Just when things were seemingly going great for the Mets, especially after taking the first game in the just completed Phillies series, they hit a brick wall. And while there was not much the Mets or Jerry Manuel could have done to defeat the always dominating Roy Halladay on Saturday, I do believe they had a very good chance to win the rubber game and take the series.
When you look at a game like this after the fact, it’s easy to pinpoint certain elements or moves that could have made a difference in the final score. But when you are the manager, it is incumbent upon you to put your team in the absolute best position to win a baseball game every time the team takes the field. Not just for most of the games, but for all of the games.
As soon as the lineup was announced for the Sunday drubbing at the hands of the Phillies, I had immediate concerns. Anytime you put Gary Matthews Jr. into the lineup you immediately weaken the team, but when you put him in the leadoff spot it just shows a complete disregard for rule number one which is giving your team it’s best chance to win. That one move to me seemed doomed to failure. I read some posts calling it a good move based on his stats against Moyer, but did anyone stop and look to see that Matthews hasn’t faced Moyer since the middle of the 2006 season? That was Matthews’ walk year when he set career highs in fifteen major categories including homeruns, RBIs, runs scored, AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS. He signed a mega-deal with the Angels that offseason and hasn’t come close to duplicating those numbers ever again. So much for that.
If you were going to play GMJ, then why not put Reyes back at leadoff if only for that game and bat a hot David Wright third instead?
Fernando Tatis was another head scratcher for me. Not only because it meant sending a very hot Ike Davis to the bench, but because he was hitting ahead of Jeff Francoeur who batted seventh.
Was it really necessary to give the young Ike Davis a day of rest? Was he that exhausted that it required a breather in a game the Mets HAD TO HAVE to remain in first place? Forget the fact that he was performing better against left handed pitchers than Tatis for a moment, but this was a left hander who could barely hit 80 mph on the radar gun. Moyer’s stuff would have been no match for the quick bat of Ike Davis.
Why bat Tatis ahead of Francoeur who has come out of his slump and is swinging the bat good again?
Could a lineup card like the one Jerry Manuel posted, instill any confidence in a team that was well aware of the significance of the game and the importance of winning it, especially with their ace on the mound?
After Johan Santana started showing signs of fatigue and an obvious lack of control, beginning when he walked Carlos Ruiz to load the bases, shouldn’t Manuel have made the call to the bullpen? At the time the score still had the Mets up 5-3, but it was evident Johan was fading fast.
Even Rod Barajas tried to buy some time by visiting Johan on the mound before the Jaime Moyer at-bat. Rod sensed something was wrong, but Manuel didn’t.
After Moyer walked in the tying run, and CBP was rocking and mocking Johan who had just had his confidence shattered, Manuel still did not get anyone up in the bullpen. Really? If not now, than when???
Now the score was 5-4 and the dangerous Mets killer Shane Victorino was at the plate with the bases juiced and a weary Johan Santana just trying to to find enough ooomph to get his pitches to the plate. The end result was so predictable… the storyline that was the 2009 season immediately came back to haunt all of us as Victorino’s grand slam sailed into the Philadelphia sky. Manuel just stood there with a blank expression on his face as the Phillies took the 8-5 lead and demolished what little was left of Johan’s confidence in the process. We all cringed. That shot was more than a back-breaker it was a jarring blow to the head. “Same Old Mets”, was what one Philadephia newspaper called it.
Still no action in the bullpen. The Mets were only three runs down and there was still plenty of game left to play. The Mets still had a fighting chance. But Santana was left on the mound long enough for Chase Utley to hammer the final nail in the Mets coffin with a 450 foot blast that put the Mets down 10-5. With the game completely out of hand, Manuel rushed to get Hisanori Takahashi warmed up and finally go to the mound to wipe up the puddle on the mound that was Johan Santana. Philadelphia fans were loving every second of it and they rained down a flood of jeers and taunts as they carried our ace out on a stretcher.
The Mets offense was in stunned disbelief. They wouldn’t even tally one base hit for the rest of the game after that unfathomable fourth inning disaster.
It was a devastating blow to the Mets psyche and it was very evident in how the Mets carried themselves for the rest of the game. It took them nine pitches to go down 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth and when the third batter Jose Reyes flailed at the first pitch he saw to weakly ground out, you knew there would be no comebacks on this night.
It was an ugly loss and make no mistake that it had Jerry Manuel’s fingerprints all over it.