Game 55: Loss
Giants 7 Mets 6
It never should have come to this.
There should never have been a tenth inning, or a bottom of the ninth, for that matter.
In the bottom of the third, Jose Reyes led off with a single, stole second, and moved to third on a passed ball. Carlos Delgado was at the plate, and there were two outs. The Giants put on their ridiculous shift, which put third baseman Pedro Feliz in the shortstop’s position. Jose Reyes had a 50-foot lead off third base. This is NOT an exaggeration; if you were watching the game, you saw that Jose’s lead was slightly past the halfway point between third and home. Pitcher Matt Morris was about to go into a full windup, and if he did, we would have witnessed the first time in baseball history that a runner stole home standing up. Jose would have been high-fiving the guy in the on-deck circle by the time the catcher caught the pitch. Instead, Morris jumped off the mound, nearly balking, and coaxed Jose back to third.
However, Feliz held his ground at the shortstop position. Morris thought better of his initial plan, and moved into the stretch position. Jose still had a FIFTY-FOOT LEAD off third base. Smiling, Jose said something to third-base coach Manny Acta, who clearly told Jose to stay put.
WHY ?????????? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY ?????? !!!!!
With a 15-foot lead, Jose Reyes has a legitimate shot to steal home plate, on a breaking pitch. It would be close, and he probably would be out, but he has a legit shot with his speed. With a 40-50 foot lead, there is no question at all that Jose Reyes can steal home. Even I can figure out the math, and I’m terrible at math: it takes Jose less than two seconds to run 40 feet; it takes Matt Morris, from the stretch, at least two seconds to deliver the ball and reach home plate. Even if the pitch is perfect, it will still take time for the catcher to receive the ball and then move his hand to tag Reyes out. If Reyes — who is taking a jogging lead — goes full force when Morris lifts his leg, there is no possibility of Reyes being anything but safe. I don’t care if Carlos Delgado, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, or Babe Ruth is up at the plate; if the other team is going to give you a run like that, you take it.
But let’s not dwell on that missed opportunity. Instead, we’ll focus on Mr. Willie’s continued reluctance to allow Heath Bell to pitch.
After a tough doubleheader on Saturday, the Mets’ bullpen was pretty worn out. Heilman threw two innings, and Sanchez, Wagner, Feliciano, Bradford, and Oliver all threw an inning. The only fresh arm in the ‘pen was Heath Bell. So naturally, when Steve Trachsel had finished the seventh inning, who comes in to pitch? Duaner Sanchez, of course, who looks awful immediately and proceeds to give up three runs on two hits and three walks. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a Monday morning quarterback; I was screaming at the TV when Sanchez was instructed to intentionally walk Pedro Feliz. It just made no sense at all at the time, and afterwards, it makes less sense. Sorry, I don’t subscribe to the “let’s walk a guy since first base is open” strategy. If they walk Feliz because Bradford’s coming in, OK. But if you believe Sanchez is your man, and he’s not hitting spots, you don’t make it tougher on him by clogging the bases. And you don’t intentionally load the bases and play the infield halfway. Talk about sitting on the fence! Either you walk the guy and put the middle infielders back to double-play depth (corners in to go home), or you bring the infield completely in and pitch to the guy.
As it was, Sanchez’s command was way off, and after giving Feliz first, he walked the next guy on four pitches. Mr. Willie took him out three batters too late. And who does he bring in? Would it be fresh-armed Heath Bell? No, of course not; he brings in Chad Bradford to save the day (which he did).
Had Bell been brought in rather than Sanchez, there’s a good chance those three runs don’t score. Sanchez has been overused thus far, and has lately been struggling when asked to pitch on consecutive days. Bring in the fresh guy to throw strikes!
Thanks to heroics by David Wright, Jose Valentin, and Lastings Milledge, the Mets fought back not once but twice. The second time came in the bottom of the tenth, when Valentin and Milledge hit back-to-back dingers to re-tie the game at six. But again, it shouldn’t have gone that far, because in the top of the tenth, Mr. Willie needed to bring someone in after using Billy Wagner in the ninth. Does he use the fresh-armed Heath Bell? No! He goes with Aaron Heilman, who had pitched two innings yesterday. From the very first pitch, I could see from my living room that Heilman was tired; his arm angle was much lower than normal, his elbow below his shoulder, and his fingers were on the side and under the ball. Even with Heilman’s three-quarter, sometimes almost sidearm delivery, his elbow stays at shoulder level and his fingers on top of the ball. If he didn’t do this, he’d already have blown out his elbow and he’d never get the change-up down. The first change-up he threw was up, way up, and you could see he was under his pitches: a clear sign that he was tired. Rick Peterson should have been sprinting out to the mound immediately to find out what was up, and replaced him before he injured himself. Instead, he and Mr. Willie left Aaron out there to “tough it out”, and he was awful. He had no command, was forcing pitches, overthrowing, and I’m praying to god he didn’t tear anything in his elbow. This is one of the big reasons I am completely against Heilman in the ‘pen: because I know Mr. Willie has no clue and will ruin his arm doing exactly this to him. Heilman has very fragile mechanics — it’s the reason the Mets initially made him change his motion and throw more overhand. As a starter, it’s easier to tell when he’s tiring because you can see his arm drop a little as a game wears on. As a reliever, nobody pays attention to mechanics, until things are going horribly wrong (at which point it’s too late).
In the past, Jorge Julio was the guy to come in for that situation, so why didn’t Bell get the call?
Finally, in the top of the 12th, and only after Pedro Feliciano pitched an inning and a third, did Mr. Willie summon Our Man Heath. It was a setup: the Giants had men on second and third, one out, and Pedro Feliz is up again with the momentum swinging the Giants’ way. Heath did not have a prayer; the only way he could get out of the mess was by striking out two batters, or at least getting the first one to pop out to the infield. Anything else would have produced at least one run. (Why he didn’t start the inning is anybody’s guess!). Naturally, Feliz singled in the go-ahead run on a very good pitch by Bell, and then Ray Durham poked a cheap double whose fairness even surprised Durham. Eventually, Bell got out of the inning giving up only the one run, but he sure looked like the goat at the end of the game. And Willie was only recently quoted as saying, “I’ve always liked Heath Bell”. Yeah, rrrrriiiiiight …
The loss was a goddamn shame inasfar as it wasted a glowing performance by Lastings Milledge, who appears to have a flair for the dramatic. In fact, he has flair, period … something that was called “hot dogging” in Reggie Jackson’s day. It’s becoming more clear every day that this young man was built for New York, and he may very well have already arrived. If he keeps up what he’s done in his first few games, Xavier Nady will be compared to Wally Pipp.
Carlos Delgado MUST start working on bunting down the third base line. This shift is getting stupid, and if the other team is going to give him a bunt hit, he has to take it. He could literally square around and still drop down a bunt that would get him to first easily, so long as he gets it away from the pitcher. It’s preposterous that he doesn’t try at least once to drag one that way.
David Wright remains unconscious. He’s unbelievable. And he’s only 23. With Pujols now out for two months, Wright has an outside shot at MVP if he keeps playing like this. He’s literally carrying the offense the last two weeks.
Jose Valentin remains red-hot, going three-for-six including the bomb in the tenth. He’s making me feel worse and worse about all the bad things I was saying, writing, and thinking about him earlier this year. If he doesn’t test positive for HGH he might become one of my favorite Mets before the season is over.