The suddenly starting pitching-poor Mets desperately needed a solid start from Jonathon Niese on Sunday in the finale against the Dodgers. He pitched well enough to give the Mets a chance to win, the Mets tied the score in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings but they ultimately lost in 12, and fall under .500 for the first time this season.
The game was scoreless into the fourth when with one on Juan Rivera smashed a home run to left to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Ironically, the shot came right after the Dodgers play-by-play guy said it could be a “homer kind of day” for Rivera because he matches up well against Niese (unfortunately, the Mets feed was blacked out here in sunny Los Angeles).
In the bottom of the fourth Daniel Murphy doubled with one out. Lucas Duda followed with a single to left. Third base coach Tim Teufel was waving Murphy around, but Murphy stopped. It was probably a good thing — the fielder was just getting the ball in shallow left by the time Murphy was rounding third, and it would have been an extremely close play at home. It all worked out because with two outs Josh Thole singled to score Murphy and make it a 2-1 game.
The Dodgers added a run in the sixth to extend the lead to 3-1.
Proving how consecutive three-inning starts can tax your team in the third game, Terry Collins chose to allow Niese to hit with a runner on second and two outs in the sixth. It worked out — he walked. But it just showed how spent the already shaky bullpen is after having to pitch 12 innings over the past two games. Ruben Tejada flew out to end the threat.
The Mets cut the lead to 3-2 in the seventh when with two outs Ike Davis doubled (after dodging a strikeout when the ump ruled he foul tipped a ball that he may or may not have touched) and Murphy drove him in with a single.
Niese was removed from the game in the top of the eighth with no outs and runners on first and second. Tim Byrdak and Jon Rauch were able to get out of the inning without further damage. So Niese’s line score — seven innings pitched, three runs allowed on eight hits, no walks and three strikeouts.
Tejada led off the ninth inning with a single. Collins stupidly ordered Valdespin to sacrifice Tejada to second (on a 2-1 count, no less. At that point why not challenge the pitcher?). David Wright managed an infield single up the middle that the second baseman was able to keep in the infield, holding Tejada at third. Davis hit a slow bouncer to first that James Loney bobbled — Tejada scored to tie the game at three. Davis was thrown out at first for the second out. Murphy was intentionally walked and Duda grounded out to send the game to extra innings.
Even though the bunt helped the run score, I still thought it was a bad play with the team down in the ninth inning.
Nieuwenhuis led off the 10th inning with a double. Pinch hitter Scott Hairston walked. Mike Nickeas, who entered the game in the ninth after a pinch runner came in for Thole, attempted to sacrifice. He bunted it right back to the pitcher, who got Nieuwenhuis at third. Nickeas only avoided a double play when Loney was pulled off the base. With runners on first and second and one out, Tejada grounded into a double play.
Once again, I don’t like the bunt here, since Nieuwenhuis was already in scoring position. But the score was tied, so it was much less risky than the ninth inning sacrifice.
After two scoreless innings, Bobby Parnell gave way to Ramon Ramirez for the 11th. He started out the inning by walking Andre Ethier. Pitcher Clayton Kershaw was the surprise pinch hitter, bunting Ethier over to second. Ramirez struck out Luis Cruz for the second out and Adam Kennedy was intentionally walked. A.J. Ellis popped up in foul territory to end the inning.
Loney led off the 12th inning with a single. Tony Gwynn, Jr. sacrificed but just beat the throw to first to put runners on first and second with no outs. Mark Ellis bunted in the air back to Ramirez for the first out. Up stepped Matt Kemp, who hit a sharp grounder to Davis. He got Gwynn at second, leaving runners on first and third with two outs. Ethier was intentionally walked to load the bases. Matt Treanor was the pinch hitter — he hit a single up the middle to score two, giving the Dodgers a 5-3 lead. Cruz followed with a single to score Ethier, making it 6-3. Kennedy hit a fly ball to right that Duda misplayed into a two-run double. 8-3 Dodgers.
That was the final score of a nearly five hour game. The Mets are now 47-48 and have lost of eight of the nine games since the All-Star break with the first place Nationals coming to town next.
I don’t know why, but home plate umpire Jim Joyce really irritated me today. His emphatic strike calls (AH-EEEEEE!!!!) just seem like too much, as if he is trying to call attention to himself. Everything else he does is too choreographed. For example, out on strikes one and two he screams and shoots his hand out in the opposite direction of a batter, but on a called strike three it is in the direction of the hitter.
Umpires are supposed to blend into the background. Joyce seems to want to make sure he stands out. Still though, he had a consistent strike zone and is generally regarded as one of the good umpires. I’ll take that over a quiet ump who calls a terrible game any day.