Mets Game 97: Loss to Nationals
Nationals 5 Mets 2
Not even the great R.A. Dickey can halt this slide into the abyss.
Mets Game Notes
It’s official: R.A. Dickey has fallen to Earth. It’s sad, for so many reasons. When I learned he wouldn’t be starting the All-Star Exhibition, I didn’t really care, because I don’t care at all about the Exhibition. But now, in retrospect, and seeing R.A. as a mere mortal again, the snub makes me sad. Even though the ASE is complete crap, Dickey starting it would have been the final piece of what was an absolutely wonderful, inspiring story — a Disney movie without the script. We need more happy stories in life.
Now, though, R.A.’s knuckler is spinning, which means it’s not fooling anyone. That’s not entirely true; many of his knuckleballs are fooling most of the people, most of the time, and some of the people, all of the time (i.e., Bryce Harper). But it’s no longer fooling all of the people, all of the time, and as a result he’s giving up hits and runs — just like any other pitcher / normal human being. The timing couldn’t be worse for the Mets, who now have no one to look to for a miracle (other than Matt Harvey).
From the luxury of our armchair and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, can we take another look at the decision to put R.A. out there for an inning two days ago? Maybe it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that his knuckler was spinning then and spinning again in this game. But really, was it worth the gamble? For those who think fatigue is limited to the shoulder and/or indicated solely by velocity, I’d like to point out that pitching is done with the entire body, and often, velocity can be maintained by pitchers through not only fatigue but also injuries — almost always by adjusting mechanics (usually negatively). Maybe R.A. still had the arm speed and mechanics to get his knuckler to the plate, but the fatigue was in his fingers and ligaments between his hand and elbow — those all-important body parts that are responsible for “feel” and release of the baseball. What do you think? Are those elements important in executing a knuckleball?
Jordany Valdespin provided all of the excitement for the Mets with one swing of the bat. Yes, he hit yet another pinch-hit homer — his fifth — and now has seven homers in 94 plate appearances. Those seven dingers are the third-highest total by a Met this year. I don’t see much reason to put him in the starting lineup, though — rather, let’s see him finish the year with 22 pinch-hit homeruns. Oy!
Jason Bay had another bad day. He’s shot, finished, done. Though he continues to hustle, there’s a constant look of confusion and bewilderment on his face; he’s playing in a fog. It’s sad to see, because when he’s “right,” he’s a wonderful, inspiring, entertaining ballplayer — a true pleasure to watch. He made a terrible throw in the fourth on Danny Espinosa‘s double, and another awful toss on Jesus Flores‘ single in the sixth that resulted in an error and an extra run scored. Bay wasn’t lazy on that single, but he was strangely methodical in surrounding the ball, as if he wasn’t sure where it might go (this was something I saw as a benefit of being at the game, and you may not have seen it on TV). To me that’s a sign of lack of confidence. The result was an overthrow that missed the cutoff man as well as the final target of home plate. I don’t care what Terry Collins says about giving him time — Bay desperately needs a change of scenery, and the sooner, the better.
Fundamental mistake: in the second inning, Scott Hairston stole second. I’m going to glaze over the fact that Bay could have been called out for interference when he walked in front of the catcher, temporarily delaying the throw. I’m also going to glaze over the fact that Hairston may still have been tagged out in time, despite that advantage. Instead, I’ll point out that shortstop Steve Lombardozzi planted the tag, and then, rather than holding his glove on Hairston’s leg, immediately jerked his glove in the air to present to the umpire. Meantime, Hairston over-slid the bag — and would have been out had Lombardozzi’s glove not retreated from his limb. Since I’m a catcher by trade, I’d LOVE for an infielder to let me know why in god’s name one would show the umpire the ball immediately after tagging a runner? I understand presenting the ball on a shoestring catch of a pop fly or line drive, but what benefit is there when it’s done on a tag? It’s completely illogical, and we see infielders lose outs at least a dozen times a season because of this stupidity. Kids, don’t do as the big leaguers do in this case — instead, tag the runner, and hold the tag on him for a few moments, just in case.
OK, at least we can pull something positive from this ballgame.
Next Mets Game
The final game of this godforsaken series begins at 12:10 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. Jeremy Hefner goes to the hill against Stephen Strasburg. Gee whiz. Hey, maybe the most difficult matchup on paper will turn out to be the one that works out best for the Mets; crazier things have happened.
FYI, I’ll be busy at my real job while this game is occurring, so a postgame won’t be published until tomorrow evening, if at all.