Mets Game 129: Loss To Phillies

Phillies 2 Mets 1

Mets lose twice on Monday — their ace, and the game against Philadelphia.

Mets Game Notes

Yes, there was news other than Matt Harvey‘s torn UCL. The Mets actually played a game against the Phillies — in Flushing. Did anyone care? Not really, other than the few Phillies fans still paying attention to their quickly sinking club.

Ironically, the “other” half of the Mets future — Zack Wheeler — pitched this game. He pitched really well, allowing 2 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings on 5 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 7. He had a live fastball with good run and sink, kept it around the knees, and mixed in an often-hard-to-resist slider.

Just one thing: why was he removed with two outs in the seventh and .152-hitting pitcher Cliff Lee at the plate? Talk about knee-jerk reaction to the terrible news earlier in the day. Terry Collins explained it was because Wheeler had reached that magical, randomly chosen pitch count of 105, and didn’t want to stress him any further.

Stress? Wheeler had not pitched with stress. Through six and two-thirds, he threw 105 pitches — an average of about 16 pitches per inning, which is one pitch away from the ideal target of 15 per. More importantly, he didn’t really have any stressful innings — his second inning went 20 pitches, and his fourth frame went 21, but otherwise, it was all fairly breezy, 11-14-pitch innings.

Personally, I’m convinced — based on both qualitative and quantitative kinetic research presented by scientists — that Wheeler’s mechanics are going to eventually result in chronic arm problems. But throw that out the window for the moment and look at it from the Mets’ perspective: they changed him BACK to that dangerous motion, so either they don’t believe the science, or they don’t care. Regardless of which it is, their reliance on a hard number — be it pitch count or innings limit — pushes them even further away from logic and science. But that’s not even the worst of it — the worst is that their messages, actions, and philosophy regarding their young pitchers are in a constant state of flux. There is no consistency, no adherence to a long-term plan — in fact, no plan at all. One day, they talk about pushing their starters a few extra pitches, or an extra inning, because they need to learn to battle. Another day, they’re cutting off a starter prematurely, whether it’s due to a predetermined pitch count or to make him “feel good about himself.” Now with the injury to Harvey, everything goes out the window.

If I’m the Mets pitching coach, Wheeler doesn’t even take the mound until he adjusts his motion to be less dangerous — which is what the Giants were working on before giving up and trading him to the Mets. But assuming I’m fine with a pitcher’s mechanics, and he’s pitching into the seventh inning of a ballgame, and he’s breezing through, I’m allowing him to continue pitching until/unless I see fatigue. It could be 90 pitches, could be 105, could be 125 — but the point is, as a manager or coach, it’s my job to see how a pitcher is doing, “take his temperature” from the dugout, and know when he’s had enough. Wheeler, in this ballgame, had not had enough, was still pitching without stress, and was still the Mets’ very best option to get the final out of the inning. I may not have sent him out for the 8th, and, depending on how he handled Lee, may not have let him face another batter that inning, but Lee was his batter to retire.

What else is there to talk about? Speaking of effortless, Cliff Lee dominated the Mets hitters in his usual carefree way. He pounded the strike zone and induced weak contact. If it weren’t for Roger Bernadina completely botching a routine fly ball in the second inning, the Mets would’ve been shut out for the second time in three days.

Oh, and following with the pattern we’ve been closely watching here — the ball that Bernadina should have caught was ruled a double for Marlon Byrd. Re-effing-markable. Cliff Lee should have sliced the tires and keyed the fenders of the official scorer’s car.

By the way, it was yet again Andrew Brown who had a great at-bat to drive in the Mets’ sole run.

The only thing that made this game so close — and prevented it from being a much uglier loss — was the Phillies’ attempt to be nearly as inept offensively as the Mets. Philadelphia was 1-for-7 with RISP, and really should have scored at least two more runs.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Phillies do it again on Tuesday night at 7:10 PM. Jonathon Niese faces Kyle Kendrick.

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.