Performing Below The Matz

Things were going so well tonight that for a while, I really expected them to last.

We scored a run in each of the first two innings, both on sac flies.  We haven’t been hitting sac flies recently.  Somehow, I thought the return of sac flies was a good thing.

Walker homered in the third; he’s been doing that a lot lately.  That was a good thing.

After that, there weren’t many.

For five innings, Matz looked like Matz: unsecured upon, not even threatened.  He was hit hard in the fifth, but got around some trouble.  Then the sixth came, and suddenly, like has tended to happen lately, things turned bad.

It started with a single that James Loney, brought in for his defense, failed to field.  Loney, brought in to hit and field better than Eric Campbell, didn’t have a hit, and made one error, and should have been charged with two.  Now that’s what I call the luck of the new Met.

After that, there was so much awfulness I could barely piece things together.  There was a home run allowed, then an RBI single.  There was a pitching change that somehow managed to waste Jim Henderson on retiring one batter — but as I say, Terry Collins, even if he should retire, move to the woods of North Dakota, and never be heard from again, will manage to misuse Jim Henderson.

There was bullpen sequencing that didn’t make sense, a short bench that led to Ty Kelly — he of the .091 batting average — batting (and he actually got a hit!), and offense that failed to muster runs against pitchers who have no business helping their team win games.  There were costly stolen bases that went completely uncontested, useless relievers, and ineffective mound conferences.

It started with Steven Matz, as close to infallible over the past few weeks as we’ve ever seen, losing his stuff.  After five scoreless, he started getting hit hard.  So at only 88 pitches, he left.  For once, I supported Terry’s quick hook: Matz wasn’t fooling anyone.

But did we have to use Henderson, who’s proven he’s good for full innings, for one out?  We couldn’t have wasted the wildly inconsistent Robles on that our, or the unremarkable Logan Verrett?  Henderson could have come in useful later while Robles was busy walking the leadoff hitter, or when Verrett was giving up a single to extend the White Sox’ lead.

Or, we couldn’t have used either Reed or Familia in the eighth, whichever was available?  You’re not going to tell me that both were unavailable: if that’s the case, then it’s a miracle we came as far as we did.  The closer mentality, that the best time to use your best reliever is the end of the game, is an established falsehood: we couldn’t have used our de facto closer in the eighth, and handed Robles in the ninth the bottom of the order, instead of the middle?

Or anything else.  There were a million ways to win this game, and we managed to pull out a loss.

Some losses are fine, completely acceptable, things that happen in the course of a 162 game season.  This one wasn’t one of them.

“You can’t expect to win if your starter doesn’t go six innings,” my friend said on the subway ride home, to which I replied, “you should expect to win if you take a lead into the eighth.”

We can’t give games away, as we did tonight, without using our two best relievers, or without using our best pinch-hitter, or with a four man bench where one of the men is a backup catcher, who Terry Collins has never in his life used voluntarily, another is Ty Kelly, and another is Alejandro de Aza (we got two hits from that bench today, which should tell you how badly the rest of the offense did after the first three innings).

We want to be a first place team, whether or not we’re quite good enough to do so — I’d say we’re more than good enough, but that’s just me — and it’s okay to lose, but not the games we’re supposed to win.  The Nationals beat the Phillies tonight — that’s another game separating us, a game in which we should have kept pace with them.

But beyond that, that’s really all it is: one game, as bad as it turned out.  It’s one we should have taken, but it doesn’t count any more than all of our wins — more than we have losses, and substantially so.

We lost, and we certainly shouldn’t have.  But even so, tomorrow it’s back to normal.

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