Game 76: Loss
Red Sox 9 Mets 4
Fenway Park is the most unique baseball stadium in the world, and can be both difficult and intimidating to players visiting for the first time — especially pitchers and left fielders.
Unfortunately, the Mets trotted out rookie Lastings Milledge to left field and rookie Alay Soler to the mound, and neither looked comfortable in their positions.
Soler looked to be pitching with fear; certainly plausible, considering that the Green Monster hovered just a few steps behind his right shoulder. He tried to peck at the corners, fell behind hitters, and likely enraged the home plate umpire with his body language on the rare pitches that were close to the edges. He had a chance to squeak through the first four innings, until Lastings Milledge lost a ball in the wind / lights of Fenway with two outs in the fourth, allowing two runs to score. Things didn’t get better in the fifth, as Soler fell behind Mike Lowell and Alex Gonzalez, who both responded by lifting fly balls over the Monster.
The turning point in the game came just minutes before the Lowell and Gonzalez blasts. With the Mets three runs behind, the bases were loaded with two outs and David Wright at the plate. D-Wright worked the count to 3-2 and fouled a few pitches off rookie Jon Lester before Lester won the battle (and the game) by getting Wright to swing through a 70-MPH curveball. A base hit would have turned the tables on the Bosox, and who knows what might have happened. With that short left field wall, a little fly ball could have put the Mets ahead by one. Instead, Lester got the strikeout, and the momentum went to the Sox. The two homers in the fifth were the final nails in the coffin.
Mets fans everywhere were given a tremendous scare in the fifth, when Jose Reyes was caught between sliding around, or knocking over, Jason Varitek, as he tried to score. Reyes did neither, and ended up semi-barreling, semi-falling off of, Varitek (and getting called out). Reyes was down for several minutes, and left the dugout for treatment. However he did remain in the game and appears to be OK.
What Manny Acta was thinking on that play, by the way, is anyone’s guess. It was a hard-hit ball by Carlos Beltran that took one clean bounce into Manny Ramirez’s glove. Reyes was just approaching — and had not yet stepped on — third base when the ball was in Manny’s hands, and Manny was only about 150 feet from home plate. Sure, Reyes has great speed, and Manny’s far from a gold glover, but it didn’t take a great throw to beat Reyes by several steps. The only thing I can think is that Acta believed Manny was going to concede the run and throw into 2B.
Heath Bell brought his mop into the game in the fifth, and pitched brilliantly. He was completely unfazed by the Fenway dimensions, as he stuck to his regular “game” and went right after the hitters. The result? Three strikeouts and two hits over an two and two-thirds innings. One of the strikeout victims was David Ortiz, and he induced a groundout from Manny. One of the hits was a cheap infield hit by Coco Crisp that bounced off Bell’s leg, and the other hit was a two-strike single by Trot Nixon. His performance cutting through the Red Sox lineup like a hot knife through butter should earn him at least an occasional meaningful outing — something which may be possible as the Mets monitor Duaner Sanchez’s nerve issue.
Speaking of, good to see Dirty Sanchez back in the game. He seemed to be fine. Let’s hope he stays that way.
Although the misplay in the fourth by Lastings Milledge was not the reason the Mets lost, he seemed to be trying to make up for the mistake by swinging. He swung at nearly everything within his reach in his subsequent at-bats, as if he could hit a five-run homer. I wonder if Julio Franco or one of the other veterans will pull him aside and talk about forgetting mistakes and separating fielding from hitting.
I mentioned in the last post that D-Wright has been swinging at a lot of first pitches lately, and was very surprised that he swung away on the first pitch he saw from rookie Craig Hansen. First of all, he was the leadoff batter of the inning with the Mets down by five, and secondly, he’d never faced Hansen before. It was a clear situation where he should have been taking a pitch, and instead swung away and grounded out to third. I’ll let it go, this time …
Yesterday, with no Mets game, I tried to watch the Yankee-Braves game. Problem was, I couldn’t root for either side. Maybe if the Braves weren’t 15 games out, I could have rooted for the Yankers (eek). Instead, I forced myself through two innings, then hunted for bad reruns.
Pedro vs. Beckett tomorrow. Should be mildly interesting …