Mota Blows It
Cardinals 9 Mets 6
Sure, look at the game from the surface and blame Billy Wagner for the loss. However, the game was lost by Guillermo Mota, who refused to hit the target Paul LoDuca insisted on — twice — and allowed a below-average Major League batsman to beat him.
Scott Spiezio was sitting on the fastball in. Regardless of his bullcrap comment after the game — that he was “sitting on everything” — Spiezio was looking fastball in. That’s why LoDuca called for a fastball OUT on 0-2, twice in a row. The first time, Mota missed the target and threw in, and Spiezio jacked a 97-MPH fastball foul into the right field stands. LoDuca, perhaps thinking maybe Mota did not understand where he wanted the ball, reiterated that he wanted the fastball OUT. Mota pretended to understand, then proceeded to throw another fastball in the exact same spot — down and in — and Spiezio sat on it again and nearly put it over the right field wall. The end result was a two-run triple to tie the game, and ultimately move the momentum to the friggin’ Cardinals.
So, yes, again, Wagner did blow the game, but I for one am not a guy who likes the idea of bringing in Billy in anything other than a save situation. He doesn’t seem to have the same edge unless it is such. Sure, as a professional pitcher getting paid $13M per year, you better be at top form no matter the situation, but in reality that isn’t the case, and manager Willie Randolph has to make moves accordingly. Wagner has proven to be ineffective when the team is up by more than three, when behind, and when tied. Of course, you can’t hang this one on Mr. Willie, as he did what a home team manager is supposed to do. And in fact, he didn’t have much of a choice — when you have a thirteen-million-dollar closer, you use him in that situation. What is he supposed to do, bring in Bert Hernandez or Darren Oliver? Not likely.
And now the Mets are in a deep hole. Instead of taking advantage of scoring five runs in five innings off “ace” Chris Carpenter at Shea, the Mets blew a golden opportunity to go up two-zip and instead gave the Cardinals precious momentum going home to St. Louis. So, instead of putting pressure on the Cards, the Mets now have their backs against the wall, going to the Cardinals’ house for three straight with Steve Trash-sel, Oliver Perez, and Tom Glavine on three days’ rest — not exactly a situation providing optimism. Trash or Oliver has to pitch the game of his life in order to bring the series back to Shea, as we can’t count on Glavine throwing a third consecutive gem on three days’ rest.
Similarly, it’s going to be hard to believe that the Mets’ offense is going to erupt for the six to eight runs needed to win over the weekend. First, they will be fighting the momentum of the Cardinals’ win at Shea, which cannot be underestimated — momentum is EVERYTHING in baseball. Second, other than Carlos Delgado and one swing by Carlos Beltran, the Mets as a team are not especially frightening thus far. Yes, Jose Reyes, Paul LoDuca, and Shawn Green are sprinkling singles here and there, but the firepower that branded the Mets offense has so far been nonexistent. I’m talking about the extra-base hits, the doubles in the gap, the Jose Reyes triples, and the blasts over the wall … we’re not seeing them. David Wright, in particular, has been remarkably invisible at the plate, swinging at first pitches too often and not getting good wood on the ball. Also, Jose Valentin is having such poor at-bats, Mr. Willie might consider giving the anemic-hitting Anderson Hernandez a start.
One Valentin appearance that drove me nuts came in the bottom of the third, with the score tied 4-4. After Carlos Delgado grounded out to start the inning, David Wright walked on five pitches, then Shawn Green fell behind 0-2 before working a walk. This at-bat by Green should have been a game-changer, as he fought Chris Carpenter tooth and nail through a ten-pitch at-bat that put runners on first and second. After all that effort, Jose Valentin grounded the first pitch he saw into an inning-ending double play. Casual fans might not think much about that sequence, but anyone who knows baseball knows that the Mets had Carpenter on the ropes at that point, and Valentin had no business swinging at the first pitch — under any circumstance. If it’s Beltran or Delgado batting, I’d say, OK, take a rip if you think you can put it over the wall, but after walking two straight batters, and losing a mentally and physically fatiguing battle to the second one, you absolutely MUST force the pitcher to throw at least another two pitches. It may seem like a tiny detail but in fact it is small things like this which meant he difference between a win or a loss. Who knows, if Valentin doesn’t swing at that pitch, he might have either drawn another walk, to put Carpenter into a deeper hole, or gotten an even better pitch, one to rip and drive in one or two runs. Especially with Valentin struggling the way he has recently, he needs to be smarter in that situation … as it was he completely wasted a fine at-bat by Green.
On Saturday night we have Trachsel against Suppan in a battle of mediocrity, with Suppan getting the edge for his ability to perform at home. Trax needs to come up with a Kenny Rogers-like performance to keep the Mets in the game.
By the way, I officially hate David Eckstein, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina, Scott Spiezio, So Taguchi, and Scott Rolen nearly as much as I used to hate Jack Clark, Terry Pendleton, Willie McGee, Andy Van Slyke, Tito Landrum, Tommy Herr, and John Tudor.