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.Â 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.
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.