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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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Things Stop Working

In Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Phillies, the Mets’ 2022 formula worked to perfection: grind out at-bats, drive up pitch counts, exploit weaknesses and strike.

Brandon Nimmo led off with a walk against old chum Zack Wheeler, who threw 17 pitches in the first and 20 in the second, unscored upon but with his pitch count rising. Meanwhile, Trevor Williams — the Swiss army knife of the Mets’ pitching corps — was holding his own, and the Phils were dealing with multiple other frustrations, whether it was short-circuiting an inning on the blown double steal the Mets had pulled off Friday night or watching a member of the 7 Line Army throw out the first pitch. In the fifth, Wheeler surrendered a single over the infield to Michael Perez to score two; an inning later a Francisco Lindor triple and a Jeff McNeil single brought in two more, leaving Wheeler to depart and mutter about “cheap hits,” which simultaneously wasn’t wrong and wasn’t a good look. The roof then fell in on the Phillies in the ninth, with Darick Hall pressed into service to spare the bullpen further effort, and the Mets had struck first.

That first game began while we were driving back from our week on LBI, with Garden State Parkway traffic grinding me down like a starter in the City of Brotherly Love; it ended as the Q train bore Emily and me down to Coney Island to check in on the Brooklyn Cyclones, who were squaring off against the Hudson Valley Renegades on Star Wars Night. (A friend who joined us got his picture taken with costumed intergalactic ne’er-do-wells and asked me if I wanted one; my response was “nah, it’s too much like work.”)

Being AWOL, I caught a good chunk of the nightcap as delivered by Howie and Wayne over my phone, tipped up to one ear because I’d forgotten to bring airpods. Honestly, I wish I’d heard less of it. (Also: The Cyclones lost, though Alex Ramirez‘s quick hands and easy power are worth keeping an eye on.)

The Mets seemed poised to repeat Game 1’s formula against some Phillie with the unfortunate name of Bailey Falter, who couldn’t find the plate in the first. With a run already in and the bases loaded, McNeil smacked a sinking liner to the vicinity of Nick Castellanos in right. With Castellanos, “vicinity” generally isn’t enough to yield an out, but this time he crumbled to his knees and somehow emerged with the ball in his glove instead of loping disconsolately after it as various Mets scooted around the bases, an outcome I very much would have preferred. I enjoy playing “Why Is Jeff McNeil Enraged Right Now?” as a quiz accompanying Mets games, but that wasn’t one of the more difficult puzzlers.

A bad omen, as was Falter’s delivery coming from the left side, known in olden times as “sinister.” The Mets couldn’t touch Falter after that and David Peterson looked out of sorts, allowing an RBI single to J.T. Realmuto in the first and (by an inch or so) a two-run double to Alec Bohm in the third. Yet the Phils couldn’t land the knockout blow that Peterson seemed constantly about to receive. Nor could they break through against Stephen Nogosek, who had to battle not only the Phillies but also his teammates’ suddenly inept fielding — made up for, with the game about to get away, by a desperate lunging grab by McNeil. (The scouting report on young Brett Baty has been accurate so far, by the way: He’s ready with a bat in his hands but a work in progress when one of those hands occupies a glove.)

The seventh inning arrived with the Mets somehow still within striking distance, and you could imagine the story turning around and this recap becoming a long meditation on Philadelphia frustration. But it wasn’t to be: The Mets misplayed a Kyle Schwarber double into a hustle triple that became a fourth run and couldn’t get to Jose Alvarado and David Robertson, with a fizzled ninth inning (long foul drive that became part of a strikeout, double and walk setting up a little bounder to third for the final out) serving as a miniature portrait of their troubles. The Braves — those chopping chanting Terminators of our increasingly uneasy dreams — then inevitably survived an epic throwdown with the Astros, and so the Mets will look to young Jose Butto to avoid a split and the possibility of their lead shrinking to two games.

What happens will be chronicled closely here, of course, so I’ll leave you with a bit of roster-trivia sherbet. Saturday brought three Met debuts: Sam Clay, Yolmer Sanchez and Rob Zastryzny, with Clay joining R.J. Alvarez as a recent escapee from Met ghost status and Zastryzny avoiding ectoplasm as a 27th man, which may or may not be easier than navigating the heart of the Phillie order. The roster of 2022 Met ghosts has thus shrunk from a record-setting four (Alvarez, Clay, Gosuke Katoh and Kramer Robertson) to just two. Katoh may yet materialize given infield misadventures; Robertson is once more Cardinals property and thus an unlikely candidate for resurrection. Both played in the big leagues for other clubs earlier this season and so at least can be considered curiosities instead of tragedies.

Hey, somebody’s got to keep track of these things.

4 comments to Things Stop Working

  • Curt Emanuel

    I was surprised that Fox carried Game 2 here – more than half expected to get Braves-Astros.

    The Mets just didn’t seem completely focused that game. I could be wrong but they didn’t seem to have a plan for ABs. Lot of chases against a pitcher with “just OK” stuff. The Phillies OTOH had a plan against Peterson – I was pretty impressed with how they approached him. And every now and then his slider was a slurve and they sure seemed to hit every one of those. He battled though – just wish he’d be less careful, particularly on pitch 1.

    Not really sharp in the field either. The one PO moment for me was the 8th. Not only should that have not been a triple, it should have not been a double. Canha should come up with it on the hop and Schwarber should be on first and no run scores. Didn’t matter in the end but shouldn’t have happened.

    The one bright spot was the three no-name relievers who were effective. And hey – the Z-man (not gonna try spelling it) is a lefthander!

    And who is Jose Butto? Guess we’ll find out.

    • Eric

      These Mets consistently grind elite righties like Wheeler and Nola, but against a soft-tossing journeyman lefty? A Maddux loss is always on the table.

  • Seth

    Well, Houston’s just not a good team. Sure, they beat up on the inferior American League, but they couldn’t beat the Braves in the World Series and still can’t beat them.

  • Eric

    On one hand, I wish the Braves would lose more often like a normal good team. The Mets are older and hurting, so more rest and recuperation down the final stretch of the regular season and skipping the wildcard round matters.

    On the other hand, I’m appreciative that the Braves are making the regular season an (agonizingly) interesting race rather than allowing the Mets to look past the remainder of the regular season and coast into the playoffs like the Dodgers.

    A wildcard slot is more or less assured at this point, though it’s best to avoid it. And the Mets aren’t choking away the division at all. They’re a contender that has played well all season, albeit now navigating a cluster of significant injuries that has cropped up suddenly in a pivotal span. The Braves, the Cardinals of the National League Eastern division, are just relentless in their chase of yet another division title.