Perez not giving Mets what they desire
Lefty has abbreviated outing as club can't pick up sweep
NEW YORK -- The longstanding affection for Ebbets Field is reflected within and without the Mets' new home. For that, Oliver Perez ought to be grateful. Had the stadium reflected the Polo Grounds, the New York Giants home, Citi Field might have been built to resemble that oddly shaped home, and might have subjected departing Mets pitchers to what used to be called "the longest walk in baseball."
The clubhouses in the Polo Grounds were above the wall in straightaway center field, and the wall was 483 feet from home plate, an expanse that contributed to the legend of Willie Mays, but it also exposed poorly performing players to extended periods of public scorn and taunting.
We only can imagine how those who nearly filled Citi Field on Sunday afternoon would have behaved if they had some 430 additional feet; i.e., more time, to vent on Perez following his latest flop. As it was, Perez was verbally taunted as he exited the field in the fifth inning of what became the Mets' most lopsided 2009 defeat to date.
Another patently poor Perez performance was the Mets' primary undoing in their unbecoming 8-1 loss to a Nationals team that hadn't won a road game since last season; not that a better performance by the troubled starting pitcher would have assured the Mets of success in the finale of their three-game series against Washington.
The Mets didn't muster enough resistance to winning pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and three successors to matter. Six hits -- no more than one in any inning -- and three walks wouldn't suffice, not when Perez surrendered nine hits, three walks and seven runs in an another abbreviated and wholly inadequate start. Perez threw 92 pitches, 59 for strikes, and only a few faster than 90 mph. Last season, he consistently threw 92-93 mph.
Manager Jerry Manuel, concerned by what he witnessed, allowed for the possibility of a change of assignment for the starter, whose re-up with the Mets now has cost the club $36 million and weekly cases of agita. But with Perez's turn scheduled for next weekend in Philadelphia, and without a likely replacement pitching at Triple-A Buffalo, change appears improbable. Moreover, Perez last year did his best work against the Phillies' predominantly left-handed batting order.
"I'm not going to come out and make a decision with the mood that I'm in at this point," Manuel said. "That wouldn't be right. I'm going to hold off on that."
Not that any of that made a difference Sunday with the pendulum-ic Perez. He hit bats, responded poorly to adversity and, for the third time in four starts, didn't complete the fifth inning. He now has pitched all of 19 1/3 innings in his starts, allowing 39 baserunners, 20 earned runs -- his ERA is 9.31 -- and three home runs, prompting whispered angst and anger in the Mets' clubhouse.
Long home runs by Jesus Flores and Austin Kearns accounted for three of the seven runs Sunday. Kearns' home run immediately followed another misplay in left field by Daniel Murphy and landed in the hitters' backdrop -- a Citi Field first -- a few yards from the path Perez (1-2) might have followed making the Polo Grounds death march. It is a loooong way.
A single and a double followed before Manuel excused Perez, and many among 40,023 expressed their dissatisfaction.
"I don't know what we do. It has me really, really concerned," Manuel said one day after he facetiously characterized himself as a potential bridge jumper. "The thing that concerns me is I don't see Ollie's stuff like I saw before. I don't know if he's going through a dead arm period or whatever, I don't know. If you see stuff and no command, that's one thing. If it's no stuff or command, that's a recipe for disaster.
"I'm not so much lost as I am concerned. That's where I am now. It's his stuff that I don't see. Ollie is a left-hander that has a history of great stuff. And that's my concern."
Perez's response, as usual, was to spin it forward.
"It's not there right now," Perez said. "That's not me. So I just have to keep working and getting better and getting stronger. ... I don't feel good. I haven't been doing my job, and I feel bad for that. I'm trying to work hard, so I have to continue to do it. I have just four games, and I haven't been pitching well, so I have to keep it up and start pitching better."
Perez, too, allowed for the possibility of a change of assignment -- "In this situation, they have the decision," he said. But he added, "I'm part of the team."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.