Not everything was great out of the pen for Francisco in a close call as Mets beat Braves

Jonathon Niese was cruising along at Citi Field Sunday night. The New York Mets starter pitched eight effective innings, allowed one run and struck out six Atlanta Braves. And then the call to the bullpen and everything went wrong, but, according to closer Frank Francisco, everything went right.

Francisco, who has had his problems closing games, making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list Friday, was ineffective. He walked two with the bases loaded in the ninth, and gave up a two-run double to Martin Prado.

He squandered a 6-1 lead, could not find the strike zone and gave the ball to Jon Rauch with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Afterwards, as the Mets dressed and left town with a 6-5 win, losing two of three to Atlanta, Francisco could not be serious.

“They wore me out a little bit, and I’m a little bit out of shape,” said Francisco. That was the serious part. After that, you wonder how much Francisco is serious about being an effective closer.

A major part of the Mets second half collapse has been their inability to drive in runs with two outs, and ineffective starting pitching. Sunday night, Niese (9-6) bounced back from a bad outing against the Marlins on Tuesday.

As the Mets did so effectively in the first half, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis drove in a run apiece with two outs. Thursday, in their only win against the Marlins, R.A. Dickey got the complete game win, his 15th, and New York drove in five of their six runs with two out hits.

Jordany Valdespin continued to make an impression with manager Terry Collins. Inserted in left field, Valdespin hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, his eighth off losing pitcher Ben Sheets (4-2) that built a 5-1  lead. Collins intends to give him more playing time.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be given the chance and show why I can play here,” said Valdespin about a role in the outfield and also being used in the infield.

However, a constant for the Mets woes is having the most ineffective pen in the game. Before Francisco got the ball, rookie Josh Edgin got the call. He walked two and hit a batter. Francisco could not get the third out and Rauch put out the fire when Jason Heyward swung and missed a slider in the dirt.

But, according to Francisco, the Mets got a win and everything is alright.

The closer, after his comments Sunday night may be the laughing stock of New York baseball. He could not provide the proper answer as to his inability to throw strikes, and make it easy for his manager Terry Collins and those left in the crowd of 24, 891.

“We got a win, that’s the important thing, “commented Francisco about his shaky outing. And then, he ridiculed media by his locker when he said, “It was easy. I’m a bit out of shape. I just got tired. I feel great. You know why, I feel good. That’s it, no more questions?”

Of course, no more questions because Francisco can’t give the answers. Niese watched from the dugout hoping it was not another collapse.

“That was tough,” he said. “I can’t sugarcoat that by any means. But they got the job done,” commenting about the pen, “and that’s all that matters.”

And Collins, looking forward to a day off in Cincinnati Monday, before New York begins a three-game series with the NL Central leading Reds, needed the win. Then it is three more at NL east leading Washington.

It was the Mets ninth win in their last 30 games that has put them out of contention.

“We needed this, we have not played well,” said Collins. “I am not making any excuses. We have not played well on any side of the ball. So this win helped. I don’t care how It came about. I’m glad to get it.”

And for Francisco, apparently he does not care how the win came. The Mets won, however, their closer, ineffective as he was, said he feels good. Though Mets fans, and Collins can’t continue to have that good feeling about his inability to close games.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com and at facebook.com/Keep It in the Ring.

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Collapse, Complete Game, Jonathon Niese, Marlins, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Strike Zone, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 13, 2012

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Second Shutout for Mets Starters leads to 1-0 Victory over Phillies

New York – If a doctor were to sit down and write out a prescription for the Mets it would read like this: “A shutout a day will keep the losing streak at bay.”  The New York Mets (58-57) were able to do just that behind a very strong starting performance from knuckleball specialist R. A. Dickey to blank the Philadelphia Phillies (64-51), by the score of 1-0 in Friday night baseball at Citi Field.

The Mets now have had back-to-back complete game shutouts as Santana and Dickey became the first pair of Mets pitchers to post shutouts since Pedro Astacio and Jeff D’Amico went the distance in consecutive two-hitters on May 14-15, 2002 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Notching their major league-leading 18th shutout this evening, the Mets have had their last four victories all come in shutouts.

Dickey (8-5) was just what the doctor ordered for the Mets in throwing a complete-game shutout against the National League East Rival Phillies. The righty was able to baffle the Phillies batters, striking out seven while only giving up one walk and one hit. The lone hit for Philadelphia came from opposing pitcher Cole Hamels, who laced a single to right field. Hamels (7-9) went eight innings for Philadelphia in a fine start, striking out eight Mets hitters. What hurt the lefty were the five hits that he gave up to the Mets with four of them falling in for extra base hits.

In speaking about his starter Mets manager Jerry Manuel had this to say, “Today he (Dickey) was very impressive for us. He is very much a competitor and he knew what he needed to do and he did it.”

After the game Manuel continued to say how he felt that pitching and defense was also a part of that Mets prescription for leading them to victories in the rest of the 2010 season. Well the Mets got plenty of great defensive plays in the game as in the first two innings shortstop Jose Reyes made two very nice diving plays for New York.

“We put an emphasis on pitching and defense, and we think that is our formula to win games,” Manuel said after the game, “Guys have responded very well to that formula so far.”

Mike Hessman also had two very nice defensive plays for the Mets, both coming in the bottom of the second inning taking care of two very hit ground balls and was able to make the outs against two very speedy runners. Hessman also recorded his first major league triple in the bottom of the fifth inning, but not without help of instant replay.

It seemed as if the rookie was able to hit a first pitch changeup into the crowd in left field which fell for what was originally called a home run.  That call was immediately protested by the Phillies players and manager Charlie Manuel as a fan interference play. In doing the right thing the umpiring crew immediately went into the replay booth inside of Citi Field to make the correct call. The umpires came out after a six minute delay to tell the rookie that he was going to get a triple. After the umpires call was made the 35,440 in attendance very upset immediately voicing their displeasure at the reversed call.

“The umpiring crew went to Major League Baseball for the official ruling,” Manuel explained of the overturned call. “They look at all of the different angels and they made that determination.” Hessman was awarded third base because, “When the ball hit the wall, Mike was already past second base and on his way to third; so I thought it was the right call for us.”

New York wasn’t able to cash in on that extra base hit as Hamels worked out of trouble. It would not stay that way for the Philadelphia starter as consecutive doubles in the bottom of the sixth inning by David Wright (29) and Carlos Beltran (6) was all the Mets needed to win the game.

“Having Beltran and Wright get hits tonight for us was a huge boost to our offense,” Manuel said after the game. “If we can get them both going at the same time it will be a positive thing for us offensively.”

Also contributing to the Mets offense was left fielder Angel Pagan who out hustled a very strong throw by shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Pagan continued to show off his speed by stealing second and third base (28). Catcher Henry Blanco was another part of the Mets offense in the bottom of the seventh inning, when scorched a ball down the left-field line for a ground-rule double (5).

The Mets will try to continue to ride this shutout momentum, and keep to the doctor’s prescription in game two against the Phillies on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. Philadelphia will send out their own doctor in Roy “Doc” Halladay (14-8, 2.34 ERA) takes on Pat Misch. The 28-year-old lefty was 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo will be called up to make the first start of the 2010 season. Mish had a taste of action with the Mets last season posting a 4.12 ERA in 59 innings.

Posted under Amico, Batters, Cole Hamels, Complete Game, Defensive Plays, Game Shutout, Jose Reyes, Knuckleball, Lefty, Los Angeles Dodgers, Losing Streak, Major League, National League East, New York Mets, Night Baseball, Pedro Astacio, Philadelphia Phillies, Pitchers, Santana, Shortstop, Top Story

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on August 14, 2010

Mancuso: Santana Comes Up Aces In Mets Win

New York – Joey Votto swung, missed and struck out off a Johan Santana fastball in the first inning.  The Cincinatti Reds would strand Brandon Phillips at third who led off the game with a double. Santana would only get better as the game went along, because his fastball was that good and it allowed his other pitches to work Tuesday evening at steamy Citi Field.

Santana, (6-5) who has been struggling got the Reds to swing and miss, also getting them to hit the ball to center.  In the end it was a complete game shutout thrown by Santana, a 3-0 win, and in the process the Mets discovered that he also can contribute to the lineup.

The Mets pitching ace hit his first career home run in the third inning off Reds rookie pitcher Matt Maloney That got cheers from the crowd and also a coronation of sorts from his teammates in the dugout. “I hit it and started running,” Santana said about the home run. “I’m on the board. At least I hit one.”

It was a 12- pitch at bat for Santana. The home run ball banged off the foul pole and Santana gave his team a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish. Santana had the fastball, as well as the changeup and breaking ball working to perfection.

“I felt better throwing my fastball and it makes my other pitches better,” said Santana who won one game in his last seven starts. After the Phillips hit in the first, he would not allow another until Orlando Cabrera singled in the sixth.

The key was the fastball. It has always been a vintage pitch that has lost some velocity. But this night, Santana was throwing hard and had the command. He would allow three hits, walked three, and struck out five in throwing the Mets’ second complete- game shutout of the season.

And it wasn’t until the ninth inning before Mets manager Jerry Manuel contemplated taking Santana out of the game. But he let him finish off the Reds after a brief visit to the mound. Scott Rolen singled with one out, and then left fielder Jason Bay dropped a Jay Bruce fly ball for an error.

Bay snapped a personnel string of 263 games of errorless ball and also drove in two of the Mets runs as he continues his resurgence at the plate. As to what was said at the mound, Santana said to Manuel, “I’ll finish it, simple.”

And finish it he did. Jonny Gomes lined out and Drew Stubbs ended the game on a ground out force. “I wanted him to hear him tell me that he wanted to finish it,” explained Manuel about his visit that got some boos from the remaining 27,473 fans that braved the game time temperature of 96 degrees.

“I hate to remove a guy because of a defensive mistake,” added Manuel who said he expects big things from Santana in the second half of the season. “You see a little more in the fastball. You saw it challenging Brandon Phillips,” he said about Santana retiring the Reds .307 leadoff hitter to fly out three times to center and right.

Ready in the pen was Frankie Rodriguez the Mets stopper with 20 saves, but, as of late, having trouble closing the door. In the end, he wasn’t needed. “Of course I know what type of competitor he is and it paid off,” said Rodriguez about Santana completing the game.

Santana got his home run ball for keeps and is undefeated in four career starts against the Reds. A win for the Mets also that kept them two games in back of first place Atlanta. For Santana, even without great stuff he proves to be a competitor.

Now that the stuff is back, he also has the bat to go with it.

NOTES FROM CITI FIELD:  It was the 45th home run by a Mets pitcher in their history and first since John Maine did it against Pittsburgh on July 24, 2007 at Shea Stadium…  The three hits tied the fewest Santana has allowed in a complete game, his seventh career complete-game shutout, and the second Mets pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout and hit a home run in the same game. The last to do that, Pete Falcone on September 29, 1981 over the Phillies 7-0 also at Shea…

Jose Reyes returned to the lineup after missing six games with a sore right oblique, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored. The Mets improved to 30-9 when Reyes scores a run… It was the Mets 12th shutout of the season which tied San Diego for most in baseball…

Oliver Perez threw 5.2 innings, allowing two runs, two hits and three walks and striking out seven in his second rehabilitation start for St. Lucie (A) of the Florida State League… Final game of the series is this evening with Bronson Arroyo (8-4) on the mound for the Reds opposing lefthander Jonathan Niese (6-2) for New York.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Brandon Phillips, Breaking Ball, Changeup, Cincinatti Reds, Complete Game, Dugout, Fastball, Foul Pole, Jason Bay, Joey Votto, Johan Santana, Left Fielder, Mancuso, Matt Maloney, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Orlando Cabrera, Pitches, Rich Mancuso, Rookie Pitcher, Scott Rolen, Top Story, Tuesday Evening

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 7, 2010

Gem By Hernandez Good As One Thrown By Lee

Cliff Lee the Seattle Mariners left hander did his job going the route and took care of the New York Yankees the night before. Wednesday night it was Felix Hernandez the right hander pitcher of the Mariners who did his part. He also went the distance but his pitching gem may have been better than the one Lee threw.

It was a two-hit complete game 7-0 shut out over the potent Yankees lineup, 115 pitches and everything in his arsenal. As he said, “the slider, curveball, just tried to throw as many strikes as I could.” The Yankees could do nothing and seemed frustrated as they returned to the dugout.

Hernandez would not compare his performance to Lee. What mattered was the Mariners once again got two consecutive complete games from Lee and Hernandez.  And it was the second time this season that Lee and Hernandez won back-to[back games.

It was the third straight complete game for Hernandez, two of them going as a win. Lee got the win Tuesday evening in the Bronx, his third consecutive complete game. “It happens, it happens,” said Hernandez about what he and Lee accomplished over the Yankees the past two nights.

Was there an incentive to top what Lee did? “We’re different pitchers,” said Hernandez who has a career 15-3 record in the month of June. The 24-year old native of Valencia Venezuela also had 11 strikeouts and as play concluded moved to second in that department in the American League.

More importantly, as the Yankees have discovered, if the Mariners continue to get this type of pitching from Lee and Hernandez, well they can make some noise in the second half of the season.

“You talk about the impact that Lee has on this pitching staff, I think it pushes Felix,” commented Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. “I thought it was the best pure stuff that Felix has shown in a game.  He really dominated and kept their hitters off balance. It was a tremendous performance.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Hernandez “He’s as good as we have seen all year. His slider, changeup and curveball, he had it all working tonight. He’s got electric stuff.”

Hernandez finished the month of June with a 4-1 record and a 2.36 ERA and over his last four starts is 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA. “We knew his ability was there,” added Wakamatsu. “The key thing was getting the complete games.  Every time you have an outing like this it’s something to look back on and learn from it.”

The last time the Yankees had back-to-back complete games thrown against them was back in April of 2000 when Toronto’s Chris Carpenter and Kelvin Escobar did it up in Toronto. And it has not happened in consecutive home games since 1991.

Said Girardi, “Good pitching will always beat good hitting; that’s the bottom line.”  For the Mariners the bottom line is getting the rest of their pitching staff to follow in the footsteps of Lee and Hernandez.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Complete Game, Complete Games, Curveball, Dugout, Felix Hernandez, Game 7, Joe Girardi, Left Hander, Manager Don, Month Of June, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pitchers, Pitches, Seattle Mariners, Second Time, Slider, Top Story, Tuesday Evening, Valencia Venezuela, Wednesday Night, Yankees Lineup

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 1, 2010

Santana Suffers A Twin Killing

New York- One bad inning was all the Minnesota Twins (41-33) needed to shutout the New York Mets (42-32) by the score of 6-0 in Saturday afternoon baseball at Citi Field. The Twins snapped a season-long four-game losing streak, as the Mets have been shut out four different times this season.

The top of the first inning was that one inning as the scored four runs off Mets starter Johan Santana and never looked back as starter Carl Pavano (9-6) went the distance in his second-complete game. The last time Pavano had a complete-game shutout was on June 5, 2009 against the Chicago White Sox. The former Yankee starter struck out four batters while only giving up one walk in the victory. Santana (5-5) allowed five runs for the fourth straight start, and has still not defeated his former team.

“They (the Twins) came out early and put some good at bats on him (Santana) early in the game,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “I thought he made some nice adjustments, he had to use his slider today due to so many lefties in the lineup today and it is a pitch that he can now use to get outs on a consistent basis.”

Double plays along with some key doubles led to the victory for Minnesota as Orlando Hudson got the game going in the top of the first with a two base hit to center field. Joe Mauer laced a single to center field to plate the speedy Hudson to make the score 1-0 Twins. Later in the inning Michael Cuddyer worked the walk to set the stage for Jason Keble who hit a ground rule double (11) down the left field line going into the stands which plated the second Minnesota run. Delmon Young followed up with a double (19) to center field, which made the score 4-0 Twins.

“It was the line drives and double plays that hurt us offensively” Manuel said. “We hit it hard but they were able to make the plays behind Pavano, who pitched very well today.” He would continue by saying, “All of Johan’s starts are usually different as he starts against the other teams’ aces, and there are a lot of good pitchers in MLB this season.”

In the bottom of the second inning the Mets would try to strike back as Ike Davis worked a walk. Unfortunately for the 37,510 fans in attendance Jason Bay would hit a screaming line drive right to shortstop Nick Punto, who turned the six-six-three double play. The first of two for the Twins, as Punto would turn the second double play in the bottom of the third as Cora would pop up to the shortstop, who would throw out Francoeur at first.

Punto would continue his fine day by starting the top of the fourth inning with a single to right field. Carl Pavano laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second for Denard Span who placed a double to right field (12), Span who plated the fifth run.

The Mets would try to get a rally going again in the bottom of the fifth inning. After a strikeout to Davis and a Bay fly out to right field, back-to-back hits by Rod Barajas, who is returning from a bad back and Jeff Francoeur set the stage for Alex Cora. The rally would soon end as Cora hit a ground ball for the final out.

Minnesota would add the last run in the top of the ninth inning as Mets manager Jerry Manuel called for relief pitcher Fernando Nieve who gave up a home run to Jason Kubel (10) who lifted a 1-0 over the wall in right field.

Pavano who looked as sharp in throwing 110 pitches, with 75 of were in the strike zone, came out in the bottom of the ninth inning and sat the Mets down in order to end the game, and secure the complete-game shutout bid.

These two teams will face each other again in the rubber game on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. as Scott Baker (6-6, 4.61 ERA) takes on Jonathon Niese (4-2, 4.17 ERA)

This story originally posted on www.latinosports.com

Posted under Batters, Carl Pavano, Chicago White Sox, Complete Game, Consistent Basis, Delmon Young, Different Times, Former Team, Game Losing Streak, Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Keble, Lefties, Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Saturday Afternoon, Slider, Top Story, Twin Killing, Yankee

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on June 27, 2010

Mets Tame The Tigers Behind Reyes and Dickey

New York -   R.A. Dickey could have completed the game and after eight innings Wednesday evening at Citi Field he had the ability to do so. The knuckleball was working, and so was the fastball. But New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel had another intention. Bring in closer Francisco Rodriquez for the ninth even though the Mets had a 5-0 lead over the Detroit Tigers.

“I know that we have to keep Frankie on some type of game regimen and it’s a difficult, difficult decision that you have to deprive a guy of a complete game shutout,” said Manuel about his decision. Dickey once again was superb throwing 97 pitches, allowing four hits and two walks.

He retired 13 consecutive Tiger batters from the fourth inning on.  Again Dickey, now 6-0 proved he will have to be forced out of the Mets starting rotation. And the only way that will happen is if Dickey suddenly loses control of the knuckleball which had the Tigers struggling.

“He’ll have to have a number of bad outings to take him out of the rotation,” admitted Manuel. The 35-year old Dickey who was bypassed in spring training after signing a minor league deal has come up big. He is one of the reasons the Mets are back in contention, and got a spot in the rotation when Oliver Perez and John Maine went on the disabled list.

But why not let Dickey go the route and use your closer with a secure lead in the ninth?  “If we don’t do that,” said Manuel about using Rodriguez, “we fall back into a category of not having him sharp and he needs to be sharp. And we found out if he doesn’t get those innings it becomes very difficult for him to close out games.”

Perhaps the correct answer from Manuel, because the last appearance for Rodriquez out of the pen was last Friday evening when he recorded his 16th save against the Yankees where he stranded two inherited runners. Rodriguez also made it known before the game, to Manuel that he needed to pitch It was a decision that Dickey accepted when he did not go out for the ninth, even though he would have loved to have finished off the Tigers.

Said, Dickey “I was unsuccessful,” regarding his request to Manuel about taking the mound for the ninth.

But this is a Mets team, and a clubhouse that is unified and will do anything positive that will lead to another win. “Keeping Frankie sharp is going to win us ballgames,” said Dickey the first Mets pitcher to go 6-0 in his first seven starts with the team.  It was also the Mets major league leading 10th shutout of the year and Dickey has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his seven starts.

The Mets, now 11 games over .500 at 41-30 also picked up a game on the Atlanta Braves now trailing them by a half game in the NL east. And once again the Mets got on the board early because of Jose Reyes. He led off the first inning with a triple, but his single and stolen base in the third led to a run off the double from David Wright giving them a 1-0 lead.

New York would add another run in the fifth off Detroit starter and loser Jeremy Bonderman (3-5). They would put three more runs on the board in the seventh. And Reyes, like Angel Pagan the night before, fell short of hitting for the cycle. Besides the single and triple, Reyes hit a two-out solo home run off Bonderman in the fifth, his sixth of the season.

“I feel like I am back for sure,” said Reyes reiterating that he has rebounded from his injury shortened season of last year.  He has scored at least one run in 11 of his last 14 games, and the Mets are 28-7 when Reyes scores at least one run.

Surly he is the catalyst, as has always been known to the Mets lineup.

NOTES:  Angel Pagan who had four runs batted in the night before and was a home run short of the cycle was removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. Jesus Feliciano replaced him and got his first big league RBI on fielder’s choice induced by a groundout.

There is a concern that Pagan, the most consistent hitter in the Mets lineup, could miss some playing time because of spasms in his right side. Manuel will sit down Pagan in the series finale Thursday evening.  “I’ve played through pain before,” said Pagan. “This situation I am trying to be smart to keep playing,” he said realizing that Carlos Beltran will return soon and the Mets will have three spots and four outfielders More so for precautionary reasons…

With the win, the Mets improved to 11-3 in inter league play…David Wright with his RBI, 19 in inter league play, leads the majors in that category… The Mets scored four of their five runs with two outs including a two-out, two-run single by Ike Davis in the seventh…

New York is 26-10 at home and 12-2 over its last three homestands…Ruben Tejada, rumored to be sent down soon when Luis Castillo returns from the disabled list extended his career high hitting streak to seven games with a single in the Mets three-run seventh, He is batting .348 during that span…

Series finale will see (2-1) Armando Galarraga, the near perfect game pitcher taking the mound for Detroit opposing Lefthander Hisanori Takahashi (6-2, 3.13 ERA) who threw six scoreless innings against the Yankees Friday evening…

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Complete Game, Contention, Correct Answer, Detroit Tigers, Difficult Decision, Fastball, Francisco Rodriquez, Friday Evening, Game Shutout, Knuckleball, Last Friday, Minor League Deal, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Pitches, Regimen, Runners, Spring Training, Top Story, Wednesday Evening

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 24, 2010