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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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Plum Assignment

“Kid, we’re short of staff this weekend. I need you to go out to Citi Field and cover Sunday night’s Mets-Phillies game. The main thing is the lede. Watch what happens, and when you think you know what the main story is, type up a graf and shoot it back to the copy desk. We have multiple editions coming out, one after another, so make sure you label each one clearly so we know at what point in the game you’re filing. Ya got that? Good — and good luck.”

***

BOTTOM OF THE 1ST
FLUSHING — Helped along by shaky Phillies defense, the Mets notched three runs to take a commanding early advantage as they attempted to complete a three-game sweep of their National League East rivals. While old friend Zack Wheeler struggled with his pitch count, his former teammates discovered ways to confound the talented righty, abetted by Philadelphia gloves that seemed intent on sabotaging the visitors’ cause. Following Luis Guillorme’s leadoff double and Starling Marte’s single that advanced Guillorme to third, Francisco Lindor grounded to first baseman Rhys Hoskins, whose hesitation cost Wheeler both a run and an out, as Guillorme crossed the plate after Hoskins’ throw to second pulled shortstop Jean Segura off the bag and Segura’s throw flew wide of home. Productive groundouts from Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha eventually brought home Marte and Canha, digging a 3-0 hole for Wheeler, who had to expend 32 pitches to escape the first.

TOP OF THE 3RD
FLUSHING — Chris Bassitt’s holiday weekend cruise through the Phillies’ order took a detour in the third inning, sent off course when rookie left fielder Nick Plummer, making his first major league start, allowed a sinking liner to tick off his glove, gifting leadoff batter Odubel Herrera a double and setting the stage for a troublesome frame that saw Bassitt, the Mets’ de facto ace these injury-inflected days, throw 34 pitches, yet surrender only one run. The Phillie tally came home on an Alec Bohm double play grounder with the bases loaded after both Johan Camargo and Kyle Schwarber worked full-count walks. Despite being forced to work extra hard, Bassitt emerged from the lengthy inning with a 3-1 lead.

BOTTOM OF THE 5TH
FLUSHING — A one-out Starling Marte triple went to waste, as did a golden opportunity for New York to increase its 3-1 lead over Philadelphia. The triple, gained on a combination of baserunning guile and defensive mishap, occurred as Marte stroked a Zack Wheeler delivery into the right field corner. The hit appeared ticketed to land Marte on second until the Met right fielder correctly judged the trouble his Phillie counterpart, Nick Castellanos, was having trouble picking it up and getting it back into the infield. Marte slid into third with the Mets’ thirteenth triple of the season, the most by any team in the majors. Nevertheless, Marte wound up stranded on third as Zack Wheeler sandwiched an intentional walk to Pete Alonso with strikeouts of Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar. While Marte’s triple could be interpreted as indicative of the aggressive approach that has vaulted the Mets into first place in the National League East by a wide margin, their failure to capitalize on the three-bagger may be a sign of a more troubling trend, as the triple was their first hit since the first inning and they let Wheeler keep them off the board for four succeeding innings.

TOP OF THE 7TH
FLUSHING — After Chris Bassitt threw six effective innings, Buck Showalter turned his club’s 3-1 lead over to young righty Drew Smith, but Smith may have gotten in the way of the Mets manager’s best laid plans. By attempting to field a two-out grounder from J.T. Realmuto with his pitching hand, Smith seemed to have injured his right pinky finger and had to leave the game, forcing Showalter to shuffle his bullpen plans sooner than he expected. While x-rays revealed a dislocation rather than a break, Smith’s removal loomed as a bad break for the Mets, even though his successor, Joely Rodriguez, stranded Realmuto on first base.

TOP OF THE 8TH
FLUSHING — The tenuous advantage the Mets held over the Phillies for seven-and-a-half innings came crashing down as Nick Castellanos belted a three-run homer to left field, catapulting Philadelphia over New York for a 4-3 lead. The right fielder’s bat swung in synchronicity with the game’s momentum, which had been teetering away from the Mets for quite a while, given their inability after the first inning to manufacture any offense against Zack Wheeler (6 IP), Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia, each an alumnus of the Met pitching staff. The crushing blow came off Adam Ottavino, pitching for the second night in a row. Ottavino came on in relief of lefty Joely Rodriguez, who had entered for an injured Drew Smith. Rodriguez had recorded two eighth-inning outs, but also walked Johan Camargo and Alec Bohm, leaving a troublesome tableau for his righthanded successor. The Mets, down one heading to the home half of the eighth, were already plagued by inertia from the bottom of their lineup as the game unfolded, with neither eighth-place hitter Nick Plummer nor nine-hole batter Patrick Mazeika reaching base all evening. What had been a very formidable Met attack appeared weakened by the precautiounary rest manager Buck Showalter gave his banged-up duo of Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil.

TOP OF THE 9TH
FLUSHING — If nothing else, perhaps Buck Showalter found a new component for his bullpen’s “circle of trust,” with unsung reliever Stephen Nogosek coming on to pitch a scoreless top of the ninth for the Mets, retiring the Phillies in order and keeping the Mets clinging to hope they could overcome a one-run deficit as they prepared to come to bat for their last licks. Nogosek, wearing No. 85, has ridden the options express between New York and Syracuse this season, but with Trevor May on the IL, Drew Smith leaving this game early due to a dislocated right pinky, Adam Ottavino surrendering the pivotal home run to Nick Castellanos and old reliable Seth Lugo and new face Colin Holderman each deemed unavailable after they pitched Saturday night, Nogosek’s emergence as another legitimate righty option may rate as a factor to watch and, potentially, the sliver lining to a cloudy loss in the making. Longtime Met penwatchers can’t help but note the significance of a clean ninth inning after such a disastrous eighth.

BOTTOM OF THE 9TH
FLUSHING — Despite Joe Girardi having aligned his Phillie defense into its victory formation, inserting Roman Quinn in center and moving starting center fielder Odubel Herrera to right to replace slugger and provisional star of the game Nick Castellanos, the Mets found their way into the proverbial end zone, leaning on heretofore unknown Nick Plummer to go deep. Plummer connected for his first major league hit and home run off Phillie closer Corey Knebel, as the leadoff blast, soaring decisively inside the right field foul pole and landing on the soft-drink sponsored porch, dramatically tied the back-and-forth Sunday night affair at four apiece. The proverbial whole new ballgame headed for extra innings once Knebel escaped further damage. In the tenth, each manager anticipated starting his team’s respective at-bats with a runner on second. But while Buck Showalter could look forward to the speedy Starling Marte being his free runner, Girardi moved toward extras knowing that the fourth Phillie up in that inning, originally scheduled to be the dangerous Castellanos, would instead be the light-hitting Quinn.

TOP OF THE 10TH
FLUSHING — Eduardo Escobar, to date a disappointment with the bat, turned in one of the defensive gems of the year, racing to third base railing to grab a foul ball popped toward the visitors’ dugout by notorious Met-killer Kyle Schwarber. When he reached over the rail and into the Phillies’ lair to make his catch, Escobar ensured Schwarber would continue his weekend of frustration and futility against his usual punching bags. The Phillie left fielder, who hit nine home runs against the Mets last season, wore an 0-for-14 collar following his foulout. Escobar’s play also meant good news for Met closer Edwin Diaz, on to protect the 4-4 tie the Mets brought into the tenth. With the pop fly serving as the inning’s first out, Diaz proceeded to ground out Alec Bohm and intentionally walk Bryce Harper rather than let the reigning MVP hit with automatic runner Bryson Stott (running for Johan Camargo) on second. Buck Showalter’s decision to have Diaz face the next batter, Roman Quinn, who had come into the game for defensive purposes, replacing eighth-inning home run hero Nick Castellanos, paid off, as Diaz struck out Quinn, whose average dropped to .167, to end the half-inning.

BOTTOM OF THE 10th
FLUSHIING — A fairy tale season brimming with Met heroics added another unlikely chapter Sunday night, as third baseman Eduardo Escobar drove in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth to defeat the Phillies, 5-4. The Mets appeared on the verge of beaten after Nick Castellanos drove an Adam Ottavino pitch over the left field wall in the eighth, erasing a lead the Mets had held since the first, but after solid relief work from Stephen Nogosek and the first home run in the major league career of Nick Plummer in the ninth, extra innings told the tale of the two rivals, with Edwin Diaz pitching the top of a scoreless tenth, with help from Escobar’s stunning catch at the Phillies’ dugout railing of a popup off the bat of a slumping Kyle Schwarber. Working with the reprieve the Mets had earned for themselves following Castellanos’s blow, Escobar batted with free runner Starling Marte on second and the intentionally passed Pete Alonso on first and one out. While Escobar hadn’t been hitting much, he is an established major leaguer who knows when he is being taken lightly by an opposing manager. Joe Girardi’s decision to have his beleaguered closer Corey Knebel, who had given up the game-tying homer to Plummer, face Escobar rather than Alonso backfired when Escobar lashed a ball into right field that easily plated the swift Marte from second. With the win, the Mets swept their three-game set versus the Phillies, sending an opponent projected as a strong National League East contender spiraling. Philadelphia currently languishes 10½ games out of first place, while the pacesetting Mets, fifteen games above .500 for the first time since their pennant-winning romp of 2015, maintain an 8½-game lead over second-place Atlanta. It’s the largest advantage a Mets club has ever enjoyed in May.

***

“Good work, kid. We’ll use that last lede for the home edition.”

8 comments to Plum Assignment

  • Bruce Smith

    True Confession no. 667:
    I was lacing into Buck the whole night for “resting” McNeil instead of Escobar, who, upon my recommendation should have been on sabbatical in Florida contemplating retirement. Seconds before his knock, I held my hat aloft ready to throw in disgust at the television.

    Oh sweet it was to be proven wrong.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Have kept my eye on Plummer since Mets got him. He must have been a victim of quiet and reluctant Cardinal cut off their 40-man and Mets pounced. I’d heard he had been hot prospect who had utterly flopped but his AA and AAA numbers last year were not bad at all and he showed pop again this year at Syracuse–though he had been mysteriously in and out of the lineup there (nagging injury? Covid recovery?). Anyway, he looked horrid until the homer but now has a life and could be a nice piece even if just does so-so. Meanwhile it becomes more and more obvious every day team needs to get a good lefty reliever as the two they have should be in AAA.

    Holderman and Nogosek may be life savers.

    Finally, I will never figure out savvy Buck time after time using one of the better relievers in an easy 9th–such as Lugo in the 7-2 win on Saturda–meaning he went to Ottavino for 2nd straight night on Sunday. Also why Lugo can’t seem to ever be called on two days in a row. Or for Diaz to be considered for a 4-out save….

  • open the gates

    Welcome to the bigs, Mr. Plummer! You’re welcome to stay here as long as you’d like – just keep hitting those game-tying home runs and you’ll do just fine.

    As for Escobar. Howie Rose had been referring to him as “Slumpin’ Eduardo Escobar” for so long that it seemed part of his name. But the guy kept plugging away, the fielding was always top shelf, and he ran the bases productively when he got on. He reminded me a little of Jose Valentin in ’06 – a career pro going through a horrendous slump on a very successful team, but his manager kept believing in him and throwing him out there, and when he finally broke out, he did it in a big way. Hopefully tonight was Escobar’s Valentin moment. Having it happen after that awesome catch off of villain Kyle Schwarber – and after having Pete Alonso intentionally walked in front of him – makes it that much sweeter.

    A final note – the Mets are so much fun to watch this year. The winning will do that, of course, but it’s how they win, and even how they lose, that makes them must-see. It’s high drama all the way, and I can’t wait for the next installment. LGM!

  • Cobra Joe

    Great home run by Nick Plummer! Didn’t Benny Ayala also hit a home run in his first at-bat for the Mets at Shea Stadium against the Houston Astros in 1973? Yes, Benny Ayala, the promising, young power-hitter, who the NY Post’s Maury Allen predicted would make Cleon Jones a center fielder, to make room in left field for the Mets’ hot prospect.

    I also remember catcher Bill Plummer (no relation to Nick). Bill Plummer was Johnny Bench’s back-up, sort of the Duffy Dyer of the Big Red Machine during the 1970s.

    It’s funny how I can remember baseball players from nearly fifty years ago, but have no recollection of Mets, who played for the inimitable Mickey Callaway, just a couple of years ago.

  • Eric

    Well captured. Is there a name for this writing style other than sports desk intern?

    Interesting Showalter decision to not pinch hit Davis or McNeil (who pinch hit for Mazeika next batter) for Plummer in the 9th. Lefty vs righty favored Plummer. On the other hand, veteran hitter vs hitherto overmatched rookie favored Davis. At the same time, defense is a (refreshing) priority for this Mets team and if Plummer had come out that would have meant Davis in left field in case of a tie since McNeil and Nimmo were limited or unavailable. On the other hand, the Mets needed to tie the game before worrying about left field. Plummer hit a laser beam home run and it worked out.

    Plummer looks the part and he *was* an elite prospect who was set back by an injury. Hopefully he turns out to be an upgrade to Jankowski.

    Escobar hit a good curveball to win the game like he was expecting it. I have to wait and see if it’s a slump buster though since Escobar has mainly been beaten by fastballs.

    Guillorme continues to impress in multiple ways. He’s a strong defender at 4, 5, and 6 with more than a little ‘El Mago’ flair. His contact skill is maturing to a Mets Daniel Murphy level.

    And he’s smart. On his 1st inning run, Guillorme confused Hoskins by going down the line far enough for Hoskins to look him back, but not far enough to throw behind him, but also far enough to break for home if Hoskins threw to 2nd. Add speedy Lindor and Marte running to 1st and 2nd, Hoskins hesitated, made a bad throw to 2nd, and Guillorme scored, everybody safe.

    Defense, speed, fundamental play, contact — small ball is fun.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Buck resting McNeil and then Escobar coming through……it’s gonna be a good summer! Even Keith has commented on the base running(positive now).Walker backing up the third baseman on a throw,the little things adding up to where they are now. LGM!

  • Kirk C

    Check Plummer’s continuously high percentage of walks in the minors. Either he has a really good eye, or rumors were out to hide from him. Both bode well.