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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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Until That Happened

Friday was, thoroughly unexpectedly, one of the better days in recent Mets history. The Mets beat the Yankees twice in one day, coming from behind both times, and Steve Cohen was left as the last man standing in the competition to purchase of the team, despite repeated Wilpon hissy fits thrown in an effort to create another endgame where none could be created. Cohen isn’t across the finish line yet, as there are owners to convince, and his CV has a few things that make you wince, but it’s possible the dead hand of the Wilpons will be lifted from this team by next season, whatever form that season may take, and I’m willing to do more than a little wincing to get to that day.

But after every great party comes a hungover morning where you have to get back to the workaday world, and so Saturday came and the Mets went back out to play the Yankees again. This time we got a nine-inning game, with no confusion about who was the home team, which would have been mildly refreshing except COVIDball and its inherent wackiness had worked out pretty well for the Mets the day before. Saturday’s game unfolded under leaden skies, with the feel of a hot stormy summer day minus the rain, and Robert Gsellman heading to the mound to square off against J.A. Happ.

Gsellman gave up a first-inning homer to Luke Voit but then settled in nicely before tiring in the fourth. It looked like the roof would cave in, but the Mets saved themselves thanks to glovework from J.D. Davis and Wilson Ramos, which is what exactly no scouts would have predicted. With a runner on third and one out, Clint Frazier smacked a grounder that Davis came in on, firing to Ramos to nail Mike Tauchman at the plate. The next batter, Brett Gardner, hit a long drive to center that almost went out but came back to Billy Hamilton, who threw the ball in to Amed Rosario, who threw home to get Frazier by the slimmest of margins and keep the score 1-0.

Gsellman was pretty good but Happ was better, mixing his pitches, dotting the outer margins of the strike zone and keeping Met hitters befuddled — a performance to be admired, except for the fact that the performer was the wrong guy and wearing the wrong livery. As Happ rolled along, seemingly invincible, the Mets countered with a kitchen sink of relievers. Steven Matz looked sharp — a welcome change from pretty much all of 2020 — but only contributed a single inning, departing with shoulder discomfort and forcing the Mets to improvise. Jared Hughes used his sinker effectively for a lone frame and passed the baton to Brad Brach, who didn’t have it. He got two outs but also walked three, with a wild pitch thrown in for good measure, and was excused further duty in favor of Jeurys Familia, called upon with the bases loaded and D. J. LeMahieu, the best hitter in a suddenly diminished Yankee lineup, at the plate.

Their battle was a mini-classic in its own right. Familia immediately ran a 3-0 count, which definitely had the stomach acid churning, but an optimist might have noted he was just missing the edges of the plate. He got a OK-do-that-again strike on a fastball, threw a perfect sinker to get to strike two, got a foul on the next pitch, and then threw LeMahieu a slider. It was up a bit, but the difference in speed was enough to spoil a dangerous hitter’s timing. LeMahieu tapped it to Davis.

This, I thought to myself, is quietly a heckuva ballgame.

It deserved a packed house, of course, with 40-odd thousand living and dying on every pitch. Instead, it was played in warehouse-like conditions, with tarps covering the superpriced Yankee Stadium box seats usually occupied by smirking hedge-fund bros, oil-state potentates ducking extradition treaties, flinty-eyed cluster-bomb manufacturers and whatever other varieties of Yankee fans exist in the world. Citi Field’s cardboard cutouts and energetically fake crowd noise are a bit cheesy, granted, but I’ll take it over the void that surrounded this game. It felt like the teams were playing in a mausoleum.

Happ got Robinson Cano to ground out leading off the eighth and then departed with 90 pitches thrown, which felt like a gift — the more so when Ramos banged Adam Ottavino‘s third pitch off the left-field foul pole. We were all even, and I started wondering how this would end. Would the Mets hurriedly sign Steve Bieser to be their designated runner in scoring position for the top of the 10th, bunting him to third and waiting for him to cause chaos? Would the Yankees sign Luis Castillo and make him our second baseman through some dastardly COVID loophole that had gone undetected? What ghost of Subway Series past would materialize to put its spectral stamp on this one?

The answer was none of the above. Dellin Betances came in against his old team in the ninth and had nothing. He was unarmed — not just a guy who’d brought a knife to a gunfight but a guy who’d brought a knife to a gunfight and discovered that — whoops! — the knife was actually one of those switchblade novelty combs. With runners on first and third and one out, Betances’s second pitch to Erik Kratz was of the Hit the Bull variety, sailing over Ramos’s head and allowing Frazier to scamper home unmolested.

A walkoff wild pitch, hooray. So much — at least for a day — for reaching the relatively mundane promised land of .500. (Which really is a promised land given the National League standings right now, but that’s a post for another time.) So much for continuing this unlikely party on enemy turf. The record came off the needle and that was that. I shut the game off immediately, neither wanting nor needing Keith or Todd Zeile to tell me that unfortunate things were unfortunate.

Still, it really was a heckuva game — taut and tense, well-pitched and unpredictable. Well, if I may borrow a line from my long-ago review of Our American Cousin, at least until that happened.

12 comments to Until That Happened

  • Lenny65

    It’s a small consolation but truth be told, right now the hated Y*****s don’t really look much better than we do. Juggernaut my ass.

  • Dellin Betandes has no business being on the mound in the late innings of a must-win game. He’s broken. This is typical of the late-wilpon era Met roster moves: pass on the good players and try to save bucks on the lame, the halt, and the injured used to be’s. Maybe, just maybe, they’ve recovered their past glory and everybody will see us as the geniuses that we know we are.

    Good riddance.

    • What was Boras’s line? Shopping in the dented-cans aisle?

      It’s a sound strategy at the margins of a roster. When it’s how you fill your primary needs, it’s not.

  • eric1973

    I miss Jay Leno:

    “You know some people think Lincoln was gay…..
    You go to the theater ONE time!
    Too Soon?”

  • Dave

    Well aside from everything else Mrs Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?

    Betances’ quick and efficient meltdown (here’s where the minimum 3 hitter rule sucks, because it took fewer than 3 hitters to realize he had nothing) was overshadowed by everyone still delirious about the Cohen news. To me, this is going from owners who buddied up to Madoff to an owner who kind of is Madoff, but there’ll be more time to discuss that later. Back to the 7-inning doubleheaders.

    • Right now I think most people are ecstatic that Steve Cohen is Not a Wilpon. I’m one of them, so I get that. But yes, that equation certainly ignores what Cohen might be in his own rights.

      As you note, I’m sure we’ll discuss this at length in the offseason and season to come.

      • ljcmets

        Pity poor Gary Cohen. Cohen is like Smith for Jewish people. Every time he introduces himself or offers an opinion, or speaks about Steve Cohen in any way, he’ll have to say “no relation.” (Trust me, I know from what I speak! My brother Michael – not THAT Michael – is having a very rough time of it these days). Unless of course he is a relative – not completely out of the question – and baseball is probably the one and only public-facing industry where he would then be able to keep his job.

  • eric1973

    Whether it’s “Linguini” or “Spaghetti,” the Mets always throw it up against the wall, hoping something sticks.

    But, as always is the case,
    “Now it’s Garbage.”

    • Mackie W

      “Garbage” is right. I can’t wait for the write-up of today’s travesty at Yankee Stadium. Do other professional baseball teams ever give up five-run leads with two outs in the final inning in such a farcical, Little League fashion?! Were any of the Yankee hitters that came up to bat in that inning even hitting above the Mendoza Line? Rooting for the Mets is like rooting for the Washington Generals…

  • chuck

    What, nothing about Steve Gelbs’ checked shirts?

  • Daniel Hall

    That one stung mostly for a missed once-in-a-generation chance, as SNY pointed out, with a Mets W giving the Yanks an 8-game losing streak, something they last had before Big Sexy was a rookie, in ’95.

    But the good thing about the Mets pen is that you are never shocked when they escalate away a game. You are primed to expect shameful defeat. Dismay? Anger? Fury? All yes. Shock? No.