Mets Game 63: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 5 Mets 2

The dog days aren’t supposed to arrive until July, but it appears that for the Mets, they’ve come a month early.

Mets Game Notes

Although he allowed only two runs, Jonathon Niese did not pitch well. He expended 106 pitches through 5 2/3 innings, allowing those pair of runs on 6 hits and 4 walks. Ten baserunners in less than six innings usually results in more runs scored, but the Cubs lineup is pitiful — though, not quite as futile as the boys from Flushing. Niese struggled and battled every inning, as the Cubs seemed always to have a runner on base. His command was awful on all of his pitches, and his curve had no bite. If he were pitching against a decent hitting team, I’m not sure he would’ve made it past the fourth frame.

Still, the Mets had a genuine chance to win this ballgame, because for all the runners the Cubs put on base, they couldn’t chase many home. Chicago left 16 runners on base, and were 3-for-18 with RISP. That’s colossal failure.

Once again, the Mets bullpen was ineffective, allowing 3 runs in the final 3 1/3 innings.

In the top of the first inning, Cody Ransom advanced to second base when Jordany Valdespin overthrew the ball to Niese. The last time I saw something like that was in a little league game. Gary Cohen erroneously called out Anthony Recker for not backing up the play; Recker had no idea what had happened because he was returning from trailing the batter-runner down the first base line and focused on getting back behind the plate. Maybe Recker should have had an eagle-eye on the baseball until time out was called, but, this is the BIG LEAGUES — stuff like this isn’t supposed to happen, ever. I will give Recker a pass for assuming that Valdespin can make a 15-foot throw back to the pitcher without incident.

As it turned out, the mistake by ‘spin didn’t result in any runs, but it DID result in Niese throwing a stressful inning with a man on second base. There’s no way to accurately measure how that impacted Niese in subsequent innings, but you can be sure that it took some kind of a toll.

After the inning, in the dugout, Valdespin was describing the play light-heartedly and with a smile on his face. You know what? David Wright can laugh about a bad play like that. Valdespin can’t — not at this juncture of his career. No one else in the dugout was smiling while the story was told.

I don’t mean to get on ‘spin, but his attitude doesn’t match his performance. If he were hitting .330 I might be more forgiving. But, he’s hitting .214, his defense is only average at best, and, right now, he’s fighting to remain in the big leagues. A dose of humility would do him well right now.

In an effort to beat a heavy shift toward the right side, Lucas Duda attempted to bunt his way on, but couldn’t get the ball more than three feet beyond home plate and was thrown out easily by Cubs catcher Wellington Castro. A nice idea, but if a big lug like Duda is going to bunt, he needs to push it — hard — toward the third base line. In every other bunting situation, one wants to deaden the ball, but when one is trying to beat a shift, a hard bunt is preferred. Duda also was drag-bunting the way a speedster might, and that was unnecessary. With the third baseman playing in the shortstop position, Duda could have squared around completely — as one might in a sacrifice situation — and pushed the ball toward the third base line and walked to first base. There was no need to focus on the element of surprise — only need to get the ball placed in a specific position. Again, nice idea, but poor execution

As of today, the Mets are last in MLB in batting average (.225), second-to-last in slugging percentage (.369), and 28th in on-base percentage (.292). Ouch. When your offense is that bad, you HAVE TO play stellar defense, execute fundamentals, and get great pitching. None of those things are happening — except when Matt Harvey is on the mound.

Next Mets Game

The final game of this three-game series begins at 1:10 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Jeremy Hefner goes to the hill against Matt Garza.

Mets 2013 Games

About the Author

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.

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