Game 39: Loss

Cardinals 1 Mets 0

It would just figure that Steve Trachsel throws the best game he’ll throw all year, on the same night that Mark Mulder holds the Mets to four hits and no runs.

Or would it?

Actually, this game is a microcosm of Trax’s career: he often pitches just well enough to lose.

True enough, Trax pitched a brilliant game. And the one run he gave up was the result of a walk to Albert Pujols — which you can’t really blame him for, in a 0-0 game — and a double by Scott Rolen on a pitch that Rolen had no business driving into the gap (it was a split about two inches off the ground).

However, Steve Trachsel seems to have a tendency to throw gems when the other pitcher is throwing a slightly more brilliant one. And the rest of the time, he pitches at a much lower level of efficiency. This is the enigma that is Steve Trachsel, and the reason he is a consistent 14-win, 14-loss pitcher every season.

As tonight’s game showed, Steve Trachsel has the ability to pitch like a number-two starter, and dominate on occasion. But, what every other start has proven, is that he doesn’t have the mental strength, and focus, to pitch like that every game.

Let’s get something straight: I don’t expect Trax to pitch a four-hit shutout every game. However, I do find it overwhelmingly frustrating to see him pitch a game like this against the hard-hitting Cardinals, yet also give up six hits and six runs and have trouble finishing the fourth inning against the Braves. And this is not something unusual, or a function of it being early in the season. This is Trachsel’s career: a great game, a bad game, a mediocre game, a great game, a bad game, etc. His most consistent attribute is his inconsistency.

OK, off the Trachsel wagon. The Mets had exactly two chances to score a run: in the fifth, and in the ninth. In both innings, the leadoff batter hit a double, was advanced to third on the next at-bat, and was left stranded. Kaz Matsui was the goat in the fifth, chasing a pitch out of the strike zone and popping up for the second out of the inning, with the pitcher up next. Though Kaz has shown a good glove and capable bat thus far this year, he definitely is pressing with runners in scoring position. In all other at-bats, he’s shown more patience than in his first two years with the Mets, often getting ahead on the count and getting good pitches to drive. However, that approach seems to go out the window with runners on, as Kaz seems to swing at almost anything he can reach. With the pitcher on deck and a man on third, it is imperative for a batter to be very patient, as the opposing pitcher will tend to throw outside the strike zone, preferring to take his chances with the weak-hitting pitcher instead. Kaz waving at bad pitches was a favor to Mark Mulder. Hopefully someone will take Matsui aside and discuss hitting strategy in that situation.

In the ninth, Jose Reyes led off with a near triple, but held up at second. Mr. Willie did the implausible, ordering Paul “Mr. Clutch” LoDuca to bunt. Why? Why Willie? Why? Why? Why? With Mulder pitching as well as he was, and going as deep in the game as he was, you can’t be giving away outs. Especially when you consider that LoDuca is a veteran hitter, who knows how to move the runner to third on his own, and who has a natural tendency to hit the ball on the ground to the right side. Maybe LoDuca doesn’t get a hit to tie things up, but you have to give him a chance. He likely won’t strike out, and in that situation, probably wouldn’t pop up. With Beltran and Delgado up next, there was a good possibility that Mulder might fall behind and give him a good pitch to hit.

As it was, LoDuca dropped a perfect bunt to move Reyes to third, only to be stranded at the end of the game.

Tomorrow night it’s Jason Marquis vs. Lima Time! Let’s all pray for Jose to pitch like it’s 1999.

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. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.