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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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Jake, the Mets and Their Pursuers

Having emerged from the forced march portion of their schedule, the Mets returned to Citi Field and took care of business against the Rockies, though a game that looked poised to become a laugher never quite launched, turning into a too-close-to-the-ground 3-1 win. Still a good outcome, particularly given that the Braves didn’t win, though a fair chronicler might note that they also didn’t play.

The Mets’ victory was anchored by Jacob deGrom‘s deadly slider, Pete Alonso‘s big bat and some bend-but-not-break work by Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz in the bullpen, with Adam Ottavino happily scrambling the narrative by securing a no-fuss save.

DeGrom is so good that it’s easy to let the focus on him blur the competition into a meaningless smudge, similar to how nobody much paid attention to the Washington Generals beyond seeing them as the Globetrotters’ opponents. For instance, deGrom positively tortured Charlie Blackmon, feeding him sliders that resulted in two strikeouts and then using what he’d put in Blackmon’s head to erase him a third time with fastballs. You probably read that and mm-hmmed or maybe nodded your head, but the point is that Charlie Blackmon is not Rockies Schmo Number Whatever — he’s a career .298 hitter with a batting championship on his resume. (He’s also the possible owner of baseball’s best beard, though that resists quantification.)

DeGrom does that to people — his sheer brilliance turns batting champs into cardboard cutouts like the ones that thankfully no longer stand in for all of us in baseball stadiums. Which also makes his rare departures from excellence startling: When Ryan McMahon took him deep Thursday night or he briefly lost command of his fastball-slider combination, it felt like physics had somehow been repealed.

Two of the Mets’ three runs came from Alonso, who punished the Rockies for botching an inning-ending double play by demolishing a middle-middle fastball from Ryan Feltner, sending it on a journey that ended against the facing of the second deck. Alonso struggled on the Mets’ forced march, lunging and chasing in a way he’s mostly avoided this year before collecting a couple of hits against the Yankees, so it was reassuring to see him look more like his uber-ursine self.

We’ll need both of them down the stretch, which is a roundabout way of arriving at my unhappy conclusion: I don’t think even their contributions will be enough to let the Mets hold off the Braves. The Mets have a softer September schedule than Atlanta, but the gap doesn’t strike me as dramatic, and the Braves have been playing out of their minds for a solid three months, assisted by an annoyingly steady stream of rookies whose development has proved precocious.

Time for some rapid-fire caveats.

I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. Giddy, thrilled, doing cartwheels. Bring me all the crow I can eat and I’ll ask for more.

I’m well aware that even the stone wheels of juggernauts can go inexplicably flat.

I’m not casting the least of aspersions on the Mets, who could end up north of 100 wins and still come up short.

And I’m not saying finishing second would be a death sentence — even with the new bye format, the postseason is a crapshoot of small sample sizes, with no team that gains admission truly a surprise if revealed as the last standing.

(I’m also not convinced that first-round bye won’t prove to be a poisoned apple, but that’s another post.)

Like I said, it’s a prediction I hope turns out to be dead wrong — or comes true but winds up not particularly mattering. But I think it would be wise to look at the map to the 2022 postseason and plot some alternate routes to the destination we all want.

7 comments to Jake, the Mets and Their Pursuers

  • Seth

    I’m not nuts about the first round bye either. I still remember 2015 when the nearly week off before the World Series took all the wind out of the Mets’ sails.

    I would have to vote for Guillorme as baseball’s best beard!

    • mikeL

      yes, have been drinking from same half-full glass. the lack of the usual travel days negating use of 3-man rotation is the slow-leaking crack in that glass.
      damn braves.
      wishing mets much mojo over this final stretch.
      we don’t need *two* NY ball clubs falling from their anticipated heights, do we? ;0]


  • Rob D

    Jason: I agree with you. If the Mets win 102 games and finish second, my attitude is waddyagonnado.

    And if in the wild card the Mets can’t win 2 of 3 with Jake, Max and Chris starting games at home, then……

    I will be happy to be playing meaningful October baseball. Sorry. I’m 60 years old. Get me in the dance.

  • Eric

    Guillorme’s beard is a contender.

    Interesting that deGrom dropped down from 6.2 innings, 95 pitches in his last start against the Braves to 6 innings, 85 pitches against the Rockies. DeGrom’s post-game comments emphasized his desire to leave a game after finishing the inning. He was upset that he was compelled to leave his last start mid-inning with a runner on base because he hit his pitch limit. Of course, speaking of the Braves’ precocious rookies, that runner, Grissom, scored from 1st on Harris’s seeing-eye single, which counted on deGrom’s ERA and lost the game. The implication is deGrom could have started the 7th inning last night but didn’t in order to avoid the same situation of being pulled mid-inning due to hitting a ~90 pitch limit. DeGrom said that after 2 games at ~90 pitches, he expects to be working with a normal ~100 pitch count his next start, which should be against the Dodgers.

    The extra rest before last night’s start made me worry deGrom was feeling pain coming off his Braves start. The Mets could have started him on regular rest for the Yankees and then have deGrom skip the Rockies series with extra rest for a Dodgers start. I wonder if a reason for deGrom going Rockies, Dodgers, instead of Yankees, Dodgers, was to prevent deGrom pitching 3 higher stress games in a row against the contending Braves, Yankees, and Dodgers. If that’s the case, then pitching against the Rockies at home in between the Braves and Dodgers would be an ace’s version of a half-day off at DH.

    The Braves’ call-ups from AA instantly perform like 5-tool all-stars while, since his 1st AB home run, the Mets elite prospect from AAA has hit like a slumping Guillorme with no better speed and a substantially worse glove.

    Mid-season I was fine with entering the playoffs as a wildcard. But the growing toll of fatigue and injuries, both IL and playing hurt, coupled with an older team to begin with, tipped me over to the importance of winning the division for the extra rest and recuperation ahead of the intensity of the playoffs, which will also have fewer off days than before.

    As is, I wonder if the Braves pushing the Mets through September will by itself deny the amount of R&R the Mets need to prepare for the playoffs, even if they earn the bye week. In that light, the Mets might be better off prioritizing R&R the rest of the way as though they had a safe lead, even if that means semi-conceding the division to the Braves, in order to enter the playoffs as a hale wildcard instead of a limping division winner or wildcard anyway.

  • Eric

    Agree – it would have been nice to put the game away and not have to use Lugo, Diaz, and Ottovino, especially in that order on game one of a four game series. And Lugo and Diaz didn’t exactly mow them down. By the way, Charlie Blackmon reminds me of a wildling from north of the wall.

  • Bob

    Agree with Jason in that I fear & despise the Barfs and the way they are like the Dodgers (Skanks of the West Coast)…

    Good W last night and I loved the way the Kid in Broadcast Booth did his 1/2 inning!
    Nice seeing Mr. Alonso along hit that laser into left field 2nd deck signage!

    But another hi-light for me was the interview with Cleon Jones.
    Every time he mentioned Gil Hodges & Tom Seaver, it got me thinking about my 60-years of being a Met fan ad what that 1969 team still means to me.
    So, as always—


  • eric1973

    Mike Piazza had such a rag arm that he couldn’t even throw out Cleon Jones stealing——
    And Cleon is 80!