Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Ugly, Horrible, Deflating Loss

The Mets have done a lot of good work lately in the area of collapses, but much of it was of the long-term variety. But for sheer, quick-hit terror, little compares to the Mets-Phillies game last night. What the hell happened? I’m only surprised Willie wasn’t lurking in the building somewhere.

I flip over to the game late, Mets on top and Johan Santana is grooving. Big spot in the 8th, Santana gets Howard to fly out, pumps the fist and walks off. Bottom of the inning, Santana is lifted for the pinch hitter and his night is over. Granted, hindsight is always 20/20, but here’s the big question: if Jerry Manuel KNEW that Billy Wagner was not available, might this not be a good time to let Santana go all the way?

Sure it sounds great after the fact, but it was a serious option at the time. In fact, the Mets announcers themselves were going on and on about how a nine-inning performance by Santana, against the Phillies no less, would be exactly what the Mets and Santana needed (Santana especially). He’d only thrown 105 pitches and would have been facing the 5-6-7 spots in the 9th. It was right there for the taking.

Some will say that Santana is no Roy Halladay -- true, Halladay has more complete games this season (7) than Santana has in his entire career (6). But Santana is no stranger to high pitch counts, either. He's thrown over 110 pitches six times this season and went at least 100 pitches in 13 of his 20 starts. Workhorses are meant to be ridden.

That said, if Sanchez does his job – or even a pale impersonation of his job – it’s probably not an issue today. But he didn’t, and it is. So instead of a season-defining win by their ace, a statement game against the NL's best, the Mets are suffering flashbacks to disasters past. In baseball, you’re only as good (or as bad) as your last game but the Mets haven’t exactly shown a lot of resiliency in this area recently. Assuming they get the game in tonight (the forecast calls for rain all day) I truly wonder how the Mets react.

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