Mets Game 120: Loss to Pirates
Pirates 10 Mets 7
The Mets gave away the “gimme” game — the game they were supposed to win.
On paper, before the game, the Mets were expected to win. Never mind Tony Armas Jr.’s recent two starts, which were both above average. He was going to get hit by the Mets’ offense, and no one truly thought he’d survive beyond the fifth inning. As it turned out, he never got out of the third.
Similarly, it didn’t matter that Brian Lawrence was the starter. All he needed to do was squeak through five innings, after which he’d likely have a healthy lead, and the Mets’ bullpen would take it from there.
All went exactly according to plan … until the sixth inning.
The Mets put together a five-zip lead in the first three innings, but allowed the Pirates to score in every inning from the fourth frame on. While Lawrence kept the team in the game, he was far from effective: five innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 4 runs, 3 strikeouts. You can probably blame the bullpen for blowing this game, but you can’t ignore the fact that Lawrence pitched only five innings, nor the fact that he gave up a leadoff walk in the fourth while supported with a five-run lead (Adam LaRoche followed that walk with a two-run homer).
Another thing that can’t be ignored was Willie Randolph’s complete ineptitude in managing the bullpen from innings six through nine. He brought in Guillermo Mota to pitch the sixth, and Mota was clearly not having a good day — his confidence was waning and he was hittable, evident by two doubles in the inning that scored a run to tighten the score to 7-5. Strangely, Randolph had Mota start the seventh, giving him one batter to face. Mota responded by walking the leadoff batter Freddy Sanchez. Now, Sanchez is a decent punch-and-judy hitter, but there is no excuse for walking him with a two-run lead. Willie immediately summoned Pedro Feliciano, who went 0-2 to Adam LaRoche before giving up a single. Willie then hooked Pedro and brought in Aaron Heilman with men on first and second and none out. Heilman gave up a single to Jason Bay to score a run, then botched a sac bunt attempt, loading the bases with none out. Jose Castillo followed with another hit, tying the score. Heilman struck out Ronny Paulino and induced a double play from Xavier Nady to end the inning.
In the 8th, Heilman got two quick outs but a David Wright error gave Freddy Sanchez (again) second base. The Pirates then pounded three straight singles to take the lead and extend it to 10-7. How do they score three runs on three singles? Easy! because the numnut Mets outfielders throw home — despite having no chance to get the runner — and allow the hitter to take second base. Outstanding fundamentals from Willie’s “fundamentally sound” club!
Too bad … this was a game the Mets should have won, seemed to have won, but just gave it away. This is one of those contests that we may look back on in October and say, “darn, that could have made a difference”.
Despite the loss, there were bright spots. Most notably, Carlos Beltran had a big day, going 3-for-5 with a stunning homerun, a double, and two RBI. The Mets NEED Beltran to get hot and stay hot for the next two weeks. In addition, Jose Reyes reached base four times, scored twice, and stole a pair of bases.
I’m not sure why Willie makes relievers start innings when he clearly isn’t allowing them to finish. He really needs to forget about the whole lefty-righty crap and commit to a guy to take an inning. For instance, Mota should never have started the 7th if Willie was ready to go all the way to Heilman. And why was he going to Heilman that early, anyway? Why not Schoeneweis, or Feliciano? Why remove Feliciano after one batter? Willie has got to stop this style of managing like it’s the seventh game of the World Series, as if there’s no tomorrow. You can do it once in a while, but not every single day as a basic strategy. Certainly not against the last-place Pirates.
The way things look now, Randolph does not have confidence in Aaron Sele, The Show, Feliciano, nor Mota. Well if that’s the case — if four members of your bullpen are useless, then it’s time to make changes, dontcha think? For example, if Feliciano has a “dead arm” or whatever the issue is, then find a reason to put him on the DL and try out someone else (Willie Collazo?). The Sele and Show thing is ridiculous — you can’t hog two roster spots with mopup men. Shed one and pick up someone you think might be able to give you a quality inning here or there (Fernando Cabrera? Scott Strickland? Joel Pineiro … oh crap he’s been taken).
El Duque vs. Matt Chico in Washington.