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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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Great Escape

When your team’s going well, you call a game like Sunday afternoon’s things like “an inspiring win” or perhaps “proof of resilience.”

When your team’s going badly, you just laugh at being randomly atop karma’s wheel for a day.

I’m not sure what to call Sunday afternoon’s game, because I’m not sure what the Mets are.

One of the joys of baseball — which was a lot more joyous before they stuck a football-style clock on the proceedings — is the way good games unfold with a surface lack of action that hides the tension being ratcheted higher and higher, until boom! that tension is released in a hurry and anyone who’s been paying attention realizes that was the payoff of all the apparent quiet.

So it was Sunday, when Sean Manaea and Luis Ortiz traded zeroes for six innings and then handed it over to their bullpens. Both teams emerged from the seventh unscathed, but the eighth was another story: Things were about to happen in a hurry. In the Mets’ half, All-Star snub Brandon Nimmo laced a double off former teammate Colin Holderman to chase home Francisco Lindor and give the Mets a 1-0 lead. In the Pirates’ half, Dedniel Nunez was removed after getting two outs (and allowing two hits) in favor of Edwin Diaz. Diaz? With four outs to get? After working the night before? (Admittedly, with relatively few pitches thrown.) Without a clean slate?

Cue mutterings from the large contingent of visiting Mets fans at PNC Park and all of us on our couches farther away. And, indeed, Diaz walked Joshua Palacios on four pitches and his fifth pitch was a slider that sat in the middle of the plate, and which Nick Gonzales spanked into center for a two-run single and a Pirates lead. That sent the Mets out for the ninth a run in arrears with Aroldis Chapman — he of the fastest reasonably documented pitch ever thrown — filling in as the Pittsburgh closer.

Chapman got two quick strikes on Francisco Alvarez, but this year Alvarez has developed an ability to fight his way back into counts that brings to mind Edgardo Alfonzo and a young David Wright, as well as current specialist Nimmo. Alvarez worked the count to 3-2, spat on a slider that was just low, and was replaced at first by Ben Gamel. Harrison Bader fought his way to 3-2 and singled, putting speed on the bases and bringing up Mark Vientos.

Hope? It’s a delicate thing — a little bird to hold gently on your palm while it dries its wings, perhaps assisted by some gentle exhalations to speed the drying process up and accompanying assurances that the sky is wonderful and little feathered friends will love it up there. Vientos went down 0-2 on a pair of sliders, worked the count full … and got caught looking at a slider when he was expecting a fastball.

One out, ugh — and the ughs were compounded when Luis Torrens went down on three straight pitches, having clearly been looking for the exact opposite pitch of what Chapman had given him three times in a row.

Jose Iglesias was up as the Mets’ last hope, and I allowed myself to think he was exactly the kind of hitter I’d want there — possessed of a good eye and a reputation as a battler. And Iglesias did battle, fouling away putaway pitches at 101 and 102 before walking on a 101 MPH four-seamer a hair below the zone.

Chapman’s pitch count was rising steadily, and here came Lindor — who can look hopeless at the plate in one AB and like a wizard in the next one. Chapman’s third pitch was a slider that got too much plate; Lindor squared it up and a moment later it was touching the outfield grass and the Mets had the lead back.

Hope was flapping happily around at treetop level tweeting that the world was a wonderful place, but I was holding my breath because I knew what it didn’t: there are hunters lurking in the sky that a little bird doesn’t want to meet. Diaz went back out to the mound after nearly half an hour of sitting and, one feared, marinating in his own unhappiness about what had transpired. His first pitches to Oneil Cruz weren’t exactly reassuring, either: sliders getting too much plate and fastballs missing a bit of crucial juice.

But Diaz got Cruz looking on a slider at the knees and his pitches then seemed a lot crisper against Rowdy Tellez. He grounded out and Diaz went to work on Jack Suwinski, who worked a full count but tapped a ball harmlessly to Iglesias. It nestled in Pete Alonso‘s glove and the Mets had … enjoyed the rotation of the karmic wheel? Yanked one out through pluck and grit?

Damned if I know — every time I think I do, the Mets try and convince me of the opposite. What I do know is they won, and they’re about the most interesting .500 team one can imagine, even if you have no idea where that’s taking them.

13 comments to Great Escape

  • LeClerc

    Scott’s pitching Monday. Let’s hope Diekman doesn’t come in to relieve him.

  • open the gates

    I vote for resilient. Over the course of the season thus far, the Mets a) climbed back into relevance after starting the season on the trash heap, and b) remained relevant through a crucial ten-game stretch in which they were lacking both their closer and a 25th man on their roster. To me, that shouts resilience. I vote for the glass half full, but they need to continue to fill it up.

  • Eric

    It’s been a roller coaster of a season; in other words, streaky. I guess we can call that resilient. The Mets have slid down and climbed out of the pit a couple of times this season. The problem is every time they’ve breathed the good air above the pit, i.e., above .500, they’ve promptly stumbled back into the pit. In June, they made a big run to rise from bottom tier to valid wildcard contender, i.e., .500. Since then, they’ve been unable to set their feet, stay in the good air, and turn .500 into a stepping stone to a wildcard. After stumbling yet again, they’re now back up to .500 yet again. Let’s see if they promptly fall back into the pit again, or if they’ll set their feet this time.

    If the Mets are still this way at the trade deadline, heads peeking out, then promptly sliding back into the pit, going back and forth a bit above and below .500, I wouldn’t blame the front office for selling off the short-contract veterans. Now’s the time for the Mets to set their feet and take the next step to becoming a real contender.

    Modest goal: Let’s go into the all-star break above .500.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Not sure why you didn’t use “All Star Snub” in front of Lindor like you did with Nimmo. Either one is more deserving than The Mets’ actual All Star.

    But if the NL is behind like 8-2 in the 9th Inning with a man on first and two out and they need a pinch hitter, they’ve got their man…That’s his wheelhouse.

    • Curt Emanuel

      “Not sure why you didn’t use “All Star Snub” in front of Lindor like you did with Nimmo. Either one is more deserving than The Mets’ actual All Star.”

      Agree. Was wondering if Severino might get in though his last start didn’t help. But Lindor and Nimmo have both had more impact than Pete. And if we want to pro-rate ABs, add Alvarez, Martinez and Vientos to that.

    • Jason Fry

      Wow. Francisco is reading this and thinking, “Ken’s feelings about me are complicated.”

      You’re right that he deserved an All-Star snub designation. OTOH, the situation he came up in yesterday was pretty much the opposite of what you described as his wheelhouse … and he won the game for us.

      • Ken K. in NJ

        Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. I was referring to Alonso as being the guy they will having coming up in the 9th Inning in the All Star Game. 2 run homers when the team is 6 or more runs ahead or behind is his specialty.

  • Wheaties54321

    Meet Your New Core: it’s no longer rotten.

    Since the pivotal team meeting, the Mets have an impressive record of 22-11. The standout performances come from three key players: Lindor, Nimmo, and Alverez.

    Francisco Lindor

    BA: .314
    OBP: .375
    SLG: .569
    Runs: 28
    RBI: 19
    HR: 7
    2B: 14

    Brandon Nimmo

    BA: .303
    OBP: .389
    Runs: 28
    RBI: 24
    HR: 6
    Francisco Alverez (23 Games)

    BA: .338
    OBP: .418
    SLG: .603
    RBI: 15

  • LeClerc

    2:17 pm

    Mendoza again sabotages the team he’s “managing”.

    • mikeski

      Our bullpen both sucks and blows.

    • eric1973

      Can you really be an All-Star if you suck for 2 months and are good for 1 month?

      Alvarez would deserve the nod before those 2 schmoes. He was good before he got hurt and great when he came back.

      Gimme a break, will ya.