I was busy putting the finishing touches on my Flushing University column last night when the Phillies decided to batter the Mets bullpen and snatch first place right out from under their noses. Of course, the shocking ninth-inning comeback forced me into rewrite stage and didn't give me an opportunity to comment on the debacle.
Luckily for me, loyal reader James Allen perfectly summed up the talking points for last night's game, so I am going to steal from him shamelessly to make my points here.
1) Johan Santana absolutely, positively, unquestionably needs to pitch a complete game last night. However, I put this decision squarely on the manager's shoulders, not Santana's. Jerry Manuel made the biggest mistake of his brief tenure with the Mets last night, and it cost the Mets a game they had no business losing. He has to toss the pitch count garbage out the window in this situation and recognize what was at stake here.
The Mets are paying Johan Santana approximately $150 million over the next seven seasons. He is 29 years old, he had only thrown 105 pitches to that point and he had a three-run lead. It is the height of stupidity to pull him in that situation, ESPECIALLY when your "All-Star" closer has already made it clear he won't be pitching that night. If you don't believe your $22 million ace can get out the 5-6-7 hitters in the Phillies' lineup because he's crossed the mythical 100-pitch bridge, then it's time to pack up shop and go play backgammon, because baseball as we know it is dead.
2) I know that Luis Aguayo has to be thinking that lightning doesn't strike twice, but how can he send Endy Chavez around third in the bottom of the seventh with nobody out and a three-run lead? If Chavez stays put, the Mets have two runners on with nobody out and the 4-5-6 hitters striding to the plate. (And yes, James, Castro should be hitting sixth; someone give Manuel the memo that Castro is already one of the best hitting catchers in the National League.)