The list of things that went wrong for the Mets on Saturday against the Braves is lengthy and wide-ranging:
The hitting wasn't very clutch
Clutch hitters may not actually exist, but clutch hitting happens every day. Or, at least opportunities to do so happen every day. David Wright, so dominant against the Marlins earlier in the week, took an 0-for-4 and personally left four runners on base. Luis Castillo went 0-for-5 and likewise left four ducks on the pond in his wake. Though their official LOB tally was just six, the Mets collectively left 18 runners on base following outs (the former only counts runners left on base at the end of an inning; the latter counts baserunners multiple times if they are left on by multiple batters in an inning). The Mets are still hitting -- they picked up another ten-spot on Saturday -- but they just couldn't get the big hit when they needed it, and unfortunately they left the fate of this game in the hands of those tasked with preventing runs from scoring. Which brings us to:
The pitching stunk up the joint something fierce
The crummy pitching began with John Maine, who made his first start in a week and looked a bit rusty in doing so. The FOX radar gun had him throwing 96-97 early on, which is a solid 2-3 ticks faster than I had ever seen him clocked. It's possible that their gun was a tad on the high side, but we often hear pitching coaches and managers talk about their pitchers being "too strong" after a long respite and that may have been Maine's biggest problem. He threw 96 pitches over just four innings, striking out five and walking three. He also allowed eight hits, so he was probably leaving the ball up a bit and also found his way to the bad side of the BABIP fairy, a locale that has been historically unfamiliar territory for Maine.
Joe Smith relieved Maine and retired four of the five batters he faced, allowing a lone single to erstwhile and should-be Met Ruben Gotay. Gotay advanced to second on a Yunel Escobar sacrifice bunt, at which point Smith gave way to Scott Schoeneweis and "keeping the game close" gave way to "hemorrhaging runs like shit from a donkey". Attempting to disprove the myth that only righties can knock him around, Schoeneweis allowed a single to lefty-hitting Mark Kotsay that scored Gotay from second. Carlos Delgado made a nice play on the throw home by Ryan Church, whirling to throw out Kotsay trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Jorge Sosa relieved Schoeneweis to begin the seventh inning and things quickly got out of hand. The first five batters went strikeout, double, single, strikeout, walk, the result of which left the bases loaded with two outs and no runs in (yet!). Bobby Cox sent the left-handed Kelly Johnson up to pinch-hit for Peter Moylan and Willie Randolph countered by doing absolutely nothing. For his career, lefties have hit .297/.385/.505 against Sosa. To get an idea of what that's like, try to imagine Sosa pitching a full game in which every lefty he faced was Willie McCovey (career .270/.374/.515 hitter). Of course Johnson hit a grand slam, and of course the Mets scored two runs in the next inning that would have otherwise tied the game. Should we blame Sosa? It's not his fault. I don't blame a spoon for not being able to cut my steak; it's a utensil ill fit for the job, just like Sosa facing lefties. So who is to blame? Let me see here.
Willie Randolph let another one get away
I don't have nearly as much vitriol for Randolph as some, but he clearly screwed the pooch on Saturday. The game was still within reach when he made the non-decision to leave Sosa in to face Johnson even though he had a well-rested arm in his bullpen who is absolute murder on lefties. Pedro Feliciano -- he of one lone mop-up inning of relief so far this year -- has held lefties to an anemic .216/.294/.281 composite batting line for his career. The Mets have another off-day on Monday, so even if Feliciano had to pitch on Saturday and Sunday he would have been assured of some rest before the Mets head to Shea to take on the Phillies on Tuesday. That never happened, Johnson launched the four-run bomb to right, and Randolph added another star to his "Bungler of All Things Bullpen" tote board.
Add up all of the suckitude and the Mets drop another game at the Ted. Johan Santana and John Smoltz toe the rubber tomorrow, and we can only hope for better things from the Mets in all areas.