Saturday, August 15, 2015

Toe To Toe

This weekend's series against the Pirates shapes up to be somewhat of a telling series. The Pirates, who currently are firmly entrenched in the top Wildcard spot in the National League, seem fairly certain to be playing as the calendar flips to October. The Mets, of course, still only aspire to get there. Neither team, of course, is assured of anything at this point, but you go from what you see. What I've seen out of the Pirates, aside from a team that's already made the playoffs each of the past two years, is that they're a really good, really deep team that can find a lot of ways to beat you. For the Mets, who've struggled against these NL Central Playoff contenders, this was another chance to just see how they might stack up. They looked lousy against the Cardinals, in spite of only playing 3-4 against them they really got their asses kicked in the 4 losses. Against the Cubs they were patently awful, going 0-7. But, in both these instances, the Mets were playing with essentially half a deck. Now that the Mets have actual players in their lineup, they seem to have a bit more teeth to them and they've been playing as such. Going back to that Friday Night game against Washington, the Mets have won 11 of 13 games.

The Mets were game to the challenge of the Pirates on Friday. Bartolo Colon, allowed an early Home Run to Neil Walker but then gave up nothing over the remainder of his 7 innings to keep the game close. But the Mets offense wasn't able to figure out much against J.A. Happ, who has resurfaced in the NL after several seasons bouncing around the American League, but remains as Muppet-faced as he was back when he was a wiry rookie with the Phillies. The Mets had enjoyed some success against Happ in the past, but not on this night. Only when Yoenis Cespesdes reached out and knocked a Home Run in the 6th inning were the Mets able to break through, but otherwise, this was a game that belonged to the pitchers.

I still felt optimistic when the game turned over to the bullpens, but that was primarily because I wasn't sure who was pitching out of the Pirates' pen and I knew that the Mets could bring in Clippard and Familia and bridge their way from there. Problem was, the Pirates bullpen turned out to be good and on this night turned out to be better than the Mets in the end. Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo and Arquimedes Caminero matched the Mets arms and the game somewhat fittingly ended up going extra innings. So, if you wanted to see how the Mets stacked up against the Pirates, well, they held up at least through 9 innings.

Then Bobby Parnell entered the game in the 10th and everything went haywire.

Parnell, who early after his return to the Mets looked like maybe he'd learned how to pitch after surgery and a subsequent loss in velocity, but after a while teams started catching up to him. After his ill-fated outing in Washington a few weeks ago, Parnell has quickly pitched himself out of favor, at least with me, to the point where it's not unrealistic to think he might need to be replaced once Erik Goeddel returns or Logan Verrett re-ascends. Last night sort of underscored this need because Parnell really didn't have much and the Pirates took advantage, banging out three straight hits and plating a run before he was finally removed, but by that point the damage had been done. Still, the Mets proved game and attempted to rally back against Mark Melancon, the Pirates closer who looks hittable except that nothing really falls in against him. Certainly, Lagares battled him and had Granderson caught his pitch a little more square, the game might have been tied. But instead his drive found Marte and the Mets couldn't do anything further of consequence and fell to the Pirates 3-2 in a game that could have gone either way.

Certainly, this was a frustrating loss and I suppose at this point every loss is frustrating. But Washington also lost their game in San Francisco so in the grand scheme of things it still doesn't hurt the Mets. But you'd rather they show they can hang with the Big Boys a little more than they've displayed. Still two more chances to do that.

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