Mets Game 3: Win Over Phillies

Mets 7 Phillies 2

The pitching-poor Phillies showed up in Queens to subject their #4 starter and a parade of 5 relievers to the mighty NL champs, with predictable results. Good hitting from Michael Conforto and clutch hitting from Neil Walker led the way. Meanwhile, Jacob deGrom held down a Maikel Franco-free lineup, despite not having his best command. Unfortunately, he pitched through a tight lat in the 6th, and now Mets fandom must hold its collective breath.

Mets game notes

This game was a clinic on the value of the OBP-centered offense. The Mets took the lead for good in the 6th inning largely because their hottest hitters got a third look at Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, thanks to all the baserunners who came before.

When a team grinds out long at bats, draws walks, and puts men on, but doesn’t score, it can be extremely frustrating to watch. Despite former hitting coach Dave Hudgens’ mantra, “get a good pitch to hit”, many blamed the Mets’ frequently poor offense during his tenure on a “passive philosophy”. Keith Hernandez could often be heard yelling “swing the bat!” at the same Lucas Duda who he now admonishes to “learn to lay off the bad pitches”. Through two innings, Friday’s contest was looking like that sort of game. After working three walks (well, technically two, as Conforto was grazed by ball four for an HBP) and forcing Eickhoff to throw 45 pitches, the Mets let Jerad off the hook when Curtis Granderson popped up the first pitch he saw with men on second and third and one out in the second. David Wright followed with a ground out. Before those two outs, I was sure the Mets were going to put up a crooked number and get that awful Phillies bullpen warming up. I had high hopes of chasing Eickhoff early, maybe even in that inning. But those Mets hitters couldn’t finish the job. I could hear the refrain from 2013 — “They’ve learned how to walk, but they’ve forgotten how to hit!”

Here’s the thing, though: by keeping the line moving, by not making outs, those three Mets who reached on walks weren’t just uselessly waiting for the next guy to drive in runs. They were effectively moving subsequent turns through the lineup up by an inning. When he came out to pitch the fifth inning, Eickhoff was already facing Mets hitters for the third time. This was important, because Eickhoff actually looked pretty decent out there. Most of his misses were fairly close pitches, his fastball had good run, and his curveball and slider were nasty more often than not. The Mets hitters needed an extra look, plus the benefit of whatever additional fatigue Eickhoff accrued in his 87 pitches, to start squaring some balls up against him. Granderson, Wright and Yoenis Cespedes did not have their best days, and if Eickhoff had faced them in the 6th inning rather than the 5th, he might have headed for the showers after departing a 1-1 game, with the Phils trotting out their best three relievers for the final innings.

That isn’t what happened, though. Eickhoff got through the top of the lineup in the 5th, came back out for the 6th, and had to face Duda, Walker and Conforto, who proceeded to go double, single, double. 3-1 Mets, Eickhoff done with none out in the 5th, and it was the Mets’ game from there.

I was as frustrated as any fan when the Mets stranded four runners, three in scoring position, in the first two innings. Fortunately, it was all leading somewhere. I’ll try to remind myself of that during the next failed early-inning rally.

One additional note: it was nice to see Conforto turn on an inside fastball from Eickhoff. We’ve already seen that Conforto can punish fastballs away and mistake breaking balls — if he can handle the fastball in and the breaking ball away, he’ll be a tough out and dangerous mark for any pitcher.

Next Mets Game

Saturday at 7:10, Bartolo Colon goes up against Vincent Velasquez, one fourth of the most expensive set-up man trade in history. (Yes, in case you hadn’t heard, Ken Giles is pitching the 8th for the Astros.)

David Berg has been following the Mets since 1990, and counts himself as a "die hard fan" -- the agonies have been numerous and arduous, but he's still watching every game he can, determined to "earn" the satisfaction when the Mets eventually win it all. In his non-spare time, David is a designer of graphics, web sites, and games. See his work at Shrike Design