July 23, 2008

Meet the Mistakes

With sole possession of first place within their grasp, the Mets fumbled away their biggest game of 2008 to date. With the Mets holding a 5-2 lead in the ninth, the Phillies exploded for six runs off the Mets’ bullpen and held on for a stunning 8-6 win at Shea Stadium last night.

The lowlights:

- On a third inning double by David Wright, third base coach Luis Aguayo waved Endy Chavez home with nobody out, Carlos Beltran on deck, and a red hot Carlos Delgado in the hole. Chavez was thrown out on a play that wasn’t close. Even more puzzling than Aguayo’s decision was the majority opinion from the SNY booth that sending Chavez was a smart play early in the game, essentially because we were taking the game to them, forcing the issue, or whatever other clever idiom for aggressive play you want to insert here. I am a huge fan of the Mets broadcasters, but there is no situation, in any inning, in any game, in any ballpark on earth, where sending Chavez with nobody out and Beltran and Delgado due up is smart baseball.

- Stunningly, in the seventh inning, Chavez was again waved home with nobody out and Beltran and Delgado due up. And again, he was thrown out on a play that wasn’t close. Look, everyone’s entitled to a bad night, but the fact that anyone employed as a major league 3rd base coach is capable of making that mistake twice in one game, well, sort of blows my mind. Heads up Matt Galante, your title of Human Windmill is in jeopardy.

- The top of the ninth inning was a torturous one for the Mets. Duaner Sanchez began the frame and left after allowing three singles without retiring a batter. With the bases full, Sanchez was relieved by Joe Smith, who got Carlos Ruiz to hit the ball on the ground, but a high hop combined with the speed of Shane Victorino running from first base left Jose Reyes with only one play: to first. Apparently, Reyes didn’t get the memo, electing to try to beat Victorino to second. Everyone was safe and Jayson Werth scored from third.

The worst was yet to come, as So Taguchi looped a two-run double over a leaping Endy Chavez, on which Chavez might have been positioned shallow enough to slap Taguchi’s hand as he rounded first. Then, with the game tied, Jimmy Rollins laced a double to left, scoring two, and giving the Phillies the lead for good. For good measure, three batters later, Pedro Feliciano dropped a potential inning-ending double play ball on the transfer, allowing Philadelphia to score one more insurance run. Aaron Heilman came in for Feliciano to close out one of the ugliest innings in recent memory for the Mets.

You can’t help but wonder why Johan Santana didn’t have the opportunity to start the ninth, having just worked his way through the heart of the Phillies’ order in the eighth. After the game, Jerry Manuel told reporters that, looking at Santana’s history, there were very few times he had crossed the 100-pitch barrier, and that was something Santana was “not familiar with.” Actually, Santana has thrown 100 or more pitches 13 times this year, and did so 21 times last season. Actually, Santana has thrown 100 or more pitches in 34 of his last 50 starts, so I’m not quite sure what Jerry Manuel’s definition of familiarity is. Nobody’s asking Manuel to put Santana in with no reinforcements ready, but wouldn’t it have made sense to let him have a crack at it with Sanchez ready to come in at the first sign of trouble? If there was ever a time to let your ace try to close one out, wasn’t it last night?

- Also, I was a little disturbed by Manuel’s postgame claim that, even though the doctors had advised against it, he would have used Billy Wagner if Wagner himself had said he was ready to go. First of all, isn’t that the kind of thinking that has earned the Mets so much scrutiny for the handling of the Ryan Church situation? And second of all, couldn’t he have just said “no,” to save Wagner from some people questioning the severity of his injury, something that is now all but inevitable? I hate to seem like I’m beating up on Manuel here because I think he’s done a very good job in his tenure here, but last night was certainly not Manuel’s best as a manager.

I don’t think the Mets could negate all the strides they’ve made over the last three weeks with one loss, even if it was to the Phillies, and even if first place was on the line… but last night, they sure gave it a shot.



Gary said...

Maybe we can put a nice package together consisting of Heilman and Luis Aguayo for some help in the outfield.

Anonymous said...

Aguayo is a bad man for what he did last night.

assikilo aka ася said...

Aaron Heilman came in for Feliciano to close out one of the ugliest innings in recent memory for the Mets

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