Monday, June 25, 2012
Mets morning briefing 6.25.12
By Adam Rubin
R.A. Dickey's streak without allowing an earned run ended at 44 2/3 innings when Mark Teixeira had a sacrifice fly in the third inning and Nick Swisher belted a three-run homer later in the frame. The Mets did rally in the sixth to even the score at 5 and take Dickey off the hook, but Miguel Batista surrendered a tiebreaking eighth-inning solo homer to Robinson Cano as the Yankees beat the Mets, 6-5, in Sunday's Subway Series rubber game before a Citi Field-record crowd of 42,364.
"Not bad for a bunch of chickens," Swisher crowed afterward.
Dickey's streak was the second longest in franchise history without allowing an earned run, narrowly shy of Dwight Gooden's franchise-record 49 innings in 1985. The knuckleballer's streak without allowing an earned run was the longest in the majors since Orel Hershiser posted his MLB-record 59-inning streak without allowing any runs in '88. (Hershiser was Dickey's pitching coach with the Rangers when Dickey went from conventional pitcher to committing full time to the knuckleball.)
According to Elias, Dickey had held opposing batters without an extra-base hit in 105 consecutive at-bats before Swisher's long ball, the longest streak in the majors this season. Dickey also was charged with his first wild pitch this season.
The Mets completed a stretch of eight straight series against teams with winning records -- versus the Phillies, Cardinals, Nationals, Yankees, Rays, Reds, Orioles and Yankees again -- with a 12-13 record (including 1-5 against their Bronx rivals).
The Amazin's now open a three-game series at Wrigley Field at 8:05 p.m. Monday, with Johan Santana (5-3, 3.00 ERA) opposing left-hander Travis Wood (1-3, 4.14). The Cubs are an MLB-worst 24-48.
Monday's news reports:
• Read game recaps in the Post, Star-Ledger, Record, Times, Newsday, Daily News and Journal.
• Frank Francisco landed on the disabled list before Sunday's series finale with a left oblique strain. The Mets also demoted Jordany Valdespin, freeing roster spots for the returns of shortstop Ruben Tejada and reliever Ramon Ramirez from the disabled list. Terry Collins had indicated Bobby Parnell would get the first crack at closing in Francisco's absence Sunday, but the opportunity did not materialize. Valdespin's playing time would have been minimal with the number of middle infielders active -- Tejada, Ronny Cedeņo, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Omar Quintanilla. Quintanilla is out of options, and team officials had been concerned they would lose him off waivers if they tried to get him through in order to attempt to send him to Triple-A Buffalo. Read more in Newsday, the Post, Record and Star-Ledger.
• Tejada went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and committed a throwing error in his return. Read more in the Post, Record and Star-Ledger.
• In obvious need of a second-lefty in the bullpen to pair with Tim Byrdak, which was made even clearer after Cano took Batista deep, the Mets designated for assignment Vinny Rottino postgame and called up ex-Padre Justin Hampson. Writes columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post about Terry Collins' own regret in hindsight for not using Byrdak to face Cano:
These are the torturous tests you endure sometimes as a manager. We already know how many headaches and how much heartburn the Mets’ bullpen has given Terry Collins -- and anyone else with a remote interest in the team’s fortunes. We already knew they have only one left-handed arm, Tim Byrdak’s, in that bullpen. And we already knew they were playing a man down, since Frank Francisco was placed on the disabled list early last night. We all know that. And Terry Collins knows that. We can get irrational about managers sometimes, so it’s best to think about them the way you think about commercial airline pilots if you happen to have a fear of flying: The man in the cockpit doesn’t want to crash, either.
Read more from columnist John Harper in the Daily News.
As for external assistance, Buster Olney tweeted: "Mets need bullpen help, but there aren't many sellers now, so they'll probably wait until the All-Star break before they dig into the market."
• Little Jerry Seinfeld will lead a long life, at least by poultry standards. The chicken -- purchased by a clubhouse attendant in Chinatown for $8 at Byrdak's request for a gag, after Francisco called the Yankees "chickens" -- was presented to Farm Sanctuary of Watkins Glen, N.Y., in a pregame ceremony Sunday outside the clubhouse. Even Jerry Seinfeld seemed to embrace the ridiculousness. As the Mets rallied Sunday night, the devout-Mets-fan Seinfeld tweeted: "Yes! @mets #rallychicken comes through!!"
Francisco, by the way, maintained he own a chicken farm in his native Dominican Republic. David Waldstein of the Times reported via Twitter that Francisco raises fighting chickens. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Journal and Newsday.
• Dickey, whose ERA rose to 2.31 although he remained 11-1, said about his knuckleball Sunday: "It was coming out kind of wobbly a little bit and I kept searching for it through the innings."
Writes columnist Steve Politi in the Star-Ledger:
They don’t sing country songs about knuckleball pitchers, but R.A. Dickey sure sounded like he writing a couple stanzas as he reflected on pitching like an actual human being again. “I was going to live and die with my girl,” he said. “She’d been nice so far. That’s just the way of it, you know?” Well, that she left him last night, of all nights, was downright cruel. This was a nationally televised game. This was the largest crowd in Citi Field history. This was against the hated Yankees. But even if Dickey had controlled her over his previous five starts like no pitcher in baseball history, there is no pitch in the sport as fickle as a knuckleball, relying on whims and winds to sneak past batters.
Writes columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record about the hyped Dickey-CC Sabathia matchup:
How did his best pitch suddenly become so vulnerable? The answer speak to the volatility of the pitch itself, especially at the speeds Dickey throws it. He’s got an 80-mph freak of nature on his hands, and make no mistake the butterfly effect of Dickey’s knuckleball has turned him an All-Star this year. But try to squeeze even an extra mile or two out of the pitch, overthrow it by just a little, and the ball loses its mystery. And that seemed to be what sabotaged Dickey over the next four innings -- a clear case of too much adrenaline, too much arm-speed, which kept him to doing all the little things that’s previously made his knuckleball a nightmare for hitters. “You have to remember that throwing the knuckleball properly is like a symphony of micro-movements -- the back, the legs, the arm,” Jim Bouton was saying over the weekend. “All of it has to be perfect. That’s the thing about a knuckleball. You can be a little off with your fastball; it comes in at 89 instead of 92. But a knuckleball that’s a little off turns into a home run.”
Read more about Dickey's outing in the Times, Newsday, Daily News and Post.
• The three-game series drew a combined attendance of 124,677. The Mets had been averaging 28,279 per game entering the series. (It's fair to note that the season average includes midweek/bad-weather games earlier in the year, whereas the Yankees series fell during a time attendance would naturally be higher anyway -- although not as high, obviously, had the Bombers not been visiting Queens.)
ESPN's Jayson Stark notes the Subway Series, and other natural rivalries, now are slated to be reduced to four games a season -- two apiece in each ballpark -- rather than the six games a season that has been the norm.
• Ike Davis was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day with a suspected case of food poisoning, which he believes is related to bad oysters. Davis pinch hit for Turner with two out in the ninth and Lucas Duda on first base. Yankees closer Rafael Soriano retired Davis on flyout to right field.
• The two-week program to prepare Jenrry Mejia at Triple-A Buffalo for major league bullpen readiness is now complete, Bisons manager Wally Backman said, via broacaster Ben Wagner's tweet. However, that does not mean Mejia will be an imminent call-up. Mejia has struggled in the role, allowing seven runs (six earned) on nine hits, three walks and a hit batter in four innings spanning five appearances since the June 15 conversion. "When you have that natural cutter like he’s got, you’ve got to be able to command it," Collins told reporters Sunday. "And Wally said right now everything’s in the middle."
• Matt Harvey allowed two runs in five innings in a no-decision with Buffalo, while Robert Carson recorded a five-out save for Binghamton and Cam Maron's South Atlantic League hitting streak ended at 16 games. Read the full minor league here.
• Dickey's knuckleball likely will pave the way for others to follow in his footsteps. There are only two minor leaguers throwing the pitch right now -- Double-A Akron's Steven Wright (Cleveland Indians) and Class A Boise's Joe Zeller (Chicago Cubs).
• Brittany Viola, the daughter of Frank Viola, qualified for the Olympics in diving by winning the 10-meter platform competition at the U.S. trials. The ex-Met currently serves as the pitching coach for the organization's Class A Savannah affiliate. Read more in the Miami Herald and Newsday.
• With David Wright and Dickey likely representatives already and Santana at only 5-3, it seems unlikely the southpaw would make the All-Star squad. Regardless, GM Sandy Alderson told Mark Hale in the Post that the team would not stand in the way of Santana participating if selected, even though Santana missed last season with shoulder surgery. (New MLB guidelines make it tougher for players to wriggle free if selected anyway. They must be injured or excused, per the new CBA.)
TRIVIA: Who hit the homers for the Mets in a Sept. 25, 2004 game against the Cubs at Shea Stadium that dealt a critical blow to Chicago's postseason aspirations?
Sunday's answer: Jon Rauch was tied with Houston's Fernando Rodriguez for the MLB lead in losses by a reliever, with seven.