The Mets could muster little against Mark Buehrle and get Johan Santana back on the winning side of Friday night’s game. Johan left the game after six, having surrendered three earned runs on six hits. On the better side of his effort, he walked none, and struck out seven. But he would exit the game with the Mets behind 3-1 to the Marlins.
After a run in the seventh, the Mets scored three more times in the top of the eighth to take a 5-3 lead.
However, defensive lapses in the bottom of the eighth threatened to derail their efforts. And bringing in Bobby Parnell almost became Terry Collins’ first bad move of the night. A lazy one-handed effort by Ike Davis opened the door for Jose Reyes getting on, and eventually scoring to bring the Marlins back to within one run in what was now a 5-4 game. A mental-like error on the relay, throwing behind Reyes could have led to another until Tim Byrdak got Bobby Parnell and the Mets out of this mess by striking out Logan Morrison to end Miami’s rally.
Then against Frank Francisco, a double and a sac-fly put the tying run at third with one out in the home ninth. Emilio Bonifacio singled to right – Game tied. Fast-forward; Marlins win by a 6-5 final.
There in lies your 2012 New York Mets. If you have yet to watch a game all season, and just happened to tune in by the eighth inning, consider yourself updated. In this game, you’ve seen everything the Mets do well, and things they do not so well. The opening game of this series was a snapshot of the entire Mets 2012 season so far.
In order, from the best to worst reasons why the Mets are currently where they are, which is 18-14, and still in third place ahead of Miami and Philadelphia; here are the five things we know well regarding our club, or re-learned over the last two innings of the game:
ONE – Terry Collins coached one his best games of the season. He sent up two pinch hitters and they gave him the lead. And attempting a suicide squeeze in the eighth inning was a very nice move. Terry Collins is not the manager I thought we would be getting when initially hired. I actually wanted no part of him. So without getting in too deep, he has proven to be the right guy for this group and I render all credit due him. He is indeed the man. What I like most about him, is his command over the media. So as far as the on-field manager, the Mets are in very good shape.
TWO – Starting pitching is still by far this team’s strength. Unfortunately for Johan Santana, while on the one hand, he has reemerged as the rotation’s ace, the poor guy can’t buy a win. He has far out-pitched what his 1-2 record may indicate. Johan, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, still give the Mets a rotation of quality, four deep. Whether the Mets address their fifth starter issue through an acquisition or promote from within remains to be seen. But if our most pressing matter is finding a suitable fifth starter, perhaps we should be counting our blessings. The Mets have yet to lose more than four game in a row this season and the starting pitching is a major reason why.
THREE – In Friday night’s affair, as they did in three games against the Phillies, the Mets continued to exhibit resiliency at the plate. Three times they staged comebacks against Philadelphia on their way to a series sweep. Friday they almost did it again with three runs in the top of the eighth. Doubles by Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter helped turn a 3-1 deficit, into a 5-3 lead. What screams Met Magic about that? Both came up as pinch-hitters. Ike Davis continues to show signs of a waking bat after hitting a laser home run off Mark Buehrle in the fifth. And David Wright shows no signs of cooling off. He was 3 for 5 on the night, and is batting .387 for the season. So, the Mets have shown they can score runs; score runs late; and score enough runs to compete within the division thus far. The line-up may be running into a bunch of bad bullpens lately. But credit them instead for outlasting Mark Buehrle, and Cliff Lee.
FOUR – A) – Defense played a part in the Mets’ undoing Friday night. B) – Defense has been an issue all season. C) – Our defensive issues will not be going away any time soon. That’s the unfortunate Pythagorean Theorem figuring into the Mets defensive malaise. In other words, they have more problems than a math book. At times, this deficiency will cost us dearly. It sort of did Friday when Ike Davis misplayed a Jose Reyes grounder at first. Daniel Murphy is still a work in progress. With every passing game, at least that is another day he spent feeling more comfortable. To be fair, he’s done more good than bad this season. Likewise regarding Lucas Duda in right. There is no mistaking this defense has it’s faults. But at least smart defense is within our control. And that can always be improved upon.
FIVE – A bullpen – A bullpen. My kingdom for a bullpen – or at least one that isn’t bi-polar. The real culprit of Friday night’s failed comeback was not necessarily Ike Davis’ error. Look no further than at some very ordinary pitches offered up by Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco – and I do mean ordinary pitches. If we are being honest, the bullpen has been mostly…okay to decent. But even some of the good times came under duress. Then, when they are bad, they are flat out bad. No hyperbole needed there. It suffices to say, they are wildly inconsistent. The biggest problem with them, is they are bad, often. Not disastrously often. Just often enough. And that’s a problem. That’s a big problem. And that’s the Mets’ biggest problem next to having to shore up their defense.
If this were football, and the Marlins were studying game film on us, Friday’s game is the one to dissect. This game had it all.