Mets Game 36: Win Over Phillies
Mets 5 Phillies 4
It took nearly four hours for the first nine innings to complete. The marathon, and the Mets’ losing streak, finally ended after 11 innings, four hours, and twenty-two minutes.
Mets Game Notes
Terry Collins talked in the postgame about the Mets “keeping their energy level up,” and other such nonsense. I say “nonsense” because once Cole Hamels left the ballgame, it seemed like the Phillies were handing the game to the Mets, particularly considering Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg‘s mind-boggling bullpen management.
I also call “nonsense” because the Mets showed zero energy in the first five frames, when they had several opportunities to stomp on Hamels’ neck, yet instead, ended huge rally opportunities by striking out, popping out, or grounding out weakly. In contrast, the Phillies were getting solid wood on the ball with runners on base, and scored just enough runs to beat the Mets — until Sanderberg’s asinine relief choices nullified their efforts.
Jonathon Niese pitched well enough to win this game, and his pitching performance this year has been very good, but I’m extremely concerned with the process. He hasn’t yet corrected the flaw in his delivery that caused the rotator cuff tear last year and the arm issues in spring training, which means he’s likely continuing to cause physical damage. An alarming red flag is that his fastball velocity is regularly 88 MPH, topping out at 89. This is a pitcher who used to top out at 94 MPH within the last two years, and, at age 27, should be in the absolute prime of his life physically (not to mention, he’s always had the hip/shoulder separation that would indicate 95-98 MPH potential). His velocity shouldn’t be going DOWN right now, it should be going UP. Losing 6 MPH is a clear indication that he’s unable to rotate his shoulder as quickly as he used to. Why? The mechanical flaw, the shoulder tear, and the elbow issue. Why is it a concern, when he’s pitching as well as he’s ever had in his career? Because there’s a damn good chance that he’s on the brink of breaking down / suffering a major arm injury.
I was surprised to see Cole Hamels stay in the game after struggling with his command in the sixth and allowing a double to Ruben Tejada — I thought for sure Ryne Sandberg would bring in a reliever to face pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson. So imagine my shock to see Hamels start the seventh, having thrown 111 pitches. As much as I’m an old-schooler and advocate pushing starters beyond 100 pitches, I don’t believe you push a guy for the sake of pushing him. You have to use your eyes and assess the situation, and, as far as I was concerned, Hamels’ command issues in the sixth were enough for me to believe he was at the end of his rope / on the brink of fatigue (if not already fatigued). Sandberg, obviously, felt differently, and Hamels remained in the ballgame.
Hamels finally exited after 133 pitches, a personal career high and the highest total for a pitcher thus far this year. It’s a big deal because starting pitchers today almost never go beyond 110-115 pitches. It’s not a big deal IF Hamels follows a proper recovery process — and that entails not picking up a baseball on Monday, and not going on the mound (for a bullpen session for example) until Friday. To understand why, and learn more details about recovery, listen to the podcast interview I did with sport kinesiologist Angel Borrelli. It’s not about the pitch count, so much as it’s about what the pitcher does AFTER specific pitch counts.
VERY interesting to see Anthony Recker given the green light on a 3-0 count with two men on in the fourth with the Mets down 3-1. For the record, I loved seeing that. If you’ve been following here a while, you know I love swinging on 3-0 in general, and even though Recker would never be confused with Mike Piazza, to me it made plenty of sense considering that Ruben Tejada and Niese were following him in the lineup. Recker has proven to be Todd Pratt 2.0 — a backup catcher who can frequently put the ball over the fence — so why not let him take a rip in that situation?
Phillies backup catcher Wil Nieves had a heckuva day, including his first stolen base since 2009. I was stunned to see Nieves take off in the 8th with two out, and maybe Recker was too, because his throw floated into right field. Reviewing the situation again, it made some sense for Nieves to go in that spot, considering that batter Cody Asche had a two-strike count. If Nieves is thrown out, the worst thing that happens is that Asche starts the 9th with a clean count and a pinch-hitter following him. In other words, a good risk.
Jose Valverde seems to have fixed the telegraphing of his pitches that we identified here after the opening game of this series. Most likely, someone in the Mets organization picked up on it right away. However, if someone from the Mets learned of it here, I’d sincerely appreciate it if that person would make a small donation toward keeping the site running. What Valverde is doing now is consciously looking back toward centerfield prior to every pitch.
I guess something was wrong with Jonathan Papelbon, lest we would’ve seen him in the 9th. Antonio Bastardo was throwing batting practice, and was replaced with, of all people, Roberto Hernandez — who had just thrown 99 pitches during his start on Friday night. My god, it’s crystal-clear that Ryne Sandberg and pitching coach Bob McClure have no clue about the recovery process. Hernandez shouldn’t be on a mound until Wednesday at the earliest — not even in a bullpen session. Unbelievable. Sandberg should be fined for putting Hernandez in that position. The body has a calendar time for its breakdown and recovery — the second day after a 99-pitch outing is a critical time because the body is going through some of the most serious phases of recovery, and Hernandez’s healing process was gravely disrupted by taking the mound. This has nothing to do with being a competitor or mental toughness — it’s science, and has to do with body chemistry, proteins, and other details involved in the way the human body changes after activity.