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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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A Day Off (Though the Schedule Said Otherwise)

Maybe the Mets just needed a day off.

You’ve probably heard that they’re playing a lot of games. More games than there are days. Including enough doubleheaders to give you the baseball equivalent of an ice-cream headache. Lots of those games coming against good teams. Which will be played with a roster still beset by injuries, and that lacks both enough starting pitchers for the slots needed and clear and obvious candidates for those slots.

Oh, and then Jacob deGrom — the best pitcher in baseball — left his start after three innings. Three perfect innings, because it’s deGrom, but just three nonetheless. Cue muttering in the stands, the anxious wait for Jake’s postgame reactions and self-diagnosis (he’s not a doctor but he’d probably have an absurdly positive WAR at that too), and then the even more anxious wait for the verdict from the MRI tube.

It’s been a lot! For us, and for the actual 26 guys who had to go out there and play baseball.

Anyway, that’s the context for the Mets going out Thursday night and doing essentially zero against Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs’ bullpen. Hendricks never cracked 90 but didn’t need to, tormenting the Mets with fastballs (of a sort), sinkers, curves and changeups. In this era of Lamborghini-speed pitches, it was like navigating around Amish horse-drawn carts with big reflectors on the back. The Mets couldn’t break through against Hendricks and then were stymied by Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel. Meanwhile, Marcus Stroman was wonderful … aside from a first inning in which he hadn’t settled in, resulting in a ball deposited into the Apple Basket by Javier Baez. It didn’t seem like that would be enough to beat the Mets, but it was.

(As an aside, don’t tell me “Apple Basket” isn’t going to happen. Because I’ll just become more stubborn about it.)

DeGrom, it turns out, is fine — or at least fine in the context of being a big-league pitcher who’s pushing the limits of what the human arm and its associated parts can do with a baseball, which is to say he’s always dealing with what us mortals would consider unacceptable pain and plying his trade knowing he’s one unlucky pitch away from a date with a surgeon and then a year of profound uncertainty. (As always, the seminal text is this bracingly honest piece by Bob Ojeda, which should be required reading for baseball fans.) Both deGrom and the Mets and the Mets’ doctors think his recent run of maladies — the side, the forearm, the shoulder — are bouts of discrete bad luck and not related indications of some larger problem. Our only course of action is to hope that they’re right, which makes this a good time to remind us all that hope is both free and a renewable resource.

Still, it’s been a lot. Too much, perhaps, to process in conjunction with an enemy pitcher working at throwback speeds backed up by a tough bullpen. Add it up and you got an inadvertent day off during a punishing stretch of schedule.

But hey, more context: The Mets have begun their hellacious run of games by going 5-2 against potentially playoff-bound teams. DeGrom doesn’t seem destined for a lengthy layoff. (Add however many asterisks here that you need.) One of his understudies pitched beautifully again. Reinforcements should be here soon, at least on the offensive side.

We worry — we’re Mets fans, after all — but let’s be thankful for what hasn’t happened so far.

6 comments to A Day Off (Though the Schedule Said Otherwise)

  • Dave Schulps

    Apple basket…yeah!

  • Eric

    Wasting a well-pitched game against a good team is always frustrating. Good length by Stroman following deGrom’s short outing. It was also a well-defended game. Cherish that with the coming switch to weaker defensive regulars.

    I wonder if the shutout loss will be the end of “hitting approach coach” Donnie Stevenson who apparently reappeared during batting practice before the shutout loss.

    I’m in favor of deGrom making his next start. I don’t see what can be gained from extra time off in terms of healing given that the medical exams and personal and team pregame tests say he’s okay. In terms of diagnosis, he apparently feels fine between and entering his starts, so I don’t see what can be gained from extra time off as far as studying the problem since it apparently only manifests at game speed. If there’s a well-hidden ailment that variously triggers only by hitting or pitching at game speed, that’s not going away with more time off. It’ll just be there when deGrom resumes game speed sooner or later. Meanwhile, as he takes his regular turn in the rotation, deGrom and the Mets should continue to take more care and study the problem.

    It would be a shame if the .423 BA, RBI machine is banned from swinging his bat at game speed, but if that keeps the 0.54 ERA, K machine pitching, then that’s an acceptable price.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Riddle me this, Batmen: who starts 2nd game of DH and who on Monday (and if Jake skips or delays his start then they will need TWO that day)? I’m betting Gsellman tomorrow–has not pitched all week, perhaps has been held out for this–and then good old Corey Oswalt on Monday. With the run of games can NOT afford a “bullpen game.” And if 2nd starter needed? I will not that last I checked, Syracuse record was….11-25. Thank you, Brodie.

    On Jake injury: I believe he is now saying it might have been from his AB the other night, as some have suggested? Freddie Freeman apparently tweeted or sent him note saying, take it easy at the plate, “baseball needs you every five days,” or some such. Good for him.

  • Eric

    I guess Thomas Szapucki, who last pitched for Syracuse on June 16, so he’ll be on regular rest on June 21, Monday. He got lit up his last start, but beggars can’t be choosers.

    DeGrom’s RBI single wasn’t a usual kind of hit. It was an elite piece of hitting. 98 MPH FB, inside knees and black — a quality strikeout pitch by Stock for any big-league hitter, let alone the opposing pitcher. Yet deGrom didn’t just make contact, he adjusted his swing to hit the ball hard. Unusual contortion on a swing with hard contact on a 98 MPH FB, it makes sense the jolt would transfer to his shoulder in an unusual way.

  • Richard Porricelli

    You may have something there on that AB he had. He goes overboard with that stick. He’s gotta cool it.

  • greensleeves

    Mr. Fry,
    Thank you for the archival link to Bobby O’s unsparing 2012 memoir in the NYT. Nothing beats a first person account of what a pitcher goes through from seminal childhood dreams to career’s end. What won’t these fellas do to keep hurling? Stoic is as stoic does.