MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets

Game recap August 18: Marginal players


Watching Met games is hard these days. Writing detailed accounts of the happenings of those games is even more dreary. If I were a quarter as talented as someone like Grant Brisbee, perhaps these recaps would be more enjoyable to write and read, despite the Mets’ consistently poor performance. Unfortunately for you and me, I’m a computational biologist, not a creative writing genius, so we’ll just have to muddle through.

Anyway, the Marlins were coming into town. Giancarlo Stanton is coming off a streak of six straight games with a home run and is on pace for more than 50. To counter the best pure slugger in the game, the Mets sent out Chris Flexen, who continues to struggle to miss bats and keep the ball in the strike zone as he works through his premature promotion to the big leagues. The Marlins sent out Justin Nicolino, a former member of the Blue Jays big trio of prospects with Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Nicolino has certainly been the most disappointing, as he’s running a K/9 under six, a BB/9 over four, and FIP in the high fives.

Game Recap

Flexen’s first inning wasn’t terrible, as he worked around an unintentional intentional walk to Stanton with a double play ball off the bat of Christian Yelich. His second inning didn’t go as well, as he walked Marcell Ozuna to lead off the inning and then hung a curveball to J.T. Realmuto, who deposited it into the left field bleachers for a two-run home run. Flexen gave up another single in the inning, but held the Marlins to just the two runs.

The Marlins would tack on an insurance run in the third. Flexen pitched just as carefully to Stanton in his second at-bat, again walking him on five pitches. Christian Yelich followed with an opposite field double on a pretty decent fastball on the outside part of the plate. With runners on second and third, Miami seemed primed for a big inning, but Flexen managed to escape again. Ozuna lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to stretch the lead to 3-0, but that’s the only run the Marlins would get.

In the bottom of the third, the Mets got one of those runs back. Juan Lagares and Asdrubal Cabrera lined back-to-back singles with one out, and Lagares came around to score two batters later on a single from Wilmer Flores. Travis d’Arnaud flew out to end the threat, but the Marlin’s lead was cut to two runs.

Flexen actually settled in a bit in the fourth and fifth. He didn’t strike anyone out, but avoided walking any batters and induced soft contact from most of the seven Marlins he faced. The control problems returned in the sixth, however, as Ozuna walked to lead off the inning. Flexen got J.T. Realmuto to fly out, but Derek Dietrich followed with a hard hit single to right field to put runners on first and third with one out. With Flexen’s pitch count approaching 100, Terry Collins pulled the plug in favor of Josh Smoker.

While he only allowed three runs, Flexen’s performance was far from impressive. He walked four and only struck out one, inducing only two swinging strikes. The young right hander posted gaudy numbers in Double-A, but his early results indicate that he needs more seasoning. If the Mets weren’t so beat up at the moment, he’d probably still be refining his craft with Binghamton. For now, we just have to hope that his being rushed to the big leagues does not hinder his long term development.

Smoker made quick work of the next two Marlins to escape the threat, and there really wasn’t much else to talk about for the rest of the game. The Mets managed only one run off of Nicolino, one of the worst pitchers in baseball, with all six of their hits going for singles. Dustin McGowan entered for the sixth and allowed a hit and a walk, but the Mets couldn’t make anything of that opportunity either.

Neither side managed a hit in the final three innings. Smoker, Paul Sewald, and Jerry Blevins combined to allow no Marlins baserunners, and struck out three, while Drew Streckenreider, Kyle Barraclough, and Brad Ziegler struck out four over three perfect innings of relief. The final 10 Mets to come to the plate were retired in order to close out a very boring 3-1 loss.

The loss is the Mets’ fifth in a row, dropping their record to a season worst 53-67. That should keep the Mets firmly in the seventh spot in the reverse standings.

Thoughts from the Game

I’ll preface this section by saying I’m not a fan of Dom Smith. I don’t find his profile particularly interesting, I don’t find his minor league performance particularly impressive, and I think the Mets should keep their options at first open next season (if they have the money). That being said, there’s absolutely no reason why Smith should not be in the lineup against Justin Nicolino. Nicolino is a left-handed pitcher, but he’s been smashed by lefties this season and hasn’t exhibited any sort of major platoon split throughout his career.

Sitting a top, left-handed hitter prospect against a guy like Madison Bumgarner or Clayton Kershaw is justifiable, but an opportunity against a pitcher like Nicolino (who is bad) is a great chance to expose a young hitter to a major league southpaw. Instead, Terry has Matt Reynolds in the lineup, a player who is out of options and has basically established that he isn’t a major leaguer at this point, probably heading for a DFA this offseason when the Mets need to clear 40 spots.

This is Terry Collins and the Mets at their worst. Whoever is calling these shots refuses to churn the margins of the roster, but for some reason clings to random, bad players at the cost of much more important pieces. Evaluating Dom Smith is critical right now, and if you’re insisting on benching him at least get a guy like Gavin Cecchini into the lineup. Not at all surprising though, given that Jose Reyes might wind up with the most plate appearances on the 2017 Mets.

Other Met News

Curtis Granderson was traded to the Dodgers for a PTBNL or cash (which is baseball speak for the Mets are getting next to nothing in return) just after the last out Friday. It’s a shame to see Granderson go, as he’s one of the real great people in the game today, in addition to still being a solid contributor. Hopefully he can ride the Dodger’s insane season to a ring.

Meanwhile, Rene Rivera is likely to move soon in a separate deal.

Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports

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