Friday, July 24, 2015

A Loser Either Way

I was supposed to be at Thursday night's game, but I exchanged my tickets for Friday night based on scheduling and pitching matchups. Based on the results, either decision would have been the wrong one.

The Mets played a game on Thursday night that was so lifeless I couldn't even be bothered to write a post about it. Granted, the Mets are hardly the first team to get steamrolled by Clayton Kershaw, but the Mets nearly turned it into an art form, as Kershaw had a Perfect Game into the 7th and certainly looked good—and the Mets bad—enough to finish the deal. Since I've already seen the Mets get No-hit this season, I'd had my fill of such games. Fortunately, the Mets managed 3 hits, but no runs and ran their train-wreck of a post-All-Star Break record to 2-5.

Tonight, I was expecting a matchup of Zack Greinke and Jon Niese, hardly a more favorable matchup for the Mets, but at least Niese has been in a really good groove lately, so he might at least keep it competitive. Colon kept the game on Thursday night competitive, too, in contrast to his prior start when the Cardinals beat his brains in. Greinke, however, was expecting himself, and thus was scratched from Friday's game in order to be with his wife. So, instead, I got Niese and Ian Thomas, whom I believe I saw earlier this season with the Braves.

Then, of course, earlier in the day came the news that Michael Cuddyer was going on the DL and the much-hyped prospect Michael Conforto was being called up. Conforto, with but a whisper of Minor League time on his resume, probably wasn't going to fix the offense by himself, but if nothing else some new blood is never a bad thing when you're going as badly as the Mets have. You try to find a balance, and if it means giving a kid a shot, well, give the kid a shot. What else is there to lose?

There was a palpable buzz in the air at Citi Field on this particular Friday, partially because of the lure of Free Shirt Friday, partially because of the Major League Debut for Conforto, and also because of the word flying around that the Mets were finally about to make a trade and get some more new faces in here. Granted, the trade was for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, not exactly headliners, but hardly schlubs, either. For a team that's been trotting unabashed dreck off the bench for weeks, getting two real, professional players is a big deal. Uribe and Johnson on the bench, or in the lineup, means no more Danny Muno, no more John Mayberry, Jr, no more Johnny Monell, or whoever they decide to jettison. The last piece of news, which filtered out just as the game was about to start, was that like Greinke, Niese was also expecting, but opted to pitch the game.

Unfortunately, the way Niese pitched, he would have probably saved us all quite a bit of misery had he just gotten on a plane to Ohio instead. The Dodgers attacked Niese early and often, with old friend Justin Turner leading the charge, red hair flying all over the place and baseballs flying into gaps and into the seats. Turner drove home a 1st inning run, which got me thinking that the Mets would just have to come back, no big deal. In the 2nd, Niese got Thomas to ground into a DP with the bases loaded, to score a 2nd run, but rather then buckling down, he gave up another double to Joc Pederson to score a 3rd LA run. In the 3rd, Turner homered, then Yasiel Puig homered and given the way the Mets were going, this game was toast. Niese was out of the game following the 3rd, mercifully, and Carlos Torres took over. Predictably, he threw 3 shutout innings. Had Niese left, well, maybe Torres would have taken the start and maybe we'd be writing a different story here tonight.

When it's 6-0 and you want to just leave, well, you start looking for reasons to stick around. On this night, Conforto was everyone's reason. His first at bat came with 2 outs and Juan Lagares on 1st, facing Thomas, a lefty. Undaunted, Conforto hacked at the first pitch and hit a screaming line drive which unfortunately found Scott Van Slyke's glove. Had 1st been unoccupied, this ball would likely have been in the corner. Conforto later hit in the 5th, with Lucas Duda on 3rd and 1 out. He grounded out to 2nd, but if nothing else the grounder got Duda home, giving Conforto his first career RBI. In the 7th, Conforto grounded out again. At 0-for-3, not an overwhelming debut, but at least Conforto looks the part of a professional hitter. He wasn't content to just swing at sucker pitches or hit pop flies, he was swinging like he meant it. I know most of the Mets do, but you sense that Conforto has an approach that lives up to his hype.

More than that, however, Conforto looks the part of a Joc Pederson or Baseball Jesus. He doesn't have the ink they're getting yet, but you can see there's that swagger to him. He's got that kind of cocky, weasel-y sort of look to him. You could see him walking into an opposing team's stadium, ripping 3 doubles and strutting around with this smug smirk on his face while the opposing fans seethe. He has attitude. The only players on the Mets you can say that about right now are all Pitchers. The offense needs a guy like that. Hopefully he sticks around.

So, basically, the pieces of the game were more interesting than the game itself, and it's unfortunate that that's not the first time I've had to say that this season. But maybe these new faces will help to fix that a little bit. Again, these players aren't going to turn the whole thing around by themselves. But you want to at least try to change something and finally something's being changed. Washington refuses to get out of their own way, so the Mets have every opportunity to wreak some havoc. Now they just have to get wreaking.

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