Mets Game 50: Win Over Phillies

Mets 6 Phillies 3

It was Jeremy Hefner Day at Citi Field, and Hefner responded with a strong six-inning outing and a solo homer to entertain the crowd.

Mets Game Notes

The tone of the game was set in the first inning when Juan Pierre was directed to sacrifice bunt with none out and Jimmy Rollins on second base. Pierre has been swinging a hot bat, and with the inexperienced Jeremy Hefner on the mound, it was a prime opportunity for the Phillies to get a big rally going. Instead, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel called for the bunt, giving the Mets an out, and effectively telling Hefner, “hey, we’re not sure we can score more than one or two runs off of you.” A stark contrast in approach from the Phillies of old.

I kind of, sort of, get why Manuel went that route, considering that his lineup does not include Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But I think he was looking at the game too much from the Phillies’ perspective, rather from both perspectives (theirs and the Mets’). Had Pierre been allowed to swing away, maybe he singles to score Rollins, maybe he reaches base safely, and both the inning and the game take a different turn — while the mental approach of both teams changes. With that one move, the Phillies screamed, “we’re playing small ball — one run at a time!” and thus removed stress and fear from the Mets’ psyche while also removing urgency from the Phillies players.

I really liked seeing how Hefner responded to the immediate trouble of the initial inning — even if it was partly due to Manuel setting the stage. And though it turned out poorly, I really liked that he bounced the slider to Hunter Pence that scored Rollins from third. Why? Because Hefner threw that pitch with confidence and a sense of purpose — it wasn’t a mistake due to fear or trepidation. Yeah, the pitch got away, but to me it looked like it was a simple physical mistake rather than one created by internal, emotional pressure. In other words, he kept his cool and stayed with his game plan, despite having a runner on third.

Speaking of that wild pitch, Mike Nickeas did a terrible job of trying to block it. Once he recognized it was hitting the dirt, his first move was to collapse the left knee down to the ground while his glove moved up — the exact opposite of what a catcher should do in that situation. The proper execution is to move the glove first, to a spot behind the ball that will deflect the ball back toward home plate. The catcher moves both hands to that position first, and then the rest of the body will naturally follow behind the hands thanks to the same sense of balance emanating from the inner ears that allows you to stand on two feet and stay on them when you dance a jig. However, almost no catching coaches know much about anatomy and physiology, and as a result nearly every coach teaches catchers to move the feet first. That said I can’t blame Nickeas for the poor form — he likely doesn’t know any better.

On a positive note, the Mets used the long ball to beat the Phillies, with homers by Hefner and Scott Hairston. Every time Hairston goes yard I’m amazed that opposing pitchers / teams throw him fastballs above the belt. Hairston reminds me quite a bit of Rod Barajas, in that he swings for the fence nearly every time up, and he can handle one pitch in one area — and as long as pitchers stay away from that area, he’s an easy out. Maybe the scouting report is incomplete because he plays sparingly, but you’d think after nine years in MLB, there would be decent information on how to get him out. Or, maybe it’s just a matter of pitchers not paying attention to the game plan. Either way, it’s good for the Mets.

Getting back to Hefner — on the mound, rather than at the plate — once again I was very happy to see him throwing strikes. Though, unlike against Toronto, it appeared as though he threw a few more outside the zone — i.e., he was effectively wild, if such a term makes sense. He reminds me a little bit of Gary Gentry in his motion and repertoire; though, he seems to have a much cooler head and throws way more strikes. Maybe Grant Roberts is a better comparison. Though, I don’t expect Hefner to be as good as either of those former Mets; I’ll be happy if he can fill out the end of the rotation with “quality starts.”

Omar Quintanilla went 3-for-4 with two runs scored in his Mets debut. What will he do for an encore?

David Wright went 1-for-4, seeing his average drop to .370. Opposing pitchers are pounding him inside, and beating him there, as his average plummets. Is he aware, and will he make an adjustment?

Interesting observation: in game one of this series, Charlie Manuel let Cole Hamels pitch to David Wright in a crucial situation; however, in this game, he ordered Joe Blanton to intentionally walk the struggling Ike Davis in a similarly tough spot. Hmm …

Next Mets Game

The rubber match begins at 7:10 p.m. on Wednesday night. Dillon Gee faces Cliff Lee in a matchup of pitchers whose last names are only three letters long, consist of only two letters, and rhyme.

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.
  1. Connor May 30, 2012 at 1:42 am
    Spot on with the Barajas-Hairston comparison! I’ve thought the same thing!
  2. Joe May 30, 2012 at 8:38 am
    His getting out of the inning with no further damage after Baxter’s error in the sixth with a guy on third and no one out was impressive too.

    The guy looks promising & if nothing else might just be this year’s Gee — filling in a spot for months before cooling down and/or the league getting to know him better.

    He and other Mets pitchers apparently suddenly learned how to bunt this year too, btw.

  3. Seaver73 May 30, 2012 at 9:49 am
    Joe I found it interesting how when Hefner went to strikeout pants in the sixth inning Nikeas stood up right before the pitch isn’t that a dead giveaway that high fastball is coming especially with a guy at third able to signal to hitter