"Where we going, man?"
"I don't know but we gotta go."
-- On the Road
As you may have heard, the Mets have struggled at home lately. Actually, "struggled" is the wrong word, as it implies a modicum of fight. What the Mets have done at home since the All Star Break is more like laying down and dying. On the road, however, they've performed like something resembling a baseball team, and that trend continued in tonight's series opener in Milwaukee.
Brewers starter Michael Fiers looked unnerved by Larry Vanover's miniscule strike zone at the game's outset, as he walked two batters in the top of the first. The first free pass, issued to Daniel Murphy, came around to score when David Wright doubled to left and Ike Davis ground out to first. Lucas Duda (who still exists, apparently) brought home Wright with a ground-rule double to right, giving the Mets an elusive crooked number. Even more amazingly, they managed to do it again in the second. Jonathan Niese looped a single over third, and one out later, Murphy crushed a two-run homer to the second deck in right field, putting the Mets up 4-0.
As you might expect if you've ever seen him pitch, the BABIP gods came calling for Niese tonight, this time in the second inning. The first two batters reached on a bleeder and bloop, respectively, before Jonathan Lucroy drove in the first Milwaukee run with a ground-rule double. Old friend Carlos Gomez was thrown out in a rundown at home, but Fiers helped his cause with a bloop RBI single. Niese escaped further trouble with a grounder to third that resulted in another out at home, and by striking out Rickie Weeks looking, despite Vanover's stingy K zone.
After his troublesome second, Niese allowed nought else. He worked around a throwing error in the third with a strike out and a groundball double play, then set the Brewers down in order in the fourth. A two-out walk in the fifth brought the dangerous Ryan Braun to the plate as the tying run, but Niese made sure he flew out to right harmlessly. With his pitch count climbing, he nearly faltered in the sixth, allowing a leadoff double and a one-out walk before fanning Travis Ishikawa and getting Jean Segura to ground out.
The Mets weren't able to do much of anything against Fiers after their early onslaught, but when Manny Parra took over the pitching duties in the sixth, Duda greeted him with a line drive solo shot to right-center. One out later, Andres Torres reached on an error, then Josh Thole hit a double into the left field corner just beyond Braun's reach, allowing Torres to scamper home all the way from first. The inning took an even more Metsian turn when Niese hit a "single" to third that Aramis Ramirez bobbled. Good ol' Livan Hernandez relieved Parra and got Ruben Tejada to hit what should have been a double play grounder, but Rickie Weeks flung a terrible throw past first, allowing Thole to score the third run of the inning.
Josh Edgin and Jon Rauch combined for a scoreless seventh. Bobby Parnell Parnelled the hell out the eighth inning, allowing singles to the first two batters and falling behind 3-0 on Jonathan Lucroy. Tejada bailed him out by turning a sharp Lucroy grounder up the middle into a double play, and somehow Parnell was able to get the third out on his own. Ramon Ramirez was tasked with the ninth and allowed a four-pitch walk and an RBI triple to pinch hitter Nyjer Morgan, but that was all she wrote. The win snapped the Mets' six-game losing streak and marked their highest scoring nine-inning game since mid-August.
The win means little in the Mets' grand scheme of things; in fact, it probably hurts them, since every win the rest of the way raises their draft pick number. It does mean a lot to the Brewers, however, who are suddenly in the thick of the wild card race again, along with the Phillies and Pirates and virtually every NL team not named the Mets or Astros. Had our home nine played not horrible baseball at home since July, they too might have found themselves in this race. Instead, they can only place hurdles in the way of contenders, which would feel better if I could think of a good reason to hate the Brewers. If you have any suggestions as to how to angry up the blood about Milwaukee, comment accordingly. But keep it clean.
Big winners: Lucas Duda, +16.1%, Daniel Murphy, +15.9%
Big losers: Ruben Tejada, -4.4%, Ike Davis, -4.3%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy two-run homer, top second, +14.9%
Teh sux0rest play: Travis Ishikawa RBI double, bottom sixth, -13.3%
Total pitcher WPA: 18.1%
Total batter WPA: 32.0%
GWRBI!: Daniel Murphy two-run homer, top second