The Top Of The 8th On Sunday

By Rich Sparago

Yesterday, the Mets survived a scary top of the 8th, as the Nationals put the first two men on against Scott Rice. Steve Lombardozzi opened the inning with a single, and Denard Span followed with a walk. Rice then threw three consecutive balls to Jayson Werth. As we know, Werth took a hack at the 3-0 pitch, and grounded into a double play. Rice then struck out Bryce Harper, and Bobby Parnell worked a 1-2-3 9th to secure the win.

The Nationals’ 8th has been discussed extensively since yesterday. Werth felt he did the wrong thing by swinging, saying it was on him, and he was not following orders from the dugout. That inning could have gone in many different directions, not all of them dictated by Werth. Scott Atchison, who did not even pitch yesterday, may have played a role in the outcome of the 8th inning, and ultimately the game.

March 01, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets pitcher

Scott Atchison

(50) throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the spring training game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Rice was clearly struggling, and when there were two Nationals on base with no one out, the game was certainly on the line. The right-handed Werth was coming to the plate, and this was the perfect spot for Scott Atchison. However, Atchison had thrown 11 pitches on Saturday, and with his history of elbow trouble, the Mets have been reluctant to use him on consecutive days. If Atchison did not have an injury history, he may have been called upon to face Werth (LaTroy Hawkins had been used), and Josh Edgin, though struggling in the early season, could have been brought on to face Harper. Edgin had thrown 23 pitches on Saturday, but with today’s off day, he could have been called upon Sunday. This would have set the 9th up for Parnell, if things had turned out in the Mets’ favor. If the pitching choices played out this way, who knows if we would have been celebrating a series win today.

Atchison has been effective out of the Mets’ bullpen, and he’s also brought a veteran presence (along with Hawkins and Brandon Lyon). It will be interesting to see if his history of elbow trouble continues to limit his innings as the weather warms. The Mets need a healthy, effective Atchison. Not every situation will turn out as yesterday’s did.

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