Mets Game 41: Win Over Blue Jays
Mets 6 Blue Jays 5
Mets salvage series with Sunday’s victory — despite needing Frank Francisco to preserve a one-run lead.
Mets Game Notes
Dillon Gee executed the game plan that Jonathon Niese couldn’t in game one: stay away from the righthanded hitters with off-speed breaking pitches and change-ups, but mix in just enough fastballs inside to keep them honest. The game plan worked, as Gee allowed only two runs in 6 2/3 IP.
Henderson Alvarez usually has really strong command of decent stuff. He reminds me a little of former Yankees hurler Ramiro Mendoza, in that he relies almost exclusively on a hard, heavy sinker that he can — when he’s going well — spot effectively and consistently on both quadrants of the lower strike zone. When he’s not going well, though, his stuff isn’t electric enough to get the swings and misses to squeeze out of jams.
Further, unlike Ramiro Mendoza, Alvarez is a bit immature, doesn’t keep his cool, and allows others to see his emotions. That got him into big trouble in the first inning, as he openly reacted to balls three and four to leadoff hitter Andres Torres. Both were close pitches and could have gone either way, but after Alvarez showed his displeasure with ball three, the home plate umpire was not going to give him the next close pitch — it’s similar to umpires calling close ones on Ike Davis. To compound the situation, Alvarez then let those calls and the walk affect his focus for the rest of the inning, and the Mets took advantage by taking a three-run lead to begin the ballgame. Lesson to the kiddies: you can’t control the umpire, so shake off bad calls, focus on what you can control, and stay in the moment rather than dwell on the past.
The first time around the order, I found it curious to see several of the slugging Blue Jays hitters take a number of what looked like very hittable fastballs over the middle of the plate from Gee. I suppose they were gathering information, because the second time around the order, those same hitters were more aggressive, and swinging at the fastball — in particular, Jose Bautista, who launched a big fly that barely made it over the left field wall.
Shame on Colby Rasmus for not running hard out of the box on a routine grounder to Ike Davis in the fourth. Ike knocked the ball down and it rolled a few feet away, but since Rasmus didn’t start running hard until he saw the bobble, there was plenty of time to get him out. In contrast, kudos to Kelly Johnson, who ran hard out of the box on a liner to centerfield that Kirk Nieuwenhuis bobbled, allowing Johnson to make it to second base. Similar kudos to Mike Baxter, who stretched a single into a double in the initial inning.
Speaking of Baxter, now he’s blistering the ball as a starter. Nice to see, and begs the question: will he get more starts going forward? With Ike struggling, you have to wonder if it makes sense to move Lucas Duda to 1B and give Baxter a shot in one of the outfield corners.
The Blue Jays’ game plan against David Wright seemed to be to pound him inside. It didn’t work. Wright simply stood his ground and got a bit quicker, drilling baseballs into left field.
Daniel Murphy had a clutch RBI single in the fifth, but for past few games he seems to be flying open and waving at pitches with one hand. Even on that RBI single, his top hand was off the bat at the point of contact. Murphy is hitting over .320 so it’s hard to be too critical, but I can say confidently that he’s not strong enough to hit homeruns with only one hand.
Though Bobby Parnell was touched for two runs in the 8th, I didn’t think he pitched all that poorly. The Jays went down and hit a few tough pitches below the strike zone, and sometimes you have to tip your cap. I liked seeing Parnell respond by throwing his heat on both sides of the plate and then above the zone when he got ahead with two strikes — the 98-99 MPH fastball is his strength, and that’s what he should go to in times of trouble.
Did I mention Frank Francisco yet? His save was most improbable, especially after beginning the inning by walking Yunel Escobar. Jose Bautista followed by poking a ball through the hole where Daniel Murphy was supposed to be had he not been to the left of 2B for the shift. Somehow, Francisco managed to throw fastballs over the middle of the plate past the next three hitters, striking out all three swinging, while every Mets fan sat on the edge of their seat.
With the starting pitching and potentially explosive offense the Blue Jays displayed, I can see how they’re ahead of the mighty Yankees and Red Sox right now in the standings. At the same time, I can see those bats going ice cold, making it difficult to score runs and win ballgames. What’s scary to me is that the Jays looked this good even with star youngster Brett Lawrie on the bench (due to suspension), former starting first baseman Adam Lind in the minors because of a horrendous slump, and Colby Rasmus mired in a similarly terrible slump. If their young position players play the way they’re expected, and those young pitchers continue to improve, they will be a force to be reckoned with.