Chalk this one up to a poor pitching effort. It’s easy to say that when your team allows eleven runs, but in this case, it was true. Scott Schoeneweis was the only Met pitcher to not allow a run in this game, and the Braves spent most of the day teeing off on Mets pitching. John Maine, after such a dominant spring, did not look good at all, going only four innings and allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks thrown in for good measure. All of the hits were singles, but if you allow enough singles in a short period of time, eventually the other team is going to score some runs. He did have five strikeouts, which is good, but he couldn’t get a key groundball out, which could have erased a baserunner or two with a double play. It will be games like today that show the weakness of Omar Minaya’s strategy of targeting flyball pitchers; sure, in Shea’s massive outfield with two good defensive outfielders who can cover some ground, there will be a lot of flyball outs, but there will also be fewer double plays turned on a pretty good defensive infield, plus you can’t hit a ground ball over the fence.
Kelly Johnson proved that in spades, hitting a pinch hit grand slam home run in the 7th off of Jorge Sosa, who simply did not look good today. The grand slam to Johnson essentially broke the Mets’ backs; at that point, the score was 5-3, and it was conceivable that the Mets could come back, but the grand slam made it 9-3, and then Nelson Figueroa tacked on two more for the Braves and at that point, it became a shellacking. But hey, at least we’re not asking Figueroa to replace the 2nd most important member of the Mets rotation, right?
David Wright’s hitting streak came to an end today, and it’s a shame because a timely hit or two out of Wright would have kept this game close. I mean, there are simply going to be days where Wright doesn’t have it and I’m not going to jump on his case, but after last season, it was almost shocking for me to see Wright fail to come through when the Mets needed him today. After he did so much to keep this team going last year, basically willing this team to stay in the pennant race as long as they did, it was actually stunning to see him fail when the team needed him. I’m not blaming him for the loss, law of averages say that he isn’t going to hit 1.000 in these situations, but after last year, it did feel like that’s what he was hitting. Hey, at least he did a good job reading the lineups for Fox, right?
Speaking of Fox, I really wish I could say I was happy to see Fox back in action, showing the national game of the week today. Unfortunately, I can’t say that, because their coverage remains horrible. I like what Ken Rosenthal brings to the table, because he is a well-connected guy, and even smug Joe Buck didn’t bother me as much as he normally does today, probably because he wasn’t openly rooting for the Mets’ opponents, but Tim McCarver remains the master of the obvious statement. Look, I’m not asking announcers to be as technical as Ron Darling can be, or as entertaining as Keith Hernandez can be. But tell me something I don’t know out there. Make me enjoy the game more. Don’t make me question the idiocy. Don’t make me feel like I’m being talked down to, like I can’t figure these things out on my own. That’s what Tim McCarver does, and it drives me crazy.
Another thing I hate about Fox’s coverage, and this extends to ESPN as well – in-game interviews. SNY has done this with starters who exit the game too, and I hate it. Don’t talk over live action. The game that is happening now is what I am into at this moment. If I want to know what was going through the manager’s mind for this play or that play, I’ll watch his post-game press conference. If I gave a crap about what John Smoltz has to say about this game, or if he has anything interesting to say, I’m sure a clip of this will air on the post-game show. But broadcasters need to stay in the moment of the game and worry about what is happening on the field. The worst is the arrogance of those who produce the games, who will say that somebody like me “doesn’t know what baseball fans really want.” Guess what? I know a lot of baseball fans, and they all feel the same way I do; stop interrupting the game with trivial bullsquid and pay attention to the damn game!
I would be remiss if I completed this recap without mentioning my momentary burst of fury in the 5th, when the Mets had the bases loaded with one out. Jose Reyes hits a little blooper to left-center. Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay dives but can’t catch the ball – he traps it in his mitt. The dumbass umpire rules it caught, which freezes up Ryan Church, who gets passed by Angel Pagan. Kotsay throws to 2nd for the easy double play and the inning is over. Willie Randolph argues, the umpires confer, and finally rule that Kotsay did NOT catch the ball, and all base runners can advance one base on the play. Bobby Cox comes out to argue with the umps, saying that since Pagan passed Church on the basepaths, that he should be out, but the umpires rule that since they were the dumbasses who were the reason behind Pagan passing Church, that Pagan is safe at third regardless.
Now, my problems with the above scenario: first, of course, I jumped out of my chair in incredulousness that the umpire would dare call a blatant trapping as a catch, particularly since it went from giving the Mets two runs to ending the inning for the Mets down 4-1. Then they confer and decide that Kotsay didn’t catch the ball after all. I mean, what the hell? It’s not like they had a replay they could watch; how could they suddenly decide “Whoops, I guess we blew this one”? Not that I’m particularly unhappy about this, since it put the Mets back in the inning, but how can they suddenly just change their minds on this without the benefit of replay? Also, how is it fair to the Mets that they were cost a run on this play because the dumb umpire couldn’t get the call right the first time? There was just so much wrong on display just with this series of calls, and so far in this brief season, it has been a running subplot; the umpiring to start the season has felt particularly bad. Hopefully it’s just a case of crews being off a little bit to start the season, and we’ll see things change as the year goes on, but I’m doubting it.
Finally, today was the first time I saw Tom Glavine in a Braves uniform, and…well, it actually felt strange. I mean, he had been a Met for five years. Sure, he wasn’t particularly great during that time frame, and at no point had he been the ace that the team had been paying him to be. And yes, when the Mets needed him most during his five years in the team, he absolutely crapped the bed. Still, it definitely felt weird to see him back with the enemy, although I did chuckle when I saw him plugging Tim McCarver’s book, as though I couldn’t imagine two more loathsome people pairing together. I’m just glad he’s not pitching in this series after all; that would have been too weird to start the year.
The Mets will try to split what has now become a two-game series tomorrow back at Turner Field, where it will be a battle of aces. John Smoltz will pitch for Atlanta against Johan Santana in a game I am expecting to be a real pitcher’s duel. If I were you, I wouldn’t tune in late, because you might miss a good chunk of this one. Game time is 1:30 and the game is on SNY tomorrow, a rare Sunday game on SNY.