Archive: August 23rd, 2007

Mets Game 126: Loss to Padres

Padres 9 Mets 8

It was a tough loss, but it was a good loss — if there is such a thing. The Mets of June and July — the team that appeared to give up after the score seemed insurmountable — are long gone. Enter the hungry, fighting, never-say-die New York Mets.

Tom Glavine had an awful day, but the offense said, “we got your back”. The bats battled back from a 6-1 deficit, scoring six runs in the sixth inning to take the lead. Billy Wagner had a bad day, and again the offense said, “we got your back”. Unfortunately, there was no charm the third time around — but the Mets didn’t go down without a fight.

The first rally, in the sixth, started with a seemingly harmless single by Luis Castillo, who reached second when David Wright’s grounder to third was mishandled by Kevin Kouzmanoff. Carlos Beltran walked to load the bases. Cla Meredith was brought in to relieve starter Justin Germano at that point, and he induced a popout from Carlos Delgado but walked Moises Alou, forcing in Castillo with the Mets’ second run of the game. Shawn Green followed by ripping a line drive single into right to drive in two, and Sandy Alomar hit a hard line drive himself, but right at second baseman Marcus Giles for the second out. Giles nearly doubled Alou off second on the play, but was a hair late — which proved costly. Because the next hitter was Marlon “Superman” Anderson, who blasted a sinker into the loge level over the rightfield fence to put the Mets ahead 7-6.

Just as important as the offensive outburst were a handful of web gems turned in by the defense. In the second inning, Moises Alou charged a base hit, made a perfect throw to cutoff man Jose Reyes, who made an on-time throw to Sandy Alomar, who reached up to catch the throw and blocked the plate with his log of a left leg to prevent Milton Bradley from scoring. In the seventh, Castillo made an amazing diving play on a grounder for the first out, then teamed with Reyes to turn a key double play to end the inning. In the eighth, David Wright made a leaping grab to spear a line drive to retire Mike Cameron.

Pedro Feliciano came on in the top of the seventh and pitched two hitless innings to secure the lead for Billy Wagner. However, Wagner gave up a leadoff double to Khalil Greene. Pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge failed to drop a sacrifice bunt and fell behind 1-2, but then fisted a cheap bloop double just over the head of David Wright, scoring Greene and tying the game seven-all. Josh Bard fell behind 0-2, but stroked a single up the middle on the next pitch to score Sledge with the go-ahead run. Marcus Giles followed with a walk, but Wagner struck out the next two batters to end the inning — leaving the mound to a chorus of boos from the Shea Stadium crowd.

Jeff Conine led off the bottom of the ninth with a blast to right-center that was held up by the thick and humid Shea air for the first out, but Reyes followed with a single to left-center to get things going. Luis Castillo flared a two-strike changeup into shallow left, bringing up David Wright. With the count 1-1, Reyes and Castillo pulled a double steal — with no throw from catcher Josh Bard. Wright lifted the next pitch to deep center to score Reyes easily. Carlos Beltran was intentionally walked, and Carlos Delgado followed with another walk to load the bases for Moises Alou. Alou worked the count 2-2 before grounding out to second to end the inning.

In the top of the tenth, Milton Bradley attempted to get on via a bunt, but Aaron Heilman fielded it flawlessly for the first out. Heilman then got ahead of Adrian Gonzalez 0-2, and appeared to have struck him out on at least two of the next three pitches, but all were called balls. Gonzalez drove a foul ball into the rightfield stands, then drove the next pitch over the rightfield fence to put the Padres ahead … again. Heilman retired the next two batters, but became the second Mets relief pitcher booed while walking off the mound in as many innings.

The Mets didn’t go down easily, getting base hits from Sandy Alomar and Jose Reyes in the bottom of the tenth, but didn’t have enough to muster another comeback. Former Met Heath Bell earned his first Major League save by pitching the scoreless tenth.

Notes

One very disappointing moment that glared above Wagner’s blown save and beyond Heilman’s gopher ball was Delgado’s at-bat in the ninth. With men on second and third, the game already tied, and an opportunity to redeem himself with a base hit, Delgado worked the count to 3-0. Trevor Hoffman threw a BP fastball over the middle of the plate, and Delgado took it all the way. If the game were not yet tied, I can see taking that pitch. But with a chance to end the game, Delgado didn’t even consider taking the bat off his shoulder. The next pitch was fairly close as well, falling off the outside corner at the last moment, but again Delgado showed no interest in swinging at the pitch. On the one hand, it was good discipline on Delgado’s part, but on the other hand, the look on his face said “I hope he walks me”. In other words, he didn’t want the bat. I understand he had a terrible series, and a terrible game, and his confidence is at a low point, but that is a situation where you can pull yourself out in a big way. Hoffman served him a pitch to hit on a silver platter, and Delgado wouldn’t even sniff it. To me, that right there was the game — not the 10th inning homer by Gonzalez.

Carlos Beltran — who else — drove in Wright with the Mets first run in the first inning on a ground-rule double. Wright was 2-for-3 with an RBI, two stolen bases, and two runs scored. Castillo was 3-for-6 with a run and a stolen base.

Tommy Glavine had a really rough time with the strike zone, and I’m not so sure it was all about the home plate umpire. At least part of it is Sandy Alomar’s catching style, and his inexperience catching Glavine’s pitches. Yes, Alomar was a Gold Glove caliber catcher in his prime, and 99.999% of MLB players, coaches, and executives will tell you he catches a great game. But from the comfort of my living room, watching on TV, I see a guy who tries to pull (and jerk) too many pitches into the zone, and catches many pitches in a way that can make a strike appear to be a ball. If he — and the vast majority of catchers — would simply learn to catch the ball when it’s a strike (a.k.a., “beat the ball to the spot”) and hold it there, rather than try to “frame” every pitch (a.k.a. attempt to fool the umpire by moving the glove over the plate after catching the ball), pitchers would likely get more strike calls on close pitches.

The Padres came into the series as the worst-hitting team in MLB, with the third-lowest total of runs scored in the NL. And they scored 22 runs on 40 hits in the three-game series. So much for using numbers as a predictor of future performance, eh, statheads?

Next Game

The Dodgers come to Shea to play the Mets on Latino Night. Oliver Perez goes against Los Angeles ace Brad Penny in a 7:10 PM start.

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Injuries Working for Mets

This season the Mets — like much of MLB — have suffered an unusually high number of injuries. In fact, more players have been hurt than healthy. Check out the list of Mets who hit the disabled list at some point this year:

Duaner Sanchez
Pedro Martinez
Moises Alou
Carlos Beltran
Shawn Green
Paul LoDuca
Ramon Castro
Orlando Hernandez
Oliver Perez
Jorge Sosa
Jose Valentin
Endy Chavez
Damion Easley
Carlos Gomez
Dave Williams

That’s a big list, and I’m not even counting the DL stints of Juan Padilla, Ambiorix Burgos, Ben Johnson, and Lastings Milledge — nor am I including the 50-game bans served by Guillermo Mota and Lino Urdaneta. Further, we’re not counting the “day to day” issues of Beltran, Easley, Milledge, LoDuca, Marlon Anderson, Carlos Delgado, and others who missed games but weren’t injured severely enough to be deactivated.

Looking at all the games missed by key personnel, it’s suddenly surprising that the Mets have been able to hold on to first place for so long.

However, the Phillies lost Chase Utley, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, Ryan Howard, and Freddy Garcia for stretches. They also lost less-impactful players such as Ryan Madson, Chris Coste, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Adam Eaton, and a few others.

In contrast, the Braves have been relatively healthy throughout the year. Their most significant losses were Mike Hampton, Mike Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria, and Chipper Jones — though Jones only missed about two weeks (John Smoltz also missed a couple starts).

Recently, though, the injury bug has hit all three teams again — hitting the Phillies and the Braves the hardest.

First, Cole Hamels has been placed on the 15-day DL with a tender elbow, and will miss at least two starts. The injury is not considered serious, but missing two starts this deep in the season is major. And there’s a good chance he’s not 100 percent upon his return. Add the fact that Chase Utley only started swinging a bat a few days ago, and Lieber, Garcia, Eaton, Madson, and Bourn remain out, and the depleted Phillies’ chances to fight for first dwindle considerably.

Secondly, the Braves lost both starter Chuck James and shortstop Edgar Renteria this week — Renteria re-injuring his ankle in his first game back. They also recently lost Octavio Dotel, who was acquired specifically for the stretch run. Though those three are the only major contributors on the DL (Hampton doesn’t count), the Braves cannot afford to have any of them out of action while they’re six games back. Though Yunel Escobar has performed admirably, he is not Edgar Renteria — an offensive force at the top of the Braves lineup. And while the Braves may have the best 1-2 starter punch east of San Diego in Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, the remainder of the rotation is a disaster. James had solidified the #3 spot while Bobby Cox played a shell game with the fourth and fifth starters. Now he has to really be creative — maybe pull a trick out of the old “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” book. To compound their situation, the Braves traded young and healthy — if inconsistent — starter Kyle Davies to get Dotel, who is now out indefinitely. For once, John Schuerholz rolled the dice and crapped out.

Meanwhile, the Mets are suddenly getting healthy.

Damion Easley’s recent ankle injury was a downer, but the play of Marlon Anderson and the acquisition of Jeff Conine make his absence unnoticeable. More importantly, Carlos Beltran came off the DL, but it seems more likely he came out of a phone booth, with a red cape on his back. And in about a week, both LoDuca and Castro should be returning behind the dish after serving their time on the disabled list. Further, Endy Chavez could be back soon, and there’s a possibility we’ll see both Gomez and Pedro Martinez return sometime in mid-September.

Of course, anything can happen in the next few weeks — we all remember El Duque and Pedro going on the DL at just the wrong times. But heading into September, the health of the Mets is looking pretty good compared to the two teams in their rearview mirror. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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