Mets Game 100: Loss to Phillies
Phillies 8 Mets 6
That’s really the only way to describe this loss — a collapse. The SNY announcers termed it “devastating”, but I’m not sure Tom Glavine would agree.
This game was neatly wrapped, signed, sealed, and about to be delivered. However, somewhere between the end of the eighth inning and the third out of the top of the ninth, the package was dropped.
Instead of an easy 5-2 victory, the Mets were stunned by an 8-5 deficit, and found themselves having to take another turn at the plate in the last of the ninth.
Johan Santana finally performed at the ace level we’ve been waiting to see — 8 IP, 2 ER, in perhaps his biggest game of the year to this point. EXCEPT: a true “ace”, knowing the closer was unavailable, and on pitch #105, would have finished the game. Ask Tom Seaver.
OK, OK, we’re not be fair to Johan. He’s been the victim of very tough luck this year. But at what point is the “luck” analyzed as something else? No doubt, he pitched well enough to win this game. He’s pitched well enough to win at least four or possibly five other games. But the bottom line is, he did not win those games. Thus, talk radio has another four days to find fault with the best pitcher on the Mets.
After falling behind 1-zip, the Mets found their way to a 3-1 lead thanks to an RBI double by David Wright and a clutch two-run homerun by Carlos Delgado. It could’ve been a three-run homer, but third-base coach Luis Aguayo sent Endy Chavez home on Wright’s double, and Endy was nailed on a perfect relay from Pat Burrell to Jimmy Rollins to Carlos Ruiz. Red-hot Ramon Castro blasted a two-run dinger in the sixth to extend the lead to 5-1, and it appeared the Mets had the game in the bag.
However, the fightin’ Phils never quit, and got to within three thanks to a solo homer by Shane Victorino. Still, when the ninth inning began, a three-run lead felt pretty cushy, even with Billy Wagner unavailable. After all, the Mets had yet to dip into their bullpen, and had access to everyone else.
The final frame began with Duaner Sanchez on the mound. Sanchez gave up three straight hits to load the bases, and was relieved by Joe Smith. Smith did his job, getting a grounder to Jose Reyes, but Reyes made an ugly, awkward attempt to force out Victorino at second, rather than going for the easy out at first, and missed the bag. Everybody safe, score 5-3, bases still loaded. Lefthand hitter Geoff Jenkins was announced as a pinch-hitter, so Jerry Manuel called for Pedro Feliciano, and the Phillies countered with another pinch-hitter, righthand hitter So Taguchi — who was 0-for-16 as a pincher before this at-bat. As you might guess, Taguchi got his first hit — a double over Endy’s head in rightfield, scoring two to tie the game (it was an excellent, pesky at-bat by Taguchi, by the way; he fell behind 0-2, worked it to 2-2, then fouled off three tough pitches before the blast).
Feliciano remained in the game to face every Mets’ fans’ favorite Phillie, Jimmy Rollins, and Rollins ripped a double to score two more and put the Phillies up 7-5. Feliciano got a groundout from Chase Utley for the first out of the inning, intentionally walked Burrell, then induced Ryan Howard to hit a perfect double-play grounder back to him. However, instead of turning to second base with the ball, or throwing home to get Rollins running in from third, Feliciano unbelievably turned to first, dropped the ball, then had no play except to first. It looked like he didn’t know how many outs there were, or at least didn’t consider before the pitch what he would do with the ball if it came back to him. So Rollins scampered home with the 8th run, and Howard was retired for the second out at first. Aaron Heilman then came in to finish up the mess.
Hindsight is 20-20, but I was wondering why Argenis Reyes was pinch-hitting for Santana in the eighth with one out and no one on. On the one hand, the bullpen should be able to hold a three-run lead for one inning. On the other, you don’t have Wagner, you don’t have anyone close to Wagner’s dominating stuff to take his place, but what you do have is a pitcher in a good rhythm slicing through the Phillies like a hot knife through butter. At 105 pitches, Santana shouldn’t be out of gas in a game this big. If he were the type of guy who regularly throws tons of pitches — an Oliver Perez or John Maine — OK then, replace him. But Santana is a guy who regularly tosses low-pitch innings, and had an emotional advantage over the Phillies. Take it from someone who has played this game — when the other team’s ace is on the mound, and he’s cruising, and you’re down by three with three outs left, you’re not feeling good about your chances. In fact, in that situation, you’re ROOTING for a relief pitcher. Tough call, though, either way. As a manager you’d really like to believe your bullpen can get the job done with a three-run lead.
Duaner Sanchez has been pitching well, but far from dominating. To me it appears he has yet to adjust to his reduction in velocity — and that may affect his confidence more than anything.
Endy Chavez was 3-for-5 but was thrown out at home twice. Wright and Castro had two hits apiece.
Ironically, the relief pitcher who did his job — Joe Smith, who induced what should have been a groundout — was tagged with the loss.
Joe Blanton was less than impressive in his first NL start. In fact, he looked a little scared in front of the New York crowd. Strange, since he’s been to Shea before … but, not as a Phillie.
The Mets will try to come back from this tough loss in another 7:10 pm start on Wednesday. John Maine is scheduled to face Brett Myers. Maine needs to correct his mechanical flaw ASAP in order to re-find his command. He might have some luck in that this will be Myers’ first start in the big leagues since June 27th, when he lasted only two innings in an 8-7 loss to the Rangers. He’s been in the minors for the past few weeks.