Game 57: Loss
Dodgers 8 Mets 5
The Mets had Dodger starter Derek Lowe on the ropes in the second inning, but only managed two runs. He was laboring in the heat, his face beet red and hair soaked with sweat, and was having a helluva time throwing strikes. In fact, when the TV camera showed close-ups of him, it looked as though he was about to have a heart attack. (One wonders if he was actually experiencing cardiac arrest, or possibly had overdosed on greenies or caffeine.) His condition likely had something to do with the heat, maybe more to do with the 12-pitch sequence to Lastings Milledge, which culminated in a sacrifice fly — a great effort and an encouraging at-bat by the rookie.
Instead of smelling the kill and finishing him off, the Mets let him off the hook. After Milledge’s excellent at-bat, Pedro Martinez struck out on three pitches, but Chris Woodward worked an easy walk as Lowe was gasping for air, had fear on his face, and was having a very difficult time throwing strikes. However, the usually savvy Paul LoDuca swung at the first pitch thrown to him and grounded out meekly on a low sinker. Why he was swinging I’m not sure; I understand that there was a runner on second and it’s good to be aggressive in that situation, but Lowe was clearly sucking wind and just aiming the ball, hoping it would find the strike zone. Had LoDuca taken the first few pitches, he may have worked another walk or received a meatball on a silver platter. Of course, it’s just speculation, but Lowe was a wounded animal at that point, ready for the kill, and the Mets couldn’t put him away.
Pedro Martinez, who had been magnificent but without a win in his last six starts, did not have it this evening. His velocity barely topped out at 91, which usually isn’t a big deal except that his command was way off. Even still, he was getting outs with his guile, and the game had a good feel to it: it felt like Pedro was going to battle through, somehow, and the Mets were just about to bust out on Lowe.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, as the wheels came off in the top of the sixth. Pedro started off the inning by giving up a leadoff single to J.D. Drew, a homerun by rookie Matt Kemp, and a single by Willy Aybar. However, it looked like Pedro was going to pull out of it, as he induced Ramon Martinez to ground into a tailor-made double play to David Wright. Unfortunately, Jose Valentin was not playing the role of tailor, and allowed Wright’s throw to bounce off his glove and into centerfield. Later, in the 8th, Valentin let a ground ball pass by that some other second basemen might have had, and on the next pitch failed to cover first in time on a sacrifice bunt handled by Carlos Delgado. Jose had been looking great at second base over the last week and a half, but ineptitude today was unsettling to say the least, as his miscues led to at least four, possibly five, Dodger runs.
Willie Randolph, by the way, continues to make remarkably stupid moves with the pitching staff, and really must get this ludicrous lefty-righty matchup thing out of his head. After ripping a single on an 0-2 pitch in his first at-bat, then mashing a homerun against Pedro in his first at-bat in the sixth, rookie Kemp was given another opportunity to do damage as Heath Bell was instructed to walk lefty J.D. Drew and instead face Kemp. As it turned out, Bell struck him out, but me not being the Monday-morning quarterback, still say it was a bad move. I’m almost never a proponent of the intentional walk, and I certainly don’t like the idea of walkng a guy who has just homered in the last 15 minutes off of a future Hall-of-Famer. Baseball is more about confidence and momentum than lefty-righty matchups, and in my opinion Willie was tempting fate by choosing to face Kemp again.
Poor Heath. Willie has designated him as the garbage pitcher, and allows him into games only once every ten days, and only when there are runners all over the bases, with the top of the lineup hitting, and the only possibility of being successful is by striking everyone out. The problem is, Bell is very much like David Weathers: he throws lots of strikes and challenges the batter to hit the ball. His outs come on fly balls, and he will tend to give up a lot of hits, especially when he’s not sharp. And it’s hard to be sharp when you’re pitching twice a month. Unlike the long leashes given to starters such as Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez, I get the feeling that Bell’s job is on the line every time he’s run out there — and he may feel the same way. I’ll not be surprised if Willie sends him to Norfolk this week and brings up one of the Mets’ latest acquisitions: Dave Williams or Mike Adams. As much as I love Heath Bell, and want to see him succeed in Shea, it looks more and more like he’ll only succeed after a change in scenery. His situation is similar, though a little worse, than Dan Wheeler’s, and I would expect to see Bell become as effective as Wheeler at some point in the future.
Carlos Delgado is out of his slump, and here’s why: in the last few games, he’s waiting a lot longer on pitches, and as a result is showing exceptional judgment. This evening he walked twice after falling behind on the count, letting several close pitches go by. With his lightning hands, he can afford to wait a bit, and his slump had a lot to do with being “too quick”. As long as he continues to sit back and wait on pitches, he’ll continue to be a monster.
Jose Valentin had his chance to make up for the two errors in the sixth when he batted with one out and men on first and third in the seventh. All he needed to do was lift a fly ball to the outfield to drive in the runner from third, but instead he popped out to the infield. Oh well.
Though Lastings Milledge has thus far been impressive, he could learn a bit from Delgado’s recent approach. Milledge has hand speed like no one in baseball this side of Gary Sheffield, but he judges pitches way too early. In his at-bat in the seventh, he struck out on a breaking pitch that was about six feet away from him, and a good foot and a half off the plate and in the dirt. Eventually, he should learn to trust his hands on wait longer, and that should come with experience. However, it bothers me that he pulls everything, and seems never to go to right field. That’s one thing that you would hope he’d learn while in the minors, but he likely won’t as long as he’s up in the bigs. Hopefully, someone on the coaching staff is paying attention and will get him to work on going the other way. Too often, with a player of his raw talent, coaches will avoid teaching a player something like that, the theory being “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, or fearing that making him go the other way will somehow rob him of potential home run power.
In the eighth, with Chris Woodward on first and two out, Carlos Beltran watched the same exact pitch — a 75 MPH curveball on the outside corner — go by three times in a row for strikes. Same pitch, same speed, same location, and after it being called for a strike the first two times, Beltran seemed surprised on the third. Not sure why.
Rubber match pits Tom Glavine vs. Odalis Perez. The Mets may be without Jose Reyes, Cliff Floyd, and possibly even Carlos Beltran.