Mets Game 81: Loss to Nationals
Nationals 6 Mets 5
In line with Aesop’s fable, the tortoise beat the hare. But that didn’t result in the tortoise’s team winning the race.
Veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was the better pitcher in an unlikely matchup against the rookie flamethrowing phenom Stephen Strasburg, hurling seven excellent and efficient innings to Strasburg’s inefficient five frames. But both starters allowed two runs, turning the contest into a battle of the bullpens.
At first, it appeared as though the Mets would win that battle, as they jumped ahead 5-2 thanks to a three-run eighth. All they needed were six outs to come out as the victor.
The Mets hit a bump along the way, as Bobby Parnell struggled through a 26-pitch bottom of the 8th and allowed one run. Still, the Mets had a two-run lead and well-rested closer Francisco Rodriguez — he of the sub-2 ERA — on the mound to sew up the victory.
As usual, K-Rod began things with some drama, walking leadoff batter Cristian Guzman on four pitches to start the inning. After getting a groundout on a Gold Glove play by David Wright, Rodriguez then allowed a rip of a single to .158-hitting Willie Harris — it was hit so hard that the speedy Guzman had to hold up at third. Ryan Zimmerman followed with another walk to load the bases, and suddenly the “Frankie says relax” joke wasn’t so funny. It was less funny after Adam Dunn doubled in two runs, and sad when Pudge Rodriguez singled in the winning run a few minutes later.
Stephen Strasburg looked like he drank four Red Bulls before the first inning — he seemed a little too excited and jittery. Perhaps he was pumped up and nervous about pitching on national television. One thing I found frustrating — as a pitching coach and catcher — was the strategy of going with the 92-MPH sinker when ahead of hitters, rather than “climbing the ladder” with the four-seam triple-digit heater in those situations. I’m not sure if that’s the decision of Pudge, Strasburg, or the Nats’ coaching staff, but when a kid throws that hard, he should be getting it up in the zone more often on two-strike counts to get swings and misses.
Something is physically wrong with Francisco Rodriguez, and I’m guessing it is an issue with his left ankle. He is completely off-balance at the release point, prematurely falling off toward first base. I never like to see momentum going sideways, but with some pitchers it’s OK if it’s happening AFTER the release (such as with Bob Gibson or Rich Gossage). But K-Rod is falling over as he’s releasing the ball, making command an impossibility. My eyes see his left ankle “rolling over” as he lands with his stride, and unable to support his body — it’s just kind of collapsing, either from pain, weakness, or both.
K-Rod had chronic issues with that ankle going back to 2006 / 2007, and changed his mechanics to alleviate the problem. It can’t help that he’s definitely gained weight over the past few years — and in turn put more strain on his joints.
Adam Dunn might’ve hit a walkoff grand slam, but the umpiring crew ruled that his ball hit the top of the fence, rather than the iron pole behind the padding. Tough call, even with instant replay.
Willie Harris resembled Willie Mays Hayes scampering in and hook-sliding into home with the tying run just footsteps behind Guzman.
Josh Thole went 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI. He can’t throw out the garbage, but he can hit a little bit.
David Wright is carrying this team on his back. He went 2-for-5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored, and saw 30 pitches in 5 plate appearances. That’s an average of 6 pitches per plate appearance — which isn’t easy to do without walking at least once.
Next Mets Game
The Mets will try to go for a split on the Fourth of July, sending Hisanori Takahashi to the hill against Craig Stammen. First pitch is at 1:35 PM.