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?
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 …