Fifth-inning miscues cost Mets

July, 21, 2011
7/21/11
4:54
PM ET
Jonathon Niese and Angel Pagan both used the same two words when asked to describe their fifth-inning gaffes during Thursday afternoon’s 6-2 loss to the Cardinals at Citi Field.

“It happens.”

Niese’s inexplicable walk of right-hander Jake Westbrook led to Lucas Duda’s inexplicable throwing error. And that led to Pagan’s inexplicable throwing error, which could turn out to be the top play on ESPN’s “Not Top 10 Plays.” Combined, it all led to three runs, none of which were earned, and a 5-1 Cardinals lead.

Let’s break all of it down in more detail:

First off, you never want to walk the opposing pitcher. Whoops!

“I just didn’t execute my pitches,” Niese said of the one-out free pass he allowed to Westbrook. “I wasn’t trying to walk him. It happens.”

Secondly, Duda. With Westbrook off first and Daniel Descalso (who doubled) off second, Nick Punto rocketed a ground ball to Duda, who fielded it cleanly. But his throw to second in an attempt to start a 3-6-3 doubleplay nicked Westbrook on the shoulder and flew into the outfield, allowing Descalso to score, Westbrook to reach second and Punto to reach first on the miscue.

“I gotta step up or step back,” Duda said. “I gotta create a lane for myself to make the throw.”

John Jay followed by driving home Westbrook with a single to center.

It could’ve ended right there, but for some reason, Pagan, after scooping up the ball once it ricocheted off the second base bag, thought that Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay was Duda, so he fired the ball to first in an attempt to catch Jay off the base. Except that Duda wasn’t anywhere near the base, so the ball went toward the Mets dugout, allowing Punto to come around to score.

“That’s exactly what I thought,” Pagan said. “I was looking at the runner (Jay) and the coach was right on top of the base. It happens, sometimes.”

It happens, all right. It just seems to happen more to the Mets than other teams.

ONLY TAKES ONE: Niese made one mistake on Thursday afternoon -- and it cost him.

He left a first-inning sinker up to Albert Pujols, and Pujols didn't miss it, drilling it into the left-field seats for a two-run homer, which put St. Louis on top to stay.

"He's a mistake a hitter," manager Terry Collins said of Pujols.

Niese's final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 5 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 7 SO

He now has 13 quality starts, the most of any Met. The 24-year-old left-hander (9-8, 3.76 ERA) has struck out 33 over his last five starts (31.2 innings).

OF NOTE: Pagan has made seven errors this season. Justin Upton started play Thursday leading all MLB outfielders with eight errors. ... Thursday afternoon's game lasted 2 hours, 7 minutes, the quickest game the Mets have played all season. ... Beltran has reached base safely in 27 straight games. It's his longest streak since reaching 30 straight games from Sept. 24, 2008 to May 9, 2009. ... the Mets wrapped up their homestand 3-4.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 4.09 151 202
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187