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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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Unwanted Callback

Periodically this season the 2022 Mets have evoked statistical or emotional comparisons to some of their greatest years. On Tuesday night, the 2022 Mets welcomed our memories to 2018. You remember what would happen in 2018: Jacob deGrom would pitch very well and too much would go wrong otherwise to make anything of it. On nights deGrom didn’t pitch, most everything would go wrong. The only 2018 element missing Tuesday was Mickey Callaway (reportedly) sending lewd texts, at least from Citi Field.

By September of 2018, the Mets, elevated by the callup of minor league slasher Jeff McNeil, were playing a little better. It was too late to boost them into a playoff race, but it gave us a little something to look forward to for 2019. Of course the way contemporary offseasons go, the 2019 team looked different from 2018 and the flow of events washed over the minutia of what quickly became “last season” and then became long ago. Come to think of it, maybe you don’t remember what would happen in 2018.

Me, I got a serious 2018 vibe out of the 2022 Mets on Tuesday night. The 2018 Mets were a 77-85 disaster, and that was with the aforementioned strong finish (18-10) and historically dominant start (11-1, when we were convinced Callaway was a paragon of clean living and managerial brilliance). That was also with deGrom in his Super Cy Young mode, whittling his ERA lower and lower every start, rarely getting the win to go with it, which made his performance pop even further. Jake gave up nothing every fifth day and got nothing from his team except their gratitude for allowing them to dress in the same clubhouse as him. Since the stakes for the Mets as a whole were nonexistent, we could marvel at Jake, gnash our teeth at the offense that took his starts off and feel certain that a 10-game winner absolutely deserved every honor in the books.

More innocent times, huh?

The Mets of September 2022 have thus far not lived up to the Mets of September 2018. The Jacob deGrom of September 2022 has been through the physical wringer the last couple of years, but still gives the Mets transcendent innings in bunches. Maybe there’ll be a hiccup in the form of an opposition home run, but otherwise he strikes out more batters than ever and never, ever doesn’t keep his team in the game. On Tuesday night, he did what he’s done for 39 starts in a row dating back to September 2019: he gave up no more than three earned runs, tying a record nobody knew existed. In 1913 and 1914, Jim Scott of the White Sox went 39 consecutive starts giving up no more than three earned runs in any of them. I’ll confess to never knowing Jim Scott existed until it was disseminated what milestone Jake was on the cusp of reaching. The season that encompassed most of Scott’s streak, 1913, saw Jim win 20 games and post an ERA of 1.90, the latter mark in league with Jake’s 1.70 from 2018. He also lost 21 for those White Sox, indicating that maybe the Pale Hose supported him about as well as Jake’s mates have habitually come to his offensive aid. (The 1913 Sox were managed by a man named Callahan, rather than Callaway, and won 78 games rather than 77; I’m leaving that rabbit hole now.)

Some slice of history is always being wrapped up for at-home consumption where Jacob deGrom’s pitching is concerned. One hopes he will make the greatest kind of history in October 2022. The Mets will get there. Barring a prorated replay of June 2018 the rest of the way (5-21), they’re in. At the moment, they’re still a first-place club, no matter what they’ve looked like about as many nights as not since August ended.

The problem Tuesday night wasn’t merely that the solo home run Jake surrendered to Ian Happ leading off the visitors’ second nor that the Mets didn’t answer the Cubs with a single run until the ninth when Pete Alonso went deep. The “they never score for Jake” plaint is baked into every deGrom start. At this point it’s more urban myth than fact of life. In his last start, the Mets scored ten runs. If this had been a simple episode of run starvation for The Ace, well, that wouldn’t have been groovy, either, but you deal with those.

No, this was a crummy game that went sideways from the bottom of the first and never hinted it would get back on track. There were a lot of those in 2018. Other years, too, but ’18 is where my mind went. Brandon Nimmo managing to get himself hit between first and second by a hot McNeil shot ticketed for right field was both an omen and a boner (the way we used to use that phrase before the age of Mickey Callaway). Pete Alonso’s massive would-be home run that refused to hit the fair pole — Warner Wolf knew what to call it — spoke more volumes than we needed to hear. Alonso rounding the bases on a ball that had been called foul what just weird. So was whatever jawing Pete engaged in with Cubs starter Adrian Sampson. The half-inning would have continued on the hard-to-handle dribbler Daniel Vogelbach produced…had anybody in the world besides Vogelbach been chugging to first base. Wilson Ramos, a.k.a. the Buffalo, would have stampeded that into a base hit. Instead, Vogey was out, the first was done and, though you wouldn’t have necessarily given PointsKing or DraftBet or whoever sponsors all the gambling Rob Manfred welcomes your money on it, so was the Mets’ best chance to tally meaningful runs.

We move ahead in the action to the top of the fourth, as the SNY voiceover might put it in the condensed version of the game they air at dawn. This was the half-inning where it got all 2018 up in here. Two are on. Nobody is out. Michael Hermosillo, taking over a plate appearance for a bunting Rafael Ortega (hit in the act of bunting), lays down a sacrifice. James McCann leaps on it and fires to Alonso. Alonso never gets the ball because Hermosillo transforms himself into a moving obstacle, sprinting on grass and nothing but grass, and McCann’s throw bounces off the runner’s helmet. That’s interference to the naked eye, the educated eye of Buck Showalter and everybody blessed with a working eye. Umpire Laz Diaz judges otherwise. Somewhere Nancy Faust tickles the organ to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”.

And with that tear in the Jake-Time Continuum, the Cubs pour on as much as a team can possibly pour on Jake, which is to say two more earned runs, one on a sacrifice fly to McNeil in right (where he doesn’t usually play; he didn’t throw home) and one on another bunt that Alonso didn’t shovel with optimal aim and alacrity to McCann. The Mets were down, 3-0. It felt like they were losing by 2018.

Jacob straightened up and flew right to end the fourth before obliterating the Cubs in the fifth and sixth. Once he had thrown his almost 100 pitches, he had recorded 10 strikeouts, giving up nothing else along the way. But the way was irreparably wayward. Seth Lugo allowed a line drive that carried over the over the right-center field fence to David Bote (Nimmo seemed as surprised as anybody that it wasn’t in his glove) to make it 4-0 in the seventh. Pete’s solo blast in the ninth dressed only the tiniest section of the smallest window. The Mets lost with neither punch nor luck on their side, 4-1, accounting for their sixth loss in their last ten games, all of which have been played versus second- and perhaps third-division teams. The Braves would down the Giants on the West Coast while New Yorkers nodded off, reducing the Mets’ East lead to a half-game, the divisional equivalent of Jake’s ERA four years ago. The Ace’s earned run average is pretty stellar now, actually (2.01 after eight starts), as is the Mets record despite the September sag (35 over .500). But when you make an unscheduled stop in the unmissed past, nothing amid the Metscape looks particularly appealing.

11 comments to Unwanted Callback

  • Eric

    Can’t fairly ask more from the rest of MLB than 3 straight losses for the Braves, yet the Mets are tied in the loss column again.

    The Mets top 2 current starters being beat at home by the Cubs is jarring. That could happen in the wildcard round, too, where the threat of a 3-game sweep like the Mets are facing tonight would be moot.

    The Cubs’ 2nd and 3rd runs reminded me of the Mets that sacrificed defense for offense but then allowed extra scores while the Mets RISP LOB’ed.

    Marte is missed on offense and defense. I’m afraid his finger injury will handicap him when he does return and maybe the rest of the way.

    Give Vientos more play at DH. 0 for 6 so far, but he’s made some solid contact. How is it that the Braves rookies come up raking but the Mets’ elite hitting prospects struggle out of the gate?

    Right now we’re looking ahead to rooting for the Phillies to beat the Braves. But if the Cubs series loss repeats in the Pirates series, we may need to start worrying about the Mets’ hold on the 1st wildcard, too.

    100 wins seemed all but assured, but that’s looking shaky now, too.

  • Seth

    I can’t even imagine what these guys are feeling right now. But my biggest fear is that they just don’t have enough gas to make it through a tough pennant race and postseason. I hope they show us something different — there are still 2 weeks left and a lot can happen.

  • eric1973

    Yes, it appeared that the runner ran inside the baseline. Gary Cohen said it was obvious to everyone —- except Gary Cohen, who blew the call, saying Pete dropped the ball.

    Maybe he should just stick to unfunny jokes about Patrick Wisdom and that guy named Siri.

  • mikeL

    thanks greg for clarifying the depressing baseball experience i – and presumably the vast majority of my mets-fan-peers.
    it has felt too much like 07 in slow-mo, and minus all pf the contrasting footage from a raucous, sold-out CBP while shea was damp and dour and empty.
    funny you mention the ever-aggravating gambling sites.
    i can only wonder if we’ll find out years from now that there’s been a fix to meddle with the oddsmaking with these absolutely inexplicably horrible calls of late,
    last night’s even worse than the nimmo triple>double.
    of course these mets are sucking without any meddling but we know that a team’s fortunes (or season) can hinge on a single play.
    1/2 game is now a game half-empty as what promised to be a stretch of lead-building is going in reverse.

    and yes eric, if the cubs can take two at home…ugh!

    • Bob

      Sadly, I (a Met fan for 60 years) agree completely.
      Awful memories of the way the 1998 & 2007, 2008… seasons ended are creeping into my mind again…

      BUT–Let’s Go Mets!

      • mikeL

        …i also can’t forget that oh-so-sudden crashing down of 2016 – since we’re now talking about wild cards.

        after mostly surviving the league leading HBP’s the loss off marte may prove too much! i hope he’s healing fast!

        was almost hoping for a bench clearing scrum after pete’s almost homer / ensuing words in anger.
        just to see if the mets still had a pulse!

  • Eric

    One more point with an eye towards the post-season: 96. When is deGrom going to pass the 100 pitch benchmark?

  • Jacobs27

    A brutally frustrating game, but I’d like to take a moment to appreciate this gem: “Pete’s solo blast in the ninth dressed only the tiniest section of the smallest window.” What we come to FAFIF for.