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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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To Everything a Series

When last we were being clever about Metropolitan math, right around the beginning of this month, the Mets had just taken two out of three from the Dodgers, constituting their 30th series win of the season against 8 series losses and 3 series ties. Up ahead on the schedule were cushions, marshmallows and Milwaukee. Competition was hardly stiff.

Yet somehow the Mets were. That supple offense, good for the timely hit and the invigorating comeback, was lost in the summer wind. The certain something that defined 2022’s savoir faire — its intangible effervescence — suffered a case of the ordinaries. Reservations were made for October, though they seemed almost incidental to the reservations we were gathering about our team throughout September.

Then, just before September boarded a plane for parts definitely hostile and weather potentially treacherous, two beautiful sights crossed our radar.

1) A legit 2022 Met-style victory
2) Our math’s integrity

Winning or at least not losing series remains the thing. It’s been the thing since April found its footing. It’s the thing as September, henceforth to be known as the Month of Eduardo Escobar, moves on. For even as September veered a bit to the blahs, the Mets continued to…to what?

To win or at least not lose series. Not all of them, but a majority of them. Between September 2 and September 28, they played eight series. They won five. They lost two. And they tied one, the one that was most important because it was the most recent. It also, as it dramatically concluded, turned into the sweetest.

The Mets won their final series played fully within the confines of September, 1-1. A tie on paper, a win in the soul. A win because losing both games to the Miami Marlins prior to taking on the Atlanta Braves would have been spiritually if not statistically deadly. But it wouldn’t have looked good in the standings, either.

After Tuesday night, when Pete Alonso hit a three-run homer and nobody else did anything or enough to prevent a loss to the freaking Fish, Wednesday night appeared ticketed for the same general destination. Next stop: Nowheresville. Taijuan Walker, while not terrible, was not untouchable, and this was a night that called for a Met starter to be all but perfect, because the Met batters were all but invisible. As of the seventh-inning stretch, the Mets trailed, 4-0. Down in Washington, the Braves didn’t lead the Nationals, but it could be assumed that status was fleeting. Every Brave highlight aired since June has featured a spry lad decked out in yellow elbow armor whacking a home run versus the Nationals. It could be inferred that every game the Braves play is nothing but some rookie called up from Savannah or Marietta or wherever the Braves cultivate their rookies strapping a protective yellow pad to whichever arm faces the pitcher’s mound and then taking the opposing pitcher deep. And the pitcher is always a National, because that’s the only team the Braves have played since June.

Or so it seems.

The Braves actually weren’t leading the Nationals, but that was barely a sidebar at Citi Field until the bottom of the seventh, when following a Jeff McNeil single, Eduardo Escobar homered. As it happened, Escobar’s blast exploded maybe seconds after Aaron Judge’s in Toronto. I wasn’t caught up in the significance of Judge’s. I do know Escobar’s shook the Mets and their fans out of their collective stupor — and what could be a bigger New York baseball story than that?

With the so-so pitching from Walker and Seth Lugo complete, the Mets’ bullpen got serious. Adam Ottavino set down the Marlins in order in the eighth. Eduardo Escobar, not a pitcher, but if he was, he’d be the one I’d want out there in the late innings these days, tied the game in the home half of the frame, singling in Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso, each of whom (like Mark Canha) had walked. Nobody but one Met was hitting much. The one Met who did the hitting was carrying the team and smiling while doing so.

Has any Met looked any happier on a going basis than Eduardo Escobar? Maybe Brandon Nimmo, that wonderful Wyoming weirdo who came out of the womb grinning and hasn’t been told he can glower if the mood hits him. Escobar has looked a little glum from time to time, in sync with his performance the first five or so months of his Met career. If he wasn’t slumping, he was injured. Yet if given the slightest opening, we’d see him beam. He was on a first-place team, supporting his teammates and they, along with their manager, supported him. I don’t know if I’ve heard a Met as universally talked up by other Mets as I heard everybody vouch for Eduardo Escobar’s warm and winning ways as a human being. The implicit message from everybody was just wait — Eduardo’s a great guy and not at all a bad ballplayer.

It’s a little like what we heard about Edwin Diaz for a couple of years while Edwin the pitcher who we watched unravel defied any kind of faith. Yet Edwin was named National League Reliever of the Month in the three months directly preceding September, and the only thing holding him back from making it four straight is he’s pitched to maybe four batters since August. A few more, actually, but the Mets haven’t been all that involved in close games let alone save situations. Buck Showalter probably would have sent Diaz to the hill in lopsided affairs just for the exercise if he didn’t fear wearing him out “getting his work in” the night before he really, really needed him.

Buck used Edwin in a fairly hopeless cause Tuesday night. Got his work in. Fortunately, that one inning didn’t exhaust him for Wednesday, because Wednesday, Buck really, really needed Edwin to keep the Marlins from swimming back onto the scoreboard in the top of the ninth. Facing three batters and striking each of them out didn’t seem to tire Diaz too badly in his second consecutive night of action.

The bottom of the ninth had Met magic brewing. Tomás Nido walloped a ball over Bryan De La Cruz’s head in center. Anytime a Met catcher doesn’t pop up, it qualifies as a wallop, but this one was really belted, all the way to the ball. Nido trucked into second with one out, and immediately trucked to the dugout in favor of Legs Diamond, a.k.a. Terrance Gore. Gore is practically a free runner in regulation. All the Mets had to do was nudge him slightly toward third and you knew he was gonna score the winning run.

Only problem was Escobar was not due up immediately in the ninth. Despite a walk to Brandon Nimmo that brought up two-hole hitter Pete Alonso with a golden opportunity awaiting the NL RBI leader, Pete struck out. A still shimmering chance sat for Francisco Lindor’s taking. Lindor, alas, popped up like a Met catcher.

We were going to the tenth. We were going to Drew Smith. That used to sound like a good deal. After Wednesday night, it might again. Smith receded from circle of trust to perimeter of shakiness before taking his act to the injured list. His comeback since resuming active duty has been tenuous. In the tenth, however, it was like he never left April. Three up for Drew, three down for Drew.

Could we finally win this in the tenth? Could we finally take advantage of the unlikeliest Washington outcome since the Chicago Tribune reported Harry Truman wouldn’t be taking a second oath of office. Those early-edition BRAVES DEFEAT NATS headlines we printed in our heads proved premature and ultimately inaccurate. The Nats won in ten. Now all the Mets had to do was the same, and they’d regain sole occupancy of first place in the NL East.

Lindor magically appeared on second base before the inning began. Crazy how that keeps happening when games go to extras. Canha, batting cleanup (don’t ya miss the lineup certainty that reigned when Starling Marte’s finger was hale and hearty?) couldn’t get Lindor home, but maybe McNeil could. Except Don Mattingly, entering his final week as Marlin manager, didn’t want to let one of the National League’s leading batters beat him, and intentionally walked Jeff to set up a possible double play. Sound strategy, unless the next batter up is the one guy who’s been killing you since the seventh inning and killing most everybody all month.

Maybe there’s a reason Don Mattingly is entering his final week as Marlin manager. Walking McNeil meant pitching to Escobar. Pitching to Escobar meant Escobar singling to left. Lindor was off and scampering. Perhaps an on-target throw would have nailed Francisco and sort of vindicated Donnie About to Be Out of Baseball. But the throw was wide of home, Lindor scored, Escobar had driven in his fifth run of the game and tthe alone-in-first-place Mets had won, 5-4.

They needed that. They really needed that. Not only so they’d forge a tie in their two-game series. Not only so they’d raise their season’s worth of series record to 35-10-4. Not only so they’d lead the Braves by a game as showdown weekend approaches. They needed a win like this to remind themselves and maybe/definitely us that they can win these types of games. Winning any type of game is splendid, but winning a game from behind, with verve and panache and never saying die is the mark of a team you believe can do anything when everything is on the line. Guess what — everything is on the line. The division title pretty much hangs in the balance this weekend, rainy nights in Georgia pending, and if it’s not settled by Sunday, there’s the matter of the Mets playing the Nationals (who we’ll stop temporarily appreciating) and the Braves playing the Marlins (who we’ll temporarily stop despising) Monday through Wednesday.

What needs to happen in the next six games is what’s happened for most of the past six months. The Mets need to win series. Win at least two out of three from the Braves, and the Mets not only have a slightly larger lead than they have now, but they have that season-series tiebreaker you might have heard about. Then win at least two out of three from the Nationals, and, no matter what the yellow-armored Braves inflict on the Marlins, that lands us a first-round bye and another shipment of t-shirts, this batch identifying the Mets as division champs. There’s some other math that can get us where we want to be — two of three over the Braves would necessitate simply not being swept by the Nats — but why mess with a winning formula? From here on out, just win series. It’s gotten us this far.

Two out of three. Two out of three. Earn a breather.
Three out of five. Four out of seven. Four out of seven.

Do the math. Winning every series that remains can get us as far as we wish to go.

Meanwhile, National League Town is ready to morph into playoff mode. What is playoff mode? Listen here and find out.

18 comments to To Everything a Series

  • BlackCountryMet

    The BEST news to wake up to here in the UK!

  • Curt Emanuel

    “Do the math. Winning every series that remains can get us as far as we wish to go.”

    What a great statement. I want to gripe about moving a guy competing for the league batting title to 5th instead of 2nd like he should except for one glorious night he set the table for some dude who’s competing for the NL triple crown, September version. Maybe Buck’s just psychic or something.

    Looking forward to the Sunday tripleheader. Though right now the Atlanta forecast doesn’t look that bad.

  • Gil Reich

    Great piece. But if the Mets win 2 of 3 from the Braves then only 1 of 3 from the Nats will suffice.

    • From above:

      There’s some other math that can get us where we want to be — two of three over the Braves would necessitate simply not being swept by the Nats — but why mess with a winning formula?

      Let’s not get out of the winning-series habit.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    100 Years ago I used to feel that in a must-win game, I’d rather see Koosman than Seaver out there.

    In 2022, I hate to say it, but Alonso is probably the 3rd or 4th person on this team I’d want to see at the plate in a late-inning crucial situation. MVP’s don’t swing at Ball Four and Ball Five in the 8th inning of a tie game with no outs and two runners on base.


    • Curt Emanuel

      There was a lot of talk early in the year when Alonso was batting close to .290 about how he had cut down his chase rate and made pitchers throw strikes. That seems to have gone away. It’ll really be a problem in the playoffs with better pitchers. I guess wearing a Golden Sombrero doesn’t hurt as much in a win.

    • mikeL

      pete had me cussing at the tv on that swing – as he has so much of late. lindor too has been un-clutch his share of times.
      we are all lucky escobar has saved his best moments for this month or we’d be scoreboard watching to see who the mets would be playing in the best of three.
      i like the math, it works. but the optimist in me would just as soon see a sweep in atlanta and get it done with. in their building.
      failing that, said math.
      and quake! ye slumbering bats

  • Greg Mitchell

    Yes, to everything there is a series, but they also have to turn, turn, turn a few double plays. Also find a time to build up and not break down–a time to reap, to laugh, to dance–a time we can embrace. Now THERE is a season.

  • .340 in ‘69

    Another great thing about Escobar’s game last night was how he intelligently beat the shift on his two singles, and how that shows the “non-need” for MLB to ban the shift next year. All year, guys like Nimmo, McNeil, and even Lindor, have pretty regularly beat the shift. That hitting approach is a big reason the Mets are in 1st, often keeping the line moving. Escobar’s game-winner revealed a professional hitter inside-outing a tight pitch to put it in a gaping hole left by the defense’s positioning. Great stuff! So MLB should let teams shift if they want. Hitters should (and will) learn to attack it properly, especially in the moments it makes the most sense to try to. That’s part of what makes baseball so entertaining: The plan; and the execution to accomplish/beat the plan.

  • dmg

    i for one would not be averse to being 4 games up with 3 to play.

    last night was huge – the park, which was uneasy then turned grumpy as the game progressed, came to its feet in the 7th and the positive intensity rarely dimmed. i wanted lindor to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but that was a momentary lack of appreciation for the poetry of escobar’s evening – and francisco scoring the winning run in the tenth on a fairly close play suffices.

    leaving the park it felt like the team had renewed its vows and we 28,228, we happy 28,228 (well, diminished by those who left after the ninth), had served as witnesses.

  • Putting together a show and a happy recap in the hours after midnight is good work. Great win! Great podcast! Great Caesar’s Ghost! Has another season come and almost gone without taking in a few innings with you in the Big Citi? If you are at the last game next Wednesday against the surprising Nationals, give a shout and we can say hello at the bridge in the fifth or some other inning.

  • Eric

    I’m hard pressed to recall a ‘F*#k it, I’ll do it myself’ performance from a Mets hitter like Escobar’s game last night.

    For all his 40 HRs and eye-popping 131 RBIs, Alonso’s bad strikeout in the 9th inning speaks of nerves in the big moment that make me nervous he’ll strike out wildly or uncork a game 5 Duda-like throw at the worst time in the playoffs.

    Nido almost preempted Escobar to win the game in the 9th. He has to be the number-one catcher now, right?

    I want Guillorme’s glove on the field, but he has to hit or, more to the point, get on base better, more like his early-season hot streak.

    I wondered if Diaz would pitch the 10th inning, too. That he didn’t come back out plus the off day today makes me suspect that Showalter is prepared to use Diaz all 3 games of the Braves series.

    With the exhilarating game gained on the Braves, I still believe the Mets need to win 2 of 3 from the Braves because I don’t believe the Mets will break from their season MO to sweep the Nationals who’ve picked games off of both the Braves and Mets this month.

    Win 2 from the Braves and the Mets only need to win 1 against the Nationals to beat a Braves sweep of the Marlins.

    But lose 2 to the Braves and the Mets will be tied in the standings. If the Mets then stay true to form and win 2 of 3 from the Nationals and the Braves sweep the Marlins, the tiebreaker won’t stop the Braves from winning the division.

    A sweep either way is too optimistic or too awful a thought.

    Thank you to Josiah Gray and the baby-faced CJ Abrams. That was not a bad pitch by Stephens. It maybe caught more plate than intended, but the pitch was sharp and down. Abrams easily could have swung over it for strike 3. Forewarned that what Gray, Abrams, and the Nationals did to spoil the Braves last night (and the Mets earlier this month) they can do to the Mets in the season-ending series.

  • Seth

    It wasn’t a terrible decision by Donnie — he was playing the odds and figuring Escobar had already driven in all 4 runs and wouldn’t likely get another. Oops…

  • Michael Melzer

    Also, there was only one out, so if they got McNeil they’d still have to face Escobar with the winning run in scoring position. This way the double play is possible and Escobar has hit into his share this season.

  • eric1973

    They always said the NY fans were the most knowledgeable fans in baseball, and that still holds true.

    The reason there are only 28,000 fans in the stands when the Mets and Braves are tied for first, is you cannot fool us with a bogus pennant race. Both teams are in the playoffs, and the difference between rest and rust is too small to care about.

    However, it is still very exciting and I wanted to hang Pete by his toupee when he struck out in the 9th.

    If there were no WC, there would have been 54,817 fans jammed into that little league park on a nightly basis, just like at Shea whenever there was a true pennant race.

    Hey Matt, I loved your book about the 1973 Mets, but in your other book, you glossed over David Wright’s at-bat in 2008 when he struck out on 3 pitches a foot out of the strike zone, with Murphy on 3B and less than 2 out.

  • Eric

    It’s fun watching the season W-L climb the list of the Mets’ best seasons. 98 wins climb over 1999 and 2006 and tie 1985 for 4th on the list. Next up, 1969 and 1988 at 100 wins.

  • SNJ

    Alonso and Lindor had poor at bats last night in big situations, but the suggestion that this reflects a general lack of timely hitting on their part is inaccurate. Lindor is 4th among NL hitters in Win Probability Added. Alonso is 9th. That’s out of 131 players with at least 300 PAs. Those two have done more than their share of timely hitting this year.

    It is also an odd time to be lamenting Alonso’s plate discipline or response to pressure. In his last 10 games, Alonso has 5 HRs, 3 2Bs, a .370 OBP and and a 17% K rate. He also hit a 3-run blast the prior night to get the Mets back in the game.

    But hey, what have you done for me lately?

  • Michael in CT

    Alonso has had an historically great season. But baseball can make anyone look bad in a given situation. The Mets are not where they are without him and Lindor.