Mets Game 86: Loss to Phillies
Phillies 3 Mets 2
So much for the sweep.
The Mets blew a golden opportunity to take the first of this vital four-game series â€“ and everyone was to blame.
“Everyone”, by the way, includes everyone â€“ the entire lineup, the bench, manager Jerry Manuel, the pregame chef, and yes, even Johan Santana.
No doubt, many are second-guessing Jerry Manuel’s decision to lift the “ace” after eight innings of two-run ball. Personally, I don’t think it was as awful a move as some suggest. But that’s because to me, the game was already long lost. You see, the Mets lost this game in the fifth inning â€“ the only inning in which they scored a run. Their execution with runners on base was akin to an American Legion team whose best hitter was away on vacation.
Despite Santana’s 8 spectacular innings of 8-hit, 2-run baseball, I am going to be one of the few who blames Johan for losing the game. Not with his arm, mind you, but with his bat.
In the fifth inning, the Mets had rookie hurler J.A. Happ on the ropes. Happ had loaded the bases with none out after allowing a leadoff single to Damion Easley, a double to Ramon Castro, and a walk to Chris Aguila. Happ then went 2-0 to Santana. Unbelievably, Santana swung at the 2-0 pitch, which was ball three. He then fouled off ball four, and struck out on ball five.
Am I too critical? No, I don’t think so. Yes, Santana is paid to pitch, but he didn’t have to hit in this situation â€“ in fact, he had to do the opposite. Happ was in dire straits, and had Santana simply left his bat on the shoulder â€“ instead of inexplicably hacking away â€“ he would have walked to force in the first run of the game. Besides having another run, there would have been one less out â€“ an out that might have come later, might have come after another run or two could have scored. These are the little details of ballgames that are often (read: always) the difference between winning and losing. These tiny, seemingly unimportant moments are called “fundamentals”, the Mets’ persistent lack of execution in them is the main reason they are a sub-.500 team.
Granted, the offense should have scored more than two measly runs off J.A. Happ in the four and one-third innings he pitched. But it wasn’t for lack of hitting skill, or the ability to put the bat on the ball, as much as it was the boneheaded decisions made by the batters.
The Phillies, meanwhile, did what they normally do. Their pitchers used a collection of magic tricks, hocus pocus, and smoke and mirrors to keep the other team’s lineup at bay. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Pat Burrell found a way to manufacture runs. Then, the fightin’ Phils pulled off a dramatic, emotional, come-from-behind, walkoff win in their last at-bat. Sometimes I think every game they play against the Mets is scripted and rehearsed.
Duaner Sanchez took the loss. Dirty struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth â€“ Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell — then gave up a double to Pedro Feliz, and was kind enough to allow the game-winning single to Shane Victorino moments later. Let’s face it â€“ the Phillies were going to win this game sooner or later. Better it was sooner, so we could get on with watching the fireworks and enjoying the evening.
The Mets also lost an opportunity to score a run in the first, when Jose Reyes led off the game with a walk, moved to second on a groundout by Endy Chavez, stole third base, and was left stranded there by David Wright (who popped to second) and Carlos Beltran (who flied to right). I can maybe forgive Wright because he might have been trying to lift the ball to the outfield, for a sac fly, and got a little too much under it. Beltran I would forgive as well, except that he’s been hitting around .086 over the last two weeks, and lately has failed miserably with men in scoring position. In this game, Beltran stranded five baserunners â€“ while the Mets as a team left an astounding 15 runners on base.
The feeble Mets hitters managed only four hits in the game, but they walked four times.
I didn’t see the postgame, but I hope Johan didn’t open his mouth again and criticize his team. That act is getting old. Yeah, his ERA has been fabulous, and the team is giving him zero run support, but the bottom line is, he’s 0-4 since Jerry Manuel took over, and currently carries a .500 record. He can’t do everything, but we don’t need to hear that fact from him. He can bitch all he wants about the team only getting four hits in this game, but he was part of the offensive problem. Winners make smart decisions (on the mound, in the field, and at the bat), they don’t make excuses, and they don’t blame others for losses. Santana has proven so far to be a good, sometimes very good pitcher, but he has yet to show us he’s a winner.
John Maine vs. Jamie Moyer at 7:05 pm. Is this the game the 50/50 Mets win, or is it another one where they find a way to lose?