24.5.05

Idiot Ump Prevents Mets From Beating Braves, 8-6

Thanks to second-base umpire Jeff Nelson who inexplicably ruled that the game-tying slide by David Wright into second base to break up a potential double play and force Rafael Furcal to throw low and wide to first was actually a slide out of the baseline, the Mets rally of the ages was crushed like the hopes of Uzbeki protesters. Actually it wasn't even a call, it was a reversal of fate so intrusive and misguided, it cost the Mets their rally and the ballgame, 8-6.

Ok, maybe it wasn't really Jeff Nelson's fault. It was a wide slide and out of the basepath nearly into right centerfield in an effort to throw off Furcal, and a justifiable call but maybe just the kind of call you don't normally see made at the most crucial point in the game.

"He showed no attempt to reach the bag safely and stay on it," Nelson told a pool reporter of Wright's slide and his subsequent call. "It was an intentional act, and it's automatic that the batter/runner is called out on the back end of the play."

It's nice and perhaps necessary to find another on Scapegoat Patrol as the Mets let another one slide through their fingers at the onset of what is promising to be a very fruitless and disappointing tumble downwards into the pits of National League East hell over the next five or six days.

With Piazza out of the lineup because he can't catch more than a couple of games in a row (and if this series against Atlanta was so much more important than the Subway Series as several Mets indicated then why wasn't he rested against them instead of the Braves?!) - and Beltran out for perhaps the entire series due to strained right quadriceps muscle and even Kaz Matsui, for better of worse, out with a strained right trapezius muscle, the Mets fielded a team that saw DeFelice catching, Woodward in rightfield and Miguel Cairo starting at second, not exactly the A Team but certainly no excuse for the miserable pitching that accompanied it.

Oh yes, with Glavine and Zambrano in the wings, Kaz Ishii, on the heels of his rousing return against the lowly Cincinnati Reds, turned in an absolutely abyssmal performance against our most hated rivals, blowing the game apart in an act of sabotage so blatant that the Mets were down 4-1 by the second inning and 7-3 after four against a team that is now 14-5 at home, second best in the majors behind the Padres, who are 16-4.

The funny thing is that Ishii encouraging performance against the Reds came on Asian Night at Shea Stadium and here he was facing the Braves on Asian Heritage Night at Turner Field so straight away you begin to believe that it's fate - Ishii would turn in another dazzling performance and the hangover of the game blown to the Yankees would disappear.

Instead, after retiring the side in order in the first inning, Ishii allowed Furcal, who was a dismal 6-for-50 on the road trip for the Braves, to hit a bases-loaded triple in the second inning and reach base his last four times up. He allowed seven earned runs in four heartbreaking innings of disillusionment, seven hits and walked three (one with the bases loaded) whilst striking out nary a Brave and leave the Mets with nary a chance save for Wright's maniacal slide which was quickly overruled.

Wright, who was tossed from the game when he exploded against Nelson following the call, had a decent night otherwise, going 3 for 3 with a homer plus two backhanded stops, one diving play fielding at third. It won't make us forget the flub on Sunday against the Yankees, especially not when he committed a crucial error in the second inning, backing up on a grounder and launching an ill-advised throw that carried into the Atlanta dugout. Trying to do too much.

That error put runners on the corners with two outs but was enough to cause Ishii to become unglued. He intentionally walked Wilson Betemit to load the bases and get to Braves pitcher Horacio Ramirez. Easy enough, you figure. But instead, he walked Ramirez, allowing a run to score and then gave up Furcal's triple to make it 4-1.

The Mets came back in the 4th with a pair of runs, one of them on Mike Cameron's homer, but Ishii gave the game right back to the Braves in the bottom half of the inning when a double and a walk set up a three-run homer by Marcus Giles (only his second of the year) and gave the Braves the lead they would not relinquish, 7-3.

Manny Aybar and Mike DeJean pitched politly and reasonably quietly the final four innings (giving an over-worked bullpen even more work with two notorious early-exit pitchers in the queue to flail against the Braves over the next two nights) but the damage was done. The Mets chipped away at the Braves lead but of course the pivotal call, the 8th inning ruling that saw Wright explode and get ejected, sealed the Mets' fate despite Chris Woodward's homer in the 9th and Reyes' triple that threatened another rally after DeFelice and Mike Piazza, as pinchhitter, struck out.


*****

Mike Piazza's capacity as Met Meathead grew almost legendary last night even though he only made his one pathetic strikeout appearance. Apparently, he spent his free time yesterday getting a baseball autographed by the radio commentator Rush Limbaugh. "It was like meeting George Washington," Piazza said.

I'll let that statement settle in your intestines for a moment before it is violently spat out in a colonic fit. Stay near the toilet.

*****

The loss dropped the Mets to 23-22 on the season and another game back behind the Florida Marlins who now sport a fat four game lead over us in the NL East.

*****

I know it seems pointless to even bother worrying about who the Braves toss out there to pitch against us when Tom Glavine is scheduled to perform his usual disabled pitcher routine against the Braves tonight, but for the overly optimistic of you lot, here is some food for thought, tiny granules, crumbs:

Tim Hudson is starting for the Braves and look to see a bunch of switch-hitting lefties for the Mets as left-handed hitters are batting .339 against him and right-handers have compiled just a .217 mark. This will be his first career start against the Mets. His perfect chance for a perfect record. He is 2-3 with a 5.90 ERA in his past five starts but at home, he's 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA in four starts.

My prediction? Pain.

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