Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mets on the Wrong Side of the Game of Inches; Lose to Braves 3-2 on St. Patrick’s Day

(When I said yesterday I would get this write-up posted around midnight... I, uh... I meant, uh...after  noon.)

The Mets played arguably their crispest game yet, but lost a 2-0 lead in the 8th inning to lose to the Braves 2-3.

Our orange and blue boys were decked out in their St. Patty’s Day best, wearing green jerseys and caps. They are kinda snazzy (I've warmed up to them), but there are two things I would change. I would add a green Mets patch to the left sleeve, and take away the New Era logo on the left side of the cap (which I wish they’d do with all the on-field hats across professional baseball, but I know they never will.) These are particulars, however, that don’t really make that much of a difference for a one-day uniform. The bases were also covered with lucky clovers. Cute.

Both teams pitched very well, with the game clocking in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes long. Jon Niese was sharp, working quickly and showing off his 85 mph cutter he added to his repertoire this off-season. It looked real good, and should be something that makes him that much more lethal in 2012. The fast pace he set allowed him to pitch into the 6th, clocking in just over 70 pitches.  Jon said during an in-game interview that his goals are to pitch the entire season and mix all his pitches in more than he has in the past. This will most certainly be a welcome sight to all us Met fans.

There was no real threat for either team till the bottom of the 6th, when Murph plated a two-run single to the right side of the infield. It looked as if the Mets would practice taking a 2-run lead into the top of the 9th, but Chuck James (who has a crazy shoulder surgery story) couldn’t keep runners off the bases, and the Braves plated their first run while he was still on the mound. Ramon Ramirez, who has struggled so far this spring, came in to relieve James and provided none whatsoever with fastballs the trailed upwards. According to a graphic from SNY, he was good at stranding inherited runners last year. Not today. The Braves scored two more runs on a double down the 3rd base line, taking a 3-2 lead. I know it is relatively early in the spring, but this was silently (based on last year’s numbers) Sandy’s best relief move and Ramon’s lack of sharpness is one of the more concerning things so far this spring. I’m sure he will sharpen up a bit, because we clearly need his past awesomeness.

The Mets had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the 8th with two men on, no out and The Duda pinch-hitting for Ike. He ripped a line-drive down the right field line that looked as if it would fall in to give us a 4-3 lead. But alas, it was inches foul, and Duda struck out on a great slider that cut inside, a hard pitch to lay off. We continue to increase our LOB numbers as the Braves were able to silence the threat. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we lead the league in runners Left On Base over the last 5 years. I’ll do some research.

Some other takeaways from the game:
  • Right-handers hit .292 off Jon Niese last year. This number clearly must go down.
  • Jordany Valdespin, 24 years old, is a very talented player and looked good at shortstop during this game. If he had matured earlier (immaturity has apparently slowed him down) he would probably already be a major leaguer.
  • The Mets were in green jerseys but still wore the blue helmets. What? The Wilpons couldn’t afford green ones? (I try to stay away from LOLMets financial jokes, but I couldn’t help myself when I saw that color combination.)
  • SNY cut to Zack Wheeler pitching in a minor league game on Field 4, where a nice crowd was watching the Mets farm hands. Man, the fastball they showed him pitch was electric. Looking forward to his progress.
  • Mike Baxter is playing hard and trying to increase his versatility by working a little bit in center field, knowing we lack depth in that department. The battle for a bench spot between the Whitestone native and Adam Loewen is a nice little storyline of the spring.
  • Speaking of Adam Loewen, he made a fantastic catch running into the foul territory bullpen in left field. Looks like he is getting sharper on defense. He’s fast for such a big guy.
  • Murph continues improving at 2nd base. He looked sharper on every ball hit his way, and his double play prowess is much tighter. Keep working hard, Murph (which is redundant to say ‘cause he will always work hard. Glad he’s on our side.)
  • Ugh. Jason Hayward looks healthy.
  • Both Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch looked sharper during this game.
  • Omar Quintanilla is a hustler who swings a good bat and plays some good defense. Should he be back-up infielder over Ronny Cedeño? (Cedeño’s really good defensively though. Turned a good-looking double play in the 9th playing 2nd base.) I’m sure if Quintanilla keeps hitting, we’ll see him up at some point. Glad to see more depth this year.
  • Interesting spring tidbit. The starters taken out in the middle of the game get their jogging in along the warning track, during game-play.
  • Kevin and Keith were having fun talking to Braves' player Matt Diaz during the 8th inning. Seems like a stand-up guy, outside of the whole playing for the Braves thing.
  • Is Lucas Duda growing a beard? I will continue to monitor this possible development daily. 
The Mets take on the Astros in Kissimmee today at 1:05 pm today. The game is not televised but is on The Fan 660.

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