If I were a baseball player on a baseball team that had just won eight in a row and twelve of thirteen, I’d want that feeling to last forever. In fact, I’d make it last as long as I could by not swinging at the very first pitch I saw in a game that could conceivably extend my team’s winning ways to nine in a row and thirteen of fourteen.
But I’m not a baseball player. David Wright is. Jason Bay is. They’re both highly decorated baseball players, each generously compensated, both considered outstanding. So they probably have their reasons for SWINGING AT THE FIRST PITCH THEY SAW from Phil Hughes in the crucial sixth inning of the Saturday matinee that pulled the rug out from under what have been unmitigated good times.
I’ve never faced Phil Hughes. It probably looks different from the vantage point of the batter’s box than it does through the center field camera on my nice, comfy couch. And first pitches don’t necessarily equal take. Angel Pagan turned a first pitch from Joba Chamberlain into a ringing double in the eighth. Yet I can’t understand why Wright — directly after Hughes lost a ten-pitch battle on a single to Pagan — and Bay — following a six-pitch walk to Ike Davis that included a wild pitch that let Pagan dash to second — each swung at the very first pitch a pitcher conceivably on the ropes delivered.
Could those first pitches have been the pitches Wright and Bay could have driven? Anything’s possible, but a lifetime of watching baseball (exclusively from comfy couches and the like) tells me you don’t help a pitcher out, certainly not a good pitcher who may be having his moment of letdown. Make Hughes get you out would have been my advice to David Wright, just as “Make Wright #1” is the Mets’ advice to us. We’re Gaga For Wright even without the Wright Finger, but I have a sense that All-Star starter or not, David is re-entering one of his dark forests. His double play grounder Friday night in the ninth, leaving Manuel in the Valdes/K-Rod lurch, was a bad sign. The first-pitch popup to Cano in the sixth today was a worse sign. David can have an off-ish day or two, but I haven’t liked his approach lately (says the couch coach).
Bay? Jesus, he’s been quite ungood, hasn’t he? There is so much to like about his approach in the field — where he’s a far better defender than advertised — and down the line, where he never not runs out a ball — but boy is he lost at the plate. Reaching at that outside pitch from Hughes with two on and one out and a genuine chance to do damage…worst at-bat of the year by any Met. Bay taps it to Kevin Russo, it’s an easy 5-4-3 DP, hustle or not, and that was basically it for the day and the streak.
Earlier, Jeff Francouer had flied out on a first pitch. Big deal, he’s Jeff Francouer. Later, Alex Cora flied out on a first pitch. Same deal, he’s Alex Cora. I’ve come to expect more thoughtful plate appearances by Wright and Bay. We didn’t get them, which is why we are temporarily grounded after sitting on a cloud most of the past two weeks. Darn.
Mike Pelfrey wasn’t overly comfortable and it showed. But he gave us the Art Howe special and battled. Jose Reyes wasn’t overly popular in the Bronx — if you boo Jose Reyes, you’re booing happiness — and that was all to the good. Alas, Reyes’s two homers equaled our entire offensive output. Maybe this was one of those mythical “not gonna win” games, but I didn’t think it was. We had a legit shot in the sixth. We had Hughes back on his toes. He withstood the assault. Wright and Bay made it easier for him. That’s baseball sometimes.
Not going 9-0 overall, 8-0 on a road trip and 13-1 and 20-5 is a problem I wasn’t anticipating a month or so ago. The Mets have been playing so exceptionally well that I’ve come to think their winning isn’t all that exceptional. I’m moving into taking it as the norm territory. The new normal may need some work as might our expectations. That, too, is baseball.
In the meantime, winning twelve of thirteen between June 4 and June 18 represents the second time in 2010 that the Mets have put up at least a 10-1 stretch and the 39th time in franchise history they’ve gone at least 9-1. They’ve never posted a losing record in a season when they’ve done it twice. Not posting a losing record this year would have struck me as a fine goal not long ago. This evening, even after a tough loss, I want and almost expect more than that. I want and almost expect more extended winning ways. I want the Mets to pass the Braves. I want the Mets to keep this marvelous thing of theirs going. I want to expect it.
First place, not first pitch. Try to keep that straight, fellas.