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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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Well-Deserved Win and Loss

Just desserts were on the Citi Field menu Wednesday night as the Mets earned their 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers, and the Rangers just as surely earned their 6-5 defeat at the hands of the New York Mets.

Had it gone the other way, all would have seemed more predestined. The Mets are the lousier team here, they were starting their secret self-implosion weapon Denyi Reyes, and the Rangers, in the thick of a three-way divisional fight with Seattle and Houston and hardly having a Wild Card fallback wrapped up, have something to play for. Of course, it shall be remembered without citing any glaring example that stays with a fan forever, that an out-of-it team starting a pitcher with limited credentials and no reputation (cough, Joe Grahe, who hadn’t won a game in four years, suddenly excelling for the Phillies down the stretch in 1999, cough) can trip up a team with everything to play for (cough, the 1999 Mets, who succumbed to Joe Grahe on that season’s penultimate weekend following getting swept in Atlanta, cough).

But if it were just Reyes shaking off his 15.88 ERA as a starter in 2023 — gathered over two outings that lasted fewer than six innings — and holding the Rangers in check for five-and-a-third, leaving the game with an unlikely two-run lead that set the Mets up for their victory…well, solid pitching from mysterious sources materializes from time to time. Plus, this was the first start in which Reyes’s first name was pronounced “Den-gee” by Mets announcers rather than the intuitive “Den-yee” or Americanized “Denny”. Perhaps this Reyes is somebody else altogether. Or perhaps he hired as his private pitching tutor former Met stalwart Dillon Gee and the lessons took.

The 3-1 lead Reyes protected until the sixth was built in part by a DJ Stewart solo home run. Later, when the Rangers would attempt to protect a lead of their own, Stewart would return to the spotlight and homer again. And, in the tenth inning, the game-winning RBI would be produced by the man Buck Showalter refers to as Stew, because “DJ” is apparently just too formal. Yet with all those sizable contributions — four RBIs plus some extra-base thievery as Stewart threw himself into the ESA ORT portion of a right field fence ad to complete his running grab of Marcus Semien’s sure-thing RBI double — it can’t be said that the Rangers losing was just about DJ enjoying yet another game of his life at the close of the month of his life.

Texas had ample opportunities to overcome Reyes, overcome Stewart, overcome the microscopic detritus of Mets Magic that we’d like to believe still permeates the atmosphere over Flushing. Ample is an understatement. The Mets didn’t dare the Rangers to beat them. They invited them over and brought out refreshments for a Win The Damn Game, Already party. The Rangers simply forgot to RSVP.

When Reyes departed with one out and one on, England Dan and Sean Reid-Foley entered. The Rangers really loved to see him last night. Sean proceeded to walk the ballpark. It’s no exaggeration. The paid attendance of 23,849 each received a base on balls, courtesy of SR-F. Of more use to the visitors, so did Corey Seager, Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis Garcia, all on full counts, all in a row. That’ll manufacture a run. It was 3-2, the bags were juiced and you knew what was going to happen next.

No, you didn’t. The Texas Rangers certainly didn’t. Despite Reid-Foley pitching like nights were forever with him, he struck out Mitch Garver and then Jonah Heim, the latter at the end of his fourth full count and second nine-pitch battle of the inning. Sean threw 35 pitches to five batters. Sixteen were balls. Somehow the Mets were still ahead and the Rangers were still behind.

One reliever would provide stress-free relief for Showalter, Trevor Gott in the seventh (not to be confused with Trevor Gott, stress-inducer in the ninth a couple of nights before). Then came the old pros, Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino. They appeared to have taken up new professions that did not involve retiring batters. Raley got nobody out as he started the eighth. Brooks was removed literally as fast as a pitcher can be in these three-batter minimum times, leaving the bases full of Texans. Ottavino hit Garcia on a full count to tie the game; teased a double play bouncer out of Mitch Garver that went 1-2-3, as easy as A-B-C if you consider Otto’s backhand flip to Omar Narvaez a piece of cake; and, imbued by the positive momentum the DP had produced, gave up a two-run single to Heim. So much for momentum.

“So much for momentum” might be what Bruce “Boch” Bochy muttered in the Texas dugout when a) a subsequent walk didn’t lead to any more Ranger scoring; and b) Stewart homered for a second time, this dinger delivered with Pete Alonso on base. Yeah, Stew! The game was tied going to the ninth, and Jeff Brigham, who I’m pretty sure had been warming up since being recalled Sunday, was on to keep getting his work in. Two batters saw seven pitches apiece from Brig — I assume that’s what Buck calls him — with one walking and the other fouling out. The fella who walked, Leody Taveras, took second on an errant pickoff throw after not being able to score or even advance when Stewart made that aforementioned sensational catch at the wall. Surely Leody’s getting to second was going to enable a go-ahead run, but no, somewhere amid Brigham’s 23 ninth-inning pitches, Jeff escaped.

After Francisco Lindor walked and stole second with two out in the ninth, and Jeff McNeil punished his bat for popping up with the winning run in scoring position, the game went to extras. Rob Manfred, considerate bloke he is, ordered ahead and had a runner placed on second for Texas. Brigham returned to throw more pitches. One was shot down the third base line but smothered by Jonathan Araúz before it could finish its Citi Field tour as an RBI double down the left field line. Araúz couldn’t throw the hitter, Garcia, out at first, but boy did he keep the runner who had no business being on second, Lowe, on second. Talk about a huge defensive play in extras.

You should, because it’s not the one anybody was talking about first and foremost in a couple of minutes, for Garver walked to again load the bases for Texas, and with one somewhat conventional out made (Lindor catching a sizzling liner from Heim), Old Friend™ Travis Jankowski stepped up to presumably pull a Travis d’Arnaud or James McCann or ex-Met of your choice and do the Mets in. Jankowski wasn’t here very long. He was 2022’s Terrance Gore in the months before Terrance Gore became 2022’s Terrance Gore, a role played intermittently in 2023 by Tim Locastro. We mostly saw Jank — that had to be his clubhouse nickname, right? — pinch-run as a Met. Bochy uses Jank as semi-regular outfielder. Bochy’s managed three world championship teams. We’ll assume “Boch” knows what he’s doing.

Every reason you could think of for why the Rangers were about to take a tenth-inning lead vaporized in a blink. Jankowski grounded to Alonso, moving in front of first base toward foul territory. Alonso rightly threw home. Jankowski, reacting in a sense of self-preservation lest Pete’s throw inadvertently clock him, slowed down and ducked. While Narvaez received Pete’s throw and recorded the first out, Travis turned his head toward home for an instant, perhaps thinking, “why wait for highlights when I’m on the field and get to watch a big play develop in person?” This slowed the speedy Jankowski substantially, allowing time for the Mets’ new ad hoc first baseman, McNeil, to complete his race over from second to take the return throw from Omar.

Jankowski had both hit and run into a 3-2-4 double play. It got Brigham (40 pitches over two innings and at least as many thunderous claps of his glove in exultation in appreciation of his defense) and the Mets out of the inning right about the time the Rangers should have been planning their happy flight. Travel home to Arlington was on somebody’s mind when this game was scheduled for a 6:40 start. Now Texas was stuck in New York a little longer.

A game in which Mets relievers threw 128 pitches over four-and-two-thirds innings couldn’t possibly be blown by the Rangers, yet it was about to blow the Mets’ way. With McNeil standing on second as Manfred’s gift to the hosts, Bochy ordered the intentional passing of Pete. First and second, nobody out, the accomplished yet apparently exhausted Aroldis Chapman on the mound. If the Mets were the Mets of most of 2023, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a recipe for Texas disaster, which, if you ever happen to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, isn’t nearly as tasty as Texas barbecue. But the Mets rose a little above their station all night and the Rangers seemed determined to let this one get away. Sure enough, Francisco Alvarez, who had taken over the DH duties from Daniel Vogelbach (who himself had homered way back in the second), gritted his way to a full-count walk — Alvarez still isn’t hitting much, but he does dig in for some tough at-bats when the conditions are late and close — and DJ Stewart made his body available for a bases-loaded plunking. Heroics, schmeroics, it was the game-winning RBI. McNeil jogged home, Stewart was showered with a bucket of bubble gum (wrapped), and the Mets, who are about to add Ronny Mauricio to their ranks for their stretch drive to nowhere, had one night to feel very good about themselves.

The Rangers, who really had to work to absorb a loss they definitely didn’t need in their AL playoff chase, had a long flight ahead of them, courtesy of the team that’s headquartered the shortest of hops from LaGuardia.

16 comments to Well-Deserved Win and Loss

  • Seth

    Even after reading your excellent recap, I’m still not sure how the Mets managed to win this one.

  • mikeski

    The DJ Stewart Game, last night, now, and forever.

  • This was as much fun as I have had at the ballpark this season. So many big, strange, and spectacular moments that I think this one will worm its way into the Mets Classics rotation.

  • open the gates

    “England Dan and Sean Reid-Foley – nights are forever with him.” Absolutely legendary. Unlike the aforementioned Mr. Reid-Foley, unfortunately. Also possibly the greatest Mets/pop culture mashup since 1983’s “Strawberry fields forever,” a reference to the lopsided nature of Met innings of that era.

  • Curt Emanuel

    After last night’s game I started wondering if we could have a possible winner for the, “most obscure player on a last-place team to win the league player-of-the-month award.”

    Then I looked at DJ’s numbers and they aren’t THAT good. Just over .300. The HRs are fine but light on RBIs. But if he could go, say, 11-for-11 tonight and drive in 9. Another homer or two wouldn’t hurt.

    And I don’t know which announcer but someone in the booth needs a geography lesson. Mississippi is NOT across the river from Memphis. Unfortunately I lived in the state that is for about 6 months in my early 20s and was very happy to escape.

  • K. Lastima

    “ I keep getting Daniel Vogelbach and Dan Fogelberg mixed up too.”
    Twin sons of different mothers

  • Bob

    “After Francisco Lindor walked and stole second with two out in the ninth, and Jeff McNeil punished his bat for popping up with the winning run in scoring position, the game went to extras.”
    BAD BAT!
    What happened to the good bat from last season?

    Great recap of last’s night’s game–I have a hard time keeping up with recent arrivals…
    A W is a W!
    When we are 12 games-.500 and in the cellar, we must enjoy every win.
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • open the gates

    Of course, if SR-F ever becomes a reliable closer, the headlines might read “England Dan Seals the Win”.

  • eric1973

    “…And I’d really love to see him tonight.”

    Can’t wait to see Len Ferman’s article on the 1973 weekend against St. Louis.
    This is the one where Millan and McCarver get into a brawl that caused me to (baseball) hate McCarver for the rest of his life. And mine.
    McCarver went in standing to break up the DP and gave Millan a forearm to the stomach. I still have the photos from the Daily News. The caption said the Mets lost 7-4, “dimming Met pennant hopes.”