Thursday, April 24, 2014

Still Out

The first three games of this Mets/Cardinals series has been a showcase of real National League Baseball. In the three games, a grand total of 10 runs have scored, 5 on each side, and the defensive play and starting pitching on both sides has been generally dominant. These have been the kind of games that, were the Mets in better straits and the weather of better quality, you'd probably have close to 40,000 fans each night on the edge of their seats, replete with the potential of a Bill Clinton cameo appearance.

After shutouts on Monday and Tuesday night, last night's game at least featured some runs on both sides, sparing as they may have been. With absurdly strong winds whipping throughout Citi Field (the kind of weather that usually occurs when I am in attendance), a crowd of what looked to be a few souls short of 10,000 bundled up to see the Mets try their luck against yet another budding Cardinal great in Michael Wacha, last year's Playoff Sensation. Jon Niese went out for the Mets, and after Ruben Tejada blew a rundown play on Matt Carpenter with 2 out in the 1st, and Ratso Molina followed with an RBI double that probably could have spelled instant doom for the Mets if Wacha pitched at all the way Adam Wainwright did the previous night.

Wacha certainly started out just as good as Wainwright, recording his first 9 outs via strikeout, which is of note because it doesn't happen very often. The downside, however, is that 9 strikeouts in the first three innings of a game can serve to drive up your pitch count, and the result, of course, is that Wacha became so badly unglued in the 4th inning that he ended up walking in two runs and damn near walked Niese to force in a 3rd, before finally departing the game after throwing 93 pitches in said 4 innings of work. Wacha was replaced by Seth Maness, who put his stamp on the game by giving up a bullet of a Home Run to Lucas Duda and then getting blown off the pitcher's mound for a balk in a rather nightmarish 6th inning that served to put the Mets ahead 3-1.

Niese departed with 2 outs in the 7th and it seemed like the Mets were going to make it through the remainder of the game unscathed. Kyle Farnsworth, the Mets Closer du Jour, came in for the 9th inning and had what we've come to know and love as the "Typical Outing for a Mets Closer." With one out, he gave up a pair of singles to Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter, bringing up Daniel DeScalso as the potential go-ahead run. Farnsworth would have been wise to get a ground ball, but instead DeScalso roped one off the Left Field wall, a drive primed to tie the game. But Kirk Nieuwenhuis played the carom off the wall well and threw the ball in to Ruben Tejada. When there appeared to be no shot that he'd be able to throw out Carpenter at home, Tejada did just that, firing a strike in to Travis d'Arnaud, who somehow managed to keep Carpenter off the plate and swipe a tag on him in one fell swoop. One of those "How the hell did they do that?!" plays. I'm not sure whether Mike Matheny actually thought d'Arnaud missed the tag or if he was grasping at straws, but his replay challenge was rather quickly proven to be merely an exercise in prolonging the inevitable, because for as unlikely as it seemed, the tag was made. Still, Farnsworth had to get out Matt Holliday and he did, barely, as Curtis Granderson ran down his wind-blown fly ball just as it appeared headed for disasterville and the Mets escaped with a 3-2 victory that was, twice, inches away from being a tie game and, perhaps, another one of those ridiculously extended extra inning games.

So, the Mets can now do no worse than split this 4-game series with the Beautiful Cardinals, which considering the troubles they've had scoring runs and/or pitching well at times in the early going this season is a pretty decent accomplishment. The starting pitching continues to be admirably good and the bullpen after a miserable start has gotten it together a little bit. If only they could hit...

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