The Mets came to the plate ten times with runners in scoring position this afternoon in their 4-2 loss to the Dodgers, going 1-for-9 with an RBI single and a walk. Six of those at-bats (five in the first three innings) came against 23-year-old phenom Clayton Kershaw, and losing to him is nothing to be ashamed of. However, Kershaw was not unhittable, and he relied heavily on his fastball, throwing it on 74 out of 111 pitches. He threw just five curveballs, two for strikes. Kershaw has one of the top fastballs in the game, but if there were ever an opportunity to get to him, today was the day. The Mets failed to do that, scoring just one run off him in 6 2/3 innings. Driving runners home has eluded the Mets all season, and they are now 11-for-70 with RISP in their last seven games. Something has to change.
In their ten plate appearances with RISP today, Met hitters saw 38 pitches, 28 of which were fastballs (or cutters from Kenley Jansen which come in at around 93 mph). 19 of those 28 were strikes, and the Mets swung at 12, taking three fastballs for strike one, three for strike two and one for strike three.
Honestly, those numbers don’t look that bad. Watching today’s game, though, it was apparent that the approach the team is taking in RBI spots is the problem. They watched heaters that caught a lot of plate go by in hitters counts, and they looked overmatched when they did swing at fastballs down the pipe.
Consider Justin Turner, David Wright and Jason Bay’s consecutive plate appearances in the 7th with the Mets down 4-1. With men on first and second and one out, Turner took a fastball strike, then watched a curveball for ball one before letting another fastball go by for strike two. That was the last fastball he’d see, and he fought off two sliders before tapping a third slider back to the mound for a fielder’s choice.
Next, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs, Wright worked a 3-0 count. He then took two fastballs for strikes before walking. The way Wright has been hitting lately, it’s easy to be satisfied that he didn’t strike out and got on base–and a walk is not a bad thing. However, Wright should be in attack mode on that 3-1 pitch. In fact, I would’ve had no problem if he was in attack mode on the 3-0 pitch. With the team down three runs, Wright should come to bat planning to drive in those baserunners, only taking a walk if he absolutely must.
Then Bay came up with the bases loaded. The first pitch was a heater right down broadway, and he didn’t swing. Then, in a 2-1 count, he looked overmatched by a letter-high, 92 mph pitch, which he missed. He proceeded to get under a 94 mph offering and fly out lazily to left.
I’m no hitting coach, and nothing I say can fix the Mets’ clutch hitting woes (my baseball career didn’t make it out of high school). Still, I believe the Mets have a strong lineup that is capable of scoring more runs–and helping the team win more games–than it has so far. The team is hitting .250 overall and .275 with the bases empty, and yet they are hitting just .223 with RISP. If they take a more aggressive, attack-the-fastball approach with runners in scoring position, that number should rise.