The good thing about baseball is that you can seek redemption shortly after great failures. Frank Francisco took full advantage of that Monday night. It wasn’t pretty but he finally protected a lead as the Mets beat the Brewers 3-1.
The shift-happy Brewers were done in by their own strategy in the first inning. A recent Sports Illustrated article highlighted how often teams are shifting their infields these days against players who pull balls. The Brewers are the leaders in the National League. They shifted 22 times in 2010 and then 170 times in 2011. This season they are on pace for 324. Well with two outs and a runner on second, the Brewers put a shift on against Daniel Murphy, who is not a dead pull hitter. And wouldn’t you know it — Murphy hit a ball right where the shortstop should have been playing. Instead of an inning-ending grounder it went into left for a run-scoring single to give the Mets the early lead.
The Mets made it 2-0 in the sixth when Ronny Cedeno laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to score Murphy from third. Murphy had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He’s now hitting .333.
They were the only two hits the Mets managed off Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. He was done in by six walks in six innings.
Meanwhile Miguel Batista was tremendous, throwing seven shutout innings, striking out five while allowing just four hits and one walk.
The Mets added a huge run in the eighth on a huge Brewer error. David Wright, who had doubled, was on third with one out when Murphy hit a grounder to a drawn-in infield. The second baseman threw home and Wright got into a rundown. Wright was a dead duck until Aramis Ramirez dropped the ball trying to transfer it from his glove to his hand. Why it was in his glove in the first place is unknown. In any case, that made it 3-0.
And the Mets needed that cushion with a shaky Francisco, who blew two games in Miami, coming in for the save. He allowed a leadoff single to Ryan Braun, who promptly stole second. After a ground out, Braun scored on a single to left to cut the lead to 3-1. He walked Taylor Green to put the tying runs on base. Still, Terry Collins stuck with him. He went on to strike out Brooks Conrad, and then got George Kottaras to fly out to right.
The Mets survive 3-1. Despite coming through, Francisco did not inspire confidence. This will be a big story going forward.