Is it possible to win when your entire team is nearly out-hit by a 98-pound weakling named Brendan Ryan?
OK, he’s listed at 6’2″ 195, but don’t believe it for a minute. He might actually be David Eckstein in elevator spikes and a larger uniform.
Ryan, a banjo hitter in the minors, went 3-for-4 with the game-winning homerun in the 11th, a lazy fly ball that somehow cut through the muck and humidity and over the fence in leftfield. How? Oh, that’s right — Scott Bloweneweis was on the mound.
I was walking into a mens room at Shea when “The Show” was announced over the loudspeaker. A collective “that’s it, game over” reverberated off the marble walls. No one rushed back to their seat.
A shame, really, because the Mets had shown some gumption in the game, coming back from a 3-1 deficit via a solo homer by Paul LoDuca in the eighth and a mini-rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie things up against Cardinal closer Jason Isringhausen.
Izzy was brought into the 8th for a four-out save, but things didn’t quite work out that way. He retired the one batter he faced in the 8th, then got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. The game appeared over when Shawn Green fell behind 0-2 on a fastball and a knuckle-curve. However, Isringhausen lost his touch, Green worked the count full, and with the support of a suddenly rambunctious Shea Stadium crowd, walked on the next pitch. The crowd went crazy, as seeing a baserunner in a Mets uniform is a rarity these days. Isringhausen then fell behind Jose Valentin 2-1, and on the next pitch Green took off for second — and Valentin stroked a line-drive into the rightfield corner, chasing a scampering Green all the way home.
Isringhausen was in the midst of a meltdown, as he walked pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee, but Willie Randolph felt bad for the ex-Met and offered 48-year-old Julio Franco for fodder. Franco put up a good fight for an old man, but was no match for even a weary Isringhausen, and grounded meekly to second base to end the inning.
Billy Wagner wasted nine pitches for a perfect 10th, as the Mets were unable to score and finally gave up by bringing Schoeneweis in to end the game.
Other than Bloweneweis, the Mets’ bullpen did a fine job. Remarkably, the crowd at Shea heavily booed Aaron Heilman when he was removed from the game — apparently those nincompoops were not actually watching the game (most likely texting their friends or waving at the SNY cameras). Heilman came on in relief of Perez in the seventh with men on first and second and one out. He gave up a fly ball to So Taguchi for the second out, but Brendan Ryan tagged up and made it to third on the out. Scott Spiezio then hit a ball back through the box that Heilman deflected, and Jose Valentin fumbled, allowing Ryan to score. It was ruled a hit, but from where I was sitting it looked like Valentin could have, and should have, made the play. Heilman then got Albert Pujols to ground out and end the inning.
In the eighth, Juan Encarnacion led off by fisting a single to center, Ryan Ludwick struck out, and Aaron Miles bounced a seeing-eye single past a rangeless Jose Valentin on a hit-and-run, putting runners on first and third. Heilman induced a popup from Kelly Stinnett for out number two, but Brendan Ryan (again) hit a bloop single just past a diving Jose Reyes to score Encarnacion.
Granted, it was not a good outing by Heilman, but only an idiot would boo him — it was clearly a case of bad luck, with cheap hits finding a way beyond the Mets’ gloves. Unless Heilman is expected to strike everyone out? Save your breath for “The Show”, Mets fans.
Lost in all the excitement was another fairly good outing-turned-no-decision by Oliver Perez. Ollie went 6 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, three walks, and two runs — though he left the game tied. His problem in this game was inefficiency — he had run up the pitch count to over 75 by the end of the fourth inning. It looked like he might have been rushing forward out of his leg lift just a bit, which affected his command. When he’s on, you’ll notice that he sits on his left leg for just a moment, gathering his weight and balance, before striding.
In my humble opinion, Julio Franco should never have come to bat in the bottom of the ninth against Isringhausen. The decision to pinch-hit Ledee for Carlos Gomez was baffling, to say the least. With Jose Valentin on third, couldn’t you see Gomez dropping a bunt basehit to win the game? Even with the bunt option removed, why would Ledee be a better option? Wasn’t it only ten days ago that Gomez worked a fine at-bat against the greatest closer in MLB history, Mariano Rivera? With Izzy in meltdown mode, it was an ideal opportunity for Gomez to grow a bit more — and perhaps win the game. Had Gomez stayed in, and walked, then Willie would still have Ledee to go to when the pitcher’s spot came up. But Willie likes his veteran guys … grrrr…
Poor Willie was clearly outmanaged by Tony LaRussa throughout the game, but more annoying is the Cardinals innate ability to be in exactly the right spot whenever a Met hits the ball hard. They showed the same marvel in the 2006 NLCS, and you have to think that the Cardinals have an extraoardinarily effective team of advance scouts, and the brains to properly position their defense based on the scouting reports. This is something you miss when watching on TV, but take note when at the game — the subtle repositioning of players with each new at-bat, sometimes in mid-at-bat. The Cardinals place themselves better than any other team in MLB, and as a result turn many potential hits into routine outs. It’s a seemingly small part of the game that cannot be dismissed.
Before the bottom of the ninth, the Mets had only two more hits than Brendan Ryan. They finished with six hits in 11 innings — against future Hall-of-Famers such as Todd Wellemeyer, Troy Cate, Russ Springer, and Brad Thompson. And yet, Rick Down still has a job.
Two things became abundantly clear in this game: Scott Schoeneweis must be removed from the roster (DL?), and it’s time to start thinking about sitting Carlos Delgado — or at least dropping him in the lineup. Aside from his 11th-inning double, Delgado looked to have a poorly timed, weak swing. He continues to completely swing through pitches — often waving at three in an at-bat — and when he finally gets it all together, is not getting the distance he did a year ago. You’d like to think that a couple of his balls on Tuesday went dead in the humid air, but then how do we explain the drives of So Taguchi and Brendan Ryan? It would be nice to see Ruben Gotay get some reps at second, with Valentin pushed to the outfield and Shawn Green to first. It would be a better lineup both offensively and defensively.
Since Brad Thompson pitched in relief in this game, the Mets will most likely see Anthony Reyes on Wednesday night. Tom Glavine goes for the home team in another 7:10 PM start.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.