It’s Official, Rodriguez Blows a Save

June 19, 2009

The top of the ninth inning had just come to a close. With the Mets up by just one run, it meant only one thing; Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was coming into the game. After taking a chug of his water, he then ceremoniously chucked it to the side and made his way from the bullpen. Mets manager Jerry Manuel so far has mixed and matched all other Mets relievers in his bullpen but not when it comes to the ninth. With 17 saves out of 18 opportunities, it’s no secret that the Mets die with their closer. Along with the Philadelphia Phillies dropping their third straight game to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the day and the Mets looking at a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning over the last-place team in the AL East, it was a perfect time for their closer to finish what his team had started.

The bottom half of the inning for Rodriguez began on the wrong foot as Baltimore Orioles rookie catcher, Matt Wieters, smacked a lead-off double into left-center field. Wieters’ extra-base hit was then followed by a walk to another rising prospect, Nolan Reimold. With runners on first and second and nobody out and the Orioles still down by a run, Baltimore’s manager, Dave Trembley, decided to have second baseman Brian Roberts lay down a bunt. Roberts’ bunt was a good one as it proceeded to dribble towards the third base side. Mets catcher Omir Santos grabbed it and threw a strike to David Wright who was covering third base. “Safe,” was the call from umpire, Tim Timmons, causing manager Jerry Manuel to storm from the Mets dugout. Manual pleaded his case for a minute or two. Unfortunately, his attempt was made in vain as a close play went in favor of the Orioles.

With the bases loaded and no one out, the Mets decided to bring outfielder Carlos Beltran in from center field to act as a fifth infielder. After a 1-1 count, Baltimore’s Adam Jones swung and missed at strike two, a tough pitch to lay off. Rodriguez, looking for a strike out, allowed the count to go 2-2, then 3-2. Could the Mets indestructible closer actually walk in the tying run? If you haven’t heard, he did, bringing in the tying run and officially blowing his first save. Unbelievable, another wasted effort from one of the Mets starting pitchers.

Nick Markakis then strode to the plate with a chance to drive in the winning run well aware that Rodriquez was having trouble finding the plate. The count quickly went in favor of the hitter at two balls and no strikes. Is is possible that K-rod would not only blow the save but lose the game without retiring a single batter? Finally, a strike on a change-up, 2-1, then 2-2, in there for a called third strike, bases loaded, one out, placing Beltran back into centerfield. With that, all the Mets and their fans needed in the worst way was a routine double play to force extra innings.

With Aubrey Huff due up next, that outcome for the Mets was highly unlikely. The left-handed hitting Huff had already blasted a two-run shot in the eighth inning off the Mets premier left-handed specialist, Pedro Feliciano, the night before. With that, Huff lined a base hit into right field, scoring Reimold that gave the Orioles another late-inning victory against the reeling New York Mets. Instead of heading back to Citi Field just two games behind in the standings, the Mets end up just two games over five hundred.

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