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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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The Right Amount of Tension

The Mets finally got to play baseball Friday afternoon, and while no one can say what the next week or even the next day will bring, getting to play baseball was a much-needed respite and relief.

It was also a pretty damn good baseball game, one with exactly the right amount of tension — some thrills and chills, some ebbs and flows, spikes of disappointment, sudden happiness, a gnawing tension and finally the good guys walking off victorious. The other struggles we face collectively right now aren’t so easy to parse, we have no idea what inning it is, and there’s no guarantee of a happy ending.

The game also felt — at least to me — closer to normal than I might have guessed. It wasn’t normal, of course — not without fans in the stands, not with teams carrying out the usual rituals in socially distanced ways (at least until they stopped bothering), and of course not with Opening Day coming a beat before August. But it still felt, well, perhaps “normal adjacent” covers it. Some of that was the peerless presence of Gary, Keith and Ron, with an assist from old pal Steve Gelbs. Some of it was that Citi Field’s A/V team was on its game, with the usual noisy park noise and scoreboard whoop-de-doo in the usual places, and fake crowd noise better calibrated than I’ve seen elsewhere so far. And most of all it helped that the game was still the game, with its familiar pacing and rhythms.

One thing I was thinking about even before first pitch was how to weigh each of these games. The most immediate lesson is to cherish each one, lest a brace of COVID tests or need to close things back down cancel the next one. But I think we all knew that. I was struggling with something else — the idea that each of these games is worth 2.7 times as much as one in a regulation season.

That may be mathematically accurate, but thinking about it that way simply isn’t going to work. Whether you’re a player or a manager or just a fan, you can’t put baseball on fast-forward. The healthier mindset, I think, is to simply note that it’s July 24 and the Mets are in a dogfight for first place, with every team within a game of them in the standings. That’s a more natural way to approach this sprint to October — and it has the additional benefit of being true, as we used to joke in the newsroom.

The game itself was a tight, taut little thriller, with Jacob deGrom coming out throwing 100 MPH gas past Ronald Acuna Jr. and throttling the Braves for as long as his pitch count allowed. He left with a no-decision, which I suppose is a sign of normalcy I could have done without.

Meanwhile his opposite number, Atlanta’s Mike Soroka, escaped trouble a couple of times. His first getaway came right out of the gate, when a leadoff single by Brandon Nimmo was followed by Jeff McNeil hammering a liner past first. Unfortunately, it was right into Freddie Freeman’s glove instead of a foot or so past him, turning a first Met run into an unassisted double play. At home, where Nimmo’s single had convinced me the Mets would finish 60-0, I reversed myself to wail that 0-60 was foreordained, which may sound deeply psychotic but was actually a good sign. Every Opening Day is a reminder of the dangers of emotional small sample sizes.

Then, in the fifth, Ender Inciarte went above the fence — as he’s done before — to take a two-run homer away from J.D. Davis. That time, I had no philosophical silver lining to grumpily appreciate, and just said a bad word.

The game ground along until the seventh, with Seth Lugo and Chris Martin having taken over for deGrom and Soroka. And then, with one out in the seventh, Martin left a fastball over the plate to Mets designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes.

The Yoenis Cespedes Experience has been a surreal ride for more than two years: blown ankles, rumored wild boars, holes in ranchland, restructured contracts, and more perils than a railroad that uses Paulines as mile markers. Cespedes can’t really run, let alone play the field, but neither skill was required to send Martin’s pitch to its beautiful and distant reward. Cespedes’s swing was pure 2015, a viciously beautiful assault, followed by a bat flip that all but winked and asked, “Remember me?”

But would one skinny lousy run be enough? Justin Wilson got through the eighth, helped by a nifty play by newly minted Met Andres Gimenez — in his first-ever big-league chance, no less — and a cutter that was high but arrived when Acuna was expecting a fastball. Still, as the bottom of the eighth arrived, I strongly urged the Mets to score somewhere in the neighborhood of five runs. Which, granted, is always a good idea, but I’ve rarely wished it so fervently. 2020 has been a rough year, and I was feeling a little fragile about the prospect of watching Edwin Diaz defend a one-run lead.

But that was what was going to have to happen. And so, baseball being baseball, of course Diaz looked terrific. The fastball was properly smoking but more importantly the slider had bite and wiggle, both of which were tragically lacking for most of last year. There was some anxiety after a one-out walk to Freeman, of course, though I was heartily glad to see healthy and playing baseball, despite how that usually ends for the Mets. But our nemesis never reached second: Diaz caught Marcell Ozuna looking, then punched out summer-camp Met castoff Matt Adams for the ballgame.

The Mets are 1-0 — which means they’re 1-0, not 2.7-0 or any of that stuff. (Seriously, don’t — given everything else we’re all dealing with, the first three-game losing streak will be the death of you.) They won a game, even if the stadium was empty and the calendar unfamiliar, and it felt good. It felt good in ways that were weird, and maybe also in ways that reveal we’re all skating on emotional thin ice, but mostly it felt good in ways that were familiar — much-needed reminders of what we’ve had to put aside and what so many are working hard to restore.

10 comments to The Right Amount of Tension

  • BlackCountryMet

    Well, I enjoyed my Friday (night in the UK) Opening Day! Thought we played some good baseball. Jake was Jake and that’s always gonna be pretty darned good. It’s gonna be a strange season but we finally HAVEa season and I’m thankful for that. Look forward to many more FAFIF write ups too

  • Gianni Privacio

    OMG a Met manager uses the correct batting order, sequence of pitchers, and replaces a fading star defensively in 8th. Diaz gets to pitch with no fans trashing him. Will be interesting to see if he will have to make minor adjustment to batting order to get decent pitches for Cespedes if he really heats up.

  • Seth

    Good to see that powerhouse Mets’ offense in mid-season form…

  • Daniel Hall

    Ces’ homer almost made me forget the horrors of the world for one second! Where were you on that one, Senor Inciarte!? Nowhere to be seen! :D

    Gimenez might be all that Rosario has been talked up to be for years, but better. I want to see him play every day now.

    Now Matzie and then it’s straight into the doldrums of the rotation. What’s gonna come after Wacha and Porcello? Walker Lockett? oO

  • Jacobs27

    Excellent write-up, Jason. Really gets at the simple but strange pleasure of finally having baseball back.

    I think there something particularly satisfying about Cespedes striking the winning blow in such resounding fashion in both his and our first game in what feels like forever.

    Both Cespedes and baseball itself were serious question marks this year for health-related reasons, and bam, they’re both back at once, at least for the moment. I’ll take it!

  • otb

    Ironic that the Mets won via a homer from their DH, a concept I still hate. Gary Cohen seemed in midseason form. “Cespedes has homered in three consecutive games,” was typical Gary. Also, “The Mets record on opening day, March, April or July, remains outstanding.” But best of all, in the eighth, “The cardboard cutouts should move to the edge of their seats.” Greg seems in midseason form too: I love “more perils than a railroad that uses Paulines as mile markers.” That made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

  • RobSF

    Great to read Fry and Prince, and hear Cohen, Darling and Hernandez. A little bit of order restored to the universe!

  • Robert Saunders

    GKR-Mets-Like good medicine –the best day I’ve had in months–

  • ljcmets

    Working from home, I went downstairs at 6 PM to find my husband deep into the game, which I didn’t know or had forgotten began at 4 PM. “How’s deGrom doing?” “Same old Jake.” I didn’t blink, but replied, “No run support, huh?”

    Cespedes’ homer was welcome but I was more heartened by Diaz’s save, which I was certain he would blow (alas, I was only off by 24 hours). A nice, tidy 1-0 win, the usual no-decision for deGrom, GKR, and some grilled hot dogs and pasta salad for dinner, and I fell right into summer, which felt SO good. I only wish I could have stayed there, like Dorothy in the Land of Oz.

    Except….The DH was weird (although no doubt here to stay), the cardboard cutouts, though clever, were a little creepy, and I missed real crowd noise, especially “Let’s Go Mets!” ( is it possible the Mets do not have a recording of that – they should have multiple versions, including the Amazing comeback LGM, the futile rally LGM, the sarcastic down-by-ten runs LGM, maybe even LFGM. Speaking of which, I worry about Alonso, an emotional player who feeds off his interaction with the crowd, falling victim to the eerie silence as well as the sophomore slump.) And all that was small potatoes compared to the new extra-innings format on display today, which was an abomination. Kill it with fire.

    What time is first pitch tomorrow? Can’t wait!

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