Mets Game 31: Loss To Marlins
Marlins 4 Mets 3
Mets jump out to a quick 2-0 lead in the initial inning, and would’ve won if they were playing high school rules. Unfortunately, they play Major League Baseball, so the last two innings count.
Mets Game Notes
It was smooth sailing through seven for Jonathon Niese, as he shut out the Fish on five hits. Then came the eighth, and in a matter of ten minutes, Daisuke Matsuzaka undid Niese’s masterpiece.
Ironically, much was made of Dice-K’s unusual routine of throwing every single day. This is a dangerous habit he learned in Japan, where baseball coaches — like the ones in the USA — also believe the world is flat. Apparently, throwing constantly is what made Dice-K so amazing prior to arriving in the USA, and when the Red Sox discouraged such a ridiculous routine, well, THAT was the reason he didn’t dominate here the way he did in the Far East.
So wasn’t it interesting that, after being allowed to do whatever he wants to do since being handed a bullpen role, Dice-K shat the bed? He had zero command, which is a function of fatigue. Or, maybe, it’s easier to simply chalk up his awful evening to the biorhythms, moon phase, Farmer’s Almanac, or “baseball gods.” After all, what the heck is science based on? Just research and stuff.
Mets relievers threw first-pitch balls to 9 consecutive batters in the 8th inning, and tossed 48 pitches total in that frame. Somehow, though, Kyle Farnsworth pulled a rabbit out of his hat and escaped from Alcatraz simultaneously, getting three outs with the bases loaded.
Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi very nearly matched Niese pitch for pitch, except for two bad pitches in the first frame that gave the Mets an immediate 2-0 lead. Seeing that lefthanded hitters whack Eovaldi for a .325 AVG / .832 OPS, yet righties were limited to .127/.336 thus far this year, an astute Terry Collins stacked the lineup with lefthanded hitters. Still, the Mets could only muster three runs on five hits and a walk against Eovaldi in 7 innings, striking out 10 times.
Though Eovaldi can paint both corners with a 95-96 MPH, moving fastball, there’s no mystery to his struggles against lefties — he doesn’t throw an offspeed pitch. His only secondary pitch is a slider that can make righties chase, but dives right into most LH hitters’ wheelhouse. If Eovaldi ever figures out how to throw a change-up, he could become an elite starter. If not, his ultimate fate may be no better than Mike Pelfrey.
Meanwhile, Niese did a wonderful job of changing speeds, using a good curveball and change-up — often for strikes — to keep the Fish off-balance. Watching Niese and Gee perform their artistry on back-to-back nights is a treat for those who truly appreciate PITCHING, as opposed to flamethrowing.
Why, ultimately, did the Mets lose this game? Their offense is atrocious. Even with Curtis Granderson out of his slump, Daniel Murphy on a hot streak, and David Wright stroking, there isn’t enough stick in the lineup to support good starting pitching. A team can’t rely on getting great starting pitching AND great relief pitching every night — at some point, even in the post-PEDs, pitching-dominant era, a team has to score runs. And by runs, I mean more than three — because NL teams average four runs a game.
Travis d’Arnaud struck out three times in one at-bat in the ninth, but “got” two very close ball calls from the home plate umpire to run the count full. Then, Terry Collins put on the hit-and-run with Lucas Duda on first base to end the inning with a strike ’em out, throw ’em out. Hit-and-run in the ninth of a tie ballgame, with Duda at first? Really? Wow.
The only more head-scratching move by Collins was leaving Dice-K in the game as long as he did. Oh, and taking out Niese in the first place. Why was Niese removed, exactly? Did he tell Collins or Dan Warthen that he was done? Though he worked out of a difficult situation in the 7th, he didn’t — to me — show any sign of fatigue after 108 pitches. Maybe my eyes missed something that Collins or Warthen picked up, or maybe Niese asked out (doubtful). As long as he was getting outs — and big outs, in big siutations — I’d stick with Niese as long as he was making pitches. Niese made his biggest and best pitches of the night in the seventh, so why remove him them?
In the postgame, non-scientist Bobby Ojeda made a few ignorant comments about Niese’s recent approach. Ojeda noted that Niese’s velocity used to be 93-94 MPH, saying that was “a bit more effort,” and suggested that Niese has “dialed it back” to I respectfully disagree with that theory, because I know that the flaw in Niese’s mechanics has severely damaged his shoulder to the point where it can’t rotate fast enough to reach 93-94. Ojeda also says that Niese is “using his legs” to “take pressure off his arm.” No, again — the opposite, actually. Because of the way Niese is landing with his front foot toward first base, and with an open toe, he’s cutting off the rotation of his hips at foot strike (as well as putting more strain on his shoulder in the follow-through). So in fact, he’s using his arm MORE. Yes, Niese has done a brilliant job of working with what he has left — thanks in equal parts to pain killers, savvy, and competitiveness — but let’s not believe that Niese is intentionally throwing 6-7 MPH slower than he’s capable.