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The Amazins in Astoria: July 26-August 11

Image: NY Post

Welcome back to the Amazins in Astoria, a season long chronicle of my life in relation to the 2022 New York Mets.

For the first entry in this series, click here.

For the previous entry in this series, click here.

July 26th-27th-Subway Series Phase 1 (59-37 Pre-Series)

The air in the city is different today. It's a pretty typical for the beginning of the Dog Days of Summer, but what's about to transpire in Flushing this week has added just a little bit more thickness to this late July heat wave. There are a lot more caps in the crowd on my Subway ride to work. As I walk down 34th street, the orange and white interlocking "NYs" bob up and down amongst the commuting crowd as if they're fighting each other for better visibility. Happy hour plans are pretty much void, as everyone in the office is either going to the game, on standby for tickets, or prepared to zip right home and watch the game on tv. Since I did not want to pay $150 for a ticket, I find myself part of that last group.

As soon as I get home, I make myself an early bird dinner and settle down for the night; nothing can distract me from Game 1 of this series, especially since we've got Walker and Scherzer going back-to-back against the Yanks this week. Walker, who had trouble in his last Subway Series start in 2021, allowing 3 home runs across 6 innings pitched. With only 9 home runs allowed so far in 2022, Taijuan has more than made up for it, but the Yanks reopen old wounds early on Tuesday night, as Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo hit back-to-back dongs off back-to-back pitches.

Even though it's packed in Citi Field, the pockets of each fanbase are audibly distinct from one another, and as Rizzo rounds the bases, I can almost hear the Bronx-based banter, as "little brother franchise" rhetoric is probably flung around the stadium. After watching baseball for over a decade now, I'm past the point of arguing that one fanbase is in the other's head, because I know it's pretty equal both ways, but the shots of the Yankee dugout's early celebration is enough to get my blood boiling early.

As the Mets enter the bottom of the 1st, I'm worried that these homers will set an unfortunate tone for the entire week; while the Mets have come back from so much worse, the raw power that flows through this Yankees lineup will keep me stressed all night. However, there are a few moments of relief, and quick ones at that, as the Mets crank 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st. With a 1-2 Count, Starling Marte rocks one into left that just barely hangs fair, then Alonso rips an RBI double to Center to immediately tie the game, and Eduardo Escobar homers to give the Mets a 4-2 lead, completely flipping the energy in Flushing.

As we enter the 2nd, I'm fully convinced that the tone in this series has been set firmly; a lot of runs, changing leads, and bummed out pitchers. However, as the dust settles from a mini home run derby, both teams stagnate offensively, and while we see plenty of tight situations, such as in the 4th as Walker loads the bases, Adam Ottavino surprisingly locks things down, giving Diaz a nice 3-run lead to lock things down. As Diaz closes, I'm pacing back and forth in front of the tv, stopping only as he gets through his wind-up. Out of the 23 pitches he throws over 1.1 innings, 19 of them are strikes, and 4 of them over 100 miles an hour. As Gleyber Torres swings on the final strike, I pump my fist and shout as if I'm there, and am immediately thankful that I'm home alone for the night.

The pitching duel continues into Night 2 as Scherzer and Domingo German take the mound. German is doing a lot better than what his final box shows, allowing a solo homer to Alonso in the 2nd but striking out 7 over almost 5 innings. With just enough cushion, as well as the ever-looming threat of a Yankees homer, Scherzer is in a perfect environment for a classic performance. While I described the game as a pitching duel at first, the real standoff of the night was Scherzer vs. Aaron Judge. In an already intense series, there was a noticeable vibe shift every time Judge stepped up to the plate against Scherzer. With every pitch, I held my breath, knowing that this one could be out of the park, exhaling only when it came into contact with the catcher's mitt. Even after being put out the first 3 times, the threat still loomed, and after swinging on an 85 MPH Scherzer Slider to go down for the 4th time of the night, I couldn't help but holler to myself once again.

When looking at what made this series so great, moments like that are what come to mind for me. Yeah, the Mets hit some home runs. Yeah, Starling Marte walked off Game 2, but when you look at how solid they were in nearly every other aspect of play, you can't help but feel more excited for the Fall than ever. Over the course of two games, some of the hottest players in baseball were pretty much neutralized; Aaron Judge went 0-5 in Game 2, while Matt Carpenter was 1-4. With runners in scoring position, the Yankees were 0-15. Overall, the Mets came into this series looking for nothing but a statement to make, and they came out making probably the most impactful one of the season.

July 29th-31st-Away Series vs. Miami Marlins (61-37 Pre-Series)

A day before Game 1 against Miami, the Mets snag Tyler Naquin from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Phillip Diehl and some prospects. While another left-handed bat is nice, the Mets now have just 4 days to bolster their bullpen. For now, I just gotta hope that Naquin can hit well enough to distract me from this roster's unchanging hole.

It's a good weekend for distractions, as the Mets head down to Miami to take on a Marlins team that is a lot less interesting than it was a few months ago. While Alcantara is still around being a beast, the absence of Jazz Chisholm has made this team borderline unwatchable. Without Chisholm, as well as any sort of promotional festival to get fans in the stands, the crowd in Miami leans pretty noticeably towards the Mets. Just like with Yankees fans against the Rays, bad Florida based teams will always be plagued with New York transplants when they come to town, and this weekend was no different. If you like to watch your team clean house and pad a divisional lead live, then there is no better destination than Marlins Park. Marte and Nimmo both homer on Friday, Cookie shuts out the Fish on Saturday, and 19 hits on Sunday help propel the Mets to a 3 game lead over the Braves before heading North to the Nation's Capitol.

August 1st-3rd-Away Series vs. Washington Nationals (64-37) Pre-Series

Another series that should be easy, but with a few important moments for the 2022 Mets regardless. First, as the trade deadline winds down on Tuesday afternoon, big names are coming and going across the country, but the Mets front office stays relatively silent. Aside from Darin Ruf and Mychal Givens, the Mets roster stays pretty stagnant. Considering the way this team has been so far in the 2nd half, I can see why they may have adopted a sort of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" attitude, but there are a few things that are clearly broken, and I don't need to say what they are for the 1-millionth time. The fact that I am now looking at the fall roster expansion and Francisco Alvarez to fix the Mets power behind the plate is admittedly very frustrating.

Regardless, I can only be miffed for so long, as Jacob DeGrom, in front of what is basically another home crowd at Nationals Park, warms up for his 1st regular season start since July 7th, 2021. There are signs, jerseys, and hundreds of Mets fans lining the baseline netting pregame to witness the return of DeGrom. However, while their is an unmatched energy leading up to pregame, it feels like a return to form, with a few added bonuses.

If you missed all the fanfare leading up to this game, you'd almost think this was a game from 2016. His first 4 pitches of the game, all 4-seamers, registered a respective 99.3, 99.3, 101.6, and 100.3 to help take down Victor Robles in 6 pitches. Pulling out his Slider, DeGrom was able to get Garcia down swinging, and Yadiel Hernandez grounding out to finish the 1st and return to the dugout to a standing ovation in Nationals Park. Each time DeGrom took the mound for 4 more innings, every Mets fan was on their feet, savoring every moment almost as if it could be taken away from them at any point. Luckily, in the postgame interview, DeGrom told reporters that he was feeling better than ever, with no majors signs of pain or discomfort.

Outside of DeGrom's own performance, it was a huge relief to see Jake get some support that he has largely missed out on his entire career, this time in the field. With free agency looming in 2023, it's clear that he wants to win, so the 2nd half of this season really serves as one long arbitration talk, with the rest of the Mets roster serving as a practical pros and cons list. With some major plays in the field against Washington, including a laser throw from Marte to Lindor to stop Keibert Ruiz from snagging a sliding double. As the throw connects and Ruiz is called out, DeGrom pumps his fist and points to his teammates in support. A small gesture, and probably nothing that meaningful, but it's enough to convince me that this team can woo him back to Queens for a few more years. Of course, Nogosek's relief performance dashed that a little bit, but with the trade deadline over, it's time to push through these bullpen worries and hunker down for the gauntlet that is August and September baseball.

August 4th-7th-Home Series vs. Atlanta Braves (66-38 Pre-Series)

The buzz in the air is back on Friday night, as I wait for a few friends near the old Shea Apple for Game 2 of what could be the most important Series of the season. With a win last night that featured a Tyler Naquin homer, the Mets now need to win just 1 more game to ensure holding onto 1st place for the weekend. 2 more wins, and then we can start talking about widening the gap. With Taijuan Walker on the mound for Game 2, I'm pretty confident that we'll get over that hump tonight.

After 2 innings, I am reminded why I should never be confident about anything ever, even as this team floats around 30 games over .500. Due to the size of the crowd, the line for Free Shirt Friday, and my hankering for a Citi Field hot dog, it takes me a little more time to get to my seat, and as I enter section 534, Eddie Rosario cranks one to right field to give the Braves a 4-0 lead. Walker, who has now given up homers in 3 consecutive starts, is having a complete meltdown on the field. After letting up 2 more in the 2nd and failing to make a single out, Walker is quickly pulled for Trevor Williams, who lets up 2 more runs to bring Walker's final earned total of the night to 8.

Even after a 4-run rally in the 5th to make it a 3-run game, there's nothing that this Mets offense can do to erase the hole that Walker has dug. As soon as Ruf pops out to end it, I'm ducking and weaving through the crowd to get back home as soon as possible. As I walk down Broadway back to my apartment, I find a strange sense of comfort and solidarity in the other fans I see heading home, our black Scherzer Shirseys slung over our shoulders in defeat.

Even with the rough performance on Friday, the Mets' current lead on the division still gives them a huge advantage in this series, which they take full advantage of in the Saturday double header. First, David Peterson continues to carve his way up the rotation with a 5 strikeout performance, while Francisco Lindor goes 3-4 for 3 RBIs to help secure an 8-5 win. With DeGrom back as a permanent part of the rotation, I think a guy like David Peterson could fall the wayside a bit, so performances like these are huge for keeping him in the mix. In Game 2, Scherzer and Pete Alonso dominated to help push the Mets lead over the division to 5.5 games, the largest since June 21st. Despite no home runs on the day, Alonso went 4-8 with 3 RBIs, while Scherzer struck out 11.

While 2 divisional wins are great in their own right, handing the reins over to DeGrom to put the Mets up 6.5 games is insane, something I never thought I'd see at the beginning of this season. If the crowd watching DeGrom warm up in DC this week gave you goosebumps, then seeing him get loose in Queens to "Simple Man" must have been a borderline religious experience. It was for me, at least. If I've learned anything in a decade of watching sports, it's that any team looking to make a historic run must adopt a flair for the dramatic, as well as back it up. The Mets have leaned into this as well as any team I've ever seen, and as DeGrom takes a bow after 5.2 innings, earning 2 runs and striking out 12, and Joely Rodriguez holds firm over 2.1, Edwin Diaz makes his most dramatic entrance yet.

With 3 pitches over 100 MPH, Diaz strikes out the final side of the series, giving the Mets their 70th win of the season, and sending the Braves packing with a 6.5 game deficit in the division.

August 8th-11th-Home Series vs. Cincinnati Reds (70-39 Pre-Series)

Once again, the Mets are rewarded with a pretty easy set following a tough series, this time against the struggling Cincinnati reds. Not much to say here except for a few things I loved.

  1. Tyler Naquin getting up to 11 hits with the Mets in just a week and a half of being on the team, including a 439 dong to right field against his former team.

  2. Francisco Lindor tying Jose Reyes' single season RBI record for a Mets shortstop, as well as the postgame discussion regarding this feat. While recognizing Reyes and the impact he had on those 2000s Mets teams, Lindor quickly shifted focus back to the team and helping bring the Mets up to a championship pedigree.

  3. The team picking songs from their favorite female artists to walk up to during Women's Day. While I will say that the playlist overall was pretty solid, Daniel Vogelbach was no doubt the star of the day.

As I got home from work on Wednesday, somehow my roommates convinced me to make the trek all the way to Coney Island to watch the last 8:00 sunset of the year, which to me, has always been the biggest indicator that the summer is pretty much over. In year's past, I've watched that 8:00 sunset while following some pretty rough Mets teams, and even when they were good at this point, I always knew that there was some caveat that would end the season in disappointment.

However, as I watched the sunset in Brooklyn while eating a Nathan's original glizzy, that age old mantra of "The Mets are gonna Met" didn't cross my mind, save for maybe mocking some salty Braves fans I saw on Twitter this past weekend.


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