Mets Game 42: Loss to Reds

Reds 4 Mets 3

Mets just have a hard time getting more than three runs a game, and a team usually needs more than that to beat the Big Red Machine.

Mets Game Notes

Shaun Marcum ran into trouble in the first frame, and though he recovered well, that was the ballgame. He relied primarily on breaking pitches and change-ups to keep the Cincinnati sluggers off-balance, but that tough start was too much for the Mets to overcome. It didn’t help Marcum that the Mets made multiple mistakes in the field — one of the key ones was Ike Davis suffering from a catatonic brain fart that led to an obstruction call in that fateful initial inning. It was the right call, despite Terry Collins‘ disagreement, and I’m not sure what Davis was thinking by standing in front of the first base bag as Joey Votto approached.

Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto made his first start since coming off the DL and providing his typical maddening performance. At times he looks unhittable, at other times, like he couldn’t throw a strike if he were three feet away and throwing underhand. He showed flashes of both sides of his Jekyll and Hyde personality, but was enough Doctor to hold the Mets to three runs in five frames. Not a great outing by any stretch, but the Reds bullpen shut the Mets down the rest of the way to preserve the victory.

Were the Reds relievers that good, or are the Mets hitters that bad? Hard to say, but the Mets struck out 14 times in this ballgame, and that’s too many.

Marcum completely mystified Joey Votto, which fascinated me. Votto has been one of my favorite hitters to watch for the past few years, and it’s always surprising to me to see a pitcher get him off his game — which Marcum did successfully. Interestingly, going into this ballgame, Votto was 5-for-9 career against Marcum with 3 walks and a double.

Daniel Murphy‘s habit of playing short field instead of second base nearly resulted in a base hit by Jay Bruce in the fourth inning. I understand he plays that deep to broaden his limited range, but he has to be aware that charging grounders is part of the deal when that far back. He just sat back and waited for the ball to roll into his glove. It’s a similar approach taken by Ruben Tejada this year — sit back and wait — and though my forte is catching, I know enough about infield play to know that sitting back is not what is conventionally taught. Is this an unconventional philosophy created by the Mets organization? If there are any infielders out there reading, I’d like to hear your take.

An inning later, Murphy botched a throw on a potential fielder’s choice, rushing his throw and throwing off his right foot, falling away from the target, rather than gathering himself, setting his feet and making a strong throw. This turn-and-jump thing has become a habit of his, and he succeeded with it a few times, but he uses it far too often — that’s a last-ditch, desperation move and not something to use regularly. Fundies, it’s all about the fundies.

Speaking of that fourth inning, about five minutes of the top half were spent showing a live clubhouse interview with Matt Harvey — who pitches on Wednesday afternoon. Are Mets games so boring that a more entertaining option is to hear about a pitcher’s off-day workout? There wasn’t anything particularly earth-shattering or new to learn — basically, it was Harvey saying he’d be doing some upper-body weight lifting work, some throwing, and he’d be watching the Reds hitters to plan his attack. Hey, some of that dialogue I’m sure was enlightening for some people, but it’s the kind of thing you expect to see during pre-game, or maybe when the umpires are reviewing video on a homerun call or some other on-field delay. But not during game action.

Brandon Phillips is some kind of second baseman, ay? He is a once-in-a-generation fielder, so enjoy every moment you see him play.

Rick Ankiel swung away on a 3-0 count with two outs and the tying run on second in the seventh against Sean Marshall. He fouled off the pitch, then fouled off the next pitch, then grounded out to second base to end the inning, leaving David Wright on deck. Was it the right decision to be swinging there? I think so, even though the team’s best hitter was waiting behind him. Why? Because theoretically, Ankiel is not going to get a better pitch during that at-bat from Marshall, who is deadly against LH hitters. Chances are good that Marshall gets that 3-0 strike anyway, and the result is the same. If there was only one out, I might be more hesitant. But with two outs, you have to take advantage of any opportunity to drive the run home, not sit back and hope and wait for the next guy — even if the next guy is your best guy, because there’s no guarantee that your best guy is going to get the run home, either.

Terry Collins was fired up from the get-go, and was finally thrown out of the game after arguing LaTroy Hawkins‘ case after the conclusion of the top of the seventh. Hawkins was tossed first, for barking at home plate umpire Tom Hallion after the third out. I’m not sure what Hawkins was complaining about, as the only questionable call of the inning came when Phillips was hit by a pitch. Phillips had started his hands forward and turned his elbow into the pitch, so there was some argument that he could have offered at the pitch and it be called a strike instead of a hit-by-pitch, but it didn’t seem to me to be THAT controversial a call — not enough to tell the ump to bleep off. I went through each at-bat / pitch sequence from that inning twice and didn’t see any other ball/strike call that Hawkins could have had a legitimate gripe, so I’m guessing that either it was that HBP call, or maybe some verbal exchange between Hallion and Hawkins after the call that set off LaTroy. Hallion has been known to be less than couth when conversing with pitchers, as David Price will attest.

Next Mets Game

Game two begins at 7:10 p.m. on Tuesday night. The scheduled pitchers are Jonathon Niese and Mike Leake.

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. argonbunnies May 21, 2013 at 12:04 am
    Looks like Murphy’s hot streak is over. He swung at tons of pitches out of the strike zone, and when Cueto grooved him a pitch he popped it up to LF.

    I wonder about Phillips. He’s definitely one of the best fielding second basemen in the game today, but his penchant for making diving plays at the edge of his range leaves me unclear on how good his range actually is. Kind of like the way opinions were divided on Jim Edmonds. I saw Edmonds enough to conclude that the haters were wrong, but I haven’t yet seen enough of Phillips.

    Speaking of Phillips, if Marcum’s 1-2 fastball to him in the first inning hits the target inside instead of staying over the middle, this would have been a stellar outing, and maybe a W.

    Thus far in 2013, Marcum’s fastball is by far his worst pitch; he commands and locates all his other pitches better.

    • Joe Janish May 21, 2013 at 12:15 am
      Unless your name is R.A. Dickey, it’s tough to be consistently successful as a pitcher if your fastball is your worst pitch.

      Using nothing but breaking pitches can work over the short-term, or as a reliever, but for a starter, it’s next to impossible to sustain. Eventually, batters lay off the junk, and/or, the pitcher starts flattening the breaking stuff to keep it in the strike zone, and it gets crushed. Also difficult to change speeds and disrupt timing without a fastball.

      But, we’ll see. Maybe Marcum can defy all odds and be more than a 4-5-inning pitcher with his junk. The Mets are relying on many other players defying all odds so why not Marcum as well?

  2. TexasGusCC May 21, 2013 at 12:25 am
    Usually, you hear people say that “you stick with what got you there”. We remember Ike Davis as a player with a sweet swing that went the other way, with power. Now he has become an all or nothing hitter that seems to have a blind spot for the inside part of the plate; maybe pitchers figured this out. But, is it possible (and I realize we are now trying to read Davis’ mind) he may have become complacent and figured that he had “arrived” and had nothing to worry about, so he fell in love with the homerun and abondoned his original approach and now cannot figure out how to go back? Does he want to go back?
  3. Mic May 21, 2013 at 5:07 am
    The Mets have a penchant for screwing up hitters. Ike is the latest.
  4. Izzy May 21, 2013 at 8:05 am
    Actually the smart move with ankiel would have been to PH, then when Dusty brought in a righty he’d have Baxter to bat, but SANDY THE GREAT MISTAKE has new love so Collins has a new love, so we must keep showing off the great has been or never was Ankiel until Sandy tells Terry they are tired of the latest mediocrity. And isn’t it exciting to see the plan in place. The plan is to let kids rot on the bench so Sandy can have his veterans who used just like his great A’s team did. When does Melky arrive? Not until his salary goes down to zero.
  5. McKee May 21, 2013 at 8:32 am
    Long time Mets Fan. Love this blog.

    This isn’t little league (although the Mets sometimes play that way). You don’t have to play a game every night with eight players.

    Ike Davis should be sent down immediately ! ! ! No bat No glove NO brain. WTF?

    Oh, but send him down with a trophy.

    • Joe Janish May 22, 2013 at 12:12 am
      Ha! Love the trophy comment. Yeah, everybody’s a winner — yay!

      Thanks for continuing to visit the site, and thanks for joining the conversation. Looking forward to bantering with you further in the comments.

  6. NormE May 21, 2013 at 8:35 am
    Joe, I love to watch Brandon Phillips play second base. He is an artist. The contrast between him and Murph is amazing.
    • BaZZaB May 21, 2013 at 9:47 am
      NormE, I have to agree with you about BP. I love watching him play second but almost more for the kid like attitude than his actual play. He smiles about everything and reminds me how much I miss Reyes at SS.
      • NormE May 21, 2013 at 1:08 pm
        I know that some have “dissed” Phillips as a hot dog but
        as Joe Janish said “a once-in-a-generation fielder” and I do agree with your statement he “reminds me how much I miss Reyes at SS.”
        • Joe Janish May 22, 2013 at 12:14 am
          Agreed! Seeing guys like Phillips and Reyes enjoy the game so much is reason enough to tune in. Would love to see more players with that kind of positive, unoffensive exuberance.
    • Joe May 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm
      An elite guy at a position for years is pretty different from someone there for about a year and showing average stuff (average means repeatedly a person goofs up, so yeah, Joe Janish et. al. can point to examples repeatedly)? Yeah.

      The guy was be a major contrast to even some ong term journeyman at the position.

    • Joe May 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm
      “Fundies, it’s all about the fundies.”

      Yes. The team as a whole has messed up these repeatedly. But, yes, use David Murphy. He’s not the first person I’d point to as to what is wrong with this team myself, but perhaps to balance off Keith’s bromance.

      And, yeah, the games are that boring. Ho hum. Another game with not much hitting, not bad pitching, but just enough for the Mets to lose, Ike Davis having something to do with it in more ways than one. It’s about as exciting as hearing a Yankee injured. Oh well. Bound just to only increase their win totals.

      BTW, as Justin Turner noted in his twitter feed, Rules of Engagement Mets reference. Flubbed it in that Santana was pitching the game.

  7. Dan B May 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm
    Joe, your 3-0/Ankiel comments were great. reminds me of your 0-2/pitcher approach comments. It is about understanding the game and understanding strategy, not just repeating it without understanding it. I never understood needing a hit to score a run, working the count to the hitter’s advantage, and then not only letting the easiest pitch go but also giving the advatage away.
    • Joe Janish May 22, 2013 at 12:17 am
      Thanks Dan. For me, it is the mental game and little things that make baseball so entertaining. It’s all about the process … much like life.
  8. DaveSchneck May 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm
    Joe J.,
    Agreed with you and Dan B, so long as Ankiel swung at a strike to his liking 3-0, which he did, it is hard to find fault. The only devil’s advocate argument is that the pitcher still can walk him on a 3-1 pitch, and Wright is a much better hitter vs. a lefty at 0-0 than Ankiel is vs. a lefty at 3-0. However, Ankeil’s career avg. of .420 on 3-0 pitches trumps DW’s career avg. vs. lefties of .334, so from a stastical standpoint it was a good choice.
    • Joe Janish May 22, 2013 at 12:21 am
      Thanks for adding the statistical support to the argument!

      Bottom line is this: Ankiel was in the #2 spot because someone believes he’s a big-league hitter. It doesn’t matter what he’s done in the past — if you can’t trust your #2 hitter to swing in that situation, you may as well pack it in. Pushing all RBI situations to one guy (Wright) will result in a 100-loss season — other guys have to make some kind of contribution, and that was an example of placing a player in a position to succeed. He failed, but hey, failure happens 64-70% of the time for the best MLB hitters.