The minute the ball fell behind Asdrubal Cabrera, the veteran shortstop knew what it meant. Tyler Pill, the rookie making his first major league start, lost his chance at a win. The Mets were suddenly forced into extra innings.
“I felt bad,” Cabrera said. “I felt bad for Pill. I just (messed) up.”
The veteran shortstop let Jeff Bandy’s popup into the mist drop behind him and the game-tying run to score in the seventh inning. It immediately gave Mets fans nightmarish flashbacks to 2009 and Luis Castillo’s drop of Alex Rodriguez’s pop up in the Subway Series.
This miscue clearly was not as damaging. The Mets went on to win 5-4 on a Jay Bruce’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th. And to be fair to Cabrera, this was a little more understandable than Castillo’s drop.
Though Cabrera would not blame the weather, it looked like players were having a hard time seeing the ball Wednesday night with a mist hanging high over Citi Field. The outfielders seemed to be discussing that during a pitching change and just an inning earlier, Cabrera had a hard time finding Orlando Arcia’s popup in a similar spot, but he made that catch.
After, in the clubhouse, Cabrera could laugh it off. He waved at Bruce across the locker room. “Thanks, J.B.” Cabrera yelled “You saved me.”
Bruce saved the day Tuesday, but the Mets need to think about saving Cabrera from overuse this season.
That was his seventh error in 34 games. The 31-year-old had seven total in 135 games last year. It was the first time in his Mets career he had committed errors in back-to-back games and the first time since 2014 he had errors in consecutive games.
With some type of issue with his legs — the Mets have talked around exactly what the nagging soreness is — and a thumb injury this season, Cabrera has not looked as good at shortstop this season as he did in 2016. He has looked a step slow and his range is clearly limited.
The Mets really need to get him more regular rest.
Cabrera, who is hitting .265 after going 3-for-5 Tuesday night, is already going to get a long-overdue day off this week. Cabrera played in 33 of the Mets’ first 35 games this season before going on the disabled list with what the team said was a sprained left thumb. He has played all five since coming off the DL.
Terry Collins said before Tuesday night’s game that both Cabrera and Jose Reyes would get days off in the next two games. That also allows the Mets manager to work in the hot-handed Wilmer Flores.
But a more regular rotation involving Flores and Jose Reyes could not only benefit Cabrera, but the Mets as well.
Flores, who had been labeled a platoon player against lefthanded pitching, had three hits off a righthander on Monday. He is hitting an impressive .278 in 75 plate appearances against righties this season. Even Collins has noticed the difference.
“He’s gotten himself prepared to play in the role he’s in, and that’s not being an everyday player,” Collins said. “So therefore he spends a ton of time working on things in the batting cage, trying to refine his approach against righthanded pitching. He knows he kills lefthanders, but in order for him to get more playing time and more opportunities, he’s got to hit righties. Therefore he’s gone back and did what he did a few years ago and that’s use the field. You look up right now, he has a lot of base hits to right, a lot of base hits up the middle. He’s not trying to pull.
“I think it’s made him much more effective against righthanded pitching.”
And Flores would be even more effective with more regular at-bats, even though he has shown real growth as a part-time player.
“When you’re not playing everyday, you want to do something,” Flores said. “I try not to think about that. I go up there and still have my confidence even if you’re not playing everyday. Always try to stay ready even when you’re not playing.”
Flores, who is hitting .393 this month and .309 overall with 14 RBI, deserves more of a chance to prove that he is more than that platoon player.