— Big picture stuff: The Mets took two of three from the Diamondbacks, losing 4-5 on Friday before winning 4-3 on Saturday and 3-1 on Sunday. Not many runs, though it looked at times more a case of poor hitting, as opposed to good pitching. Other collective stuff: The Mets outscored the Snakes, 11-9, across the three games and outhit them 24-22. Arizona’s pitchers did out FIP New York’s, with 16 strikeouts, eight walks, and no home runs allowed, compared to 21 strikeouts, 11 walks, and two home runs allowed for the Mets.
— We’ll go with some good stuff first: The Mets’ starting pitching won the series. Dillon Gee, Johan Santana, and R.A. Dickey combined for 21 innings and six runs allowed, each notching a quality start. The bullpen went two-for-three. Bobby Parnell, the Mets’ best reliever this season, made a pair of scoreless appearances on Friday and Saturday, while Frank Francisco added two notches to his growing save belt. The lone blemish was the screeching halt of Jon Rauch’s traveling contact-fest on Friday night. Rauch came into the game with two men on and one out in the eighth and surrendered the lead, allowing three runs to score in the inning.
— How about Dillon Gee? His control has improved, his walks are down and his strikeouts are up, and he’s been particularly fun to watch work out of trouble this year. He seems a little bit like Santana, but only in that when things start going south, Gee appears to grow angry and starts striking people out through great effort and will. Gee walked two hitters to begin the sixth inning on Friday, and after a visit from Dan Warthen, went into Gee-smash mode. Paul Goldschmidt lined out to short on one pitch, and then Gee struck out Cody Ransom and Aaron Hill back to back to end the inning. Gee worked the outside corner with cutters and changeups and then came up and in with his fastball, before going back to the changeup away. He struck his way out of a similar, final inning jam against Atlanta earlier this season as well.
Gee’s ERA doesn’t reflect any improvement over last season, thanks to a seven run outing against San Francisco, but Gee’s peripheral stats do reflect as much. His 3.11 xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching, an ERA-estimator based on strikeouts, walks, and fly ball rate) is over a run better than last season’s 4.46 xFIP, and Gee’s xFIP leads the Mets’ starters. Mandatory SSS warning: It’s only 32 innings. But 32 good innings are better than 32 bad innings.
— The same point goes for the ERAs of Santana and Dickey, ERAs also inflated from a single bad outing each. Actually, the same goes for Jon Niese and his ERA as well. The Mets’ starting pitching has been a strength this season, outside of that one week when they all got together and decided to have bad starts and lower expectations.
— That is, the rotation has been a strength except for the musical chairs fifth spot. Miguel Batista, you’re up next.
— Johan Santana didn’t have his best stuff on Saturday, but pitched well anyway. I feel as though that’s been a storyline repeated over and over about Santana’s Mets career. Every start it’s that “he didn’t have his best stuff,” or “he didn’t get the run support.” It never seems to be all clicking for Santana, and then at the end of the season, he is somehow 15-9 with a 2.95 ERA.
— R.A. Dickey threw a whole bunch of knuckleballs. His opposition took funny swings and didn’t hit well. I’m just going to copy and paste those two sentences to describe his starts for the rest of the season.
— The pitching was the good stuff, so here’s some bad stuff: The offense scored just 11 runs in three games, and the Diamondbacks threw a pair of inexperienced lefties and a Pelfrey at the Mets. The lack of runs is the problem so far, really. The Mets are getting guys on, ranking third in on-base percentage in the NL, but they’re 10th in slugging percentage and 10th in runs-per-game. They also strike out a lot for a team that’s not hitting for any power. The Mets’ good record in close games is helping to mask the offense’s struggles with plating runners.
— Worst part of the series: Ruben Tejada tore his pants, potentially his quad, and hurt his face, groin, and pride falling face-into-first on Sunday. Tejada was, as you might expect, making a smart baseball play at the time. In his infinite brilliance, Tejada saw AZ third baseman Cody Ransom playing back and deked a bunt on the first pitch. When he saw Ransom stay back still, Tejada then bunted the second pitch into no man’s land on the third base line. Then Tejada tripped near first and hit the ground hard and slid a bit. We’ll know more about his injury later and if the Mets make any roster moves, but best of luck to Tejada.
— Ike Davis had no hits and whiffed at a pitch that hit him in the knee. That says it all, right? He’s really, really lost, hitting-wise. He’s showing up at the park on time though, so at least he’s not lost, GPS-wise.
— Daniel Murphy added seven hits in the series, six singles and a double. Murphy is now hitting .315, but it’s an empty .315: Murphy’s OPS is at .737 because 28 of his 35 hits have been singles, the other seven doubles, and he’s only drawn eight walks. He’s so good at hitting singles now that he’s almost made himself into a bad offensive player because he can only hit singles. I’d take a .280 batting average from Murphy if it meant an accompanying .450 slugging percentage.
— Mets batters did not hit a home run in the series, and have not homered since Josh Thole’s solo shot in Colorado last Sunday. I’m thinking they should play their next home series at Kiddie Field.
— I can’t remember any other hitter having particularly good or particularly bad series, so maybe chalk this series up to the BABIP spirits.
— Oh, if you missed this on Sunday night, Bryce Harper is totally, totally awesome. The setup here is that Hamels beaned Harper to put him on base:
And I say that Harper great, knowing that if he stole home against the Mets, I’d . . . actually, no, stealing home after a pitcher plunks you for no reason other than being yourself is awesome regardless. All the years we watched the Phillies beat up on the Mets, I would have loved to see someone stick it to the Phillies the way Harper did.
— That’s all I’ve got. The Phillies are up next for the Mets. I hope someone steals home.