Mets Game 38: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 5 Mets 3

Newly promoted spot starter Claudio Vargas gave a great effort, allowing only two runs on three hits and four walks in six and a third innings, but Aaron Heilman shat the bed and gave the ballgame to the Nationals.

Heilman came on in the seventh with the score tied at one, one out and one man on. He induced a ground ball from Wily Mo Pena for the second out, then allowed a single to Jesus Flores, a walk to Willie Harris, a single to Felipe Lopez, and a single to Cristian Guzman. By the time Joe Smith came on to put out the fire, the score swelled to 5-1.

The Mets came back with one run in the bottom of the frame, and mounted a mild rally in the eighth, but that seventh inning was a fatal blow to the Mets’ spirit. It’s hard to make up four runs in three innings, even against the worst team in the NL East.


It’s time to move Aaron Heilman to a mopup role. He’s a mess, and isn’t helped by the hometown boo-birds. At this point, he’s going to be booed heavily from the time he begins warming up in the bullpen, and that’s not good for anybody. Matt Wise and Joe Smith can pick up the slack while Aaron finds himself. As correctly noted by Lee Mazzilli in the SNY postgame, Heilman’s confidence is shot and he’s trying to be too fine. At the same time, the Mets MUST have him back on his game, eventually, if they are to do well this season. Willie Randolph had better try something other than “getting him back on the horse” — because that plan is NOT going to work in this particular case. Not surprisingly, Randolph has already announced his support of Aaron. That’s important, of course, but the role must change, at least temporarily.

To Heilman’s credit, he pitched properly to Jesus Flores, who happened to have a great at-bat. The other hits he gave up were on pitches that had good location — it was a matter of ground balls finding holes. Walking Willie Harris, however, was abominable.  I’m not happy with Heilman’s arm angle on release — to me it looks just a hair too low, which is sending his pitches higher in the strike zone than he intends. In addition, his velocity was down by about 3-4 MPH in this game — which, combined with the low arm angle, sends up a red flag suggesting fatigue or pain.

As you know, I’m a perpetual Heilman apologist, so I’m going to point out something glaring about this ballgame: the Mets managed only six hits and three lousy runs against the Washington Nationals. The Nats are 14th in the NL in pitching, giving up almost five runs per game. Yes, it’s Heilman’s fault this game got out of hand, but shame on the Mets offense for their putrid output.

Moises Alou was tossed from the game in the fifth by Dana Demuth. This proved to be a major incident, as Endy Chavez hit in his place as the go-ahead run in the eighth with runners on first and third. No offense to Endy, but Alou is the guy you want at the plate in a crucial RBI situation. Chavez popped up to shallow centerfield to end the inning. Endy did, however, stroke an infield single and eventually scored in the previous inning.

Next Game

The final game of the series begins at 1:10 PM on Thursday afternoon, with Mike Pelfrey going against Rutgers alum Jason Bergmann. Bergmann is returning from AAA after posting an ERA of almost 12 at the MLB level. The Mets absolutely, positively, MUST win this game. That’s right — it’s a must-win, in mid-May.

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. sincekindergarten May 15, 2008 at 4:54 am
    Joe, I was starting to wonder if I had some clairvoyant powers after the sixth, when I went to bed. Good timing, eh?

    Heilman needs to regain his confidence–in a Zephyrs’ uniform.

  2. isuzudude May 15, 2008 at 7:51 am
    Man, I thought we traded Guillermo Mota this offseason. What the hell is he doing in Aaron Heilman’s uniform? You’re right, Joe, Heilman should only be used in mop-up situations for the foreseeable future. I can understand Willie using Heilman in a tight spot last night, though. After all, Aaron had been pitching better over his past few outings, and only needed to retire 2 batters to get out of the inning facing the 7, 8, and 9 spots in the Nationals order. And Heilman wasn’t really beaten around, as the boxscore would suggest. But a walk here, a couple of seeing-eye singles there, and it adds up to another poor outing. The ideal situation, as SK suggests, would be for Heilman to work out his issues in AAA and allow the Mets to call up Muniz or bring back Figueroa. But the problem is Heilman doesn’t have options remaining, and so he’d have to pass thru waivers to get sent down. And despite his struggles, I’d imagine there’d be a long line of teams waiting to snatch him up if he ever became available in such a way. So we’re stuck with him, for now. Perhaps a DL stint is in the works, but for the time being Heilman should not be coming into any games in which the Mets are up or down by 3 runs or less.

    This situation pains me so much because I defended retaining Heilman for the 2008 season extensively this offseason when he was mentioned in trade rumors. We all know how good he can be when he’s “on”…the problem has been that the switch has been at the “off” position since the season began and no one seems to know how to get him to turn it on. And Joe, you’re dead right, if he can’t get it together, the Mets are going to find it a lot tougher to compete as the season wears on.

  3. JIMMYJ723 May 15, 2008 at 2:31 pm
    I wanted to comment last night but I was angry, so I decided, let me sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning. Hmmmm…. I’m all better now…

    This loss was in NO WAY Willie Randolph’s fault. Any manager would a brought in a reliever with 4.64 ERA into that situation. I’m sure Bobby Cox would have left him in there, even after giving up the game tying run and a few runs after that.

    This loss wasn’t Aaron Heilman’s fault either. If only those pesky Nationals weren’t such an offensive powerhouse. I don’t think Joe Smith or Pedro Feliciano would have done any better in that situation. What’s that ? They came in a didn’t give up any runs ? Claudio Vargas who was just called up from AAA only gave up 2ERs, one of which was Heilman’s fault? Hmmm… They must have gotten lucky.

    Well, let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s talk about the positive. We hit about 10 balls to the warning track. If we played in Philly that could have been 10 solo HRs !!!!

    Forget the dream ticket of Obama and Clinton. I’m voting for Randolph and Heilman in 2008 !!!