Mets Game 35: Loss to Marlins
Marlins 2 Mets 1
Another close one, and this time the Mets came up short.
It was a battle of the aces, and both Josh Johnson and Johan Santana lived up to their billing, trading zeroes through seven frames. Each ace gave up one run, and each made an error. Both received stellar defense from their teammates.
In the end, it was a battle of the bullpens — and the Mets’ most-used reliever gave up a walk, a hit, and a wild pitch to give the Fish the ballgame.
Johan Santana didn’t have his best stuff, but … I promised not to write this any more. He is who he is — a crafty pitcher who pitches backward, relying on an array of changeups and sliders to set up an occasional 89-90 MPH fastball. In other words, a younger version of Jamie Moyer.
Santana went a full 7 innings, allowing one unearned run on 6 hits and a walk, striking out 5 and tossing 98 pitches. The one unearned run came as a result of Santana throwing the ball too high to second base after a sacrifice bunt attempt by Johnson.
Josh Johnson matched Santana pitch-for-pitch, and then some. The Mets managed only 3 hits and 1 run, striking out 7 times and drawing zero walks in 7 innings against him. I don’t know how anyone can hit his 96 MPH, knee-high fastball.
Gaby Sanchez was the only batter from either side to have a good day, going 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored. He also made a leaping, snazzy snare of a bullet of a line drive off the bat of Santana in the second that ended the innng and prevented at least one run from scoring.
Jerry Manuel made some head-scratching moves in this game, that were magnified due to the final score. First, why are you asking Jose Reyes to bunt in the 9th with Luis Castillo on second base and no outs? Mind you, I’m an old-school guy and believe there is room in the game for a sac bunt now and then. This was neither now nor then. Why? Because by writing Reyes into the #3 spot in the order, you are effectively stating that he is your BEST hitter. If you are tied late in the game, and there is a runner on second base, you want your BEST hitter at the plate to drive the run in. You do not make your best hitter give away one of your precious 27 outs in that situation. The purpose of the sacrifice bunt is to push a runner into scoring position so that one of your best hitters can drive that runner home. So when you already HAVE a runner in scoring position, and your best hitter is at the plate, there is no need to do anything other than sit back and give that hitter the opportunity to drive the run home.
And never mind the argument that Reyes has been struggling lately — it’s an obvious point. But if he is struggling, to the point where you’d rather he make an out than take a shot at driving in a run, then why is he in the #3 spot in the first place?
The second head-scratcher was leaving Fernando Nieve in for a second inning, after he successfully threw a scoreless 8th without having his arm fall off. Nieve has appeared in 22 games thus far (on pace for 102 by season’s end), and has been looking increasingly tired as the month of May has wore on. Managing in a vacuum, where yesterday is forgotten and tomorrow may never come, keeping Nieve in for a second inning makes sense. But in reality, where you have to consider a pitcher’s past and what you hope to accomplish in the future, asking him to pitch multiple innings is both irresponsible and akin to playing with dynamite. As a result, the decision blew up in Manuel’s face.
The Mets have now lost 8 of their last 12, have fallen to third place, and could allow the Fish to join them in third if they lose on Friday. Oh, and guess who’s pitching tomorrow? See below.
Next Mets Game
The Mets and Marlins do it again at 7:10 PM on Friday night. Oliver Perez takes the mound against Anibal Sanchez. What happens next is anyone’s guess.