Mets Game 112: Loss to Braves
There were so many things wrong with this game.
First and foremost, the Mets blew the “gimme”. In every series, there is one “gimme” — the game that the Mets should and must win, usually based on the starting pitching matchup. With the Braves #4 starter going against a guy who is arguably one of the Mets best starters, this was the game the Mets were supposed to — and needed to — take.
As much as you may want to fault Oliver Perez, he really didn’t pitch all that badly — much like his previous two starts. He wasn’t lights out, and his velocity was mysteriously down, but he had good command and threw a ton of strikes (78 out of 109). The first at-bat of the game encapsulated the “problem” with Perez on this evening: it took eight pitches — six of them strikes — to retire leadoff batter Yunel Escobar. The next batter, Matt Diaz, blasted the first pitch he saw into the bleachers. That’s pretty much how the rest of the game went for Perez — he’d get ahead of guys, but couldn’t finish them off. The Braves batters consistently drove up the pitch count by fouling off pitch after pitch, and would eventually take a half-hearted swing, resulting in a bloop hit. Naturally, the occasional hard-hit ball would occur immediately thereafter, driving in a runner. In all, Perez allowed ten hits in five innings — but it seemed like at least seven of them were bloops or grounders that just eluded an infielder. Bottom line? Perez wasn’t missing enough bats, and by putting the ball in play, the Braves scored runs.
On the other hand, the Mets struggled to get anything going with the bats. While Perez struggled through long innings of 24-25 pitches at a time, the offense reverted to their June style of quick outs. Jose Reyes was one of the main culprits, first-pitch swinging as the leadoff man in the bottom of the first, and popping up weakly. That set the tone for the rest of the offense, who handed journeyman Buddy Carlyle at-bats with over-aggressive, unintelligent at-bats throughout the game.
Now don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with an aggressive approach, so long as it’s an intelligent approach as well. I like to see Jose Reyes taking a hack at the first pitch of the game — if it’s where he’s zoned in — because he’s quite a few times popped an extra-base hit. But if you’re looking to hack, and you pop up as meekly as he did, then you didn’t get the location you were looking for, and you hold back. What Reyes did to start off the game was the old Mickey Rivers approach — don’t think, just hack, and maybe if you’re lucky the ball will find its way to the barrel of the bat.
OK, we can’t get all over Jose for the loss, because there were seven other batters who also had atrocious at-bats. For example, Moises “Mr. DP” Alou. Here’s a scary stat (which grows scarier every game): in 168 plate appearances, Alou has grounded into 11 double plays. To put it into perspective, that’s once every 15 times up. Not helpful? OK, how about this: he’s tied for second on the team for most GDPs — and he’s only played in 41 games. Worse: if he were to have played a full season, and get about 625 plate appearances, he’d ground into a DP 42 times. That’s A LOT, folks. Remember how Mike Piazza was a DP machine? Well the most GDPs he ever had in a season was 27. Alou might reach that in less than half a season.
Alou grounded into two DPs, and though one allowed a run to score, both completely destroyed mini-rallies that might have turned the tables on the Braves. At this point, I’d consider making Alou sacrifice bunt if there were no outs and a man on first.
Somehow, the Mets scored three runs. One on the aforementioned double play, one on a triple by pinch-hitter David Newhan (hands-down, the most exciting moment of the game for Mets fans), and a third when Jose Reyes swung at the first pitch again but drove in Newhan from third with a weak grounder to second base.
This game was so bad, my wife texted me from home (I was agonizing at Shea) with this statement: “Mets – depressing. Now watching Tori Spelling reality show. sigh”
Well there you go — this game was so bad, it was more interesting to watch a webcam follow Tori Spelling around. A new low.
Jeff Francoeur nearly hit for the cycle, going 4-for-5 and hitting everything but a triple. Larry Jones went 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
How is the Braves depth? Consider this: one of their best all-around players, Edgar Renteria, is out, and his replacement, Yunel Escobar, goes 2-for-5 with an RBI double as the leadoff batter and makes a half-dozen sparkling defensive plays that make you consider the possibility that he’s a better defender than Renteria. For comparison, what in the world would the Mets do if Jose Reyes ever went down?
More frightening: even without Renteria, there is not one hole in the Braves’ lineup. It’s easily stronger than the supposedly “best offense in the NL (with or w/o Beltran)”. The Braves 6-7-8: Francoeur, Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson. The Mets 6-7-8: Shawn Green, Paul LoDuca, Lastings Milledge. Yeah.
The air was thick at Shea this evening, holding up balls in the air — particularly drives toward centerfield. I think Mark Teixeira might have hit two out if not for the humidity, and Shawn Green might have gotten one over the fence as well. The balls just died in the thick haze over the field.
Willie Randolph solidified his stature as a knucklehead. With two outs in the top of the seventh and the Mets already down 7-3, Willie removes Aaron Sele after an inning and two-thirds, with the pitcher’s spot coming up in the bottom of the inning. Scott Schoeneweis threw one pitch, got a ground ball, and left the game. Just what in tarnation is Willie thinking? Did he really believe that the Mets had a chance to win this game, four runs down and the Braves ready to send Octavio Dotel, Rafael Soriano, and whoever they pleased to finish out the game? The whole point of Sele’s existence on the roster is to eat up innings as the long man. So he gave up a double with two outs, so what? You’re already down by four, you have nine outs left to do something against nasty pitchers, and you’re going to start managing like it’s the seventh game of the World Series? Stupidity! By wasting The Show in that spot, Willie was forced to use another arm for the eighth, and of course another for the ninth. Couldn’t someone have reminded Willie that “tomorrow is another day”, and the Mets might need some of the better bullpen arms in the event there’s a valid opportunity for victory in the next two days? His gross mismanagement of the bullpen is part of the reason guys like Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman, and Pedro Feliciano are so inconsistent. It makes no sense to burn through four arms in the last four innings of this ballgame. Let Sele finish the seventh, give Schoeneweis the ball until his arm falls off or the game is over — whichever comes first. You can’t tell me you’re going to use The Show against the Braves in a tight situation, at Shea, in the next two days … ain’t gonna happen. Keep Mota, Heilman, Sosa, Feliciano fresh for the REAL opportunities to win games — don’t waste them in these situations, especially when Moises Alou is going to kill any rally you start anyway.
Enough ranting … tomorrow is another day.
Another 7:10 PM start, with Orlando Hernandez going against John Smoltz. We need El Duque to step up and have a great game. Another humid evening should help his curveball, and keep fly balls in the park. Let’s cross our fingers that Smoltzie has an off day.