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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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First Place Team Still Alive

With a one-and-a-half game lead over two rivals and an off day today, the Mets are guaranteed go into the books as the kings of April 2018, provided there are books devoted to April kings in any year. At most, there’s maybe a pamphlet.

So put it in the pamphlet. The Mets are No. 1. The Braves and Phillies are Nos. 2A and 2B. The Nationals lurk closer to the Marlins than they do to us, but let’s not wake them just yet. Our team has been alone in first place since April 4 and will remain alone in first place as May dawns. Approximately one-sixth of the season that just commenced is complete. The Mets were literally unbeatable for a nine-game stretch that elevated our expectations Promenade-high, after which they reverted to human after all, as if of flesh and blood they’re made. Which they are, but at 11-1 we begged to differ.

The flesh and blood of two-headed catcher Travin d’Arwecki went on the DL late in the club’s April-defining winning streak and, though you wouldn’t have suspected it, their raging adequacy proved somewhat indispensable by its absence. Not to pin this all on the inherent shortcomings of Double-A Tomás Nido and Quadruple-A Jose Lobaton, but the Mets who couldn’t be stopped stopped being unstoppable once one position out of eight could no longer be considered at least major league average most days. The unplanned presence of Tose Nobaton behind the plate and buried deep in the order quietly pointed out how fragile an edifice a given Mets lineup could be. Instead of a catching tandem that wasn’t great but wasn’t bad, we had a gaping hole.

Just one out of eight. But when others out of the remaining seven cooled off or hit into bad luck or maybe slid into a base dumbly, the fragile construction of the Met juggernaut showed its cracks. The shortstop wasn’t really hitting. The third baseman didn’t make every play. The battle-scarred first baseman had little to show for his exit velocity not to mention experience (how dare he be 36?). Maybe the right fielder should play first base some. Maybe we move this guy here and that guy there and, crap, we have to get the bullpen up because there’s another starter who isn’t gonna get us through six. Or five.

The human Mets who lost a series to the Nationals, then the Braves, then the Cardinals were worrisome. First-place, but worrisome. Splitting the first two in San Diego added to the worries. Jason Vargas, their projected island of stability, rusted over on Saturday night. The Padres pounded the bejeesus out of the Mets. Neither deGrom nor Syndergaard would be pitching Sunday. If a first-place team in April ever looked to be teetering on the brink of — gasp! — second place, it was the 16-9 Mets.

Fortunately, the 16-9 Mets pounded the bejeesus out of the Padres on Sunday afternoon, winning 14-2 and becoming 17-9. The Uniclone Score earned them their first series victory at Petco Park since 2011 (they haven’t swept in San Diego since 1988) and marked the first time nine different Mets recorded at least two hits apiece in a single game. Short of Interleague DH nonsense, that implies either our pitcher chipped in offensively or something went a little wrong amid everything going so right and somebody had to fill in for somebody who had to unexpectedly vamoose.

Zack Wheeler — whose pitching surged past serviceable to the edge of encouraging over the course of five innings — went 0-for-2 as a batter. Yoenis Cespedes slid into a base dumbly. There’s the little wrong something, or so we hope it’s just a little wrong. After two hits and two steals, Ces had to leave the game in the third because of what was termed a sore thumb, which is what the bad vibe from the possibility of Yo missing time sticks out like when you’ve just won by twelve runs. Yo’s slide wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He wasn’t carrying a nine-iron or leaping from a horse into the bag or, heaven forefend, wearing his cap backward. It was just one of those headfirst slides that is forever warned against. It’s also how he slides when he’s not soreing up his thumb. Usually nothing happens; this time it precautionarily nudged him out the game. Nobody’s saying it’s any big deal. Nobody’s saying it isn’t. When it comes to injuries, Mets fans tend to err on the side of ohmigod.

Otherwise, everything was splendid. Brandon Nimmo entered and got two hits so he wouldn’t stick out from his teammates (he does, but only for his preternatural grin). Two hits for this guy who started. Two hits for that guy who started. Thirteen of the Mets’ nineteen hits were struck late as the Mets took what had been a somewhat precarious 4-2 lead and exploded the ever-lovin’ daylights out of it with five runs in the seventh and five more in the eighth. Frazier homered. Reyes homered. Nido singled twice, drove in a run and kindly requested, “don’t put your blame on me,” regarding his humanity.

Adrian Gonzalez, a convenient point of contention for those who wish to find fault with a first-place team, was the most explosive Met, notching three hits, including the three-run homer that began to put the game out of reach, and totaling five RBIs. Gonzalez, likely giving way to Jay Bruce now and then at first so Nimmo can bring his smile to the order more often without injuries to others, does hit the ball hard and has retained a surprising amount of mobility. The Mets have been suitably upwardly mobile since March 29. They entered first place early and haven’t budged from it. What do we want from them anyway?

To stay there and never leave. That’s all. We’re reasonable people when we’re not losing our minds over not winning every game.

14 comments to First Place Team Still Alive

  • LeClerc

    Shut-down relief from Harvey in the 9th inning.

  • Greg, you always get the mood of each game just right when blogging about it shortly after its conclusion. Jason does, too, in his own distinct style.

    One odd fact I just noticed: if you rearrange the letters in Travin d’Arwecki, you get “Avid Train Wreck”. No wonder they both sustained injuries at the same time! Seriously, though, I hope the progress in Plawecki’s hand speeds up and we get him back soon.

    For the Mets to return the favor against the long-hated Braves at Citi would be helpful to the city’s morale. Here’s to them doing that!

  • mikeski

    Jomas Lobatido?

    There’s a scene in a Frasier episode in which Frasier is getting new carpet and is changing colors from one shade of off-white to another, pretty much indistinguishable shade; Frasier and Niles go through the various shades: “Tofu, Putty, Oatmeal, Almond, Harvest Wheat and Buff.” I feel like that’s what we do with Wheeler sometimes – “he only went 5 innings again…”/”yeah, but he only threw 97 pitches this time instead of 103!”

  • Daniel Hall

    This morning I read on that the expected downtime on Yo Knows Baseball (not well enough to slide feet first, though; right, Keith, fundies, right? right?) was a mere three days.

    But come on, who are we kidding. This is the Mets, where every paper cut can reasonably lead to infection and amputation in mere minutes. We should have a (sad) pool where we try to guess Yo’s return to the lineup. Winner gets depressing bragging rights.

    I call June 17. This year.

    • 9th string catcher

      Goes on 10 day May 7, back May 22nd.

      No problem as Nimmo hits .654 with .857 OBP.

      Incidentally, 17 wins is fantastic, any way you cut it. If they can win 15 / month going forward, they’re in the playoffs…

      • mac92

        Absolutely. The Mets basically spent two weeks as world beaters and two weeks playing slightly below .500 baseball. If the real Mets lie somewhere in between, this is a good team.

  • Dave

    I was away from a tv for much of the game, so I didn’t see Yo’s bad fundies slide. Given the historical disparity between original projections on Cespedes injuries and actual time spent inactive, I am, like any normal, rational, sane Mets fan, absolutely shaken to the core and completely overcome with fear and panic.

  • Harvey Poris

    Don’t get to excited by the Mets good April. The Mets in March-April are 596-570 .511 all-time, boosted by their great opening day 37-20 record. For every other month other than October (small sample size), they are under .500. In May, they are 733-793 .480, which happens to be their all-time won-lost percentage through 2017.

  • eric1973

    Hold on, team, let’s not gloss over this!

    M. Elias figuring out this anagram is pure genius!

    Even more genius, is that Greg/Jason most likely knew this when they created it!

    • Avid Train Wreck is all Michael’s doing. Well, his and Sandy Alderson’s.

    • Thank you, Eric and Greg! It’s nice to be recognized once in a while. :-D [bows humbly]

      Well, Greg, you were the genius who put the letters of the names together! They were thus already there for my rearranging. :-) Speaking of the catchers (and the unfortunate lack of progress in Plawecki’s hand–by yet another wild Marlin HBP–remember, they also hit d’Arnaud (2015?) and Delgado (closing day 2007)): what are the chances that Alderson can pry Wilson Ramos loose from the Rays? He is a slugging catcher, and the Rays aren’t going to catch Boston (but hopefully they’ll all beat down the NYY). Ramos could take out revenge on Washington, as well.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Has anyone pointed out that with Mets current roster you can shout, “Yo! Adrian!”

    All they need is a Rocky Colavito or Rocky Bridges.

  • Gil

    I don’t agree that sliding headfirst is a bad thing. Ask Stephen Drew about sliding feet first into home. Just get Yo one of those oven mitt deals if the Mets are going to ask him to steal bases. I would argue that his headfirst slide got him 3rd, and also, that he looked awfully good on both those bags he took.

    Canary yellow oven mitt. Maybe even get it encrusted with diamonds.