The Mets closed Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals with an interesting fielding alignment. With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, and with a sacrifice fly capable of beating the Mets, Jerry Manuel positioned left fielder Jesus Feliciano as an extra infielder, placing him by second base.
The maneuver, which Manuel did earlier in his Mets managerial tenure with Carlos Beltran, did not pay dividends either time. Ryan Zimmerman managed to send a sacrifice fly to right field anyway to hand the Mets a defeat.
“The last time it worked was when I was with the White Sox in Kansas City,” Manuel said. “That’s a long time ago.”
Said Zimmerman: “You don't want to get away from what you do. If you try to pull the ball too much, then you hit into a double play. You've just got to take what they give you. Once I got to 2-0, I was obviously in the driver's seat. But I was just trying to drive the ball to right-center like I always do. … I’ve never been up when it’s happened, but I’ve seen it before. There’s no room on the ground.”
HOT FRENCHY: Jeff Francoeur, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, didn’t hide his displeasure with plate umpire Jim Reynolds’ strike zone, especially during Livan Hernandez’s seven innings of work.
“He gave them too much on certain counts, and then ‘Livo’ was back in the count,” Francoeur said.
TRAVELGATE: Don’t think the fact that the Florida Marlins had an off-day after a taxing series in San Juan while the Mets were forced to play went unnoticed. The Mets will insist on a travel day under similar circumstances in the future, GM Omar Minaya noted.
“It was definitely a tough day,” Manuel said. “We got in at, what, 7 o’clock this morning? I think the next time they visit that type of situation, they’ve got to give the team a day off in traveling for that particular event. I think that’s the proper thing to do.”
The Mets will have one other potentially challenging trip this season. They play in Atlanta at night on Sept. 2, then have a matinee in Chicago the following day.
TOUGH DRAW: How’s this for lack of justice? Bengie Molina re-signed with San Francisco for less money, rather than defect to the Mets as a free agent last winter, because he didn’t want to uproot his family. His payback? The Giants traded him to the Texas Rangers three months into the season.
Still, there was a bright side, David Wright noted. The Mets would not have signed Rod Barajas had Molina come on board.
“We’d need a fourth for our card game,” Wright quipped.
Wright on a daily basis plays cards in the clubhouse with Jason Bay, Francoeur and Barajas.
PUTAWAY PITCH: From ESPN Stats & Information: Despite the Mets losing for the ninth time in his last 12 starts, Johan Santana bounced back from a tough stretch with his first quality start since June 2. The key for Santana was his ability to finish the job when the count got to two strikes. Recently, opposing hitters had been able to fight him off and eventually get hits.
Santana’s batting average against with two strikes was .100 on Thursday, vs. .298 the previous four outings. His two-strike swing-and-miss percentage was 55.6 percent vs. 6.2 percent the previous four starts. Foul ball difference: 11.1 vs. 46.9 percent. And strikeout percentage: 63.6 vs. 19.1 percent.
HOT CORNERED: Nick Evans has returned to his roots this week at Double-A Binghamton. Evans, who played third base as an amateur, has started the last four games at the position with the B-Mets having lost third basemen Zach Lutz to a foot stress fracture and replacement Eric Campbell to a broken finger.
A Mets official insisted Evans playing third base was not because another team wanted to see him there for a potential trade.
Evans also played five games at third base with Binghamton in 2008.
POISON PEN: Manuel on the eighth inning: “I think what we have to do with the limited amount of choices we have in our bullpen, guys have to come in and be ready to do whatever’s needed.”