Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fix The Cigarette Lighter

The Mets have a 31-25 record entering tonight’s tilt against the Washington Nationals.  With more than one-third of the season behind them, the Mets stand only 1½ games behind the first place Nats.  However, they could have been all alone in first place had the bullpen been able to hold on to not one, not two, but three late-inning and extra-inning leads last night.

After Andres Torres gave the Mets their first lead of the game in the eighth inning, poor relief work and shoddy defense (I’m talking to you, Jordany Valdespin) allowed Washington to tie the game.  Once the game went into extra innings, Scott Hairston did everything he could to help the Mets win, singling, stealing a base and scoring the go-ahead run in the tenth inning (only to watch from right field as the Nationals tied it in the bottom of the tenth).  He then hit a home run off Ross Detwiler in the 12th inning to give the Mets another one-run lead, but Elvin Ramirez allowed two runs in the bottom of the inning to hand the game over to Washington.

The poor defense might have been somewhat of a surprise, especially when the normally sure-handed Ike Davis bobbled a potential double play grounder in the tenth inning.  But the awful relief pitching was not a surprise, as the Mets have had no rhythm in the bullpen, giving fans the blues with every putrid performance.

The Mets’ bullpen has the worst ERA in the National League by far, as their 5.39 ERA is over a full run higher than the 4.33 ERA posted by the bullpen of the last place Phillies.  Despite their repeated failures in the pen, the team has gotten by, hanging around the top of the division.  But imagine where they could be in the division with just a mediocre bullpen instead of the worst.

Basically, the bullpen has been playing Rawhide at Bob’s Country Bunker over the past two months.  (Go watch Blues Brothers if you don’t get the reference.)  They’re not exactly the guys the fans paid their hard-earned money to see on the mound, but as long as the end result (i.e. the win-loss record) appeals to them, they won’t get glass bottles thrown at them.  Figuratively speaking, of course.

It’s great that the Mets are 31-25 and near the top of the division.  No one could have seen that coming.  But right now, they’re just a cop car with a souped-up engine and a broken cigarette lighter.  Everything else is working better than expected, but it’s that one broken component (the bullpen) that’s making the machine stall.  At 31-25, the Mets are 106 games away from the end of the regular season, they've got a full tank of gas (sort of), half a dozen starting pitchers, it's dark and they’re wearing sunglasses.  But they're going to need to fix that cigarette lighter.  If not, their season could fall apart before reaching their final destination.

1 comment:

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