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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The More Things Change….

Opening day has come and gone.  On the plus side the Mets have one  of the  best  all time winning percentages  in opening day games – and we all know how  that has worked out over 50 years.

On the down side, it looks an awful  lot like they could  use today’s game as  the oft referenced “microcosm” game for what looks like the inevitable 48th year of futility.

Pelfrey being hyped as ready to assume the mantle of staff “ace”?  In reality, he would not legitimately be looked at as the ace of any number of college teams and most,  if not all,  minor league teams. He may end up having a serviceable Bobby Jones like career, and may turn out to be a serviceable 5th starter on a major league team, but he has never found a bat that he could not hit. He may get 27 people to hit the ball directly at fielders over a 3 hour period, but he can never be really good unless and until  he can get HIMSELF out of trouble on occasion. This will not happen unless and UNTIL  he learns to change speeds.  Every pitch looks exactly the same. OK  sometimes he has good movement. Sometimes he throws a heavy ball all game – but he never changes speeds. Hell, even if he couldn’t get people out with it he should learn to do it just to put something in a hitters mind.

Which brings me to the next problem. Who does Dan Warthen have pictures of  in the Met’s organization. My guess is Jeff Wilpon. Can’t be any of the triumvirate. What are his qualifications as a pitching coach? At least Peterson had the whole kinetic research combined with psycho babble thing going – and some  sort of strategy regarding the art of pitching. Hell Leo Mazzone is out  there begging for a job. I know, I know, he doesn’t fit the mold as a speak when spoken to guy – but  he sure knows how  to be a pitching coach, with years and years of proven  results. Is Warthen’s plan to have the pitchers pound the strike zone = which they still don/t do enough. Round  up and  develop 95 MPH pitchers and teach them secondary pitches? Seems it is more like the Mets 50 year plan – just throw as much crap against the wall as you  can and hope something  sticks.

It would be considered noble, heroic, insightful, moneyballish, whatever – watching  a front office assemble a rag tag team of  no names, cast offs, rule 5’s (come on 2 out of your 9  players on the field on opening day are rule 5 players), but  this is New York. Even being the second city team in New York should make you a Billion Dollar Franchise. Not Northeast Kansas City.

Which brings us to the biggest problem. Ownership. There is no sympathy. They pocketed millions from Met fans – not  counting  Madoff’s  money  and what they knew or didn’t know. They always did just enough to act like they cared but never went all in like Steinbrenner. They never had the whatever it takes mentality like Steinbrenner and now the Red Sox and Phillies. Why? General principles?  Good business skills – which we already know they do not possess? Why? Because you can only sell so many tickets and once  you  sell them all, or all you think you  are going to sell in the best case scenario, you can stop trying to impress anybody, you can stop trying to win, you can stop spending or investing as there is no  ROI  left for you to squeeze out. The actual pennants, world series, winning and all that comes with that culture  and reputation is not important to them-and never has been for the entire  Mets history.

From the time they were born they were a joke, an attraction. They hired a guy Casey Stengel who by  that time was a washed up carnival hawker and he toured the land with his Metsies, Metsies schtick and his fabulous one liners about why they drafted a catcher first in the expansion draft – your gonna need somebody to go get the balls. They were known point blank as lovable losers. And they marketed the hell out of it  for all it  was worth. And it lasted for  50 years.

 

1969 was a MIRACLE. No other way to describe it. No other explanation for it. But it  happened and so did 1986. And that should  have been enough to open somebody’s eyes to what could be. What should  be. But it didn’t. Again, lovable losers that they are, ROI focused  as ever, just getting into the Subway Series was enough. Winning it didn’t matter. Getting maybe one curveball away from the world series in 2006 insured the max ROI for the next 3 years minimum, and take out the unscripted colossal collapses in 2007 and 2008 and they would still be living off 2006. Just like  SNY  still  lives off  1986 replays – and Yankee info and commercials. (could  you ever  imagine Steinbrenner allowing a David Wright  commercial  airing during  a YES broadcast?) The Met’s  don’t care  about that kind of stuff. They care about the  bottom line. Hell if the  Yankees  don’t pay them to run their commercials who else will?

Now having said all this, I always hated people who criticized for the sake of bitching and moaning alone.  I always felt if you weren’t part of the solution, you were part of the problem. Or at least if you didn’t have any ideas on what the solutions should be – then shut the hell up.

In this case however, the answers are obvious and can no longer be ignored or  tip-toed around.

Selig needs to have the Wilpons  sell the team – immediately if not already in the process. Otherwise he needs to move up his date and leave tomorrow and let the next guy make them divest themselves of what should be the  Pinta  or  Santa  Maria  of  MLB,  if  not the Nina itself.

The front office needs to bring in all their own people. And not shopping in Filenes Basement. It  is killing the Phillies  they can’t  go right  after  Michael Young  to fill in at 2nd base. Of  course,  they paid  more than the GNP of ¾ of  the  world for their  starting  rotation, and Howard and Utley. But don’t be shocked if  they get  desperate  enough they don’t  go  ahead  and get  him anyway.  It’s called doing whatever  it takes.

Start selling high on players  like Pagan, Pelfrey (based on last year), Reyes if he starts looking like  his old self, Beltran to an AL team if he  proves he can DH, and David Wright before he completely  flops.

Trade these guys  for aces, or  potential  aces,  or  potential  all stars. Restock the farm with top talent.  Get established  talent.   Reyes  or  Wright could have  brought a Lincecum a few years ago. They can still bring monster packages from the Red Sox,  Giants,  Dodgers, etc. Move them. Move on. Rebuild in your own image and see what happens.

We have already seen what happens  with  50 years of the wrong vision, or  no vision whatsoever. And it ain’t pretty. Somebody has to lead the poor Met  fans out of the desert. 50 years of  futility is enough.

And if we can’t go to the mountain – then we should bring the mountain  to them,  in the  form of balled up  season ticket  applications.  Stop supporting the same people who make fools out of us year after year after year after year. Stop buying 6 game packages. Stop going to the games altogether. Stop watching them on SNY. Stop watching SNY. It is the only thing these people respond to and unless and until we show them we understand how they operate the vicious cycle will continue in perpetuity. And the best we could hope for is some sort of purgitory if not outright baseball fan hell.

Posted under Bobby Jones, Dan Warthen, Fielders, Futility, Hyped, Jeff Wilpon, Leo Mazzone, Major League, Mantle, Mets, Microcosm, Minor League Teams, Mold, New York Mets, Percentages, Pitchers, Pitching Coach, Psycho Babble, Strike Zone, Top Story, Triumvirate

This post was written by Frank Salamone on April 2, 2011

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Dickey and Davis Lead the Way in 4-0 Victory over Cardinals

New York – Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey went a season-high eight and one-thirds innings, giving up only four hits to help the New York Mets (52-50) blank the St. Louis Cardinals (56-46) by the score of 4-0 in afternoon baseball at Citi Field on Thursday.

Dickey (7-4) was able to stretch his scoreless streak this afternoon, to a career-best 17.0 consecutive innings, which dates back to the fifth inning of his start on July 20th at Arizona. Along with stretching his scoreless streak Dickey helped to lead the Mets to their major-league leading 14th shutout of the year.

It was noticed by Dickey along with young catcher Josh Thole saw that sometimes the knuckleball wasn’t going to always make the other team swing and miss, so instead today the two were able to have a game plan which kept the Cardinals off balance.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel was impressed with how the starter could recognize that saying, “Yes, especially for a pitch like the knuckleball, which is difficult to tell what direction it is going to go, even for the catcher. He and Josh have worked very well together to identify what makes them successful.”

Thole who has had the opportunity to catch Dickey in Triple-A affiliate Buffalo noticed one change in the starter, “His secondary pitches make the difference.  It helps to have those secondary pitches and he has really worked on them and it has made him a more successful pitcher.”

“I tried to change speeds and was able to keep them (the Cardinals off balance today,” Dickey said of his start. “The trend for anytime a pitcher has a shutout is when that pitcher has command of the strike zone and I was able to do that today.”

For St. Louis starter Blake Hawksworth was the recipient of a tough loss in this afternoon’s game (4-7) going six innings, giving up seven hits and four runs along with three walks and three strike outs.

In a game which featured many ground balls along with some fine defensive plays neither team was able to get on the board until the bottom of the third inning. Jose Reyes got the Mets going by ripping a double (18) to right field. Reyes was able to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, which dates to July 19th 2010. Outfielder Angel Pagan followed with a ground ball infield single, which thanks to his speed he was able to beat out and set the stage for rookie sensation Ike Davis.

Davis lifted the first pitch in his at bat over the Nikon sign in center field for his 15th home run of the season, and gave the Mets a comfortable 3-0 lead. For Davis, who had a day off in yesterday’s game,  the 15 homers are the fifth-most by a Mets rookie in franchise history, holding the overall record is the future Met Hall of Famer Darryl Strawberry with 26 in 1983.

On being able to provide clutch hitting in his first year with the club Davis said, “It is all about the confidence you have as a hitter, you need to be able to go up to the plate and have confidence in your swing. You can have that exact same swing but if you don’t have confidence it won’t go very far.” The first baseman continues by saying, “If I hit it well enough I expect the ball to go out of the park. If I am able to get the barrel of the bat to center or to right, I know for sure it will go out. I just wanted to stay through it and not roll it over.”

Dickey would continue to keep the Cardinals guessing in the top of the fifth inning. One huge ground out was when second baseman Skip Schumaker to hit into a infield double play, along with getting  Yadier Molina to hit into another ground out on a nice backhanded play by rookie Mike Hessman, who was playing third base for New York in the game. Hessman looked good making two nice backhanded grabs in the hot corner in this afternoon’s game.

The Mets would get on the board one last time in the bottom of the fifth inning as Angel Pagan ripped a triple (7) to the right field crevice. Center fielder Carlos Beltran would plate that fourth New York run by lacing a single to left field to give New York the 4-0 lead.

“I am good to go and I just want to be out there and help the team win,” Beltran said after the game. “The main thing for me is that I need to come into the ballpark before the game and do my pre-game routine, which started in St. Lucie, and it will be something that stays with me for the rest of my career.”

Ground balls would continue to greet the Mets infielders as Dickey would induce seven alone in the later innings to keep the Cardinals off the board. In the top of the eighth inning the starter found some trouble as the rain started to come down as Schumaker hit a single to right field to try to start the Cardinals offense, a wild pitch placed the runner on second for pitch hitter Randy Winn. Dickey was able to get out of trouble by getting a hard hit ground ball to Alex Cora to end the inning.

“It is great for us to play behind Dickey,” Davis said after the game. “It is hard sometimes when the pitchers throw the balls outside the strike zone then we stay on your heels a little, but Dickey works so fast and he keeps us on our toes.”

New York would try to add one last run in the bottom of the eighth as Hessman was hit in the shoulder by Cardinal reliever Mike MacDougal. Jose Thole worked a walk to have runners on first and second for Jeff Francoeur. Unfortunately for the 40,087 the outfielder hit a high pop up to first base for the first out. Alex Cora worked a walk, before Dickey hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out. The bases were loaded for Jose Reyes, who hit a hard ground ball for the final out of the inning.

Top of the ninth inning was greeted by a huge cheer as Dickey took the hill to close out the game. Pinch hitter Colby Rasmus singled to center for the fourth St. Louis hit. Felipe Lopez advanced Rasmus on a ground ball to Ike Davis for the first out. A walk to rookie Jon Jay placed runners on first and second for the dangerous duo of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Dickey would not find out how he would have fared against the two big bats as manager Jerry Manuel called for reliever Francisco Rodriguez who got the last two outs and sealed the 4-0 victory for New York.

“This is one of those wins that you point too and hope that it can turn your season around, “Dickey said. “Yesterday was a heartbreaker, but we had no time to think about it. Today you really saw the character of this team and we really have a shot until the end of the season.”

The Mets will now open a three game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks as righty Mike Pelfrey (10-5, 4.00 ERA) takes on Ian Kennedy (5-8, 4.10 ERA) in a 7:10 p.m. Friday night game at Citi Field.

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Trade News: The National League East got a whole lot tougher today as the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Roy Oswalt in a trade with the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher J.A. Happ and minor league prospects Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose.

Story originally posted on www.latinosports.com

Posted under Baseball, Blake Hawksworth, Buffalo, Fifth Inning, Game Plan, Ground Balls, Josh Thole, Knuckleball, Major League, New York Mets, Pitch, Pitches, Recipient, Scoreless Streak, Shutout, St Louis Cardinals, Starting Pitcher, Strike Zone, Top Story, Victory, Walks

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on July 30, 2010