Mets Game 57: Loss to Nationals
Nationals 5 Mets 3
It took one day to go from first to fourth.
Mets Game Notes
You can’t be too upset with Jeremy Hefner‘s performance. The initial inning was shaky as he allowed a three-run homer to Adam LaRoche, but he settled down afterward and allowed only one other run through the next five innings. Not a tremendous outing, but about the best you can expect from a fill-in fifth starter.
Two errors were charged to Daniel Murphy, but he mishandled at least two other balls and looked unsure of himself in the field. People like to downplay his poor fielding but if his offense doesn’t improve significantly, the trade-off isn’t worthwhile over the long haul — more games will be lost due to his glove than won due to his bat. And it’s difficult to measure just how much his miscues affect the final score, because it goes beyond the direct result of an error; you have to take into consideration the extra outs given away, the extra pitches thrown by Mets pitchers, the advance of the opposing lineup toward their better hitters, how the situation changes, and many other immeasurable factors. It’s not as simple as, “well, only one run scored as a result,” or “it didn’t matter since no runs scored that inning.”
Similarly, you have to wonder how much longer the Nationals can afford to continue the Ian Desmond experiment at shortstop. Desmond hits with more power than Murphy, but the rest of his offensive game doesn’t compare, and like Murphy, I’m not sure his hitting makes up for the volume of mistakes in the field.
The way Murphy goes after ground balls reminds me of the “pursuit drill” we used to do in high school football practice; a fast guy would run down a sideline and we had to chase him down, taking the best angle possible. Ron Darling termed it “side saddling” and that’s a good descriptor; what Murphy is doing is playing the ball to the side rather than in front of his body. The only second baseman I ever saw get away with that successfully was Manny Trillo; but even Trillo got in front of the ball most of the time.
Ike Davis finally showed a sign of hope, driving a fly ball to left field for a double to lead off the seventh. He also drew two walks, but to me neither of those at-bats were particularly impressive. He looked defensive at the plate, maybe even ambivalent, as though he was hoping to draw a walk. Other than in that seventh-inning at-bat, he waved the bat more than swung it; he didn’t swing with much authority. I hope this double changes his mindset, because based on his body language, he appears to be defeated.
Come to think of it, Murphy is looking similarly at the plate — lots of waving and resignation.
So strange to see Tim Byrdak enter a game at the beginning of an inning, rather in the middle of a rally with men on bases and the opposing team’s best lefty hitter at the plate. Perhaps it was strange to Byrdak as well, since he walked the leadoff batter and allowed a bloop single to create a National threat. After inducing Ryan Zimmerman to pop out — on a play in which Steve Lombardozzi tagged up from second to third — the Mets set up for an appeal play, believing Lombardozzi left second base too early. However, Byrdak threw a pitch rather than stepping off the mound and throwing to second base, where Omar Quintanilla was standing. Now, you can say that Byrdak flaked out, but I would have to argue that catcher Josh Thole was just as responsible, if not moreso. Since Byrdak threw a pitch, Thole must have given him a sign and set up a target — it’s not like you’re trying to fool anyone with such a play. When Byrdak peered in for the sign, Thole could have been standing up or down on his knees pointing toward 2B — not giving a sign.
Pinch-hitting Scott Hairston for Kirk Nieuwenhuis to lead off the 8th against lefty Sean Burnett was a move that completely baffled me. I know that Hairston is hitting homers like it’s his job lately, but that doesn’t mean he’s capable of hitting a two-run homer with nobody on base (or am I missing one of those new Bud Selig rules intended to juice up the offense?). I understand that Terry Collins didn’t have faith in Captain Kirk against a LHP, but don’t you want to save that bullet for a situation where there’s a runner on base, and, say, you have a .160 lefthanded hitter at the plate? Or maybe Nieuwenhuis gets on and then you pinch-hit for Andres Torres. I don’t know, it just seemed like a bizarre move. Maybe Collins figured that Burnett would be out of the game when David Wright came to bat, and wanted to make sure Hairston got an at-bat? That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Even so, I’d have preferred to give Nieuwenhuis a chance over Torres — but that’s me. The way I see it, Torres’ time here is limited, whereas Nieuwenhuis might have a future in Flushing. If you’re not going to expose the kid to tough lefties now, when will you?
Along that line of thinking, it was also curious to see Tyler Clippard in the game in the ninth with so many lefties in the Mets lineup and the Nats so deep with LHPs. Though, I’m betting that the Nats used up all their lefties in the extra-inning game on Tuesday night.