What a day for baseball. 78 degrees and clear for a noon-time start at home. This sort of thing will make even a comfortable California resident pine for a game at Citi Field with a shake shack burger in hand. Unfortunately the game didn't end up as great as the day. Sigh.
Jon Niese pitched well enough to win, just one out short of eight innings, with seven strikeouts against two walks on a night when the team needed a lot of innings. The bullpen was aight. The offense only mustered three hits, but their six walks could have made for enough baserunners to score three runs... on another day. On this day, they only managed two runs and came up just short.
Yes, Ralph Kiner, you are right. Niese should throw his curveball more, in general. He had an 17.24% whiff rate on the pitch Thursday, and it got him the second out on a big strikeout with men at second and third in the second inning. It really looked good today, especially when Blake Tekotte flailed way at it in the sixth inning. Nise also threw the curve a little more than he normally did. He used the curve 25% of the time Thursday, and he's been going to it 22.7% of the time this year. Hey, Ralph, maybe Niese is listening!
Too bad he missed his spot by four-plus inches against Cameron Maybin, who homered in the sixth off a wayward cutter, or Niese might have had a clean slate. For the most part, he was very sharp and mixed his three primary pitches well. But it was the cutter that Maybin took deep, and it was the cutter that Aaron Cunningham hit for a double in the seventh. And it was the cutter that Luis Martinez flared into left to get the tying run in the seventh, too. It's a good pitch, but it didn't get great results Thursday.
The eighth inning was... up and down. With the score tied, and the bullpen taxed -- Terry Collins said that Bobby Parnell, Pedro Beato and Manny Acosta were not available for various reasons -- Cameron Maybin hit a dribbler into right field. He then got caught in a pickle... except that the throw from Duda wasn't great and the tag could have been better and the call was pretty poor. Maybin was probably out, but there he was, standing on second with no outs. Niese was hot about the call, but Collins went out to calm him down and the lefty went to the curve to eat up Logan Forsythe for the Pads' rookie's second strikeout of the game. Better! The Niese struck out Kyle Blanks after the big boy yanked two foul balls right past third, but Maybin stole third on the pitch. A pitch away from getting out of the inning, Ruben Tejada booted a makeable play on an Aaron Cunningham grounder and suddenly the Padres were up a run and Niese was out of the game. A brilliant play by Wright saved DJ Carrasco from allowing the Padres to pile on in that inning, but gah. Roller coaster.
The Mets' half wasn't any better. Duda walked on four pitches to give fans hope. But then Terry Collins played for the tie and had Willie Harris give the other team an out. That "added" -3.8% of win probability, so that was awesome. Then Ronny Paulino faced a right-hander with Josh Thole on the bench, which was cool. Way to keep your bullets in the gun with a guy on base against the setup man, Collins. Paulino grounded out to second. And then Ruben Tejada grounded out. As fellow AA'er Chris McShane said, what a waste of an inning.
How much (nascent) power does Lucas Duda have? He swung at a meaty slider from Cory Luebke with one hand... and one-hopped the wall. The Ox is coming into his own, and even the lefty-lefty matchup couldn't stop him. Well, he did miss the scoop on David Wright's excellent bare-handed play in the sixth, but it didn't turn out to hurt the team much. Keep your head up rook, you're doing fine. That over-the-shoulder pick for the second out in the seventh was a good play. You take the good with the bad.
Nick Evans' day, however, was just bad. Really bad. He struck out three times. The silver sombrero. In the fifth, the bases were loaded with two outs and Luebke had just hit triple-digit pitches and was sweaty. Maybe the call was bad -- the ball was borderline on the inside corner -- but Who would like to forget this game. Quickly. In fact that borderline call started the only mini-kerfuffle in a mostly benign day. Terry Collins popped up to defend Nick Evans, and then Dave Hudgens chirped in from the dugout and was ejected. Drama!
Overall, though, the Mets missed Jose Reyes today. A few stolen bases could have turned some of those walks into runners in scoring position. Just a tick more offense would have made today a perfect day. Instead, it was not quite enough.
Big winners: Lucas Duda, +30.3% WPA
Big losers: Jon Niese, -20.4% WPA, Ronny Paulino, -14.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Lucas Duda doubled to right, Justin Turner scored, David Wright scored, +22.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Aaron Cunningham reaches on error, Cameron Maybin scores, -25.4% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -12.9%
Total batter WPA: -37.1%
GWRBI!: Aaron Cunningham
Nice job by BurleighGrimes; her effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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