After Jenrry Mejia's injury, the Mets seemingly had two options: either use one of the young pitchers in the minor leagues currently on an innings limit or stick Carlos Torres back in the rotation. Not wanting to disrupt their long-term plan or misuse an effective bullpen arm, the Mets went an entirely different route, signing Daisuke Matsuzaka, a pitcher with a career 4.52 ERA/4.56 xFIP who hadn't pitched in MLB since almost a year ago, in order to eat innings down the stretch.
If tonight is any indicator, it's going to be a long final month.
After striking out Austin Jackson looking to begin the game, the bloom on Matsuzaka's rose quickly came off. The next batter, Torii Hunter took a Matsuzaka fastball up in the zone and didn't miss it, crushing it into the seats in left, making it 1-0. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder followed him with consecutive singles. However, Matsuzaka was able to limit the damage to one run, inducing a fly out from Victor Martinez and getting Don Kelly to pop up to Wilmer Flores.
On the mound for the Tigers was Doug Fister, a starter who had posted 3.39 and 3.40 xFIPs the last two seasons but yet could be argued is the Tigers fourth starter. The Mets jumped on him early, as Eric Young led off with a line drive single. Daniel Murphy followed by hitting a ground ball right back to Fister, who was able to throw out a wandering Young off second. In the ensuing rundown, Murphy would make it to second. With one out, Marlon Byrd dropped a flyball single in between Don Kelly and Jackson. Murphy misread the ball and got a late jump, which led to a very close play at the plate. However, Murphy was able to slide in past Victor Martinez's tag, tying the game at 1. Fister would retire the next two batters to end the inning.
The second inning would begin with a critical defensive misplay. Omar Infante hit a grounder to Wilmer Flores that he seemingly should have been able to field cleanly, but he misplayed it into an infield hit. It seemed as if Matsuzaka would wriggle out of it, as he retired Jose Iglesias on a lineout and Fister on a sac bunt. However, with two outs, he walked Jackson. Hunter followed with a long flyball to center that Lagares could not watch, bouncing over the wall for a ground-rule double, making it 2-1 and putting runners at second and third. The next pitch Matsuzaka threw essentially decided the game, as Cabrera ripped a long drive down the line in left that hooked just fair, making it 5-1 Detroit.
The Mets lineup did not exactly lay down, but they did not take advantage of their opportunities against Fister. Lagares led off the second inning with a walk but was immediately erased on a Travis d'Arnaud double play. They put two runners on in the fourth, one on in the fifth, and two on in the sixth and seventh against him, but could not push anyone across.
For his part, Matsuzaka settled down after the second inning, including retiring the final ten batters he faced.
The Tigers made sure the game was out of grand slam reach in the seventh as Jackson hit a line shot off of Scott Atchison that just reached the seats in left, making it 6-1.
In the eighth, the Mets once again put two runners on, but once again, they could not push either one across the plate. Fittingly, the game ended with the Mets stranding a runner in the ninth.
The Mets continue their series with the Tigers tomorrow afternoon in a duel of aces, as Matt Harvey squares off against Max Scherzer.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Marlon Byrd, +11.4%, Eric Young, +4.5%
Big losers: Daisuke Matsuzaka, -36.3%, Travis d'Arnaud, -10.9%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Marlon Byrd RBI single in first, +9.3%
Teh sux0rest play: Miguel Cabrera three-run homer in second, -22.4%
Total pitcher WPA: -36.7%
Total batter WPA: -13.4%
GWRBI!: Torii Hunter