Mets Game 51: Win Over Pirates
Mets 4 Pirates 2
Under the direction of new batting coach Lamar Johnson, the Mets explode for four runs on seven hits and six walks to power over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 4-2 laugher.
Mets Game Notes
OK, I’m being a little facetious. But the Mets did walk a ton and did get big hits, finally. Was it because Dave Hudgens was canned? Because Lamar Johnson was whispering sweet nothings in the hitters’ ears? Or because it was not Edinson Volquez / Dr. Jekyll on the mound, but Julio Reyes / Mr. Hyde?
I put Volquez in the same container as Ubaldo Jimenez and the Oliver Perez of 2005 to 2008 — an absolute crapshoot from one start to the next. Maybe he’ll pitch a no-hitter, or maybe he’ll be gone from the game by the fourth inning — there’s no way to know, and no rhyme nor reason to explain how he can be so successful and so dreadful from one start to the next.
Meanwhile, Jonathon Niese did his usual thing — work quickly, throw strikes, get outs in unspectacular fashion. Until the sixth inning, that is, when, with a two-run lead, he walked three Bucco batters and a two-run single to allow Pittsburgh to tie while jettisoning him from the ballgame.
During the postgame press conference, Terry Collins was flummoxed to provide an explanation for the sudden lack of command by Niese. Or, was Collins pretending to flummoxed? I believe — firmly — that Niese is, and has been, in major arm pain since spring training, and is merely gutting through every start based on his fierce competitiveness and pain killers. I can’t believe I’m the only person wondering how/why Niese’s velocity — at age 27, in the prime of his life — has dropped from the low 90s to the high 80s. I can’t believe that Collins (and Dan Warthen) are truly at a loss to explain Niese’s command issues in the 6th inning of this game, when he was already struggling with command in the fifth, and was struggling to throw his fastball as fast as 87 MPH (with a few clocking in at 85-86) as early as pitch #70. A healthy 27-year-old MLB pitcher who used to touch 93 (or 94, on a great day) as recently as a year ago shouldn’t be running out of gas at 70 pitches. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is. Niese was saved several times earlier in the game by poor hitting and/or great defense, or else the game might have been closer. Niese’s strong numbers, in general, have masked the fact that he is not the healthy young man he should be right now. I’m not going to be blinded by Niese’s sparkling sub-3 ERA, just as I wasn’t blinded by Johan Santana‘s no-hitter — this is a pitcher throwing with pain, with an injury, and is dangerously close to being done for the season. The shame of all this is that his mechanical flaw could have been easily fixed a long time ago.
So on to the positives … Ruben Tejada had one of his best days as a Major Leaguer. Does that make you happy, or annoy you? To me, Tejada playing well just confuses an already confusing situation at shortstop. I’ve come around to believe that the Mets should stick Wilmer Flores at the position and see what happens. But then Tejada comes up with these spectacular days, making one wonder — is he really this good, or is he only this good once in a while, the way Omar Quintanilla (or any other part-time player) occasionally can be? If Tejada IS this good, why can’t he play at this level all the time? Is it motivation? A mental thing?
One question that no longer needs to be answered is whether Juan Lagares should be starting every day in center field. He is now out of his hot streak but still proving that he’s made tremendous strides at the plate since last year. Why he’d ever be removed from the lineup is the only question that needs to be asked.
I liked seeing Jenrry Mejia used for a two-inning save, and would love to see more two-inning saves in MLB in general — as long as managers understand and respect recovery guidelines. Since Mejia threw 37 pitches, that means he’s out tomorrow, and should not even touch a baseball — he needs one full day of rest. If the Mets have a save situation on Wednesday afternoon, give the ball to Jeurys Familia, see what he can do.
Though the Mets scored 4 runs, they were 3-for-16 with RISP, and struck out 12 times. Not much has changed in the Lamar Johnson Era, but it’s still early.
Meanwhile, Mets pitching walked 8 Pittsburgh batters. That’s too many.
All the walks on both sides, combined with way too many mound conferences and other such dilly-dallying led to a ballgame that lasted a far-too-long 3 hours, 43 minutes. This is excruciating, especially on school nights. I’m starting to wonder if there are better ways to spend my time.
Next Mets Game
The rubber game between these two clubs starts at 1:10 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Bartolo Colon faces Charlie Morton. I hope the Mets batters wear their body armor, as Flemington, NJ native Morton leads MLB with 10 HBPs.