From Left Field: Smart Baseball Is Key For Mets

An article by posted on May 15, 2014 0 Comments
Chris Young (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Chris Young (Photo by Jim Mancari)

We were riding high on Monday and Tuesday. The offense was clicking, especially with the long ball, and the defense made a few key plays to increase the Mets winning streak to six games over the Yankees.

But then last night happened.

Before I get long-winded, Masahiro Tanaka is looking like a bona fide ace. Though games are never over until they are played, it was a tall order to think last night that Rafael Montero in his first big league start could outduel a guy who hasn’t lost a regular season game – albeit the majority in Japan – in nearly two full years.

But here’s the thing as we dissect the game: There were a few boneheaded plays that wound up costing the Mets big time.

Let’s start with the top of the second inning with two outs and Brian Roberts at the dish. He lines one to left, and Eric Young Jr. dives for it and comes up empty, allowing the ball to go to the wall and Yangervis Solarte to score easily.

I will never knock a guy for giving 100 percent effort, and that’s what Young Jr. did in that spot. But you have to know the situation there.

We all learned in Little League that you have to know what you are going to do if the ball is hit to you. You also always have to know who is up next.

In this case, Tanaka was on deck, so a single there really wouldn’t have hurt the Mets that much. Sure, Tanaka got a hit later in the game, but you’d rather take your chances in facing Tanaka with two outs then surrender a cheap run.

Again, it was a great effort by Young Jr., but it’s all about knowing the game situation at hand. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially in the heat of the moment, but he has to play that ball on a hop.

So then we move on to the bottom of the fifth. The Mets were only down 2-0 at that point, and Chris Young led off the frame with a single.

Remember, earlier in the game Daniel Murphy swiped second base as the Yankees were meandering around. That was a great heads-up play but one that happens so rarely that you can’t expect it to happen again.

Young however thought he could leave early and catch the Yankees napping again. But catcher Brian McCann signaled to Tanaka, who stepped off and threw to Solarte for the easy out.

Young was visibly mad at himself when he got up, and he should have been. There’s no reason to be making the first out in that fashion. That’s giving away an out to an ace pitcher who is already dominating you – which is not exactly the recipe for success.

I can understand a bit where Young is coming from. With Lucas Duda batting, anything on the ground is an easy double play. But in that case, why not just try a straight steal rather than a leave early play? It’s not like McCann is Yadier Molina behind the plate.

This team cannot afford to be making mental mistakes. Physical errors happen, but mental mistakes can be controlled.

If Young Jr. plays that ball on a hop, the Yankees have a much less chance of scoring that inning. And if Young was not caught trying to steal, who knows how that inning would have gone?

It wasn’t a great night to have “Young” as your last name. These plays were crucial, and though they didn’t necessarily cost the Mets the entire game, every play counts in the grand scheme of a baseball game.

Especially at home – where runs for the Mets have come at a premium – playing smart baseball is essential.

Sure it’s fine to take a calculated risk every so often, like Murphy did. But this team cannot afford to give opponents extra bases on defense and gift outs on offense.

About the Author ()

Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He earned a Master's degree in journalism from Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Be sure to visit http://www.jimmancari.com/