Rooting for a so far successful but ultimately flawed team like the Mets can be very frustrating. On one hand, the team is 19-15 with the fifth-best winning percentage in the National League. On the other hand, only four teams in the NL are worse than the Mets in run differential (New York is at -17 on the season).
On one hand, the Mets offense has really started to come alive during this road trip. On the other hand, in might be the bullpen that keeps the Mets from every realistically calling themselves a contender this season.
After the relief corp blew a 5-3 lead in the first game against Miami, the Mets bounced back on Saturday afternoon for a 9-3 victory in which David Wright and company beat up on Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. Wright was 4 for 6 with a home run and three RBI, while Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy had three hits each. R.A. Dickey didn’t strike out anyone in his six innings of work, but he only allowed one walk, nine hits and two runs before exiting with 95 pitches thrown.
Dickey might have lasted a little longer, but he experienced discomfort in his wrist after being plunked by Nolasco in the fifth inning.
“It was a real fight today,” Dickey said. “I threw a lot of tumbleweeds up there, balls that were just kind of rotating on me. I didn’t have my swing-and-miss knuckleball tonight, but they were hitting enough pieces of it to give me some ground balls in a couple of bigger situations. I was able to make a good pitch occasionally when I needed it.”
The Mets were fortunate that Dickey came away uninjured, but the good vibes did not last through the weekend. Today, the Mets saw a 2-0 disappear when Ramon Ramirez let up a two-run homer to John Buck in the bottom of the seventh. However, the Amazins came right back with a two spot of their own in the ninth against disgraced Miami closer Heath Bell. With two outs and the bases loaded, Justin Turner stepped in and drove in two runs with a double down the right field line to make the score 4-2.
Frank Francisco came on for the save attempt in the bottom of the ninth, but instead of closing the game, he only managed to put his job in jeopardy. Emilio Bonifacio led off with a triple, but the real trouble started when Francisco walked John Buck to set up another showdown with pinch hitter Greg Dobbs.
On Friday night, Dobbs singled off of Francisco to drive in the winning run for Miami. Today, Dobbs sprayed an outside splitter into center field for another clutch hit. This time, it drove in Bonifacio and got pinch runner Brett Hayes all the way to third base with the tying run. That was it for Francisco, who was allowed to pitch to the lefty Dobbs even though Terry Collins had not used lefty specialist Tim Byrdak yet.
Manny Acosta and not Bobby Parnell came in with the game on the line. The first batter Acosta faced, Jose Reyes, hit a sac fly to tie the game. Things seemed to calm down a bit when Jordany Valdespin ran down an Omar Infante pop up for the second out, but then Acosta walked Hanley Ramirez and plunked Austin Kearns to load the bases. Giancarlo Stanton stepped to the plate next and hit the first pitch into the next galaxy to give Miami an 8-4 win.
Upon leaving the game, Francisco had some words for home plate umpire Todd Tichenor and was officially sent off (despite having been removed by Collins anyway). Francisco was clearly miffed by Tichenor’s strike zone during the Buck walk.
“All strikes,” Francisco said after the game. “I threw one a little high, because he didn’t call one at the knees. I threw a straight fastball right there. He didn’t call anything. And then I went a little higher to see. And he didn’t call the higher one. There’s nothing you can do about that. It’s their call. I feel like I should say something.”
Although I wasn’t happy with his selection of Acosta as the parachute, at least Collins freely admitted to there being a problem at the back end of the bullpen.
“We’ll address it,” Collins said. “I have eight options,” he replied, when asked if he has other options in the bullpen to be his closer in place of Francisco. “But, I’m not going to address that right now, when emotions are running high.”
That’s a fair stance to take. No one wants to be rushed into a decision after an emotional loss. I’ve said before that I believe Parnell is the closer of the future, so if Francisco is removed from his role, I believe Parnell should get the first shot to fill it. It’s too bad what’s happened to Francisco after he got off to such a great start to the season. Francisco hasn’t been good, obviously, but he also has been pretty unlucky with a BABIP of .372 against him.
Before things got crazy in this game, Jon Niese pitched pretty well. He allowed three walks and five hits in six shutout innings with four strikeouts. Jon Rauch pitched a perfect eighth inning before being pinch hit for in the top of the ninth.
The Mets play two games at home against Milwaukee this week. The first one is Monday night at 7:10 PM. Miguel Batista will make another start for New York while the Brewers send out Yovani Gallardo.