Overview: Tonight’s game was truly a short summary of the 2011 season. The Mets had won 6 of 8, were facing the totally punchless Pirates, and on the mound was Paul Maholm, who they had shelled last week at Citi Field. They were one game below .500, and the Marlins—half a game ahead now in 3rd place—were down 12-4 in the 4th. All signs pointed to a landmark game for this maturing season—beat the Bucs and move to .500 and ahead of the Marlins in one fell swoop.
Ahoy matey, these are the 2011 Mets!
Summary: The Mets gave the Pirates an early 1-0 lead on another very strange play. Reyes was very possibly enjoying another on-field brain freeze by standing very close to Tabata’s path going around second on Paul’s single. As Keith pointed out, while Jose may or may not have obstructed Tabata, Reyes was not where he should have been as the cutoff man on the play, and should not have been where he was. Tabata was thrown out at third, but given new life as the umps did call obstruction on Jose.
Pelf and Maholm both pitched very, very well. Aside from a Wood HR in the bottom of the fifth, both starters cruised, and the Bucs’ bullpen was the difference.
In the top of the 5th, the Mets had a budding chance for a run after Murph and Tejada singled, but when Pelf missed a chance at a bunt, Murph was off second and thrown out in a rundown.
The Mets did manage to put Tejada and Duda on 1st and 3rd in the top of the 8th after a walk and a single, but Jose then lined out to left, and while Tejada scored the Mets’ lone run, Duda was challenging Murph for baserunning miscue of the day by getting doubled off of first.
The Pirates added a run in the bottom of the frame after Byrdak walked one in following Acosta’s loading of the bases, and this was the end of the day’s scoring, action, and hope for the visitors. The team’s bullpens were the final difference tonight.
The World’s Most Expensive Singles Hitter: After flying out in the 9th, Jason Bay extended one of sports’ lesser appreciated streaks, now reaching an incredible 79 plate appearances without an extra base hit. This is astonishing for a player who two short years ago had 36 HR and 29 2B, and slugged .537—only the 3rd best mark of his career. Bay is clearly a good man, and is trying, but he is impressively pursuing his inexorable drive to join Oliver Perez in the VIP room on the set of the reality show called Worst Contract in Met History.
The Maturing Ruben Tejada: One of the best surprises of the year has been the rapid improvement of Tejada. His minor league growth did suggest that he would continue to improve, but not this fast. His defense and instincts were great from day one, but his offense has been a revelation. His hitting and his plate discipline have shown amazing progress for a 21-year-old. Should Ike and Wright return by August, Tejada probably will go down to Buffalo to further hone his game, and should certainly be ready to permanently become an everyday player no later than next spring, in Queens or elsewhere.
On Deck: The Mets now go to Atlanta to face a red-hot Braves team which surely remembers the recent loss of 2 of 3 to the Mets in New York.
Everything about 2011 suggests that the Mets should fold and lose at least 2 of 3 to the Braves. Let’s hope that the many unexpected things we have seen this season revive tomorrow with Jon Niese continuing his impressive resurgence.