On a night when Johan Santana was supposed to take the mound, Nelson Figueroa stepped into his shoes. The rest of the team paid tribute to Johan by doing what they do best in his starts; not scoring. They played a close game, but ultimately fell a run short, dropping the opener of the nine-game road trip by the final score of 2-1.
The game was scoreless until the Mets came to bat in the fourth inning. Jeff Francoeur made his return to the lineup after missing one game with a thumb injury to his non-throwing hand. He took advantage of Jeremy Hermida misplaying his fly ball to right and turned it into a one-out double. Fernando Tatis followed that up with an RBI single, giving the Mets an early 1-0 lead. That would be the only run the Mets would give Nelson Figueroa on the evening. Figgy was stingy with the Marlins, but his defense was feeling a bit charitable.
Hanley Ramirez led off the Marlins’ half of the fourth inning by getting hit with a pitch. After a Jorge Cantu out, John Baker came up to bat and Daniel Murphy decided to play Santa Claus. Murphy’s fielding error allowed Baker to reach first base safely and his second error of the play, this time on an errant throw, allowed Ramirez to reach third base. The Marlins now had runners on first and third with one out. Figueroa needed a ground ball double play to get out of the inning and was able to induce the grounder from Dan Uggla. However, a slow turn around the horn enabled Uggla to beat the relay throw to first. Ramirez scored on the play to tie the score at 1 on the unearned run.
In the next inning, the Marlins were able to take the lead. Jeremy Hermida led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice by pitcher Sean West. After recording the second out, Figueroa was unable to retire Ross Gload, as Gload lined an RBI single to center field, scoring Hermida with the go-ahead run.
The only good opportunity the Mets had to score came before the Marlins took the lead. The Mets had loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth inning for their best remaining hitter, Jeff Francoeur. However, West got Francoeur to foul out to first baseman Gload who made a fine catch leaning into the stands, followed by a three-pitch strikeout of Fernando Tatis. The Mets never threatened again.
Sean West was brilliant for the Marlins, holding the Mets to one run on six hits in his six innings of work. Nelson Figueroa was Santana-like in his five innings of work, giving up two runs (one earned) on only four hits, while walking no one. He was the hard-luck loser, as his defense failed him.
The day couldn’t be considered complete if there wasn’t another on-field injury. Gary Sheffield was forced to leave the game after injuring his back while walking down to first base after drawing a base on balls. That’s right. He got hurt while drawing a walk. Nothing should surprise us anymore. Sheffield did say after the game that he should be okay to play tomorrow night, but Jerry Manuel might hold him back unless he realizes that he has to play him because he doesn’t have anyone else on the bench to play in right field. (Dang injuries!)
Billy Wagner is gone. So is Johan (for the season). However, the Mets can’t throw up the white flag just yet. Major League Baseball does not have a mercy rule, so the Mets are forced to play their remaining 36 games. The first of those games will be played Wednesday night at Land Shark Stadium when Mike Pelfrey takes the hill against Josh Johnson. Pelfrey must bring his A-game if his D-teammates are going to have a chance to defeat Josh Johnson. Johnson is 12-3 this season, which includes a 2-0 record against the Mets in three starts. The Mets’ team batting average against him is .238, but some of that was accomplished by the A-squad. They’ll need the D-team to be a little more productive if they’re going to have a chance to defeat Johnson. They’ll get their chance tomorrow night at 7:10 PM.