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 – and everyone was to blame.

“Everyone”, by the way, includes everyone – 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 – 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 – in fact, he had to do the opposite. Happ was in dire straits, and had Santana simply left his bat on the shoulder – instead of inexplicably hacking away – he would have walked to force in the first run of the game. Besides having another run, there would have been one less out – 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 – 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 – 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.

Notes

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 – 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.

Next Game

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?

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. julie July 5, 2008 at 3:51 am
    I no longer have any expectations for this team.
  2. sincekindergarten July 5, 2008 at 5:22 am
    Took ya this long, eh, Julie?

    Ya know what the messed-up part is? John Maine is 4-0 lifetime against the Phillthies, and 2-0 at CBP. Ollie Perez has beaten the Phillthies once already this year. I think we take the next two to go back to .500.

  3. isuzudude July 5, 2008 at 7:36 am
    Joe, you and I must have had the same exact reaction during Johan’s 5th inning at-bat, because after I saw him go 2-0 with the bases juiced and nobody out, I started thinking that he wasn’t going to swing for the rest of the at-bat, no matter what the count eventually became. Hell, I would have had that same mindset if Albert Pujols was at the plate. When the pitcher is struggling with his control, it can only help him when a batter decides to swing – even if the pitch is a meaty 85 mph fastball down the middle of the plate. Because by swinging you open up the possibility for a double play, a pop out, a swing and miss – all of which do nothing but help a struggling pitcher get back on track. There should have been signs coming from the dugout and relayed thru the 3rd base coach for Johan NOT to swing. And I’m sure that if Willie was still in control, many critics would be saying right now it’s his fault for not putting the take sign on – so the blame needs to equally be attributed to “future hall of fame manager” Jerry Manuel as well.

    Likewise, I had no problem pulling Johan in the 9th. The same people who think Johan should have stayed in the game would likely also be the people criticizing the decision if he had been left in the game and lost it. But, again, Jerry Manuel needs blame. #1 – in hindsight it makes no difference, but why did he not double-switch the pitcher to hit 8th, and for Schneider, who entered the game for defense in the 9th, hit 9th? That would have allowed Schneider to lead off the top of the 10th, while it would have allowed the Mets to extend their relievers because they wouldn’t have needed to be pinch hit for. I may be nitpicking, but one of Willie’s biggest flaws was his inability to properly execute the double-switch, but now Manuel does the same thing. I would hope the Willie haters stay consistent and get on Jerry’s case, too. #2 – I understand Geoff Jenkins ( a lefty) was available on the bench, but why was the decision made to pitch to the switch-hitter Victorino with 1st base open in the 9th w/2 out? Chris Coste was on deck (a righty), and presented Duaner with the better match-up. If you walk Victorino, it not only sets up a force at any base, but it allows the Mets to dictate the match-up of the next AB. If Coste stays in the game, Duaner faces him and it’s righty vs righty. If Jenkins pinch hits, bring in Wagner and it’s lefty vs lefty. To me, it looks like Manuel unnecessarily gambled and lost, and it cost the Mets the ball game. Were the Phillies eventually destined to win anyway? Quite possibly. But I’d at least like to see the manager get the easy decisions right, and clearly I think Manuel miserably flunked the 9th inning test last night. Again, if this were still Willie at the helm, these blogs would be filled with haters demanding Willie’s firing because of these terrible decisions. Yet Manuel is allowed to get away with murder without one word of criticism. That’s awful.

    It would help if Wright, Beltran, and Delgado decided to show up for a game in this series. I don’t suspect the Mets will be able to win any games this weekend if that trio keeps combing for an 0 for 11 performance with 5 K’s. Can you say CHOKE ARTISTS?

  4. David W. July 5, 2008 at 7:55 am
    One more point about fundamentals–Werth’s one-out single in the sixth. It looked to me like Aguila misread what should have been the second out of the inning.