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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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Whatever Lies Ahead

Well, so much for the easy part.

Oh my God, Fry, couldn’t you go seven words without being a bringdown?

Honestly, I didn’t mean to do that. Let me zoom out a bit and try that again.

There have been a number of Mets seasons in which a cupcake part of the schedule has beckoned, suggesting a chance to make something of a year that seemed to be slipping away. And there have been a number of those seasons where the cupcake has stuck in the throat. This time, the Mets snoffed down the proffered treat and asked for more: two out of three from the Padres, a sweep of the Pirates, a sweep of the White Sox, two out of three from the Pirates, a four-game sweep of the Marlins. Not so long after the season seemed lost, they’re somehow just half a game out of a wild-card spot.

Has playing a series of reeling opponents helped? No doubt. But they all count, and the Mets haven’t exactly played down to the competition: They’ve harried starters by working deep counts, hunted pitches to hit from vulnerable relievers, gotten top-flight pitching from starters and relievers, and even played some actual solid defense.

Wednesday’s series capper showed off all their strengths, not so long after enumerating the Mets’ strengths made you feel like a dutiful aunt trying to spruce up a shiftless nephew ahead of a wing-and-a-prayer blind date. The Mets rode home runs from Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso, awakened from his brief post-All-Star hibernation to continue his assault on the single-season club record for homers. They got simultaneously cerebral and aggressive pitching from Steven Matz and solid relief behind him. And they got some sparkling plays from Adeiny Hechavarria, Todd Frazier and Alonso.

And they won a game that had threatened to become one of those oh-well affairs, after which you wax philosophical and mumble about winning series. In the seventh, Matz struck out the first two hitters and then surrendered a double to Bryan Holaday. Justin Wilson took over and gave up a single to Martin Prado, putting the tying runs on base with Jon Berti at the plate. But Wilson then took Berti apart, changing his eye level with sliders at the knees and going to work at the top of the zone. Three pitches later Berti had been fanned; in the bottom of the inning the Mets homered twice and the game was no longer in doubt.

And you were worried? Pshhh. They had it all the way, obviously.

The Mets have ascended to that rare air where you expect them to win and are faintly shocked when fate doesn’t cooperate. Now, such baseball charmed lives never last, and wise fans know it. But they also know that you simply enjoy it while it does. Sooner than you want to believe is possible, everyone will be chasing balls out of the zone and dunkers will be falling in and starters will be trudging off and you’ll want to hurl the remote into the wall because how can it be possible that 25 people have simultaneously forgotten how to play baseball? Sooner than you want to believe, but not today, please. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Or for the rest of the season.

On Friday the Nats come to town, with Stephen Strasburg facing Marcus Stroman and something on the line besides pride. That showdown will mark the start of a brutal stretch of schedule — and no amount of happy talk or fancy writing will make anyone forget that the last brutal stretch of schedule nearly sank the Mets’ season.

Maybe that will happen again and this time the damage won’t be repairable. Or maybe it won’t and we’ll tell stories about how the Mets came together and learned to trust each other and to win. I’ve given up trying to outguess baseball, particularly when the equations involve more teams than you can count on the fingers of one hand and seven weeks more of games.

But I do know this: This hot stretch has dispersed the sour black cloud that had gathered over the season, and I think I’ll still feel that way even if the Mets sink back into the mire from which they’ve extracted themselves. Even in 2019’s valleys they’ve been weirdly compelling, with electric starters and precocious hitters and the promise of what might be; now that they’re at a peak, they’re must-see TV, fun to watch and easy to root for. And isn’t that baseball like it oughta be?

Strasburg-Stroman. Half a game out of a postseason berth. Baseball’s supposed to be fun and sometimes it even is. Rest up for Friday, and all that remains to be written.

20 comments to Whatever Lies Ahead

  • MetFanMac

    Apropos of nothing, I figured I’d share an interesting stat I just uncovered — new to me, maybe old to everybody else, I don’t know — that I think may shed some light on just how frustrated Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz must be. These two are both in the top 10 across MLB in terms of the widest gaps between opposing hitters’ actual and expected batting average, slugging percentage, and wOBA. This doesn’t come anywhere close to exculpating them for their pitching woes — the expected stats are still at or near career highs, along with pretty garbage peripherals like walk rate and barrels — but it does lend credence to those who insist they’re pitching better than their records would indicate and how badly they’ve been affected by poor luck and defense.

  • Dave

    To every skeptic who will emphasize the fact that the Mets’ streak has been at the expense of bad teams, I’ll remind them that every 1st place team ever has had a portion of their wins against bad teams, Koufax struck out bad hitters, and Aaron took bad pitchers deep. And playing bad teams, as we have seen all too often, is a guarantee of absolutely nothing anyway. Whatever lies ahead indeed.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Day games have not always turned out to a be a good thing for UK Mets this season. However the 2 this week have been joyous. Who out there in Metsville could have seen this coming? When I booked up for the last 3 (home) games of the season, it was with the view that it would be last opportunity to come over for games this season. Now I’m concerned I need to figure out how to come back for play off baseball when i have no annual leave left! Hey, it may all go south over the course of the next week but it’s been a long time since Mets baseball has been this fun, and the Citi crowd has been as enthused. Really wish i was there this weekend but i’ll be watching LIVE on Fri and Sunday and the Sat game as live when i wake up on Sunday. Never was the saying more true “Ya GOTTA Believe” :-)

  • Daniel Hall

    Ah, I will reserve sparkling and foaming enthusiasm for after a series win against the Gnats.

    • NostraDennis

      Amen, Daniel. Fun? Yes. Significant? Ask again later, after we’ve played some more teams that aren’t awful.

  • dmg

    here’s to the dizzying heights of competence, and to not playing down to your opponents’ level!
    i expect to attend stroman’s debut at citi tomorrow, and while i’d love a glittering performance, i’m not expecting one. )everyone, including the players, are maybe a wee bit over-amped.) i’m just hoping he goes six-plus and that the team can get him his first win as a met.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Hope springs eternal–but does help? Not in Brodieville. Now that we’re back to playing major leaguers with presumably many close games the team’s two big issues will surface: bullpen and depth. I see no indications that Diaz and Familia have turned it around–the season may hinge on them–and Gsellman remains hopelessly mediocre/bad despite claims to the contrary (lifetime 4.80 era first half-season). Wilson has been the hero, besides Lugo, but beware when tough spots loom not every third day but nearly every day…as for depth..certainly the worst of any competing team. Just look at the pinch-hitting options, let alone guys south of the Mendoza line who actually must start (sometimes three in one game). So let’s see Stroman hurl 8 innings of one-run ball tonight and Conforto remain hot….

  • CharlieH

    I’m hoping for a sweep, of course — that would vault the Mets past the Nats by half-a-game — but I don’t consider it likely: Wilmer Flores plays in Arizona these days, you know, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a Long Island Duck.

    But 2 out of 3? I can absolutely see that happening. Something seems to happen to the Washington team historically when they come to Queens with something on the line. I can see Rendon peppering the outfield walls repeatedly, and Soto is a very-good-to-great player and Trea Turner is a pest, but there’s nobody else who really scares ya (a big thank you to the Phillies for throwing all that money at Bryce Harper). And if the Mets can hang around against Strasburg, Corbin and Anna Belle Sanchez, the DC bullpen isn’t all that better than the NY. And who knows? Joe Panik might be in the fold by Saturday.

    One at a time.

  • Lenny65

    Ya know, I realize the Mets just played a bunch of pretty bad teams and all, but hearing everyone talking about the Gnats, Barves, Phillies and etc. like they’re the 1927 Y*****es is getting kind of annoying. They’re not unbeatable juggernauts. I mean they drew Strasburg tomorrow night, not Cy Koufax or anything.

  • mikeL

    sure the mets have feasted on weak teams
    sure the good teams all but ended the season before the break.
    before the break, the bad teams nearly ended the mets season as well,
    at present, the mets bats are hot, the starters are crisp
    and often dominating.
    we went through a long stretch when the mets couldn’t even win 2 in a row.
    i don’t see this team falling apart in the face of stiffer competition.
    i’d like to believe the mets current groove is more about the team’s collective sh*t being together than about the sh*ttiness of recent competition.
    my biggest worry right now is that i’ll be unable to watch sunday’s game.
    8 innings from stroman, and hell, that should be the target for all the starters. pitch efficiently guys!
    and yes mets, let’s go for the sweep!
    (and live with a series win if we must)


    • Lenny65

      I mean sure, maybe they will come crashing down to earth, but you’d think they’re about to play a bunch of league-destroying unbeatable dynasties. They’re just the Nationals, they’re not THAT much better. Some of the articles I’ve seen are acting like they’re about to play the Secretariat Traveling All-Stars And Motor Kings, not the friggin’ Nationals. Washington has won exactly TWO more games than the Mets have, two more games against the exact same teams we play.

  • eric1973

    Before this streak, the team had been underperforming all year, due to the pitching, both starting and relief. There was never a problem with the overall hitting. Hey, so maybe 82YearOld Phil Regan really is making a difference here!

    It was basically a running sick joke that we had the lead every single day and then the relief pitching would blow the game.

    And this happened against both good and bad teams, so this strength of schedule discussion really does not apply. We can (and hopefully will) beat anybody, similar to late 2015, when we just had a superior team, and nobody was talented enough to stop us.

    I am not unhappy that Cano is probably out for the year. That hitting streak was due to end soon, he probably would have reverted to form, and his replacements seem to be quicker in turning the DP.

    Very iffy on Panik. Maybe he is done, or maybe he just needs a change of scenery.

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    If the Mets go 31-16, they get to 90 wins. That’s doable and that has to get into the playoffs someplace. They were hotter than that to close 2016. I’m just realizing that Met teams in recent years have been closers. Having your team in the pennant race rocks.

  • open the gates

    I’m just hoping that Citi will be chanting “STRO-man’s BET-ter!” I mean, he’s not really, obviously, but maybe he can be for one night…

  • Vinny A

    Someone wrote that this is the most fun the Mets have been in a long time…how soon we forget 2015. deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz all figured prominently in that playoff run…ok, the rest of the team was different, but man….some of you act as if we’ve never seen a playoff game in our lifetime…enjoy…savor…but don’t act as if it is cold water to a man dying of thirst. Think of the poor teams who NEVER get there.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Good thing we don’t need a CF and that our farm system is loaded:

    “Mariners OF prospect Jarred Kelenic went 3-for-5 with a homer on Thursday for High-A Modesto.

    “Kelenic’s homer is the 17th in 95 games in 2019, and the sixth in 45 since being promoted to the California League. After a slow-ish start after his promotion — at least compared to the impressive numbers he put up in Low-A, anyway — Kelenic is back to swinging a hot stick, and has his OPS up to .843 in the California League with a .292 average. The 20-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the top outfield prospects in baseball, and he has a chance to help in several categories in the coming years.”

  • eric1973

    Strange thing is, we never seem to play meaningful games in May or Jun, and most of July, so the Battered Fan Syndrome kinda takes its toll.

  • Stuart Miller

    As far as the lack of depth, while I understand that Joe Panik has been playing in the majors all year, he has been playing poorly. Why not give two ex-Mets in Triple A a chance to be better than Adeiny or Guillorme at 2B (though you’d need to keep one of those two guys as a defensive backup)

    Ruben Tejada is hitting .340 with a .914 OPS at Syracuse. (Plus, how great would it be having him on the roster in the post season against the Dodgers.)

    Dilson Herrera has 22 homers and a .521 slugging percentage there.

    Neither would fare as well in the majors obviously but it’s worth seeing if they could contribute more offensively. Try one and if it doesn’t work then try the other.