Hero of the Game (Largest WPA): Ricky Nolasco ( .358 WPA)
Goat of the Game (Lowest WPA): Heath Bell (-.808 WPA)
Another frustrating loss for the Marlins as they dropped their fifth straight this Thursday. Miami had a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, but Heath Bell was unable to close the door. All of a sudden, the Mets had a 3-2 win, and Ricky Nolasco's tremendous start was overshadowed.
Coming into today's game, Ricky Nolasco had been looking like the pitcher we had grown accustomed to seeing over these last two years. However, today Nolasco looked like the pitcher that we all know he has the potential to become. His control of his offspeed pitches, and the movement of those pitches were outstanding. He lasted seven innings, allowing one earned run, and he struck out five and walked only one. Also, Nolasco generated nine groundball outs which is the most he's had in a single game since September 19th of last year.
If you missed this game, I'd recommend watching the first eight innings, and then turning the game off. Nolasco was really at his best. After a Ruben Tejada sacrifice fly in the first, Nolasco threw six scoreless innings. This game was practically perfect up until the ninth. Only three outs away from the win, the Marlins couldn't close the door. Or to be more exact, Heath Bell couldn't close the door.
Early in the game, home plate umpire Dale Scott seemingly had an enormous strike zone. And it wasn't just for the Mets. Scott gave Nolasco a couple of questionable calls on pitches that seemed way out of the zone. However, when Heath Bell started pitching in the ninth, he felt like he was being squeezed. Bell started off the ninth with a six pitch walk to David Wright. Interestingly enough, four of Bell's six pitches were curveballs.
The next batter, Lucas Duda, grounded out to first, advancing Wright to second. Then, Bell walked Ike Davis and Josh Thole to load the bases. Next, Justin Turner had an impressive thirteen pitch at-bat drawing a walk and driving in the tying run. If I were Ozzie Guillen I would have brought in a different pitcher. I don't care how much my closer makes, if he can't throw strikes, he shouldn't be on the mound. Somehow, Bell got Scott Hairston to ground into a force out for his second out of the inning. With two outs and the score still knotted up at 2-2, Kirk Nieuwenhuis got a 1-0 fastball and lined it into right field to end the game.
So far this season Heath Bell has thrown one hundred and forty-two pitches. That's an average of twenty pitches per outing. For a top-ranked closer, that's unacceptable. Not to mention, of those 142 pitches, eighty-two have been balls. I'm not too worried about Bell just because it is early in the season, and he really hasn't pitched in that many games. However, he is owed six million dollars this year, and for that price tag, he's going to need to step it up.
This was an extremely frustrating game similar to the Marlins previous four. As much blame as Heath Bell deserves, the offense should be entitled to the same amount of hate. In the last three games, the Marlins have only scored four runs. Coming into the year, the offense was supposed to be the strength of this club. The Marlins offense simply hasn't lived up to expectations. The starting pitching, on the other hand, has looked phenomenal.
This is a game the Marlins need to put behind them. Anytime you’re starting pitcher gives you the outing that Nolasco did, and you can't give him the win, you should be ashamed. Hopefully the Marlins can put this sweep behind them, and show improvements in the game tomorrow. On Friday, the Marlins will return to Miami and play the Diamondbacks at 7:10 PM ET. On the mound for the Marlins will be Carlos Zambrano and Joe Saunders will pitch for the Diamondbacks. Hopefully the Marlins can get Zambrano his first win of the year!