Mets Game 7: Win Over Phillies
Mets 7 Phillies 2
Mets make an early season statement in Philadelphia, suggesting that they — and not the Phillies — may be the team to take third place in the NL East.
Mets Game Notes
Roy Halladay looked awful, even in his clean first frame. This isn’t a case of an older pitcher losing velocity on his fastball — there is something physically wrong with Halladay, whether he admits to it or not. He’s pitching with pain, and it can be seen by his body language and his arm motion — it looks like he’s pushing the ball and straining on every pitch. I would guess the issue is with his shoulder, but his struggle with command makes me wonder if it’s an elbow / forearm issue. Maybe it’s both. Something is definitely physically wrong, and if he makes it past July without going on the DL, I’ll be surprised.
Watching Halladay try to compete actually makes me ill; it reminds me somewhat of Steve Carlton‘s final few years. I don’t want to see a competitor like Halladay unable to compete — it’s frustrating and sad.
Matt Harvey is Halladay’s direct opposite: young, healthy, strong — and an absolute pleasure to watch. I’m loving Harvey’s change-up, and his velocity was surprising — he blew a 98-MPH fastball past Ryan Howard for a big third out in the first inning, stranding Chase Utley on third. Maybe the gun was a little fast, but if it wasn’t … wow.
Speaking of that strikeout … bizarre decision by Terry Collins to play the infield in with one out, no score, man on third, and in the first inning. Even if it was circa 2010 Roy Halladay on the mound, it doesn’t make much sense, especially in the launching pad known as Citizens Bank Park.
Keith Hernandez keeps saying that Daniel Murphy could be / should be the #3 hitter in the Mets lineup, suggesting that perhaps he’d be in that spot if the Mets could find better #1 and #2s. I don’t understand this logic at all — not when the Mets have David Wright entrenched for the rest of the decade. In a bad year, Wright’s OBP is .350, and in a typical year, it’s a shade under .400, so unless you have three Rickey Hendersons on your club, it makes little sense to not guarantee a first-inning at-bat to your best hitter AND best on-base guy. Further, if Murphy is as amazing as Hernandez believes he could be, why NOT have him batting second? Why NOT guarantee both Murphy AND Wright first-inning plate appearances? Is there any reason a team wouldn’t want to make sure their very best offensive players get the most opportunities?
Keith also made a comment that gave me pause, and conflicted with a Kevin Burkhardt report, regarding Ryan Howard and power hitting. Per Keith, Howard was not hitting with power because his front foot wound up pointing toward the third base line and not opening up, and — according to Keith — it’s impossible for a hitter to open his hips and hit with power unless he rotates his front foot and winds up with his front foot open toward the pitcher. The inning before, Burkhardt relayed a talk he had with Dan Murphy, during which Murphy said one of his adjustments to create more power was to keep his front toe closed. Huh. So who’s right? In this case, I mostly disagree Keith. First, Howard does slightly rotate his front foot, as do all good hitters. Second, a hitter would NOT want to consciously open up his front toe during the swing, because it almost always leads to the hips opening too early — once the hips open, that’s it, the power from the lower half is gone. Also, there’s a really good chance that the head has pulled out, as well as the front shoulder, which means the hitter a) likely isn’t see the ball as well and as long as possible and b) if the shoulder pulls out early, the only way to hit with authority is by pulling it and by making contact far out in front of the plate; both of those conditions lead to a very small margin for error (hence, infrequent contact). Off the top of my head, the only hitter I can remember who succeeded with such an approach was Reggie Jackson — who, granted, had a Hall of Fame career, but I’m not sure he had the ideal hitting style.
As long as I’m piling on Keith — and trust me, I very much enjoy listening to him, and usually agree with him — I was incredibly disappointed that he completely forgot about J.R. Richard during his ninth-inning discussion of hard-throwing pitchers he faced back in the day. Yeah, it’s nitpicking, but if you ever saw Richard pitch, and know his entire story — from the stroke he suffered to the story of him living in a box under an overpass — then you might understand why I want his era of success remembered. I’m sure if he was reminded, Keith would go to lengths to discuss Richard; as an older person myself I know about forgetting things and forgive him for the omission.
Great at-bat by Ruben Tejada, and awful execution by Chad Durbin in the fifth inning. Bases were loaded, Durbin quickly got ahead of Tejada 0-2, then wasted three breaking pitches off the plate, hoping Tejada would chase one. In that situation, a pitcher should throw one “waste” pitch — MAYBE he throws two, but only if it’s a legit power hitter at the plate. When it’s the #8 hitter, and you’re already down by five, you can’t be diddling around hoping to entice a swing at a bad pitch — if you don’t have confidence in throwing a strike against the worst hitter on the opposing team, when he’s behind on the count, then when WILL you have confidence, and really, what the heck are you doing on the mound? Further, with two outs and the bases loaded, a pitcher has to understand that the 2-2 pitch is vastly more important than the 3-2 pitch, because if you miss on 2-2, you’ve put yourself into double trouble: the runners are in motion, and you have to throw a strike. At that point, I would actually call for another slider in the dirt, because everyone in the ballpark is expecting something in the strike zone, it’s likely to get hit, and if you miss, well, a walk is only one run, not two. I’ve always been amazed at the fear of pitchers to walk in a run — they’d rather give up a grand slam than force in a run. Leo Mazzone had the same feeling — a pitcher is better off walking in one run, rather than giving in to the hitter and the result being two, three, or four runs. Anyway … credit Tejada for hanging in there and forcing the issue.
Filed the folder labeled “when optimism turns to insanity,” a GKR talking point in this game was not-so-subtle suggestion that the 2013 Mets could emulate the 2012 Athletics, citing the Mets’ perceived ability to take walks and their perceived ability to hit homeruns, combined with their “strong” starting pitching. Oh my. Really? It’s bad enough when fans convince themselves of such a fantasy … though, I guess that makes it a good talking point, so kudos to the producer who put that into the pregame script. Let’s dial back to reality, and remind ourselves that a.) the Mets have only 3 legit starting pitchers, and we’re not even sure if a fourth (Zack Wheeler) will emerge in 2013; b.) the Mets’ power surge and on-base abilities are due more to the fact they were hitting against two teams that would be fighting for the worst in MLB if not for the existence of the Astros; and c.) even if you wish to credit the talents of the Marlins and Padres pitchers, the Mets’ homeruns came during unusual conditions at Citi Field (the wind, for once, was blowing OUT) and at CBP. Yes, it’s a feelgood story and it’s nice to think that the Mets could fight the Nationals and/or Braves for the top of the NL East — for people who are not paying much attention. To the rest of us, it’s an insult to our intelligence.
Speaking of feelgood stories, no matter how many ways they try to spin it, I can’t get all warm and fuzzy about Marlon Byrd. When Burkhardt was talking about Byrd going online to find batting cages, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had another browser window open looking for undetectable PEDs. That may not be fair but that’s the way I see him. I’m not going to feel great about Byrd’s success, knowing that he could be taking a job from someone — possibly a youngster — who has chosen to do things “the right way.” That’s not to say Byrd is juicing now; rather, it’s the fact that Byrd knew exactly what he was doing, and the potential consequences, when he took PEDs, yet he did it anyway — and further, I’d be completely stunned if it was a “one-time thing,” knowing his long-time relationship with Victor Conte of BALCO. If it looks, smells, and walks like a duck …