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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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It’s unlikely the Mets know they’re accessories to a furniture-moving caravan traveling the East Coast, but that’s what they are. Day 2 of the extravaganza featured a drive from outside Philly to Brooklyn, unloading furniture there and loading up more stuff in its place that’s headed to Maine later today.

Aside from a couple of bumps — I realized you can’t drive a truck over the Brooklyn Bridge just in time to make a critical left and escape trouble — things went well, and Joshua and I were on 95 in Connecticut (in oddly horrendous traffic for a Saturday afternoon) when the Mets and Marlins commenced hostilities.

Howie Rose and guest star Lee Mazzilli were painting the word picture for us, but something was amiss with Joshua’s phone, cell service or perhaps both. The MLB audio kept dropping, but stranger were these moments where the audio would roll on without interruption but we’d both realize Howie or Maz had jumped back in time 10 to 15 seconds. Trouble in Jetsons paradise!

An excellent method for dealing with such maladies is the dullest one … perspective. I keenly recall long-ago road trips where I stubbornly kept listening to WFAN despite being on the outermost fringes of station range, catching every fifth word through static and the wow and flutter of a sputtering signal. Fortunately, baseball is a sport of long pauses that supply the context for little bursts of action — if you know the game and its rhythms, you can decode everything important from every fifth word and the pitch and rapidity of play-by-play. A buffering signal or glitch in the matrix? Eh, it’ll be fine.

Particularly since we got to listen to Taijuan Walker, whose return from the netherworld of injuries has been one of more satisfying Mets stories over the last two seasons.

Once upon a time Walker was going to be a superstar with the Seattle Mariners, and his baseball cards from that era showcase the eager grin of a young man in a hurry, ready to claim his pitching birthright. But Walker’s size and arsenal weren’t matched by his sense of the game or his commitment — the above-the-neck components of being a pitcher. That lesson kicked in after the wake-up call of a trade to Arizona, but Walker’s body then betrayed him: He lost pretty much all of 2018 and 2019 to Tommy John surgery and a shoulder strain, winding up back in Seattle for the COVID season but then swiftly sent off to Toronto. When the Mets took a flier on him for 2021, Walker had gone from prospect to suspect to forgotten man, a lonely journey for anybody, let alone a former budding star.

But Walker was finally healthy again, and it was time to pair good health with what he’d learned. He pitched his way to an All-Star nod with the Mets in 2021, though that turned out to be the high point of his season, as the accumulated innings after a long layoff proved too many in the second half. But 2022 has seen Walker continue making strides, using his splitter to erase batters left flummoxed by his four-seam fastball, sinker and slider.

Walker was in immediate trouble in the first as pesky Jon Berti led off with a single and then stole second and third during the inning, but Walker used three different pitches to catch three different Marlins hitters — Jazz Chisholm Jr., Jorge Soler and Garrett Cooper — looking.

And that was it — Walker allowed no Marlins to reach base at all until the seventh, when a Chisholm walk and an Avisail Garcia RBI double ended his day. Meanwhile, Francisco Lindor hit another mom-in-the-house homer and Jeff McNeil drove in Mark Canha, giving the Mets three runs to the Marlins’ eventual one.

And that was the score in the ninth when Edwin Diaz reported for duty, with your audience shifting from foot to foot in my in-laws’ den, with an imminent restaurant reservation making us doubly anxious for a speedy, happy denouement. (The switch from radio to TV meant I never learned if Ed Kranepool responded to Howie’s text about whether he’d actually been AWOL from manning first for an inning’s first out. If you heard how that story ended, help a recapper out in the comments.)

Diaz wasn’t as sharp as he’s been of late, which meant some anxious moments in what developed as an odd bookend — Miami’s first inning, redux. Berti singled, stole second and scooted over to third on an overthrow. Up came Chisholm, who looked at 100 MPH from Diaz on a 1-2 count, passing the pitch up because it was two or three inches inside — and discovered home-plate ump Adam Beck had called it a strike.

Beck let Chisholm rant and rave, I suspect because he knew he’d missed that one, while Don Mattingly made no effort to protect his player, emerging only after Chisholm was finally tossed. I don’t know what’s going on in Miami and don’t particularly care, but that was odd to say the least.

One out secured, but Diaz was still looking for his slider. He found it in time to strike out Soler for the second out and went back to the pitch to try and put away Cooper, but left that slider in the middle of the plate, surrendering a single and cutting the Mets’ lead to one. Pinch-runner Luke Williams stole second, Garcia worked the count to 2-2 facing all fastballs, and the game would come down to one pitch.

Garcia was perfectly set up for a slider. For about the millionth time, I thought to myself that I love baseball while suspecting it will be the death of me. The slider was coming; could Diaz find a good one?

He could — the ball dived low and outside, tempting to swing at but impossible to hit. Garcia’s bat slashed harmlessly over it, Diaz had escaped, and it was time to go to dinner.

4 comments to Escapees

  • Eric

    Mazzilli’s story was corroborated, but not by Kranepool. I don’t recall to whom Howie gave credit. It may have just been Majkowski, perhaps referencing Greg’s recount of the incident

  • eric1973

    Decoding every fifth word and still knowing what is going on, takes me back to the Wometco days when the Mets had a few games on Channel 68, on your UHF dial. For the unsubscribed, the TV picture was scrambled, but if you tilted your head a certain way and were lucky enough that the picture unscrambled just a bit as a pitch was being thrown, you could still kinda keep up with the action.

    Nice to hear Mazzilli, but he sounded a little too combative with Howie when discussing the Spidertack. Maz made a ridiculous comment that unless the batters hit .501, the pitchers already have the advantage. Mathematically correct, of course, but senseless in a baseball context. Howie was concerned with the pitcher’s control, and the batters not being hit by pitches.

    And of course, Howie the comedian cannot have a regular conversation without injecting his own unfunny humor, just having to exclaim “501 is a type of jeans!” just to show how clever he is.

    Loving Diaz this year, but he sure has a tendency to sonetimes leave those 0-2 pitches right down the middle.

    As for Kranepool, don’t know if they ever got back to it, but I do remember this:
    Kranepool was not on the field for the FINAL out of a game, so the final out then had to be replayed. I believe it was the late 70s, during the Kobel-Hausman era, but believe it or not, it really happened.

  • Eric

    Kudos to Lindor for hitting the 2-run HR that made the winning difference, but his sprayed throws to 1B are a problem. More so since Alonso isn’t Dom Smith at picking errant throws though Alonso has been credible. I rather play Guillorme’s accurate arm at SS and Lindor’s sub-par arm at 2B, which however would be problematic for McNeil.

  • eric1973

    Could not agree more, Eric.
    Lindor’s scattershot arm may get Alonso spiked one day, or a Cliff Floyd wrist injury, but he is doing an Amazin’ job with Lindor’s throws. And that 3-hopper he threw to first was not an easy play at all, as it came in at kind of a half hop.

    Lindor still having an All-Star season with that low batting average, and would like to see it get into the .270s before the season is over.