Jonathon Niese pitched six shutout innings. Kirk Nieuwenhuis started yet another rally. Mike Baxter got well-deserved respect as a premier pinch-hitter. Justin Turner won another battle against Heath Bell.
And the Mets still lost.
After Nieuwenhuis started a two-run inning for the Mets in the fourth inning with a single, Niese continued to pitch shutout ball before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Ramon Ramirez relieved Niese hoping to protect the lead.
Game tied at 2.
The Mets regrouped as they have been wont to do during the first month and a half of the season. Against Marlins’ closer Heath Bell in the ninth, the Mets got a one-out double from Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine. Two walks later (including an intentional walk to Mike Baxter, who carried a .438 batting average as a pinch-hitter into the at-bat), Justin Turner whacked a double to right to score two runs. Then Frank Francisco came into the game to save it and give the Mets a series victory.
Hit the showers, Frank.
That was all for Armando Benitez-lite. Frank Francisco was removed from the game by manager Terry Collins, but not before he stopped by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor to wish his mother a Happy Mother’s Day. (At least I thought I heard him say something about Tichenor’s mother.) Manny Acosta was summoned into the game to stop the bleeding but was “Acosta-ed” by the Marlins.
Pop out. (I guess you can’t put ’em all on base.)
Hit by pitch.
Say hello to my little friend.
The Mets will now retreat to Citi Field after a 4-2 road trip against the Phillies and Marlins. If you had asked me before the season started that the Mets would win four out of six against the two teams expected to compete for the NL East title, I would have been thrilled. But I’m not.
Smoke coming out of my ears mad.
Paul LoDuca mad.
Something has to be done about the bullpen situation. Sandy Alderson did not have much money to work with during the off-season. But what money he had, he used to upgrade the bullpen. That “upgrade” has now had a part in several late-inning meltdowns.
Both losses to the Marlins this weekend were charged to Frank Francisco. Prior to Friday night’s loss, the Mets’ last loss was a 5-4 setback to Arizona on May 4. That game was lost by Jon Rauch, who allowed three hits, two inherited base runners to score and a run of his own. What about Ramon Ramirez? He’s allowed 31 base runners (21 hits, 10 walks) in only 19⅓ innings.
Even a certain holdover, wearing Oliver Perez’s old No. 46, has pitched like dookie. (And I’m not talking about Orlando “The Dookie” Hernandez, although I think he’d have better success right now than the current members of the Gasoline Brigade.) Including Sunday’s series finale, Manny Acosta has faced 85 batters this year. Almost half of them (36) have reached base. Four of them reached base and then continued running around them. That includes Giancarlo Stanton, who touched Acosta for a game-ending grand slam.
The Mets have done quite well so far. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t play angry after games like this. There should be 25 mad men in the dugout on Monday against Milwaukee. They should let it be known to each other that losses like this will no longer be tolerated. The bullpen must improve. The team must improve. They’re better than that. And they should know it.