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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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But It’s Not a Fight

The Mets haven’t been on the wrong end of any lopsided beatdowns this depressing weekend in Philadelphia, so we haven’t heard any wizened press box wag offer in a Burgess Meredith rasp the old chestnut that if this were a fight, somebody woulda stopped it by now. If these games were fights, at least the Mets might win a few rounds on points. They do look good in select half-innings. It’s a shame that only counts toward the cumulative score of a ballgame and doesn’t mean much on its own.

With the Statistical Triptych of Despair achieved with Rufless efficiency — losing record clinched Thursday night; mathematical elimination official Friday night; the worst year-over-year dropoff as measured by won-lost record confirmed Saturday afternoon — all that is left to watch for when the Mets play a contender, besides the possibility of a little spoiling (not happening since we left Miami), are those little spikes in the EKG that indicate we haven’t altogether flatlined. A few of them give us something to process as progress or at least convince us we aren’t beset by an onslaught of some of the worst innings of our lives.

I know, I know: we’ve seen some very bad innings in our lives, much worse than these. Yet allow me my hyperbole.

The top of the second had everything a Mets fan could want from a game against the Phillies, short of Chase Utley being catapulted from home plate out toward the general direction of Center City. DJ Stewart leads off with a walk against an uncomfortable Zack Wheeler. Ronny Mauricio singles into right. Brett Baty grounds a double play ball to Trea Turner. Turner opts to backhand it. The ball opts not to be backhanded and scoots instead into left, scoring Stewart. As the same uncooperative ball is jogged after and lobbed back into the infield by Kyle Schwarber, and Turner receives it with his mind clearly on his backhand gone awry, Mauricio takes in the tableau of nonchalance and distraction and races for home. It’s one of those decisions where, if it backfires, it’s a young player being a little too overeager and not aware of game situations and he’s got to learn. But it’s an outstanding decision, as Turner is caught flatfooted and throws to the plate a tad too late to stop Ronny in his aggressive tracks.

The Mets are ahead, 2-0, and they win the round. Or the half-round, because in the bottom of the second, Jose Quintana gives up a leadoff home run to Bryce Harper, and a couple of defensive miscues lead to another run, and it’s tied at two, so if we’re going with the boxing scoring system business, I suppose the entirety of the second is a draw. But, man, the top of the second felt really good.

So did the top of the seventh. Wheeler, lack of comfort on a chilly, windy, misty day notwithstanding, is still out there, outlasting Quintana, who went a yeoman six without having his craftiest stuff (Jose did strike out ten, but two of those were Schwarber, and that seems baked into any total of Ks before any game against the Phillies begins). Baty and Mark Vientos each singled to get the seventh going. Omar Narváez lifted a mighty fly ball to center that had no impact on the action except to record an out, but I really think one of these days, maybe under better climate conditions, Omar, sitting on one home run for the year, is gonna hit another ball out of another ballpark somewhere. It may not be this year, it may not be for the Mets, but I have faith in the guy.

Brandon Nimmo sends another fly ball to center. It doesn’t seem to carry the potential Narváez’s had, but Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas, a reputed stud with the glove, is playing too far in and doesn’t realize it for a few agonizing/energizing ticks, depending on your bias in this bout. The ball lands well over Rojas’s head, assuring Baty and Vientos of respective trips home and Nimmo of his sixth triple of the season. The Mets hadn’t been winning too many rounds or half-rounds since the top of the second and had been trailing, 6-2, via too many Philadelphia-beneficial plays I’m in no mood to detail. Yet for as gloomy a game as the Mets had been playing, they had suddenly cut their deficit to 6-4, a surmountable state of affairs if you’re thinking of averting another episode of statistical despair.

Then, to really make the top of the seventh sing, Francisco Lindor angles a foul fly ball to medium left in such a spot, near the railing, that once Schwarber catches it, Nimmo can confidently bolt for home. It’s no sure thing that he’ll score, and he oughta be subject to the same caveats rookie Mauricio would be for taking a risk if it doesn’t work out, but he is veteran Brandon Nimmo, and he knows how to slide and touch a plate and avoid a tag all at the same time. When Brandon has accomplished this multitasking, the Mets are behind a mere 6-5, one run from a full comeback. Given how this buoyed my spirits — and despite J.T. Realmuto making up for not tagging out Nimmo by driving in an insurance run off Reed Garrett in the bottom of the seventh — I’m totally giving the seventh to the Mets.

If it were a fight, we would have lost it on points by a lot, because, honestly, I don’t have any more to give the Mets from their 7-5 defeat. But we weren’t knocked out! Nobody had to stop the fight! We went the distance with the champs! Lest you forget, in the aftermath of the Mets-Braves duel for the division and each team exiting October ASAP, the Philadelphia Phillies did win the National League pennant last year, and their defense of their title is winding its way through another Wild Card berth that is almost entirely in the bag. All weekend, we’ve gone eye to eye and toe to toe against our ancient blood rivals/intermittently irritating neighbors, losing by only one run, one run and two runs.

Wow, even I don’t believe any of that’s particularly impressive from a Mets standpoint, but you know Bob Murphy would have sold it so sincerely…

Oh, the Mets have come so close this weekend in Philadelphia, falling short only by a base hit here or an unmade out there. You know, with a couple of breaks, Buck Showalter’s troops could have taken all three of these games against a very tough Phillies ballclub that is heading back to the postseason for a second year in a row. They certainly have a formidable lineup and will present a real challenge to whoever they face in the playoffs. As Mets fans know first-hand, righthander Zack Wheeler is one of the most capable pitchers in the National League. Zack’s had a marvelous time of it since leaving New York. What a fine young man.

…that we would have bought it in any late 1970s or early 1980s year of our youth. Of course we were younger then. We also bought tickets to watch Rocky Balboa and never for an instant saw any reason that an aging local club fighter with zero national profile and more than twenty career losses while getting punched around town couldn’t beat heretofore untouchable Apollo Creed. Or the menacing Clubber Lang, once Rocky ran on the beach in Los Angeles alongside Apollo to rekindle essential tigerlike optical properties.

A little bit of fight will do wonders to sustain your ardor for a given franchise.

3 comments to But It’s Not a Fight

  • Seth

    I don’t think that ball over his head was necessarily Rojas’s fault. Watching the replay, it seemed to get caught in an atmospheric river of wind and carry right over his head. And the wind was don’t weird things all night. Anyway it’s an L no matter how you look at it.

    • Eric

      Good point. Watching on TV or listening on the radio doesn’t give us a sense of the role of the wind and rain in the various misplays.

  • Eric

    I’m disappointed that Quintana’s worst 2 starts of his truncated season have been against the Braves and Phillies. He’s a key cog in the rotation, no doubt. But I’m not confident yet he’ll deliver in big starts against contenders. We’ll see. Let’s see if he does better against the Phillies in his last start of the year, though the Phillies may have shifted gears to playoff prep by then.

    The Phillies haven’t impressed me. Yet this series reminds me of the early-season harbinger Braves series where the Mets had leads in every game and couldn’t hold them. There’s just a sense that something will fail. The Friday extra-inning loss is emblematic. 10th inning, Alvarez hits a grounder to 3rd that can’t advance Locastro. Contrast to Bohm’s little dunker, no better hit than Alvarez’s unproductive grounder, that scored the winning run.

    Mauricio’s speed ‘tool’ has made a difference, which stands out because his scouting report gave him a 45 grade for speed. The MLB scouting report contradicted his MiLB stolen base stats. I’m glad that the scouting report is wrong. Maybe it’s the same scout that rated Amed Rosario the top prospect in baseball.

    The Astros losing their division and perhaps falling out of the playoffs entirely by losing against the Royals and Athletics is quite a choke job. The Astros get a mulligan as the 2022 champions and longer recent success. If they complete the collapse, it might be the beginning of the end of an era, though. They’re lucky the Mariners are losing, too. Imagine the Rangers make a run with no deGrom and no Scherzer.

    The Mets and Padres were both 68-78 when the Padres started their charge. I wonder what would be more frustrating. Making a late charge from far back that falls short, as it looks like it will for the Padres as the teams in front of them are winning enough to hold them off. Or playing out the string without raising our hopes like the Mets are.