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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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Cruel to be Kind

Last season, as you may not wish to recall, Francisco Lindor had a rather rough introduction to New York: a batting average stuck below the Mendoza line until June; a frustrating run of injuries; an embarrassing public disagreement with his double-play partner that it was instantly obvious had nothing to do with furry four-footed creatures, no matter how much a smiling Lindor tried to sell it. That double-play partner, Jeff McNeil, saw his offensive production crater, going from much-admired line-drive hitter to baffled and baffling enigma. As for Max Scherzer, he was in Washington, where we hoped we encountered him and his filthy arsenal of pitches and his bulldog demeanor as infrequently as possible.

A year later, Scherzer is somehow here, having joined Lindor and McNeil — who sure look a lot happier. As do we all, suddenly.

The Mets came into a chilly Tuesday afternoon with a 7-3 record, but one amassed against teams whose prospects ranged from “flawed” to “pathetic.” The San Francisco Giants promised a sterner test, boasting a 7-2 record and coming off a season in which they shocked everyone, possibly including themselves, by winning 107 games.

What a difference 10 hours or so can make. The Mets won both ends of a doubleheader, meaning they’ve now beaten San Francisco more often in 2022 than they did in the entirety of 2021. They’re 9-3 and warnings about flight and proximity to the sun seem in order.

The afternoon didn’t start promisingly, as the Giants took a 4-1 lead against a suddenly mortal Tylor Megill, with the last two runs coming off the bat of Brandon Crawford in a situation where the Mets might have opted to pitch to Thairo Estrada instead. But Megill prevented further harm, and in the fifth the Mets erupted, with doubles from James McCann (???!!!), McNeil and Lindor tying the game. Seth Lugo looked shaky again but escaped in the eighth, slipping a fastball past Jason Vosler. The Mets looked like they had a wild Camilo Doval beaten in the ninth, but the young Giant found his slider in the nick of time, fanning Travis Jankowski and Dom Smith.

On to the 10th, and the first ludicrous Manfred men of the season. It looked like the Giants would draw blood in the top of the inning, as Lindor threw wide of first and pulled Pete Alonso off the bag, turning the third out into an error and a run scored. But hold the phone, or rather get an umpire onto said headset to ring up Chelsea. The Mets challenged the call, and the briefest look at the replay showed they’d been right to do so, as Alonso had contorted himself into an unlikely shape that ended with one toe just touching the base. “BIG STRETCH!” I hollered at the TV, which I suppose made Alonso an honorary housecat. He came off the field hooting with the joy you’d expect from a man making his case to be more than a DH — and a few minutes later Lindor completed a rapid ascent from possible goat to hero, lashing a ball to right-center that brought home the Mets’ own Manfred man, the just-returned Brandon Nimmo.

They’d won, 5-4, and that was just the matinee!

The nightcap belonged to the new guy, Mr. Scherzer of the heterochromatic eyes and ferocious mien. I’ve watched Scherzer for years, even seen him up close a time or two — most notably from the stands as he no-hit the Mets at the tail end of the 2015 season. (I was also in attendance for Chris Heston‘s no-no that June, a distinction I’d rather not repeat.) But it still seems faintly astonishing that he now wears our livery, transformed with the stroke of a pen on a checkbook from highly respected enemy to pinch-me ally.

Scherzer has that air of meanness common to great power pitchers from Seaver to Santana, a tunnel vision that’s admirable and a little scary to see in action. The wrinkle he adds is a slightly demented restlessness: Where most aces sit in the dugout fixing the field with a stony stare, Scherzer prefers to pace up and down in the dugout, cap off, looking not unlike an unmade bed. His frankly terrible hair does nothing to hide his encroaching male pattern baldness, yet it’s impossible to imagine Scherzer conceivably giving a rat’s ass about something so trivial — if he’s doing something important, he’ll have a baseball cap on, right?

On Tuesday night he was indeed doing something important — blitzing the Giants. He had all five of the pitches in his Saberhagenesque arsenal working, and as he rolled along the Giants hitters trudged up to their appointments with him bearing an air of hangdog disconsolation. You could see them wondering what terrible thing Scherzer was going to subject them to this time and then trudging away once said terrible thing had been revealed, slightly sadder and not particularly wiser.

Scherzer entered the sixth without allowing a hit, got the first two Giants in that inning and then seemed to tire, losing his velocity and location and walking two. Darin Ruf then ended the suspense with a single spanked to left — a mild relief, perhaps. Beyond the fact that it’s April and Scherzer’s debut was delayed by a balky hamstring, the Mets may well need the bullets in that extraordinary arm later in the season.

Anyway, the Mets were up 3-1 and Scherzer had done more than enough, but he came back out in the seventh and put an exclamation point on his night, with his 102nd pitch an absolutely evil 0-2 changeup that Steven Duggar watched in despair as he became Scherzer’s 10th strikeout of the ninth. Drew Smith survived an encounter with Mike Yastrzemski with an assist from the April wind, Trevor May looked the best he has all year, and the Mets had won again.

They won’t do that every night, alas. There will be moments when toes slide slightly off bases instead of adhering to them, and balls spanked into the gap get plucked out of the air, and even aces wind up stuck with bad hands. But worry about that when we have to — for now, enjoy Lindor hitting .310 and McNeil looking dangerous again and Alonso imitating the world’s gallumphing-est ballet dancer and Scherzer pacing and pacing until someone tells him he can escape the dugout again and inflict new cruelties on the opposition. Baseball can be exasperating and mean. We all know that. What we forget sometimes is that you’re allowed to smile and say silly things when baseball’s mild and kind.

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