MLB: New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals

Game recap July 8: At least Jay Bruce can hit

Despite all the confusion about whether the Mets are officially sellers yet and Michael Conforto’s place in the lineup, I thought Saturday’s game would be a respite. Adam Wainwright is now a below replacement level pitcher. The Mets should be able to pound their former tormentor. Even if the pitching and fielding collapse, it never gets old seeing Wainwright get hammered. Naturally, Wainwright managed to throw a gem as the Mets lost 4-1.

The Good: Wheeler and d’Arnaud

Zack Wheeler hit a cold stretch, went on the disabled list, and came back with another awful start. All season long, it’s been hard to tell if Wheeler was fading due to lingering injury effects or whether he just hasn’t learned how to effectively use his breaking pitchers to fool hitters and put them away. Terry Collins said Wheeler needs to throw more offspeed pitches in the strike zone, and the righty responded, going to his slider more and managing to locate some to keep the hitters off balance. The Cardinals helped him out several times by running their way out of good two out scoring threats; Travis d’Arnaud threw out three baserunners – two attempting to steal and the lead runner on a bad bunt. Wheeler’s improved command and d’Arnaud’s defense were enough to keep the Mets in a low scoring game.

The Bad: Most of the Lineup

At this point in his career, Adam Wainwright has to fool hitters to have a chance. He doesn’t have the same command any more. His fielders can’t reliably turn ground balls in to outs. The crafty veteran was able to pitch to the scouting report and take advantage of an undisciplined Mets’ lineup. Curtis Granderson guessed wrong several times and Asdrubal Cabrera followed him with several strikeouts, throwing his bat in frustration in the fourth, then slamming his helmet in the sixth. The Mets only had two hits through six innings before Jay Bruce hit his 23rd homer of the season. T.J. Rivera and Jose Reyes also got hits, prompting the Cardinals to go to the bullpen. Bruce, Rivera and Reyes combined for all seven Mets hits.

The Ugly: Bullpen Merry-Go-Round

Since the Mets were down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Collins turned to Fernando Salas. I’m not sure whether this counts as going to the low leverage guy or not. Salas gave up a leadoff double to red hot rookie Paul DeJong and it got worse from there. Four of the five Cardinals’ hitters reached, although Stephen Piscotty ran his way into an out and a major Keith Hernandez rant. Erik Goeddel blew away Yadier Molina to end the seventh. Collins dumped out Rafael Montero, Josh Edgin, and Neil Ramirez for the eighth. Watching this bullpen feels like watching someone go to the craps table and think they can beat the house. When one reliever fails, Collins will happily bet on the next one. In fact, just after I wrote this, Collins said he’s going to use Ramirez more.

The Weirdly Tragic: Nimmo to DL

Brandon Nimmo was placed on the 10-day disabled list after being diagnosed with a partially collapsed lung Friday. Collins told reporters that there does not seem to be any specific acute cause, like a collision. Nimmo said “I really don’t expect [to be out] too long — we’re not talking months. I don’t think we’re talking anything like that. It’s obviously already healed or else air would still be leaking into my chest cavity.”

Conforto Back (But Only Technically)

Michael Conforto was reinstated to the active roster to take Nimmo’s spot. However, the All Star did not play on Saturday. If you follow anyone who writes about the Mets on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the screaming about the lineup already. Conforto stood in the on deck circle in the seventh inning to see if the Mets could have extended the inning against a right-handed pitcher, but the Cardinals got out of the inning and used lefty Brett Cecil for the eighth.

What’s Next?

One more game in St. Louis, then the All Star break. Seems like a great time to start talking to other teams about deals.

Photo credit: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports

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