Friday, August 19, 2005
Mets 1, Nats 0
Okay, three comments about tonight's loss:
1. Jae Seo can really bring it. The Mets receive substantial credit for patiently nurturing his arm; on the other hand, given Seo's remarkable big league success this season, I wonder if the Mets would be a game or two better in the standings had they plugged Seo in there from the beginning---instead of, say, Kaz Ishii.
2. Brad Wilkerson deserves a heaping dose of scorn for his dismal failure to execute in the eighth inning. With runners at first and third and one out, Wilkerson faced a finally shaky Seo knowing he absolutely, positively could not do one of the things he, unfortunately, does very prolifically: strike out. Wilkerson struck out. Two pitches later, Jose Vidro lifted the 300-foot fly ball Wilkerson should have, and the inning was over.
I'm way too late into the season to start handing out awards---and even though one of our esteemed benefactors is, I don't know, out in the Badlands killing people, I'm not going to start now. But if I were of such a mind (to award, not to kill, though I admit the latter notion is tempting, given tonight's frustration), Wilkerson would win the "Thanks a lot . . . " award. He'd just hold off Jose Guillen, who followed off Nick Johnson's lead-off single in the ninth with a riveting 4-6-3 twin-killing.
3. Let's say Guillen didn't ground into that double-play. Let's say Preston Wilson didn't end the game with a strikeout against Mets' closer Braden Looper. Further, let's say the Nats had two on and two out in the ninth.
You know who would have been our last hope? Cristian Guzman.
And, after the pinch-hitter came to the plate? Nope, still Cristian Guzman.
Because Frank Robinson didn't have a remaining infielder on the bench, that's why.
Whoa . . . How'd that happen? Well, let's go to the videotape, circa eighth inning:
Top 8TH B:0 S:2 O:0 Vinny Castilla doubles (29) on a fly ball to right fielder Victor Diaz.
Top 8TH B:0 S:0 O:0 Offensive Substitution: Pinch runner Cristian Guzman replaces Vinny Castilla.
Top 8TH B:0 S:0 O:1 Jamey Carroll out on a sacrifice bunt, pitcher Jae Seo to second baseman Miguel Cairo. Cristian Guzman to 3rd.
Top 8TH B:0 S:0 O:1 Offensive Substitution: Pinch hitter Carlos Baerga replaces John Patterson.
Top 8TH B:4 S:2 O:1 Carlos Baerga walks.
Top 8TH B:1 S:3 O:2 Brad Wilkerson called out on strikes.
Top 8TH B:0 S:0 O:2 Offensive Substitution: Pinch runner Tony Blanco replaces Carlos Baerga.
Top 8TH B:1 S:0 O:3 Jose Vidro flies out to center fielder Carlos Beltran.
Okay, let's break this down. On the Nats' current active roster, they have eight possible infielders, two of whom can only play first:
---> Nick Johnson: 1B.
---> Jose Vidro: 2B.
---> Cristian Guzman: SS.
---> Vinny Castilla: 3B.
---> Jamey Carroll: SS/2B/3B/1B.
---> Carlos Baerga: 1B/3B/2B (in theory).
---> Tony Blanco: 3B/OF.
---> Brad Wilkerson: 1B/OF.
The starting infield tonight was Johnson at first, Vidro at second, Carroll at short, and Castilla at third. Here's how the infield was altered in the eighth:
---> Guzman pinch-ran for Castilla. CASTILLA GONE.
---> Baerga pinch-hit for (tough-luck) pitcher John Patterson. (Baerga walked)
---> Blanco pinch-ran for Baerga. BAERGA GONE.
---> With the top of the inning over, Eischen replaced Blanco in the pitcher's spot. BLANCO GONE.
Thus, as the team took the field in the bottom of the eighth, the infield was: Johnson at first, Vidro at second, Guzman at short, Carroll sliding over to third. And remaining on the bench were:
---> Ryan Church (OF).
---> Gary Bennett (C).
That's it. But it gets worse, because no one could have pinch-hit for Guzman. No combination of Church or Bennett with the remainder of the lineup could have fielded us the extra infielder we needed.
Imagine it, then: This big game (all of them are big now) is on the line, two outs, Looper peers in for the sign, and the batter, the last hope, is Cristian Freakin' Guzman.
[Well, either that, or the possibility of Gary Bennett, shortstop. Okay, maybe Gary Bennett, third baseman, with Carroll moving back to short. Like it matters.]
It didn't come to this, but it could have. I haven't been as harsh as others concerning Frank's tactics and personnel decisions this season, but maybe I haven't been paying enough attention. This is two nights in a row now that he's badly mismanaged the bench.
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