Mets Game 104: Loss to Cardinals
Cardinals 10 Mets 8
Aaron Heilman did not lose this game. Albert Pujols did not win this game. This game was decided by Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa.
LaRussa’s starting pitcher went only four innings, yet when the 14th inning came around, the Redbirds had not only a fresh pitcher in the game, but another reliever at the ready in the bullpen. The Mets, on the other hand, were hoping against hope that they could squeeze another pitch or two out of their last reliever Aaron Heilman.
Unfortunately, Heilman had already thrown almost three full innings and was visibly fatigued on pitch #50 when he left a fastball up to Albert “The Best Hitter in MLB” Pujols, who hadn’t seen such an easy pitch to hit since BP before the game. Pujols deposited the pitch into the bleachers to give the Cardinals the lead. The scenario was predictable by anyone who saw Heilman struggle through retiring light-hitting Cesar Izturis to start the inning.
That was the ending. Let’s give an overview, going back to the beginning.
Brandon was no Knight in shining armor, getting rocked for four runs in the initial inning of his first big-league start. However, he settled down to shut out the Cardinals through the next four frames, and exited the game with a 5-4 lead — thanks to homeruns by Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and an RBI double by Fernando Tatis.
However, Carlos Muniz gave the lead right back to the Redbirds, allowing three runs in one-third of an inning. Still, the Mets kept coming back, as Delgado’s second homerun of the game cut the Cardinal lead to 8-7. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth, when Tatis came through with a clutch solo homer to dead centerfield against Ryan Franklin. The game remained deadlocked until the fateful 14th.
The two teams combined for over 500 pitches (517 to be exact).
Oliver Perez was warming up in the bullpen at the end of the game. He should have been inserted immediately after Heilman retired Izturis. Heilman threw 57 pitches — 41 for strikes — which as my wife astutely pointed out, was more than half a game from a starter’s point of view. I imagine he’s unavailable until at least Tuesday or Wednesday, since he rarely throws more than 20 in any outing.
Nice that Jerry Manuel did the right thing and gave props to Aaron for “sucking it up” and taking one for the team in this game.
Dan Warthen made a trip to see Heilman in the 14th, and all I could think was, there’s nothing he can say to Aaron, but hopefully he has a greenie in his pocket he can slip him.
Duaner Sanchez finally retired a hitter, but was still shaky in pitching the eighth.
I imagine that Brandon Knight will immediately be sent back to the minors (and he’ll report to Team USA), and the Mets will bring up a reliever for some much-needed depth. Who, I’m not sure, and not sure that someone can report to NY that quickly. Maybe they’ll promote someone from Binghamton? Eddie Kunz? Only thing is, the B-Mets are in Ohio — not exactly close, though probably closer than the Zephyrs, who are currently in Utah. All the more reason a AAA squad in nearby Syracuse makes sense.
The Mets left 16 runners on base. The Cards did one better (or worse), stranding 17.
Speaking of stranded runners, is Carlos Beltran ever going to come through with a clutch hit? I want some stathead to prove me wrong, but it feels like Beltran gets few hits in what I see as “clutch” situations. Oh, wait, statheads don’t believe in “clutch” performances. I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how he has 70 RBI this year, because I only remember about a dozen. And just what pitch was Beltran looking for when he let that fastball glide over the inside part of the plate for strike one in the eighth with Endy on second and two out? Was he not paying attention when McClelland threw the EXACT SAME PITCH to the EXACT SAME LOCATION against Delgado one batter before?
Speaking of, I think Delgado might have been zoning middle-out when McClelland snuck that fastball by him (Delgado was a tad late, fouling it back). And that was the right approach in that situation — you had to guess that the Cardinals would not give him another pitch to pull over the right field fence, yet they did.
And speaking of Delgado, don’t look now but he now has 66 RBI, putting him in the top 15 in the NL. I am SO happy to be eating regular helpings of humble pie every night after dinner.
Someone please remind me of the bullpen “roles” that Master Manuel “established” when he took over as skipper? I’m a little confused. For example, I didn’t think Joe Smith was supposed to be pitching multiple innings and facing lefthanded hitters. Similarly, I didn’t think Scott Schoeneweis’ role was to pitch in the ninth inning of one-run games against a bevy of righthanded hitters. I don’t care that Scho pitched a scoreless inning — the point is, wasn’t he supposed to be either a LOOGY or a 6th inning guy? And is or isn’t Duaner Sanchez your setup man? And when did Carlos Muniz become the guy to bring in to hold one-run leads?
Don’t get me wrong — the way I see it, relievers have to pitch whenever they are needed. What I’m trying to point out here is that the concept of “bullpen roles” is nothing more than wishful thinking, and it is silly to shower praise on a manager who publicly announces the establishment of such idealism. In a perfect world, relievers have roles (i.e., during 10-game win streaks when everything is going right). The reality, however, is that managers rarely have that luxury, because there are too many variables and day-to-day occurrences out of your control that mess with the best laid plans.
The final game of the series will be played at 1:10 pm. Johan Santana faces Kyle Lohse. Santana will have to pitch at least eight innings, and perhaps the manager will allow him to complete the game if he’s doing well.
Joe, I disagree with you on bringing Perez into the game in the 14th. Yes, Heilman was gassed, and in the perfect world would have been relieved in that scenario. However, there’s come a point in a game when I think a manager needs to weigh his options and be willing to “concede” the game. I’m not saying purposely lose. I’m saying not playing your best hand because of reprocutions it can have after the game is finished. Let’s face it, Perez is on a roll right now and we need him for at least 8-10 more starts this season. Those starts are much more important in my book than rolling the dice on him pitching the 14th inning of a July game against the Cardinals. His groove could have been lost, he could have gotten injured, the Mets could have lost the game anyway. To me, Perez is much more important to the Mets chances this year than Heilman. I know you can use the old “every game counts” mantra here, but then that same mantra can be used factoring in all of Perez’ remaining starts in 2008. Aaron Harang pitched 4 innings of an extra inning game earlier this year for Cincinnati, and ever since he has not been the same (and is consequently now on the DL). Using that as a precedent, I’m very glad Jerry decided against bringing in Perez last night.
After Carlos Delgado hit his 2nd home run last night, I thought to myself, “this must be what it’s like to have Barry Bonds on your team (without the massive ego or steroid accusations).” If Delgado’s tear continues for much longer, it’s only going to be a matter of time before he starts getting IBBs like crazy, which means Carlos Beltran better start heating up. I still shake my head in disbelief after every Delgado HR and clutch hit, though. I’m just waiting for someone to wake me up.
Johan stepped up big time today and got the CG the bullpen needed. Huge, huge, huge. This team is on a roll and they’ve made watching baseball enjoyable again. Thank you New York Mets!