The Mets lost a tough one in extra innings Friday night against the Pirates. As the game was wrapping up, Keith Hernandez, much like he did earlier in the game, talked about how it was well-managed on both sides. Let’s ignore the Pirates and focus only on the Mets. What exactly was it that made this a well-managed game?
Pittsburgh started Charlie Morton, a RHP who traditionally struggles against lefties. Entering the game, Morton had a lifetime .914 OPS allowed against lefties. So, Terry Collins featured a lineup with five of the eight position players batting from the left side. Score one for Collins.
But he immediately gives that point back by batting Ike Davis in the cleanup spot. Yes, Davis hit 32 HR last year. But he came into the game with a .523 OPS and without an extra-base hit in his last 32 ABs. Batting him fourth at this point is an exercise in wishful thinking.
Eric Young Jr. singled in the first inning and was thrown out when trying to steal a base. Young is a base stealer but it’s unlikely that he has a green light to go when he chooses. The managerial decision to send him did not work out. It’s hard to say this was a bad move but it was a choice by Collins that failed.
There really were no other managerial decisions until the eighth inning. After allowing two runs in the first, Jeremy Hefner retired 19 of the next 20 batters and his pitch count stood at just 77 pitches. Hefner led off the eighth inning and Collins pinch-hit for him. Jordany Valdespin came up as the pinch-hitter. As a PH this year, Valdespin was 3-27. He struck out, the Mets did not score and a pitcher who was cruising was removed from the game.
While running Young in the first inning was not a controversial move, this one certainly was. Again, this was not necessarily a bad move, but it was another move that failed. Plus, this was one that would have consequences later on.
Collins brought in David Aardsma who cruised through the eighth inning. Score one for Collins. The manager sent Aardsma back out for the ninth. Not a bad move but one that backfired as he allowed a leadoff double. Two batters later, Collins pulled Aarsdma with runners on the corners and one out.
With a lefty at the plate, Collins went to Scott Rice, who came up with a big strikeout of Pedro Alvarez. The next batter was a righty, so Collins removed Rice to insert Greg Burke. The following batter was a lefty, so it was likely a one-batter performance for Burke. So, why bring in Burke, who hadn’t pitched in three days, for a one-batter appearance? Wouldn’t that have been a better role for LaTroy Hawkins, who had only one day of rest?
Burke was removed after allowing a walk to load the bases. Collins again went for the lefty-lefty matchup, bringing in Josh Edgin to face Garret Jones. But the Pirates pinch-hit for Jones with a righty. If Collins was going to bring in a lefty if Burke didn’t get the job done – shouldn’t he have used Rice to intentionally walk Martin? Even if the Pirates went ahead and pinch-hit a righty, then Collins would have been able to bring in Burke (or Hawkins) and gotten through the inning using one fewer pitcher.
Edgin got out of the inning and Collins using four pitchers in the frame was what got Gary Cohen and Hernandez so excited about his managerial moves. But Collins showed no creativity and did nothing but his usual “play the matchups” managing here. The only difference was this time it worked for him. At the very least, he should have played the matchups and used one fewer pitcher. Because burning the extra pitcher in the ninth would come back to hurt.
Collins sent Edgin back out for the 10th and he found himself with a runner on second and two outs. Collins called for an intentional walk and Edgin escaped the inning thanks to a nice play by Omar Quintanilla. Here was a move that worked.
Needing a baserunner, Collins let Ike Davis and his sub .270 OBP lead off the inning. He struck out swinging, ending his night hitless once again. An earlier double-switch had Edgin’s spot in the order come to the plate with two outs. Collins sent up Andrew Brown instead of Josh Satin as a pinch-hitter. Brown struck out to end the inning. One non-move and one move in the frame and neither worked out.
Gonzalez Germen was called on to start the 11th inning, making one wonder if Hawkins was unavailable for this game. A quick check of MetsBlog shows a story posted after the game in which Collins confirmed this was the case. Collins had a couple of chances to use Germen in the San Francisco series but did not, meaning he was making his Major League debut in extra innings of a tied game. Not the ideal way to break in a rookie.
At this point in the game, Collins’ hands were tied. But he could have gone with Hefner longer, he could have saved a pitcher in the ninth inning and he could have gotten Germen work earlier.
Germen allowed a leadoff walk to Andrew McCutchen, who stole second while Alvarez struck out. Collins elected to issue an intentional walk to Russell Martin, who came in with a .240 AVG against RHP. The move was to set up the double play but the next batter was Gaby Sanchez, who came in with a below-average 33.8 GB%. The NL average ground ball rate this year is 46%. Sanchez struck out and Germen lost the game when he allowed a seeing-eye single to the following batter.
Issuing the intentional walk was a defensible decision but again – it did not work out. If you make a bunch of defensible decisions that don’t work out, can it really be considered a well-managed game? Has that what it has come to with our manager? How much longer until we start patting him on the head, giving him a participation medal and taking him to Burger King?
To be clear, Collins did not do anything egregiously wrong in this game. But there was nothing amazing that Collins did, either – certainly nothing that needed to be praised by Cohen and Hernandez. When broadcasters as good as these two start tripping over themselves congratulating a manager in a game in which the team lost, it makes one wonder if they are getting pressure from above to say good things about Collins.