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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 Answer Men

For a team that has posted six walkoff wins to date, it’s not a bottom of the ninth or eleventh that ranks as the Mets’ most satisfying half-inning of the year (and it’s certainly not a tenth; the Mets are 0-6 in ten-inning games). We have to hand this highly specific honor to the bottom of the eighth from Sunday, a demi-frame that didn’t even involve coming from behind or breaking a tie.

Rewind slightly to the top of the eighth, which began with the Mets ahead, 7-2, itself a satisfying score. The Mets were in command from the moment Pete Alonso unleashed a three-run Polar blast in the bottom of the first, vaulting the Mets ahead, 4-1, the capper on four consecutive Mets reaching base, beginning with Francisco Lindor’s leadoff homer. The Padres had scratched out a run in the top of the first, but that dent on Tylor Megill’s ledger felt distant once Pete went deep. By the time Megill gave up his second run, in the fifth, the Mets had added three more of their own off San Diego’s Dylan Cease. Indeed, the action unfolded to ensure a happy birthday to all you fathers out there.

Then came the top of the eighth, when unfolding morphed into unraveling. Goriest details will be withheld to spare the squeamish. Suffice to say that as 7-2 shrunk to 7-6 at Citi Field in the present, somewhere in the mind’s eye, Derek Norris was going 5-for-5 and Justin Upton was licking his chops at the sight of Jeurys Familia. The stormy Padre uprising of July 30, 2015, notorious as it remains in the darker recesses of Met lore, at least includes the saving grace of seeding the ground for a much brighter Met redemption arc — Cespedes! Flores! Nats beware! — barely 24 hours away.

Somnambulant San Diego’s all-at-once wakeup call in the top of the eighth inning of June 16, 2024, offered no obvious redeeming features in the moment, and it was hard to discern any pony hiding in the pile of horse manure wrought by Starling Marte not catching a catchable fly ball; Jake Diekman showing terrible control whether throwing to second or home; and Drew Smith’s pitches serving as piñatas. Harrison Bader leaping in the air to nab a line drive that was ticketed for over his head and Marte firing to the plate with precision at least kept things from getting massively worse. They were already pretty bad.

The Mets’ five-run advantage had slimmed to one. The rare sense that the Mets were playing a baseball game and being the definitively better team within it had melted. Across the first seven innings, I found myself perceiving these Mets as actually pretty good. It took only 70 games to arrive at that conclusion. The previous two weeks’ worth of mostly winning was pretty swell, but struck me more as a delay of the inevitable return to 2024 form. I seem to have reached the stage in my lifelong fandom that might be labeled the Missouri phase. You want me to Believe? Don’t try to impress me with a win here, a win there. Show me you’ve got something more up your pinstriped/black/royal blue/slate gray/road gray sleeve. When the Mets are relentlessly subpar, brief intervals of competence tend to annoy me more than all-out ineptitude does. Why are you wasting my time trying to convince me you don’t suck? We both know you do. Just get it over with.

Ah, but then came the bottom of the eighth, when, à la Norris and Upton in ’15, whatever torture the Padres had just put us through turned out not to matter in the scheme of things. Luis Torrens homered. The lead was two. Jeff McNeil doubled. Harrison Bader singled. McNeil went to third. Bader stole second. Lindor walked. Brandon Nimmo singled home McNeil. The lead was three. Invincible J.D. Martinez somehow struck out with the bases loaded, but Alonso sure as hell didn’t. Pete singled to score Bader and Lindor. The lead was again five. This evenly divided eight-run eighth wasn’t quite the eleventh inning of June 30, 1979, when the Mets scored six in the top half at Wrigley Field only to have to withstand five Cub tallies in the bottom half, but it was close enough to make me remember the Mets and Cubs once combined for eleven runs in an eleventh inning, which set one of those records it never occurred to me existed.

My Dale Murray flashback dissipated, returning me to the contest we were no longer letting slip away. Did we really just answer four daggering, staggering Padre runs with four everything’s-gonna-be-all-right runs of our own? We did. Did the Mets simply decide via their actions that they weren’t going to completely blow a ballgame after almost doing so? They had. The Mets hadn’t sent a home crowd home happy on the third Sunday in June since Jacob deGrom homered on their behalf — were we not, for a change, going to end our Father’s Day in a collective grimace? We were not. Happy birthday, everyone.

An 11-6 lead and victory that wound up more fulfilling that holding onto the 7-2 edge ever would have been tells us it all worked out beautifully, save for confidence in relying on Diekman or Smith and Marte’s sense of right field geography. The Mets swept the Padres in a three-game series for the first time since we paused our giddy march to the 2006 division title just long enough to applaud like hell for Mike Piazza in a strange uniform. The Mets ended a six-game homestand with a 5-1 record, all five of the wins being their last five games, which suggests this is a team on a bona fide roll. That National League Wild Card jumble that encompasses most every band of mediocrities and their likely fatal flaws? We’re kind of in that mess for something approaching real, a mess much preferable to the one we’re usually in. It would take seven pretenders sneezing and the Mets tiptoeing by amid the cacophony of gesundheits to transport the Mets meaningfully up the standings, but that’s what the rest of the season is for. Ninety-two games remain. Suddenly, I don’t hear myself telling this team to just get them over with.

It ain’t exactly You Gotta Believe, but it’s definitely something different from what I’ve grown accustomed to thinking.

3 comments to The Answer Men

  • Wheaties54321

    Another nice win for the Metsies!

    Just a couple of weeks ago, it was hard to envision this team making a run. Even at their worst, their active roster was missing key leaders: Alverez and Senga from the pitching staff, Diaz from the bullpen, and I would argue Alverez again as the most stabilizing force in their lineup. It’s been great to welcome these players back, and hopefully Senga returns soon.

    Knocking on wood for health … if we get a vintage Alonso for the rest of the season, the Mets will make the playoffs.

  • Seth

    So Diaz can ONLY pitch in save situations? It’s so weird these days. But anyway, this is a good start, let’s see where this hot streak goes.

  • open the gates

    I remember a couple of weeks ago writing in to you gentlemen after a rare Mets win that occurred after an enormous spate of losing. I said something to the effect that maybe this is where the Mets go on a huge run and turn their season around.

    I was being sarcastic. Serves me right for the Mets, or the baseball deities, to take me literally. I’m happy to be wrong that way.

    By the way, I peeked back at the Piazza post. Great stuff. You can tell it’s an ancient post because you were wondering why the Met fans were booing Chase Utley. Foreshadowing much?