I should have known something was afoot when there was a scroll on MLB Network today that noted that Zack Wheeler hadn't had more than five strikeouts in a game since his major league debut, when he had seven. And it would be flowery to say that Zack was motivated by that scroll and made a conscious decision to strike out more batters against the Padres on Thursday. As we all know, it's not that simple or convenient. And if we have players who are motivated by stat scrolls, then we have a bigger problem than pitchers not striking out enough batters to our liking.
Zack Wheeler struck out 12 batters in six innings against San Diego in a 4-1 win (getting you fans off to a good start with your discounts for next week's tickets … which might be why Wheeler didn't pitch the seventh), and he also set a career high in total pitches which, if you're going to do that, better to do that because you're striking out a bunch of Padres, and you're saving a bullpen that has no Bobby Parnell (neck), no Carlos Torres (overworked yesterday) no Scott Rice (overworked for the last four months), no Josh Edgin (off to find himself) or LaTroy Hawkins (direct shot to the friends of the program). Think about this: when you have a bullpen of only Gonzalez Germen, Scott Atchison, and David Aardsma and you win a game using only two of them (Atchison got the win, Germen went the last two for the save), it's more impressive than when MacGyver disarmed a nuke with a chili pepper and a nose ring.
The Mets got their first run of the night on a play that illustrates potential problems with next season's new replay system next year. Now don't get me wrong, I love that Major League Baseball is finally getting progressive, though I've never been a fan of the NFL style "challenge flag" system, and I wish that Bud Selig would stop harping on how "historic" a day this is and just make sure this thing gets done right. But on the Mets first run, Yonder Alonso was pulled off the bag on a throw from shortstop with two outs, scoring Murphy from first base to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Now I thought that Alonso's foot was indeed off the bag, but there really wasn't a great angle to show this. Will the powers that be make sure that all possible camera angles to catch plays such as this are covered?
(And also, apparently if you argue a call, you can't challenge it … and vice versa. Are you then still allowed for certain plays to ask the umps to review it amongst themselves? I guess it depends on the type of play, which means that instead of a two point conversion chart … which is stupid because nobody should ever go for two points unless you're within the last five minutes of the game, managers will be equipped with charts telling them what plays they can challenge, what they can argue, and what plays they can throw Gatorade buckets on the field about. If Wally Backman has a major league job next year, something tells me his chart will have cigarette holes in it from the first week. But these are merely questions, not complaints. Replay is coming, and within a few years it will be tweaked to the point where more games will be decided fairly, and Angel Hernandez will be making a living selling real estate. This can only be construed as a good thing.)
Now back to the game. The Padres tied it at 1-1 on a sac fly, and it wasn't worse than that because of some great defense … Eric Young Jr. turning a Rene Rivera HR into a triple with a leaping deflection, and Juan Lagares gunning out Tyson Ross at home on a single to center (why people still run on him is beyond me). Then Bud Black did something curious in the eighth inning with two outs: With Daniel Murphy up, Mike Baxter swiped second base on the first pitch. Then Black decided to walk Murphy to get to Marlon Byrd, presumably because of lefty-righty considerations. But all Black did was put another runner on base to get driven in. He in no way, shape or form, lowered his odds of getting burned. Stats: Daniel Murphy against righthanders this season: ,280/.321/.432/.752, 8 HR 38 RBI's. Marlon Byrd against righties this season: .256/.309/.468/.777, 11 HR, 37 RBI's. It's not like the difference was so stark that it warranted putting another runner on base for no reason. He was better off, or at least even off, taking his chances with Murphy with one runner on rather than Byrd with two runners on. But hey, the Mets will take it how they can get it, and they took it in the form of a two-run double for Byrd over Chris Denorfia and his misjudging ways in right field. A refreshing change from having a pitcher get hit in the nuts right before giving up a game tying home run.
Speaking of getting hit in the nuts, did you hear how a Chinese zoo fooled its customers into thinking that a hairy dog … a Tiberian mastiff … was an African Lion? And that the jig was up when the "lion" barked? I say "big deal". The Mets have been trying to tell us that Lucas Duda was an outfielder for three years … and we paid money to see that too.
(And when Duda had that beard, he kinda looked like that Tiberian mastiff.)