? I see Conforto on second when his ball has left the ballpark and say his home run trot has begun twenty-five days early.”

Michael rowing his boat ashore the Mets’ active roster ahead of all medical projections was a victory unto itself. The double that was eventually ruled a homer constitutes a winning streak of the soul.

The slugging wasn’t fully thorough until Jay Bruce produced a grand slam in the seventh. Bruce clubbed a grand slam last April as well. It came in a loss. The Mets hit four grand slams in 2017; three of them scored four runs apiece in service to respective defeats of 9-7, 7-5 and 12-8. Six games into 2018, the Mets have as many grand slams as they do losses.

And five times as many wins as either.

Each of the Mets’ home runs — Yo’s solo blast, Conforto’s time-shifted two-run job and Jay’s salami (sliced from a count that commenced at oh-and-two) — was grand. Yet none of them was the quintessential highlight of the 2018 Mets season to date. That came in the bottom of the sixth, the Mets ahead by two runs, but on the verge of offering some or all of their lead to their hosts as a Home Opener gift. Talk about ill-conceived hospitality.

Sun god Jacob deGrom, pitching in his traditionally favored daypart, was in control for five innings. He had given up two runs in the first, but one was unearned. The next few frames were an afternoon nap for the Nats’ bats. In the sixth, though, after a leadoff single, the strike zone got away from Jake. A four-pitch walk to Anthony Rendon. A four-pitch walk to Bryce Harper. The bases were juiced, the home crowd was pumped, deGrom appeared about to melt.

Ah, but Jake doesn’t melt midday. He draws sustenance from ol’ Sol. How else to explain what he did to the next three batters? In as friendly a hitting situation as he’ll ever face, Ryan Zimmerman (the brand name under which David Wright is sold and marketed in the Middle Atlantic states) flied to Bruce in short right. Bruce, who made the error that facilitated the Nats’ unearned run earlier, almost had a problem with the ball, but what is it the 2018 Mets say?

“No problem.”

Next up, Howie Kendrick, who inadvertently answered another question: what the hell is Jose Reyes doing at shortstop when Amed Rosario is presumably alive and well? Now we know. If Jose hadn’t been mysteriously inked in at short Thursday, he wouldn’t have been perfectly positioned to spear Kendrick’s sizzling liner for the second out. True, Rosario might have reeled in the very same drive, but when Houdini’s escape act includes an additional unexpected element, you shut up, you accept it and you applaud the grab.

The bases were still loaded…which is how they stayed when Trea Turner took strike three to end the bottom of the sixth (and unleash my first fierce fist pump of the young season). The strike zone that had three batters prior gotten away from deGrom was found just off the plate by Doug Eddings, who helpfully tossed it back to Jake on a very borderline call, but it’s a long season and calls go every which way.

Did I say it’s a long season? Correction: we know everything we need to know after six games. Or we will decide we do when our seventh game has yet to be played and the sixth game has been so darn invigorating. So much going right for these Mets, so much going wrong for those Nats. Stephen Strasburg not only gave up two homers, but balked in another run. Harper, other than being walked in the midst of deGrom’s detour to danger, didn’t do anything harmful. Daniel Murphy graciously remained on the disabled list. Three Nationals even struck out against Hansel Robles to confirm we didn’t need a new prescription for our glasses after he mowed down three Phillies the day before.

Game Sixes are famous in Mets postseason lore. Regular sixth games of seasons sometimes deserve cachet, too. Maybe you recall the sixth game of the 2005 season. New manager Willie Randolph’s Mets were oh-and-five and facing a rejuvenated John Smoltz inside the torture chamber known as Turner Field. Smoltz indeed struck out fifteen Mets that Sunday, but big deal, because we had Pedro Martinez, and Martinez outlasted Smoltz, threw a complete game and inserted Randolph and the Mets in the win column at last. In the sixth team outing of 2009, Martinez’s successor as Mets ace, Johan Santana, threw a whale of a game at the Marlins, but he was matched for brilliance by Josh Johnson. We lost that one when future National demon Murphy dropped a ball in left field during Jerry Manuel’s apparent experiment with defensive hallucinogenics. Just one game, each of those Game Sixes, but you kind of got a hunch about those seasons when each was over. Maybe 2005 was gonna live up to its promise. Maybe 2009 was gonna be less than we hoped for.

Sometimes we need more than just a sixth game to figure out where we’re going. In 2006, it took twelve games — a 10-2 launch — for me to (almost reluctantly) discern the Mets were for real. In 2017, after they dropped the third of three consecutive exercises in aggravation to the Fish, I was developing a sense they might be toast. Then again, the Mets were 7-3 directly before that tailspin and I was relatively confident that the first-place Mets wouldn’t be leaving their lofty perch until it was time to get to the parade. That was the last time the Mets were as many as four games over .500 until right now. Then it all went to hell. We’d certainly appreciate that not happening again.

What am I saying? Of course it won’t. These are the 2018 Mets, 5-1 with magic to do. They’ve got miracle plays to play, parts to perform, hearts to warm, kings and things to take by storm as they go along their way.

Conceivably as easily done as sung amid a start like this.

10 comments to Six Games Before April Sixth

  • Tad Richards

    Nice to see Jose getting a few starts, nice to see the lineup changing every day. All of it shows that Mickey is thinking afresh every day.

    Who was the last New York manager to do this kind of lineup-juggling on a regular basis? It was Mr. Casey Stengel of the dynastic New York MFYs. You could look it up.

    • Tom Crimmins

      Casey, yes, but I also remember Davey Johnson getting everyone into games all season long back in the glory days. I always thought it really helped team chemistry when everybody got their chances to contribute. Keep up the good work, Mickey!

  • mikeski

    Hey Greg –

    A Pippin tag, but no West Wing (“Six Meetings Before Lunch”)?

    You gotta love Conforto. He wanted Strasburg, and he sure got him.

  • Wheaties54321

    Ces and Conforto could be pitched around with greater frequency as the season progresses, especially in tight, important contests, leaving it up to Jay and the fellas following him to come through. It was encouraging to see Bruce work the count and deliver the big hit the Mets needed.

    Whatever magic mindset dust Callaway is spreading, here’s to it continuing all F’ing summer!

  • Dave

    OK Greg, just going to request you keep Nate Silver and calling races out of this. Nothing good can come of that. Let’s not tempt fate.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Speaking of Six, I just did my annual End of First Week first look at the standings, and lo and behold, the Pirates are 6 and 1. So let’s not get ourselves too euphoric about the Mets 4-1 start.

  • Eric

    No matter the result of today’s game with the worrisome Matz’s start, the Mets will be in 1st place in the division at the end of the day.

    So far this season, Plawecki, Rosario, Nimmo, Conforto, Gsellman, and Lugo seem intent on dispelling the angst about the Mets minor league system.

    The memory of Madbum bullying Conforto into a season-long slump makes me okay with sitting Rosario against a premiere pitcher … for now. But the coddling need to end soon because at this point, he offers a lot more than Reyes at SS.

    Now with Conforto back, how does Calloway get Nimmo’s bat to lead off regularly? Quality depth is a good problem to have but it’s still a problem.

    I’m enjoying the Mets’ surprising bullpen, but I don’t expect it to sustain at the current high level of strikeout mastery. The starters need to start pushing up their innings or else the bullpen will burn out early like they did last season.

    Hopefully, Syndergaard hears all the talk about that deGrom is the real ace of the Mets staff and Syndergaard comes out with something to prove in his next start, and he and deGrom can begin their race for the Cy Young award in earnest.