Mets Game 35: Loss to Cardinals

Cardinals 6 Mets 3

Often, baseball is a game won by the team that doesn’t beat itself. The Mets provided an example of that type of loss.

Mets Game Notes

Early on, it appeared as though this would be a wild one, as both starting pitchers struggled from the outset, walking batters and allowing multiple base hits. An hour into the game, it was still only the second inning, and about a hundred pitches had been thrown. Somehow, suddenly, and simultaneously, though, both Jeremy Hefner and Lance Lynn righted their respective ships and mowed down batters from innings three through six.

Lynn outlasted Hefner by one frame, and then it was a battle of the bullpens — was there any expectation that the Mets might win that one? Not from this viewer.

Interesting contrast by the two managers in handling their respective starters. Terry Collins pulled Hefner for a pinch hitter to lead off the top of the seventh; I suppose that’s the right move when on the road, but Hefner was in a groove, he’d thrown 97 pitches, and by removing him Collins was hoping against hope that his bullpen could hold the fort for three frames. Had Collins left Hefner in and the Cards beat him up, Collins would have been criticized; so, I guess he was in a no-win situation.

From the other dugout, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny not only allowed Lynn to start the seventh, but left him in after Daniel Murphy singled with two outs, putting the go-ahead run on base and bringing the Mets’ most dangerous hitter David Wright to the plate. Lynn was at 120 pitches at that point, and there were two relievers ready to go. Yet, Matheny left in his starter, who, somewhat surprisingly, went right after Wright. In a situation like this, especially with the .175-hitting Ike Davis on deck, one would expect the opposing pitcher to pitch around Wright, hoping to get him to chase three bad pitches out of the zone, and/or serving an unintentional intentional walk — then yielding the game to the LOOGY to whiff Davis on three sliders in the dirt. But Lynn stayed in and challenged Wright with strikes, breaking the Captain’s bat and inducing a weak, inning-ending grounder to short. That’s the kind of baseball I like to see, rather than the pussyfooting, bait-and-hope approach.

During Trevor Rosenthal‘s two-third of an inning, the Cardinal reliever threw a 91-MPH change-up. Think about that. The only other pitcher I can think of who throws a change-up over 90 is Stephen Strasburg.

The two Scotts were not great again. Scott Rice was tagged for two runs, including the go-ahead, and Scott Atchison allowed three hits and a run — via a solo homer by Matt Holliday — without retiring a batter. Atchison was lucky not to have allowed at least one if not two more runs when Yadier Molina missed a two-run blast by a few feet, and was awarded a ground-rule double on a drive that most certainly would have scored a run had a fan not touched the ball.

After the game, during the SNY postgame, Atchison revealed that his fingers had gone numb and he couldn’t feel the baseball. Well, that makes pitching difficult. Atchison has a partially torn UCL, but opted for rehab in lieu of Tommy John surgery last year. For those who are not loyal MetsToday readers, we discussed this elbow issue when the Mets signed Atchison back in January, and again during the Game Six recap, when Collins was already using Atchison at an alarming rate. No, I don’t have a crystal ball — I merely have a very basic, layman’s understanding of human anatomy, which is not affected by sabermetrics.

The go-ahead run came home on a bizarre play. With Ty Wigginton on second base, Matt Carpenter hit a liner off of Rice’s foot, sending the ball floating past the first base line in what seemed like slow motion. The Mets fielders were momentarily mesmerized by the ball’s knuckleball-like path, causing a vapor lock that resulted in home plate being left unattended. By the time Rice realized someone needed to cover, Wigginton was hustling in and evaded the tag with a well-placed, hard slide. On that play, Rice probably should have been covering, but I also have to blame Wright, who should have been trailing Wigginton down the third-base line; Ruben Tejada could have covered 3B in the event that Wigginton turned around. It was a bad play by the Mets, but not exactly the kind of thing that would ever be practiced, so it’s difficult to be overly critical. Still, it’s a basic tenet of defense to guard home plate, and someone needed to step up and get there.

Despite Lynn giving the Mets five free bases via the walk, the Mets couldn’t score more than three runs. Why? Well, for the second straight ballgame, they managed only four base hits — and three of them were by Daniel Murphy, who finally broke out of his prolonged slump. As mentioned in the last game recap, it doesn’t matter how robust the team’s OBP is if they can’t put the bat on the ball and chase those baserunners home.

Rick Ankiel made his Mets debut, installed immediately as the lefthanded-hitting portion of a platoon with Juan Lagares (how’s that for a slap in the face of Jordany Valdespin?). We discussed Ankiel very briefly over the winter, but most in the blogosphere agreed that he would be unnecessary since the Mets already had LH-hitting CFers Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt Den Dekker, as well as Mike Baxter, ‘spin, and Colin Cowgill (and Lagares, for that matter). Funny how that works out, eh?

So, if Ankiel doesn’t work out, who’s next? Joe Orsulak? Dave Gallagher? Cory Sullivan? I’m still hoping for the return of Jeremy Reed.

With a .400 “winning” percentage, there is only one team in the NL worse than the Mets — the Miami Marlins. However, there are three teams in the Adulterated League with worse records right now, so there’s that. But, maybe Mets fans should start rooting for losses, so the Mets get a high draft pick in 2014? Decisions, decisions …

Next Mets Game

Game two begins at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday night, with Dillon Gee facing John Gast.

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. wohjr May 13, 2013 at 11:20 pm
    UGH. Can we put an end to the Atchison era already?

    I cannot believe ankiel is still in this league, amazing that it was THIRTEEN years ago that he was air mailing pitches over fonzie’s head straight to the backstop. While we’re bringing back people from that time, why not see what the big kahuna is up to?

    My thought was the same as yours on that Wiggy play Joe– shouldn’t David be following there? I understand that doesn’t get practiced but cripes that looks like a play from my beer kickball league. This team is the pits. Can we start a pool on a Scott Rice injury? I’ll take June 5

    • Joe Janish May 14, 2013 at 12:15 am
      I wonder what Julio Franco is doing these days …
  2. argonbunnies May 13, 2013 at 11:59 pm
    Ankiel doesn’t want to pitch again, but with his MLB career clearly nearing its end, I wonder if he could be persuaded to be a two-way guy? As long as we lack a long man, another lefty to get a couple outs here and there could save Rice some overuse injuries.

    Or we could bring McHugh up as a long man. Next time the starter goes 5, use McHugh for the final 4 instead of bringing in 4-5 unrested short relievers.

    I was waiting to see who would be the first righty this year to remember that Wright can’t hit hard stuff away. Congratulations, Lance Lynn! (Or, congratulations Yadier Molina.)

  3. argonbunnies May 14, 2013 at 12:00 am
    I’ve heard a lot of complaining this year about the Mets taking too many pitches. I have to wonder if those who take that position are actually thinking it over while watching ABs. I assume not, because I have yet to see any sort of epidemic of taking fat pitches.

    Instead, I see excellent pitch selection, culminating in Met hitters getting fastballs down the middle — and fouling them off, or popping them up, or rolling them over. I don’t see a problematic mental approach, I simply see a lack of hitting talent. Take these same players and make them swing more and the numbers would probably be even worse.

    • Joe Janish May 14, 2013 at 12:14 am
      Hmm … not sure I agree with you completely. While I do like the patient approach, I’ve definitely seen many pitches taken that, in my opinion, were ideal for swatting. In this game, for example, I watched Murphy take a fastball over the middle, then strike out on a slider that nearly hit him in the knee.

      Is it an “epidemic” though? Hard to say, as I haven’t been keeping score.

      My unscientific analysis gives me the feeling that many (if not most) Mets hitters are taking for the sake of taking, rather than zoning and ripping when the ball hits their zone. Of course, I can’t get inside players’ heads and know what area they’re zoning, but just watching body language, I’m sensing that there’s a lot of taking pitches with absolutely no intention of swinging. Sometimes, that’s a good approach — such as when the team is down and it’s beyond the fifth inning. But there’s a fine line between looking for a walk and waiting for a pitch one can hit, and I think that very often, Mets batters are using the former approach.

      But again, that’s merely my unscientific observation.

      Anyone else want to chime in here? It’s an interesting topic to discuss.

      • argonbunnies May 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm
        Good point on Murphy; I’d factored him out of that analysis, because he hasn’t seemed to get more patient or selective at all since Alderson and Hudgens took over. I’m honestly not sure what he’s doing up there, but the fastball he took was middle-in while he was leaning over the plate, presumably looking for something away. It look to me like that would have jammed him had he swung.

        Also, I guess the optimal form of “looking for your pitch” is a matter of opinion. “Fastball” or “anything inside” may be fine, while “fastball inside” may be too specific. I’ve definitely seen Mets hitters up in counts taking fastballs on the outside corner. I’ve been thinking, “pitcher’s pitch; let it go”. At the same time, I’ve also been thinking “you should have known that was coming” and that talented major league hitters should be able to hit a pitcher’s pitch if they know it’s coming.

        My conclusion is simply that we lack talented major league hitters.

        • Joe Janish May 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm
          If nothing else, we concur on your final statement.

          Meh.

  4. Izzy May 14, 2013 at 7:10 am
    I think that we should blame Minaya for the awesome hitting approach, not Alderson’s man. Better yet, blame Francesa for ragging on the Mets and representing the feeling of these horrible Met fans sick of Wilpon, and Alderson and losing. The approach must be working. Afterall, the whiffs are saving AC money everywhere since it won’t warm up. We’ll credit Alderson and his man the hitting coach for that.
  5. Dan B May 14, 2013 at 8:45 am
    Only 21 months until Spring Training of 2015! I can’t wait because 2015 Mets will be the next 1983 Mets!
    • Quinn May 14, 2013 at 10:32 am
      Got the 86′ World Series on DVD i plan on watching that on repeat untill then.
  6. Steven A May 14, 2013 at 11:32 am
    Joe. I have to say that the Ankiel move has really killed my respect for this front office. They shed Perez, Bay and Castillo because they realized they were not part of the future and they needed to look at the “talent” in the farm system. I would understand playing Kirk, Cowgill, Brown, Lagares etc. no matter how bad in order to help evaluate who is a keeper, but there is simply no logical reason for signing Ankiel. If it works out we will be maybe two games better than otherwise. If we are going to win only 68 games, I want to know that we have at least fully evaluated our current system. Heck, I think we cut bait too soon on Cowgill. After 49 at bats, we concluded that he cant be a ML lead-off batter?
    • DaveSchneck May 14, 2013 at 11:57 am
      The Ankiel pickup didn’t disturb me totally, but he should be used only as a bit player/defensive replacement. I did not like the Brown send down, as he needed a little more time and I don’t see any difference between him and Duda. Cowgill played himself off the team as no leadoff hitter will survive in this league with 1 BB in 50ABs. Either Lagares should have been returned to AAA to play or Byrd shoulds have been released if it was determined that Ankiel’s superior D was worth more that Byrd’s marginally better hitting. That is what disturbs me about this move. In any even, it is not going to turn a 100 loss team into an 80 win team, especially if the pitching continues to stink it up.
    • ben c May 14, 2013 at 6:28 pm
      Steven, i have to agree with you. Though I’m not totally convinced any of the guys we’re talking about – Kirk, Cowgill, Byrd, Valdespin, Brown, Lagares, etc. – are necessarily going to pan out as the solution, in another lost season let’s give them major league experience. We already know what Ankiel can (can’t?) do. Hate to say it, but this club right now doesn’t even need to worry about W/L totals. With the starting rotation a mess and the bullpen unable to get outs, it’s probably irrelevant if Ankiel plays marginally better defense anyway.
  7. david May 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm
    I am with Steven A on this one (see my post on the Ankiel signing). Sending him out there without his own glove and he boots a relatively easy 2nd out in the 7th tells you all you need to know about the Mets management.
  8. Larry D. May 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm
    The correct term is “intentional unintentional walk”, NOT “unintentional intentional walk” Think about it. Many (most?) people botch this term and I’m not sure why.
    • Joe Janish May 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm
      Thank you, Larry.

      I can’t speak for others, but the reason I botch language is usually due to being heavily inebriated while writing these recaps.

      Is it really more correct to state it that way? I guess. But the more I think about it, the more it drives me to drink.