The beards must grow on! After the players vowed not to shave until the Mets reached the .500 mark, the team continued their inconsistent play since their five-game winning streak ended on Thursday, as they were defeated by the Diamondbacks by the final score of 5-2. The loss dropped the Mets 7½ games behind the Wild Card-leading Giants and Rockies and kept them 9½ games behind the division-leading Phillies.
Mike Pelfrey became the second consecutive Mets starter to throw over 100 pitches without going past the fifth inning. Although he wasn’t horrible, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks in his five innings of work, he worked deep into counts and was removed after throwing 107 pitches, one day after Oliver Perez need 112 pitches to pitch five innings. Those performances forced guys like Pat Misch and Tim Redding to come into the game in spots where they would not normally be used. Naturally, both pitchers gave up a run to turn a one-run game into the 5-2 final score.
Regardless of what the bullpen did, the Mets would not have won this game due to the masterful pitching performance by Arizona starter Jon Garland. He pitched a complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits while walking no one. He only needed 106 pitches to stifle the Mets’ bats, meaning he was more economic with his pitch count in nine innings than Perez and Pelfrey were in their five innings.
The only threat the Mets posed against Garland came in the fifth inning. After the Diamondbacks scored two runs in the top of the inning against Big Pelf, effectively ending his outing, the Mets came back with two of their own. The rally began with a home run by Jeff Francoeur, his fourth as a Met and his million and first RBI since he traded in his tomahawk for the orange and blue. This was followed by two more extra base hits. First Cory Sullivan tripled to right-center and then Alex Cora drove him in with a double of his own. Cora found himself on third base when recently activated Gary Sheffield came up to bat needing a fly ball to drive in the tying run. However, Sheffield lined out to first baseman Chad Tracy for the second out and Angel Pagan hit a lazy fly ball to end the inning.
The rally averted, Garland proceeded to dominate the Mets for the rest of the game to pick up only his sixth victory of the season against ten losses. Yet again, a pitcher the Mets should have taken care of with ease shut the offense down. This is a trend that must be reversed if the Mets are to be taking seriously as playoff contenders this season.
In tomorrow night’s season finale, Nelson Figueroa will be called up from Triple-A Buffalo to start for the Mets. The move was necessitated by Wednesday’s rainout and subsequent day-night doubleheader on Thursday. He will be opposed by Cy Young candidate Dan Haren, who is 10-6. Haren is fourth in the National League with a 2.19 ERA and leads the league with a 0.86 WHIP. Clearly, Figueroa has his work cut out for him. He must repeat his recent performance at Triple-A (7-1, 1.51 ERA over his past ten starts for Buffalo) for the Mets to have a chance to win.
Losing a series to the Diamondbacks would not end the season, but it would be devastating to lose games that they should be winning, especially at home. The Mets need to win Monday night to salvage a split with Arizona entering their short two-game series against one of the best teams in the league, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are in a dogfight in the NL Central and will not be an easy opponent. First things first. Beat Dan Haren on Monday and then we can talk about St. Louis.