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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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Have Some Medina, M’Dear

Why shouldn’t Adonis Medina have been depended upon in the clutchest of spots to deliver for the 2022 Mets? For the same reason the likes of Patrick Mazeika, Nick Plummer and Colin Holderman, to name three previously little-known quantities, shouldn’t have — no reason whatsoever.

You may have noticed no Bench Mob sobriquets or t-shirts have been bandied about this season. Neither would fit despite the contributions of heretofore less-proven players to the first-place Mets’ cause. In 2021, guys of whom you’d barely thought or heard were the story when the story was at its best. Sadly, that was a short story. In 2022, the corps of new and sudden reliables are dotting i’s and crossing t’s across a grander narrative. They’re punctuating the sentences to paragraphs that relentlessly get written. On Sunday, a pitcher named Adonis Medina provided the period to a stirring text created by one teammate after another. Who was more famous going in didn’t matter. Together, they came out of Los Angeles as the team not to be beat.

Adonis Medina, righthanded reliever who wears No. 68 for New York, was last seen coming or perhaps going. He’s the man with the options, the man riding the taxi squad, the man who is counted as 27th where day-night doubleheaders and other unforeseen circumstances are concerned. In the bottom of the tenth of a 5-4 game on Sunday, when the Mets had the five but no longer access to Edwin Diaz (a perfect eighth) nor a preference for Seth Lugo (a tired ninth that necessitated the tenth), and the Dodgers had the four, along with their three most threatening hitters due up — Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner — with an automatic runner on second, Adonis Medina was simply the man.

So was most every Met leading up to that moment all afternoon, commencing with Trevor Williams and his five innings of competent starting (a two-run homer allowed to T. Turner in the first, then nothing for the next four) and continuing through a couple of middle-ish relievers you tend to forget about when they’re not on the mound (Stephen Nogosek, Adam Ottavino); the right fielder who fought the sun all day and didn’t succumb (Starling Marte); the right fielder who halved an early deficit with a third-inning shot toward the San Gabriel mountains (Marte again, off Julio Urias); and the center fielder who took a licking and kept on ticking (Brandon Nimmo with a heckuva catch at the wall and the grit to stay in after yet another HBP). The Mets did enough very well to stay within one going to the eighth.

Then they did the eighth like it was the time of their life.

Francisco Lindor opened the entrance — please don’t call it a door — with a sinking liner to deepest right that eluded Betts and bounced into the crowd for a double. Pete Alonso, staying earthbound for a change, socked one into the opposite corner, easily scoring Francisco to tie the game at two. J.D. Davis then delivered one of those ground balls to the right side that makes a baseball fan warm and tingly because if you were gonna make an out, that was the out to make. It put Pete on third, positioning the Polar Bear to wait as patiently as Eduardo Escobar did after Mark Canha absorbed his own hit-by-pitch, and while Brusdar Graterol battled and battled…and lost to Escobar’s professionalism and savvy. On the tenth pitch of a no-surrender plate appearance, Eduardo lofted a fly ball plenty deep enough to right so that Alonso couldn’t be thrown out once Betts caught it. The Mets took the lead, 3-2. After the Dodgers switched pitchers, Luis Guillorme did something characteristically helpful (a walk in this case, pushing Canha to second) and Tomás Nido, whose bat has snuck its way into secret-weapon status, lined an Alex Vesia fastball into center. Mark raced home with the Mets’ fourth run.

Who would protect this 4-2 lead one inning before the ninth? Diaz was Buck Showalter’s call, a refreshing choice in that the Dodger eighth featured the glittering Hollywood trio of Betts, Freeman and Turner (Trea, not Justin, though neither’s a stroll down Sunset). No walk of fame for those stars, as Diaz took them down in order. All that remained to take care of was the ninth. Showalter looked into his crystal ball and saw another game Monday night, in San Diego, so he preserved Edwin’s arm after fifteen pitches. A debatable tack, perhaps, but everything had been coming up aces most of the day, so why not trust the save opportunity at hand to usually trusty Seth Lugo?

Maybe because Lugo threw the ninth the night before when he expended fifteen pitches closing out a five-run led. Saturday required a lot of staff relief, too. Ottavino had pitched both days and excelled. Lugo didn’t. Will Smith slapped Seth’s third pitch into the bleachers and, after two infield outs, Chris Taylor and Eddy Alvarez teamed up for the double-single combo that tied the affair at four.

The Mets had come too far to not win this game, though that was a very real possibility because, well, baseball doesn’t care how beautifully tense the preceding eight innings have been if it feels like tipping over your apple cart in the ninth. Fortunately, Seth had enough to finish his frame with no further incident. At least as fortunately, the Mets got to Craig Kimbrel a little in the tenth. Kimbrel, pitching his second inning, already had Alonso on second because Rob Manfred put him there. I imagined how much better the Mets’ odds (also brought to you by Rob Manfred) would have been had Buck been able to pinch-run Travis Jankowski for Pete. Pete does so much well on offense. Run the bases is not one of them. But oft-deployed Jankowski, nine times a pinch-runner already this season, is on the IL and benches are shallow as is.

All this worrying was for naught, as leadoff hitter Davis stroked a Kimbrel fastball to left, where Taylor couldn’t cleanly corral it. Pete could practically jog home on the two-bagger it became. The Mets were in front, 5-4. Jankowski would have really come in handy running for Davis (J.D. found himself doubled off on an Escobar lineout to end the inning), but the lack of a pinch-runner isn’t what weighed heavy as the game turned to the bottom of the tenth. The Mets already used their closer Diaz and weren’t bringing back their alternate closer Lugo.

Thus, Medina. And why not? When we first saw Medina, he was striking out every Arizona Diamondback in sight. When we’d seen him since, in between the comings and the goings, he hadn’t done anything to infuse us with pre-emptive regret. The first-place New York Mets have 26 players, 27 when there’s a makeup doubleheader. Showalter would be the first to tell you every one of them has something to offer, something to accomplish. So, yes, why not trust the unproven Adonis?

Gavin Lux was on second the way somebody’s always on second to start extra half-innings (they really need to stop doing that). Mookie Betts could have killed the Mets immediately. Instead, Medina worked him and worked him and ultimately won the nine-pitch at-bat by flying Mookie to Starling in right. One down. Freeman, far from where we’re used to being spooked by him, grounded out as effectively as one could ground out, to the right side, moving Lux to third. Now Adonis had to deal with a runner ninety feet from tying things again, with the daunting task of Trea Turner awaiting him. Seriously, how do the Dodgers ever lose?

This way: Nido’s mitt makes contact with Turner’s bat, resulting in catchers’ interference, which Dave Roberts argues for when it’s not immediately called. It peskily places the potential winning run on first, but also takes the bat out of Trea’s hands, which is the one place the Mets didn’t want to see it anyway. Turner takes off for second. Nobody minds that Nido doesn’t throw through. The task at hand is getting out Smith, he who homered to begin the eighth. Is it only the tenth? It feels like this game and this series have both been going on for a week or more. Maybe it’s the time difference.

Medina didn’t check his watch. He listened for his PitchCom signal from his catcher — how modern — and brought his sinker to bear on one-and-two, striking out Smith. That made it three outs and the save of a 5-4 win that was always in grasp yet loomed as elusive. Coming into this weekend, the Dodgers were the standard, the aspirational bar you wished the Mets to reach. An early June series had never felt quite so essential to not lose for a team leading its division by a veritable ton. We lost Thursday. We lost Friday. We didn’t have deGrom. Scherzer’s dog bit his pitching hand. Lindor and that door. The little voice in your head was clearing its throat, grumbling something about how it’s one thing to have stomped the Nats who no longer have Trea Turner, it’s another thing to go down to these Dodgers. Were we gonna survive the mini-gauntlet in our minds let alone the rest of the trip for real?

Apparently we were. We stormed back Saturday and held tight Sunday. The finale was almost four hours of hell leavened by a few concentrated minutes of whatever’s the opposite of hell. Perhaps it’s the 2022 Mets.

7 comments to Have Some Medina, M’Dear

  • jason levin

    Well written!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Great win and cheers for Medina and super record but I still am having qualms about Buck’s bullpen use. He is so all over the map on pitchers he deems available, or who can pitch two days in a row or not, and still uses the better relievers to close out blowouts. etc. (We don’t even get into not using Diaz ever for more than an inning.)

    So you get Lugo used to finish 9-4 game on Saturday, and usually off limits for two days in a row this year, but then there he is to try to close on Sunday–even though a far better reliever for two weeks now, Holderman, had only thrown to ONE batter the night before, not a full inning. Well, of course, Buck would then use Holderman over untried Medina, right, for 10th? No way.

    Well, it worked out–and sorry to gripe, given 37-19 record–but Buck (amid all his positive moves) has been wildly inconsistent all season. And I did note some time ago that trio of Nogosek, Holderman and Medina is one of the most important surprises of season so far.

  • Seth

    Medina must be feeling great today — he deserves some more chances. That was a clutch performance!

  • Eric

    I like how the Mets followed up the 2 losses with a big score and then a gritty late comeback.

    With the Braves streaking, the Angels’ free fall is a reminder to not take the Mets’ lead for granted, not that we need one after last season. If and when the Phillies climb back to .500, then watch out for them too.

    Interesting choice to not pinch run for Alonso with Plummer in the 10th. Would Showalter have made that move if Dom Smith was available to defend 1B?

    Good move to bring in Diaz to face Betts, Freeman, and Trea Turner. But Lugo’s failure in the 9th reminds that the 9th inning is not like other innings and the Mets should add a closer-level reliever for just in case. I’m surprised Holderman didn’t pitch, which I thought was the reason for his short game 3 outing.

  • eric1973

    Mets have not lost since the Dodgers retired Gil Hodges’ number. Coincidence? I think not.

    As Seaver said, Gil came in and transformed the franchise. I would have loved to see what he would have done with the 1972 team, who started out 25-7 until they got bitten and beaten by the injury bug.

    And what he might have done with the 1973 Mets, my favorite team of all time, who beat the Big Red Machine and then gave the Swingin’ A’s all they could handle.

    Thanks for everything, Gil.

  • eric1973

    Gary Cohen is becoming more obnoxious by the hour. Bursting out laughing at his own unfunny jokes.

    Every time Keith makes a reference, Gary has to continue it, to show us all that he gets it, or worse, tries to top him. Reminds me of when Leno used to try to top Rickles, and only made a fool of himself.

  • […] getting on base at least once and Edwin Diaz closing out a non-save situation without incident. Last Sunday, it seemed paramount to preserve Diaz for his next save opportunity and not use him a second […]