Game 66: Loss
Orioles 6 Mets 3
Quick, somebody put Gary Cohen back in the hospital …
OK, maybe the Mets’ winning streak had nothing to do with Cohen’s absence in the TV broadcast booth. But would it hurt it anyone to flip him and Howie Rose for the next few days, just to see for sure?
After the amazin’ road trip, something had to give, eventually. The Mets ran into lefthander Erik Bedard, who has been remarkably inconsistent since serving a period on the disabled list last year. So far this year, Bedard has alternated between lights-out and knocked-out performances; the Mets were unlucky enough to catch one of his lights-out games. However, rookie Alay Soler matched him for six innings, putting forth a second consecutive impressive start. He seemed to struggle a bit with his command in the first three innings, but found a rhythm in the fourth and put it on cruise control from there. After batting for himself in the fifth, it appeared that he might be given the opportunity to pitch back-to-back complete games.
Ah, but Mr. Willie had other plans. Although Alay was in a groove,the alarm went off: he had hit that magic 100-pitch number. It was time to arrest Alay: cuff him and throw him in the showers.
One must wonder why Omar Minaya bothers with a human being in the dugout. Wouldn’t it be just as easy to allow a robot remove the pitcher? I’m sure there’s a device that can count to 100, then automatically roll itself out to the pitcher’s mound and make the change.
What’s strange to me is Mr. Willie seems not to have retained anything from his playing days, in regard to starting pitchers. While I understand that he and the Jacket have this blind faith in the 100-pitch count, surely Randolph remembers playing in close games when Ron Guidry, Tommy John, or Ed Figueroa were on a roll, and it just didn’t make sense to take the guy out, regardless of pitch count. Every once in a while, a manager has to have a feel for what’s going on in the game, pay attention to the nuances in body language and facial expressions of both his pitcher and the opposing batters. Soler threw the majority of his pitches in the first three innings, but once he got settled, was clearly cruising by the sixth. In fact, if there was a time to take him out, it would have been in the bottom of the fifth. The Mets were down 2-1 at that point and there were two men on with one out. Soler had thrown a lot of pitches per inning by then, the bullpen was fairly rested, and a base-hit would have tied the game. When Randolph allowed Soler to hit for himself — and bunt the runners over — he had committed to giving him at least two to three more innings. It was the type of move where a manager thinks, hey, the guy started out struggling, but he gutsed it out, and it looks like he’s righted the ship and is going to give us at least a few more innings. If the manager didn’t feel this way, then he puts up Julio Franco to pinch-hit in that situation, does the ROOGY-LOOGY thing in the sixth, and then turns it over to Heilman-Sanchez-Wagner. There was absolutely no sense in letting Soler hit in that situation if the plan was to pull him after one more inning.
After the game, nearly every blog message, radio broadcaster, and radio caller speculated that Aaron Heilman is pouting and/or suggested that he is purposely sabotaging his relief appearances because he wants to start. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I pointed out two weeks ago, Heilman’s mechanics are off. His elbow is often dropping below his shoulder, his fingers are beneath the ball on the release of many of his pitches, and as a result he has no control of where the ball is going. When a pitcher doesn’t know where the ball is going, he loses his confidence. No control + no confidence = Heilman’s current situation. Early in the year, Heilman exuded confidence, and a swagger, and commanded the ball all over the strike zone. He put it where he wanted it, and got batters out seemingly at will. Mr. Willie then overused him, he fatigued, as he fatigued his arm angle dropped, and here we are at a point where not only is his release point screwed up, but we can only hope he has not started to injure his elbow and/or shoulder. When the Mets’ staff is going to notice what is going on and make an adjustment, I don’t know. I suppose they’ll wait until something snaps and Aaron goes on the 60-day DL. Then maybe someone will consider comparing video of him in April and June. But then it will be too late.
At least Heath Bell got a chance to throw today. Too bad it takes a six-run lead or a mop-up situation to get into a game. That’s OK, he’ll be a great setup man for somebody this year, after the Mets unload him on the trading deadline.
How clutch is Jose Reyes? There aren’t too many other leadoff batters in baseball who drive in runs the way he does. As with everything else, he seems to truly enjoy RBI situations.
Chris Woodward drove in the only other Mets run. He’s another guy who continues to produce when given the chance. At least Mr. Willie knows how to handle the 2B situation.
Anna …. er, I mean Kris Benson vs. Pedro Martinez coming up. Benson (Kris) will either implode or pitch the game of his life; nothing in between. Anna might sleep with all of NYC in either case.