Mets Game 143: Loss to Phillies
Phillies 5 Mets 4
The Mets magic number is down to one; that is, any combination of one Mets loss or one Phillies win mathematically eliminates them from the NL East Championship. Though, my calculations may be incorrect.
Despite another ninth-inning rally against the Phillies bullpen, it was too little, too late for the Mets.
John Maine made his long-awaited return, and gave up one run on two hits and a walk in three innings; he threw 57 pitches. Not a terrible outing, but unfortunately bad enough to be saddled with the loss.
Tobi Stoner relieved Maine but was hammered by the Phillies, who blasted two homers and scored three runs in his three-inning stint. Lance Broadway allowed the fifth Phillie run, but it could’ve been a lot worse — he wiggled his way out of a bases-loaded situation in the seventh without yielding a run.
The Mets, however, couldn’t do much against starter and winner Kyle Kendrick, reaching him for two runs in his 7 1/3 innings of work. Their best chance to win the game came when Brad Lidge entered the ninth; they scored another two off the Phillies’ closer but he escaped with his 29th save.
In the second inning, John Maine threw four straight balls to Pedro Feliz, but Feliz remained at the plate. I watched the replay on DVR three times to confirm — four straight balls, no walk. On ball four, Ben Francisco “stole” second base, which may have confused things. The fifth pitch was called a strike, and Feliz hacked at the next several pitches before flying out to left field. Big difference between no outs, men on first and second, and one out, man on second. Though, the next batter, Paul Bako, hit a grounder to second that would’ve been a DP ball. Of course, we don’t know for sure if the pitch sequence and outcome would’ve been exactly the same.
Maine threw as fast as 91 MPH, but, as usual, had a difficult time throwing strikes to the outside part of the plate to RH hitters / inside to lefties. That’s a function of his mechanical flaw.
Citizens Bank Park makes power hitters out of everybody. David Wright broke out with two bombs yesterday after going homerless for over a month, Anderson Hernandez hit a dinger to dead center this afternoon, and punch-and-judy Josh Thole hit a ball to the base of the right field wall.
Thole, by the way, went 4-for-4 with an RBI and run scored, and caught another solid game. Jeff Francoeur was 3-for-4. Those two hitters more than doubled the output of the rest of the team, which combined for three hits total.
A return to the Fall Classic by the Phillies would seem to be dependent on whether they can find someone to close out the ninth inning. However, their 20 blown saves thus far this year has had little impact on their ability to remain at the top of the standings. Remember last year, when everyone blamed the Mets’ bullpen for their second-place finish?
The biggest differences I see in Brad Lidge compared to his successful times are: a) inability to get ahead of hitters 0-1; and b) a few MPH shaved from his fastball and slider. Those two factors probably go hand-in-hand, since in the past he got more swinging strikes on sliders that had a bit more oomph, and froze batters with faster fastballs. I seem to remember his fastball being in the 96-97 range, occasionally touching 98, and the slider running in around 93-94. Now his fastball is 92-94 and slider in the low 90s.
Lance Broadway has nice run and sink on his sinker, but has problems placing it inside the strike zone. If he can find a slightly higher release point, many of those balls at the ankles will turn into strikes at the knees.
Next Mets Game
Different bat time, different bat channel, but the Mets and Phillies are playing again later this evening — 8 PM, on ESPN. Tim Redding faces Pedro Martinez.