Braves 8 Mets 7
After playing 4 games in Class C against Pittsburgh, the Mets were quickly reminded that Major League teams make few mistakes and usually have to be beaten; the better ones don’t beat themselves senselessly at every opportunity.
Ironically, it was a 21-year-old kid (Jason Heyward) who delivered the fatal blow — when usually you see kids that age down in the C level, not in the bigs. The times they are a’changin.
Heck, if it weren’t for seeing the Pirates play with my own eyes, I might believe the rumors that Class C no longer exists.
But I digress …
The Mets lost to the Braves. It was not a surprise.
Jonathon Niese was given a 3-zip lead early, but gave it up thanks to a 6-run fourth by the Bravos. Thanks to a David Wright error, all six runs were unearned, but that does not excuse Niese’s poor pitching.
Yes, Wright made an error (though, Ruben Tejada didn’t help David’s poor throw). But Niese followed that with several “errors” of his own — most notably, a two-out walk to opposing pitcher Tommy Hanson. Niese struggled with his command throughout his 91-pitch, 4-inning outing. As we’ve noted many times before, Niese — like many pitchers — over-rotates during the leg lift, which results in opening up the front side too early. A pitcher can get away with that if his throwing arm speed is quick enough to get to a good release point before the opposite arm pulls the body too far away from that point. It’s not safe for the throwing shoulder, but it’s possible to throw strikes. However, the timing has to be perfect; if some body part is off by a tenth of a second, the release point will change. With Niese, it appears that his arm speed was too slow — maybe the result of an unprecedented workload this year. It was just slow enough to keep it lagging behind as that front side opened prematurely, and as a result many of his pitches were up and away to the righthanded batters. In an effort to over-compensate for that issue, he was holding on to the ball too long when throwing inside to RHs, resulting in balls too far inside and off the plate. Two things exacerbated this issue: his side-to-side momentum (from first base to third base) and overuse of the slider / cutter. His slider / cutter was flat, with mostly sideways movement and no downward bite.
These issues are very common with all pitchers at all levels, including MLB. Bad mechanics are the rule, rather than the exception, mainly because pro coaches have not been exposed to the silly thoughts expressed by that British guy Newton back in the 17th century. What the heck would that guy know about baseball anyway? Nelson Doubleday wasn’t even born until over 100 years later!
Speaking of bad mechanics, my arm hurts just watching Tommy Hanson. I keep waiting for his arm to follow the baseball to the catcher’s glove on every pitch. He stands completely upright and thus puts all of the pressure of deceleration on his shoulder. Unless he is a freak of nature, that shoulder will give out within the next few years. The sad thing is that he’s using very little of the advantage his 6’6″ height affords him; he could be getting the same or better velocity and less strain on the arm if he’d been taught to fall forward or “drop and drive”. But, you never know; Don Drysdale’s mechanics were scary in a different way, and he threw 250-320 innings a year for ten years before his arm gave out.
Lucas Duda appears to be the woken giant. He went 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI — including his first MLB homer.
The Mets as a team collected 6 hits, and only one after the fourth inning. That one hit was a pinch-hit double by Nick Evans in the 7th. Keep on, keeping on, Nick.
Josh Thole struggled a bit catching the baseball in this game, for whatever reason — maybe because Niese’s command was off. He was boxing the ball frequently, moving around more than I’d like to see, and should’ve been charged with a passed ball that the official scorer ruled a wild pitch. He’s much improved over last year but he’s still too herky-jerky behind the plate; generally a catcher should be more “quiet” back there. It doesn’t help his cause nor development that just about all Mets pitchers have struggled with command this year (not unlike last year, and the year before).
Bobby Cox was thrown out of the game in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes. Again, not a surprise.
Brian McCann showed up to the game with a few shiners and scratches around his right eye. He claims it was the result of falling in his pool. Yeah right. In my day we called it “slipping in the shower”. Whatever one wants to term it, it likely has little or nothing to do with water.
The Mets and Braves meet again on Saturday afternoon at 4:10 PM, which means we have the pleasure of watching this one on FOX (unless you are one of the few thousand heading out to the Field at Shea Bridge). Dillon Gee faces Tim Hudson.
We were hoping for a sweep, and depending on what happens in game four, we just might get one. Unfortunately, it won’t be the Mets pushing the broom.
Mike Pelfrey struggled in the early innings, allowing the Braves to build a lead that the feeble Mets offense could not surmount.
The Braves were hitting him solidly, mainly because Pelfrey was up with his pitches and getting too much of the middle of the plate. Also, I think Pelfrey may be tipping his pitches, based on the fact that his follow-through is usually different depending on the pitch he throws. Most of the time, if his follow-through turns his face and body completely toward first base, it is a fastball (though on occasion it is a curve). When he finishes more straight and facing home plate, it is either a change-up / forkball or a curve — i.e., something off-speed. Obviously, the follow-through is too late for a batter to identify the pitch, but Pelfrey has to be doing something earlier in his motion that results in those different finishes. Since we never, ever get a camera view from behind home plate, it’s hard to say what exactly the hitters are seeing. It could be as simple as an extra twist of his front shoulder, his chin moving slightly backward, or something with the movement of his hands — something he does early affects the end result (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). My guess is that batters are picking up on whatever it is, and though they may not know the location of the pitch, they may have a good idea of the velocity that’s coming — which nullifies the strategy of keeping a batter off-balance by changing speeds.
Tommy Hanson pitched well, but watching his mechanics make me squirm. It looks like his arm is going to fly right off his body, the way he stays upright and uses arm speed for velocity and curveball spin. Because he doesn’t allow his head and body to drive forward and down, all of the deceleration of his arm is absorbed by the shoulder rather than the legs. Though his genetics could overcome his mechanics, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet that Hanson will stay healthy over the next few years.
Lucas Duda made his Major League debut in this game, and the ball couldn’t stop finding him — it seemed like he touched it about 15 times. To his credit, he handled the workout flawlessly, looking impressive on a few plays. Every time the camera focused on him, though, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” went through my head — he kind of has this Peter Boyle thing going on — Boyle with a surfer dude twist. He is a big boy who may have some wallop in his bat, so it should be fun to watch him this month and see what happens.
If I’m walking down a dark alley, I want Duda and Mike Hessman on either side of me.
Jason Heyward went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a run, and an RBI, and nearly stole second base without a pitch being thrown. His strike zone judgment and ability to hit the other way are extremely impressive for a 21-year-old — his approach is like that of a ten-year veteran. I am trying hard not to refer to him as “Ironhead”.
Did you know “J-Hey” was born in Ridgewood, NJ? Not sure how he ended up in Georgia — must be kind of like how Derek Jeter was born in Pequannock, NJ.
Jeez, those Braves have a bunch of youngsters with talent — Freeman, Heyward, Hanson, Jonny Venters, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor, Eric O’Flaherty … and LHP Mike Dunn coming up next. Kind of reminds me of the all the youngins’ on the Mets right now, only different.
The Mets had two hits in the game. TWO. On the bright side, a lack of baserunners meant there were only 3 LOB.
The final game of this wretched four-game set occurs at 7:10 PM on Thursday night. Good thing it is also #CabernetDay on Twitter, as I have a feeling the Mets will drive me to drink. Johan Santana takes the mound against Tim Hudson.