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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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Grab All the Extra Bases You Can

Angel Hernandez, a master of ruining endings of baseball games, was ready to roll early Sunday afternoon, out to ruin a baseball game that had barely begun. It took him all of five pitches to pull a Sparky Lyle by dropping trou and planting his bare bottom on the Mets-Marlins finale birthday cake. Brandon Nimmo, batting leadoff, lashed a ball into the left field corner. See Brandon run! Run, Brandon, run! Brandon ran all the way to third for a triple to set the Mets in motion toward a fruitful first inning.

Wait a sec, signaled Angel Hernandez from about as far away as an umpire could stand from the inflection point of a play. That ball Nimmo hit got stuck under the fence, hence that’s a ground rule double, meaning Brandon would have to trot in reverse, lose ninety feet from his journey and stand on second.

That happens sometimes in a game, a ball being inaccessible to an outfielder because of the physical imperfections of barriers and whatnot. Thing is, Brandon’s ball didn’t get stuck under anything. It traveled as far as it could and sat where it landed. No Marlin threw two hands in the air. No Marlin projected helplessness. No ball was stuck.

Angel saw it differently. Angel sees many things differently in the course of a baseball game. This time he opted to set the baseball game off course from its first batter. Replays showed Angel was misguided. Chatter with his fellow umpires couldn’t budge him. Educational efforts from the walking rule book Buck Showalter didn’t persuade him. An official Met challenge didn’t change anything; I believe the ruling from the replay crew in New York was, Oh, that’s just Angel being Angel.

Nimmo on second rather than third. And though the Mets might not have driven in a Nimmo hypothetically taking a lead off third in the first, they surely didn’t drive him in from second. Mets nothing, Marlins coming to bat, the Angel of Aloof Incompetence with one more innocent baseball game in his nefarious clutches.

If the Mets of September 2022 were the Mets of September 2022 we’ve reflexively considered them when things haven’t broken their way, Angel Hernandez’s miscall might have broken them. We would have had only the satisfaction of Max Scherzer earning ejection from the dugout for giving Angel an earful. Scherzer standing up for all that is correct is fun, but it’s small solace if a game is going to turn on a triple being reduced to a double and leading to a zero.

Ah, but the Mets of September 2022 are roughly the same outfit that has presented itself through all of 2022, which is to say a different fit from other Septembers and other years when adversity would have hung a crooked number on the scoreboard against them in the wake of an Angel Hernandez error of judgment and procedure. These Mets, now in their recordbreaking sixth month of thrilling audiences from coast to coast (or East Side to West Side at least), didn’t fume. They caught fire.

We lost a base to Angel Hernandez? We got it back and then some. Brandon Nimmo got a whole bunch of bases as Sunday progressed. In the second, with two on and two out, Brandon blasted a three-run homer. Hernandez didn’t find a fan interfering after or detect a timeout call before Jesus Luzardo delivered the pitch Nimmo whacked. Nope, it was a genuine three-run homer. Brandon was now only a single and an Angel short of the cycle.

Nimmo didn’t get that far on Sunday, but he kept making up for what Hernandez took away. He walked in the fourth, part of building another Met run. He batted on the heels of a two-run Tomás Nido double in the fifth, working out another walk during a plate appearance highlighted by Nido moving up to third on a wild pitch. This meant second base was unoccupied, which hasn’t meant much to Brandon standing on first all year, but this was a day for Nimmo and the Mets to add base upon base to their ledger, a sharp strategy considering they’d been deducted a base they’d earned to start the game.

Brandon Nimmo stole second. It was his first stolen base of 2022. It is September. Brandon Nimmo bats leadoff virtually every day. Brandon Nimmo is not slow. Yet Brandon Nimmo doesn’t attempt to steal. But having witnessed how effective Angel Hernandez was at snatching something that shouldn’t have been his to take away, Nimmo perhaps adjusted his values system.

Total bases aren’t calculated this way, but that so-called ground rule double, the home run, the two walks and the stolen base…that sums to a total of too many bases for even Angel Hernandez to reduce to nothing. The rest of the Mets were inspired, too. You may have noticed that bit about Nido doubling in two runs. Hold on to your facemask, because Nido also homered. Nido homers about as often as Nimmo steals. A more likely candidate to go deep, certainly in recent weeks, Eduardo Escobar, chipped in a homer as well. Escobar spent most of 2022 replicating 1985 third baseman Ray Knight (.218 and a candidate for release the following Spring). Then he went on the IL, came off it and turned into 1986 third baseman Ray Knight (.298, The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year and MVP in the World Series). Given his switch-hitting abilities, maybe he’ll be slugging like 1987 third baseman Howard Johnson by next year (even if he steals less often than Nimmo).

Offense wasn’t a problem for the Mets on Sunday. All the bases piled up to nine runs. Starting pitching also wasn’t a problem. Taijuan Walker, for whom second halves have been his own Angel Hernandez (which is to say a pox on competitive baseball), righted himself to the tune of seven one-run innings, one of the catchiest tunes you’ve ever heard. Only Brian Anderson was a thorn for both Taijuan and Seth Lugo. Anderson homered off each of them, driving in all three Marlin runs. If you’re pinpricked by only one Marlin in the course of nine innings, you’re having a very good day.

The Mets’ Sunday was grand enough with the 9-3 win in their pocket, but it got a lot better later when our temporary favorite American League team the Seattle Mariners held off the Atlanta Braves, 8-7. It wasn’t really a “held off” situation. The M’s were up, 6-2, heading to the ninth, which was the last time I checked. I wasn’t following closely — I hesitate to watch or listen to games in which I’m more interested in who I want to lose than who I want to win (karma’s my program guide) — so imagine my surprise when I digested that final score. The Braves scored five in the ninth, which meant they went ahead in a game that seemed, to the extent that “seemed” carries any weight, settled.

Settle this, said the Braves. But unsettle this, the Mariners answered. Atlanta’s raucous comeback to 7-6 was obliterated by two homers off Kenley Jansen, one from wunderkind Julio Rodriguez, the next from Cincinnati expatriate Eugenio Suarez. I watched the highlight of the latter. I whooped as if I didn’t know what it contained.

After the angst of the Mets’ brief sag into second place, they are first in the East again, an entire game-and-a-half ahead of the Braves. They’ve won their last two series. Had they captured one of the two games they lost against the Nationals last weekend, we’d be talking about a team that relentlessly keeps winning series. Instead, they made the mistake of briefly faltering and we all more or less decided they were cooked. Maybe they were just on a low simmer. September has a way of turning up the heat on all of us. Nobody’s judgment is flawless this time of year.

Just ask anybody who’s watched Angel Hernandez in action.

7 comments to Grab All the Extra Bases You Can

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Wait until next year when Angel Hernandez has to rule on pitch clock violations or an infielder being positioned improperly. Oy!!! Thankfully, Joe West is retired.

  • Bob

    Many years ago, at 2006 Spring Training @ Pt. St.Semi-Lucid, I had great field level seats right by 3rd base dugout a few rows from from field.
    During game, the 3rd base ump blew a call and I yelled at him-“Hey ump, want me to get your seeing eye dog so we can find your glasses?”
    Ump looked at me, pointed & smiled..
    Seems I was also sitting next to TV camera–was ESPN game and Cliff Floyd hit HR for Mets and I stood and cheered Mr. Floyd.
    When I got back to LA, I had 1 pal who had the game on DVD and he said–hey Mookie (my nickname)–look who was on TV–and there I was yelling “Let’s Go Mets…” as Cliff Floyd circled bases!
    This particular ump-Angel Hernandez is beyond a seeing eye dog, I fear!
    So–Let’s Go Mets!

  • Curt Emanuel

    Good old Angel. How some people stay employed . . .

    Each year I keep something of a mental tally of Mets “shoulda won” vs “shoulda lost” games. Not seeing most games I have to go by box scores. I don’t jot these down or anything but my impression is that, unlike most seasons, this year’s balance is tilted toward the latter. We just seem to do well in late games.

    Which brings me to Atlanta’s Achilles Heel. Kenley Jansen. Team has a great lineup and strong starting pitching. But their closer leaves a lot to be desired. Glad to see them getting a taste of what we endured in 2007 & 2008.

    I did track their game yesterday. Not closely. But doing other things and updated the gamecast from time to time. The last three updates I saw were 6-2 at the end of 8, 7-6 in the middle of the 9th – must’ve been a long half inning. Then sometime later the final.

    Good day and if I were a Braves fan, a shoulda won sort of game. Yes, if they’d won it would have been a shoulda lost but as a fan, giving the ball to your closer with a lead for a 3-out save = shoulda won. Yup, a good day.

    • Dave R.

      How about another mental tally: Coulda won but the manager punted the game away. With 21 games remaining, maybe it’s time for Showalter (and whomever else is in charge of these decisions) to reconsider their unwritten rule about not bringing in the top relievers when they’re losing in late innings. I count three games in the last week (one each against Miami, Washington and Pittsburgh) that were still winnable when Showalter brought in the back end of his bullpen and no longer winnable afterward. Oddly, Showalter is guilty of overusing his position players and underusing his bullpen.

  • mikeL

    quite the sunday. excellent mets win, riveting US open men’s finals holding down the home field action til the mets return, and at same time that braves comeback undone, all followed via gameday and text messages when it was ok to take my eyes from the tennis.

    one question for anyone who watched the bottom of 9th in seattle: did janssen point pop-fly-upwards for either of those homers? ;0)

    1.5 feels good and ripe for growth!

  • Eric

    The Nationals have played other playoff-bound teams tough since beating the Mets.

    Braves are scary. They came back on an elite Mariners bullpen with the back half of their line-up. Still, the Mariners comeback shows the Braves don’t have all the destiny.

    Now it’s up to Flores and Davis to help out.

  • Eric

    Strong starts by Carrasco and Walker were a relief. Important for the home stretch and one or both will be making playoff starts outside the wildcard round.