Mets Game 16: Win Over Nationals

Mets 4 Nationals 3

How difficult is it to miss a slam dunk? Because the Mets came darn close to pulling it off.

With ace Johan Santana going to the hill against the worst team in baseball, and a fully rested, record-breaking closer at the ready, this game should have been a cakewalk. Instead, it was mildly unnerving through the first seven, before turning into a bonafide nailbiter in the ninth.

Santana was his usual brilliant self, allowing one run on one walk and six hits in six innings, but ran up his pitch count and ran out of gas, thanks in part to 10 strikeouts. Strikeouts, of course, are wonderful, but they’re not democratic, and they generally take more pitches out of an arm. But Santana needed those swings and misses to squeeze out of some tight situations, including one compounded by a missed popup by Ramon Castro.

While Johan was mowing down the Nats, the Mets bats were lukewarm against Washington starter Scott Olsen, who scattered nine hits and two walks in his six innings of work. The Mets did touch him for three runs (two earned), thanks to a Carlos Beltran triple, a Luis Castillo single, and a pinch-hit RBI single by Danny Murphy. They added on another run in the eighth when reliever Kip Wells walked Carlos Delgado with the bases loaded, forcing in Ramon Castro.

Generally speaking, 3-4 runs is enough for a stopper such as Santana, though he gave one back in the top of the sixth when Nick Johnson went deep. Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and JJ Putz held the mighty Nats at bay through the 7th and 8th, setting the stage for Francisco “Stop Calling Me K-Rod” Rodriguez.

Rodriguez decided that the game had cruised long enough, and it was time for drama to keep the Citi Field fans in their seats. He started off the ninth by allowing a single to Austin Kearns and a two-run homer to Jesus Flores, cutting the Mets lead to one. But of course, the tightrope is where Rodriguez lives, and he dispatched of the next three batters in order. No small feat, as the Nats sent up a modern-day murderer’s row of Alberto Gonzalez, Alex Cintron, and Anderson Hernandez.

Game Notes

Hard to believe that Cintron is the best the Nats can come up with to pinch-hit in the final inning of a one-run ballgame, but I guess that’s why they’ve won just 20% of their games thus far.

Birthday boy Carlos Beltran kept his hold on the NL batting lead, going 1-for-3 with two walks; he’s hitting a cool .400.

Gary Sheffield went 1-for-3 with a walk — will that buy him another day?

Fernando Tatis, who many forgot was still on the roster, took advantage of his rare start in LF by going 2-for-3, including a walk and a double.

Luis Castillo batted in the two-spot and went 2-for-5.

The Mets’ four runs equaled their total runs scored in Santana’s three previous starts combined — and every one of his starts have been decided by one run. His ERA is 0.70 … if it were any higher, he’d likely be winless right now.

Next Mets Game

The Mets again host the Nationals on Saturday afternoon, with Mike Pelfrey going against the righthanded Ollie Perez: Daniel Cabrera. Game time is 1:10 PM.

This game worries me, because Pelfrey is coming off an elbow issue and Cabrera can, at times, be dominating.

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 25, 2009 at 5:04 am
    A win is a win. Ugly or pretty, they all count the same.

    Cabrera’s due for a good game. Thing is, so is Big Pelf.

  2. isuzudude April 25, 2009 at 10:31 am
    “No small feat, as the Nats sent up a modern-day murderer’s row of Alberto Gonzalez, Alex Cintron, and Anderson Hernandez.” Joe, you have me in stitches. Great line.

    Perhaps this win will temporarily blind fans into believing everything is alright, but in reality there were signs all over this game that the Mets are still very much a team in trouble. Examples?
    1. I know he’s the pitcher, but where is Johan going when he got tagged out at 2B?
    2. Castro’s dropped ball behind the plate.
    3. Once again, no one can figure out how to get a hit with RISP. 2 for 18 last night. 13 more runners left on base. This problem is probably being caused by…
    4. Lack of patience at the plate. How many times do Reyes, Delgado, and Wright have to swing at the first pitch to realize they get more than one throw from the pitcher?
    5. The Offense collects 11 hits, 7 walks, and a reached-on-an-error (19 total baserunners if you’re keeping a scorecard at home) and manage just 4 runs. That is the definition of inefficiency.

    So semantically, a win IS a win. But realistically, if Johan’s not pitching, or Kearns isn’t doing his Daniel Murphy impression out in RF, the Mets are losing this game. Case in point: if they play a similar style of baseball today with Pelfrey on the mound, the Mets will be back to 3 games under .500.