Mets Game 95: Loss to Braves

Braves 2 Mets 1

If you love the Mets, you didn’t love this game. If you love drama in baseball, you loved this game.

Regardless of whether you were rooting for one side or the other, or simply watching the game as a fan of baseball, this contest was gripping to the final out.

Mets Game Notes

Dillon Gee deserved better. Much better. (Cue the song: It’s a Hard Knock Life.) He took a no-hitter into the seventh, and would up allowing only two hits and three walks before he exited after seven solid innings of goose eggs. He took full advantage of the overly aggressive, big-swinging Braves, keeping them off-balance by using his slider and change-up and expanding the zone, inducing many low-count outs. Atlanta had only one shot to reach him — when they loaded the bases in the seventh. But Gee worked his way out of it and left the game in the hands of the bullpen.

Gee is fun to watch. He’s smart and savvy, knows his limitations and strengths, “stays within himself,” reads the situation in front of him, and adjusts accordingly. Seeing Gee “craft” a game is as enjoyable (to me) as watching a hard-throwing, filthy pitcher such as Matt Harvey.

It would be easy to blame John Buck for the loss — pinning him for the passed ball that deflected off his glove and allowed the Braves runners to advance to second and third and set up the tying and winning runs. However, it was Bobby Parnell who allowed those runners to reach base in the first place, and it was Parnell who allowed the well-struck single by Reed Johnson that drove in the winning run. I’m not sure exactly how or why Buck missed the pitch, but my guess is he was expecting a fastball down and away, or some kind of breaking pitch (confusion with signs?) and couldn’t react quickly enough to a 96-MPH heater up and in. Speaking from experience — yes, I’ve caught pitchers who threw 95+, though not in a long time — missing location on the fastball by a foot or more is more difficult to react to, and stop, than a breaking pitch, mainly because it’s impossible to prepare yourself for a pitch at that velocity. Put simply, you can’t anticipate where a hard but wild fastball is going to go. In contrast, when you know a slider or curve is coming, you have a good idea of where it’s going to go wild, if it goes wild — to the opposite side of the pitcher’s arm. A fastball can go anywhere, and as the velocity goes up, stopping wild ones gets more challenging.

I didn’t like Parnell’s facial expressions nor body language, at all. It was mainly his face that bothered me (a girl said that to me once on the dance floor, but it was a different reference I’m sure). He looked unsure of himself, lacking in confidence. Maybe it had something to do with the inclement weather. Or maybe it had something to do with getting rocked the day before by the Phillies. Either way, he didn’t have the swagger that Craig Kimbrel displayed.

Though, Kimbrel struggled mightily against the elements in the bottom of the ninth. Like Parnell in the top of the frame, he had trouble gripping the baseball, with particular trouble commanding the breaking stuff. Those final two innings were challenging to everyone on both sides — though, the conditions were routine for the Irish National Baseball team.

Credit Omar Quintanilla for a bad-ass-tough at-bat in the final frame. He hung as tough as a batter can hang against Kimbrel and the elements. Granted, the elements probably affected Kimbrel more than Q, but you have to like Q’s gumption.

A big positive for the Mets was seeing Ike Davis hit the ball hard several times, collecting two hits and driving in the Mets’ sole run.

Davis drove in Marlon Byrd after Byrd led off the bottom of the fourth with a triple(?). Yes, I’m hard on Byrd, but his choice of nutritional supplements — I swear — has nothing to do with my opinion that the hometown official scorer was egregious in scoring the ball that Byrd hit a triple. Nor does the suspension of great fraud Ryan Braun affect my judgment. It was a line drive to right field that Justin Upton jumped toward, but wasn’t able to catch and the ball skipped safely on the ground below his glove. Probably, Upton shouldn’t be charged with an error for allowing Byrd to reach first base. But, I don’t understand how he can’t be charged with a two-base error for letting the ball go under his glove and roll to the wall. It makes little sense in the tiny world existing in my rock head. If Upton plays it safe, it’s a routine single. Because he didn’t touch it, it’s a triple? Um, no.

Have to hand it to Jason Heyward. His last-out catch was amazing — Tommie Agee -like.

Home plate umpire Eric Cooper was calling strikes at the letters for both sides throughout the ballgame. Nice to see.

Do the Mets lose this game if the conditions were dry and clear? Hard to say, but there’s no doubt that the weather affected the performance of both clubs.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Braves do it again on Tuesday night at 7:10 PM. Carlos Torres takes the ball against Kris Medlen.

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. crozier July 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm
    Let me reiterate – be kind and don’t call it beating a dead horse – that the Mets continue to lose close games. Over the course of a almost two months now, they’ve had only a handful of games where they’ve lost by more than 3 runs, and the majority have been by 2 or less. They’re winning games on the strength of their pitching, and pitching generally kees them in the games they lose.

    Parnell let this one get away, but it doesn’t take away from Gee’s great performance. I’ll wait until September to say he’s “the real thing,” whatever that means. He might just end up having a career season like so many Met pitchers of the last ten years. I just hope he doesn’t wind up with 15 wins, because – you can look it up – not one Met pitcher this century has won 15 games and been the same thereafter. Hampton, Leiter, Trachsel, Martinez, Maine, Perez, and Pelfrey. Just a coincidence, of course. 15 is meaningless in the realms of numerology.

    • Joe Janish July 23, 2013 at 12:10 am
      Here’s my unscientific theory: teams that lose a lot of close games, and play a lot of extra-inning games, find themselves in such situations because they are not strong fundamentally and therefore don’t execute as persistently as they need to. In other words, they are not good at “the little things” that can win or lose a ballgame.

      As a devout follower of Vince Lombardi, I believe strongly in the theory that execution = winning, and “God is in the detail.” It’s what separates the contenders from the pretenders — unless, of course, you have outstanding pitching and a lineup full of sluggers (i.e., the Atlanta Braves).

      • crozier July 23, 2013 at 9:51 am
        I’m aware that this isn’t a very good team, but there are incarnations of the Mets that had my attention even when they weren’t all that good, and there are ones that bored me to death and/or I couldn’t bear to watch. The current lineup rewards my interest by repeatedly staging comebacks. I would include last night, despite the loss.

        I recall a game in 2009 when I flipped on the TV in the first inning, and the Phillies had already scored 2 or 3 runs. I thought, “it’s already too late,” and I was right, because the club had no fight in it.

        This isn’t the same club as April and May. Maybe they do regress to their former selves over the next two months because of their fundamental flaws (or because Hefner and Gee return to their historical selves, or g*d forbid, Duda returns to play outfield). But seven weeks of close games and a winning record isn’t a negative; they’re playing better baseball.

        • Dan B July 24, 2013 at 12:00 am
          I agree that the current line up is not only better then the opening day line up but more interesting. And, like you, I have more faith in their ability to comeback from deficits. The downside is the Mets have accomplishef this by replacing what suppose to be long term assets (Tejada, Ike, Duda) with players (Q, Satin, Byrd) who are playing better but do not project to being part of the 2015 team (when I expect the ownership to start getting serious about running the team). I am glad the weak are being removed but I am still not excited.
  2. argonbunnies July 23, 2013 at 4:03 am
    I too like watching Gee move the ball around and mix up his pitches. On the downside, his fastball was frequently missing the target by 2 feet, and he got a lot of hard-hit outs. On the plus side, his fastball had good running movement and he threw his best 3 change-ups of the day with the bases loaded in the 7th.

    As for Parnell, I couldn’t see his face too much between the cap and beard. I thought he was simply unlucky. First four batters: dribbler, bloop, chopper, dribbler. He did make a mistake to Reed Johnson, though.

    The big Mets news today was that Bad David Wright showed up. You should instantly know what that means, but if you don’t: big, slow, spinning, upper-cut swing. It’s the “0 line drives, 2 Ks a game, late on every fastball” swing. Watch for it. If it persists, hello losing streak.

    A few of the Little Things that helped decide this game:

    1) The Braves were an inch away from a big 7th inning, all thanks to the Mets’ shift on McCann, their decision to let Wright cover 2nd on a steal, and Wright’s inexperience making that play. If Wright’s on the bag, Freeman’s out by a mile, and there are two outs and no one on. But Wright caught the throw way in front of the bag where he couldn’t reach Freeman, and the Braves almost capitalized. Either Quintanilla needs to cover, or Wright needs to practice that play.

    2) The shift bit the Mets again in the 9th. With Wright halfway between 2nd and 3rd and Q to the right of 2nd, McCann hit a weak roller between Wright and 2nd for a leadoff hit. If Wright knocks it down with a dive in the OF, he probably throws out McTurtle, but I’m not going to criticize DW for failing to go after a grounder 20 feet away from him. I am, however, a little skeptical of his positioning. If you’re going to give McCann so much of the third base line anyway, you might as well give him the whole left side and move Wright just to the left of 2nd, where McCann hit it.

    3) With McCann on first, Gattis hit a pop-up to RF. Byrd, properly playing deep, charged in and looked like he might dive. At the last minute he slowed down to field it on a hop. Understandable? Sure. But the right decision? No. Lagares was racing over from CF to back up the play, the dying baseball wasn’t going to bounce far, and the lead-footed baserunners weren’t going to get any extra bases out of a missed dive. But let’s cut Byrd some slack for that too; maybe he didn’t have time to process all that.

    What’s left? I want to see the Mets OFs play with some guts.

    Do you think Heyward thought about Reed Johnson and the baserunners before he dove? I mean, if that ball hits off his glove and kicks away somewhere, that’s the difference in Turner scoring to win the game! But Heyward didn’t play it safe; he committed to the big play, and pulled it off.

    When was the last time you saw a Mets OF go into a full-out dive and catch the ball right at the absolute edge of their reach? Little slides and half-dives don’t count, those are just ways to avoid falling on your face. I swear the only Mets OF I’ve seen truly hurl himself after a fly ball was Duda, in failed efforts to make up for his late breaks and slow feet.

    • Joe Janish July 23, 2013 at 9:56 am
      Good stuff, AB. Thanks for pointing out some of the little things that made the difference.

      I’d point out more little things in every Mets game recap, but then the posts would be 3500 words long … LOL!

      Well done.

    • Anon21 July 23, 2013 at 10:11 am
      Quintanilla was carrying the winning run, not Turner. And given Johnson’s positioning, if that ball drops the game is over. That’s not to take anything away from Heyward—the catch was amazing—but it was also a no-brainer to try, because there was no other option.
      • argonbunnies July 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm
        Oops, right, Turner was the batter, Q was on first. Regardless, if Heyward doesn’t dive and instead plays the ball on a bounce or two, I don’t see any possible way the runner scores from first on that play. So he absolutely had an important choice to make.
  3. DaveSchneck July 23, 2013 at 7:33 am
    Excellent recap, you brought your A game to this one. Argon also had some excellent points. DW’s AB in the top of the 9th was a killer – watching strike 3 right down the middle with Young on 3rd and 1 out. I also sgree with Joe’s scoring point on the Byrd triple, but as he pointed out a few weeks ago, MLB certainly doesn’t want 10 Es a game.
  4. Walnutz15 July 23, 2013 at 8:24 am
    I’ve read people discussing whether Buck was crossed up…this morning, and some citing that he’d said he wasn’t…….using that he “flashed a fastball” as proof it was his own fault.

    And the SNY booth was all too quick in saying he wasn’t crossed up…after reviewing the replay.

    Thing is, you can still be “crossed up” with regard to expected location — as you’ve touched upon in your post, Joe.

    If that’s the case, then Parnell completely missed his spot — which isn’t to say Buck couldn’t have possibly kept that one from trampolining out of his mitt, but the point remains.

    This is the Bobby Parnell you really need to keep an eye on when talking about him being our closer during times when games actually matter. He’s had a couple of poor appearances, back-to-back – and REALLY got shelled by the Phils in the previous one where he got credit for the “save.” (I call that a “Danny Graves Special”, FWIW.)

    While last night wasn’t of “that” variety, he still didn’t come through; and I totally agree with your sentiment that really questions his body language. He just always looks scared to me.

    I’ll be curious to see how he responds going forward….because we’ve seen this from him before.

    It would have been nice to get that one last night, with the team looking to build — especially after getting a strong effort from Dillon Gee.

    Great freakin’ grab by Heyward to seal it.

    • Walnutz15 July 23, 2013 at 8:30 am
      Here’s what they ultimately came to saying in the press:

      “I thought I saw fastball and he said it was curveball,” Parnell said. “We don’t know who was right and who was wrong. We’re not going to worry about it, and get them tomorrow.”

      Said Buck: “We just got crossed up.”

    • argonbunnies July 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm
      Re: Bobby Graves, he looked good for the beginning of that outing, all the way through 0-2 to Utley. Then he hung a curve, Utley hit it out, and every pitch after that got ripped. I think he also got worse as the outing continued last night. A tender arm was mentioned earlier this year, maybe that’s a factor.
  5. TexasGusCC July 23, 2013 at 9:30 am
    A couple of points: Argon, the Braves pinch ran for McCann right away. If Byrd misses it, the runner is on third easily, and Byrd cannot see Lagares if he’s running at the ball. Don’t forget Byrd got his triple earlier that game because of a dive attempt, so he probably had that in mind.

    It was raining last night in the ninth inning. The Braves brought a towel to the mound, the Mets management wished Parnell luck. Where that extension for Collins again? Shrewd manager, genius.

    • Joe Janish July 23, 2013 at 9:54 am
      Part of diving for balls in the outfield is knowing/trusting that the guy next to you is backing up. With so many different people playing in outfield for the Mets, it could be argued that there hasn’t been enough consistency to build trust among the outfielders / get to know each others’ tendencies.

      Another point to consider – balls don’t move very far in soaking wet grass, giving more reason to dive. Is that something an outfielder would be / should be thinking about in preparation? Yes, I think so. There is a lot of time between pitches and batters, and not a whole lot to have to think about as an outfielder — no excuse, really, to not be considering the elements around you and how they might affect the ball and your movement toward it.

  6. Dan B July 23, 2013 at 10:06 am
    For all the crazy stats they make up for pitchers, how come there is not a W-L record based on the score when the pitcher leaves the game? The Mets were winning when Gee left the game, why should he be punished that the bullpen lost it? Conversely, why shouldn’t the pitcher get a loss if his team was losing when removed but the team comes back to win? Come on Bill James, get to work.
    • James July 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm
      I would add to that a reconsideration of the 5 inning rule. When pitchers typically slogged through 8 or 9 innings, that meant you got credit for a win when pitching through about 60% of a normal game if your team stayed ahead. Now with the avg pitchier going about 6-7 innings, 60% of that would be about 4 innings. So if you go 4 2/3rds like Wheeler did the other night, you get the win, not some guy who pitched 1 or 2 innings in relief after you.
    • crozier July 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm
      Gee has plenty to show for his great performance, even without your proposed amendment. While the QS is weak shorthand at best, there’s no question Gee has given the Mets every opportunity to win in games he’s started since May 30 (his ERA since that date is 2.47).

      Management has evolved to where it better understands pitcher value. But consider the case of Jon Matlack in 1974. 265 IP, 2.41 ERA, 195 Ks, 1.1 WHIP, 14 CG, and 7 shutouts. But he finished with a 13-15 record, and M. Donald Grant and Co. proposed a salary cut (source: “The Pitching Staff,” a nice accounting of the Mets’ 1974 season). That’s unreal, even by the standards of the time.

      Personally, I’d be fine with the elimination of the pitcher win stat, for all the value it has today.

      • NormE July 23, 2013 at 6:29 pm
        Hey Crozier,
        The name M. Donald Grant always reminds me that as bad as the Wilpons are as owner, they still have a long way to go to match MDG. He even puts MSG’s Dolan to shame.
        • Dan B July 24, 2013 at 12:11 am
          The way son Jeff took over a lot responsibility from his father Fred Wilpons reminds me more of the late 70’s Mets when Lorinda de Roulet mismanaged the Mets after taking over for her mother, Joan Payson. Nepotism is rarely a good business plan.
  7. Paul Festa July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm
    I’ve been happy with Parnell this year, but he’s pitching to contact more. He’s basically a ground ball pitcher who strikes out 7.5 batters per 9 IP. With all that contact, he’s bound to have an outing like this – death by 1,000 cuts.