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Friday, April 23, 2010

Near Misses, Strange Plays, Offensive Woes Add To Mets Win


Nate McLouth missing the game-tying home run by about 5-10 feet capped the weirdness of this game as the Mets defeated the Braves 5-2 in the opener of their three game series.

The game started normally, at first: the Braves struck first with Chipper Jones's RBI single off of starter John Maine. New York almost tied the game when former Brave Jeff Francoeur just missed a home run, hitting a ball off of what I would like to call the Black Monster in left field. Francoeur took third base on an ill-advised throw by Cabrera to second base. He then tried to score on Rod Barajas's grounder to third, but Chipper was able to throw him out at the plate.

Maine would leave the game in the middle of the fourth inning as he felt some muscle spasms in his left elbow. "Rookie" reliever Hisanori Takahashi, a 10-year veteran of the Yomiuri Tokyo Giants, went on to strike out seven of the twelve Braves that he faced.

In the meantime, the Mets tied the game with Ike Davis's first major league home run, a bomb to straight right off of Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami that knotted the score at one. New York went ahead in the bottom of the sixth on consecutive triples by Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. David Wright's sacrifice fly to the warning track in center field plated Bay and the Mets went up by two runs.

Kawakami finished the inning and left with his second quality start in three tries, with six hits and three earned runs allowed in six frames. The Braves finally chased Takahashi with a leadoff double by Omar Infante and a two-out single by Martin Prado.

The bottom of the seventh is where things got wacky. With one out and setup man Takashi Saito on the hill, Angel Pagan singled to left. He went to second on Luis Castillo's walk. Jose Reyes then hit a pop fly on the infield and the infield fly rule was called. Here is the rule and its points:

2.00: An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

6.05(e): A batter is out when An Infield Fly is declared.
This rule was made to prevent fielders from intentionally dropping balls to start double or even triple plays. Another key to this rule is that when the ball is dropped, it's still a live ball; any base is fair game if unguarded.

That's exactly what happened: Chipper Jones dropped the ball and picked it up as the Pagan and Castillo advanced a base. McCann then left home plate unguarded as he tried to get an explanation on why he didn't need to throw it to first. The ball was still live, however, because Saito didn't have it and he wasn't on the mound. So Pagan, with a heads-up notice from base coach Chip Hale, bolted for home plate and beat McCann's tag by a full second.

David Wright added on to the free run with a single, so it looked like the Mets would coast to a victory.

Not quite.

Pedro Feliciano and Jonny Venters provided a scoreless eighth inning, so it was up to Frankie Rodriguez to earn the save for the Mets. Melky Cabrera, who was 0-3 in the game, greeted him with a single to right. Infante, who had three hits up to that point, gave the Mets an out with a first-pitch fly ball to center.

However, Rodriguez then lost control against pinch-hitter Yunel Escobar, walking him. That brought up Nate McLouth, who had struck out three times already. He battled with Rodriguez a bit, and at one point absolutely crushed a high fastball that ended up 5-10 feet to the right of the foul pole. Rodriguez got him looking on a change-up on the outside corner then blew away Prado with an 0-2 breaking ball to end the game.

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