I cannot think of a team in recent memory that has paid more dearly for its wins than these 2015 Mets. With the news of Daniel Murphy heading to the DL and the six-man rotation leaving as quickly as it arrived; despite having won on Thursday, the Amazins seemed to be reeling coming into this game. And superficially, the man on the mound Friday was the guy least likely to right the ship. Jon Niese had pitched one of two ways in his previous few starts: infuriatingly poorly or embarrassingly poorly. He was leaving the ball all over the plate, and he possessed all the mettle of a rotten banana.
The good news: unlike those last few starts, Niese cannot be totally blamed for last night's result. For much of the game, he—dare I say it—pitched okay. No, the loss tonight was a team effort. Granted, no one can claim that the team that took the field tonight is the one Mets fans wanted or expected on when the season began. That sentiment does little to dull the pain of this loss though, or obscure the mediocrity exhibited by the Amazins tonight.
Jeremy Hellickson was the starter for the D-backs. A note on him: in response to Major League Baseball’s efforts to speed up the pace of the game, Hellickson is leading a one-man rebellion. Watching him pitch is like sitting through the eternity version of Hamlet. And yet the Mets managed to get only two runs off of him tonight, though they had considerable opportunities. (They left eleven men on base against him.) The first of their runs came on a Michael Cuddyer solo home run in the top of the second. The other resulted from Eric Campbell finally—finally—getting a base hit that drove in Wilmer Flores.
Moving on to Niese: he truly was better than he has been. His curveball had a pulse for the first time in eons, he kept the ball on the ground for the most part, and struck out eight. But he still suffers from a debilitating lack of fortitude. The Diamondbacks' first run was unearned, and it scored on a reckless throw to first made by—you guessed it—Jon Niese. It would be imprudent not to mention Niese actually looked pretty good in the field overall. Nevertheless, he made a bone-headed play on that one. Furthermore, in a critical bottom of the sixth where he faced the top of the Diamondbacks lineup, he coughed up the lead remarkably quickly, allowing three straight hits to A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, and Yasmany Tomas that resulted in two more runs and a 3-2 lead for the home team.
In all fairness to Niese, for a team currently in fourth place, the heart of Arizona’s lineup is very impressive, and to his credit, he stopped the damage after Tomas’s RBI. Even so, he had the opportunity in that inning to turn a corner. To silence his critics, to up his trade value, or to assure his place in the Mets rotation. Sadly, he once again failed to do any of those things with assertiveness.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how, if Niese's performance was just lukewarm, the Diamondbacks scored four more runs. That was thanks to a miserable bottom of the eighth in which Carlos Torres allowed a leadoff triple to Ender Inciarte and a double to A.J. Pollock to make the score 4-2. He then intentionally walked Paul Goldschimdt before leaving the game in favor of Jack Leathersich. The latter then walked David Peralta, and was quickly removed to bring on Erik Goeddel. Goeddel let up a single to Aaron Hill, a sac fly to Chris Owings, and a wild pitch that put three more runs on the board to make the score 7-2. To summarize: it was a trainwreck.
After Hellickson left, the Mets failed to get anything going against the Diamondbacks bullpen and went down without a fight in the ninth to end a pretty depressing night in Arizona for Mets fans.
SB Nation GameThreads
* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* AZ Snake Pit GameThread
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Eric Campbell, +5.0% WPA
Big losers: Jon Niese, -13.0% WPA; Lucas Duda, -12.0% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Eric Campbell single to center, top of the fourth
Teh sux0rest play: Yasmany Tomas double, bottom of the sixth
Total pitcher WPA: -21.0% WPA
Total batter WPA: -29.0% WPA
GWRBI!: Yasmany Tomas double, bottom of the sixth