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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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Fatalism Takes a Holiday

According to mathematics from whichever grade I learned percentages, three is fifty percent greater than two. According to how I felt waking up this morning to the knowledge the Mets would have a Game Three in the Wild Card Series versus how I felt yesterday morning when Game Two loomed as the conclusion to our 2022 postseason, three is exponentially greater than two. To quote Tom Seaver to Lindsey Nelson following the Mets winning the fifth game of the 1969 World Series, it’s the greatest feeling in the world!

Being alive will feel that way when the abyss stares at you from a distance of 27 outs.

Rather than concluding, the Mets continued on Saturday night, hanging inning for inning with the formidable San Diego Padres until putting together an inning that separated the sudden rivals once and for all for an evening and reminded viewers and listeners that not only did the Mets lose 61 games this regular season, they won 101. In the bottom of the seventh, with the Mets leading by an inadequate 3-2, two Padres pitchers threw fifty pitches to nine Mets hitters, the end result being four additional Met runs. It took about 45 minutes, which I might not have been aware of had ESPN not posted a graphic and Howie Rose (seconds ahead of the television, appropriate since the broadcasting acumen of Mets radio is light years ahead of national interlopers) not righteously kvetched about the pace of game slowing to a crawl.

Pace of game, brought to you by PitchCom Molasses. PitchCom Molasses: for when your next pitch absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. Spread it all over a reliever holding his cap close to his head in hopes of someday finding out what his catcher wants him to deliver next.

It was a little messy for the Padres’ Adrian Morejón in the Mets’ seventh, what with PitchCom maybe not functioning as Rob Manfred envisioned and the Citi Field crowd gleefully interjecting aural interference, but a San Diego mess is a New York blessing. Following Friday night’s deprivation of runs, good fortune and anything resembling Mojo, we’d take everything we could get. We’d take a Series-saving 7-3 victory, however it was pieced together, regardless that it required four hours and thirteen minutes. We’d take an on-ramp to Game Three, the new must-win segment of this portion of the playoffs. We just want to get out of Dayton.

Dayton? Dayton’s where the NCAA plays its “First Four,” determining how college basketball whittles its Field of 68 to a more numerically pleasing Field of 64. I’ve had my alma mater go to Dayton and survive. They were a real NCAA participant once in Dayton, but they were really in the Big Dance once they got out of Dayton.

The Mets need to get out of Dayton tonight. They need to book that flight to Los Angeles they anticipated the minute they got coy about who was gonna pitch Game Two, acting as if it would be dependent on what happened in Game One. In Game One, Max Scherzer got shelled. In Game Two, they turned to Jacob deGrom, definitively depriving themselves of the ideal starter for Game One of the Division Series, but granting themselves the best chance they had to make their flight.

Prior to Game One, I dealt with the usual postseason emotions (“usual” a questionable word to use when your team usually absents itself from the postseason altogether) of not being able to deal with the idea that two wrong moves would eliminate the Mets from the playoffs before the playoffs really got going. After Game One, I evolved quickly to philosophical about early rounds of playoffs bouncing out of your hands, something I’ve had drilled into me as a Nets fan, and life going on regardless, perhaps giving in a bit to the most vexing of the Four Horsemen of the Metpocalypse: Fatalism. I’d successfully averted the entreaties of the other three: Skepticism, Pessimism and Cynicism. I was particularly proud of dodging Cynicism. My contribution to the Game One Mets Social Media Discourse — always a pleasant arena for calm, reasoned chat — was pointing out to anybody who would listen that five times the Mets had lost Game One of a postseason series before rebounding to win that series. Some took heart in that historical nugget. Others, donning the dark, menacing mask of Cynicism, couldn’t wait to advise me that none of those situations involved a best two-out-of-three scenario.

“WHAT, YOU DON’T THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT, YOU METSIE COME LATELY CYNICAL FOR A BRAND PUNK? I’VE GIVEN MY LAST 54 SUMMERS TO LOVING AND UNDERSTANDING THIS TEAM AND KNOW MORE ABOUT THEM IN MY LITTLE FINGER THAN YOU WILL IN YOUR ENTIRE BODY EVEN IF YOU LIVE AN ETERNITY AND SOMEONE BEQUEATHES YOU AN ENTIRE BASEBALL LIBRARY OF METS MEDIA GUIDES DATING BACK TO 1962!” is not what I typed to the Reply Guys I didn’t know from a tweet in the wall. Instead, I calmly retorted that in four of the five series I referenced (1969 World Series, 1973 National League Championship Series, 1986 National League Championship Series and 2000 National League Division Series), the Mets who’d fallen behind 0-1 took a 2-1 lead (in the 1986 World Series, we needed to come back from 0-2). Once I’d repeated this about a dozen times, I blocked a few people and muted the entire conversation.

Such is the price of attempting to avert Fatalism.

Despite my if you’ll excuse the expression brave front, I wasn’t certain the Mets would continue on from their Game One debacle to see a Game Three. I just knew that Game Two hadn’t been played yet. You didn’t need a master’s degree in Metropolitan Studies to divine that much. I’m frankly amazed by the Mets fan state of mind as it stands after sixty-one years, particularly the sixty-first. If the Mets are ahead, don’t act as if they’ve won anything (agreed). If the Mets are behind, they’re automatically doomed (get bent, you fatalistic prick). I’m not interested in the defense mechanisms you claim to have erected against potentially impending disappointment or the scars you bear from seven up with seventeen to play or Beltran taking strike three or Scioscia going yard or Yogi not pitching Stone. You think I don’t have them? You think I don’t feel them as deeply as you do? I’m not even saying You Gotta Believe it’s a sure thing the Mets will come back. I’m saying You Gotta Believe that It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over, particularly before it’s barely begun.

Here’s another historical nugget: all teams are 0-0 in games yet to be played. The Mets hadn’t played Game Two. The company with the ads with the guy on the toilet placing bets (which is our new household euphemism for having to excuse ourselves to the water closet) could take those chances to the app and let it ride.

DeGrom let it ride in the first inning Saturday night at Citi Field, throwing with everything he had and smothering the Padres as he smothered most comers between 2018 and his first several starts of 2022. Along the way, he dipped in and out of trouble, giving up a pair of runs, one on a solo homer to Trent Grisham in the third, one when Grisham walked, took second on a bunt and zipped home on Jurickson Profar’s single in the fifth. In both cases, however, Jake’s dabble with mortality proved nothing close to toxic, as the Mets had given Jake a run before he gave up that first run — Francisco Lindor homered with nobody on in the first — and a second before he gave up that second — Brandon Nimmo singling home Eduardo Escobar. The Mets were leaving too many runners on base, but they also kept getting runners on base, which isn’t a note I picked from the Pollyanna Broadcasting System. Unlike the night before, when the Mets put their bats back in their racks after a couple of innings of not quite getting to Yu Darvish, they kept coming after Blake Snell. Snell wasn’t overwhelming them and it didn’t appear he was going to outlast them.

DeGrom himself lasted six. He’d ceased overpowering Padres like he had in the first, relying more on sliders than fastballs as he went along, but he appeared back in full Jake mode as he brought his night’s work home, striking out Manny Machado and Josh Bell to end the fifth and dismissing his final three batters with ease in the sixth. In his first Citi Field postseason start, Jacob departed in position to be the winning pitcher, thanks not only to his 99 pitches of overall effectiveness but to Pete Alonso providing him a third run on a massive leadoff homer to commence the bottom of the fifth.

The Mets never score for deGrom.
The Mets mostly lose deGrom’s starts.
DeGrom isn’t really deGrom anymore.

Be gone, Metpocalyptic horsemen!

DeGrom won’t be available for Game One of the NLDS should there be a Game One of the NLDS. That one I’ll concede. DeGrom will never pitch for the Mets again. That remains to be seen. The opt-out is out there. Jake’s been the greatest pitcher in the world for a long time while wearing No. 48, but this offseason he’ll be looking out for No. 1, and I don’t mean Jeff McNeil. The balance between never wanting to see Jake in any uniform but the Mets variety and figuring out his future value past his current age of 34 (he’s older now than David Wright was in the 2015 postseason, and David Wright in the 2015 postseason seemed positively venerable) is a balance to be struck when there’s no more Mets baseball to be played in 2022. At least a few innings remained when Jake exited after six in Game Two. At least nine more remain as of this moment. Maybe more than nine after tonight.

Edwin Diaz came on in the seventh, a little ahead of schedule. Whatever spectacular playoff flourishes the Citi Field A/V staff planned for Edwin’s entrance in the postseason had to be deferred because the grounds crew was on the field tidyiing up the dirt along the basepaths. That’s the postseason for you. Diaz came on when he needed to come on, with an eye toward protecting a one-run lead with the most dangerous elements of the San Diego order up around the bend. The inning to close this game was not the ninth or the eighth. It was the seventh.

Four batters, two putouts at first around a single off the shortstop’s glove and then a 1-3 assist to retire Juan Soto may not have been as sexy as three straight strikeouts with trumpets blaring and lights flashing, but boy did it get the job done. Edwin Diaz posted his save right there, no matter what you read in the box score.

Then, in the bottom of the seventh, the Met offense went about protecting their lead, saving their game and persevering their postseason a whole lot more. It was an inning you recognized from any given game between April and the better parts of September. It was the Mets working the bleep out of counts. It was Alonso seeing ten pitches before taking a walk with Lindor already on second, it was Mark Canha taking ten pitches before taking a walk to load the bases and, most deliciously, it was batting champion Jeff McNeil doing what batting champions do and doubling in Lindor and Alonso. Maybe Morejón couldn’t hear Austin Nola’s signals in PitchCom, but the Padres could certainly see what was becoming of their series lead.

The Mets were up, 5-2 in Game Two. New reliever Pierce Johnson’s third pitch was turned into a run-scoring single by Escobar. His eighth pitch was converted into a sacrifice fly by Daniel Vogelbach, pinch-hitting for Terrance Gore, who had pinch-run for Darin Ruf, who had been on base twice as the DH via a walk and a hit-by-pitch, but what do you care how Darin Ruf gets on base so long as he’s not making unproductive outs? When the fifty-pitch dust settled over Citi after seven, the Mets were ahead of the Padres, 7-2, and still had Edwin Diaz in the game.

Diaz was well-rested from a September and early October that involved precious few save situations, so why not keep his arm warm and leave him in to face what remained of the heart of the San Diego order? The Mets led by five. On Saturday afternoon, in a game that stretched into Saturday evening and briefly pushed the Mets from ESPN to HGTV (you had to go to your doctor’s waiting room to watch it), the Blue Jays held a seven-run lead on the Mariners. The Mariners are going to the American League Division Series, having erased that seven-run lead of the Blue Jays. No time to take anything for granted. Buck Showalter asked Edwin to take care of Machado, Bell and Jake Cronenworth. He grounded out Machado right back to the mound (run, Manny, run!), surrendered a four-pitch walk to Bell and Narco’d Jake Cronenworth on three consecutive strikes. Edwin Diaz threw 28 pitches. Kenley Jansen pitched every ninth of the series we vaguely recall in Atlanta. Diaz will pitch again if needed.

Now that Trevor Williams has been removed from the NLWC roster for tactical reasons and Joely Rodriguez has been shifted to the IL for shoulder reasons (the Mets wishing Taijuan Walker be available to shoulder a little additional load), Adam Ottavino stands as the lone Met pitcher to be active for every single game of the 2022 season and postseason. Ottavino has been as close to an unsung hero as the Mets have had this year. We’re free to sing the praises of Ottavino at any time, but usually his contribution boils down to “after Adam Ottavino pitched a scoreless eighth, it was Edwin Diaz time” or words to that effect. This would be a wonderful time to sing Ottavino’s praises exclusively and fulsomely.

That would be if his Game Two performance were praiseworthy. After he struck out Old Friend Brandon Drury to end the eighth, the ninth, with the Mets still ahead by five, represented a ploddingly developing minefield for Adam. He struck out He-Seong Kim, but then hit Grisham; walked Nola; flied out Profar deep enough to advance Grisham; walked Soto; and walked Machado (who prefers not to run). Now it was 7-3, the bases were loaded and the song to sing was whatever Seth Lugo would respond to.

It warmed my heart to see Seth Lugo on the mound one out from conclusion, not so much because he’d be my choice for a Met to end a life-or-death playoff game — “Narco” is a truly catchy tune — but because Seth Lugo has been here forever, embodying the kind of continuity a fan cherishes from his ballclub. Like Nimmo. Like McNeil and Alonso all of a sudden. Like deGrom, lest you’ve forgotten 2014. Like Tomás Nido, even, never mind Nido not laying down one of his signature bunts earlier when it would have come in handy, and Nido swinging away with Gore on first when the whole reason for Gore being on first was for Gore to steal (it became a double play). The homegrown guys had waited the longest for a game like this, and we’d waited alongside them. Only Jake had ever pitched in a postseason game for the Mets, and never at home. He was injured for their one-night stand in 2016 after willing the Mets through the treacherous portions of the fifth game of the NLDS in 2015. Nimmo and Lugo were callups in 2016, only watching Noah Syndergaard and Curtis Granderson doing what they could to stave off the Giants. Nido appeared on the Mets in September 2017 in the most depressing series I can remember from the most depressing year I can remember from the previous decade. The Mets were in Chicago for three nights, not even days. They were swept three games. The combined score was Cubs 39 Mets 14. The last of those losses dropped the Mets’ record to 63-83. Welcome to the big leagues, Tomás Nido!

But Nido hung around, backed up every catcher in sight and, eventually, emerged as the No. 1 catcher (maybe 1A; even still) on a playoff team, a team that won 101 regular-season games, a team that with one more out and one more win would be slipping the surly bonds of Dayton and flying toward the Final Four of the National League for real. Making these playoffs as the Wild Card registered, before it started, as being shunted to the kids’ table. Weren’t we a little tall to be sitting with these non-division winners? Check the book again: we had the same record as the Braves, we belong over there, with the grown-ups.

That was a few days ago, when the last of the second-place wounds were licked. No time for that now. Game Two of the Wild Card Series was still Game Two of a postseason series, and here at Citi Field, it featured enough New York Mets from all those seasons without postseasons to make this additional step feel more than worthwhile. Nido was behind the plate waiting for a delivery from Lugo. Lugo was facing Josh Bell with the bases loaded. All romantic notions aside, Lugo had to get Josh Bell out. He most certainly had to not give up a grand slam that would have tied the game at seven. I’m none among skeptical, pessimistic or cynical and I’ve already established I’m not fatalistic. But I do get nervous. I haven’t been a Mets fan as long as I have to rule out any possibility.

I never ruled out that the Mets weren’t done after losing Game One. That got me to Game Two. The Mets themselves did the rest. Lugo induced a grounder to Alonso. Alonso flipped it to Lugo. There would be Game Three. That was an absolute certainty.

The Mets’ survival to Game Three rates its very own episode of National League Town, as does every Mets postseason game, but the one after Game Two is cheerier than the one after Game One.

7 comments to Fatalism Takes a Holiday

  • Seth

    OK, so — let’s say the Mets win tonight. Who pitches game 1 on Tuesday?

    • Guy Kipp

      “OK, so — let’s say the Mets win tonight. Who pitches game 1 on Tuesday?”

      Walker, unless he pitches tonight.

      Carrasco, if Walker does pitch tonight.

  • greensleeves

    Will tonight’s cinematic sequel be —Sudden Death Takes a Holiday?

  • Bob

    Well said about Cynics–I read someplace the a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing–you know like most Yankee fans!
    As a 60 year Met fan I’ve had plenty of unhappy moments and many happy moments.
    I recall in Game 1 of 69 WS when the Baltimores got an early HR off Seaver and Swoboda fell down at RF fence the attitude of network announcer that our Mets were not for real.
    Jerry Koosman & Al Weis fixed that the next day and the rest is History–including the shoe polish play & Tommy Agees catches and Swobodas diving catch in RF that turned around game 5!
    And in 86, down 0-2 to the Red Sawx, Lenny almost hit Pesky Pole @ Fenway and Carter and Mets exploded and turned the Series around also!
    So, I’d say, here we are and NOT watching other teams, but our ulcer causing Mets!
    No doubt Mrs. Payson, Casey & Gil along with Tom Seaver are watching from Baseball Heaven!
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • John Lyons

    Hi Greg. Good article. Last night’s game was just draining. Yes, I don’t like the negativity that sweeps over Mets Twitter & other social media when something bad happens. That’s when I usually duck out. But I too am a long-time Mets fan whose seen the ups & the downs, and seen that the Mets very often have a unique flair for the dramatic with regard to both.

    That’s why the 9th inning last night had me terrified. I was at Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. And last night’s 9th had a similar, but opposite, feeling. The top of the 9th began with the result of the game seemingly already established. And then, slowly, with each at bat, the previous confidence about the outcome fades to black.

    Last night I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat watching Seth Lugo pitch with the bases loaded (on walks!) to a batter who represents the tying run and who has suddenly found his home run stroke for the first time as a Padre. I’m not a cynic, but I was scared skinny because a grand slam to tie an elimination playoff game in the top of the 9th after gifting the bases loaded would have been so Metsian. And you know Seth has had his home run ball issues this year. I don’t think what I felt was fatalism. I think it was just a reflection of the collective heartbreaks felt over a lifetime of Mets fandom.

    So last night, when Howie proclaimed “put it in the books,” instead of cheering, I just sat back & sighed. I cheered after I recovered, of course.

    In my experiemce, there’s one thing that Mets fans can count on. It’s never, ever boring. LGM!

  • eric1973

    Thank Goodness we have these National announcers because Gary Keith and Ron are so horrible, unprofessional, and human laughtracks. So terrible that the game intrudes upon their jokes and their dinner. No high pitched forced cackles tonite!

    Let’s go BASSITT!

    I think he will do just fine….

  • Eric

    After a strong finish to the 5th and strong 6th, I wanted deGrom to pitch the 7th in order to shrink the bridge to Diaz. I can’t criticize the early move to Diaz though because deGrom threw 99 stressful pitches, and this season, when deGrom has tired, he’s lost it in a hurry.

    The Phillies’ 6 runs in the 9th inning of their game 1 comeback win and the Mariners game 2 comeback win were pulsing in my mind when Diaz entered early in the 7th, exited in the 8th, and Ottavino struggled in the 9th.

    Regular season, you can get away with lesser relievers holding a 5-run lead in the 8th and 9th innings. Post-season, that’s a much riskier gamble against hyper-focused hitters. And boy, the Mets cut it close last night.

    The risk of using Diaz as a fireman like 2017 Andrew Miller is that the Mets don’t have a closer-level reliever like Cody Allen to follow Diaz. When Diaz has been used as a fireman this season, he’s done it well, but the reliever who’s filled in as closer — Ottavino or Lugo — has struggled.

    I share your extra appreciation of homegrown Mets on the playoff stage, especially then-rookies Nimmo and Lugo who contributed to the fun 2016 run to the wildcard but didn’t get a chance to play in the post-season. Maybe they would have if the wildcard round had been best of 3 in 2016. The Giants only had 1 MadBum.

    A part of me is still fixated on deGrom’s start in game 6 in Kansas City. A wildcard round elimination game 2 win doesn’t close that hole, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    I have a mixed reaction to Nido’s prompt negation of pinch-running Gore. I agree that Gore should have been given a chance to do his job. On the other hand, Nido got a good pitch to hit and he hit it hard. He just hit it into a double play. I was more bothered by Nido’s failure to get down the sac bunt.

    Carrasco and Walker started the doubleheader against the Nationals on October 4, which meant Walker wasn’t available on regular rest until October 9, today. I expect him to be valuable out of the bullpen, maybe even a back-up closer, if he doesn’t start NLDS game 1.

    Benefit of losing out on the division title: A number of key Mets, including Diaz and most of the homegrown Mets, did not have playoff experience. If they win tonight, then they will have playoff experience going into the NLDS against the abundantly playoff-experienced Dodgers.

    If the hitting comes out strong again tonight and doesn’t repeat the Jekyll and Hyde pattern from the regular season, then maybe we can credit the wildcard series for fixing that issue, too.

    Fingers crossed with Bassitt. He’s been mostly good this season. He also shares the blame for the Braves series debacle. His post-season resume is mixed. We’ll find out.