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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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So That Was Pretty Fun

Back in the endless days of weird frustration before Johan Santana, before IT HAD HAPPENED, I had a thought that would sneak into my head — despite my earnest attempts to shoo it away — when a Mets pitcher was in doomed pursuit of the franchise’s seemingly unobtainable first no-hitter.

Please don’t let our first no-hitter be a combined one. Because that would be lame.

That felt snobby and entitled — as a diehard fan of a franchise that was pitching rich yet inexplicably no-hitter poor, who was I to be choosy? And if that’s the way things had unfolded, I bet I would have made it work. I would have been leaping up and down and stalking around and repeating little rituals, the way I did that night in June 2012 when I found myself in an ESPN Zone at Disney World, somehow the only person in the place who knew what was on the line as Santana stared down the Cardinals.

Still, I’m glad the Mets put only one name in the record books when their time finally came. Because as young baseball fans, that’s what we’re trained to expect a no-hitter to be — a grueling contest in which one man has to stare down nine others at least three times, increasingly tired and essentially alone. Close your eyes and tell me what you see. Maybe it’s the starter sitting in the dugout as his teammates bat before he faces the final three hitters, his expression cycling between weariness and determination and perhaps now and again a flare of impatience. He’s alone, superstition having thrown up a force field around him that no teammate is allowed to violate.

That’s the model. But if you watch enough baseball you learn it’s not always quite like that.

After he left the Mets, Tom Seaver threw a no-hitter wearing a Reds uniform, and watching the aftermath on This Week in Baseball I thought something seemed strange about it — the famously stoic Franchise looked oddly giddy, his air less that of a man who’d achieved some degree of immortality than that of a man who’d found a winning lottery ticket in the wastebasket. Which was pretty much what had happened: Seaver cheerfully admitted he’d had basically nothing and improvised, passing up strikeouts he couldn’t get (he only had three in the game) in favor of coaxing grounders from the Cardinals. The man who’d been frustrated by Jimmy Qualls and Leron Lee and Joe Wallis on nights when he had his entire arsenal working had somehow pitched a no-hitter when those weapons were missing.

That was an early lesson that baseball could be really weird. A couple of years after Seaver’s no-hitter, Len Barker pitched the 10th perfect game in big-league history. I knew my baseball cards, so I was dumbfounded: Len Barker? What was he doing pitching a perfect game? (That game also produced one of my favorite baseball stories: When Barker called his grandmother to explain that he’d faced 27 batters and retired them all, she said “that’s wonderful, Lenny — I hope you do even better next time.”)

I finally saw a no-hitter a couple of months after Barker’s perfect game — Nolan Ryan no-hit the Dodgers in a game of the week on national TV, the fifth of his career. I was thrilled — and let myself daydream about what it would be like to see one in person one day. Eventually I got my chance — though not exactly how I’d dreamed of it. In 2015 the Mets were on the short end of no-hitters twice, and Emily and I were at Citi Field both times: first for Chris Heston of the Giants, and then for Max Scherzer of the Nats. Scherzer finishing the job wasn’t a surprise, as he had ungodly stuff and the Mets looked shell-shocked the entire game, but Heston doing so was — the Mets played patty cake with the Giants infielders all night, which generally yields at least an excuse-me-single somewhere along the line. But by then I knew this could happen: I’d read about Seaver on his off-night, and Barker’s perfecto, and later ham-and-eggers whom the baseball gods had made golden for a night. (Looking at you, Philip Humber!)

By the time the Heston-Scherzer double down rolled around, the Mets had their no-no at last, which meant I was a bit more sanguine about such things. Their weird asterisk had been removed, so I figured I could let go of years’ worth of agony — Kiss my ass, Kit Pellow! Suck on this, Paul Hoover! — and wait with relative equanimity for destiny to come calling again.

Which is pretty much what happened.

Now that I’ve seen a second Mets no-hitter — and a combined one at that — I can report that it’s pretty fun, and surprisingly low-stress. If Joely Rodriguez or Seth Lugo or Edwin Diaz had yielded a little parachute over the infield I think I would have said, “well, that’s too bad” and gotten back to wishing we’d put up more runs, because the Phillies are a terrifying mix of hitters who destroy everybody and hitters who specifically destroy us. Instead, we got the weird combo platter of Tylor Megill, Drew Smith, Rodriguez, Lugo and Diaz, horse-whispered across the line by James McCann, and it was wonderful. Wonderful, and full of the ironies and echoes and grace notes that baseball specializes in.

Like Megill not looking particularly sharp in comparison with his other 2022 starts. His location was off and the Phillies kept grinding through long at-bats, driving his pitch count up and leaving me convinced that outcomes were about to revert to the mean in unpleasant ways, except they never did, because baseball is weird.

His successors pitched solidly, and by the time Lugo arrived I was obeying superstition, making sure I said “C’mon, [name of pitcher] — c’mon baby” before every pitch, adding a heartfelt “hit it to anybody” once there were two outs. That’s an overlay on my every-game ritual of noting “24 to go” after a scoreless first and then updating by threes as long as there’s reason to. Back in 2012 I had a minor jolt of existential panic when Santana reached the ninth: Should I break form and say “two to go” and “one to go,” or would the baseball gods notice that and smite Johan for my crime? I solved that by following my usual ninth-inning ritual — one finger raised and displayed to my fellow outfielders (who don’t exist), then the forefinger/pinkie combo to indicate two outs, and then it doesn’t matter what you do. In 2012 the baseball gods decided that was the correct form, obviously. (You’re welcome.)

This time around my biggest worry was Diaz, whom I do not trust for reasons fair and un-. In the eighth, I all but pleaded with the Mets to push another run across, so that Diaz wouldn’t have two things to fuck up (as I put it honestly if unkindly on Twitter). They didn’t and so Diaz came on to the sound of trumpets to face Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto, which is about as tough an assignment as it gets. I could easily imagine, say, Harper walking and Castellanos rapping a ball between two dismayed infielders and the crowd moaning and then reluctantly cheering and then lapsing into shocked silence as Realmuto slammed a ball into the bullpen, followed by sackcloth and ashes and a blood-red moon and witches and bats wheeling overhead in place of the planes heading for La Guardia.

Except Diaz was pretty goddamn close to immaculate, striking out all three Phillies, with Realmuto dispatched on a trio of unhittable sliders. Sometimes it’s not just OK but wonderful to be wrong.

When it was over the Mets didn’t seem quite sure what to do, settling for a minor to moderate hugging scrum that was gleeful but not quite on the level of a hard-fought walkoff, followed by the usual postgame hijinks. Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo dumped a barrel of energy drink on Megill, perhaps after doing the math and concluding it was too complicated to throw 5/9ths of the barrel on Megill and 4/27ths of it on Smith and then … oh screw it where’s Tylor? There was an endearing interview with Buck Showalter, who noted that Jim Abbott was on the verge of being dropped from the Yankees’ rotation when he threw a no-hitter on his watch (there’s that weirdness again) and then declared that the scribes didn’t really want to talk to him and vamoosed. The hurler quintet and McCann sat for questions, a session notable mostly for revealing that Megill and Smith hadn’t realized what was happening (or at least they claimed not to — I wonder if that’s some weird pitcher omerta) and for McCann’s musings that a combined no-hitter is different because you’re changing your approach to the hitters multiple times.

And of course there were those echoes and grace notes. Like the Mets throwing a no-hitter wearing their black uniforms, the same combination worn by Santana that night. a familiar sight in Santana’s day. Or the fact that it was Gary Cohen’s birthday, which he’d dismiss as unimportant despite none of us agreeing.

In a few months or years, what stories will we spin out of this in discussing the 2022 Mets or the pitchers involved? I have no idea, because how could I? But I’ll let myself daydream.

Remember how they lost that testy game in St. Louis with everybody getting thrown out taking extra bases and there was the near-fight and then they went home and no-hit the Phillies? Boy, that was an indication this was going to be a special year.

Tylor Megill smothering the Phils on that cold night at the end of April was a sign — he showed us he could win without his best stuff, that he was really learning to pitch.

Wow, that was the night we really started to trust Smith and Rodriguez. And just look at them now!

What I remember is that was when I decided I’d been unfair to Diaz. A week later I was calling him Sugar, and a week after that I meant it.

OK, maybe not that last one. And maybe not any of them. Baseball’s weird, after all. Weird, but often also a lot of fun — like when five guys team up to blitz a slugging lineup and you clap your hands and beam at all the silly postgame stuff and try out saying “combined no-hitter” and decide it’s not lame at all, but pretty wonderful.

15 comments to So That Was Pretty Fun

  • NO,NO,NO,NO,NO,…YES! Nothing lame about that ..totally exciting!!

  • UpstateNYMfan

    This no hitter seems emblematic of this year’s team aura. Every no-hitter takes the whole team to make it happen (see Johan’s post game locker room speech), but this ‘No-No-by-committee’ just seems apropos for 2022. Great to see-now on to more wonderful things for these Mets in 2022! As an aside, I too noted the jersey’s worn for such a momentous occasion were again something other than the traditional pinstripes (which again, seems apropos). But in 2012, Johan and his merry band of hit-robbing Mets were in the “Justin Turner whipped cream pie-in-the-face” snow whites. :)

  • Steve

    A few days ago I commented that the Trot Nixon game was the best MLB game I ever attended. I’d like to revise that statement. Totally different of course, but this was an amazing night at Citi Field. I am so glad I was there.

  • Michael in CT

    Only the 17th combined no-hitter in MLB history — fewer than the number of perfect games. And the first with as many as five pitchers. Truly special. The combined no-hitter, of course, will become more common as managers continue to be more rigid about pitch counts. Buck would have taken Santana out if the game was played today; and maybe a no-hitter would have happened anyway. To me, there’s no detracting from a no-hitter if it’s combined rather than solo, except from the resume of the starting pitcher. For the team, it’s the same. And those pitchers are tied to each other for all time. A final note on Diaz — he was unhittable, showing what he can do when he really wants to. How often does a closer have the pressure of not even giving up a hit? For all of his past disasters, Diaz really rose to the occasion here, and I hope he can harness that going forward.

  • Peter Scarnati

    I, like you Jason, have little confidence at the sight of Diaz at the end of a close game. However, last night was different – in a weird sort of way.
    After Lugo dispatched the Phightins in the eighth and it was clear Diaz would be pitching the ninth, I turned to my wife and said if Diaz preserves the no-no, I will forgive all of his miserable blown save sins of the past 3 – errr, now 4 – years.
    So it is done Jason. I have forgiven Diaz.
    For now.

  • Not only was it a great night for the Mets, but all 4 of their minor league teams won, including a one-hitter for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

  • Seth

    A no-hitter is a no-hitter, despite disputed calls or bullpen committees. This was exciting! But honestly for much of the game I just wanted a win.

  • Bob

    Jason–WEll said!
    Happy, Happy!
    In my 60 years as Mets Fan this game goes along with that DH @ Polo Grounds VS Filthies in 1963 that Jimmy Piersall hit his 100th HR and ran backwards around bases and in Game # 3 of 2000 WS when I flew from LA-NY (LAX-Midway-La Guardia) for $1,200.00 and went with pal–tickets were $60-each for 3rd level-even with 3rd base bag– and saw Armando Benitez close out skanks–score 4-2 METS!
    My joy lasted till that rat bastard skank shortstop hit Bobby Jones 1st pitch of game #4…sigh…
    I just knew last night was going to be special and watched every minute-not even hiding when Diaz came in for 9th inning.
    At 70 years old, I figure, I will not get a chance to see another Mets no-hitter.
    So it’s just AMAZIN’!
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Dave

    At one point in about the 8th inning my wife said “this wouldn’t really count, would it?,” to which I replied “kind of.” But my loud reaction after that final unhittable slider sure sounded like a response to something that counted. So yeah, it counted.

    And my crystal ball says this flavor of no-hitter will start becoming more common, being that complete games are illegal now. But no-nos themselves will become more rare as a result. For one pitcher to have hitless stuff for 9 innings, that’s amazing. For five guys over 9 innings, what (asking rhetorically, all you analytics types trying to show off that you took two semesters of calculus in college) are the odds?

  • Fun article to read. Enjoyed the writing. And, I completely agree “That Was Pretty Fun.”

    I was stunned to learn how rare combined no-hitters have been. I would never have guessed that combined no-hitters (17) are much rarer than regular no-hitters (298) and even rarer than perfect games (23).

  • Eric

    “we got the weird combo platter of Tylor Megill, Drew Smith, Rodriguez, Lugo and Diaz, horse-whispered across the line by James McCann”

    The masterful complete game is the standard. Still, a no-hitter is a special achievement no matter how many pitchers it takes. If combo no-hitters become more the norm, maybe we’ll gravitate towards giving the catcher (assuming they’re not being relieved, too) more top-billing credit for the achievement.

    Lot of walks. Lot of pitches with Phillies grinding out at-bats that didn’t result in a hit. Some nights, the pitching is strong yet dink and dunk hits pile up or an overpowering d(eGr)ominant start is turned into a mere shutout by a dribbler or parachute single. And some nights, the pitching is just okay and the opposing offense looks like it’ll break through any inning now, and it just doesn’t happen. The Mets no-hit pitching wasn’t even powerful enough to elicit a try-anything bunt attempt.

  • The blog for Mets fans who like to read:

    I’d revise that to

    The blog for Mets fans who like to indulge bloggers who love to write

    Nonetheless, as this is the first of your pieces I’ve read, I grant you

    8 thumbs up

    edit: why did you ask for my website if it doesn’t show up in this here comment?