After Sunday night's nail-biter, Terry Collins spoke openly of his fear that the Mets would experience a letdown game once they came to Chicago. To say those fears came true would be a gross understatement.
It looked for a while that this game might be the taut pitcher's duel we all expected for Sunday's Dickey-Sabathia matchup. In the bottom of the first, Johan Santana issued a two-out walk to Starlin Castro, followed by a single to Alfonso Soriano, but induced a lineout to second from Jeff Baker to end the threat. In the second, Santana retired the first two batters again before surrendering a double to Luis Valbuena, but was able to strikeout his opposite number, Travis Wood, to escape danger. Wood was at something of a disadvantage both because he was a pitcher and because the "C" on his batting helmet was hilariously off kilter.
After a 1-2-3 third, Santana once again set down the first two men in the fourth before walking Geovany Soto. Joe Mather proceeding to make that free pass especially costly. It was one of those windy nights in the Windy City where home runs aren't easy to come by at Wrigley Field, but Mather was still able to blast one through the gale and into the left field bleachers for a two-run homer.
Either Wood was ignorant of this uniform faux pas or it gave him magic powers, because he dominated the Mets' hitters through the first seven innings. Ronny Cedeno reached him for a two-out double in the third, as did Mike Nickeas in the fifth, while David Wright hit a single with two men down in the sixth. Otherwise, Wood dispatched New York batters with brutal efficiency. I'm inclined to blame post-Subway Series letdown, since the Mets looked like simply had no energy left from an exhausting and somewhat disappointing weekend. To be fair, Wood has had some good outings this year after being recalled from triple-A. He is also a southpaw, which goes a long way against the Mets' lineup, top-heavy with lefty batters. Still, this was a decidedly non-strikeout pitcher who managed to fan six in seven innings of work
After a quiet fifth inning for the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano defied a righty shift by hitting a one-out single through first and second. (This was the first time all night that either team managed a baserunner with less than two out.) Jeff Baker then belted a double into the right field corner that put runners on second and third. (The Soriano of old would have scored easily, but not 2012 vintage Soriano.) Santana knuckled down by striking out Soto, then, after intentionally walking Valbuena, getting Wood to ground out to end the inning.
Unfortunately, his teammates couldn't muster similar moxie. The closest thing to a rally came in the seventh, when Ronny Cedeno hit a one-out single, and Nickeas hit a single of his own after Ike Davis went down on strikes. However, pinch hitter Justin Turner could do no better than a weak flyout to center.
In the bottom of the seventh, Santana gave way to Jon Rauch, who was immediately greeted with a spot of bad luck. A pop up just in front of home plate was dropped by David Wright, then rolled all the way to the backstop, allowing pinch hitter Adrian Cardenas to scoot all the way to third. Rauch struck out Reed Johnson, then induced another popup from Darwin Barney that should have been out number two, except that it fell between Davis, Cedeno, and Lucas Duda. The ball caromed off of Duda's leg and into foul territory, allowing a run to score and accounting for the second three-base error of the inning. Then, with the infield in, Castro laced a ball up the middle that glanced off of Cedeno's glove, the third error of the inning, to plate another run.
Rauch walked Soriano, which prompted Collins to remove him for Ramon Ramirez, who proceeded to give up an RBI single to Jeff Baker--the first actual hit of the inning. Soto followed with a groundout to score another, padding their lead to a more-than-comfortable 6-0.
That kind of embarrassing display was just what the Mets needed to wake themselves out of their doldrums and...psych. They sleepwalked in the eighth and ninth, too. The only highlight, if you can call it that, was the Mets debut of Justin Hampson, who worked a scoreless eighth, despite a two-out triple. Davis also managed a two-out solo shot against James Russell in the ninth, thus ending the shutout and giving a thin veneer of dignity to the Mets' performance tonight--not that it deserved one.
The only good thing you can say is that thus far this year, whenever the Mets have suffered through a truly miserable game like this, they've rebounded. This is far from the first stinker the Mets have dropped on us in 2012, and thus far they have shrugged them all off. I would expect them to do the same tomorrow. For the moment, I will salve myself with the thought of another Marlins meltdown. Melt the heart, don't it?
Big winners: Mike Nickeas, +3.6%, Ronny Cedeno, +3.4%
Big losers: Ike Davis, -9.4%, Jon Rauch, -8.3%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Santana strikes out Soto, bottom sixth, +4.3%
Teh sux0rest play: Joe Mather 2-run homer, bottom fourth, -24.3%
Total pitcher WPA: -9.6%
Total batter WPA: -40.4%
GWRBI!: Joe Mather 2-run homer, bottom fourth