It’s been called a game of inches. (Except in Canada. Who knows what they call it there.) And nobody is more dependent on those inches than Bartolo Colon. While throwing fastballs of unremarkable velocity almost exclusively, he needs exactitude. For 6 and 2/3 innings on Saturday night, Colon was a ruler, measuring up everything precisely, including his turns at bat. But one bad measurement can throw off a whole day’s work; unfortunately, that was the case Saturday. With a runner on and two outs in the seventh, a poorly located 85 mph meatball was clubbed by new D-Backs catcher Wellington Castillo towards an odd-angled cut-out in the left field wall. The ball left the playing field by mere inches. And the happy recap left with it.
Until that point, the universe’s math seemed to going the Mets' way. In the second inning, Juan Lagares sent an opposite-field drive that hit the front corner of the fence and skipped over for his second homer of the year. An almost certain base hit up the middle by Cliff Pennington instead bounded straight up off of the mound to Ruben Tejada at short, where he easily turned a 6-6-3 double play to slough aside a might-have-been rally in the fifth. Lagares and Curtis Granderson even shared a smile after skirting disaster on a near-collision on a routine fly ball in the sixth. (At least someone can put up the "We are accident-free for 1 day" sign in the clubhouse now.)
Meanwhile, Colon went all ‘Stand and Deliver’ on the mound, dropping some serious pitching calculus on the Arizona youngsters. He placed the ball all around the zone with subtle alterations of speeds between 80 and 90 mph, often keeping his running two-seamer down and on the black. Sounds simple, right? It was simply amazing. Colon even frustrated the lava-hot Paul Goldschmidt, who still has a 1.402 OPS over his last 15 games after tonight’s 0-fer with two strikeouts.
At the plate, Colon was equally locked into what he had to do. Full disclosure: He totally sandbagged his first at-bat to set up his next one. To lead off the second, he stood half-heartedly in his stance and watched 4 pitches go by with nary an intention to swing before marching to the dugout with a strikeout. But the master craftsman was simply lining things up; in his next at-bat in the fourth, he immediately started taking big hacks, eventually ripping a ground-ball base-hit into the hole. For his third at-bat, against reliever Randall Delgado, he tightened his routine, watching two pitches go by before starting to take some legitimate cuts. Yes, the only positive offensive takeaways involve Colon’s evolving approach. Darrell Ceciliani had the highest offensive WPA added by virtue of reaching on a catcher's interference call in his lone at-bat. Bru-tal. (Pronounced "Brew. Tall.")
As inept as the Mets' offense was, Colon was inversely ept, spending only 80 pitches through six shutout innings. He looked primed to steamroll the seventh as well by starting things with a strikeout and ground out. Then came his worst two pitches of the night; the first was scorched by Chris Owings into left field. Michael Cuddyer was playing extra deep to ward off any extra-base hits, so it dropped for a single; if he had been playing regular depth, even Cuddyer’s aging legs would have carried him to a catch. Owings has 11 extra-base hits in 198 plate appearances this year; here’s a point where you could have a "Play By The Book" vs. analytics dust-up if you like.
The next pitch was similarly ripped by Castillo, who introduced himself properly to his home crowd after hanging out in the shade of a golden sombrero in his debut the previous night. His line drive screamed toward a cut-out in the left field wall which stands at the confluence between the bullpen and the stands. If the ball had gone a dozen or so inches to the left, it probably hits the top of the wall and stays in the park because of the way the wall runs away from the plate there. Instead, it skimmed over the fence for all the offense the Diamondbacks would need tonight. Inches, I tells ya.
The Mets got runners on base every inning of the game, but ended four of those innings with double-play grounders. Another inning ended with the bases loaded. Even when it looked like the Mets caught a big break in the ninth inning, it just led to greater humiliation. Following a single by former deep-slump-sufferer Eric Campbell (2-for-4), Ceciliani's bat nicked Castillo’s glove mid-swing on a foul ball, earning the above-mentioned rare catcher's interference call, otherwise known as the most embarrassing way to reach base at any level the game is played. Ego aside, it set up a two on and one-out situation for the hero of two nights before, John Mayberry. But the comeback bid was quashed when Mayberry sent a high chopper that led third baseman Jeremy Lamb right to the bag, where he easily stepped on the base and flung across the diamond to turn two and gift-wrap a particularly bitter defeat.
It hardly seems possible, but the Mets are still only percentage points out of first place in the NL East. And there is a 100 percent chance of Jacob deGrom pitching Sunday afternoon. I can work with those numbers.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Wellington Castillo, +48.3%; Brad Ziegler, +16.2%; Randall Delgado, +13.2%
Big losers: John Mayberry, -28.2%; Lucas Duda, -16.3%; Cliff Pennington, -15.1%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Cliff Pennington grounds into double play in the sixth, +11.7%
Teh sux0rest play: Wellington Castillo's two-run homer in the seventh, -45.4%
Total pitcher WPA: +3.3%
Total batter WPA: -53.3%
GWRBI!: Wellington Castillo