Mets Game 93: Win Over Phillies
Mets 5 Phillies 4
It really wasn’t that close until the final inning. Well, maybe it was, but with the Phillies unable to get the big hit, it didn’t feel that way after the fifth. But I’m OK with Bobby Parnell nearly blowing the game — read on to find out why, and why I’m not worried about the Mets’ closer.
Mets Game Notes
Zack Wheeler wasn’t particularly impressive, allowing 2 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in only 4 2/3 innings — one-third short of qualifying for the win. Had he been left in there to get the final out, I doubt it would have been accomplished without more Phillies runs scoring.
Wheeler struggled in each of the frames — the initial inning was the only one in which he didn’t allow any baserunners. Though, Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a homerun. Wheeler struggled to command his fastball, and usually located the slider too high and hittable. He threw his off-speed stuff sparingly — maybe about half-dozen change-ups and curves — but none for strikes. It’s difficult to fool MLB hitters for very long without changing speeds — even classic fastball-slider power pitchers like Ron Guidry and Steve Carlton would mix in a few curves and change-ups to keep batters thinking. Constantly pitching with runners on base, Wheeler was a bit lucky to have allowed only two runs — the Phillies seemed to perpetually be one swing away from breaking open the game.
In addition to the luck of a couple of well-batted balls that found fielders, Wheeler worked himself out of jams via the strikeout — he struck out five, nearly all exactly when he needed them most, and almost all by “climbing the ladder.” He had the Phillies hitters chasing the high and inside fastball just above and out of the strike zone, and may have been mildly helped by home plate umpire Will Little calling “true” high strikes on occasion to force the Phillies to swing and miss at pitches that appeared “too close to take.” With all the baserunners, high pitch count, and getting swings and misses on up-and-in fastballs, Wheeler’s outing reminded me of a John Maine start; the only difference is I believe Wheeler was purposely aiming the ball at that ideal up-and-in spot, while Maine couldn’t locate his fastball anywhere else.
Meanwhile, Cole Hamels struggled nearly as much as Wheeler, but gutted through a few more frames. Hamels has never been particularly effective at holding runners and preventing stolen bases, and the Mets’s plan was to be aggressive. The Mets took advantage of Hamels’ indifference to baserunners twice with stolen bases, but also were picked off twice. On the one hand, Hamels should be ashamed of himself for not throwing to first base more often, and for completely ignoring runners on second. On the other hand, David Wright and Marlon Byrd should be ashamed of themselves for going on first move rather than reading Hamels’ motion, because it’s not that difficult to determine when he’s going home and when he’s going to first.
After the starters were knocked out, it was a battle of the bullpens, and the Mets won the war — albeit barely.
Gonzalez Germen was arguably the most effective and most important reliever of the day, getting that final out of the fifth with the bases juiced and going an inning and two-thirds without further damage. He had the Phillies flailing at his change-up – it looks like a good out pitch, though I’ve yet to see it in the strike zone. For a reliever that’s probably fine. He looked really good, but the pessimist in me wonders if his success is tied more to mystery than anything else. Yes, I’m aware it was the second straight evening that he pitched against the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean they’ve figured out his tendencies and seeing the ball wall out of his hand. Very generally speaking, an underexposed relief pitcher can survive on mystery for at least half a season. Then again, in today’s version of MLB — i.e., “BudBall,” where teams only see each other once or twice a year — exposure is practically nonexistent except in divisional play.
SNY showed a slo-mo of Juan Lagares‘ swing on his base hit in the 4th. It looks to me like there is no separation between his stride and swing, which makes me think he will eventually struggle with off-speed pitches. For now he’s doing fine — he was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Bobby Parnell was beat up by the best Phillies batters — even the final out was hit hard, a line drive directly at Daniel Murphy. Concerning? Not really — no one is invincible. More to the point, I’d rather see Parnell challenging the Chase Utleys and Domonic Browns of the world with no runners on and two outs, than pitching around them and creating a situation of multiple runners on base where a lucky bloop by a lesser hitter ties the ballgame. The nonsense of “not letting X-player beat you” is followed too often in MLB, in my opinion, leading to too many walks, long games, and unlikely heroes. It’s nice to occasionally see the essence of sport: me vs. you, my best vs. your best, mano-a-mano, let’s see who wins.
During the postgame, Terry Collins was asked if there was any concern for overtaxing the bullpen, and if there was any plan to mitigate that problem. His answer was “No. Nope. Not if we have to use them.” OK then …