Bad call adds insult to Batista's injury
TORONTO — Some losses are more painful than others, and Saturday at Rogers Centre, the Mets experienced a classic case of adding insult to injury.
Having to remove Miguel Batista because of a lower back strain after two innings was troubling enough. But then to be denied a golden opportunity in the ninth due to an obviously blown call? That was doubly frustrating for the Mets, who managed only three hits and were shut out by the Blue Jays’ Brandon Morrow in a 2-0 loss.
Batista is likely to be replaced in the rotation, at least for his next start, by Jeremy Hefner, who provided five innings of solid relief after arriving early Saturday morning from Triple-A Buffalo. What really steamed the Mets, however, was umpire Brian Knight’s flat-out mistake on a pivotal play at second base in the ninth.
After Scott Hairston drew a leadoff walk and Andres Torres flew out, Mike Baxter — the Mets’ DH for the day — ripped a base hit down the rightfield line. As soon as Baxter made contact, he was thinking double.
But the ball took three bounces off the AstroTurf, caromed off the side wall and hopped right to rightfielder Jose Bautista.
Bautista grabbed it, then spun and threw in one motion. That got the ball on the fly to shortstop Yunel Escobar at about the same time Baxter began his slide into second base. Escobar, on the rightfield side of the bag, did his best to reach behind him and sell a sweeping tag — and Knight bought it, despite a foot of daylight between the glove and Baxter’s back.
“I didn’t feel a tag,” Baxter said.
Knight missed it because he didn’t have a good vantage point. From where Knight was positioned, on the inner side of second base, Baxter was between him and Escobar, so it was difficult to see if the glove actually made contact. Mets manager Terry Collins, even from the dugout, had a much better view.
After Baxter jumped up to protest, helmet in his hands, Collins rushed out to argue. When the manager reached Knight, he could be seen saying,
“I’m telling you, he missed him by a foot!” But Collins failed to sway Knight to even seek a second opinion.
“He said that’s a play he can’t ask [for help],” Collins said. “After that, I pretty much had no argument.”
Once Baxter was called out, the rally dissolved as well. Instead of having one out, runners on second and third and Daniel Murphy up, the Mets were left with Hairston on third and two outs. Murphy then lined to Escobar to seal the Mets’ sixth loss in nine games.
“I know Brandon pitched a good game,” Collins said, “but that’s a tough one to lose.”
With David Wright on the bench trying to kick a bad cold, it’s no wonder the Mets’ offense looked sick against Morrow, who had the benefit of facing a backup-heavy lineup. Morrow retired the first seven Mets before Ronny Cedeno’s one-out single in the third inning. They didn’t put another runner on base until Lucas Duda’s two-out double in the seventh.
The Blue Jays scored both runs in the fifth inning on three straight hits — all with two outs — off Hefner, who was rushed into duty after Batista was abruptly pulled after his warm-up pitches in the third.
Batista actually hurt himself throwing a 3-and-2 cutter to Eric Thames, who drew a one-out walk in the second, but Batista still extended his scoreless streak to 12 1/3 innings.
“I was trying to get that cutter in and I felt a pull there,” Batista said. “It felt funny. Then after that I felt it every pitch.”
Batista’s early departure came a day after Collins had given him a vote of confidence about staying in the rotation. Now that appears to be in doubt and Batista will be on anti-inflammatory medication for the next few days as the Mets determine their next move.
“I was up to the challenge,” Batista said. “I was determined to go nine, 12, 15 innings, whatever they needed. It was very disappointing.”