It's been awhile since the Mets have had what could be called a "good" bullpen. Actually, it was 2006, when Billy Wagner, Chad Bradford, and Duaner Sanchez led a relief corps which was tops in the league in ERA, FIP, and K/BB ratio. Since then, it's been a struggle, with way-more-than-desired references to the Mets' LOLpen populating game recaps. Sandy Alderson made moves to try to bolster the bullpen this offseason with the acquisitions of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez. But through one month of the season, Mets relievers have been atrocious, with tonight's game another in a stretch of meltdowns which has fans asking: "Where have you gone, Pedro Feliciano?"
Tonight's drama took place in the eighth inning. With the Mets leading 4-2, Bobby Parnell started the frame after tossing a scoreless seventh. He induced a ground ball towards first base from the struggling-but-dangerous Justin Upton, only to watch Ike Davis uncharacteristically whiff on it. E-3. Tim Byrdak came on to face the lefties in the heart of the Diamondbacks order, Jason Kubel and Miguel Montero. The Byrdman walked Kubel on a close 3-2 pitch (it was probably a ball) but struck out an upper cutting Montero by attacking the upper part of the strike zone. Enter Rauch, and exit the Mets' chances of stopping a losing streak.
Rauch has a nice 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched this season. However, none of his peripherals have been terribly impressive. What's more, his stuff has been flat, with fat fastballs and hanging sliders his weapons of choice. He wasn't fooling anyone tonight. It was like watching 2009 J.J. Putz. Paul Goldschmidt turned Rauch's first pitch of the game into a two-run double to tie the game 4-4. Cody Ransom, who had homered earlier, knocked in Goldschmidt for the decisive run.
While the bullpen was terrible, the Mets' offense failed to put more runs on the board after a four-run third inning highlighted by a two-run double from Scott Hairston. David Wright and Lucas Duda each singled to start the fifth inning, but Hairston struck out and Ike grounded into a double play. The last threat ended when Josh Thole lined out to left field with two runners and two outs in the eighth inning. Putz did his best impression of 2007 Putz in the ninth inning, striking out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada before getting Daniel Murphy to fly out to a diving Gerardo Parra to end the game.
Some bullet notes:
- Dillon Gee turned in yet another solid effort. He struck out six and walked three in six innings, with Ransom's two-run homer accounting for the only runs he allowed. He worked out of trouble in his sixth and final inning, striking out Ransom and Aaron Hill after walking Kubel and Montero. Gee has a fantastic K/BB ratio of 29:8 in the early going this season. What's more, his swinging-strike rate is up from last year, as is his groundball rate. Small sample size and all that, but hopefully Gee continues pitching well enough for us to continue nervously asking each other if his improvement is for real.
- The Mets are 0-4 since Andres Torres returned from the disabled list. Remember when people referenced the Mets' record with and without Luis Castillo in the lineup as if it meant anything? How long until some blogger, columnist or talking head does the same for Torres? After going 3-for-4 with a double tonight, Torres is 6-for-18 on the season.
- Ike made a key error, went 0-for-4, and saw just eight pitches in his four plate appearances, but his most embarrassing moment of the game was probably swinging at a pitch that hit his left leg:
Ike is not this bad, but I'm thinking his strong performance last season made people think he's better than he is.
- Jordany Valdespin stole his first base in the major leagues after pinch running for Duda in the eighth inning. Valdespin took third base after Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez and third baseman Ransom showed no interest in protecting it.
Big winners: Andres Torres +16.0%, Daniel Murphy +10.3%
Big losers: Jon Rauch -50.2%, Josh Thole -20.2%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Scott Hairston two-run double in the third inning +21.4%
Teh sux0rest play: Paul Goldschmidt two-run double in the eighth inning -34.1%
Total pitcher WPA: -38.6%
Total batter WPA: -11.4%
GWRBI!: Cody Ransom RBI single in the eighth inning