This was a textbook PNC Park game for the New York Mets, which is to say weird, sloppy, frustrating, and just plain mystifying. I've heard nothing but good thing about the Pirates' stadium from people who've visited, but it has never treated the Mets well. Turner Field will always be the Mets' House of Horrors, and Citizen's Bank Park packed an awful lot of bad luck into a short period of time, but in the last five-to-six years, no ballpark has been the sight of more baffling Mets games than PNC.
The Mets did themselves few favors by running out a positively Bison-ian lineup. Ike Davis sat against lefty Erik Bedard, which raised some eyebrows, and Daniel Murphy enjoyed a "scheduled day off," which raised them even further. And yet, they did mange to get a large early lead in this game, which did little but make fans wonder when and how the doom would arrive.
Bedard's been enjoying a decent year for the Pirates thus far, but that was not in evidence in the early going tonight. It took him 20 pitches to struggle through the first inning, even though the only baserunner he allowed was a two-out walk to David Wright. He was less fortunate in the second, when a one-out single by Vinny Rottino was followed by an RBI double from Ronny Cedeno (an ex-Pirate who received a curious amount of boos in his first AB). Bedard then performed his patented Steve Trachsel impression, bringing the game to a complete halt and still not escaping danger. Walks of Mike Nickeas and Andres Torres (sandwiching a Johan Santana sac bunt) loaded the bases for Justin Turner, who knocked in two with a single and continued his masterful trolling of the Amazin' Avenue editorial staff. Wright then singled home another run because he's David Wright, and the Mets had a 4-0 lead.
Santana was on top of his game in the first few innings, even accounting for a Pittsburgh lineup that lies firmly at the bottom of the pack in offense. He retired seven of the first eight batters of the game and fanned four in a row over the second and third innings. Bedard tried to atone for his moundsmanship by flicking a one-out single through the infield in the third, but Santana induced a double play grounder from Jose Tabata to end the frame.
In the fourth, however, the Pirates caught up with the lefty, tattooing a few of his offerings. Three doubles in a row from Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez cut the Mets' lead in half. After a popout on a curious bunt attempt from Neil Walker, Wright made an errant throw to first that pulled Rottino off the bag, and a walk to Casey McGehee loaded the bases. Santana somehow wriggled off the hook with another GIDP, this one from the bat of Michael McKenry.
Bedard knuckled down after his rough inning, keeping the Mets off the board for the rest of his evening, but a hefty pitch count forced his exit after only five innings. Chris Resop and Tony Watson conspired to stifle the Mets in the sixth and seventh. Santana, meanwhile, recovered from his own rough inning to handle the Pirates fairly easily in the fifth and sixth. However, he allowed a bloop hit to Clint Barmes to start things off in the seventh, then let up a long game-tying two-run homer to Michael McKenry. Yes, that is a real major leaguer, apparently.
One out and one walk later, Santana exited in favor Bobby Parnell. Another Wright error allowed Josh Harrison to reach safely, but Parnell struck out Andrew McCutchen on high heat, and Tim Byrdak made his nightly appearance to do the same to Pedro Alvarez.
The Mets had a chance to retake the lead in the eighth when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a leadoff pinch hit single, moved to second on a groundout, and scrambled to third on a passed ball. However, Mike Nickeas turned in an ugly at bat, striking out on a pitch in the dirt. The Pirates then made the wise move of giving pinch hitter Mike Baxter a free pass to face the ice cold Andres Torres instead. They were rewarded with a Torres groundout to extinguish the threat.
Having bypassed a golden opportunity to score, the Mets giftwrapped one for the Pirates. Jon Rauch induced an eminently catchable fly ball off the bat of Neil Walker, but Baxter and Nieuwenhuis (both just inserted into the outfield) played a game of you-get-it-no-you-get-it. The ball glanced off Kirk's glove and Walker was able to hustle all the way to third. One out later, Barmes hit a fly ball to shallow right field that permitted Walker to tag up and score, despite a strong throw from Lucas Duda.
After that, the Mets' batters genuflected to the presence of Proven Closer Joel Hanrahan (TM), capping a thoroughly annoying affair that could only have happened in the shadow of Primanti's.
Here's the deal with these Mets: They are very often entertaining, but games like tonight's are going to happen to them. They just are. And the reason for this is, the Mets are a lot closer to the Pirates than they are to a true contender. They have many pieces that range from good to very good, but not much greatness (Wright excepted, of course). Add to that their young, still inexperienced lineup, and you get games where you lose because you can't push the go-ahead run home from third with one out, and your outfielders don't know how to play well with others.
If you're expecting any different tomorrow, well, maybe just avert your eyes until Thursday night.
Big winners: Justin Turner, +16.0%, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, +15.3%
Big losers: Johan Santana, -25.5%, Jon Rauch, -25.1
Teh aw3s0mest play: Justin Turner 2R single, top second, +16/3%
Teh sux0rest play: Michael McKenry 2R HR, bottom seventh, -32.2%
Total pitcher WPA: -42.1%
Total batter WPA: -7.9%
GWRBI!: Clint Barmes RBI sac fly, bottom eighth