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Game Notes: Mets vs Yankees (05/20/2006)

The Mets were three outs away from beating the Yankees for the second straight game and it just didn't happen. Pedro Martinez was impeccable in pitching his best game of the season:

 IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR   PC-ST   GS
7.0   4   0   0   1   8   0  102-67   76
The offense was good enough, cobbling together four runs against a reborn Mike Mussina, who has apparently developed a changeup that flutters between 65 and 85 miles per hour, to go along with his 90 MPH fastball and signature knuckle-curve. With his new weapon in tow, Mussina has been terrific this year, but the Mets managed to plate a couple of unearned runs in the first and tacked on solo shots later in the game by Carlos Delgado and Cliff Floyd.

Duaner Sanchez relieved Martinez and pitched a scoreless eighth, and Willie Randolph called upon his closer, Billy Wagner, to secure a four run lead in the ninth. Wagner is more accustomed to saving games, a requirement of which (usually) is that his team can't be leading by more than three runs, a somewhat arbitrarily-selected cutoff. It's hard to blame Randolph for bringing in Wagner in the first place, though, because surely a manger should be able to count on his would-be best reliever to get three outs before allowing four runs to cross the plate.

Well, Wagner just didn't have it today. He faced a total of seven batters, retiring just one of them while allowing two hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch before being yanked by Randolph in favor of Pedro Feliciano. You can certainly make the argument that Randolph should have pulled his closer a batter or two sooner. Melky Cabrera had an eleven pitch at-bat that resulted in a bases-loading walk when the score was still 4-1. Wagner missed closely with a couple of pitches to Cabrera, so you can justify leaving him in there.

The next batter was Kelly Stinnett, and Wagner proceeded to walk the career-backup catcher on four straight out of the zone, forcing home the Yankees' second run. Randolph had Feliciano and Chad Bradford warming up in the pen very early in the inning, so either of them was available to come in at a moment's notice.

If you can pinpoint a spot that Randolph -- if he was indeed planning on yanking Wagner from the game -- would give Wagner the hook, I think the walk to Stinnett would be the turning point. Wagner struggled with his command for most of the inning, but four straight balls to a lifetime .239 hitter is probably as sure a sign as there is that your pitcher doesn't have it.

Ultimately, I guess it is Randolph's responsibility to recognize when a pitcher is off his game, and Wagner clearly was off of his. Most of the blame for the loss goes to Wagner, though, who the Mets are counting on to perform at a certain level and who fell well short of that on Saturday afternoon.

The insufferable melodrama that was subsequently excreted by broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver was even more unbearable than the Wagner meltdown itself. McCarver, a Met commentator for many years, went so far as to say that Wagner would "keep this one with him" for a couple of weeks, which is laughably absurd, at least to me.

The Mets lost a game they should have won, and Wagner is mostly responsible for the team having clutched defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, unlike in past years where a loss like this would haunt me for a day or so, for some reason I brushed this one off. Sure, Wagner has had a handful of crummy appearances this season, and the Mets very obviously let one slip away. For whatever reason, it doesn't bother me significantly more than any other loss -- say, to the Nationals -- might.

It's a loss, a shitty, shitty loss. Yet, I feel like this team is different; that this team will go out tomorrow and win -- or at least, not roll over and die -- regardless the events of the prior day. There is so much to like about this team, about it's talent and about its character, that one crummy loss to the hated crosstown rivals isn't going to change. At least, not for me.

UPDATE: Vinny from YMTR has a great recap of the game. Check it out.