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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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Well That Was Interesting

Wednesday night’s Mets game was an exercise in shifting narratives: That contest with the Braves looked like it was going to be a Taut But Ultimately Depressing Loss, morphed thanks to Steven Matz and J.D. Davis into an Inspiring Minimalist Comeback Win, morphed again thanks to Seth Lugo and Mickey Callaway into a This One’s on You Skip loss, then wound up as a That Futile Rally That Just Made Things More Depressing loss.

One thing you can say about the 2019 Mets is that they’re rarely dull. Dysfunctional, self-sabotaging, ill-assembled, star-crossed and tragic? They’ve been those things far too often. Inspiring, fun and compelling in spite of themselves? They’ve checked all those boxes too.

On Thursday night the Mets came roaring out of the gate against Julio Teheran, with Pete Alonso smashing a ball into the pool far beyond center field. It was one of those Alonso home runs that reminded you just how strong he is: Alonso didn’t connect with a ball in his happy zone or put a classic slugger’s swing on it, the one that ends with the satisfied look skyward and dropping of a no-longer-needed bat. (A Todd Frazier special, in other words.) Rather, Alonso reached across the plate for the pitch and hit it near the end of the bat, only to have the ball go 430-odd feet anyway.

The Mets scored in the first three innings to chase Teheran and then kept going. Alonso wound up with five hits and six RBI; Amed Rosario collected five hits and scored four runs; Wilson Ramos collected four hits; Juan Lagares had three; in fact, everyone in the starting lineup had a hit.

If we’re sticking with narrative taxonomies, it looked like either a Where Was That Yesterday Laugher or a Save Some of Those for Tomorrow Laugher. Or, if you’re a Braves fan, it looked like one of the more annoying varieties of losses: We Coulda Swept But Decided to Be Flat and Bad.

We’ll be back to that thought, but first it should be noted that Rosario’s continuing development as a player is one of the more inspiring stories of the season. Rosario may never become a truly superb shortstop, lacking both the range and the instincts, but over the last six weeks or so he’s become much more reliable defensively, and shown he can more than outhit his defense.

The secret, as is so often the case with young players, is he no longer reliably cooperates with pitchers by getting himself out. That was apparent in his very first AB: Ahead in the count 1-2, Teheran threw Rosario a slider that dived off the plate, then a fastball up and away. Two years ago, Rosario probably swings at the slider and misses it; last year, he probably gets enticed by the fastball and swings under it. On Thursday he ignored both, fouled off the next two pitches, got a fastball in the middle of the plate and nearly hit it out of the park. Yes, he still has ABs where he gets too excited, expands the strike zone and does the pitcher’s work for him. But not nearly as often as was the case not so long ago.

Back to the game, and our shifting narratives. With the Mets up 7-0 and then 9-1, I confess I stopped paying close attention, except to note that for once Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies were having balls just elude their gloves, when normally they corral anything and everything in the same ZIP code. That was something to savor, considering those two will be torturing us for the better part of a decade.

As if on cue, Acuna then made a nifty above-the-fence catch to rob Davis, with the added gag of sitting in apparent dismay on the warning track before revealing that he did in fact have the ball. For the historically minded, it was the opposite of Todd Pratt hitting it over the fence. If you were there 20 years ago (as Greg and I were), Pratt’s drive didn’t trigger instant celebration, but was preceded by a heart-stopping moment of uncertainty — a Schrodinger’s Playoff Game — during which none of us had any idea if Steve Finley had caught the ball or not. Looking at the replay, I swear you can see Finley realizing that he’s the only person* in Shea Stadium who knows the truth, and when he lets go of this secret his team’s season will really and truly be over.

Anyway, it was a great bit of theater from Acuna, but his team was still down 9-1. Except Mickey Callaway assigned Drew Gagnon mop-up duties, and it didn’t go well. Gagnon has added a glove flutter to better hide his change-up; on Thursday he needed to hide the pitch from his repertoire. Gagnon’s job was to get six outs before giving up seven runs; he got five and gave up five, surrendering homers to Freddie Freeman (twice), Acuna and Donaldson. (In all, the Braves hit six homers — if you want to find another game where the Mets gave up six dingers and won, well, it ended with Matt Franco beating Mariano Rivera.)

The Braves were somehow only down two, the laugher had morphed hideously into a Team in Rearview Mirror Is Closer Than it Appears mess, and it was threatening to explode into a full-bore You’ll Be Brooding About This One at 3:32 AM 15 Years From Now loss. Because here came Edwin Diaz, needing to record one out before giving up two runs.

I put Diaz’s chances at no better than 50-50, which might have been kind, and he promptly walked Brian McCann on four pitches. Up stepped Ender Inciarte, famous for his starring role in a They Ripped Out Our Heart and Showed It to Us Still Beating Before We Gasped and Keeled Over Dead loss a couple of years back. Diaz’s first pitch was a ball, and then he somehow found his slider, or at least a reasonable approximation of it, and three pitches later the Mets had won and could escape to Kansas City with disaster averted, having prevailed in … hmm, well, what to call it?

Perhaps an And You Were Worried victory sums it up. Or how about dubbing it a Remember That They All Count win? Or maybe we should honor Bob Murphy (always a good idea) and christen it a They Win the Damn Thing game?

Whatever the case, the never-boring Mets salvaged the finale, and are now off to Kansas City to play the Royals, against whom they explored some of the narrative taxonomy’s most depressing niches not so long ago. But I’m not going to go there. Instead, I’m going to think about Pete’s 39th, and Amed’s continuing evolution, and that Lagares is off the interstate, and remind myself that they won despite all the rest.

* Not so! See the comments for a cool memory of this moment from a slightly but critically different POV.

24 comments to Well That Was Interesting

  • Charles Hangley

    “One thing you can say about the 2019 Mets is that they’re rarely dull.”

    Who Says a Good Baseball Team Has to Be Dull? — with apologies to the dear departerd New York Herald Tribune (as owned by Mrs. Joan Payson’s brother, Jock Whitney)

  • Michael in CT

    it was painful to watch after Diaz walked the first guy. I think Ramos was able to buck him up and get his slider to work. In a season of bitter bullpen collapses, this one would have been the worst. Much too close for comfort.

    Good thing Alonso is a joy to watch.

  • LeClerc

    Wailin’ Juan Lagares.

  • Henry J Lenz

    Acuna’s catch reminded me of Joe Christopher’s 3 run homer over the glove of a leaping Mays in the 23 inning game on May 31, 1964 at Shea.I was there with my dad and we thought Willie caught it. The say hey kid wound up paying shortstop in extra innings. Also saw my first triple play by the Mets defense. What a game!

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I just hope we’re done listening to Gary Apple doing play by play. It’s annoying that every time he mentions a batting average below .200, it’s always “a buck fifty nine” or “a buck eighty six.” Also, someone needs to explain to him that Stan Musial’s last name does not rhyme with usual.

    • Seth

      Strange that Gary Cohen chose this series to take off (a big one vs divisional rival), but yeah — Ron saved the day. Looking forward to Mr. C returning.

  • Chris

    “Pratt’s drive didn’t trigger instant celebration, but was preceded by a heart-stopping moment of uncertainty.”

    I was at this game sitting in the last section of the Upper right field. When Finley jumped for the ball our entire section could see the ball behind the fence. For us, the celebration was near instant. I say near because of the shock of it all and not because we thought Finley caught it. I like how there are a few different takes on that play even though we were in the same space at the same time. Just crazy.

    • That’s awesome. And I love that a seat that was usually not the best at Shea turned out to be perfect in a huge moment.

    • mikeski

      Section 47, right?

      My wife and I were there as well. Frankly, I can’t believe that that was almost 20 years ago.

      • I had a friend to whom I gave two extra tickets I unexpectedly came into — Section 48, in left. He told me afterward that because of the view, he and his son were the first people in all of Shea to confirm we had just won the NLDS.

  • 9th string catcher

    Apple is horrible, but if the MLB recaps are any indication, he’s Marc Albert compared to the Braves announcers. Some of the worst hr calls I’ve ever heard.

  • 9th string catcher


  • greensleeves

    Q: If Juan is off the interstate, is he taking the scenic route?

    And is he driving or merely hitching a ride? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Apple will be calling this weekend’s series as well.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Unless someone noticed differently–I don’t believe Mickey had Diaz (or anyone) up and throwing until just before the final HR. In other words, if true, he had only about ten quick tosses before being summoned. I envisioned a repeat of the Lugo-not-ready scenario, especially after the 5 balls in a row.

  • mikeski

    From MetsBlog:

    “‘Gagnon did a great job,’ Callaway said. ‘He saved us probably two innings and a couple of guys from our bullpen that are going to be fresh for tomorrow and that’s what you want him to do.'”

    Ay yi yi. I get what he’s trying to convey, but “a great job”? More like, he took one for the team. Gagnon’s not good anyway.

    Mickey, you’re an ultra-maroon. An im-BEH-sill.

    • Eh. There’s stupid shit Callaway says, and Stupid Shit Callaway says, and the Gagnon thing was the former. He was clearly gonna be banished back to Syracuse, so no need to kick him on the way out the door.

      OTOH, he was replaced by Paul Sewald, whom I’m sure will be accompanied by his usual black cloud of defeat. ‘Ee’s a Jonah, he is.

  • Daniel Hall

    You gotta believe that upper echelons actually caring about results would have run Captain Mickey outta town a long time ago…

  • Steve

    I can’t believe I didn’t fall off the mezzanine level when Pratt hit that home run. I jumped up on a seat in the first row I was so excited. What a game!

  • eric1973

    Todd Pratt was my favorite player back then, and I am probably in the minority, but if he had started the rest of the postseason, things may have turned out differently.