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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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Hung With ’Em Until They Didn’t

Congratulations to the New York Mets of July 5, 2024, for doing something no Mets team had ever done before in a blowout loss so bad that a position player had to pitch. On Friday night, the Mets, whose last call to the visitors’ bullpen at PNC Park would summon catcher Luis Torrens, actually stayed close until fairly late. They trailed only 4-2 as the black & gold-clad crowd rose for the seventh-inning stretch, giving every indication they were very much in a game they had led as recently as the top of the fourth and were tied as recently as the top of the fifth.

Losses so resounding that they result in a Plawecki, a Recker or a Torrens staring in at somebody crouching where they usually find themselves tend not to be backloaded in their defining momentum. In the twenty previous episodes of You’re Not Gonna Believe Who’s Pitching, including the affair of August 15, 2021, when Mets fans resorted to that line twice (the night Kevin Pillar had to relieve Brandon Drury), the Mets were pretty well out of the game before everybody was in their seats, though there were a few first-inning Met leads that melted quickly, starting with the progenitor of all such improv embarrassments, Mets at Pirates, September 26, 1992. That Saturday afternoon, New York jumped ahead via the kind of attack that, if you knew nothing else except the game right in front of you, validated the signing of Vince Coleman two winters prior. Vince singled on a three-two pitch from Bob Walk to lead off the festivities; stole second while Walk worked to Chico Walker; cooled his heels while Walker worked a walk off Walk; and came home on Daryl Boston’s single to left. The Buccos were on the verge of clinching their third consecutive NL East title and the Mets were playing out as disappointing a string as they had ever unfurled, but in the moment, Jeff Torborg’s team was playing smart, heads-up baseball, running the opposition ragged.

The moment ended when the Pirates came to bat in the bottom of the first. They scored six runs. Four were on a grand slam belted by ex-Met farmhand Lloyd McClendon. Two were doubled in by Walk, who shook off the top of the inning pretty easily. Then came six more runs in the bottom of the second, featuring the final home run bopped by Barry Bonds in a Pirate home uniform. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Met infielder Bill Pecota scaled the mound. He wasn’t there to pep-talk his pitcher. He was there to be the pitcher, the first time a Met position player had ever assumed that responsibility. The first Pittsburgh batter, Andy Van Slyke, homered to change the score from 18-2 to 19-2. Pecota held the line from there.

That’s usually how these position player/pitcher games go. By the time the manager gets super desperate, the game’s been a foregone conclusion for ages. Take the three games in this category started by Steven Matz…please. Matz could do some fine pitching in his Met day, but he also had a tendency to implode. Once in 2018 and twice in 2020 (a season that had only sixty games total), Matz took the hill only to have the Mets running for them. They were down to the Nats, 7-0, in the first on July 31, 2018; down to the Nats again, 5-0, in the third on August 10, 2020; and down to the Braves, 5-0 in the second on September 18, 2020. The respective finals in those Met losses were 25-4, 16-4 and 15-2. The respective closers for the Mets? Jose Reyes, Luis Guillorme and Todd Frazier.

Met annals are punctuated with these oddities that unfortunately aren’t as infrequent as they used to be (none between 1962 and Pecota; thirteen since 2017). Friday night’s incident may have been the oddest of them all in that it did not appear to be a candidate for cataloguing under Blowout That Blowed Up Real Bad. The Mets hit the ball hard a bit versus rookie phenom Paul Skenes when Skenes — 7 IP, 8 SO — wasn’t throwing the ball past them quite a bit more. Jeff McNeil homered in the third. Pete Alonso doubled with authority to lead off the fourth and came around to register the second Met run. Even after Luis Severino gave up a pair of solo shots in the bottom of the fourth, the Mets were level with their hosts. For a decent spell after Bryan Reynolds parked another Sevy serving with a man on in the fifth, the game stayed within reach. Down 4-2 going to the bottom of the seventh is hardly a death sentence.

The next sound you heard was the Mets walking the plank. First Severino tumbled into the drink with nothing left: double; single; walk; exit. Next, for reasons best known to Divine Providence, Jake Diekman, the lefty who has still not taken our well-intentioned advice to fling his glove into the stands in order to inspire a designation for assignment à la Jorge Lopez (the Mets could hold a team meeting afterward as well). Nope, Diekman, the old pro, conducted himself with utmost comportment after surrendering a grand slam to Reynolds, putting the game that had been within the Mets’ grasp all night completely beyond the longest of their fingertips.

Because the rules say the Mets must suffer the consequences of their mysterious decisions, Jake had to hang around for two more batters. He gave up a single and a walk, or the least damage one imagines Diekman can do. The veteran gave way to a less-heralded journeyman type, Ty Adcock, who slithered out of his inherited jam thanks primarily to Oneil Cruz necessitating an interference-tinged double play by running directly at third baseman Jose Iglesias while Iglesias was in the act of fielding a ground ball. Thank heavens for dim favors.

Adcock would get his chance to know the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela in the bottom of the eighth, as three different Pirates sent three of Ty’s pitches toward the mighty Ohio. Three homers for Three Rivers, thrusting Pittsburgh ahead, 14-2, or ten runs better than it was barely an inning before. The last of the dingers, bashed by Rowdy Tellez, was the Bucs’ second grand slam of the game, not to mention the seventh of their franchise record-tying home runs. Worse, somehow, was that amid all the cannon blasts (PNC literally ran out of fireworks), Adcock couldn’t mix in a third out.

Ergo, Torrens, who got his man (0.1 IP, 1 BF, 0 R). If you’re looking for a Rolaids Fireman of the Game candidate on the Met side, you could do worse than the backup catcher. You couldn’t possibly do any better.

Oh, and welcome back, Edwin Diaz. Wash your hands, clean your glove and start getting warm.

5 comments to Hung With ’Em Until They Didn’t

  • LeClerc

    7th inning, Mets down 4-2, bases loaded: In comes Jake Diekman! Grand Slam, single, walk.

    Proof positive that Mendoza must take a cognitive test.

  • eric1973

    Really weird how Mendoza just loves this guy. Nobody better in A, AA, AAA?
    Waiver wire?

    So pitchers’ Wins, Losses, and ERA does not matter anymore, right?

    Skenes is 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA.

    Guess he sucks, right?

  • Seth

    If Diekman flung his glove into the stands, someone on the other team would hit even THAT out of the park. Is there a plan B?

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Diekman must have meaning in some European languages. It means useless in Icelandic. It means unwatchable in Lithuanian. And the Yiddish reaction when Diekman is heard is Oy Vey!!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I immediately thought of this one, but it turns out they miraculously did not use a position player to pitch. But in the end they did use Corey Oswalt, so not much different, pitching-wise…