lost 4-3 to the Braves tonight in one of those frustrating games that they tend to have where they manage to mount a rally in the 9th inning that could have spurred them on to victory, except that they didn't bother to hit at all over the course of the first 8 innings.
For a majority of the night, it appeared that the story would be that Zack Wheeler just didn't have it. It wasn't so much that he looked or pitched poorly, he just didn't have that little extra that he's shown he's capable of. He seemed slightly crisper his first time out last Thursday, that was certainly evident after his first batter of the game, Jason Heyward, battled him for 10 pitches, fouling off 2-strike pitch after 2-strike pitch before finally squaring up a Fastball and hitting it into the seats.
Wheeler seemed to settle down after that and it appeared a nice little pitcher's duel was on between he and Ervin Santana, but in the 5th, Wheeler had one of "those innings" that spelled his undoing and pretty much sent the Mets to their doom. A string of ringing hits that were placed just right ended up bringing home 3 more Atlanta runs. Again, Wheeler didn't especially look bad or off, he was just getting dinged to death. It happens to a young pitcher every so often and you can't get too worked up about it. Until it happens repeatedly.
Wheeler's 4 runs in 5 innings wasn't great, and it was all the more magnified by the fact that Ervin Santana shut the Mets down completely over his 8 innings of work, and I suspect Fredi Gonzalez could have saved himself a lot of unnecessary drama had he just thrown Santana back out there for the 9th, because the Mets had no damn clue what to do against him. He'd only thrown 88 pitches, but you know, a Manager's got a Book, and he's always got to go by the Book, so 88 pitches and 8 shutout innings be damned, the starter's out of there. Mets fans know about The Book all too well from the Jerry Manuel fiasco.
In a perfect world, the Braves bullpen would have blown the 4-run lead and made Fredi Gonzalez look like the bumbling fool he often posits himself to be. It would have been even sweeter after our own Ron Darling started sticking his nose in Craig Kimbrel's ass before he even got to the mound, saying "He's unhittable," and basically placing him on a pedestal reserved for some other closer that pitched in New York whose name I forget. You know, completely overlooking the fact that the Mets are one of those teams that will stone up and hit the ball against him, and have, on occasion, made him look ordinary, even if he did get the job done. Tonight was no different. After getting a couple of men on against the dainty, toe-tapping Jordan Walden, in came Mr. Unhittable to blow the Mets away with a quickness. Except that the Mets didn't cooperate with this particular script. Curtis Granderson drew a walk instead of striking out. Lucas Duda actually struck out, but he's proven to not be a pro at improvisation. But then Juan Lagares singled and Travis d'Arnaud singled, and 4-0 became 4-3 real quick, and Lagares was on 3rd, waiting for Kimbrel to take off that mask and reveal his true colors. Ruben Tejada was up, and maybe he can work the count a little bit and make Kimbrel throw more pitches. Just bounce that slider in the dirt where Gattis can't get a glove on it, you choke artist.
But, no. Ruben Tejada ended up playing the role of the Pumpkin in this script, waving at some high fastballs and ending the game. A little more action earlier in the game and perhaps the Mets could have stuck it in Kimbrel's ear and made it a winning rally. Instead, they'll have to take solace in the fact that they're the only team that seems to realize that he's not some deity that you're supposed to just capitulate to. They can hit this guy. At some point, it's going to become evident. Just not tonight.