MLB: New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks

Game recap May 16: Desperate in the desert

By the eighth inning of last night’s game, I started wondering, “are moral victories in baseball?” College sports can have teams that are so obviously mismatched that you don’t really expect your team to win. As long as they don’t embarrass themselves, the loss isn’t that bad. The Mets weren’t getting blown out of this one. There was no lead to surrender in agonizing fashion. How much of a chance did we really expect the Mets to have sending replacement-level castoff Tommy Milone against former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke?

What separates Major League Baseball from other sports is that even the bad teams win at least 40 percent of their games over the course of the season. Of course, winning streaks happen and losing streaks happen, but every day should have the hope that we could see a win. Maybe the best thing about Tuesday’s game is that even though the Mets only lost by a run, there weren’t many hopes to be dashed by the close loss.

The Mets actually started with a lead. Greinke was unusually wild in the second after taking a comebacker off the foot to start the inning. He bounced breaking ball after breaking ball to Rene Rivera, who took the pitches for a walk. Curtis Granderson – demoted to eighth in the lineup – walked for an RBI. Then Greinke started mixing pitches again and regained control to leave the bases loaded.

Arizona struck in the third with a two-run single from Gregor Blanco, who stole second on the very next pitch with no fear of Milone’s pickoff. Milone got the second out, then the Mets intentionally walked Paul Goldschmidt. The plan didn’t quite work. Chris Owings singled to right and Jay Bruce misplayed the ball, eliminating any chance of throwing Blanco out at home. Then the wheels fell off when Owings broke for second as part of a delayed steal. Neil Walker and Lucas Duda did a good job recognizing the play, but Duda threw the ball away and Goldschmidt scored easily.

Hopefully east coast Mets fans recognized this script, turned off the TV in frustration and went to bed instead of paying attention to Keith Hernandez break down the play again and again and again. The only thing that happened in the next inning was an intentional walk to Jeff Mathis with a runner on second and two outs. I’m not sure when walking someone with a career .562 OPS is a good idea. Was Terry Collins over or under managing here?

Anyway, since it’s a Mets game, there were more home runs. Granderson homered off Greinke in the fifth. Yasmani Tomas homered in the sixth. He can now say he’s in a record book with Hank Aaron, Ryan Howard and Giancarlo Stanton as the only players to homer in five straight games against the Mets. Rene Rivera homered off Greinke in the seventh to make it a 5-4 game, but the team couldn’t get a hit off the Diamondbacks best relievers. Maybe this game was less painful because the bullpen actually retired seven of nine opposing batters?

In other predictable Mets agony, Asdrbual Cabrera was finally placed on the disabled list for his thumb injury. General manager Sandy Alderson said that the team prefers to manage players through injuries instead of going straight to the DL. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there’s a good statistical case against this strategy. It’s not like the Mets are just suffering bad luck when players like Cabrera aggravate injury and develop more severe symptoms.

The Mets filled Cabrera’s roster spot with new signee Neil Ramirez, a 27-year-old replacement level reliever. Ramirez recorded 18 strikeouts in 10.1 innings for the Giants, but was released due to an 8.71 ERA and BABIP of .464. Aren’t small sample sizes fun? Ramirez is wild enough to be let go by five different teams in the last 365 days (Cubs, Brewers, Twins in 2016; Giants and Blue Jays this year), but has shown enough ability to get strikeouts that there’s always a next team ready to sign him. Hopefully that’s a metaphor for the Mets’ ability to finally win some games for a change?

What’s Next?

The Mets try to get a win out of their road trip tomorrow. It’s an afternoon start in Arizona, 3:40 Eastern. Matt Harvey gets the nod. Fans in the stands may be getting a free lunch unless Harvey can stop the slide:

Photo credit: Rick Scuteri – USA Today Sports

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