A lot of folks won't want to hear this, so feel free to look away: There were a lot of positive things to take from last night's horrible loss to the Cardinals. The people want results not process, and I can certainly understand that to some degree. We're ten games into the season and the Mets are 3-7, and while 4-6 would've looked a whole lot more promising, I think that perception tells the story of how easy it is to take a few early-season games too seriously, even though it is considerably difficult to do otherwise. If this creeping malaise doesn't subside in short order there may well be plenty to panic about, but at this point at least I'm still willing to applaud the process if not the results.
So how about that process? For starters, Oliver Perez was quite good, though you might not know it from the four strikeouts and three walks he compiled through 6.1 innings. He allowed just four hits and one lone run, which was bequeathed to the bullpen and subsequently hurled into a crevasse (more on that later). He was efficient with his pitch count, throwing 97 pitches (59 strikes) in his 6.1 innings. He was around the strike zone most of the time and looked flat-out nasty with a regularity we haven't seen since perhaps 2008.
Perez allowed an infield single to David Friese to lead off the seventh that probably should have been a 6-3 putout by Jose Reyes, but Friese reached and was sacrificed to second by Joe Mather. Ollie was then somewhat inexplicably relieved by Fernando Nieve, who hit Skip Schumaker in the foot and then walked Matt Holliday after getting ahead, 0-2. Nieve, mission accomplished, gave way to 32-year-old rookie and high-leverage superstar Raul Valdes, who wasted no time in giving up a grand slam to free agent acquisition Felipe Lopez. We learned after the game that a stomach bug kept Pedro Feliciano out of the game, but it's hard to defend the Valdes choice here when seemingly superior options like Hisanori Takahashi (if you demand a lefty) or Jenrry Mejia (he's too young! must protect!) would have been more defensible because, you know, they're better pitchers. Of course, if big league managers weren't so unwaveringly beholden to their irrational "closer pitches the ninth" mantra perhaps we could have seen the Mets' best reliever pitch the most important moments of the game.
Hero-to-many Jeff Francoeur continued to taunt his most vocal critics by collecting another two hits and a walk, scoring two of the Mets' three runs (he also added a nice catch in right field). I'll touch on this more another time, but anyone who thinks we can't or won't root for Francoeur because we've been so critical of him in the past has clearly conflated criticism and dislike, for while I have personally trumpeted the former I have never endorsed the latter. Francoeur is a Met and by all evidence a pretty righteous dude, which are really the only prerequisites for my support.
Apart from some fabulous defense by David Wright, the real story of this game was Chris Carpenter and his dominance of the Mets. Ten strikeouts in seven innings plus one unearned run allowed. On the bright side, after falling behind 4-1 on the Nieve/Valdes fustercluck, the Mets showed some serious grission in the ninth in mounting a surprisingly effective rally that included hits by both Gary Matthews Jr. and Frank Catalanotto, and trust me when I tell you that writing it doesn't make it any more believable. But it happened, and whatever unmeasurable value you wish to assign to "hanging in there", well, do as you wish.
Ollie had dueled with Carp, the Cards' ace
And shockingly, Perez had even kept pace
But then came Nieve, who's started to fade
Since in every Mets game, an appearance he's made
Then onto Valdes, from Tabasco on loan
Whose gopherball caused every Mets fan to groan
In eighth and in ninth, tying Mets came to plate
But leaving runners stranded seems to be this team's fate
And after the game-ending out from Castillo
Jerry got one game closer to a long vacation in Rio
Big winners: Oliver Perez, +33.2% WPA, Jeff Francoeur, +11.6% WPA
Big losers: Raul Valdes, -38.6% WPA, Fernando Nieve, -16.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pujols GIDP in first, +10.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Lopez grand slam in 7th, -39.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -21.2% WPA
Total batter WPA: -28.8% WPA
GWRBI!: Felipe Lopez
Nice job by fxcarden; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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