Mets Game 5: Loss to Nationals
Nationals 4 Mets 3
It wasn’t even that close.
If you simply checked the boxscore, or watched a postgame report, you might have been deluded into thinking that Oliver Perez pitched well and the Mets played tough but lost a close contest.
But if you watched the game, you’d know better: Perez was lucky to have allowed only four runs in his 5 2/3 innings of work, and the Mets were lucky to have scored as many as three runs.
Because what really happened was this: the Mets, thanks to terrible defensive play by the Nationals, loaded the bases with no outs in consecutive innings, yet managed to score only two runs. It would’ve been only one run, actually, except Perez hit a Luis Castillo-like weak flare just beyond the reach of shortstop Ian Desmond to plate one of those two runs. Pure luck.
Meanwhile, Perez allowed 4 hits and walked four batters in less than six innings. He squeaked out of certain danger in the fourth when, with men on first and second and one out, and Ollie struggling to find the plate, John Lannan popped up a bunt to David Wright that turned into an inning-ending double play. If not for the DP, the Nats likely would have scored at least another run, as Perez was poised for implosion. Had you seen him pitch in his final frame, you probably were amazed he managed to get the two outs he got — he was missing his target by YARDS.
Am I being too tough? Too negative? Maybe. But its THE NATIONALS. If Ollie and the Mets are going to struggle against what is likely the worst team in MLB, if they cannot capitalize when they are handed golden scoring opportunities, if they can’t smell blood and stomp on AAA-like teams that are beating themselves, what is going to happen when they face true contenders?
Oliver Perez began the game in good form, taking time in his windup to get into a good, balanced leg lift, gathering his energy, and driving straight toward the plate with forward momentum. Gradually, though, his ideal “up and down / back and forward” motion gave way to the side-to-side, unbalanced delivery that wreaks havoc with his release point and causes him to see David Wright face-to-face at the end of his follow-through. Consequently, his pitches go all over the place, his confidence wavers, and next thing you know, Mr. Hyde is on the mound.
Jose Reyes made his greatly anticipated 2010 debut, and was notably rusty and out of sorts. He admitted before the game to being a bit nervous, and it showed during the contest. Reyes was over-anxious at the plate and seemed confused in the field. But hey, this was his first full-speed, MLB game in almost a year — it may take a week or two for Jose to get back in the swing of things (pardon the pun). I’m not concerned.
In contrast, David Wright has no excuse for his continued shoddy play in the field. He made another error, on another poor sidearm throw. In years past, we heard about Wright working extremely hard on his defense — could he be slacking a bit, now that he has a Gold Glove on his mantle? Or is there a confidence issue?
I suppose it’s not fair to come down hard on Oliver Perez when, after all, the Nats’ Yankee-like, All-Star lineup is so high-powered that slugger / RBI machine Willy Taveras hits in the 8-hole. Taveras has to be the best #8 hitter in baseball, much like Robbie Cano was in 2009. Taveras hit a single and a triple and drove in all four of Washington’s runs. Interestingly, the ultra-aggressive Taveras saw only 14 pitches in his 4 at-bats — less than anyone else who played the entire game, for either team. Figures, the one guy Perez shouldn’t be throwing strikes to, is the one he was throwing strikes to.
Ryota Igarashi was able to retire the slugging Taveras in a very tough, 9-pitch at-bat that went full count, with Taveras fouling off several pitches, to end the sixth inning with runners stranded at second and third. I’m not sure what’s most wrong — that it took 9 pitches to dispose of the free-swinging Taveras, or that the eventual strikeout was seen as such a highlight and key point of the game. Are things that bad already, that I have to be excited when a Met pitcher is able to retire Willy Taveras?
Tyler Clippard made minced meat of the Mets, striking out 7 in three scoreless innings. He struck out the heart of the Mets’ lineup on 12 pitches (10 strikes) in the seventh — including Jason Bay on three straight fastballs. Clippard also ripped a single up the middle in his one at-bat.
Ryan Zimmerman left the game early with tightness in his hamstring. I can’t believe I’m hoping he’s out of the lineup Sunday so the Mets have a better chance to win. Maybe things ARE that bad?
Next Mets Game
The rubber match occurs at 1:10 PM on Sunday afternoon, and ironically pits the Mets’ two best starters in 2009: Johan Santana and Livan Hernandez. The losing team will finish the weekend in the NL East basement.