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Don’t Look in the Box Score

The Mets didn’t commit an error tonight in losing the rubber game of the series to Ronny Paulino, Burke Badenhop and company.

But don’t tell Jon Niese that.

Niese pitched pretty well, mixing his pitches and generally hitting his spots. (Said spots perhaps were a wee too near the heart of the plate in the late goings, but that’s forgivable.) He pitched even better when you factor in how little help he got.

The play-by-play [1] will tell you that in the first Cameron Maybin singled to right and a bit later Dan Uggla singled to left to put the Marlins up 1-0. The play-by-play doesn’t mention that Maybin’s ball journeyed approximately through Fernando Tatis, or that Uggla’s skipped by David Wright’s awkward backhand. Both go more in the category of Plays Not Made than Bad Plays, but they still meant extra pitches to make, extra outs to find and an extra run for the enemy.

The play-by-play doesn’t mention Wright pausing in semi-consternation before routine throws to first, which I’d rather not see become a habit again. It doesn’t mention that Jeff Francoeur gave up on Jorge Cantu’s third-inning double, which should have yielded a Marlin run except for a Met fan who corralled the ball and the gaggle of umpires who decided not to give Hanley Ramirez home plate, even though there was no way Francoeur would have thrown him out. (The Met fan made the defensive play of the night.) None of those misdeeds cost the Mets on the scoreboard, but that doesn’t mean they were pretty to watch.

Oh, and the play-by-play doesn’t mention that Maybin’s fifth-inning single traveled past a nearly immobile Luis Castillo. Cantu, that beady-eyed killer, would soon make it 2-1 Marlins.

No defense would have caught the balls Niese served up in the sixth, so that run’s on him. But with better glovework from his teammates, he might have been in a 1-1 game with 15 or so fewer pitches expended. Again, there were no egregious misplays behind him, and nothing that shows up in the box score. But plays not made can kill the confidence of starting pitchers and tax the bullpen and lead to losses just as surely as big glaring Es on the scoreboard can. It’s demise in slower motion, perhaps, but you wind up in the same place.