Sunday, August 24, 2014

You're Getting Old

Not even the return of Jacob deGrom could solve the Mets Dodger Stadium woes. In spite of the fact that deGrom was throwing quite well and staked to a 3-0 lead, the Dodgers continually put pressure on him and eventually overwhelmed him on their way to yet another come-from-behind win over the Mets Saturday night.

deGrom certainly didn't appear to be suffering any ill effects from the shoulder injury that had him on the shelf for two weeks. For a majority of his 6 inning outing, he looked perfectly fine as far as the quality of his pitches. The problem was that the Dodgers were hitting his pitches, and the end result was that the 3-run lead he received courtesy of a Juan Lagares Home Run didn't hold up. Adrian Gonzalez, who tagged him for a Home Run when these teams met in New York, tagged him for another one—a 3-run shot in the 5th inning that basically turned the game around—and the Mets as usual mounted very little in response against Zack Greinke.

deGrom's worst outing in weeks coming immediately after he came off the DL isn't especially alarming. The Dodgers knocked him around in New York as well, so sometimes a team just has your number, especially when you're a young pitcher. What was particularly alarming was the night David Wright had, particularly when measured against what's been a really bad season for the Mets Captain. It hasn't been talked about much, but very quietly Wright has had a patently awful season and last night's game seemed to hammer that point home with emphasis.

Wright had already grounded out to short, and hit into a pair of Double Plays by time the 7th inning rolled around. With the Dodgers ahead 5-4, and rallying against a tiring Greinke, the Dodgers decided to intentionally walk Daniel Murphy with two outs to pitch to Wright. In his formative seasons, intentionally walking someone in front of David Wright was an invitation to disaster, because Wright would get pissed off and hammer the first good pitch he saw. Now, you could almost sense Wright swinging out of his shoes as soon as he walked to the plate. He flailed at the first pitch, fouled off the second pitch, somehow laid off a pitch that was off the plate, and then swung and missed at the slider that's bedeviled him his entire career. Inning over, Rally over, and when the Dodgers tacked on two more runs in the last of the 7th, the game for all intents and purposes was over. The Mets weren't coming back, and just to spread a little more mustard on a night that was overcooked, Wright struck out again to finish the game and cap off an 0-for-5 night.

It's tough to say whether or not it's this shoulder injury that Wright has been dealing with that's been the cause of his woes, or maybe it's just the years of unsuitable lineup protection that have caught up with him, or, perhaps it's just the fact that he's a 10-year veteran, and at age 31, he's getting old. Granted, 31 isn't especially old in Baseball years, and Wright is certainly being paid like someone that's got a whole lot of years left in him. Hopefully this is just an injury issue that he's just trying to play through because that's his M.O., but it's not especially smart when this is the result we're getting out of him. Whatever it is, he won't say and he won't take himself out of the lineup either. So this is what we're stuck with.

Joy and rapture, the Mets still have one more game to play in LA. Is anyone at all optimistic?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Infernal Shit Show

I last year mused about the Dodgers being The Hot Team in Baseball, and how they were getting every conceivable break on their way to a Division title and a trip to the NLCS, where they were ultimately beaten by the St. Louis Cardinals, who might be considered the Golden Boys to the Dodgers' Hot Team. Last August, the Mets went into LA and were swept, and the Dodgers really made them look like a second-class team in the process. True, the Mets were (and perhaps still are) a second-class team, but the way that the Dodgers went about winning those three games were simply mind-boggling.

After last night's game, another Mets loss in Dodger Stadium in which they played like a bunch of idiots and really handed the game to the Dodgers, I'm starting to think more that maybe it's not so much that the Dodgers are The Hot Team as much as the Mets just have a Dodger Stadium thing. Or maybe it's just a West Coast thing, because they didn't play especially well in most of their other West Coast stops either. This has gone on much longer than just last season. Last night's simply scintillating affair was just another in a string of miserable performances the Mets have vomited up at Chavez Ravine. Four errors, two of which were committed by Wilmer Flores, served to do the Mets in, while Jon Niese had another one of his good bad starts as the Mets lost 6-2.

Things certainly got off well enough, as Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff Home Run off of Dan Haren. That was the high point of the night for the Mets. It was all downhill from there. Haren allowed the Mets two more hits over the remainder of his 7 innings, while on the other side, Niese was getting beat by guys like Dee Gordon and Erisbel Arruebarrena (you know, the great Erisbel Arruebarrena). It wasn't until the 5th inning that Flores had his attack of the blahniks and, following a bobble of a Yasiel Puig grounder, managed to trip over his own feet before he could make a throw to 1st, in a play that seemed to typify the Mets performance in this game. That particular error ultimately didn't lead to a run, but in the 7th, with Niese one pitch away from getting out of a jam and keeping the game at 2-1, Flores fielded an Adrian Gonzalez grounder cleanly, kept his footing...and unleashed a throw not especially close to Lucas Duda at 1st Base. This plated one run, knocked Niese from the game, and immediately led to two more runs when Matt Kemp doubled off of Carlos Torres. Game. Set. Match.

Though the game was for all intents and purposes over after that, the stupid didn't wear off for the Mets. They kind of creaked their way into a little rally in the 8th, and did manage to get a couple of men on for Curtis Granderson. But, in a scene reminiscent of last season, Granderson watched a 3rd strike that might not have been a 3rd strike, and then stood there and scowled at the umpire a little bit before slinking off. Later, Lucas Duda ole'd a foul pop in another play that didn't lead to any runs, but did typify the way the night was going for the Mets.

Fortunately, the Mets will get Jacob deGrom back from the DL tonight after being out for two weeks. That's a good sign since he's been one of the more brighter signs of life for the Mets this season. Unfortunately, he's got to come off the DL and pitch in Dodger Stadium, because the Mets still have two more games to play there this weekend. I expect that he'll hopefully pitch well, but something stupid is bound to happen. Gotta love those self-fulfilling prophecies.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Breakout Performers

If you blinked, you missed the Mets series in Oakland, one of those two-game series where both games come and are gone within the span of 24 hours. This series in Oakland was a particular extreme, given that Tuesday's game started late and ended Wednesday morning, and Wednesday afternoon's game took place while I was at work and so I only ended up watching a portion of the proceedings on replay later in the evening. Fortunately, the Mets shook off their troubles and hit more than they have in several days, banging out 10 hits and scoring 8 runs, 7 of which came off of ballyhooed (and hairy) A's starter Jeff Samardzija to win a somewhat sloppy affair, 8-5.

Zack Wheeler and Lucas Duda, two Mets who have certainly enjoyed mid-Summer breakouts, were the stars of the show this afternoon, in performances that seem to have delightfully become the norm as this season has progressed. For Wheeler, it was continuing a string of strong outings, not quite perfect but good enough to get his team ahead and get himself his 9th win of the season. Wheeler didn't make it out of the 6th inning, in another instance where he threw too many pitches too early in the game, but while he was in, he pitched well, allowing 4 runs in his 5.2 innings. Only two of said runs were earned, thanks to a pair Daniel Murphy errors, the first of which wasn't a spastic fit so much as an ill-advised throw home that sailed nowhere particularly close to its intended target. The second was more the garden-variety Daniel Murphy error where it looks like someone blew up a firecracker right behind him as he was attempting to make a play.

No matter. By time Murphy happened, the Mets had already blown up for 5 runs in the 3rd inning and 2 more in the 4th. Their 4th inning rally was kicked off by Eric Campbell, whose 3rd Home Run of the season led off the inning, and capped off by Lucas Duda, who all of a sudden has become a legitimate power threat in the middle of the Mets lineup. Duda, who everyone here knows I had anointed a clueless disaster last season, has made a complete 180˚ over the past two months and has not only made me eat my words but turned into a trusted source of offensive production. He's begun to get aggressive and the results are now career highs in Home Runs and RBI and a whole lot of good vibes, including the ones he generated with his 3-run Home Run Wednesday afternoon, Last season, Lucas Duda managed to hit 15 Home Runs, and 14 of them came with the bases empty. Now, you actually look forward to Duda coming up with men on base because he's in a good enough groove that you actually feel confident that he's going to come through. Maybe not always, but certainly more than he was. It's become quite clear that the Mets chose wisely in keeping him over Ike Davis, and I'll happily eat my words and admit that I'm glad he got his act together. I won't say I was wrong, because for all of last season and the beginning of this season, I was right, but he's now proven himself much better than I gave him credit for.

So, the Mets are now done in Oakland, where it seems they were finished before they started. Now, they're off to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, who aren't quite The Hot Team in the way they were last season, but they're still one of MLB's "Darling" teams, and Chavez Ravine hasn't exactly been a pleasant place for the Mets to play in recent years. But, we'll see how this works out for them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another One Of Those

Oakland has always been a bastion of all things a little offbeat when it comes to Baseball. Their 70s-era teams were generally a bunch of brash, bushy ruffians, guys like Jim Hunter, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and, of course, Reggie Jackson. They did things differently and won 3 consecutive World Series championships in the process. Since then, they've had the Bash Brothers, and now continue to be entrenched in the Moneyball era, thanks to their intrepid GM Billy Beane and his continued penchant for finding cheap ballplayers that somehow win when all banded together. The A's have won over the past decade or so with more regularity than you'd think, all the while adhering to the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Particularly when those parts involve things like overgrown beards, using WHAM! as your at-bat music, and playing in a ballpark with excessive amounts of foul territory, thanks to it being the last multi-sport stadium currently in use, and an inscrutable name that nobody can figure out (and that sometimes has plumbing revolts that can cover the clubhouses in sewage). Somehow, this has led to the A's having the best record in Baseball for a majority of the season, and though they've slumped recently, they're still right in the thick of the AL West race, coming into Tuesday night's affair with a 73-51 record.

This whole long preamble is sort of meant to mask having to talk about said game on Tuesday night, a 6-2 Oakland win that I didn't bother to stick around for the end of. I already went through my sleeping pattern adjustment and the fact that 10pm West Coast starts don't really work for me anymore. I managed to get through the first 4 innings of the game, and although I didn't go to sleep directly after that, I'd seen all I needed to see. By that point, Dillon Gee had suffered through his 4th inning meltdown, surrendering a 3-run triple to Coco Crisp that for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach, and Scott Kazmir, whom the Mets roughed up but good back in June (but in typical Mets fashion they could do nothing with last night), took things from there.

The Mets once again did not hit much at all, save for a Travis d'Arnaud Home Run off of Kazmir, and this seems to be nothing new of late. However, in checking the box score this morning I do see that the Mets had 7 hits in last night's game, a significant step up from the 4-a-game run they were on in the Cubs series. Still, averaging between 4-7 hits per game isn't going to do anybody any good, and if it keeps up when the Mets aren't on the West Coast, maybe I'll start going to bed even earlier.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not Awake Just Yet

Twice in the span of three weeks, the Mets suckered me into getting tickets for Monday wraparound games by sending me a preliminary schedule that didn't list the times of any of the games. You can imagine my surprise when I found I'd purchased tickets for a pair of games that began on Monday at 12:10pm, a time that generally falls when I'm at work and not available to go to a Baseball game, as opposed to when I thought the game would be starting, 7:10pm, a time when I'm generally quite available for Baseball.

Yesterday afternoon was the second of those two games. I probably shouldn't be griping too much when I was able to sell (at a loss) my tickets for both of the games. Besides, the game two weeks ago was pretty bad and from what I was able to ascertain from the recap and final score, yesterday's game was probably as bad, if not worse.

I said yesterday that the results of the game would determine whether or not I would see the replay in the evening and I think you can safely assume that I didn't waste my time watching the replay. Therefore I have no idea what happened in the game, which I guess is just as well. I got an alert on my phone at some point in the morning that Bartolo Colon was scratched due to a family matter, and I assumed, correctly, that Carlos Torres would take the start. Torres has been an adequately dependable swing man for the Mets these past few seasons, he won't blow anyone away but he also won't kill you. That pretty much sums Torres up. A Major League pitcher who pitches reasonably well. For 5 innings, that's what he did.

Then, Torres left the game and the rest of the affair happened. Hefty lefty Dana Eveland gave up a run and I believe Buddy Carlisle was somehow negatively involved. Ratso Rizzo hit a Home Run, Joe Buck hit a Home Run and by time the dust cleared, the Mets were on a bus to Miami, half asleep, not really sure what's happened to them.

Now, the high pleasure of a cross-country trip to play an excessively late night game in Oakland, followed by a weekend in Los Angeles, where things go wonderfully for the Mets. This should be a week of Major League Baseball to behold.