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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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Gotta Have It

Some wins you’ve got to have. You traverse an ocean and lose the first of two scheduled high-profile games, you’ve got to come home with the second contest in your carry-on. You catapult ahead from what the odds termed prohibitively behind, you’ve got to remain ahead until the end. You’ve got this reputation for inevitably finding a way to lose any game whose outcome is in doubt, you must discover a method that secures you victory. The Mets’ need to win on Sunday had nothing to do with the standings and transcended the concept of self-esteem; we sent our self-esteem to the cleaners weeks ago. There was nothing to gain, nothing to lose. But we had to win. Nobody who cares about the Mets was going to be well-served by a reminder that there goes this team they love Metsing it up again, despite all of us knowing that this team we love is capable at any moment of Metsing it up again. And again.

The ocean’s distance the Mets journeyed to absorb Saturday’s defeat and then attempt avoiding an encore result on Sunday was no small matter; baseball in London will grab your attention like no ten trips to Citizens Bank Park. The opponent was inconvenient for a team that usually stumbles into and out of ninth innings. The Phillies entered the series with the best record in the sport, even if they generally appear more talented than special. Although I’ve attempted to mute the echoes of 2022, I look at Philadelphia and I sense a bunch the Mets outclassed repeatedly just two years ago, with casts that at their core haven’t changed that much, yet here are the Phillies earning superteam status…and here are the Mets being the Mets most days. I saw on social media waves upon waves of Mets fans sending their greetings home from England because they took it upon themselves to represent the orange and blue five time zones east of Citi Field, then I see (and hear) little but scarlet and powder blue during the telecasts. We sent Mr. and Mrs. Met over there. I think the Phanatic devoured them.

Yeah, a win had to be had by the Mets on Sunday, and the Mets took it. Or accepted it with modest conviction when it was handed to them late. Maybe the Phillies decided they didn’t have room in their luggage for another one.

History was made as soon as Old Friend™ and designated home side twirler Taijuan Walker threw the game’s first pitch at 10:11 AM New York time. As outlined here, there aren’t many ticks on the 24-hour clock when the Mets haven’t been in action at least once. There are now 24 fewer minutes on that clock such can be said about. Thanks to extra innings in Tokyo in 2000, we watched/listened to/napped through the Mets on the job between 5:05 AM and 9:00 AM. Thanks to a lot of extra innings in Los Angeles in 1973, when games regularly started after 11 PM EDT, the Mets worked until nearly dawn: 4:47 AM back in New York. A Forbes Field doubleheader between the Mets and Pirates on July 4, 1969, commenced at 10:35 AM, beginning the Mets baseball day the earliest it ever had sans the Japan business. Now London on June 9, 2024, has usurped that distinction. For those keeping time, there are now only blocks of 18 minutes (4:47 AM to 5:05 AM) and 71 minutes (9:00 AM to 10:11 AM) that the Mets haven’t trod upon.

All this adjusting of Sunday morning routines seemed to nonetheless be steering us to a typically dreary loss, with Walker shutting down his opposition without sweat, and Jose Quintana providing less length than a yardstick. The corollary between starters going shallow and bullpens being overworked doesn’t require a trip across the Atlantic. We’ve already seen that formula play out from coast to coast in America, and boy is it played out. Quintana’s 3.2 IP Sunday on top of Sean Manaea’s 3.2 IP Saturday ensured too much relief and probably not enough relief.

The venue certainly didn’t help on Saturday. Odd sightlines from the vantage point of the outfielders. Bouncy turf at all points. The good news was those factors were in play for both sides, and on Sunday, you could see it hinder the Phillies some. You could also detect a quick hook performed on Walker, who was one out from getting through six scoreless, albeit with runners on first and second. Taijuan had thrown 79 pitches and given up no runs, one walk and two hits to that juncture. The walk and one of the hits had come in the sixth. Still, sometimes you beat back your albeits and leave your starter alone.

Rob Thomson opted to open his bullpen gate a little early. The Mets crashed through. Gregory Soto quickly whittled Walker’s 3-0 lead to 3-1 on a Brandon Nimmo double, then erased it entirely on J.D. Martinez’s two-run single. When it was 3-1, ESPN’s “win probability” graphic explained it was 88% probable the Phillies had this thing in the bag. Getting the game tied at three indicated they’d keep playing, regardless that mathematics suggested the Mets board their charter ASAP.

The Mets couldn’t push any more runs across whatever the British call the plate in the sixth, and they let a rally wither on the vine in the seventh. The overworked bullpen’s effectiveness — nothing surrendered between Quintana’s exit in the fourth and the close of the sixth — suffered a ding when David Dahl led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run off Dedniel Nuñez. Jake Diekman and Reed Garrett got the Mets through the rest of that inning no worse off than down, 4-3. If only you could ask relievers to do that every day and have them respond in kind.

A one-run deficit was still in place as the ninth unfolded. Jose Alvarado was on. Let me rephrase that. Jose Alvarado wasn’t on at all, but he did throw. He threw nine pitches to Tyrone Taylor who converted four of those into a leadoff walk. He threw two pitches to Jeff McNeil, the second of which became a Squirrely single that pushed Taylor to third. Mark Vientos bounced a ball to Alec Bohm at third, the bounce tricky enough on that turf to handcuff the barehanding third baseman and let Tyrone score the tying run. Then Alvarado walked the greatest catcher few among us knew two weeks ago, Luis Torrens, to load the bases. I don’t believe it was intentional, but it was all happening so fast, who could tell?

Let’s see: McNeil, mostly shunned these days, was at third; pinch-runner Jose Iglesias — who would pick up for Vientos at third a couple of innings after Mark did the same for Brett Baty (three third basemen in one day, with one making his club debut at the position, equaling a very Metsie thing) — at second; Torrens at first. How could you not love the Mets’ chances with the heart of their order coming up?

Because you know what the heart of this order can be like sometimes. Francisco Lindor struck out. Pete Alonso had the good sense to get hit and not get hurt, producing the go-ahead RBI. Brandon Nimmo followed by cleverly stepping aside as one of Alvarado’s 35 pitches went wild. Hey, 6-4, Mets! But then Nimmo struck out, Alvarado was replaced, and the Mets did no further damage.

They’d be granted the opportunity to do damage in the bottom of the ninth, with the caveat that the damage would be to themselves. Garrett, still in there, would take a turn at playing Met closer in the absence of rehabbing Edwin Diaz (whose lockdown properties were AWOL even when he was physically present). Reed allowed a leadoff single to Cristian Pache, elicited a foul pop from Kyle Schwarber (caught by All-Time Met Third Baseman No. 190 Iglesias) and hit J.T. Realmuto. Enough with Garrett, onto Drew Smith, forever the reliever I forget is on the roster. Bryce Harper recognized Drew and singled to right the first pitch he saw. Smith’s delivery was addressed with such authority that the Phillie runners already on first and second couldn’t advance more than one base, and Harper didn’t have time to make like Jamie Tartt and perform a soccer-style celebration. A modicum of Phillie exultation would have its chance five pitches later, when Smith completed a bases-loaded walk to Bohm.

It was now 6-5, Mets. The bases were still philled with Phillies. There was still only one out. Genuine power threat Nick Castellanos was still due up. Drew Smith was still Drew Smith. I neglected to check the Win Probability calculations, but wagering on the Mets getting out of this jam rated as folly. But if you were feeling lucky, perhaps you wished to wager a quid or two on the Mets’ good fortune. It’s only some other country’s money, right?

The savvy gambler, however, noted that Luis Torrens lurked behind the plate. If we’ve learned anything of late, it’s never bet against Luis Torrens. Thus maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that when Castellanos got the slightest piece of the last pitch Drew threw and it traveled only the slightest patch of dirt from home out toward the field, Luis a) pounced on the ball; b) turned around and step on the plate ahead of an onrushing Garrett Stubbs, pinch-running in Realmuto’s stead, for the inning’s second out; c) fired a dart to Alonso; d) nailed Castellanos for the inning’s, with agile Pete proving he’s in there as much for his glove as his bat by performing a neat pick of his own.

Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised, but, oh, we were. We don’t see too many game-ending 2-2-3 double plays to preserve one-run leads with bases loaded. We don’t see the Mets rather than execute that often, either.

The Mets held on, 6-5. The Mets held off the Phillies, 6-5. The Mets made watching baseball while we withstood both drowsiness and Michael Kay ultimately worthwhile, 6-5. The Mets weren’t that team that always finds a way to lose. That’s a departure from the routine welcome on any continent.

13 comments to Gotta Have It

  • Seth

    Let’s not gloss over the fact that the game was basically handed to the Mets (still looking for that game in which they’re in control the whole way), but that 2-3 double play was pretty spectacular.

  • LeClerc

    Tomas Nido will be returning to Syracuse shortly.

    • Jon

      Nido is out of options, and I don’t know if he’ll accept going back to Syracuse again, now that his stock has risen somewhat. Seems like other teams would want him as a backup at least.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    My Most Fun win of the year. And I keep wondering how that last play was explained to the 45,000 or so people in the stands who were seeing their first-ever baseball game.

  • For those who haven’t heard the ending called with hometown style.

    • Seth

      I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK and my kids are dual citizens (long story), so I love the country – but no. Just no. It just doesn’t sound right!

      • open the gates

        Probably the only time we’ll ever hear “Pete Ah-luhn-so”’s name pronounced quite like that. I like the local announcer’s enthusiasm. He probably would even make a cricket match interesting.

  • eric1973

    Loved the British call of that final play. The British announcer mentioned ‘meters,’ and the American-sounding color man mentioned ‘a game of inches.’

    I was half expecting some ‘extra time’ to be played a bit.

  • Jason

    I was there (or should I say ‘here’ as an English follower of the Mets since 1986). It was unbelievable to see the boys playing in England, and Sunday was the Metsian icing on the cake. As for the crowd, there were a huge number of Mets fans, but white shirts on white seats don’t grab your attention as much as putrid blue, and the broadcast areas were next to the designated ‘Phillies’ zone. Mets fans made plenty of noise – our LGM in the ninth on Saturday was absolutely the sole reason we loaded the bases (according to my 13 year old son!) and on Sunday, we were LOUD. It was a great weekend and the double play was a fabulous way to end it.

    • Definitely heard the LGM you describe. Thanks for representing!

    • BlackCountryMet

      Was a great weekend. Lots of Mets fans came across but there was also a good amount of Mets fans from Britain and Europe in attendance as well. Was very relieved Sunday to finally get my 1st win in 8 games attended this season

  • JerseyJack

    Just realized the British announcer said that the Mets won 6 games to 5 ( not runs ) !!