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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 Feeling When You Don't Win the Game You Didn't Think You'd Win But Totally Could Have Won

So that was complicated.

The Mets’ Monday night game against the Cardinals didn’t look like a particularly good bet, not with old friend Adam Wainwright on the mound and Nolan Arenado and Paul DeJong lurking to do what they do. Not to mention the Mets put J.D. Davis on the IL and didn’t have Brandon Nimmo as a batter and decided to send Joey Lucchesi to the hill after flirting with the idea of reliever roulette.

And, ultimately, Lucchesi’s limitations were what cost them the game. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because it wasn’t that simple. The Mets got to Wainwright, scoring twice in the second and three times in the third, to claim leads of 2-1 and 5-2. And they did a lot of things the way you’d like to see them done: superlative fielding all around, particularly from Jeff McNeil; smart ABs and strong offensive games from McNeil, Pete Alonso and former Jace scapegoat Kevin Pillar; and sturdy bullpen work. The ninth-inning endgame was at least mildly nail-biting: Francisco Lindor and Alonso drew walks against fireballing closer Alex Reyes and Dom Smith gave no ground in a tough at-bat, flying to left on the seventh pitch and ending the game — a bad result, to be sure, but solid execution. (None of that was enough to save the jobs of hitting coach Chili Davis or his assistant Tom Slater; both were relieved of their duties afterwards.)

The fatal sequence came in the third. Lucchesi got the first two out, but yielded singles to Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt. Lucchesi fed Arenado a steady diet of hard fastballs inside and threw him a 1-2 curve which he swung over. Inning over? Nope. Before you could say “holy moly it hit the railing,” Arenado was insisting he’d tipped the pitch and home-plate ump Mark Carlson was agreeing with him.

Lucchesi’s next pitch wasn’t inside — it was a fastball up, right where Tomas Nido wanted it but also where Arenado wanted it, and he launched it into the seats. DeJong and Tyler O’Neill followed with doubles, Lucchesi’s night was done, and though we didn’t know it yet, so was the Mets’.

Carlson’s call of foul tip didn’t seem unjust, as Nido neither tagged Arenado nor protested after Carlson gave Arenado another life. The problem — as Todd Zeile pointed out in a useful postgame breakdown on SNY — was that Nido and Lucchesi went away from a game plan that was working to give Arenado a pitch he could handle.

It’s unfair to make too much of this — Lucchesi hadn’t thrown a pitch in anger for 12 days, what with the minor leagues yet to reboot. He’s an interesting pitcher, but one pretty clearly in search of something he’s yet to find, whether it’s a reliable third pitch, a role better suited to what he can do, or both. Fortunately, the Mets should be upgrading the rotation in short order, with Carlos Carrasco added to the mix. That should send Lucchesi to Syracuse, not by way of punishment but so the Mets can figure out what they have in him and what he might become.

But still. The Mets jumped on Wainwright and had a three-run lead in St. Louis. I didn’t think they’d win this one, but it was there for the taking and they gave it back. That happens, as do a lot of other maddening things if you watch baseball long enough. Or if you watch it at all.

3 comments to The Feeling When You Don’t Win the Game You Didn’t Think You’d Win But Totally Could Have Won

  • Daniel Hall

    Frustrating loss, because until that half-an-inch-of-separation moment with 1-2 and two outs and Arenado in the box, it looked like the Mets might run away with the game. And then it ran away from them because their C- level starter (maybe, let’s go five at one point, shall we?) had a decidedly F level night.

    Lindor has sucked himself to .163 now. How much deeper until he’s also sucking himself out of prime real estate in the lineup? This guy should bat seventh right now – or get a day off or two. As long as Nimmo’s hurt, Pillar looks like a sound deal to bat second. Of course, sitting the oxygen-deprived shortstop is hard when you give in to the stupidity of carrying 14 pitchers, with one guy on the bench unable to hold a bat, and the manager openly admitting that he doesn’t want to use his second catcher, ever.

  • open the gates

    To me, the big takeaway is that the inevitable new-regime firings have gone to the next level. Firing a coach (and in this case, also an assistant coach) is not just addressing a need, it’s a warning shot. Look out, Luis Rojas: the writing is on the wall, and I ain’t talking graffiti.

  • Paul

    Yeah, it’s “all” Chili Davis’ “fault” that the Mets are currently playing mezza-mezza baseball. I feel bad for the man; being a team’s batting coach is a thankless task.

    I guess also being a holdover from the Wilpon/Van Wagenen regime made Chili Davis (and possibly Luis Rojas) readily expendable.

    Long live Tom McCraw!