Mets Game 125: Loss to Pirates
Pirates 5 Mets 2
Well, three out of four ain’t bad.
The Mets fell just short of a sweep in Pittsburgh, as the Mets bullpen let another one get away. John Maine started and gritted through five difficult innings without allowing a run. He expended 96 pitches, giving up two hits, walking four, and striking out three. More on him later.
The Mets gave Johnny a two-run advantage by scratching out runs in the first and the fourth. However, it was not enough offense to balance the weakness of the bullpen, which allowed five runs in the last four innings.
The first culprit was Brian Stokes, who after coming off two stellar appearances, gave up a two-run dinger to Adam LaRoche to ruin his reputation among the Shea faithful. Scott Schoeneweis held the 2-2 tie through two-thirds of an inning, but Pedro Feliciano allowed a hit in the seventh and therefore had to be removed from the game. His replacement, Duaner Sanchez, did a lovely job of mucking up the game. Sanchez gave up a single, an intentional walk, a single, and a double before he was mercifully replaced by Joe Smith. By the time the smoke cleared, the Bucs were up 5-2, establishing the final score of the game.
The Mets had a few chances to score during the game, but their advances turned out to be empty threats. They left eight men on base during the game, though it felt like twice that.
The Mets managed only six hits, but walked seven times.
Damion Easley played a respectable game at shortstop in place of Jose Reyes, who was given a wellllllllllllll deserved day off. Unfortunately for my favorite Met, he bounced into both of the double plays turned by the Buccos.
John Maine did not look good. At all. The fact he escaped without allowing a run is remarkable, but more shocking is that he left the game without re-injuring himself. His velocity was down, his location was terrible, his release point was all over the place, and he’s continuing to carry the ball behind him in before breaking his hands during the delivery. In conclusion — I see the exact same mechanical flaws from John Maine that he suffered from before the shoulder injury, and as such I do not expect him to return to form this season. Further, I’m extremely concerned for his long-term health, because if he continues to pitch through the pain and with these mechanical issues, he will further damage his rotator cuff. Unlike Tommy John surgery for the elbow, there is no “magic cure” for the rotator, and very few pitchers come back from it with any level of success.
The Mets return home for a three-game series hosting the Atlanta Braves. First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 pm, with Oliver Perez taking the hill against Jo-Jo Reyes.
Good road trip, overall. Can’t win ’em all.
Now comes the Braves. I can’t remember when the Braves coming to town was so ho-hum. The Braves owned the Mets earlier in the year (back in the Randolph administration). Seems like a totally different season now, doesn’t it.
The Mets could definitely use the help in the bullpen, especially for the stretch run this season. I know Maine has only appeared as a reliever in 3 of his 82 appearances over his career, so it would be something brand new to him. But who’s to say he can’t adapt well to it, especially if it’s purpose is to save his arm? Converting him into a reliever would allow him to “max out” his stuff over the inning or two the Mets choose to use him for, instead of conserving his energy and pitching through fatigue as he would have to as a starter. Of course, the Mets would need to use kids’ gloves with him if he were a reliever, and resist temptation to overuse him as they have Heilman and Sanchez and Smith. But in all seriousness, if it’s a foregone conclusion that Maine is destined for shoulder surgery if he keeps up his current routine, why not try something different with him to cut it off at the pass? He’d certainly be a nice shot in the arm to a beleagured bullpen that could use all the help they can get.
The switch could allow the Mets to call up Jon Neise for the remainder of the season – but I could also see the team being hesitant to give a rookie the ball every 5th day during a pennant race. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Neise is approaching that magic innings-pitched limit teams like to keep for their young, phenom starters, so he could be close to having to shut it down in 2008. The options then become Stokes, Figueroa, Vargas, Lugo, or (dare I say) Heilman, which aren’t as exciting, but should at least fill-in adequately as a 5th starter for a month and a half until the Mets re-address the issue in the offseason.
If Maine were starting out throwing in the mid-90s and then slowing down to the high-80s, the fatigue theory would make sense — and that would be a good point, ‘dude, as it’s true most injuries occur when pitchers are tired. However the problem is that Maine is starting games already weakened — did he break 90 MPH at all during the game? It look to me like he was “holding back” from throwing 100% — like he’s throwing with pain or afraid of pain.