The third time through the starting rotation was something less of a charm. In fact, the week that was, was a considerably more difficult endeavour than the first two times around.
In last Tuesday’s start versus the Atlanta Braves, the Met Ace suffered through the worst start of his career. Not having pitched beyond five innings yet, most were hoping for a start extending into the sixth inning. Instead, Johan Santana lasted all of 1.1 innings. He threw fifty-five pitches, surrendered four hits and allowed four earned runs out of six that scored against his ledger. He walked one batter and struck out none.
Hoping for incremental progress over his last two starts, instead the Mets got regression from Johan. With his velocity still not up to par, naturally, the one constant in his three starts thus far has been his hit-ability. In just eleven innings pitched in three starts, he has surrendered eleven hits. Although to his credit, he has not allowed a home run yet. Being this early in his first season back from shoulder surgery, his first two starts were characterized with surprise over his ability to strike batters out. But Tuesday, he failed to strike out even one.
Then came R.A. Dickey. He lasted 4.1 innings in Wednesday’s start against the Braves. And the damage was extensive. Two walks; eight hits; and eight earned runs scored boosted his ERA to a 5.71 mark over three starts.
After a travel day Thursday and with N.L. East opponents finally out of the way for now, Jon Niese pitched the opening game of a four game set against the visiting San Francisco Giants. Jon threw six innings and pitched well enough to win but wound up with a no decision. He allowed three earned runs off seven hits; one of which was a home run. Two walks and five strikeouts rounded out his night. But for the Mets, the night could have ended better as they lost in extra innings when Frank Francisco failed to keep the Giants off the scoreboard.
Mike Pelfrey took the mound on Saturday and became the first Met pitcher this season to conquer the eighth inning. But this effort was yet another start short-circuited by the bullpen. Before removing Mike Pelfrey from the winning side of this game, Big Pelf kept San Francisco quiet by issuing a mere walk, while striking out three. In his eight innings, he allowed six inconsequential hits. Most notable was his economy of pitches. Mike didn’t reach 100 pitches until his eighth and final inning of work. But, while the Mets rallied to win this game, alas Mike Pelfrey; like Niese before him; was credited with a no-decision.
All four starters went win-less through the week, leaving Dillon Gee as the last pitcher to win his start. As the number five starter, it was Gee who completed the rotation’s last successful loop around. And not incidentally, Gee also turned in the Mets’ best effort of the season when he became the first to plant his flag in the seventh inning. That is, until Pelfrey’s game on Saturday which was deserving of a win.
Dillon Gee was due to make Sunday’s start before the game was called due to rain. He will now start Monday as part of a scheduled double-header.
Did anyone noticed when Gee last pitched against Atlanta, there was a point when Dan Warthen visited the mound and gave Dillon a late game (supportive) kick in the posterior. The Met pitching coach is finding less reason to treat Jon Niese that way so far, but indications are the dynamic between Warthen and Dillon Gee may warrant closer watching. This could be fun. And the fact the Mets’ pitching coach uses this tact with Gee is some thing I find favor with. The second year pitcher even admitted he needs to be more aggressive this season. Instead of being put off by the pitching coach’s tough love, Dillon Gee seems to respond favorably to Warthen’s heavy-handed approach with him; or at least he did last week after Warthen’s visit to the mound.
The knock on Gee was too many base on balls. So far in 12.1 innings pitched, he has limited himself to two walks allowed, while striking out eleven batters. With a good start Monday, Dillon Gee won’t just end the Mets rotation’s third time around on a good note. He can get the rotation reset on the right course again in time for the upcoming series which welcomes back Jose Reyes to Citi Field.
Tuesday night will already be electric with the former shortstop in the building. A good fourth start of the season by Johan Santana will make it sizzle.
Of course, any and all good pitching risks being undermined by bad defense. The Mets have already committed ten errors in fourteen games. Three have been committed by the outfield, and six by the infield. And as much as I’d like to hand over center field to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, speed at the top of the line-up, but more importantly, defense, is perhaps the best reason why Andres Torres should get reinserted back into his former spot. In addition to just wanting to be stronger up the middle, Kirk should really play another three months or so in Buffalo before being recalled for good.