Giants 5 Mets 4
A suprisingly eventful game for what began as a lazy Saturday afternoon.
With all the injuries happening around him, it seemed only a matter of time before David Wright was struck by physical harm — but who would’ve guessed he’d actually be STRUCK?
Wright was plunked by a Matt Cain fastball that knocked him out of the game in the fourth inning — it was a frightening episode that shook up Cain himself as well as everyone else in the stadium. Cain seemed to lose focus, feeding Gary Sheffield one fastball after another over the middle of the plate before Sheff flied out to send Luis Castillo to third; a few pitches later Dan Murphy hit another fly to score Castillo with the first run of the game.
However, Cain regrouped and proceeded to set down — rather than knock down — the Mets bats through the 8th, when he finally allowed the Mets a rally and yielded to the bullpen. However, the Mets feasted on the Giant relievers for three runs to tie up the game.
Prior to that, Johan Santana allowed 4 runs on 9 hits and a walk through 6 2/3 innings. His outing ended when he lost his cool and threw at Pablo Sandoval, allowed a monster homer to Sandoval, and then threw at Bengie Molina. Jerry Manuel removed him before the umps could toss him.
The game remained tied at 4-4 until the top of the 10th, when Bengie Molina blasted a homer into the leftfield seats off Frankie Fantastic.
The Wright HBP: Matt Cain threw three fastballs past Wright on the outside part of the plate. With the count 0-2, Bengie Molina called for an inside fastball. This is a routine strategy — bait the hitter with outside pitches until he starts looking outside, then strike him out / get a popup by jamming him inside. (BTW, this is the scouting report on Wright — feed him outside, and he becomes vulnerable in.)Unfortunately, Cain missed too in and too high, and Wright — who was looking outside and leaning a bit into the plate — was hit hard on the helmet. Cain showed immediate remorse and definitely did not intend to hit him.
Now, fast-forward to the 7th: Johan Santana, with two outs and no one on base, throws behind the back of Pablo Sandoval. There was no question that it was a “purpose pitch”. Personally, I disagreed with the act, because the Wright HBP was clearly unintentional. I am “old school” and do believe in retaliation — when it is warranted. In this case, I did not see what “message” Santana was sending. Is it that opposing pitchers aren’t allowed to make mistakes? That they’re not allowed to throw inside? In many cases in the past, I’ve been frustrated by the refusal of Mets pitchers to throw inside and make batters “move their feet”. However, this situation did not, to me, fit the rules of engagement.
Later, when Cain was removed from the game, the Citi Field crowd showered him with boos. Just before stepping into the dugout, Cain tipped his cap. Many fans likely saw this as classless. I, on the other hand, saw it as Cain telling the fans, “screw you, it wasn’t on purpose, and you’re ignorant to think so”. Or maybe he just didn’t know how to react, and tipped his cap out of nervousness.
To further exacerbate the situation, the numnut, neanderthal FOX announcers 1) agreed that it was OK for Santana to throw at a Giant hitter; and 2) made a point to highlight the tip-capping by Cain. I don’t care if Mark Grace played MLB — if he thinks “eye for an eye” fits EVERY situation, he’s an idiot. With that kind of logic, I would have the right to punch him in the nose if he accidentally tapped my bumper in a traffic jam.
I don’t care one way or another for Matt Cain, but as a Mets fan I am embarrassed at the situation. Wright getting hit was unfortunate, and scary — but it doesn’t give Santana the right to throw at someone else, and it doesn’t mean I’m going to hate Matt Cain. Interestingly, Bobby Ojeda would not fully take one side or the other on the situation. His stance was more, “I’m not on the field with them; if they think something needs to be done, then the guys on the field take care of business”. Though he did agree with retaliating if the situation warranted it, he did not make clear that this was one such situation.
Also in the postgame, Santana said “I have to protect my teammates”. That’s fine, if, again, Cain threw at Wright intentionally. But if he didn’t, the “protection” line is bs — it’s false bravado, and the wrong way to “show his teammates” that he’ll “protect” them.
What’s most mind-boggling is that Santana truly believes what he says — that retaliation is “part of the game” and is “the right way to play the game”. Yes — IF it’s warranted. Sorry, I don’t care how long Santana has been playing this game, it’s NOT the way you play it, and whomever taught him that it is, they’re wrong too.
There was a time when pitchers threw inside more often, and hit people on purpose more often — but those days were a good 25 years ago. Back then, retaliation was a form of checks and balances, of the players policing themselves. Ever since Bud Selig eliminated the inside pitch with the asinine “umpire warnings”, however, the concept of retaliation no longer applies — you intentionally throw at a hitter, you get thrown out of the game. These players today who think that you retaliate after an unintentional HBP are delusional, and grasping to an edict that has been obsolete since the 1980s.
Again, I am an “old school” guy. I have been on a mound and intentionally hit people. I have also been on the receiving end of pitches (including 90+MPH fastballs to my head), both intentional and unintentional. So I understand “the code”. This retaliation, to me, was a weak and inexcusable way for Johan Santana to show his teammates that he’ll protect them, or that he’s some kind of tough guy. His actions and words on this evening tell me he’s more ignorant and confused than protective.
The Mets play the Giants at 1:10 PM. Mike Pelfrey pitches against Jonathan Sanchez.