Mets Game 121: Loss To Nationals
Nationals 3 Mets 2
If nothing else, the game had your heart racing to the very last out. And that’s ultimately what we want from a ballgame, isn’t it?
Mets Game Notes
Bartolo Colon deserved better. But then, so did Jordan Zimmerman. Something like 22 of Colon’s first 25 pitches of the ballgame were strikes, and then he fell down toward more human performance. In the end, though, he was his usual masterful self, allowing only two runs — one earned — on six hits and a walk in seven innings. Zimmerman went 6 1/3 and allowed only one unearned run on five hits and no walks. Both pitchers were hurt by sloppy play behind them, but persevered through the predicaments.
The Mets really and truly had a great chance to steal the win away from the Nats, as they caught usually reliable Rafael Soriano on an off-night and nearly gained a huge advantage on a steal by Eric Young, Jr. in a first and third situation. The throw from Nats catcher Wilson Ramos was off line but snared by Asdrubal Cabrera (whose solo homer in the 8th wound up being the difference in the ballgame). Cabrera caught the ball and tried to apply the tag behind him and between his legs; I’m still not sure how that ball didn’t get through the wickets and into the outfield. Even bigger than that play was Juan Lagares, in a no-out sacrifice situation, popped up his bunt attempt back to Soriano. Ironically, that play could’ve been even worse if Soriano allowed the ball to drop and turned to throw to second, because Lagares didn’t even run — it would’ve been an easy double play.
Another key play in that action-packed bottom of the ninth was Matt den Dekker getting thrown out at home on a grounder. It should’ve been routine — den Dekker was out by about 15 feet — but because Ramos was kind of, sort of, maybe blocking the pathway of the runner, there was an umpire review of the play. Hey, it was a good call by Terry Collins to take a shot at it — you have to challenge it — but if that had been overturned it would’ve been ridiculous. First off, it’s ridiculous that such an obvious out can be reviewed for that reason. Second, Ramos, when he originally set up his target, clearly had his left foot INSIDE the third base line, and giving a lane to the runner. The throw forced him to move toward and beyond the third base line and into the runner’s path, and that’s why it was a good idea to challenge — to the blind eye, at real-time speed, it could’ve been perceived as blocking the runner’s path. Thankfully, the umpires watching the video screens saw it that way too and made the right call.
Slight disagreement with Keith Hernandez in regard to the situation in the top of the seventh inning. The Nats had a man on second (Adam LaRoche) and none out with Ian Desmond at the plate. Before a pitch was thrown to Desmond, Keith explained that a hitter in that spot needs to try to advance the runner by hitting the ball the other way. I agree — IF the pitcher allows the hitter to do that. Desmond swung through two chest-high fastballs that were middle-in to fall behind 0-2, and Keith was exasperated by Desmond’s “selfish” decision to swing hard at those pitches. Here’s where I have to step in and defend Desmond (who wound up eventually stroking a single up the middle). Sure, it would have been ideal for Desmond to bounce a grounder to the right side and advance LaRoche. But, it’s kind of difficult to hit a middle-in, letter-high, 92-MPH fastball the other way — Derek Jeter can do it, because Jeter tries to inside-out nearly every pitch that comes his way. What is the best goal when a batter sees a letter-high fastball moving middle-in? Driving it to an outfield gap. And a drive to the outfield gap is going to EASILY score even a clod like LaRoche. So I don’t have an issue with Desmond hacking at those pitches — he was working with what Colon was giving him.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets found themselves in a rally opportunity when, after getting men on first and second, Washington catcher Wilson Ramos attempted to pick Matt den Dekker off first, but LaRoche apparently didn’t receive the communication, and the ball was thrown up the right field line, allowing den Dekker to advance to second and Lucas Duda to third. Keith asked, “when the catcher doesn’t see the first baseman covering, why can’t he eat it?” From experience, I’ll explain exactly why: because when a catcher is trying to pick off a runner, it has to catch the runner by surprise, and it has to happen very quickly — so there is no time for thought or decision. It’s kind of like when a football offense decides to go on two huts instead of one to draw the defense offsides — you have to blindly trust everyone on the offense to know what’s happening, and catch the defense by surprise. If someone forgets, the play fails, and that’s that — it’s a team effort, and the center can’t, in mid-hut, quickly snap the ball when he realizes that the left guard is about to jump prematurely. Unfortunately for Ramos, he’s the one charged with an error, even though it was LaRoche who missed the communication (though, I suppose it could be argued that it’s Ramos’ fault the communication failed). If such a play is on, to get the runner it’s going to be bang-bang — if the catcher allows something other than reaction get in the way of execution (such as checking for a split-second to make sure the first baseman is moving toward first), there’s almost no chance of getting an out. Further, by hesitating for that split second to take a look, the catcher likely will affect his timing and throwing mechanics and throw the ball away. Oh, and for those wondering if the catcher can kind of take a look down to first while the pitch is coming in, to see if the first baseman is breaking, no, that’s not a good idea — a 90+ MPH pitch is difficult enough to handle cleanly when you have two eyes focused on it. It’s a play based on timing and trust, and it has to operate one way, at one speed, to succeed.
Michael Taylor occasionally looks like a deer in headlights, but he also seems to have a really good idea of the strike zone, and he appears to have rare athletic talent, and I’m betting he’ll be a star one day. When? Maybe later rather than sooner, but the tools are there.