Until Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who has had a miserable season trying to get his batting average over .200, hit a 9th-inning, two-run homer Sunday to give the Mets the decisive runs in a 7-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, this past weekend in the Steel City was a George Romero-style horror movie for our Flushing heroes.

On Friday night, the Mets appeared to still be enjoying their All-Star vacation as they sleepwalked through a desultory 3-1 loss to the Pirates, collecting only three hits. When they did have runners on base, batters would strike out flailing at bad pitches from the mediocre Pirates pitchers.

The headline from Friday night, however, was the loss of shortstop Francisco Lindor for what appears to be a prolonged amount of time due to an oblique strain that occurred when he was batting in the fifth inning.

The mystery of why Jacob deGrom did not start on Friday night was answered Saturday when manager Luis Rojas confessed his ace pitcher had been suffering from forearm stiffness since his last start which was 11 days earlier. He’d be placed on the injured list the next day and won’t be eligible to return until this Sunday at the earliest.

After Rojas’ announcement, the Mets went on to blow a 6-0 lead at PNC Park as the Pirates scored nine runs in the last two innings to win, 9-7. The big storylines from this game were the poor performances from the usually reliable Seth Lugo in the 8th inning giving up five runs; and closer Edwin Diaz, who returned to his erratic ways as he hit the first batter he faced and proceeded to walk the second in the bottom of the 9th before surrendering a game-end grand slam to Pirates catcher Jacob Stalling. What got lost in the misery was the Mets’ hitting into double plays in each of the first three innings.

The Mets appeared to save their worst for the last game of the series. After failing yet again to score a runner from third base with none out in the top of the first, pitcher Taijuan Walker immediately gave up six runs. He seemed to suffer a meltdown when Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman hit a dribbler up the third base line. Walker believed it was a foul ball and knocked it away. When the umpire ruled it a fair ball, Walker started arguing with the ump instead of calling time. Three Pirates runners scored, and Walker was removed from the game moments later.

Walker is fortunate that the Mets flipped the script, as they rallied late to beat the woeful Pirates. This could easily have been a season-defining moment had his team lost, one that might have haunted the Mets All-Star for the rest of his career.

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ESPN air personality and Hollis native Stephen A. Smith got himself into hot water by saying he didn’t believe Los Angeles Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani couldn’t be the face of baseball because he needs the services of a translator as his English skills are limited. Most baseball fans only care about what a particular player does to help their team win. Period. Had Smith opined that Ohtani wouldn’t receive the commercial endorsement that such athletes as Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Chris Paul receive, then that would have been a fair point.

To his credit, Smith apologized as he acknowledged his statement only enhanced the anti-Asian sentiment of too many knuckleheads since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

While Smith, by his own acknowledgment, deserved the criticism he received for his statement, some of the blame must go to ESPN. The Worldwide Leader in Sports pays Smith $12 million for his work on the daily sports debate show “First Take.” They pay him that exorbitant sum because he brings in ratings. Viewers want to hear his edgy opinions just as they do those of his former debate partner Skip Bayless, who now co-hosts “Undisputed,” on the rival Fox Sports 1.

I am not a fan of these contrived sports debate shows. I believe you must give the hosts a wide berth in what they say just as we do comedians. It is somewhat hypocritical for TV network executives to have these shows, which obviously attract a lot of eyeballs, only to get upset when they cross that subjective line.

Mazel tov to 17-year-old pitcher Jake Steinmetz, who was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third round of last week’s MLB Draft. Steinmetz grew up just across the Queens-Nassau border in Woodmere, LI, and is the first Orthodox Jew to be drafted by an MLB team. Steinmetz will have to develop a tough skin as he tries to reach the majors. A lot of minor league cities have fans, who shall we say, are not known for tolerance for different cultures.

Two sons of Queens, Gary Cohen and Ian Eagle, were nominated in the category of best play-by-play broadcaster for the 2021 New York-area Emmy Awards. Also up for that Emmy are Ryan Ruocco, Mike Breen and Brendan Burke. Talk about stiff competition.

A voice from the Mets’ mid-1980s glory days, Gary Thorne, filled in for Gary Cohen on the Mets-Pirates telecasts over the weekend. Thorne’s voice may have slightly frayed over the ensuing years, but his game analysis was spot-on as he called out Mets hitters for not swinging at balls in their wheelhouse while simultaneously swinging and missing garbage pitches. He also had a terrific chemistry with Keith Hernandez.

Philadelphia Phillies ace pitcher Aaron Nola is understandably taking some heat in the City of Brotherly Love for saying that he has no plans to take a Covid-19 vaccine after coming off the Covid injured list. He hadn’t tested positive but was close to someone who had.

American tennis star Coco Gauff had to withdraw from the Olympics because she tested positive for the virus. No word if she had been vaccinated.

Everyone should follow the advice which is printed in big letters along the first base line of the San Francisco Giants home ballpark, Oracle Park, “VAX UP!!”

I caught “Space Jam: A New Adventure” on HBO Max over the weekend. The film stars LeBron James in this update of the 1996 Michael Jordan film vehicle.

Yes, the film could easily have trimmed a good 20 minutes from its nearly two-hour running time, and the copious amount of cluttered computerized animation graphics are headache-inducing.

But the positives outweigh the negatives. LeBron James is a good actor and has an amiable screen presence. Warner Media clearly had fun approving the film as it works in a lot of the conglomerate’s assets in the world of animation (the entire Looney Tunes cast of characters from Bugs Bunny to Speedy Gonzalez are here), films (“The Matrix” and “Casablanca” get saluted) as well as its sports arm (there is a clever joke about cable network TNT and dynamite. Ernie Johnson, a signature NBA studio host for TNT, is a riot trying to keep a straight face calling a bizarre life or death basketball game involving LeBron and his animated teammates). “Space Jam; A New Adventure” also nicely spoofs e-sports, video games, and the concept of corporate synergy. Academy Award-nominated actor Don Cheadle is a hoot playing appropriately named high-tech villain, Al G. Rhythm.

Cable streaming service Hulu just debuted “McCartney 3,2,1” It is a six-part series in which Paul McCartney and producer Rick Rubin converse about the influences of Beatles music, the more obscure history of the Fab Four, and fun rock & roll stories. You get quite an education eavesdropping on these two. You don’t have to be a huge Beatles fan to enjoy this.

Fox Entertainment launched the genre of 21st century musical competition reality shows with “American Idol,” and followed it up a few years ago with the very successful “The Masked Singer,” in which celebrities from all walks of life put on costumes performing their favorite songs. The panel must guess their real identities. This fall, that concept gets expanded, as singers who aren’t celebrities get to perform as computerized avatars reflecting their rock/country/pop star fantasies. Alanis Morrissette, Nick Lachey and will.i.am will serve as judges.


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