The Mets dropped their second straight in Atlanta. And that’s not good. They are now 5 1/2 games behind Washington, and 2 1/2 behind the victorious Braves. The Mets’ record dropped to 46-42, and are now 0-2 since returning from the All-Star break. Like a Blue and Orange accordion, the Mets record expands and contracts, with the big squeeze coming when they get close to the four game mark; four games above .500 that is. And here we are again.
We knew R.A. Dickey wasn’t going to be brilliant every time out. No pitcher is. Saturday, he labored through five innings, surrendering eight hits, while allowing five earned runs. He walked two and struck out four batters before leaving the game. But Atlanta’s starter, Tommy Hanson, had his own problems. In 5.1 innings of work, he gave up nine hits, and allowed six earned runs to score. It was actually Hanson who twice held a lead over the Mets, and allowed them to first tie the game in the fourth inning, then go ahead in the sixth inning before heading for the showers himself.
The Mets took the initial lead of the game in the second when Josh Thole doubled home Ike Davis, who led off the inning with a double of his own. But the Braves stormed back for three runs in the bottom of the frame. With the bases loaded, Eric Hinske doubled home two runs. Two batters later, Michael Bourn singled home Dan Uggla. Eric Hinske was thrown out at the plate trying to score for out number three.
But the pesky Mets answered with a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Ike Davis led off the inning with a booming home run to right-center; his 13th of the season. Later in the inning, Andres Torres drove Daniel Murphy home with a single to tie the game at three.
R.A. Dickey got in trouble in the home fifth inning. After retiring the lead-off batter, Dickey surrendered consecutive singles to Martin Prado, and Jason Heyward. After Chipper Jones advanced the runners with a grounder to second base, Freddie Freeman doubled home both runners to put the Braves ahead by a 5-3 score. R.A. Dickey finished the inning, getting Brian McCann to pop out to third. He left the game on the losing side, but eventually would be credited with a no-decision.
The Mets chased Tommy Hanson out of the box in their very next at-bat. Three runs in the top of the sixth put the Mets ahead 6-5 thanks to RBI singles by Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, and Jordany Valdespin. In fact, the Mets’ spirited five hit, three run burst, chased two Braves’ pitchers from the inning, as they also touched Chad Durbin for two hits (the runs charged to Hanson) before they were through.
In the eighth inning, the Mets picked up what seemed to be an important insurance run. After Andres Torres led the inning off with a double, Ruben Tejada later drove him home with a single to give the Mets a 7-5 lead.
What followed…..well, why beat around the bush? In the bottom half of the eighth, three Mets relievers combined to blow the game. Tim Byrdak walked the lead-off batter; McCann; and was subsequently pulled. The bullpen’s effort just went down hill from there. Some things in Baseball are quite simply….law. Walk the lead-off batter, and he will eventually come around to score. And McCann did, along with two other Braves, giving Atlanta an incredulous 8-7 lead. Brian McCann’s run was charged to Byrdak, who was promptly lifted for Pedro Beato. The Braves made quick work of him too, then laid siege against Bobby Parnell, who gave up three hits and the winning run.
After mounting two comebacks, this was certainly a tough one to lose, not to mention an especially painful way to go down. R.A. Dickey not being at his best, by 2012 standards, is a small portion of this game’s story. The line-up’s continued resiliency is a slightly better story. On Friday evening, they pounded out three extra base hits, and eleven total hits; but hit no home runs. On Saturday, they struck for thirteen total hits; four extra-base hits, to include Ike Davis’ home run. Their overall power is incrementally picking up, but the Mets can still string together bundles of hits; singling and doubling teams to death. More importantly, the Mets continue to outlast most quality starting pitching, and score late in games. And they are still getting key two-out RBI. No team has more.
The point here is, there is much attention being placed on the Mets’ precarious starting pitching situation. This, while the Mets hitters have continued to chug along with a lot of steam. The line-up’s numbers are a little perplexing, but their tenacity is true, even without a current major power threat. The biggest story of this game, is quite obviously, the same story of the season – the bullpen, the bullpen, the bullpen. Of all the needs this team may or may not address at the trade deadline, the bullpen keeps screaming in the General Manager’s direction – “Fix me first, or else!”