It’s easy to say, “woe is me, here we go again.” But we can’t… We’ve got to press forward.
– Terry Collins, postgame Wednesday night.
The Mets lost again tonight. You know this. Jon Niese started out strong, looking like he’d give the team the bullpen-saving starting pitching performance it desperately needed. He cruised through the first three, mixing his big hooking curveball with his cutter, striking guys out. And the Mets were scoring runs, too.
Everything appeared pretty awesome until the top of the fifth. With one out, Niese walked Seth Smith, then allowed a single to Jonathan Herrera. He got Carlos Gonzalez to ground out, bringing up Troy Tulowitzki with two down and runners on second and third and Jose Lopez waiting on deck.
Troy Tulowitzki is awesome. He is coming off back to back excellent seasons. He is leading the National League in home runs in this early part of 2011. He doubled earlier in the game, and singled before that.
Jose Lopez is not awesome. He had a 71 OPS+ last year. He can knock a ball out of the park every now and then, but he very rarely gets on base. He grounded out and popped out earlier in the game. He finished the night 0-for-5 with a strikeout.
I’m no fan of the intentional walk and hindsight is 20/20 so I say this with some reluctance, but the Mets could have put the awesome Tulowitzki on first and taken their chances with the not-awesome Jose Lopez. They didn’t. The second pitch Niese threw to the Rockies’ All-Star shortstop was promptly deposited over the right-field fence in the Jody Gerut Memorial Corner, a three-run blast.
The Rockies never relinquished the lead.
Niese, for his part, said he wanted to face Tulowitzki and that — baseball players love this phrase — “you have to tip your hat” to him for taking a pitch off the plate and driving it 340 feet to the opposite field. Collins said he didn’t want to put another runner on base and put his team at bigger risk of a big inning.
Whatever. The Mets fall to 4-7 and further test our patience. The half-full set can point out that they hit pretty well in the game, that the bullpen actually held it together for once, and that with a couple of breaks they easily could have won this one.
But then most baseball games seem to come down to a couple of breaks, and the Mets rarely get them. Collins addressed the players afterward, reminding them that they’re only a couple of bad pitches and bad swings away from being 9-2, telling them to keep pushing and that “it’s time to win games.” This will probably be a big story tomorrow — FURIOUS COLLINS CHEWS OUT LIFELESS METS, or something — but it sounded from the press conference like a vaguely frustrated manager trying to get his team in good spirits after a rough loss.
Collins, upon prompting, admitted he felt the dugout get a bit deflated after Tulowitzki’s homer. Of course, the Mets still managed a run in the 7th for the comeback effort, and the bullpen certainly seemed to have no trouble with motivation. So who knows, really?
The good news, I suppose, is we don’t have much time to sit and stew and let our imaginations run wild after this one; the Mets and Rockies play two tomorrow starting at noon.
You don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to write it, but it’s still early. It was 10 games this morning. It’s 11 games now. You’ve heard it before: Tiny fractions of a long season, 4-7 goes by unnoticed in August, the Mets probably aren’t really this bad.