Mets Game 103: Loss to Diamondbacks
Diamondbacks 9 Mets 6
The main talking point expressed on the radio and TV broadcasts during the pregame was that the Mets “owed” the Diamondbacks for getting swept last week. Back in their home cavern, the Mets were geared up to stick it to the D-Backs, and give them “payback” for the embarrassment of three straight losses in the dry, racist-profiling heat of Arizona.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way the Mets would’ve liked.
Mike Pelfrey gave up three runs in a 40-pitch first frame, but the Mets fought back in the bottom of the inning to tie it up. Pelfrey, however, was determined to keep the Mets behind, giving up a go-ahead run in the third. Again, the Mets fought back and actually took the lead in the bottom of the third, and things settled down until the sixth, when Big Pelf was removed after 118 pitches. At the time of his exit, opposing pitcher Ian Kennedy was standing on first base thanks to an error by Jose Reyes, and lefthanded hitter Kelly Johnson was stepping to the plate. In classic “by the book” fashion, “manager” Jerry Manuel brought in lefty Raul Valdes to face the lefthanded-hitting Johnson — never mind the fact that LH hitters are pounding Valdes to the tune of .317 with an .852 OPS. Before Pelfrey could get a swig of Gatorade, Johnson demolished a Valdes offering over the fence in centerfield to give AZ a 6-5 lead. An ice pack wasn’t even on Pelfrey’s arm when Miguel Montero hit a three-run homer a few minutes later to ice the game for the Diamondbacks.
Mike Pelfrey was not very good, but was better than the last time he faced the D-Backs. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 ER) on 8 hits and 2 walks, striking out 4. The SNY team mentioned that Pelfrey’s sinker wasn’t sinking much any more — that it “comes and goes”. What I see is the same thing we’ve talked about here for several weeks — he is hunching over slightly at the knee lift, which in turn throws off his balance slightly, which in turn throws off his arm angle and release point. That minor alteration causes his hand to slightly angle to the side and his fingers to be more on the side of the ball than on the top at release. The fingers must be on top in order to get downward movement — it’s a matter of physics — and because they are not, his fastball moves more laterally than vertically. No vertical movement means no sink.
Pelfrey hasn’t finished six innings since late June. Over his last six starts, he’s hurled 25.1 innings and allowed 54 hits, 28 runs (27 earned), with 14 walks and 13 strikeouts.
In addition to Pelf’s mechanical issues, he’s also falling back into those problems with focus that plagued him in his first four years as an MLBer. For example, in the second inning, he threw the ball over to first base six times before giving Chris Young a tremendous jump and easy steal of second. Pelfrey proceeded to walk Kelly Johnson because he was so worried about Young that he couldn’t concentrate on pitching to him.
The SNY announcers, some tweeters, and Jerry Manuel in the postgame all felt that bringing in Raul Valdes to face Kelly Johnson was a good idea, based on the fact that Valdes “has been so good lately”. Sorry, but I don’t care how “good” Valdes has been when it comes to his stats — the guy throws garbage, has poor velocity, little if any movement, no out pitch, and batters have no trouble seeing the ball out of his hand. In other words, his main strength is the element of mystery; some batters simply don’t do well facing a guy they’ve never or rarely seen. It’s only a matter of time before a pitcher with his limited skill set gets crushed. And what do you know? Nearly all the AZ hitters had seen him before, with Johnson, Upton, and LaRoche all seeing him three times before and Montero twice. What happened to Valdes in this game is called “overexposure”.
Former Met Aaron Heilman notched his fourth save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
Home plate umpire Chad Fairchild was remarkably inconsistent with his strike zone. Generally I don’t like to judge lateral calls from my TV screen viewpoint, so I’m not talking about the pitches that were on or off the plate. What I can see pretty well from the eye of the off-centerfield camera, however, is the vertical strike zone — and that was all over the place. It seemed that the zone was “tall” at times, extending from the bottom of the knees to the top of the letters. There were several high-pitch called strikes when Pelfrey was on the mound, and, strangely, several low-pitch strike calls when Ian Kennedy was hurling.
The Mets are now 7.5 games behind the league-leading Braves, and a half-game ahead of the Marlins. However, there are 59 games left to play — plenty of time to catch up.