The blog for Mets fans
who like to read


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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at (Sorry, but we have no interest in ads, sponsored content or guest posts.)

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Duel on the Hill, Dud at the Plate

It was tight. It was tense. It was pitched the way you would swear under oath you prefer your games to be pitched. It was the kind of game you could really enjoy for the sake of sublime baseball until you remembered you had a rooting interest.

To be fair, if your rooting interest emanated from Astroland, then it remained a good game to the not at all bitter end. But here our interests lean mightily to the Mets, and the mighty Mets, they made outs. They made twenty-seven of them, which happens most games, but they usually make offensive noise between the silences. Not in this game that ultimately grew difficult to really, really enjoy. Two hits. One walk. That was it. The most dramatic moments the Mets engineered while attempting to hit involved Jeff McNeil hanging in for twelve pitches in the first inning and Dom Smith extending an at-bat for nine in the fifth. The attempts went nowhere, mirroring the Mets’ Wednesday afternoon destination.

Justin Verlander’s watch chain was gaudily bedecked following his eight innings of shutout ball, considering all the Met batters he wore on it. There was a touch of a threat in the first — Brandon Nimmo’s leadoff double, Pete Alonso’s two-out walk, McNeil’s flirtation with a run batted in (coupla loud fouls in there) — and then there was no hint at all of a Met attack. Verlander, even at 39, will do that to a first-place team that’s been slumping. We made decent contact. Once in a while, I thought balls would fall in. I was mistaken.

Taijuan Walker’s matinee performance at Citi Field was no less impressive. Tai entered the eighth for the first time all year, barely scathed through seven. He was assigned one final batter, coinciding with the conclusion of his third trip through the Houston order. Walker — with no small hand lent by Luis Guillorme at third (at least one assist or putout in every inning from Los Manos) — held up his end of a scintillating zero-zero duel, passed it over to Edwin Diaz, and Diaz no more than played footsie with trouble. The game stayed scoreless until the ninth.

We knew Walker wasn’t going to finish the eighth and we could figure Sugar wasn’t going to be asked to pitch the ninth. For one, he threw fourteen high-leverage pitches to finish the top of the eighth. For another, the bottom of the eighth encompassed a delay following a collision on a popup in short left between Jeremy Peña and Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez got the worst of it; both had to leave the game (the popup somehow stayed in Peña’s glove). Other than presumably filling him with concern for his teammates, the lingering pause to help both Astros off the field didn’t affect Verlander, but it did mean a little extra time for Diaz to cool down. Yeah, he wasn’t coming back.

Drew Smith was Buck Showalter’s choice to maintain the tie. Drew hadn’t pitched since Saturday, the last time the Mets won (the day before Adam Ottavino set the tone for recent ninth-inning setbacks). Then there was an off day Monday, a blowout Tuesday and, with another blank space in the schedule ahead Thursday, a sense on Showalter’s part that Drew shouldn’t sit too long. Once Walker was done and Diaz was out of consideration, I didn’t have a more clever ninth-inning solution than Smith.

The Astros had all the answers in their pair of two-game series against the Mets. The last one, not counting Ryan Pressly retiring the Mets with ease (plus an umpire’s assist) in the bottom of the ninth, was provided by Jason Castro, who transformed a Smith slider into a two-run homer that put Houston up by essentially twenty. We went down to both Verlander and defeat, 2-0; are saddled with our first three-game losing streak of 2022; and have scored all of three runs in our last three games.

Which is not to say pitching duels are to be sneezed at, as allergic as we consider ourselves to defeat. For the longest time Wednesday afternoon, it felt like a great game. It felt like Seaver vs. Reuschel that day at Wrigley when Tom had a no-hitter going for eight-and-two-thirds but the Mets forgot to score on his behalf (we lost both the no-hitter, in the ninth, and the game, in the eleventh). This was about as close as you’re likely to get to two elite starters going the distance in 2022. Verlander’s credentials come without question. Honestly, he’s the only active pitcher whose mound presence puts me in mind of Seaver — so much so that I’ve mysteriously convinced myself that Verlander, an alumnus of Old Dominion, went to USC. Walker has been a Maxless/Jakeless godsend. This is the pitching we pay and pray to see, even if it’s not the result we request. Even with everybody waiting for the Astros’ injury situation to resolve, the whole affair took 2:43. Earlier in the day, I was reading Don Van Natta’s profile of Rob Manfred on in which a theme the commissioner struck continually, besides a desire to be loved, was the need to get games moving faster. This one moved relatively quickly and was absorbing as all get out, never mind the lack of runs for the bulk of 163 minutes. If it didn’t have wispy-hitting Castro’s ball getting out of the yard, it would have been perfect. Or at least better.

Houston left the National League following the 2012 season. I was sorry to see them go, given their fraternal connection to our birth. Can’t say I’ll mind not seeing them the rest of this regular season. They are, to put it in senior circuit context, Dodger-good. When we played the Dodgers in Los Angeles the first weekend of the month, I thought it was a validating series, boisterously splitting as we did against an opponent with too much talent to lose too often. After we dropped the two games at Minute Maid Park a week ago, I looked forward to some measure of getting even or balancing the books or just a sense that nobody on our slate was out of our figurative league. Despite Taijuan, Edwin and Luis doing their things exquisitely, the Mets didn’t show they were up to the task that faced them in these two games. Mind you, it’s only two games, and, as noted, Manfred’s predecessor was kind enough to nudge the Astros out of our immediate business, so there needs to be a bit of a shrug inherent in the irritation of the moment. Yet this 0-4 ink smudge on our otherwise marvelous 47-29 record — hint of 1969 at the Astrodome notwithstanding — will glare at me until 7:10 Friday night gets us the Rangers on (groan) Apple TV+.

Bring on the other team from Texas. Bring out the bats while we’re at it.

6 comments to Duel on the Hill, Dud at the Plate

  • Daniel Hall

    The good news:
    1) No one died.
    2) The Barves’ string of pushover team after pushover team is over and the Mets now get a bit of a softer schedule for the next month.

  • Seth

    Switching leagues is really, really odd — it’s happened twice in the last 25 years and I don’t really get it. Muscle memory still thinks of Milwaukee as an AL team. They could have moved back to the AL and left Houston alone?

    • Along with the desire to even out the leagues at 15 apiece, Texas had long wanted a divisional opponent in the same time zone for local TV ratings purposes, and Bud Selig wanted to make that happen before vamoosing. When the Astros were sold, one of the conditions was accepting the move. The new owner said, in essence, “sure.”

  • Tom C

    Wasn’t it Ottavino who served up the walk-off homer on Sunday?

  • Kevin from Flushing

    I love seeing domino effects happen during the course of a single baseball game, though Wednesday it stung a bit. If Dom successfully turns the trick double play with the dropped ball in the 3rd inning, then theoretically Castro doesn’t come up to the plate in the 9th.