Mets Game 17: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 7 Mets 1

We thought it might be a pitchers’ duel, and it was just that … until the ugly eighth.

It wouldn’t have made a difference, because Carlos Zambrano was just a bit better than John Maine anyway.

Maine didn’t look particularly great, and didn’t have his best stuff, but somehow he managed to match zeroes with Zambrano until the fourth, when Aramis Ramirez jumped all over a first-pitch fastball with a man on to put the Cubs ahead 2-0. Unfortunately, the Mets could only manage one run — scored on a double play no less — against Zambrano and the Cubs bullpen.

Through most of the game, Maine struggled with his command, falling behind hitters and not getting on top of his pitches. He allowed the leadoff man to reach base in three out of the first four innings. However, he kept the Mets in the game, pitched six full innings, and the final stat line looked pretty good: 6 strikeouts, two walks, five hits, two earned runs.

The eighth inning started innocently enough, with Jose Reyes booting an easy ground ball; apparently he did not realize a prankster had stuck a bullfrog into the pocket of his glove before he left the dugout. The next batter Aramis Ramirez got in the way of an inside pitch and was awarded first base. Then Kosuke Fukudome fouled off 75 pitches before slapping a seeing-eye single into left field to load the bases. Aaron Heilman regrouped however, inducing a popout from Geovany Soto and striking out Mark DeRosa. He was about to strike out Ronny Cedeno as well, but felt bad for the weak-hitting defensive specialist, and gave him a nice meaty pitch to drive into centerfield to drive in two runs. By then, Heilman had matched the pitch counts of Maine and Zambrano combined, so Willie Randolph removed him from the game in favor of homerun specialist Jorge Sosa.

Sosa did as expected, hanging a flat slider to Felix Pie, who deposited the ball into the bleachers to extend the lead to 7-1.

Though it was completely unnecessary, the teams insisted on taking the field in the ninth, and the Mets were gracious enough to put an end to the game quickly, retiring themselves on six pitches.

Notes

Though it didn’t help things to plunk Aramis Ramirez in the eighth inning, I enjoyed seeing Aaron Heilman throw inside to Ramirez — and pound the inside of the plate against the other batters he faced. What really had me scratching my head, though, was why in the world Raul Casanova set up on the outside part of the plate for four consecutive pitches after getting two quick strikes on feeble-hitting Ronny Cedeno??? Cedeno was looking to hit the ball to the opposite field, has a slow bat to begin with, yet Casanova and Heilman were targeting the outside part of the plate — the one place Cedeno had a chance to get around on a pitch and put it in play. When Casanova FINALLY moved his target to the inside, it was four pitches too late, and Heilman didn’t get it far in enough, but left it over the middle of the plate. Had he gone to a fastball in on the hands, maybe a little up, before wasting five pitches on the outside, he might have disposed of Cedeno immediately.

Yeah, I know when you give up all those runs so late in the game, it’s difficult to stay “up” for the final at-bat. But, the Mets’ last at-bat was atrocious. In Little League, they teach you to take a strike when you’re behind. Luis Castillo took a strike before grounding out to first, but both David Wright and Carlos Beltran were hacking with 1-0 counts, down six in the last inning. Call it what you want — I call it giving up and getting the game over with, and that’s disappointing.

If nothing else, at least make Kerry Wood break a sweat. There’s another game tomorrow, folks, and if it’s a close game, Wood will be fresh and ready to fire away after expending only a half-dozen pitches. On the other hand, Aaron Heilman will not be available after throwing 30 pitches in his one-inning outing. (I know, I know, some of you snarks say that’s a good thing, but that’s being really nearsighted; Heilman did not pitch poorly, despite letting up four runs. Sometimes the stats don’t tell the whole story.)

Lost in the disaster was another encouraging outing by Duaner Sanchez — or as Mike Francesa refers to him, “DWAY-nar”. Dirty wasn’t dominating, but he was OK, using 17 pitches (12 for strikes) in a scoreless inning of work.

Next Game

The Mets won’t have the excuse of a late night flight tomorrow, but they will have the ability to blame the day game if they come out on the field as uninspired as they were this evening. Nelson Figueroa goes against Ted Lilly in a 2:20 PM start that will be carried on SNY, 660 WFAN and XM 184.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. harveybee April 21, 2008 at 9:21 pm
    there is something severely wrong with heilman. as long as he is the go-to guy in the bullpen, we are in trouble. what a disappointment to watch him blow this one after his stellar performance saturday night. dont get me wrong, he has good stuff, but there is something up inside that fitted hat that is getting the best of him.

    and there are two gaping holes in the mets lineup. can you guess? one of them is a 2nd baseman who shouldnt ever bat lefty again, and the other is a washed up first baseman who might not be able to hit as a DH in the american league. graybeard batting fifith!!! somebody call keith and clyde!!!

    ahem. ok its not that bad but i am reeling from this loss. i hope it doesnt turn to 3 straight…

  2. joe April 21, 2008 at 9:34 pm
    I’m with you re: the right side of the infield. However I’m still riding the Heilman bandwagon — I don’t think he pitched poorly. If Reyes makes that play to start the inning, none of those runs score. Secondly, he gave up the RBI single on his 30th pitch of the inning — most relievers are spent by #20. I firmly believe that Heilman’s location selection was the issue in the Cedeno at-bat, and feel that if he had continued pounding inside, that hit would have never happened.
  3. isuzudude April 22, 2008 at 6:05 am
    I share concern over Delgado and Castillo, as well, but I don’t think the situation is as dire as some are leading to believe. I mean, it’s not like the two of them are striking out in every at-bat. Actually, Delgado is on pace to strike out only 112 times in 544 at-bats, which is an improment over his career ratios. And he’s only struck out once in the last 4 games, which included facing strikeout pitchers in Cole Hamels, JC Romero, and Carlos Zambrano. Also, if you’ve been paying attention, you saw Delgado smoke a couple balls in Philadelphia that landed foul beyond the foul pole, and a few that landed inches from being fair by the chalk down the line that could have been extra base hits. On Sunday night he drove a ball deep to left that was run down by Burrell, and last night he laced a hard single up the middle and grounded a ball sharply to the SS/3B hole but was out because he hit into the shift. Yeah, Delgado’s average looks like he’s about ready to hang up the cleats, but there’s so much more to it than just the 0 for 4 in the boxscore. I see him hitting the ball hard, and sooner or later those balls are going to start finding holes.

    As for Castillo, you have to let him do what he does best, and that is slap the ball and hope it finds a hole from the left side, and pull the ball down the line from the right side. If you’re expecting him to hit 10 HR and drive in 80 runs you’re setting yourself up for failure. And I really don’t think it’s all that fair to keep jumping on Castillo at this point. After all, he’s now hit safely in 5 of his last 6 games, he’s walked 9 times compared to just 4 Ks, and he’s even been successful stealing 4 out of 4 times. This is typical Castillo. Let him hit the ball in play, advance runners, and do the little things from the 2-hole that make him valuable. He’s going to be just fine, as long as you leave him alone.

    I can’t understand why Heilman had to make yet another appearance last night, though. I mean, I thought Heilman was the set-up guy, which means he comes into the game when there is a lead or a tie to protect. Down 2-1, I would have rather seen a Joe Smith, Jorge Sosa, or Scott Schoeneweis come in the game. If they give up more runs, big deal, you were already losing anyway and now you didn’t exhaust one of your better bullpen arms. Instead, Heilman gets wasted in a loss, and now, if we have a lead late in the game today, we’re going to have to depend on some of the back-of-the-bullpen guys to protect it. Not a wise decision if you ask me.

    And by the way, Joe, you are quite justified in your belief that Heilman’s usage is becoming too frequent. He now leads the majors all by himself with 12 appearances so far. That is certainly a recipe for a DL stint later in the season.

  4. joe April 22, 2008 at 7:22 am
    ‘dude, you’re probably right about Castillo — this is the same type of hitter he’s always been — but Delgado’s bat speed worries me. He has so much movement and complexity to his swing, his timing has to be just right, and I feel like right now he’s actually in a hot streak because he’s hitting the ball hard. Unfortunately, he’s not hitting safely, so what happens when his timing is off again?

    Heilman’s job is to come in when the Mets are up by four or less or down by three or less, or tied. The only other times Willie uses Aaron is if the Mets are either on the road or at Shea. Besides those occurrences, he doesn’t really pitch all that often. grrrrrrrrr…….

  5. Micalpalyn April 22, 2008 at 10:04 am
    that was a nice response by Isuzu:

    1. I agree on Del. We have been behind him thru the winter, and I agree that he is hitting the ball well enuff.

    2. Agree on Castillo- he is what he is. BUT I ‘d rather see him hit 8th/7th at this point. The experiment with Pagan and Church in the #2 spot yielded far greater results than any of us forecasted. The return of Castillo to #2 has not been effective. I see Castillo at this point as having that Roger Cedeno (1999) effect on the bottom of the order. He can be a second leadoff guy and be advanced by Scneider/Pitcher or allow for other late inning options like the (non existent) double switch.

    3. I am not a Heilman fan.