In a game that looked promising to at least be competitive, a disastrous top of the fifth inning for the New York Mets, combined by further mishaps later in the game, led to the far superior St. Louis Cardinals cruising to victory.
Met starter Jeremy Hefner spent the first few innings setting aside the top-flight Cardinals lineup with ease, averaging under 15 pitches per inning. On the other hand, Michael Wacha was having trouble hitting the strike zone and getting the Mets out, throwing predominantly fastballs and struggling to command them. The Mets jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, a lead that was shaved to 2-1 in the fourth inning.
In the top of the fifth, Hefner surrendered a hard-hit ball to first base that Daniel Murphy booted (clearly a bit rusty with his first base skills), costing the Mets both a baserunner and an out. The runner would later score, and four more runs would be driven in by the Cardinals with two outs in the inning. Hefner, in his third tour of the lineup, was absolutely obliterated, and the Cardinals cruised to victory.
It has become quite apparent that Jeremy Hefner is not quite Major League starter material. While his numbers are respectable overall, his best starts have come against the struggling offenses of the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals. His starts against contending teams feature an earn run average well above five and a FIP just below it. The Cardinals figured him out after seeing him a couple times, as most good teams will.
Hefner is also struggling with overthrowing, hitting 93 MPH on the gun, but often sailing the ball high and failing to locate well enough to put away guys on strikes, as he recorded just two throughout the start.
It’s hard to pin the Mets’ loss on Hefner. No, he did not have his put away stuff, but he limited the Cardinals to weak contact early and only issued one free pass to first, command trouble aside.
The real culprit for this loss was the Mets’ defense. Sure, the team only scored two runs and that is disappointing, but give credit to Yadier Molina and Michael Wacha where it’s due. They unleashed his very nasty off-speed stuff in the later innings, and while the Mets still made plenty of hard contact, it was often directly at Matt Carpenter or an outfielder.
Daniel Murphy‘s error was a miserable mistake, and as much blame as he deserves for it, Terry Collins equally shares the blame. Murphy has played phenomenally at second, and Lucas Duda should have been manning first, his natural position. Collins put Murphy at first to not make Ike Davis feel as though he is being replaced. Well, facts must be faced, someone needs to replace him, and getting Duda’s glove out of left and a competent outfielder’s one in there is very important.
Hard line drives will get caught, and games will be lost, but the defense and management were unacceptable.