Astros 7 Mets 3
That one hurt.
The game was a dogfight from the beginning, with both teams scoring in the first frame — the Mets on an RBI single by David Wright and the ‘stros on a solo homer by Kaz Matsui. Opposing pitcher Brandon Backe then blasted a solo shot of his own to put Houston up 2-1. In the top of the fourth, the Mets scored two to go up 3-2, then gave the lead right back in the bottom of the frame on yet another solo shot, this one by Carlos Lee.
The contest remained tied until the 8th, when the Astros finally moved away from the solo homer and upgraded to the much more efficient 4-run variety. After loading the bases, Aaron Heilman served up a gopher ball to Mark Loretta, giving the game to the Astros. While it is difficult to come back from a four-run deficit with only three outs left, the opposing team’s closer on the mound, and the bottom of your lineup coming to the plate, the circumstances probably didn’t matter. The Mets had a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity of their own in the seventh, and squandered it. It simply wasn’t the Mets’ night.
Carlos Delgado kept up his hot hitting with a 2-for-4 evening, including a double. Jose Reyes also went 2-for-4.
Aside from Wright’s first-inning RBI, the Mets received run-scoring singles from Damion Easley and Fernando Tatis. Even though Tatis and Easley produced runs, their presence in the lineup doesn’t help to strike fear in many pitcher’s hearts. The meekness of the Mets’ lineup, in fact, is disconcerting, but could look a lot better when Carlos Beltran starts hitting.
For reasons unknown, Endy Chavez hit for himself with the game tied, none out and the bases loaded in the seventh, against LOOGY Tim Byrdak. Chavez is hitting .212 with one RBI against lefties this year. Ramon Castro, Robinson Cancel, and Nick Evans were all available on the bench. I guess the thinking was that Chavez would put the ball in play somewhere. Personally, I would have preferred to have someone like Castro up in that spot, knowing you have a good chance of getting either a fly ball or a double-play grounder to shortstop — and with none out in a tie ballgame, I’m OK with the DP if it scores a run. With all the talk of Jerry Manuel being so aggressive, I’m surprised we didn’t see Endy drop a squeeze. Though I guess that would’ve been difficult with lead-footed Brian Schneider on third and the corners playing in.
Once again Aaron Heilman is the scapegoat. By the way, what is his “role”? Based on recent events, I assume his role is “everyman”. He pitches setup, middle relief, long relief, short relief, and situational relief. He comes in when the team is ahead by a slim lead, ahead by a large lead, behind by margins both slim and wide, and always when the score is tied. It seems the only time he doesn’t pitch are days like Thursday — off days. He’s being (ab)used by Manuel the same way as Willie Randolph — keep putting him out there as long as he’s “hot”. Here’s the crazy thing about the Joe Torre theory of riding the “hot” pitcher — there’s no such thing. Pitchers may appear to go on streaks the way hitters do, but there’s nothing streaky about relief pitching. Eventually, a pitcher who is overused gets either overexposed or fatigued. Fatigue has been an issue with Heilman since 2006, when the “Proctor Rules” first were bestowed upon him. Few managers have an inkling about the human body and the biomechanics of overhand throwing, so they “play the hot hand” until the pitcher “goes cold” — not realizing that the pitcher would be very consistent if only there was a hint of rhyme or reason to his workload. It’s not rocket science, folks — if you keep pushing a pitcher out there, eventually he’s going to break.
I’m not understanding the logic behind putting Heilman out there for second innings. Is it really because Manuel has the green light to “stretch him out” for starting? I don’t think so. As usual, Heilman’s arm angle at release began to drop at the beginning of his second inning of relief — his elbow was a good two inches below his normal three-quarter/sidearm delivery on the ball that Lance Berkman crushed for a double. When he’s throwing from that low a release, it’s only a matter of time before someone jumps all over a meatball high in the zone. Don’t blame Aaron — blame the idiocy of the people who put him into these situations. The shame of all this is that the fans see Aaron as the bad guy, and Aaron blames himself.
The stupidity is spread by the propaganda machine known as the SNY broadcasters, most notably Keith Hernandez, with asinine, uneducated quips such as “… you think he’s coming out, and he takes two steps back.” No Keith … if you showed up to more than half the games, you’d see that the minute he starts pitching well, the Mets whip him like a racehorse until he fails. He’s not Turk Wendell, and has never responded well to overuse. Some guys are rubber arms, Heilman isn’t one of them. We’ve been watching him break down from abuse for three years, and still no one sees the pattern. His delivery is too complicated to be entrusted to knuckleheads. If he can’t be managed properly out of the ‘pen, then put him in the rotation, where a consistent training regimen is more suited to his unusual delivery.
By the way, Mark Loretta is now 4-for-10 with two homers in his career against Heilman.
Pedro looked terrible in his first game back since the death of his father, and he will be a question mark for some time. First and foremost, there is the emotional side of the equation — as much as we’d like to think that professional ballplayers can flip a switch, the truth is, they’re human, just like us. Imagine how you would perform at your job a week after the death of one of the people closest to you in your life — not well, most likely. From the physical perspective, Pedro was out of sync with his mechanics, had no rhythm, but most concerning, was pitching with a very low arm action and release point. We expected him to be a little rusty, and not sharp, but he’s not going to get sharp throwing below his usual three-quarter delivery. Most of his pitches were delivered from a sidearm angle, with a low elbow. I suspect he is still suffering from problems with his shoulder. Low elbow = high pitches (ask Heilman). That’s why you saw three gopher balls. Pedro was all guts and guile in this game, and his physical condition is worrisome.
It will be a battle of the aces on Saturday night, as Johan Santana faces Roy Oswalt at 7:05 pm in Houston. Catch it on SNY, WFAN, or XM 185.