What Happened, In a Sentence
Terry Collins’ head-scratching lineup produced 14 hits, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Logan Verrett’s dismal outing as the Mets lose 6-5.
Veteran Manager Seeks Right-Handed Hitters
Throughout the season, Terry Collins has been steadfast in not playing Michael Conforto against left-handed pitchers. You figured something had to give once Yoenis Cespedes went on the disabled list. With a roster full of left-handed outfielders, why not give Conforto a shot against his former college teammate? Detroit starter Matt Boyd actually has reverse platoon splits in 107 big league innings (108 PA vs. LH batters). It wouldn’t be like asking Conforto to get used to left-handed pitching by facing Randy Johnson in his prime.
Instead, Collins went with one of the most extreme platoon lineups imaginable. Ty Kelly – who has looked overmatched in the majors – got his first big league start in the outfield. Kelly hit second while Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and hot hand Alejandro De Aza got the day off. Wilmer Flores got his first start at first in nearly three weeks, while Kelly Johnson got another start at third base. To top it off, Rene Rivera started at designated hitter for the first time in his career. Either Collins put a lot of stock in Rivera’s .375/.464/.625 in 28 plate appearances versus lefties this year or he just wanted to put right-handed bats in the starting lineup. (Rivera is a career .232/.284/.387 hitter versus lefties.)
It’s not like Collins chose this lineup to maximize his defense either. Johnson has played more games in left field than third base in his career. Kelly is primarily a third baseman who started learning outfield in the minors last year. Rivera and his superior throwing arm were playing designated hitter while Travis d’Arnaud caught. Before the game, Collins said he made Rivera the DH so he could pinch hit for him later. When right-handed pitcher Alex Wilson came in for the sixth inning, Conforto came in to pinch hit. I’ve seen this strategy in college, but not a major league team starting one of its weakest hitters at DH for a platoon advantage.
These replace-Mets did about as well as anyone could expect. Kelly went 2 for 4 with a walk. Rivera walked once and struck out once. Conforto went 1 for 2. The results don’t necessarily vindicate Collins’ strategy. I don’t anticipate Kelly and Rivera combining for a .667 on base percentage against left handed pitching for the rest of the season. But some times a team gets lucky.
Verrett Digs Giant Hole
Something that will help any hitter is facing Logan Verrett in 2016. Out of all pitchers with at least 70 innings this year, Verrett is in the bottom 10 percent for both strikeout percentage and walk percentage. He has struggled even for a fifth starter. Last night, Verrett managed to limit the Tigers to one run in the first three innings before imploding in the fourth. He gave up two hits then hit Nick Castellanos, breaking a bone in the third baseman’s hand. Jarrod Saltalamacchia reached out and drove a backdoor slider that was too close to a strike, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Then he hung another slider to Ian Kinsler for an RBI single. John Niese came in and gave up singles to Tyler Collins and Miguel Cabrera, making it 6-1 Tigers. Victor Martinez struck out to end the threat.
Niese and Hansel Robles only allowed one more hit in the last four innings, giving the Mets a chance to mount a comeback. Curtis Granderson homered to start the top of the 5th to make it 6-2. Kelly and Neil Walker both reached base before Kinsler botched the turn on a potential inning ending double play. Wilmer Flores made the Tigers pay with a single to make it 6-3. Boyd stayed in at 100 pitches to face d’Arnaud as the tying run and struck him out on a 90 mph fastball.
In the 6th, the first two Mets got on before the Tigers successfully turned a ground ball in to a double play. In the 7th, the Mets got the first two runners on again. Jay Bruce grounded to first, but Cabrera threw the ball right at Walker’s head while trying to turn the double play. Walker went to third, Kelly scored and Bruce was safe at first. Then Flores grounded a potential double play ball to third, but it went off Mike Aviles’ glove. Once again, everyone is safe. d’Arnaud grounded to Kinsler and the Tigers finally turned their double play, but not before it was a one-run game.
The Mets got one last chance in the ninth off of former Mets’ closer Francisco Rodriguez. Kelly and Walker made the outs, then Bruce singled to left. Alejandro De Aza pinch hit for Flores and singled to left. d’Arnaud pushed a single through the hole on the right side of the infield. Bruce is notoriously slow, but the Mets sent him anyway. J.D. Martinez made a perfect throw home but Bruce could have still tied the game with a good slide. Unfortunately he slid past the base with his lead leg and was tagged out to end the game before touching the plate with his trail leg.
Collins didn’t challenge the call, a decision he was after the game was a poor one as there was nothing to lose. A lot of Mets fans feel the same way about Collins’ decision-making yesterday.
The Mets try to salvage one game out of the series. Fans debate whether it’s worth benching Verrett and promoting Niese to the rotation.
Photo credit: Rick Osentoski – USA Today Sports