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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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As Night Follows Day

Stop me if you’ve heard these before:

1) The Mets win a thriller of a first game of a jury-rigged doubleheader.
2) The Mets drop an uninspiring second game of the same jury-rigged doubleheader.
3) WTF seven-inning doubleheaders?

We’ve been down this two-lane highway that runs out of regulation road too soon too many times to count efficiently of late. The Mets have played five shabbily short doubleheaders within the past three weeks, constituting ten games that yielded five wins and five losses. All the wins came first, which is probably preferable to digging a hole and then attempting to climb out of it. Ten wins and no losses would be more preferable. No more rain that necessitates shorter games by the pair would be logistically best of all.

Yet rain it has, thus two at a time is what we’ve played over and over. The games are slated to go seven innings each. We mention that every time because it’s such an affront to nature that it should not be allowed to slip into the normative, as if we expect two fewer innings per game, even when the admission is separate for each game — the case three separate times in these past five “doubleheaders”.

I buy the larger box of tissues when I can find it. Each box has 190 tissues. The larger box used to have 210. Before that, it had 240. I still need tissues, so I grumble to myself and toss the boxes in my shopping cart. At some point, pandemic or not, baseball will tell us we’re getting a great deal on a bargain-sized five-inning game.

Some things do remain as advertised. A Jacob deGrom start is still a Jacob deGrom start, quality implied. Quantity? “I’ll have to check with the manager.” Luis Rojas was hands-off vis-à-vis deGrom for as long as the Mets’ Wednesday afternoon affair versus the Brewers allowed. Jake went the fine-print seven innings to which MLB wishes we grow unquestioningly accustomed. Complete games are suddenly theoretically more gettable.

The Brewers collected four hits against deGrom. Two of the hits were long fly balls that mysteriously flew over the Citi Field fence. Home runs, baseball has called them since the dawn of time. One of the three true outcomes, analytics tastemakers have dubbed them more recently. Jacob deGrom giving up two runs on two swings doesn’t seem true. It seems unreal. But those were the outcomes of the game’s leadoff at-bat by Luis Urias and another in the fifth from Jace Peterson. Nobody was on base in either instance, saddling Jake with only two earned runs for his trouble, or, as we’re used to viewing two runs given up by deGrom, a month’s worth.

The Brewers also struck out ten times and walked not once while deGrom pitched, just in case you thought the earth fell off its axis Wednesday. Still, our lone/reluctant All-Star saw his earned run creep over one for 2021. Between Jake finally floating above the ohs and word coming down that the Mama’s of Corona stand at Citi Field is no more, we had double-confirmation that nothing in this world is sacred.

Fortunately, we were reminded that some things you can continue to count on. You can continue to count on Jose Peraza coming off the bench and bending late-game narratives to his will. With the seventh serving as the ninth, Jose once more made like Rusty Staub and delivered Le Grand Blow, in this case a one-out home run off the presumed untouchable Josh Hader. In rough order of significance, our modern-day pinch-hitter deluxe tied the score at two; took deGrom off the hook; and ultimately forced what the doubleheader jury-riggers call extra innings. Peraza’s batting average has wallowed in the low .200s during most of his Metsian stay. Except anecdotally when everything is on the line. Then he never makes an out.

As long as we’re going with perception, Edwin Diaz NEVER makes anything easy, except the facilitation of opposition threats. Yeah, yeah, he has a hundred saves and a devastating slider and it hasn’t been 2019 — edwinnus horribilis — since the year before last. There was a time I’d comfort myself with Closer Facts, too. That was too many “no, no, he’s really elite when you delve inside the numbers” closers ago to fully shut the door to my closet of anxieties.

Two-two in the top of tenth-ish eighth. Runner on second, courtesy of Rob Manfred (he’s quite the tablesetter). Diaz proceeded to live up to both of his reputations. He struck out his first hitter. He got his second hitter on a groundout, moving the unearned runner to third. Then a walk. Then a steal of second. Then another walk. Then hitting former MVP Christian Yelich to force in the go-ahead run. Then a bases-loaded strikeout. “Diaz limits the damage to just one run,” Gary Cohen said, which isn’t usually the summation falling behind in an extraesque inning deserves. Somehow it wasn’t wrong. The Mets were behind, yet weren’t behind by a lot. It was a relatively true Edwin Diaz outcome, administered with a spoonful of Sugar.

The medicine went down rather than euthanize us because we got the same runner on second to start the bottom of the eighth that the Brewers got to start theirs. It’s nonsense, but it’s equitable. And every reliever’s got a little Edwin in him in these new age extras. Brent Suter hit Dom Smith. James McCann walked on a three-two pitch. Unearned runner Francisco Lindor was now on third. No Met had done anything but resist the urge to swing at ball four, yet we had the bases loaded. Jeff McNeil, who you’d have thought had recorded four or five walkoff hits during the long-ago salad days of his previously promising career (2019), singled up the middle to bring home Lindor and Smith. Squirrel that away as precedent! More surprising than the 4-3 comeback win or McNeil breaking out enough to execute its crescendo was that a ball hit up the middle wasn’t shifted into an out or two.

What could be better than the jaws of defeat being left unsated upon the very last swing of the afternoon? Obviously, nothing else that was going to happen the rest of Wednesday. It’s a Mets doubleheader. We win one, we lose one. It’s not guaranteed, but it does behave as destiny. Yet the night game awaited a couple of hours later, as did my seat for it, so I stuffed a little first-game, first-place optimism into my security-approved tote bag and boarded a train for Woodside looking forward to disrupting the established twinbill pattern. Like Jacob deGrom giving up almost nothing and Jose Peraza coming through clutchsistently, going to a game as if that’s something a person does is one of the happier developments of the 2021 season. I didn’t do that in 2020. I didn’t do it in 2021 until a couple of weeks before, a night I considered an epic milestone on my life’s journey — My First Game Since the Pandemic.

My second game since the pandemic was just my second game of the season. It didn’t feel a little strange or surprisingly exalted. It felt hot, which dovetailed well with informal Met promotion Humidity Night (first 12,000 received an endless shvitz). It also felt good to sit with my friend Brian, who graciously invited me, and talk baseball for seven innings. Nine innings would have been preferable, certainly on slightly less of a steambath of a night.

The Mets’ track record of winning first games and not winning second games hung heavy in the air, just like the air hung heavy in the air. Succeeding deGrom as starting pitcher was Robert Stock, the 1,141st Met ever and the first to wear 89. “Just give me whatever the temperature is at first pitch,” Stock presumably requested of clubhouse manager Kevin Kierst.

Stock started because, what, ya got somebody else handy? Shallow rotation depth is the soft underbelly of the first-place Mets (and I say that as one who knows from having a soft underbelly). It was either the guy the Cubs decided didn’t fit their needs anymore, or Nick Tropeano — a.k.a. Nicky the Trope; a.k.a. The 27th Man; a.k.a Guy Who Gets to Dress but Never Gets to Pitch. The starting staff is so shallow at present that this Sunday, Luis Rojas is considering Less Jacob deGrom as his No. 5 starter. Having declined his incredibly earned All-Star selection, DeGrom would be going on three days’ rest and giving the Mets not many innings by design. I didn’t realize it was the last week of the season already.

DeGrom is the best. Less deGrom is a sign of desperation. Robert Stock simply wasn’t the worst. He gave up a two-run homer in his three innings. He’s Robert Stock. It was steamy. It was fine. We faced Brett Anderson, not to be confused with the customarily brilliant Brandon Woodruff from Monday night nor the largely unconquerable Corbin Burnes (5.2 IP, 1 ER) from Wednesday afternoon. The Brewers have some excellent starters. Anderson isn’t necessarily one of them. Anderson as a Dodger was the Mets’ piñata from Game Three of the 2015 NLDS, their godsend of a breather from Kershaw and Greinke. Brett Anderson’s been giving up four earned runs every nine innings throughout a yeoman-style career that stretches back to 2009.

Somehow the Mets batters Wednesday night confused Anderson with masters of the mound past and present. Over four innings, New York mustered three singles. Nobody walked. Maybe it was too hot for a walk, let alone a run. The slightest breeze coincided with the one Met rally of the evening. Wait — is it a rally if it all it ends up doing is leaving its proponents dismayed? At first, there was no way grand first-game type events weren’t stirring. We had overcome Josh Hader. We had overcome Edwin Diaz. We couldn’t overcome Brad Boxberger?

Versus Brad Boxberger, or, as I reflexively call him, Bruce Boxleitner in the sixth, Brandon Nimmo worked an exquisite Brandon Nimmo walk. It had nine pitches, it had loud fouls, it had discernment, it had determination, it had “GOOD EYE,” it had all that stuff that makes a fan feel supersavvy for appreciating deeply. After Nimmo walked, McNeil the walkoff hero from daylight walked. It was also an accomplishment kind of walk — seven pitches. Boxleitner…er, Boxberger was clearly rattled. Or clearly ineffective. Let’s say ineffective, because calling him rattled would give too much credit to the jamoches sitting behind me shouting for the umpire to CHECK HIS BELT!!! Brian had us in very good seats, so the delusion that a person could be heard above the din was stronger than usual. As were the jamoches’ vocal cords.

Having lost two battles, Brad the Brewer (not Bruce the actor) went full farce on Jonathan Villar. Four balls, no strikes, bases loaded. How could you not love the Mets’ chances to crack eggs and make omelets on a night when Citi Field’s concrete was as hot as a frying pan? We had Lindor, followed by Smith, followed by Alonso coming up. Basically, all you have to do is not strike out three consecutive times and you’ll likely notch something on the scoreboard besides another zero.

Neither Brian nor I said in advance, “they’re all gonna strike out,” but we didn’t have to. Deep in our respective sweaty bones, we could sense the futility. It’s the Mets fan equivalent of a trick knee that can feel rain over the horizon. The rain kept away from the ballpark for a change. But not the inevitable futility in a night game that follows the euphoria of a day game.

Lindor struck out.
Smith struck out.
Alonso struck out.

Your first-place Mets, ladies and gentlemen, never getting too big for their britches.

Brad Boxberger’s 36 pitches hatched six true outcomes — seven counting the reality that the Mets were not forging another delightful comeback. Miguel Castro made certain the game would extend out of reach, and Hunter Strickland, another baseball nomad who numbers among the Silent Generation Met diaspora, came on to hear barely a murmur of protest from members of his former team in the seventh. The seventh, in case you’ve forgotten, functioned as the ninth. We lost, 5-0. Had there been more innings, we would’ve lost 8-0. The vibe was as inescapable as the humidity and, like the Mets, we in the stands didn’t put up much of a fuss about it (even the jamoches disappeared after the sixth). Brian and I were having such a pleasant score-oblivious conversation as the seventh ended that it took us a beat to remember the game was over.

Seven-inning ballgames certainly direct a person through the air-conditioned exits 22% sooner. At least we got to take home the memory of what happened during the eight innings prior to our arrival. Also our soaked shirts.

14 comments to As Night Follows Day

  • Seth

    Boxberger? No thanks, I’ll eat it here.

    I love hearing about your trips to the park. Call it a vicarious thrill. Always aptly described.

    Seven innings is NOT a complete game — sorry GKR.

  • greensleeves

    Loved this recap of yet another “Splitsville”.
    We all salivate at the prospect of a sweep until our eyes tell us different.

    Lindor takes way too many close pitches in the crunch. That first strikeout hurt sore bad. So many questionable close calls from behind home plate should make you extra cautious up there.

    Re: ‘slipping into the normative’ :
    In what universe should Diaz get the win in Game 1? How often does a closer fail to shut the door, only to be reborn in the stat book as the victor? To Diaz belongs the spoils? Craaazy.

    Good for Jake for declining the trip to Colorado. LGM

    • Seth

      It’s a statistical freak-out, but look at it this way: who else would you give the win to? At least Diaz did not allow any more runs (limited the damage, as Gary said), enabling the Mets to come back and win.

      • greensleeves

        I’d give it to Jake, of course. In a world with mercy, I’d give Jake all the comeback wins he scrapped for while laboring with no offense. I know it’s nonsensical but—if you don’t help your team win–if you don’t even hold the tide–you deserve no credit.

  • Richard

    The key at bat was Lindors. He hung in there , but no payoff, no contact , going down looking? His enthusiasm is great but we need better then a sub 220 hitter out of this guy.
    That first game comeback was so awesome that you really cant get too critical of that second one. They held up well against the Brewers , but then again they have been just great at home.

  • Greg Mitchell

    For those expecting big Lindor turnaround I will point out again that he hit .253 last year–which is why mega-deal was always questionable. I would take .253 with, please, maybe a few doubles, the rest of the way.

    Love the bench mob but one has to wonder about the rest of the way what with Pillar, Peraza and McKinney still at .220 or worse, Villar and Nido very much in doubt, and Luis G with zero pop. They’ve been clutch but a lot of outs there…

  • Eric

    Spot on about the rinse and repeat exciting game 1 but comatose game 2 doubleheader splits, the bases loaded, no one out flame outs, and everything else in the post.

    I can’t think of another player like Peraza: journeyman light-hitting utility player who somehow hits homers and doubles whenever the game is on the line.

    Frustrating to lose another game with a better than expected start from a back-end, emergency pitcher like Stock while making the opponent’s back-end pitcher look like a staff ace.

    It seemed like Diaz pitched a lot worse than just the ghost runner scoring. I wanted to but couldn’t be upset about his performance.

    Besides Diaz and Castro, what other Mets pitcher’s control has noticeably worsened since the sticky stuff ban? Stroman? DeGrom has allowed, for him, a lot of runs since the sticky stuff ban, but I think that’s due to hitters adjusting and the mystical regression to the mean for a career 2.50 ERA pitcher.

    It would have been cool and sad to watch deGrom and Wheeler pitch back to back in the all-star game. With deGrom skipping the all-star game, I hope Walker goes and deGrom pitches on Sunday.

    With the sticky stuff focus, I thought Burnes repeatedly brushing his long hair with his pitching fingers seemed suspicious.

    I would do away with both 7-inning doubleheader games and the ghost runner, but if I had to keep one, it would be the ghost runner. I would lobby to at least start inserting ghost runners later than the 10th inning, though.

    Attention: The games are slated to go seven games each.

  • Matt T

    Lindor has turned it around. His OPS since the end of may is right at his career average of about .820. His YTD numbers are going to be depressed all season due to his extended slump in April-May, but we are getting roughly what we should have expected since.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Sorry, but his OPS for last 28 days is only .722 and last 14 days it is .668. That’s some kind of “turnaround.” He had a decent past week–but not a single extra base hit.

  • Eric

    With the Mets basically magicking up 5th starters and doubleheader 2nd game starters at this point, and that’s assuming Megill can keep it up like 2016 Gsellman and Lugo . . . What about Matt Harvey?

    He just got lit up again. With the trade deadline (July 30) approaching, I assume the Orioles are looking to flip Harvey soon and that there will be few interested buyers. The Mets ought to be able to pick him up cheap. At worst, Harvey’s on par with the likes of Stock and Eickhoff. As long as the price is right, the team need matches, and our expectations are realistic, I think Harvey would be a good fit. I’d like to see him in a Mets uniform again.

  • Matt T

    If this is wrong I apologize, it’s from DJ Short of NBC sports. Lindor over his last 37 games .263/.347/.466 6 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB, 24 runs scored

    That’s an .813 OPS, just slightly under his career OPS of .820

    If we are projecting for a full season, Lindor would be on pace for 27 HR, 88 RBI, 18 steals, 106 runs scored.

    In other words, a very Lindor-like season

  • Seth

    Citi Field really needs a retractable roof — it will cost less than Lindor and produce a lot more baseball.

  • eric1973

    I’d rather have rainouts than play indoors. You lose all the beauty of outdoor baseball. Indoor baseball looks exceedingly dull.

    • Seth

      You should see a game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, you might change your mind. You get the best of both worlds, as it’s only an “umbrella” roof.