Mets Game 7: Loss to Marlins
Marlins 2 Mets 1
Noah Syndergaard was utterly dominant, but the Mets again didn’t hit, and the Marlins did a better job of executing when they had to.
Mets game notes
A friend of mine was irate over the 8th inning match-up between Jerry Blevins and Martin Prado, which Prado won with a lead-grabbing sac fly. Personally, I don’t think Terry Collins botched that one — the likely alternative was Addison Reed vs Justin Bour, which I don’t like any better.
The mistakes I saw were elsewhere:
By the time he’d retired Marcell Ozuna for the first out of the 8th inning, Jim Henderson had nothing left. However he might normally match up against Yelich and Stanton, Collins would have been wise to ignore that, as Henderson could no longer finish his pitches, with everything sailing up and away. Maybe that wasn’t obvious until a few pitches into the Yelich AB, but what was obvious was the health risk. 33-year-old guy coming off shoulder surgery throwing max effort in the cold and showing obvious fatigue? It wouldn’t surprise me if his Mets career is done before it even gets started.
Health risks aside, you certainly had to see the walk to Stanton coming, which pushed the winning run to 3rd. Better to have a pitcher (even a lesser one) who isn’t totally gassed in that spot.
I hope Henderson survives. I’ve figured out who he reminds me of — the guy I wanted to trade Wilmer Flores for in the offseason, Jake McGee. Like McGee, Henderson throws almost all fastballs, with good velocity and crazy movement upstairs.
I like that Michael Conforto is being treated as a full-time player, but in a situation where you must get a sac fly and avoid a DP, he deserves to get pinch-hit for if he’s going to swing at pitches that crowd him. Craig Breslow didn’t even try to throw any nasty strikeout pitches, he just kept the ball in and let Conforto pound it into the shift. Conforto could have taken the inside pitches and been 2-1 and forced Breslow to consider something else.
Given the situation and Conforto’s lack of reps against lefties, plus the fact that if the Mets take the lead you’d want to bring Juan Lagares in for defense anyway, I would have just pinch-hit Juan there. Is the idea of losing one Conforto AB against some righty reliever in the 9th so terrible? No.
Mistakes 3 -> ∞
Pitch selection. I have always hated Travis d’Arnaud‘s game-calling, and Tuesday’s game was no exception. He seems decent at staying on the same general page with the plans Warthen outlines, but he’s just terrible at going pitch to pitch. He also doesn’t ever challenge what the pitcher wants to throw, indulging any dumb idea that might enter a guy’s head (e.g. a certain 3-2 breaking ball to Lorenzo Cain). The Mets stayed .500 despite terrible offense last year due to great pitching, and it’s no coincidence that Kevin Plawecki was behind the plate for that. I think Plawecki’s at least an average game-caller, which probably makes him the best the Mets have had since Henry Blanco (or maybe John Buck, who was a mixed bag).
Bad Pitch Selection #1
Noah Syndergaard was throwing 99 mph all day, yet didn’t throw a single fastball inside to a lefty. He was dotting that edge against righties, so there was no reason to think he couldn’t get it there. Every Marlins lefty knew the ball inside was a slider, every time, and that’s what enabled them to foul off some nearly-unhittable ones.
Bad Pitch Selection #2
0-2 count on the opposing pitcher, thinking slider for the K, and d’Arnaud sets up right on the corner, possibly low and away. Thor goes for the glove and buries it, not even tempting Jose Fernandez to swing. What? Is there any chance at all that Fernandez can hit a Syndergaard slider in the strike zone? Just start it down the middle and he’s toast! Instead, they nibbled the count even, and then Fernandez was able to handle the fastball he knew was coming.
At least Thor and d’Arnaud learned from this one — they did throw the 2-strike slider down the middle in Jose’s next AB, and indeed, he was toast. This is a larger problem with d’Arnaud, though, failing to distinguish between pitches in the zone and chase pitches. All sliders away are the same slider away, in terms of his set-up. No awareness of when to bury it vs center it — cough cough Cain cough cough.
Bad Pitch Selection #3
Thor was blowing belt-high fastballs past people all day long, but kept the ball down against Derek Dietrich, who loves the ball down.
Bad Pitch Selection #4
Thor fooled Dietrich on a change-up… and then decided to throw it in the same spot on the next pitch. Hey, if you’re Dillon Gee, maybe that’s your best bet, but with 3 other strikeout pitches ready to go, Thor should probably never throw back-to-back change-ups. You want to get a guy out with change-ups, fine, but separate them with something. If he’d gone with literally any other pitch there, he leaves the game with a 1-0 lead…
Bad Pitch Selection #5
…well, unless it’s the exact pitch he threw Dietrich the next time up, a low fastball over the middle.
It seems weird to pick on Syndergaard on a day when he fanned 12 in 7 innings, but the fact is, he went out there with absolute no-hit stuff and found a way to give up 7 hits and a run. His curve was snapping, his slider was biting, his change was dying, his 2-seamer was running, and his 4-seamer was popping. He probably lacks Max Scherzer‘s funk and deception, but he certainly had better stuff than Max brought to his 17-K near perfecto last September.
Bad Pitch Selection #6
Henderson threw 11 of his first 12 pitches to Dee Gordon on the outside edge. Gordon was late, just fouling them off. D’Arnaud was right to stay away from Henderson’s mediocre slow stuff there, as you don’t want Gordon to catch up. But how about trying to beat him upstairs or inside? On pitch 13, d’Arnaud finally set up inside, but Henderson let one get away, leaving the pitch middle-away. Gordon still couldn’t catch up. Maybe try inside again? Guys? Hello? If you execute it, it’ll probably work! Nope, back to the outer edge for two more, and then on pitch 16 they gave in and threw the slider, and Gordon kept it fair.
Out of 15 fastballs, only 2 were called inside, and zero were called upstairs.
Bad Pitch Selection #7
Of the seven pitches a now-exhausted Henderson threw to Giancarlo Stanton, six of them ran a foot to Jim’s arm side. And yet, d’Arnaud kept setting the glove inside, where he wanted the pitch, instead of down the middle, where the ball would have run to the perfect spot. When they tried to pitch to the outside edge, d’Arnaud again set up where he wanted the ball, which let the ball run to the middle (luckily Stanton fouled it off), instead of setting up well outside and letting the ball run back to the outside edge. If either d’Arnaud or Henderson had recognized what they were working with, they could have used it, but nope, square peg into round hole till ball four.
Bad Pitch Selection #8
Martin Prado batting in a sac fly situation. Okay, anyone who’s watched Prado hit, what’s his favorite pitch to work with? That’s right, class: fastball away. He can line it over the first or second baseman almost at will. So what does Blevins throw him? Four straight fastballs away. He almost got away with it, getting ahead 0-2 on a borderline call and a foul ball that Prado just missed squaring up. The next pitch was way outside. Maybe a set-up to start a breaking ball in the same spot and bend it back over the outside corner? Nope, another fastball away, but this one missed by a ton and actually ran over the middle, where Prado had to adjust his swing to avoid jamming himself, as he was clearly set up to go to RF. But adjust he did, and that was the ballgame. Obviously a fastball that was actually inside would have given him much more trouble, not to mention a back-foot breaking ball. Starting 0-2, Blevins had plenty of options, such as his big, slow breaker, that starts in the strike zone and finishes in the dirt. But nope, he and d’Arnaud never even gave themselves a chance for a whiff or a defensive-cut grounder.
Causes for concern?
I think the Mets’ talent on the mound and in the batter’s box matches up quite well with their National League opponents, but there aren’t a lot of championship teams that play this stupidly. Every year some squad slugs its way into the postseason without being good at much else, but that’s usually followed by a quick exit. Maybe I shouldn’t sweat these little things until October rolls around? On the other hand, if the Nats beat out the Mets by a few games, it won’t be hard to trace the difference back to some Met patterns of low baseball IQ.
Next Mets Game
1:10 PM Wednesday matinee. Will Adam Conley remember that the Marlins’ rotation is supposed to be their achilles heel? That might be the reeling Mets’ best hope.
It’s been great that Henderson’s hung on and got himself a spot here and some early success — but, man….this guy’s got to mix it up. 16 pitces to Gordon. 15 of them fastballs. He’s got to mix it up more, or everything’s going to catch up with him quickly.
I do think managers tend to underrate defensive subs, though. You don’t have to wait until the late innings with a lead. Middle innings with a tie is valid too, especially if your defensive sub isn’t a complete slouch with the bat. Suppose Lagares bats for Conforto and hits into the same DP. Well, then you have Lagares in CF and Cespedes in LF, and maybe Yoenis’s speed gives him a shot at catching Gordon’s blooper. Or maybe Lagares catches Dietrich’s deep drive to lead off the 7th, and Gordon doesn’t lead off the 8th. There’s upside to using Lagares beyond one possible AB against Breslow.
As for Henderson, he only has one really good pitch; I don’t blame him for using the slider sparingly right now. I think he needs to work on it and improve it, and THEN start throwing it more in games. I normally wouldn’t advocate any pitcher throwing all fastballs, but… Jake McGee, man.