Nationals 6 Mets 2
I’m not exactly sure when it started, though I think it was around four years ago: the Mets’ inability to hit rookie pitchers. Since at least 2003, Mets hitters have made any and every rookie hurler look like Sandy Koufax in his first start against the team. There has to be something to this. Maybe the Mets’ advance scouting team is providing poor information. Or maybe they are providing too much information, overhyping the pitchers and psyching out the hitters. Or maybe the Mets hitters paralyze themselves by spending too much time in the video room before the game, overanalyzing the youngster. Or perhaps the Mets’ batting coaches have not done a good job of getting the lineup, as a whole, to adjust their approach in-game.
Whatever the reason, it just doesn’t make sense. Many young pitchers, in their first appearance against a team, can get through the lineup once with good success, but by the second or third time around, the Major League hitters make adjustments and start banging away. The Mets seem to be completely opposite: the further a youngster goes in the game, the worse the Mets hitters do. It must be a mental thing.
Anyway, there were a few bright lights in this otherwise dark ballgame. John Maine showed he has some decent stuff, and may very well become a Major League pitcher after all. He definitely was affected by nerves, as he had trouble with his command—and control is his strength. His fastball is not overpowering, but he spots it well down in the zone and was not afraid to throw inside. In the SNY coverage of the game, Ron Darling commented that his changeup was 84 MPH and not enough of a decrease on his 90-91 fastball. Darling claims that a pitcher needs 10 MPH off to be effective. I disagree completely, and think Maine’s changeup is fine. In fact, it could be very effective, as not only is it a good speed, but it has good movement. Strangely, he did not throw his curveball until the fifth inning, and it looked pretty good. I hope to see him use it more often in his next outing — assuming there is a next outing.
Paul LoDuca was the only man in the lineup who performed like a Major League hitter, as he collected the Mets only hits (two) before Carlos Beltran belted a useless homerun in the bottom of the ninth. One of the hits was a solo homer. He also made a great pickoff throw in the top of the second, nailing Daryle Ward at 2B on a botched bunt attempt. He’s no Mike Piazza, but he’s proving to be a more all-around contributor, on offense, defense, handling pitchers, calling a game, and leading the team in various ways.
Jorge Julio looks to be making strides. He struck out two more in 1 2/3 innings, and showed good focus, if not confidence. Who knows, if he can continue to string together good outings, he might be a dominant force by July. I’d love to see him take Heilman’s spot in the ‘pen, and return Aaron to the rotation. Of course, it’s a silly dream.
On the other hand, Darren Oliver continues to be remarkably underwhelming. His sparkling sub-3.00 ERA is a smoke screen hiding his true inability to succeed at the Major League level, as he has yet to enter and exit a game without allowing a run. True enough, many of the runs were inherited runners, and not technically his responsibility, but then what is the point of bringing in a relief pitcher if he is going to allow runs to score? You may as well leave in the preceding pitcher. Oliver’s stuff looks a lot like BP, and I don’t see him providing anything other than garbage innings. To me, it would make more sense to release Oliver, move Zambrano or Trax to the bullpen to be mopup, bring up Heath Bell for important innings, and put either Maine or Heilman in the rotation to stay. Ah, there I go dreaming again.
Two games coming up with the Pittsburgh Pirates; the Mets need to continue dominating the crap teams and beat the Bucs senseless. It would make for a nice tuneup before facing the Braves.