Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mercy Flush

The Mets found themselves ambushed last night by the Chicago White Sox, a team that had been slumbering for weeks, but picked what is in my opinion a rather inopportune time to awaken. In my 8th game of the season at Citi Field, the Mets stormed out to an early 4-0 lead and appeared to be cruising along until the roof simply caved in on them and ultimately they lost the lead and a rather irritating game, 6-4.

Early on, this game had all the makings of a really good night for Steven Matz. Consider that the White Sox hadn't been hitting much of anything and the lineup, in spite of being a mostly patchwork job, jumped on Mat Latos early, and I'd figured this was going to be a pretty easy, no-sweat affair. The Mets took advantage of a pair of Todd Frazier errors to plate single runs in the 1st and 2nd innings, and 2 more in the 3rd on a Neil Walker Home Run. Matz was his usual dominant self and all was right in the world.

Then, of course, Matz tired in the 6th, and the White Sox woke up. Matz wasn't particularly helped by newcomer James Loney, who butchered a Jose Abreu ground ball to start the inning, and even though Todd Frazier followed with a 2-run Home Run to cut the Mets lead in half, this didn't seem especially concerning. Frazier tags most pitchers, and even nicked Matz for a HR last season back when he was King of Cincinnati. But with 2 outs, Matz walked mustachioed infielder Tyler Saladino, and then basically allowed him to walk straight to 3rd base without so much as a look. Again, this shouldn't have mattered, because, as George put it,  Matz should be able to get Dioner Fucking Navarro out. But he didn't. Navarro singled, Saladino scored, and Matz was out of the game, probably earlier than Terry Collins, and basically everyone else in attendance would have preferred.

And this would be where things went haywire.

In the bottom of the 6th, a tall, shadowy figure emerged throwing in the Mets bullpen. It wasn't one of the regular relievers. Yes, after his abbreviated outing on Saturday, Noah Syndergaard was throwing in earnest, ready to enter the fray in relief. I'd liken this to the Baseball equivalent of the Bears using Refrigerator Perry as a Running Back. Essentially, Syndergaard was turned into a 1-inning Terminator for this night. Syndergaard was greeted with a roaring ovation as he entered the game in the 7th inning. Sure, in a perfect world, Matz gets through the 6th and probably starts the 7th, holds the lead, and allows the Mets to use Addison Reed and Syndergaard to finish out the game. But, here he was in the 7th, ripping 101 MPH fastballs without breaking a sweat and sandwiching strikeouts around an error and a fly out.

So, instead, the Mets now had to work themselves through the 8th, and Hansel Robles was given the ball. Robles has, as he was last season, been up and down and lately it's been more down. He'd also been working at a Trachsel-like pace, so the game, which had been mostly brisk to that point, slowed to a crawl. Fortunately, it was a nice night out. Robles walked his first batter, which basically telegraphed the imminent disaster. Though he rebounded to strike out Avasail Garcia, he couldn't get Mr. Moustachio Saladino. Actually, nobody seemed to be able to figure out Saladino, but Robles really shit the bed by allowing him to launch one into the Left Field seats for one of those ambush Home Runs that you don't think could actually happen, and then when it does you're so stunned you can't even muster up a negative reaction. All of a sudden, this 4-0 cakewalk was now a 5-4 deficit, and Robles did nobody any further favors by walking Jimmy Rollins (who the hell even know he was on the White Sox now?) and Adam Eaton before departing to a chorus of boos. Logan Verrett entered the game and immediately surrendered an RBI single to Canada's favorite son Brett Lawrie to make the game 6-4 and throw everything into full-scale disaster mode.

The Mets offense, which didn't look especially great coming into the game, had stopped cold after the 3rd inning, and this was against Latos, who they usually eat for lunch, and the White Sox bullpen, which has been patently awful of late. Of course, when the Mets recourse involved Kevin Plawecki, Ty Kelly and Wilmer Flores, none of whom are hitting, well, you know where this one was going. Right down the toilet.

Collins took some heat afterward for the way he handled the bullpen in this game, but really, what was he supposed to do? He can only bring in the guys he's got on the roster, and it's not his fault that Robles left a giant turd on the mound. Sure, if anything, Matz tiring earlier than anticipated probably forced his hand, but who else was he supposed to bring in for the 8th? He didn't have Familia, he had Syndergaard for an inning, and so someone who wasn't Syndergaard or Reed was going to have to throw somewhere. If you really want to point fingers, how about at the fact that once again, the Mets are working with a short bench because David Wright, who we all know is headed for the DL, is for some reason still active and eating up a roster spot that could be used by an extra bat. To say nothing of the fact that the guys who are starting really aren't hitting very much right now. The White Sox bullpen allowed the Royals to rally from a 7-1 deficit in the bottom of the 9th 3 days ago, and the Mets couldn't pad a 4-run lead against them when they needed to? This game probably should have been long over before Robles ever hit the mound. It feels an awful lot like the kind of crap these guys pulled for most of June and July last season.

Hopefully today will go better. I was expecting the Mets would be able to handle a struggling team but clearly, I was mistaken.

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