The Mets lost the first game of their seven game road trip today in Pittsburgh. John Maine gutted through five innings even though he clearly didn’t have his good stuff. His fastball was in the mid-80’s for most of the game.
The Mets generated very little offense on a day when Jose Reyes had the day off. Jerry Manuel was ejected in the third inning for arguing a call. Argenis Reyes was called out for making a slight turn at first base on an overthrow by Jack Wilson. Reyes was tagged by the catcher and called out.
The story of the game has to be another game blown by the shaky Mets bullpen. Pedro Feliciano and Duaner Sanchez couldn’t get the job done in the eighth inning and let another game get away. It seems like that’s becoming the story of the 2008 season.
The Mets had a rough road trip and the two main weaknesses of the team were exposed, the corner outfielders and the bullpen. The two positional weaknesses should be looked at independently.
Sure, the losses of Moises Alou and Angel Pagan for the season and Ryan Church for an unknown period of time have hurt the team. There’s no denying that. Church is being evaluated by doctors in New York this week and may begin rehab games within the next week. The Mets have to count on him coming back in their plan for the rest of the season.
When Church gets back they can mix and match in left field between Fernando Tatis, Nick Evans, and Daniel Murphy. If things don’t work out as planned they may be apt to give Fernando Martinez a shot at the job too.
The bullpen is another story. Although Billy Wagner has gone through bad patches, the Mets are married to him as their closer. As long as he’s healthy he’ll be closing games. Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman haven’t been living up to expectations though. I really think Heilman could use a change of scenery. He’d be great waiver deadline trade bait during August. Sanchez may need some time on the disabled list to refresh his arm. He won’t be successful throwing a fastball in the mid-80’s as he has been over the last week and a half.
The Mets may need to explore a trade for a relief pitcher like Brian Fuentes if the Rockies fall out of contention this month. Heilman for Fuentes would be a fair deal for both teams in my mind. The Mets may need to throw in another mid level prospect but not any of their top prospects. If Eddie Kunz looks good over the next couple of weeks it may not even come to that.
I’m not ready to hit the panic button because of this bad road trip. And I’m not second guessing the Mets lack of activity at the trade deadline. But if they don’t take five out of seven games on this home stand against San Diego, Florida, and Pittsburgh then I will think there’s a problem with this team… again.
Here are some links for Mets reading while you’re having lunch today.
Tim Marchman of the New York Sun, a terrific writer, wrote a great analysis yesterday about the massive change in results that Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez have gotten under pitching coach Dan Warthen. Both were struggling early this season under pitching coach Rick Peterson.
To sum up the piece, Perez is throwing more strikes and generally closer to the strike zone now. He doesn’t appear to have modified the types of pitches that he’s throwing. And Pelfrey changed the pitches he’s throwing from sinker/change up to straight fastball, sinker, curve ball. The results, of course, have been dramatic for both pitchers.
My take is that Peterson had a philosophy that he believed to be the “correct” methodology for all pitchers to utilize. That is, being a fastball/change up pitcher more than using a curve ball.
It appears to me that Dan Warthen doesn’t subscribe to a one style fits all approach to pitching. Each pitcher needs to maximize their unique abilities. Although Duaner Sanchez hasn’t succeeded under Warthen that may be an aberration due to his year and a half out of baseball with injuries.
Once again Mike Pelfrey was completely in control of the game. He went seven innings on 103 pitches giving up only seven hits and no walks for one run. He raised his season record to 9-6 with the win tonight.
Endy Chavez went 4 for 5 with a run scored tonight. Carlos Delgado hit his 20th homer of the season. And Argenis Reyes hit his first career home run. Of course, the Mets gave him the silent treatment in the dugout after he hit it. Jose Reyes had his twelfth triple of the season going 2 for 5 with 2 RBI’s.
There is some reason for concern though. Duaner Sanchez was terrible again. He faced three batters without getting an out, just as he did in the first game of the Phillies series.
The Phillies lost at home to Atlanta tonight so the Mets move to a 2 game lead in the NL East. And the Mets are now 22-12 under Jerry Manuel. Tonight’s game is the St. Louis Cardinals fifth consecutive loss.
WFAN beat reporter Eddie Coleman just reported that Mets closer Billy Wagner is day to day with shoulder spasms. He had an MRI that didn’t reveal any structural problems with his left shoulder.
Coleman said that he believes that Wagner will be available to pitch tonight.
Great news for the Mets! Duaner Sanchez could handle closing but I’m much more comfortable with Wagner closing and Sanchez in the eighth inning, especially for this huge series against the Phillies.
The analysis of Jerry Manuel’s move last night to pull Johan Santana seems to have come down on the side of leaving Santana in to pitch the ninth inning. Hindsight is 20/20 but I would’ve made the same decision as Manuel.
There’s no need to leave Santana in a tie game for the bottom of the ninth inning. All he can do is hold or lose the game, he’s not going to win it for the Mets. Although he had thrown just 95 pitches Santana is going to be here for six more years so that has to be kept in mind. There’s no need to max him out in a game that he can’t win. If the Mets were up by one or two runs, I would’ve left Santana in there to close it out.
The only thing that I might have done would’ve been to pull the plug on Duaner Sanchez after Pedro Feliz doubled off him. Shane Victorino is a much better left handed hitter. So Manuel could have used Scott Schoenweiss or Pedro Feliciano to turn him around. Victorino hits .213 against lefties versus .289 versus righties.
Sanchez hasn’t given up a run since June 10th. That’s ten appearances since the last run he’s given up. He’s earned his spot at the end of the bullpen. So I don’t have a problem with him coming in for Santana in the ninth.
There’s no point in having your best pitcher, whether its Santana or Billy Wagner, pitch the ninth inning of a tie game. I’ve written about that before here. Santana or Wagner should be used to lock down a win at the end of a game not hold it for someone else.