The Mets looked resplendent this evening in their day-glo orange Los Mets jerseys. That proved the only thing brilliant about them, or about the game in total, as it turned out to be a dismal affair, even for the victorious opposition.
Jeremy Hefner took the mound tonight looking to pitch better than during his dismal start on Friday against the Phlillies. Whether he did or not is a purely semantic question. For the second evening in a row, Andrelton Simmons started off the game with a hit, although this time he kept the ball in the park as he singled past short. Hefner avoided further trouble in the top of the first, thanks in large part to a nifty double play turned behind him by Daniel Murphy. Hefner also retired the first two batters in the second, but then served up a fat fastball that Evan Gattis drilled into the second deck, just east of the Delta Club, to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
Hefner settled in for a short while, though it was clear he was living on borrowed time. set down the Braves 1-2-3 in the third, although exactly how he got the last out was unclear. The third base ump said Omar Quintanilla caught a line drive at his shoetops, while the first base ump said he caught it on a hop but threw the ball to first in time to retire the runner. (Good job as always, umps.) He did the same in the fourth, with the assistance of David Wright, who made a great play on a hard hit grounder, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who ran down a long fly ball off Freddie Freeman's bat.
I am sure that at some point the Mets have beaten Tim Hudson. According to the guys in the SNY booth, he has the most losses against the Mets than any other active pitcher (10). I even have a vague recollection of being in the ballpark when such a loss happened. If memory serves, Pedro Martinez outpitched on a hot July afternoon. Also, we all wore onions on our belts, which was the style at the time.
2006 was a long time ago, however, and as they showed this evening, the Mets of 2013 don't exactly have their level of firepower. In the bottom of the first, Hudson allowed Murphy to hit a bell to deep center that bounced over Jason Heyward's head for a one-out ground rule double (no diving catches for Heyward this time), but the next two batters exited without incident. Hudson had an even easier time of it in the second, striking out the side in order (Ike Davis and Nieuwenhuis looking, Anthony Recker swinging). The Mets went down in order again in the third, choosing the symmetry of three grounders this time.
The fourth began with promise, as Murphy worked a walk against Hudson, but Wright bounced into a double play. Even stranger, he managed to clobber himself on the back of the head with his broken bat on the backswing. (Weird as it looked, he seemed to suffer no ill effects and stayed in the game.) The Mets attempted to salvage the inning as Marlon Byrd singled and Davis walked (yes, Ike Davis), but Nieuwenhuis struck out to strand two.
With that Mets scoring opportunity booted, the Braves set about widening the gap. In the top of the fifth, Brian McCann hit a grounder deep into the shift that Murphy bobbled. Gattis followed with a single, and Dan Uggla followed that with an enormous three-run homer on a pitch that Hefner all but served up to him on a platter. Unfortunately, the carnage did not end there. Chris Johnson singled, and, after a failed bunt attempt by Hudson, Hefner hung another fat pitch that Simmons crushed to the Excelsior level, pushing the Braves' lead to 6-0.
The Mets have a rough stretch coming up, with a doubleheader on Friday and a few pitchers scheduled to start who don't project to pitch very deep into any of their respective starts. So Terry Collins was loath to remove Hefner, but a walk of Justin Upton after Simmons' bomb forced his hand. Gonzalez Germen took his spot on the mound and secured the last two outs of the inning, then retired the Braves in order in the top of the sixth and allowed nothing more than a walk in the seventh.
Germen did an admirable job, but the lineup behind him was in no position to make that work meaningful. Recker singled to start the bottom of the fifth, but the inning ended on another GIDP, this one from Juan Lagares (double switched in the game along with Germen). The Mets put up even less of a fight immediately afterward, as Hudson struck out both Murphy and Wright looking to close out the sixth, then did the same to Byrd and Davis to open the sixth. All four went down staring at fastballs on the black.
Josh Edgin took the mound in the top of the eighth and worked around a hit batter to put another zero on the board, Then in the bottom half, the Mets made a bid to spoil Hudson's hope for a shutout, as Recker worked a leadoff walk and Quintanilla singled. But after Lagares took a called strike three (Hudson's ninth strikeout and the seventh caught looking of the game), Eric Young hit a slow roller to first. Hudson covered first on the play and was badly spiked on the back of his right leg as Young lunged toward the bag. Actually, he wasn't so much spiked as stomped. Young came down on Hudson's lower calf and ankle with full force, cleat first. It was a gruesome sight, to say the least, and Hudson eventually had to be carted off the field. After the game, the Braves announced that Hudson suffered a fractured ankle and will require surgery, which obviously puts the rest of his season and, at age 38, potentially his career in doubt.
A decided pall fell over the game after that, and nothing much seemed to matter, although technically things *did* happen. Southpaw Luis Avilan took over for the injured Hudson and backed Murphy into a 1-2 count, but Murph fought back and belted a double off the left field fence, driving in two and breaking the shutout. With Murph on second and Wright coming up, the Mets had a slight chance to fight their way back into this game. That did not happen, however, as a new righty on the mound, Jordan Walden, struck out Wright on a high hard one.
Feeling charitable, the Mets decided to immediately give back those two runs and forfeit any realistic chance of a comeback. Scott Atchison took over pitching duties in the top of the ninth, and Uggla started things off with an infield single that Quintanilla bobbled. Murphy then did him one better by mishandling a potential double play ball by Chris Johnson, flailing around and losing his glove but never quite finding the ball. Atchison nearly escaped unscathed by retiring the next two batters, but he then walked Jason Heyward to load the bases. A rather lazy passed ball by Recker brought home a thoroughly unnecessary insurance run, and a Justin Upton single brought in another run, although Lagares nailed Heyward at the plate on the play to bring the inning to a merciful end.
Old friend Luis Ayala closed things out for the Braves, allowing a leadoff single to Byrd but nothing else. Once the last out was concluded, everyone involved, including Atlanta (especially Atlanta, maybe) were just glad that it was over.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Daniel Murphy, 10.3%, Gonzalez Germen, 1.1%
Big losers: Jeremy Hefner, -25.4%, Eric Young, -4.6%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy two-run double, 1.5%
Teh sux0rest play: Dan Uggla three-run homer, top fifth, -17.0%
Total pitcher WPA: -25.1%
Total batter WPA: -24.9%
GWRBI!:Dan Uggla three-run homer, top fifth