Mets Game 4: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 5 Mets 4

Though the Mets lost this one, they did show a lot of fight in the later innings, which is something we didn’t see enough of in 2008.

John Maine pitched well enough for his first outing since shoulder surgery, allowing two runs on two hits and one walk in five innings, striking out five. Both runs came on solo homers, on the same high fastballs that Keith Hernandez “likes to see”. Yes, those high fastballs can be strikeouts, but they can also be gopher balls, unfortunately. At one point, Maine retired seven Fish in a row, and he began the game with two consecutive strikeouts. His velocity was up to around 93 MPH, but his command was nonexistent. It appears he’s healthy, and on the way back, but will take some time.

Spoiling Maine’s encouraging performance was the Mets bullpen, which allowed three runs over the final four innings. If this were 1978, we might have seen J.J. Putz enter in the sixth and K-Rod record a two-inning save, but this is 2008 and pitchers don’t do that anymore. So instead, we watched Sean Green, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and Darren O’Day show us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On a positive note, Carlos Beltran belted his first homer of the year, with three hits on the day. Ryan Church also had three hits, as did Danny Murphy, though two of Murphy’s “hits” easily could have been scored errors. We’ll take them, though.

On a negative note, the Mets stranded 14 runners on base. Fourteen. Ouch. Well, at least they’re getting guys on base, right?

Back to the positive: Jeremy Reed came through HUGE with his hit as a New York Met, blistering an RBI single in the ninth inning off Matt Lindstrom to tie the game at four. He was the Mets’ best hitter in spring training, and it’s a wonder it took this long for him to get an at-bat in a regular-season game.

However, Feliciano and O’Day couldn’t hold the tie, and the blur known as Emilio Bonifacio won the game with his legs, reaching base on an infield single and racing home on a hit by Jorge Cantu. It was the second time in three innings that Bonifacio changed the game with his speed — he’d earlier reached base on a two-out bunt off Parnell, eventually scoring the Fish’s fourth run.

Game Notes

John Maine’s stats belied his performance. He gave up only two runs and walked one, but many of his strikeouts had more to do with undisciplined Marlins hitters chasing balls out of the strike zone than Maine throwing great pitches. Further, Maine was consistently missing spots, even when he was throwing strikes. This may not make sense, or it may sound like nitpicking, but the truth is, Brian Schneider was doing a lot of reaching to catch Maine’s pitches, because Maine was missing the intended target by a foot or more — that’s too much for an MLB pitcher.

Luis Castillo came to bat with runners in scoring position about fifteen times in this game, and failed in each one. We’ll still try to hammer that square peg into the round eighth hole of the lineup.

Speaking of, did anyone notice Castillo’s strike-three looking in the top of the seventh? It was a darn close pitch on the inside black of home plate. Maybe you also noticed Marlins catcher John Baker “stick” that pitch — he held it exactly where it crossed the plate, and was awarded with strike three. Maybe I’m harping too much on the art of catching lately, but the concept of “framing” is one of those universally taught, yet completely illogical, baseball skills that needs to called out and buried. (That “thump” was the sound of me hopping off the soap box.)

Ryan Church remains red-hot, against righties and lefties. He must like the month of April, because he started out similarly last season.

A little strange to see Gary Sheffield, instead of Ramon Castro, come in to pinch-hit for Brian Schneider. Seems like a waste to burn two players in one shot like that, especially in a close game where you might be going into extra innings.

Sean Green appeared in yet another ballgame. For those unaware, Green pitched very well for Seattle for the first half of 2008, then had a poor second half, and most people felt it was because of overuse. His arm action and mechanics certainly do not make him look durable. Green, Parnell, Feliciano, and Putz are on pace to appear in 121 games each this season.

The young Marlins look like they are finally starting to “get it”. If they can find one more solid bullpen guy — or a legit closer — they will be a serious playoff contender.

People love to bash Jorge Cantu for his poor fielding, but the guy made some really nice snares on hot smashes in the late innings. That man has no fear of the ball, that’s for certain.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Marlins do it again, serving as the opening act to Flo Rida. You won’t see the first hour of the game, but can listen to it on WFAN or XM Radio. SNY coverage begins at 7:00 PM. Livan Hernandez makes his Mets debut against Ricky Nolasco, though there’s no guarantee that either pitcher will still be in the game by the time it is broadcast on your TV set.

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. sincekindergarten April 11, 2009 at 5:44 am
    Matt Cerrone was saying that the Marlins were celebrating as if they had just won the NL East. They were overdoing it a tad.

    We wouldn’t be having to discuss this if the Mets hadn’t left 12 runners on base.

  2. isuzudude April 11, 2009 at 8:42 am
    I think the story should be less of the bullpen blowing it and more of the offense stranding runners. It seemed like every inning the Mets had runners on 1st and 2nd with less than 2 out and they couldn’t get anybody home. This is now becoming a reoccuring theme of leaving 10+ runners on base and choking with RISP. The brunt of the burden falls on the bullpen when they give up the walkoff hit, but the offense had ample oppurtunity to not leave the bullpen in the position of needing to keep a tie game intact, and I point the finger of blame for this loss on them.

    And I know we are very critical of Jerry’s in-game tactics, especially his bullpen usage, but I can’t get on him to overworking his bullpen so early in the season. Afterall, it was Omar and company who decided to construct the rotation of pitchers who, again, reach 100 pitches in the 5th inning and force Jerry’s hand to bring in a reliever earlier than we’d all like. So yes, guys like Green and Parnell and Putz are seeing a lot of action in the season’s first week, but what other choice does Jerry have if his starting pitcher is maxed out after recording just 12 outs?

    Some other ramblings:
    – Hint to Jose Reyes…see how Bonifacio uses his speed to get on base? Time to stop swinging at 1-0 pitches and popping them up.
    – I think it’s a little hypocritical to get on the Marlins’ case for celebrating a hard-fought victory. Especially when our own closer acts as if he just closed out game 7 of the WS after every save. Let them have their moment, and concentrate on winning the next 2. It won’t be easy, though, what with Nolasco and Johnson up next. Good luck, we’re going to need it.

  3. joe April 11, 2009 at 11:18 am
    ‘dude, you make it sound like the Mets could use another legit RBI bat in the lineup, or perhaps that Manuel should be constructing the lineup in such a way that an RBI guy would get to the plate with runners on base more often than a career top-of-the-lineup, OBP guy.

    Agreed on the hypocrisy.

    As for the bullpen, this is where everything starts in regard to wearing them out over the long haul. You don’t find it strange that the starters are coddled this season, limited to “less than 100 pitches” per the zen master, but the relievers can be trudged out there every day like it’s the middle of July?

    Maybe there would have been more choices if a long man like Nelson Figueroa or Tony Armas were around to eat up 2-3 innings after Ollie Perez craps the bed.

  4. Mic April 11, 2009 at 11:43 am
    Dude…..THank you.

    1. BP: Agreed that it seems no one can pitch 5 decent innings. Yet The fish pulled Ani after 5 shut out innings. Agreed we must put a nextel phene next to Figgy. Question; why not keep putz in in the 9th?

    2. Reed was ONE of the best hitters in Spr tng, the other was Nick Evans. If Marlon is cut i think Nick eventually finds his way back.

    3. The Schneider-Luis Castillo hole is already costing games. And i TOTALLY agree on the Reyes comment. In fact if Reyes is going to impersonate Hanley…let him hit lower in the order.

    4. I watched on MLB-gameday, I thought John was decent and had Hanley out on three straight pitches, but it seems like the outside strike was not getting called. Speaking of undisciplined hitters…we have several and one going in the WRONG direction. (Luis).

  5. joe April 11, 2009 at 11:50 am
    Mic, Reed was THE BEST hitter for the Mets in ST. He hit a line drive nearly every time up and finished just a shade under .400. Evans started out hot, cooled off, and hit a few bombs. His average in March was something like .270.

    Castillo is doing what he’s done his entire career. I don’t know why people expect him to suddenly be an aggressive hitter or an RBI guy. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  6. isuzudude April 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm
    Mic – your welcome. Although I don’t know quite what for.

    Joe, I think the Mets have enough RBI guys in the lineup as is. Yes, an addition of Manny, Abreu, or Ibanez would have been nice, but the 2009 lineup is essentially the same group of guys that drove in the 2nd most runs in the NL last year, so what they have should suffice, It’s just that the current cast is not coming through when we need them. It’s like we have a ton of guys who have OBPs of .400, but then hit .150 with RISP. What that adds up to is a ton of runners LOB, which is what we’ve had over the first 4 games of the season. I have no idea if this is a fixable problem or something that will resolve itself over time, but this is the key issue as to why the Mets are 2-2 and not 4-0, and why the bullpen is already being scrutinized. Saying O’Day or Feliciano sucks is too easy, and criticizing Jerry’s bullpen management isn’t tackling the real problem. This lack of offensive production will likely lead to some lineup tinkering, although I doubt Jerry will move Castillo back to the 2-hole because he’s too in love with Murphy. Whether right or wrong, I wouldn’t put it past Jerry to start putting Beltran in the 2-hole, Church 3rd, or Murphy 5th. And that’s when things will go from bad to worse.

    Mic – Putz didn’t pitch the 9th last night because he was pinch hit for in the top of the inning during their comeback. And before the question gets asked, no, Krod would not have been a good choice for the 9th inning, either, because even if the Mets maintained the tie going thru the 9th, and took the lead in the 10th, then Krod would have had to throw a 2nd inning to get the save, or the Mets would have had to turned to Feliciano, O’Day, or Stokes. I thought Jerry’s bullpen management was fine, it’s just that the Marlins’ offense was better and the Mets’ offense failed to take advantage of their opportunities early in the game.

  7. joe April 11, 2009 at 11:24 pm
    ‘dude, scoring more runs than nearly everyone else is only good if it results in wins. See Rodriguez,Alex, who will retire with more RBI than anyone in history yet never wear a World Series ring.

    Your key sentence was this one:

    “It’s just that the current cast is not coming through when we need them.”

    Rewind to the last week of September, 2008. Rewind again to the last week of September, 2007. It wasn’t the bullpen that killed these teams in the final days of the season — it was hitters who disappeared.

    From my personal experience, I can say that it is a LOT easier to hit and drive in runs when you’re already ahead by two or more runs. The truly valuable RBI men are the guys who can plate runners in the tie and one-run situations. Did you know the 2008 Mets scored 9 runs or more 21 times last year? In those games they scored a total of 219 runs. In the other 141 games they scored 580 runs, or just a hair over 4 runs a game (4.1 to be exact). So those 21 blowouts skewed their average by nearly a run per game (they averaged 4.9 runs per game).

    In contrast, the first-place Phillies — who also scored 799 runs — scored 9 or more only 13 times. So their scoring was more evenly distributed throughout the season.

    I hate to cite statistics, but sometimes they support what our eyes see. And last year, despite scoring almost 800 runs, we saw a team that was often inept at driving in runs when they were most needed.