In the bottom of the seventh inning, with the score knotted at one, San Diego Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso lifted a high fly ball into the right-center field gap just past the diving Scott Hairston; who took a very awkward route to the ball. With Carlos Quentin on first base representing the go-ahead run, center fielder Andres Torres quickly retrieved the baseball sending a relay throw into second baseman Ronny Cedeno. As Quentin made his way around third in an attempt to break the tie, Cedeno fired a one-hop bullet to the plate, arriving moments before the Padres outfielder, allowing Mets catcher Josh Thole to catch, crouch, and protect himself, as well as the plate. Everything seemed perfect except for one minor detail. Thole dropped the ball.
“It looked like he did everything right,” bench coach Bob Geren told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. “He caught the ball. He tried to secure it with two hands, and right about when he hit him. More times than not he won’t drop the ball. He had time. The way he hit him, he hit him at the perfect angle. All the force went on the glove. And I watched it like 10 times. It’s an unfortunate break. You’re taught to try to knock the ball loose as a runner. They both did exactly what they’re supposed to do. The ball just popped out.”
Lowering his shoulder in attempt to to disrupt the play, Quentin was able to knock the ball loose, scoring the eventual game winning run.
“It’s frustrating because the play at the plate, that’s the game,” Thole told reporters following the game. “That’s the ballgame.”
On a night when R.A. Dickey took a no-hit bid into the fifth, Thole’s inability to complete the 8-4-2 play-at-the-plate led directly to the knuckleballers third loss of the year.
“It stings a little bit because we should have won that game, not because of any groove that I was in,” Dickey said of the loss. “We’ve got to win games like that to compete and have a shot at working our way back into this thing. I didn’t execute a pitch or two. We had some funny plays, too. But regardless, that’s a game that I think everybody in here thought we should have won.”
To his credit, Thole made no excuse as to why he could not hold on to the ball, saying:
I just didn’t get my free hand on the ball. When I was reaching for it, as I was getting to the ball, I got hit. At least you want to have the ball in your bare hand inside the glove. That’s how you draw the play up. Outfielder hits the cut man. The cut man throws a one-hopper to me. You couldn’t have drawn it up any better. I’ve just got to get my bare hand on the ball.”
In his fourth year as a big-leaguer, I believe this is what Thole is. A soft-hitting below average defender better suited as a back-up rather than the starter he is for the Mets. While some believe he could be a .380 on-base guy, I just don’t see it. His average, slugging, and on-base percentages have steadily decreased over his four-year career making sub-par defensive ability even more frustrating. In 74 games for the Mets this year, Thole is batting .264 with 13 extra-base hits, including just one home run and a putrid 14 runs batted in: