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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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The Mornin’ After Not So Blues

Everything one needed to know about Mets-Braves games seemed to be on display in the bottom of the first inning of Monday afternoon’s doubleheader opener at Citi Field. We reached the part where the heartaches come pretty early. Atlanta was already ahead, 3-0, with the Braves’ additional top-flight catcher Sean Murphy — because harboring a vengeful Travis d’Arnaud wasn’t enough — having taken Mets starter Denyi Reyes deep in the top of the frame. While you are checking your depth chart to see where Denyi Reyes slotted in among the list of the many, many pitchers the Mets projected as possible starters in 2023 (nowhere), and then calculating how long it took for them to assign fringe middle reliever Reyes a start nonetheless (the season’s fifth week), I will recount the half-inning that encompassed everything one needed to know about Mets-Braves games.

• There was a triple that almost went over the fence, but didn’t.

• There was a single that almost skipped by the right fielder for a double, but didn’t.

• There was a stolen base on a throw that almost went through to center, but didn’t.

• There were bases loaded with runners threatening to become runs, but didn’t.

The half-inning that started Braves 3 Mets coming to bat ended Braves 3 Mets 1, because even the Mets at their most futile, which is to say when facing the Braves, couldn’t come away totally empty-handed after Brandon Nimmo’s leadoff triple, Starling Marte’s walk, Francisco Lindor’s single, Francisco Lindor’s stolen base and Daniel Vogelbach’s walk all occurred before a third out. No, we got that much out of the home first.

Nimmo was not stranded at third after his shot to right just missed clearing the orange line. To my way of thinking, I wasn’t even sorry it wasn’t a home run. A solo dinger is a run, and the Mets hadn’t done much with first innings and runs lately, but then the bases are bare and the opposing starter’s slate is newly clean. This, a runner on third with nobody out, somehow shaped up as more promising. Brandon’s ninety feet from scoring, and the pressure begins to mount on Spencer Strider. Strider indeed walks Marte, and we’ve got something cooking. Sure enough, Lindor hits one to right to bring in Nimmo, and…

That’s where it begins to get a little too Mets-Braves up in here. Ronald Acuña, Jr., snatches Lindor’s ball before it can get by him, which keeps Marte from going farther than third and doesn’t let Lindor make it to second. It looked like it would bounce to the wall, but there’s Acuña with a backhanded stab that keeps Met runners where they can do minimal harm.

We didn’t know that would amount to “none” yet, but it did. After Pete Alonso struck out and while Jeff McNeil batted, Lindor was determined to get that extra base, taking off from first to steal it. One bag on a stolen base attempt is almost a given these days, and Francisco had no problem making it in safely. The bonus was going to be Murphy’s throw scooting past second base, allowing Starling to trot in with the Mets’ second run, except shortstop Vaughn Grissom did his own grabbing and improbably plucked the ball from its path toward the outfield. Marte could not advance. Lindor could not advance. McNeil could not get them home or get on himself, popping up. Vogelbach walked to maintain pressure on the struggling Strider. Brett Baty presented one more obstacle to the Braves’ starter, but not an immovable object. Brett struck out with the bases loaded.

I’d like to say I didn’t know the game was lost at 3-1, but that was just too many almosts for one half-inning when the opponent is the Braves. Maybe it would have been too many almosts for one half-inning when the opponent is anybody, but the Braves have been the Braves too much and too long, especially too recently, where the Mets are concerned. Almost-ing them isn’t gonna cut it, especially when they’re being definitive about increasing their lead off Mets starter Denyi Reyes.

Reyes gives up a single to Michael Harris II and a homer to Kevin Pillar. Reyes is replaced by Syracuse recallee John Curtiss. Curtiss gives up a homer to Acuña. Instead of cutting into the Braves’ edge further or tying them or passing them, we fall further behind them. Arithmetically, allowing three hitters to become three runners who cross the plate can equal no more than three runs. It felt like more. First, those two instant runs brought in by Pillar, whose last notable act as a Met was getting caught up in the fun and excitement of the thumbs-down kerfuffle of late 2021. Of course, we didn’t have time to snarl at Pillar for pulling a d’Arnaud on us because in a matter of seconds, our attention was turned to Acuña lofting a fly ball to where only the likes of Boeings, pigeons and Cespedii have previously dared to soar. Ronald the Junior placed a Curtiss pitch up in the Promenade boxes, about as high up as Yoenis — a neon ghost we can’t see — scaled in 2016, except not pulled toward the corner, thus making it visually more impressive. Aaron Judge also traveled up to those distant precincts in 2017, but why drag him and his team into this when he have Atlanta and Acuña to provide ample angst?

However and wherever the combined force of the three runs in the top of the first; the bases left loaded in the bottom of the first; and the three runs whacked home in the top of the second landed psychically, it was only 6-1, Braves, mathematically. “Only” seems a silly modifier here, because many opportunities for Atlanta havoc remained and did I mention our starting pitcher had been Denyi Reyes? And our next man up was John Curtiss? And a torrent of better options implicitly eluded Buck Showalter? But unless there’s lots of rain in the forecast, seven-and-a-half innings still awaited. Yes, the Braves could go to town so much in that time that they’d be enjoying dumplings on Main Street, but the Mets were welcome to try their luck in Flushing, too.

Lucky would not describe how Game One turned out, but the Mets at least honored the possibilities inherent in a nine-inning affair. Alonso erased the memory of his first-inning strikeout with a three-run homer in the fourth. It’s not 6-1 anymore. It’s 6-4. Baty not coming through with the bases loaded in the first did not preclude him from leading off with a home run in the sixth, the young lefty swinger besting lefty reliever Dylan Lee, marking another peg up the ladder for a kid on the rise. Ohmigod, it’s suddenly 6-5. Strider didn’t absolutely choke off the Mets; he lasted only five. Though Reyes imploded and Curtiss was greeted rudely, Stephen Nogosek’s return from the IL wilderness went swimmingly for two-and-two-thirds, and by the bottom of the sixth, the opener wasn’t shut.

By the top of the seventh, it was back to being a rout, with Jeff Brigham pitching and that man again, Murphy, producing yet another three-run homer. Nine to five, what a way to lose a ballgame. Except shaky Brave pitching (a pair of HBPs from Old Friend™ Collin McHugh) and shaky Brave fielding (a wild Grissom throw on what should have been an inning-ending DP) in the seventh permitted two runs to close the gap to 9-7. Tommy Hunter’s two scoreless innings maintained the concept of conceiving a desirable outcome conceivable. Ya gotta conceive! One more scintilla of hope arose in the bottom of the ninth when the erstwhile everyday entrant Eduardo Escobar emerged from the dugout to pinch-hit the homer that made a bad loss verge on agonizing. They didn’t quit. They kept coming. But they never came all the way back. Comebacks of that nature generally appear only in a paperback novel, the kind that drugstores sell. Yeah, that’s agonizing.

No time for agony, however. Braves 9 Mets 8 was forty minutes from Braves coming to bat in the top of the first, the Mets taking the field, the enormous scoreboard reverting to blank. Another chance is the beauty of a doubleheader. The likelihood that the Mets will have something to show by the end of it is even more beautiful. The Mets entered Monday not having been swept in a twinbill since cardboard cutouts sat in for spectators during 2020; not having been swept in a twinbill with people in the stands since 2017; not having been swept in a single-admission twinbill with people in the stands since 2016; and not having been swept in a single-admission twinbill with people in the stands at Citi Field since 2012. If you were ever tempted to respond to one of those come-ons daring you to bet responsibly, the Mets winning the second game Monday was as close to a sure thing as existed.

Now, you know there are no sure things in baseball. You might believe the Braves sticking it to the Mets is a sure thing, but look!

There’s Tylor Megill, an actual Mets starting pitcher pitching, and he’s not giving anything up, save for a leadoff hit-by-pitch to Acuña’s left shoulder that conveniently sidelines him for the rest of Game Two. (If you could read my mind, you’d have a hard time searching out my empathy, provided the guy didn’t actually sustain more than a bruise.)

There’s Vogey doubling in a second-inning run off ancient Charlie Morton; he’s been pitching since Shea Stadium stood.

There’s Marte with a single to bring home Baty, who had doubled, in the fifth.

There’s Megill in a spot of trouble in the sixth, bases loaded, two out. If he can get out Eddie Rosario…no, that’s not gonna happen. Rosario doubles to score the first two runners, but at least we got that darn Sean Murphy at the plate.

What’s that?

Replay review?

We didn’t get Murphy?

Of course we didn’t.

Your sure thing is in peril with two on (Morton walked a pair) and two out (Michael Tonkin is on) and Francisco Alvarez up. Alvarez has been looking a little more certain of himself every day. The last time there’d been a baseball game in New York, before the weekend turned all New Yorkers into rainy day people, Alvarez stroked a sweet fifth/last-inning single off the otherwise untouchable Max Fried on Friday night. Maybe because there were no Mets playing no Braves Saturday and Sunday, I read a surfeit into that most recent sample of Francisco’s advancement. As with Baty, you could convince yourself something was happening here. In the home sixth of Game Two on Monday, what it was was exactly clear: a strong double to left that scored both Met baserunners and gave the Mets back their lead at 4-3. McNeil would homer in the eighth to make it 5-3, and David Robertson would save it in the eighth and the ninth to keep it 5-3. You could officially cash in your winning splitting ticket. But remember to bet responsibly.

Not a great Monday for the Mets, as they did lose to the Braves. But not a great Monday for the Braves, as they did lose to the Mets. When you recall how badly Monday started for the Mets, nobody being completely satisfied come sundown rates as a sufficiently happy ending for us.

5 comments to The Mornin’ After Not So Blues

  • Seth

    Nice to see Vogelbach quietly getting off to a pretty good start.

    Little Travis d’Arnaud really isn’t that scary, even when uninjured. Let’s put it this way, he’s no Daniel Murphy.

  • Kevin

    Of course the Braves only make one notable off-season move and he immediately scores six runs against the Mets in one game. Of course.

    The win is the sweet game, of course, but I’m still proud of the offence for fighting back despite the pitching not giving them much of a chance. Lord knows we’ve seen the opposite enough times over the years. Beating up on Spencer Strider is always fun; it’s just a pity it wasn’t enough.

  • Greg, your string of “…erstwhile everyday entrant Eduardo Escobar emerged…” is a lot of consecutive words beginning with ‘e’–six of them. Nicely done. If he was also an electrical engineer, that would be even more ‘e’s.

    I was wondering what your ‘sundown’ link included, but now I see it’s about Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian singer and songwriter. We thank him for his music. Let’s hope for sweet sweep Motown music for the Mets today and tomorrow. I feel bad for the Tigers and their fans, but not so bad that I don’t want three Mets victories.

  • Erez Schatz

    I would really, truly and honestly wish that once, those excuses would be applicable for both sides. Apparently neither Acuña Jr. nor Murphy have heard that Baseball players are creatures of habit and having a 2-3 day break in their routine would definitely cause a hamper in their game.
    It’s like when everyone and his wife were pointing at the Dodgers and Braves during the past playoffs as evidence that Rust v Rest is real while ignoring the fact that on the other side of the bracket, the Astros and Yankees apparently did not hear of that argument.
    I’m not greedy, I don’t say I want the other side to suffer from not playing and not the Mets, but once, can it, as Tommy Lasorda once said, snow on both sides of the field?