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Article:Mets Prove Defense Matters

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I know I haven't been around much, but I'm writing for now and having a hard time getting around here as often.  I hope you enjoy today's recap

What a heartbreaking game.  Tuesday night's 6-5 extra inning loss to the New York Mets is the type of game that sends fans over the edge, and baseball teams into slides of epic proportions.  Thankfully for Brewers' fans, this team has shown considerable resiliency after big losses.  But this is tough to swallow nevertheless.

Manny Parra looked sharp in the first anything, but he was anything but after.  He walked the first batter he saw in the second inning and gave up back to back hits to Carlos Delgado and Fernando Tatis that led to two runs, eliminating Rickie Weeks lead off homerun in the first.  But after that, it's hard to blame Manny for what happened .

With one out in the third, Manny induced a tough groundball to shortstop JJ Hardy.  Hardy picked it up and threw the ball in the dirt on an in between hop that completely ate up Prince Fielder.  This was the first defensive blunder that would hurt the Crew.  First baseman are supposed to get that ball, but Prince played it miserably.  Instead of going forward and coming back with his body, Prince let it get up into his body and was, therefore, unable to pick it up.  After a single by David Wright, Carlos Beltran worked himself into a 2-0 count.  Manny's next pitch got away from Jason Kendall sending runners to second and third with one out and a 3-0 count, and that's when I started yelling at the television.

Give the guy the base!  I'm not an advocate for intentional walks, but Beltran is a great hitter and with slow footed Delgado on deck, why not start from scratch and try to get the ground ball?  Instead, Manny and Yost opted to challenge Beltran, but this is when things got really odd for me.  Manny's first three pitches to Beltran were fastballs off the inside corner.  His next two, were fastballs on the inside corner.  So, what do you think Kendall called for next?  How about a inside corner fastball?  I couldn't believe it, and I'm sure Beltran couldn't either as he got to see the same pitch for a fifth time in a row.  This one he turned into a three run blast to give the Mets a 5-1 lead.

Don't fret though.  The Brewers weren't about to give up.  Mets' starter Jonathon Niese was not impressive at all.  His fastball had little movement and his command was questionable at best.   The Brewers missed a huge opportunity to put the pressure on the Mets in the first after Mike Cameron and Corey Hart struck out with runners at second and third.  The Crew wouldn't let another opportunity pass and picked up four runs in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run double from Manny Parra, and a JJ Hardy single that knocked the out the young man.

But the Brewers could have, and perhaps should have gotten another run or two.  With one out and the bases loaded, Corey Hart hit a blooper to left that scored Rickie Weeks, but Dale Sveum sent JJ Hardy to home on a ball that was very shallow in center field.  With two outs, fine I get the green light, but there was only one out, Hardy isn't particularly fast, and Beltran has a cannon.  The result was an out at the plate and another blown opportunity that allowed the Mets defense to start to sparkle.

And sparkle it did.  After Manny Parra doubled with two outs in the fifth, David ' Wright made a diving stop on Rickie Weeks to prevent a run from scoring.  Then JJ Hardy smoked a ball to the wall that left fielder Nick Evans' ran down just barely to prevent two more runs from scoring.  But wait, there's more.  In the eighth inning, Weeks picked up his fourth hit down the left field line only to have Endy Chavez make a spectacular play to get to the ball before it got to the wall and throw out Weeks at second base.

The Mets just kept pushing and pushing, and the Brewers would bend and then bend some more.  But then they finally broke in the bottom of the ninth.

Prince Fielder started it by destroying a leadoff walk by GIDPing on the first pitch from a lefty to bring the game to extra innings.  Prince needs a day off, maybe even two.  He's over-swinging and just trying to do too much.  But the same can be said about all of the Brewers in late inning situations if you watched the eighth, ninth and tenth innings.  This one GIDP was particularly tough because of what happened in the tenth.

After a leadoff single, Jose Reyes attempted a sac bunt that Kendall fielded and tossed over to first.  But the tail of the ball took it to the foul side of the bag, and Rickie just couldn't snag it and get out of the way in time.  Nick Evans moved to third as the ball carromed and the Mets got runners at the corners with no one out.  Endy Chavez gave the Mets a 6-5 lead with a sac fly before a DP got Torres out of the inning.

And then the bottom of the tenth.  Mike Cameron refused to take the bat off his shoulder on two pitches right on the outside corner.  He's lucky he wasn't wrung up on the first one.  Then for some reason, Bill Hall was allowed to hit against right hander Luis Ayala.  I just don't get this logic.  In fact, I don't understand why at any point Billy gets an AB against a right handed pitcher.  It doesn't make sense to have a guy out there with a .300 OBP against RHP in a tight spot, especially with an extended bench of left handed hitters.  (Man, I'm whiney today, but can you really blame me?)  Anyways, Hall would swing at the first pitch and fly out to right field.  Brad Nelson smoked a double down the right field line (his first big league hit I believe) to make things interesting, but in the end, Rickie couldn't pick up his fifth hit of the night as he struck out to end the ball game.

Records: Brewers (80-58); Mets (78-61)

Countdown to 92 Wins: 12 wins, 24 to play

Scoreboard Watching:

Chicago Cubs (4.5 GU):  Loss -- HOU 9, CHC 7

Philadelphia Phillies (4.5 GB):  Win -- PHI 4, WSH 0

St. Louis Cardinals (5.5 GB):  Win --  STL 8, ARI 2

Houston Astros (7.5 GB):  Win -- HOU 9, CHC 7

Florida Marlins (10.5 GB):  Loss -- ATL 16, FLA 14

Notes: The playoffs are not a foregone conclusion.  The Brewers went 20-7 in August, biut they played only one team with a record over .500.  That one team was St. Louis Cardinals, and the Brewers only played two games against them.  September is a whole different can of worms.  While the Brewers play 16 of their last 26 games at home, 13 of those games are against teams with winning records who are fighting for a playoff spot.  Every win matters and as teams like Philadelphia creep even closer, things won't get any easier.

With that being said, at which point do you let some of your young talent play in the game?  I know they don't have much experience, but guys like Brad Nelson, Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel and Angel Salome should be given an opportunity every now and then.  In Tuesday night's game, I would have no problem to see Nelson pinch hit for Hall.  If he gets on, you can then consider letting Kendall hit, while pinch running with Escobar or Gwynn Jr.  Even better, you open the door for a hit and run situation.  Instead, Yost continues to stick with his guys because he's a bit nervous about those guys.  I completely understand this reasoning, and I really don't blame the man for going this way.  Perhaps I'm just a bit more wild.  These kids know what they've gotten themselves in to, and they've proven they can swing the bats just fine.  On top of that, the big league teams don't have any scouting reports on them, and therefore may play into their strengths.

I know the playoffs are on the line here, and people are scared of the young guys' defense, but with such an extended bench and the ability to exchange these guys for veterans who can play in the field, how willing are you to let them have their chance?  At this point, I think anything is an upgrade over a Bill Hall or Jason Kendall in late inning situations, especially ones where OBP matters most.

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