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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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Now You See It

Everybody misplaces their Mojo from time to time. In the summer of 1999, Austin Powers had to chase his Mojo all the way back to 1969. A couple of months later, the 1999 Mets’ Mojo experienced dizzying spikes and frightening declines despite Jim Morrison’s advice that it should keep on risin’. For a night-and-a-half in the middle of June of 2022, the current edition of New York’s National League franchise played as if disturbingly Mojoless.

There’d been a sloppy loss on Wednesday to the Brewers. That was one bad night at Citi Field, no biggie, unless one became two in a row, not in and of itself a biggie, either, but who wants to give such vibes a chance to resonate? My god, we were only four games in front of Atlanta! Thursday’s game dawned properly Metsian in the sense we’ve come to appreciate it this season: leadoff hitter Mark Canha walks to rev up the bottom of the first; Brandon Nimmo is hit by a pitch; after two outs, McNeil singles Canha home. The only surprise was that the Mets hadn’t mounted a larger lead than 1-0. Tylor Megill, who’d retired the Brewers in order in the top of the first, faced the minimum through three. Everything appeared SN — Situation Normal.

Then came the AFU that transforms a normal situation into a SNAFU.

The top of the fourth commenced with a Christian Yelich leadoff homer, but OK, that’ll happen. Megill struck out Willy Adames, yet normality was about to take it in the teeth. Rowdy Tellez singled convincingly, Luis Urias more so. Tellez, who doesn’t come off as the racing kind, raced to third as if imbued by the spirit of Mo Donegal. Andrew McCutchen walked. Sticky jam we faced, but Megill could get out of this.

Correction: Megill was simply out. The trainer was on the mound and Tylor was leaving after his second start since returning from the IL. Ouch! Word would come down eventually that Megill was experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder. When they delivered the news, SNY’s booth groaned. Like the difference between a dead arm and a sore arm (sore being more concerning than dead), discomfort, which doesn’t sound so awful to civilian ears, speaks volumes to those who understand the language of baseball most intimately. A pitcher needs his throwing shoulder to be comfortable.

In the meantime, Chasen Shreve came on to relieve with every base occupied and was greeted by a pair of grounders sporting 20-20 vision. They certainly had eyes, each ball (one struck by Omar Naravez, the other by Hunter Renfroe) plating a run or two. The Brewers suddenly led 4-1. Our starting pitcher was gone. Our usual starting right fielder, Starling Marte, wasn’t available after being hit on the hand the night before. Our usual starting third baseman, Eduardo Escobar, wasn’t around, thanks to a “non-workplace event,” a euphemism grim mainly for its vagueness. In the bottom of the fourth, the Mets attempted to rally the way these Mets do. McNeil walked with one out. Luis Guillorme singled with two out. Tomás Nido, quietly clutch, took an Aaron Ashby pitch to right. It was enough to score McNeil. It wasn’t enough for the normally infallible Guillorme to stop at second. He tried to take third on Hunter Renfroe’s arm. McNeil could have told him from Wednesday not to run on that limb. Guillorme ended the inning making the final out at third, just after Jeff crossed the plate. There was a replay review to confirm Luis’s faux pas. The crew in Manhattan must have fainted when it realized Guillorme ran into a fundamental mistake.

Now it was up to Chasen Shreve and whoever followed him. Shreve has his moments but also isn’t the first Met you think of when you conjure notions of length. With the DH rule ensconced, whoever was pitching could stick around a while. Except the Mets used their designated long man, Trevor Williams, the night before and sometimes you wonder how baseball gets from one game to the next with its bloated pitching staffs and its short benches yet often nobody to inhabit whatever role is most in need of filling. Opportunities to score more had gone by the wayside. Depth was shallow. Chasen Shreve was our immediate best hope as the fifth inning beckoned.

Mojo was elusive. But Shreve didn’t care. He popped up Yelich and struck out Willy Adames, then Tellez. We were still down by two. It only felt like more. Ashby comes back to the mound in the bottom of the fifth and walks right fielder Nick Plummer, who hit a big home run in late May and hadn’t done much since a second home run in slightly later May. Plummer’s ability to trot remained fresh, though. He got to do it on Mark Canha’s ensuing home run to center. Just like that, the Mets had tied the game. It only felt like they trailed. Just one of those vibes on one of those nights. A normal 2022 Mets affair tells you it’s only a matter of grind before our team of choice is out in front. I was frankly surprised they were no longer behind.

The Mets stayed tied with Milwaukee in the sixth. And the seventh. And the eighth. Seth Lugo was good for two middle innings of shutout ball. Drew Smith worked around a pair of baserunners. The Mets couldn’t do anything to any Brewer relievers after Ashby’s exit in the fifth, but not losing was a provisional victory. Not the same as a W, but no two wins are built exactly alike.

I’m not fond of the concept of teams stealing victories. I don’t mean teams stealing bases en route to winning, but the idea that they didn’t deserve to win the game they won. A win is a win; you won, you won. The game didn’t belong to the other team. It was up for grabs. For Thursday night, however, I’ll make an exception. The Mets stole themselves a win.

J.D. Davis led off the bottom of the eighth versus Brent Suter with a well-guided single through the infield. Guillorme’s ability to do everything splendidly rematerialized via contact on the eighth pitch of what might have been an epic at-bat, but what for Luis is business as usual. He put the ball in play, sending it to Tellez at first. Tellez sent it to the outfield, missing a potential forceout on Davis at second. Now we had runners on first and third with nobody out.

The heretofore unavailable Marte materialized. Can’t bat. Can’t throw. But the man can run. With a sac fly a possibility, Starling’s legs could make the difference. He pinch-ran for DH Davis. A pretty decent percentage move, I thought, despite the bench now being down to Patrick Mazeika and splinters should the bottom of the ninth be a factor. But one half-inning at a time.

Nido didn’t come through, but Plummer — don’t you love how now and then the fortunes of this particular team are embedded in names like “Nido” and “Plummer” and the fortunes aren’t necessarily dismal? — hit the ball to the right side. Good thing Marte’s speed is in the game, because the Brewers’ infield is playing in. Except Marte didn’t break, which wasn’t a crisis because Tellez, who fielded Plummer’s grounder, opted to attempt to execute a double play. He got one out, Guillorme at second. But after his initial hesitation, Marte streaked home. There was no double play. There was a Mets run. There was a Mets lead. It wasn’t exactly classic Mets magic, but in the inverse of now you see it, now you don’t, the Mets were ahead, 5-4.

I swear I didn’t see it developing. But then I did.

The top of the ninth fell to Edwin Diaz, and unlike most ninths of late, it almost tumbled down on his Sugary head. Renfroe led off with a soft single to center. Jace Peterson struck out, which is what you expect versus Diaz these days, but Tyrone Taylor, pinch-hitting for 2015 World Series villain Lorenzo Cain, lined a ball past first base. It wasn’t a classic double into the corner, but it did have tricky written across it every bit as much as it did “Robert D. Manfred Jr.” A skilled outfielder like Marte would catch up with it and get it in, but on Buck Showalter’s lineup card, Marte was listed as the DH who literally couldn’t hit. Lesser-known quantity Plummer was still out there. The collective brainpower of the Brewers — Renfroe taking off from first, third base coach Jason Lane and, presumably, manager Craig Counsell — decided pushing Plummer and the Mets’ defense to its breaking point was the way to go. They weren’t expecting two hits off Edwin Diaz. Why wait to find out?

So Renfroe, who’d thrown out two runners in two nights, concluded he was immune to the kind of defensive punishment he’d been administering. He kept chugging toward home. I started rewinding to 1999, not for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (one of the more disappointing sequels I ever willingly watched), but for another Mets-Brewers encounter that came down to baserunning in the top of the ninth. It was that doubleheader when Robin Ventura grand-slammed in both games. I was thinking about the opener, the only 11-10 win in Mets history, a contest that got put into the books for us because another Brew Crew baserunner, old friend Alex Ochoa, was trying to score the tying run and was clearly gonna be out. Watching then from the third base side of Field Level at Shea, I wondered what the hell was Alex was doing. He was gonna be out by the proverbial twenty feet. And he was. A kooky slugfest was over in our favor. Thanks, old friend!

Twenty-three years later, Renfroe didn’t appear to be indisputably doomed, but Diaz or no Diaz, his mission came into focus as an enormous risk, to put it kindly. Plummer handled his task, picking up the ball and relaying it to Alonso. Alonso, not always the first baseman of our dreams, continued the process as best we could wish. Pete’s throw found Nido on the third base side of home. It was a little high, but it was in plenty of time to nail Renfroe. Hunter made a good slide, and it necessitated a review, but the dude was out. He was going to be out before he slid, he was out when he slid, he was out after he slid.

The Brewers had only one out left to play with. They did have Taylor on third, and they did have former National League MVP Yelich coming up, he who had homered off Megill way back in the fourth, but Diaz was still Diaz. Three strong pitches, three strong strikes; our lion tamed their Christian.

The Mets’ Mojo returned intact, bringing a 5-4 win in tow. I was surprised it went missing. I’m not surprised it was rediscovered, as I was confident it hadn’t hitched a ride out of town, but I thought it might be AWOL a little longer than it was. Maybe it was just in hiding for a few innings. Mojo can be mischievous that way.

National League Town is simply happy the Mets are home for a spell. Relive a little 2005, a chunk of 2012 and a dollop of 1955, as well as all that 2022 has to offer, here.

6 comments to Now You See It

  • Harvey

    Great post as usual, but one correction. Our Flushing Plummer hit two huge homers for the Mets

  • Seth

    “our lion tamed their Christian.” Loved that. And hey, Luis can’t always be perfect. Not a bad night; I was convinced the Braves would somehow win even though they had the day off.

  • Eric

    I wonder if the 3rd base hesitation with a fellow runner on 1st and delayed run home, as opposed to the normal running home on contact, is a deliberate tactic. If I recall correctly, Guillorme, a slower runner than Marte, scored a key run earlier this season using the same trick in the same scenario. Brake, confuse the fielder, who I believe was also the first baseman, into throwing to 2B, and then sprint home.

    I also wonder a bit if Guillorme took 3B to draw Renfro’s throw away from McNeil running home, trade the 3rd out for the run. But if that was the purpose, Guillorme came awfully close to being tagged out before McNeil scored. Guillorme’s hands rival Baez’s ‘El Mago’ in the field. But his back-up catcher’s body can’t quite pull off Baez’s ‘El Mago’ slide.

    I thought Lane’s send was defensible, though 2nd and 3rd with one out is a good alternative. It was an odd, slow developing play. And the word is out that Alonso is not an accurate thrower. If either Plummer or Alonso had taken an extra beat or made a bobble, Renfro would have scored. As is, Plummer’s throw was soft but stayed on-line, while Alonso’s throw sailed but not as bad as Duda. And Nido adjusted for the catch and tag smoothly unlike d’Arnaud.

    Canha continues to be the Mets most reliable player this season. Whereas Lindor’s latest slump has me looking up Gimenez’s stats with buyer’s remorse. Remember Gimenez can field with position versatility, too.

    What’s up with the shoulder impingements?

    Still no update on Escobar. Strange.

  • open the gates

    I’m fine with the Mets stealing a game every now and again. It’s like the Ol’ Professor used to say, there are only three things you can do in a ball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain. Winning beats the other two options every time.

  • Eric

    The Braves are breathing down the Mets’ necks, but look over the Braves’ shoulders and the Phillies are breathing down their necks.