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Nite Cap: Marlins Sprout Legs and Crawl from the Muck, Mets Fail to Evolve

Perhaps you've heard of the theory of punctuated equilibrium. This theory states that evolution is not a gradual process, but rather one where sudden large leaps are followed by long plateau-like stretches where nothing much happens. This game tried to prove this theory, as two messy innings in the middle were sandwiched by a whole lotta nothin'.

It doesn't take a trained baseball eye to tell the difference between pitchers on top of their game and a batting order flailing at everything. Most of tonight fell decidedly in the latter category. The Mets logged a single in the first and a walk in the second, but could do nothing with them. Two singles in the third went by the wayside when Scott Hairston struck out on three pitches against Wade LeBlanc, a lefty pitcher making just his second start of the year. On the other side, the Marlins singled harmlessly in the second and saw LeBlanc get hit by a pitch somehow in the third, but this baserunner was erased when Donovan Solano lined into a double play.

But Jon Niese found trouble in the top of the fourth when Justin Ruggiano singled on a grounder David Wright couldn't barehand, and old friend Jose Reyes reached base on dribbler down the first base line. Niese then found further trouble by hanging fat curveballs over the heart of the plate. After a lengthy at bat, Carlos Lee singled in Ruggiano, and Reyes scored shortly thereafter on a long sac fly by Giancarlo Stanton. Another single by Austin Kearns set the stage for a two-out two-run double from the awful-against-everyone-else John Buck. The second run scored despite a throw that beat Kearns to the plate by several minutes because Josh Thole did an awful job of blocking the plate. His sharply declining skills in every aspect of the game explain why the Mets contemplated trading for a sub-replacement-level player like Buck.

After the Mets eschewed a two-out bases loaded opportunity in the fourth, they finally scored when Daniel Murphy led off the fifth by banging a hanging cutter off the Pepsi Porch for a solo homer. That ended LeBlanc's night and brought in Chad Gaudin, who retired the next two batters easily, but then allowed a single to Jason Bay (I swear this happened) and another single to Ike Davis (pinch hitting for Ronny Cedeno). Bay went to third and then scored when Andres Torres singled past the barely mobile Lee. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third, and a walk of Thole loaded them. It did so for Niese, however, and he was allowed to bat for himself, only to strike out looking on three pitches.

With four more innings against the Marlins' bullpen to come, and considering the Mets' own relief deficiencies, letting Niese bat for himself was a somewhat defensible position. The Mets' bats could not make it look like a good one, however, as one Miami reliever after another put them to sleep. Carlos Zambrano took the mound in the bottom of the sixth, because apparently he was turned into a reliever, and worked a 1-2-3 inning. Zambrano walked Scott Hairston to start the bottom of the seventh, but he and lefty Mike Dunn combined to retire the next three in order, then Dunn and Heath Bell did the same in the eighth. Yes, the Heath Bell on the Marlins.

Niese negotiated a two-out double and walk in the top of the sixth, retiring pinch hitter and brand new Marlin Gorkys (tee hee) Hernandez for the last out. His teammates in the bullpen managed to keep a lid on things for once, as Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Jon Rauch allowed a one-out single to Buck in the top of the ninth but nothing else, even though Buck somehow managed to go first to third on a groundball (something I am sure he has never done against teams not called the Mets). But no ninth inning heroics were in the works, as Steve Cishek retired Murphy, Wright, and pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin in order. (Yes, a pinch hitting Valdespin can be retired.)

If the Mets are going to have more punctuated equilibrium games like this, I humbly request that the punctuation be more exclamation point than question mark.

SB Nation Coverage

* Traditional Recap
* Boxscore
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* Fish Stripes Gamethread

Win Probability Added

(what's this?)

Big winners: Andres Torres, +3.3%, Bobby Parnell, +3.2%
Big losers: Jon Niese, -16.6%, Ruben Tejada, -10.9%
Teh aw3s0mest play: John Buck two-run double, top fourth, -14.8%
Teh sux0rest play: Andres Torres RBI single, bottom fifth, +9.0%
Total pitcher WPA: -9.2%
Total batter WPA: -40.8%
GWRBI!: John Buck two-run double, top fourth