The Mets, desperate for a win, prayed last night to slink out of their home stand with something to show for it. They were risking going 0-6, the first time they had done that home since 2002. They had their work cut out for them Wednesday afternoon with the Washington Nationals’ 6-foot-5 pitching prodigy, Stephen Strasburg, on the mound.
Murphy’s Law was in effect.
From the first batter he faced, Strasburg was commanding. He struck out 11 in seven innings in an ultimate 5-2 Nationals’ victory over a suddenly pathetic New York Mets at Citi Field. Washington swept the Mets, handing them that ugly 0-6 record. The Mets have lost 12 of their last 13 games over all.
Suddenly, “Ya Gotta Believe” became “Ya Gotta Call for Life Support.”
Before the game, Manager Terry Collins was asked how his team should approach Strasburg. “If he’s on…” Collins began. He paused, then he added: “He’s really tough. He’s real, real tough.”
Fred Wilpon’s hopelessness has officially begun to creep into the dugout.
The Mets realized Strasburg was on three pitches into the game. He struck out the Mets’ leadoff batter, Ruben Tejada, before everyone in the stadium had finished filling his name out on his or her scorecards. He threw nine pitches in the first inning, eight for strikes. The Mets loaded their lineup with left-handed bats to try to neutralize the right-handed Strasburg. He currently holds righties to a .181 average this season. In truth, it didn’t matter.
On the upside (if there is one), if you happen to have Strasburg in your Fantasy Baseball League, he was in complete control. He picked at the strike zone, throwing only 20 balls through the first five innings. He finished with 11 strikeouts and no walks. After allowing a solo home run to Ike Davis in the second, Strasburg retired 10 of the next 11 batters, five by strikeout. In two starts against the Mets this season, Strasburg is 2-0 with a 0.69 earned run average and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings.
Weren’t they supposed to be shutting this guy down?
Another upside was Jeremy Hefner (1-4). He made his fourth start of the season — his first since June 6. Pitching well, he allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts. After surrendering back-to-back solo homers to Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa in the second, Hefner did not let the game unravel.
That’s what you have a bullpen for.
The Nationals put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth. Sandy Leon grounded to first base but, when the Davis fired home, the ball popped out of catcher Josh Thole’s glove, allowing the run to score. Hefner, however, retired the next seven batters in a row. In the seventh, Adam LaRoche creamed a two-run homer to deep right field off reliever Tim Byrdak, extending Washington’s lead to four.
In the eighth, the Nationals’ bullpen walked the bases loaded with nobody out and the top of the Mets’ order up. Tejada lined out to center field, Jordany Valdespin drove in a run with a groundout and David Wright grounded out to end the threat.
The Mets were sent packing to face the west. This season is not going to get any easier from this point on. My fear though is, it’s just going to get worse.