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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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Jacob deGrom, Mortal After All

It’s a measure of how spoiled we’ve been: Jacob deGrom looks mortal (and for a second start in a row, no less) and we’re all scratching our heads as if God has repealed physics and things are falling up and sticking to ceilings.

DeGrom was better than he was in his confoundingly disastrous Oakland start, and he seemed to find his way in the middle innings, regaining control of the back-foot slider that had been annoyingly AWOL and looking more himself before a blood blister ended his night a little early. (Let’s not worry about that last part until it’s obvious we have to.) But he was still mortal, surrendering consecutive homers to Austin Riley and Matt Olson on pitches left in the middle of the plate, which isn’t a wise strategy against any team and a particularly poor one against an aggressive, powerful lineup like Atlanta’s. (DeGrom surrendered a third homer to Dansby Swanson, but that one was more cap tip than head shake, as it came on a change-up low in the strike zone that Swanson simply went down and got.)

That’s the analysis, but it’s missing the obvious context: Jake was facing the Braves with six games left to go and a division title in the balance, so “seemed to find his way in the middle innings” isn’t the headline. The headline is more like WOE! DOOM! @$#@*$@!!!!

The Mets lost, because deGrom wasn’t immortal and because Tylor Megill made things worse and because their hitters were stymied by Max Fried and a parade of Atlanta relievers. They made a little noise in the ninth, which either made you feel not better enough or added insult to injury, depending on your temperament. They lost and we’re now tied all over again. (It’s been noted before, but once again for posterity: The Mets really, really miss Starling Marte.)

The other storyline of the night was wunderkind Francisco Alvarez being summoned from driving home after Syracuse’s season to take over righty DH duties, with Darin Ruf put on the IL with a neck strain one suspects would prove elusive if investigated by a physician not employed by a baseball team. (Don’t miss Greg’s wonderful curtain-raiser tying Alvarez to another player you’ve heard of.)

I’m always excited to see a Brooklyn Cyclone make the big leagues, but this debut arrived festooned with extra bunting: I was watching Alvarez and fellow Cyclone Brett Baty ply their trade on Coney Island just last year, and they’re still very sharp in my memory. Alvarez in particular struck me when I was watching the Cyclones last summer: He plays with a joyous aggression and swagger that naturally draws your eye to him. (Plus he’s got really fast hands and sends balls a long way.)

Alvarez got frankly undressed in his final at-bat, undone by Kenley Jansen cutters as many, many big leaguers of various tenures have been undone before him. But he looked like he belonged in his other three plate appearances, hitting balls hard though without positive outcomes and in general not seeming overawed by his new surroundings. And there was the sight of his parents in the stands: his Dad beaming but rigid with tension and obviously dying a little inside with every pitch, while his Mom was a portrait of the same emotions expressed in the opposite way, yelling encouragement out of the stands while holding an oversized ballpark can of Miller Lite. The sight of them made me applaud and laugh out loud, feeling lucky to witness a little down payment on all that lies ahead for their son.

The Mets lost a game we really, really didn’t want them to lose, and that was the stuff of muttering. (And a result that stung enough that I wanted to put a night’s sleep between me and it before this recap.) But stay off the well-worn Met fan ledge, folks: Tonight Max Scherzer takes the mound. That would be the same Max Scherzer who would crawl across a mile of broken glass if it were between him and a win, and who knows perfectly well that he was paid an ocean liner full of money to take command of games exactly like tonight’s.

That’s no guarantee of anything — baseball doesn’t work that way — but if I could pick the scenario I want after losing that first game, it would be exactly the one that we’re getting. Trust in Max, keep hope alive, and maybe fortify yourself with an extra Miller Lite.

17 comments to Jacob deGrom, Mortal After All

  • Rudin1113

    I’m not one to offer knee-jerk criticisms of deGrom that are often seen on the less literate Met blogs. But last night I became not only agitated, but frustrated at The Greatest Pitcher of All Time (TM). Not only because the air went out of the game after his second consecutive failure to throw anything close to a shutdown inning (following what was, to be honest, a very fortunate run in the top of the second). But his explanation after the game of his little blood blister re-inforced my suspicion that he may have an issue with pain management, which is exacerbated in a contract year. I know it my heresy to even imply such things, but so be it. Confident that Scherzer will bring it tonight and confirm our pride in the blue and the brown.

    • Eric

      I doubt the blood blister was a pain management issue, but rather the location interfering with his pitching issue. Obviously, the blister would form where deGrom’s finger tip grips the ball.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Buck–again!–managed with an eye to the wild card and not winning the division. 1) Experiments again batting Pete 2nd (with few to drive in given the weakness of bottom of our order) while on that on-base machine but little power Canha bats 4th. 2) Then: Bringing in two worst pitchers, after a day off, with score just 3-1. Remember when he said earlier in year, over and over, he was not taxing relievers but would do so near end of year in pennant race?

    Now, you might say, hey, they only scored two runs so would have lost even if put in Roger Mcdowell and he threw two scoreless innings. The problem with that is imagine top of 9th with it 3-2 and bases loaded. 3) Buck foolishly let Alvarez bat against an all-time great righty, I suppose because he felt he needed a double or HR. That wasn’t even true, but if it’s 3-2, I imagine he hits Vogey and his inclination to take a walk.

    So, an all-around botch job, and that’s even giving Buck the benefit of a doubt on “having” to lift Jake early. But 4) If deGrom had blister problem in previous start why shift him back early last night and not give him another day or two to heal????

    • Jacobs27

      Greg Mitchell, 4) that’s a good question. If they knew he was dealing with this blister thing, why not push him back?

      Seems like it had upside do so, at least from what we know.

  • Jacobs27

    It would have been so nice for former Cyclone Alvarez to come up with a hit somewhere there. He did look impressive in Brooklyn the one time I got to see him.

    I find the aspersions being cast on deGrom by some to represent a very regrettable kind of fandom. But re: Rudin’s point about pain management — I don’t pretend to know, but it seems to me that the bigger issue is whether the blister is interfering with his control/consistency. Blevins was suggesting in the post game that that could be a risk, especially as deGrom was pitching angry.

    I think the Mets are concerned that that blister could impede his effectiveness if it gets worse. A mechanical problem can be corrected — but if the ball is coming off a blister rather than a callous… Well, let’s worry about later as Jason suggests.

    Scherzer has looked very good, so I have faith there. But this Braves line up only needs a couple of mistakes to beat you, as they’ve just shown.

  • eric1973

    I would much rather have had Scherzer start over d@G!*m.

    Because he’s better, that’s why.
    And then he could have gone again on Wednesday if needed.

    After that horrendous performance in Oakland, I figured he had to be injured, and sure enough, he had blisters last time and this time, which he said affected his pitching.


  • Seth

    Did the Mets lose because deGrom wasn’t immortal, or because THOSE Mets showed up last night (the ones that have forgotten how to get men on base)? Scoring 2 runs against the Braves just won’t cut it.

    • Eric

      Both. 2 runs aren’t enough versus the Braves. But deGrom is supposed to be able to make 2 runs stand up versus the Braves, barring bad defense or unusual bad luck. For example, ace Burnes outdueled ace Alcantara yesterday, 1-0, in an equally important game for the Brewers.

  • Bruce From Forest Hills

    I really feel badly for Alvarez. if he can win games for us, then great. But if he can’t, it’s just a reminder that the Mets should have called him up at the trade deadline, and given him a chance to work out his kinks. And since we all said it at the time ….

    But in no way is Alvarez responsible for anything that is happening now.

  • The King

    Bringing up a 20-year-old to play in the biggest game of the season so far, and to hit against one of the best pitchers in the league, was pure desperation. And not hitting for him in the 9th? About as smart as putting in Megill in a critical spot. Everybody in the organization needs to think hard about what they’ll do next (like today).

  • Eric

    The only Showalter move I had a problem with was Megill in the 7th. So far in Megill’s audition for a relief role, he hasn’t shown he’s ready for a high-leverage spot like Showalter gave him yesterday. Megill’s command and control have been mediocre. Stuff hasn’t played up. Worse, his stuff seems worse as a reliever than it was when he started, before he got hurt. It looks like Givens will have a job waiting for him when he’s ready for activation.

    Asked after the game, Showalter responded with bullpen management answers to the effect that (despite the day off yesterday and multiple days off recently) his front-end relievers were unavailable. He generally seems reluctant to use the high-leverage relievers when the Mets are behind, even when the deficit is only 2 runs.

    DeGrom threw a standard quality start of 3 runs allowed over 6 innings, but that standard is for average pitchers (4.50 ERA!) and devoid of context. In context, deGrom immediately surrendered the 1-run lead from the top of the 1st in the bottom of the 1st like he did last game. Then he gave up an insurance run to boot in the 6th.

    DeGrom has now given up HRs and clusters of runs in 4 straight starts. He’s not a staff ace right now, let alone Cy Young-level deGrominant.

    The offense went back to sleep again, but that doesn’t excuse deGrom and Megill. And vice versa.

    I was okay with not pinch-hitting for Alvarez with Vogelbach. If Alvarez is to be lightning in a bottle, let him hit. Jansen’s 1st pitch was the one to hit hard somewhere. After Alvarez fouled it off, he was overmatched in the last 2 strikes. It’s a crash course. Hopefully he’ll better next time out. It’s not like Vogelbach has been a reliable masher. The veterans Lindor and Naquin’s at-bats should have been better.

    I continue to believe the Mets need to win 2 of 3 from the Braves because I don’t believe they’ll sweep the Nationals. So big game tonight, in my mind, division virtually on the line. And win or lose, big(ger) game tomorrow night.

    • Jacobs27

      We’re used to deGrom being nearly perfect, not making big mistakes, minimizing damage and so on. Just a couple of weeks ago it felt jarring to see him to give up any kind of run, although the sixth inning was a consistent blemish.

      I think you’re right, Eric, that the sequence opening the second inning — with pitches down the heart of the plate in hitters’ counts, blowing a lead right away — that’s so far from what we expect of deGrom that, although it’s just two bad pitches, in context, it feels like the man isn’t The Man anymore.

      But the Simple Man, as it were, has been too good for too long and too recently for me to lose faith. I suppose Faith and Frustration is another dual aspect of being a Mets fan.

      • Eric

        My mistake: 2nd inning, not 1st. I conflated the Braves and A’s games.

        We’ve anticipated deGrom pitching in a pennant race and postseason again since 2015 (don’t forget, he was lined up for game 6 in Kansas City), when he showcased both dominance and bulldog, and this is it. But that was a long time ago with a younger pitcher who had some fatigue issues, but not the kind of body breakdown he’s had the last 2 seasons.

        My hope looking ahead to the playoffs is that this downturn is part of deGrom’s rehab curve and he’ll rise back up in the post-season.

  • Eric

    I have a doubt about the line-up adjustment with Alonso out of his customary clean-up spot and batting 2nd. Why not keep Alonso batting 4th and bat McNeil or even Canha 2nd?

  • Jon

    Megill and Rodriguez should not have pitched last night. They shouldn’t pitch at all in the Braves series if the game is at all close.