Marlins 4 Mets 3
One of the reasons the Mets obtained J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez was to make sure the starts of Johan Santana would not be wasted. After all, their ace lefty might have won 20 games in 2008 — and the Cy Young — had the bullpen not blown several of Santana’s leads.
So much for that idea.
Santana was strong through seven, leaving the game after 104 pitches. Immediately prior to Johan’s final frame, Fernando Tatis blasted a solo homer to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. With seven innings in the books, a one-run lead, and the final six outs in the hands of the Putz-KRod tandem, it appeared to be game over for the Fish.
But Putz struggled mightily, walking the first two Fish he faced, who moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Cody Ross then jumped on the first pitch he saw and singled up the middle, and “poof”, the Mets lead was gone. By the time the inning ended, Putz had faced five batters, threw 24 pitches, 13 for strikes, and allowed two runs.
The Mets mounted a rally against Matt Lindstrom in the bottom of the ninth, but it petered out when pinch-hitter Omir Santos popped out to short with the bases loaded.
To me, Putz looked like he was laboring through his warmup pitches. His velocity was there (for the most part), but he had no command. It reminded me of Aaron Heilman around this time last year.
Fernando Tatis was fabulous, going 3-for-4 with 2 runs and an RBI. He was poised to be the hero — for the second time in the day — with men on second and third in the ninth, but was hit by a pitch.
Why was Omir Santos sent up to hit for Ramon Castro, who had two hits on the day? At first, I thought there was an injury to Castro — maybe back spasms or something — since no one appeared in the batter’s box for several minutes. Then, I thought perhaps someone had inadvertently hit out of order. After a few more minutes, Santos came out of the dugout — presumably, straight from the men’s room (or wherever he was). I’m guessing this was Jerry Manuel’s stab at over-managing, or positioning Santos to be a hero and making him look like a genius for his “hunch”. Or maybe he just wanted to disrupt Lindstrom, or make him cool down. I don’t know, because the move made no sense from any angle. Both of Castro’s hits came off starter Josh Johnson, who was throwing 97-98 MPH. Lindstrom was throwing 98-99. Santos was cold coming off the bench, and despite his grand slam the other day, remains a AAAA player.
In addition to the Santos-for-Castro move being a tactical oddity, it sent a message to Castro: “I don’t believe in you”. Not the best way to keep your player motivated — particularly one who seemed to finally find some self-motivation this offseason.
In hindsight, it would have been nice to have had Danny Murphy and his .529 average as a pinch-hitter available on the bench in the late innings. He could have hit for Cora in the 8th with Jeremy Reed on third, or for Castro in the ninth. Though, had Murphy not started, who knows if either of those situations would have evolved as they did.
A welllllllll deserved day off for the Mets tomorrow, then they begin a three-game set in Philadelphia. Mike Pelfrey starts against Chan Ho Park at 7:05 PM on Friday night. See, there is a glimmer of hope after all.