Archive for the ‘Game Recaps’ Category

God damn, that game nearly killed me

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

(Programming Note: I’m not going to do game recaps after every game, not that I had been doing them the past two years anyway. Basically, when I have something to say about a game, I’m going to say it.)

You know, I thought we were done with games like this?  Isn’t this why Omar and company spent approximately eleventy billion dollars to rebuild the bullpen and get rid of most of the assholes who made last year so heartbreaking?  Weren’t five run leads not supposed to be eroded away, to the point where a mere single would have tied the ballgame?  Aren’t we supposed to be past this?  I mean…last year, the Phillies went 162 games, plus the playoffs, without blowing a single lead in the 9th inning.  Couldn’t we go longer than two games?

Well, the answer was yes.  But damn if it wasn’t pretty.  And where did it start?  Of course, with the one member of last year’s bullpen the Mets did bring back, Pedro Feliciano.  Look, I wasn’t against bringing Feliciano back.  If you told me they had to keep one of either him or Schoeneweis, I’d say bring Feliciano back in a heartbeat.  But of all the noted “crossover guys” in this year’s bullpen, Feliciano isn’t one of them.  He suddenly and inexplicably lost his ability to retire right handed hitters.  He should not be pitching to right handers, especially with runners on base.  Seeing him come in and immediately give back one of the Mets’ four insurance runs from the previous inning brought back bad memories.

You can’t hang everything on Feliciano, though.  Sean Green came in and allowed the first of his inherited runners to score, although he came in to a rough spot.  No worries; the score is still 9-6, and the Mets have a killer back end of the bullpen, right?  But then JJ Putz allowed Willy Tavares to get an extra base hit, never a good sign, and he scored on a sac fly.  And then there was that ninth inning.

Good lord, that ninth inning.  I was not ready for this.  It’s been a long time since last season, but not long enough since experiencing a game like that.  Between the god-awful call by the umpire at first base, the walks, and everything else…man, I was dying.  All thoughts went back to 2008, proving that those scars are not going away anytime soon.  I don’t care about the dollars the Wilpons are paying to the new bullpen, or their pedigree…any time the Mets put the winning run on base in the 9th inning, I’m at maximum neurosis until Gary Cohen says “and the ball game is OVER!”

Thankfully, the good guys eked out a win today, and Rodriguez got the 30 pitch, four out save, but damn.  Francisco, Frankie, K-Rod, whatever you prefer…can you please not do that again anytime soon?  Most Mets fans want to enjoy baseball again, and this brought back way too many bad memories.  We don’t like drama; we had enough of that last year, with one Greek tragedy after another.  We’re looking for boring; a nice documentary would work wonders in the 9th.  We want to love you, and we probably will, but we need some help getting to love baseball again, and some boring work in the later innings would go along way towards that.  Thanks dude.

The Brewers series

Monday, April 14th, 2008

First of all, I just wanted to apologize for not getting daily recaps for the games up this weekend.  As you can tell, we’re having some problems with the site and updating it hasn’t been easy for me.  I’m going to work with the domain people to try to figure out what the problem is and how we can resolve it, but for now, updates may come at strange hours.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

That said, I did watch all three games of the Brewers series, and I think that it could be summed up in three ways:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Let’s talk about the good first, Nelson Figueroa’s good start on Friday.  I missed most of his time in the game thanks to a Tivo malfunction (seriously, NOTHING is working for me right now), but he dominated a pretty good Brewers’ lineup, not getting into trouble until he gassed out late in the game.  With some distance from the game, I think we can ascertain that this Brewers team is a really good right-handed hitting lineup that works over lefties but struggles against righties, but still, that’s a good performance by Figueroa, and if you had told me that the Mets would get a great pitching performance out of Figueroa and still lose 2 of 3 to the Brewers…well, I would have assumed that the bullpen blew Friday night’s game.

Saturday was Johan Santana’s first start at Shea Stadium, and…well, it didn’t go well.  He was victimized by the long ball, allowing three home runs, including one to new Mets killer Gabe Kapler that chased him from the game.  There were good signs, including 7 Ks in 6.2 innings, but unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the ball in the park.  That will happen with Santana now and then; he’s going to have games where he is dominant, and games where a few too many balls get hit over the fence.  The good news is, because Santana generally won’t allow too many baserunners otherwise, most of those home runs will not be 2-3 run shots, and on the days where he is keeping the ball in play…man, he will be dominant.  But Saturday just wasn’t one of those days.

Also on Saturday, it did feel like the Mets’ hitters let one get away.  After hitting Ben Sheets hard early to start the game, they had the bases loaded with two outs in the 2nd and couldn’t punch another one across.  After that, Sheets became dominant, retiring 18 straight batters in one stretch that lasted until the 8th, when David Wright hit one out to narrow the gap to 5-3.  Unfortunately, the Mets would not come any closer, and that was that.  It was a disappointing start to the Johan Santana Era at Shea Stadium, but there will be better days ahead.

That brings us to yesterday’s dog of a game.  Oliver Perez and Jeff Suppan pitched like two guys who did not want to win.  Perez’s modest streak of not allowing earned runs ended two batters into the game, when Gabe Kapler hit an absolute bomb off of him.  Seriously, the Mets were killed by the 2007 manager of the Greenville Drive yesterday.  That sounds more like the name of a street in a residential neighborhood than a baseball team, and their manager last year kept hitting extra base hits off of the nominal #1 and #2 starters of the Mets rotation.  It might have been cute at first, but after a while, it was tiring.

The Mets’ bats were up to the challenge, though, dominating Jeff Suppan in a “winning the battle after the war had been lost” type of way.  Seriously, why couldn’t they hit Suppan this hard in 2006?  Then again, he was hanging curveballs all over the place yesterday that he wasn’t doing in 2006, when he suddenly turned into Bob Gibson.  Not that I’m bitter.  But the Mets went up 6-2 in the 3rd, and were poised to do more damage before leaving the bases loaded.  Ollie then let the Brewers right back into the game with four runs allowed in the 4th, and when the Mets started to challenge in their half of the fourth, the Brewers got Carlos Beltran to line into an inning-ending double play, the first of five that the Brewers would force against the Mets in the game.

And that became the new story of the game; the Mets would get the leadoff hitter on base, only to erase him one batter later with a double play.  Even in the 8th, against Guillermo Mota (who, quite frankly, owed us this game), with runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, where it would seemingly be impossible to hit into another double play, the Mets still somehow found a way when Luis Castillo hit a fast grounder to first, which Fielder took for the force, then threw home immediately, where Brady Clark was out by a mile.  Poor baserunning by Clark led to that double play, and I seriously have to question why he’s even with the team, when he doesn’t appear to do anything particularly well.

Still, even with two outs, this was Guillermo Mota on the mound, so he made things interesting by walking David Wright and Carlos Beltran.  Carlos Delgado was at the plate, and Mota has stunk against lefties the past two years, but the Brewers didn’t have another left-handed pitcher to rely on after using Brian Shouse in the 7th.  This looked like every big Mota spot from 2007 revisited, only this time it was in the Mets’ favor.  Two outs, platoon advantage, Mota being left in a tight game for seemingly no reason…I have to think Willie Randolph felt a little wistful, perhaps even jealous of Ned Yost, particularly when Carlos Delgado popped out.  Willie had been waiting for just such an event to happen last year, and it never worked out for him, no matter how many times he went back to Mota.  This time, it worked out for Yost, and now Mets fans just have more reasons to hate Mota.

Overall, this can only be termed as a disappointing series.  While the Nelson Figueroa start was a nice story, nothing else went the Mets’ way.  David Wright is hitting with power with two homers in the series, so that was nice; he now has 60% of the Mets’ total home runs this year to date.  However, Carlos Beltran continues not to hit at home; while it’s important to note that he’s getting on base at a .444 clip at Shea, he just doesn’t hit the ball well here.  That makes me think that Shea is just not a place designed for his swing.  Hopefully, Citi Field will be a bit better for him.

The other encouraging sign was the bullpen, which only allowed two earned runs the entire series.  Granted, that was the go-ahead runs in the Sunday game thanks to Jorge Sosa allowing a bomb to Rickie Weeks, but still, any time the Mets bullpen can go 2-3 games without allowing a run, you have to take that as a good sign.  At this point, it’s encouraging just when they don’t melt down.  It would still be nice to get a timely hit or two at the end of a ballgame, but…I mean, at any given moment, most major league hitters have about a 24-36% chance of getting a hit in any situation.  Sometimes they will come late, and sometimes they won’t.  We are unlikely to notice as much when a hitter does come through with a big hit late in a game, but more likely to lament when the late hits aren’t coming.  This natural negativity is just what makes us Mets fans.

The Mets will have today off before coming back to play tomorrow night back at Shea for Game 10, where the Mets will look to get back to .500 against former Mets Lastings Milledge, Paul Lo Duca, and the Washington Nationals.  Nominal Nationals ace Odalis Perez will take the mound against Mike Pelfrey.  The Mets should get to Perez early, but Pelfrey will have to keep them in this one with another good start against a decent Nats lineup.  Game time is 7:10 on SNY.

Finally

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Show of hands – how many people watching this game still never felt safe with a six run lead?  Granted, I can’t see you if you’re raising your hand or not, but after the last nine games where the Phillies have made the Mets their collective bitches, and doing so in every possible way, I never ever felt safe watching this game.  Isn’t that a shame?  The Mets offense scores bushels of runs early on, and I still never felt like the Phillies couldn’t make a comeback.  The game ended with the Mets winning 8-2, but even in victory, the scars of 2007 remain.

Another show of hands – how many people reading this would have ever guessed that the Mets would score eight runs in a game where Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran were a combined 0 for 12?   How strange is that?  Granted, they all reached base thanks to walks and errors (the story of the game for the Phillies), and in truth, the Mets only had five hits, and no Met had more than one.  But still, those are the guys who are supposed to be the driving forces behind this offense, and when the Mets score eight runs, you assume it’s because one or more of them had a big day at the plate to lead the charge, but that didn’t happen today.

In truth, while Mets fans and the Mets themselves will surely take this win, they also got a lot of help from the Phillies.  Kyle Kendrick looked absolutely awful in 2.1 innings, walking six and allowing four hits.  He allowed more baserunners than outs, and, well, it’s hard to win in that situation.  Even then, the Mets gave him some help when they managed to load the bases in the first and second innings thanks mostly to walks, and only managed a lone run on the situation.  It wasn’t until the Phillies defense fell apart 2007 Marlins style in the third where the runs started scoring for the Mets, 6 in all.  Despite all of the baserunners, and despite the seven runs that scored on his watch, Kyle Kendrick was only charged with one earned run, which to me, speaks of the folly of “earned” and “unearned” runs more than anything, but still…not a game Kyle Kendrick will remember fondly.

On the other hand, Big Pelf had a nice little game today.  Two earned runs (and truthfully, the Mets should have turned a double play in the second that would have kept one of those runs from scoring, but instead Jose Reyes committed an error that would aid in scoring a run for the Phillies), five hits, two walks, and three K’s.  It looked like Pelf lost some steam as the game went on, and while he only walked two, he did have a few long at-bats in the later innings that drove his pitch count up and lead to him leaving the game early.  It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a nice start for Pelfrey, especially considering he hasn’t pitched in a game since spring training ended a week and a half ago.  Here’s hoping this is the start of a nice comeback year that helps raise Pelfrey’s star again in 2008.

The Mets will look to take the rubber game of this three game series tomorrow night at Shea Stadium, with John Maine taking the mound for the Mets against Adam Eaton.  I’d like to think that on paper, the Mets have a nice sized advantage here, but whenever I’ve thought that over the last year against the Phillies, they’ve proven me wrong.  Hopefully today was the start of reversing that trend.  Game time is 7:10, with the game appearing on SNY.

Haven’t we seen this game before?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

I swear I’ve seen this game before.  Mets take a small early game lead.  Willie Randolph makes some questionable bullpen decisions.  Phillies come roaring back to take the lead.  Mets bats die in the later innings and the Mets lose to the Phillies again.  Nine straight times, the Phillies have defeated the Mets when the two teams have played each other.  In seven of those games, the Mets had leads of two runs or more only to allow the Phillies back in the game, usually by way of the bullpen.  I have to say, as a Mets fan, watching this game unfold the way it did today made me sick, especially since it was this script that allowed the Phillies to win the division last year, and now the Mets open Shea Stadium’s last year the same exact way.  It’s getting to be almost too much to take.

Once again, it was the bullpen that wears the villain’s hat.  Scott Schoeneweis and Aaron Heilman both heard some boos during their pre-game introductions, and then did nothing to absolve themselves of future boos.  Myself, I had to be wondering why Schoeneweis was even brought into the game.  Pedro Feliciano has no platoon split; he can pitch to lefties and righties and is equally effective at getting both out.  Yet he never even warmed up to enter the game.  Now, if it turns out Feliciano is injured, and was not available to pitch, that’s one thing.  But if he was available and Willie simply chose not to use him, then bringing Schoeneweis in to start the 7th was just stupid.

The problem with bringing in Schoeneweis to replace Joe Smith in that situation is that, while Smith is also essentially a right handed specialist, taking him out after one batter to bring in a lefty specialist, when everybody in the ballpark knew that Charlie Manuel would then bring in a right hander to take the advantage away from the Mets, is stupid.  It’s especially stupid because the Phillies had Jimmy Rollins, the (sigh) 2007 National League MVP and a switch hitter, batting behind him, followed by another switch hitter in Shane Victorino.  Leaving a specialist in the game to face two switch hitters is poor strategy; while Aaron Heilman is considered to be the “8th inning man,” that situation screams for the Mets to use their best available reliever, which would be either Heilman or Feliciano (assuming that the Mets would never think of moving Billy Wagner out of the closers role).

It’s just poor, unimaginative strategy to wait until the 8th to use Heilman when strategy dictates that he would be better in that spot.  The best move, of course, would be to go to Feliciano, but he may not have been available, and hey, Heilman didn’t pitch great today either.  But at least if you bring in your best guy in the toughest spot and lose, you lost because your guy wasn’t good enough; in this case, they lost because they made the wrong move at the wrong time.  This is why people wanted Willie to be fired last year; his in-game strategy and roster utilization is highly suspect.  He may be able to run a good clubhouse, but on the field, he is a terrible manager, and he costs this team wins.

It’s a shame, because while Oliver Perez wasn’t quite as sharp as he was last week, he still had a damned good game; 5.2 innings,  3 hits, 3 BBs, but no runs.  Once again, he avoided the extra base hit, which is huge against a team like the Phillies.  Carlos Delgado is still swinging a hot bat, although it was his error on a double play ball by Ryan Howard which allowed the Phillies to tie the game, hitting a towering solo home run in the second to give the Mets the lead.  David Wright and Carlos Beltran each hit nice doubles, and Beltran may have had a second if Shane Victorino hadn’t made a nice catch on a well hit ball to center.  But once again, the Mets’ bats went cold against a lousy Phillies bullpen, which only seems to pitch well against the Mets.  But overall, it was just a real disappointing way to open the last season at Shea Stadium, and perhaps a sign that the ghosts of 2007 haven’t been completely eradicated.

The Mets will try to end the Phillies’ streak against the Mets tomorrow back at Shea, with Mike Pelfrey taking the mound against Kyle Kendrick.  If there was ever a time for Mike Pelfrey to step up and become a strong major league starter, it will be tomorrow, as he tries to end the Mets’ 3 game losing streak and the Phillies’ 9 game winning streak against the Mets.  Game time is 7:10 with the game airing on SNY and ESPN2 if you are outside of the greater New York metropolitan area.

Mets hitters waste great effort by Santana

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

This one stings a little.  Johan Santana had everything working for him – he wasn’t dominant, but he was just good enough for the Braves not to get anything going off of him, allowing one run through seven innings.  It was similar to Monday, where Santana was very good, and still didn’t feel like he was pitching at his capabilities.  And yet, he left the game trailing 1-0.  The Mets offense just could not get anything going, first against John Smoltz and then against the Atlanta bullpen.  In the 5th, it looked like the Mets may have gotten a gift when Smoltz was forced to leave the game early because of injury – Smoltz had dominated the Mets until that point, allowing just two hits and two walks in 5 innings, striking out 6.

The Mets just couldn’t cash in, though. They would muster only five more base runners against a lowly regarded Braves bullpen, three of them in the 9th coming on the Braves’ best reliever, Rafael Soriano.  The top three hitters in the Mets’ lineup were 0-13 today with three walks, and the only extra base hit came by the pitcher, Johan Santana.  This was just a Mets offense that never got it going at all; the 1-0 deficit they had going into the 8th felt like 10-0, and after Aaron Heilman allowed a two-out homer to Mark Teixiera, the lead felt like 30-0, even if they did get a run back in the 9th.

There’s going to be days where the team just has poor efforts.  It happens.  Still doesn’t make it feel any less disheartening, though, especially when Johan Santana pitches so well.  Like I said, it really didn’t even feel like he had his best stuff yet, like he’s still rounding into shape, but it was enough to dominate a pretty good Braves lineup.  It’s games like today that showcase the fallacy of assigning wins and losses to pitchers.  Santana pitched brilliantly, but because the Mets hitting couldn’t do anything against John Smoltz and the Braves’ bullpen, he gets assigned with a loss, a black mark.  Makes no sense to me, but what can you do?

The Mets will have Monday off before opening at home against the hated Phillies on Tuesday, a rare Tuesday opener at Shea, in what will be the last opening day at Shea Stadium.  It will be Oliver Perez taking the mound for the Mets against Jamie Moyer in a battle of lefties, so don’t be surprised if the Mets’ hitting struggles, but at least the Mets will have Perez to counteract the Phillies’ tough lefties.  Game time is 1:10 and I would not suggest missing this one if you’re a Mets fan; for me, this game carries more meaning than even the Mets’ last regular season home game at Shea.

Maine looks lousy; Mets lose

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Chalk this one up to a poor pitching effort.  It’s easy to say that when your team allows eleven runs, but in this case, it was true.  Scott Schoeneweis was the only Met pitcher to not allow a run in this game, and the Braves spent most of the day teeing off on Mets pitching.  John Maine, after such a dominant spring, did not look good at all, going only four innings and allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks thrown in for good measure.  All of the hits were singles, but if you allow enough singles in a short period of time, eventually the other team is going to score some runs.  He did have five strikeouts, which is good, but he couldn’t get a key groundball out, which could have erased a baserunner or two with a double play.  It will be games like today that show the weakness of Omar Minaya’s strategy of targeting flyball pitchers; sure, in Shea’s massive outfield with two good defensive outfielders who can cover some ground, there will be a lot of flyball outs, but there will also be fewer double plays turned on a pretty good defensive infield, plus you can’t hit a ground ball over the fence.

Kelly Johnson proved that in spades, hitting a pinch hit grand slam home run in the 7th off of Jorge Sosa, who simply did not look good today.  The grand slam to Johnson essentially broke the Mets’ backs; at that point, the score was 5-3, and it was conceivable that the Mets could come back, but the grand slam made it 9-3, and then Nelson Figueroa tacked on two more for the Braves and at that point, it became a shellacking.  But hey, at least we’re not asking Figueroa to replace the 2nd most important member of the Mets rotation, right?

David Wright’s hitting streak came to an end today, and it’s a shame because a timely hit or two out of Wright would have kept this game close.  I mean, there are simply going to be days where Wright doesn’t have it and I’m not going to jump on his case, but after last season, it was almost shocking for me to see Wright fail to come through when the Mets needed him today.  After he did so much to keep this team going last year, basically willing this team to stay in the pennant race as long as they did, it was actually stunning to see him fail when the team needed him.  I’m not blaming him for the loss, law of averages say that he isn’t going to hit 1.000 in these situations, but after last year, it did feel like that’s what he was hitting.  Hey, at least he did a good job reading the lineups for Fox, right?

Speaking of Fox, I really wish I could say I was happy to see Fox back in action, showing the national game of the week today.  Unfortunately, I can’t say that, because their coverage remains horrible.  I like what Ken Rosenthal brings to the table, because he is a well-connected guy, and even smug Joe Buck didn’t bother me as much as he normally does today, probably because he wasn’t openly rooting for the Mets’ opponents, but Tim McCarver remains the master of the obvious statement.  Look, I’m not asking announcers to be as technical as Ron Darling can be, or as entertaining as Keith Hernandez can be.  But tell me something I don’t know out there.  Make me enjoy the game more.  Don’t make me question the idiocy.  Don’t make me feel like I’m being talked down to, like I can’t figure these things out on my own.  That’s what Tim McCarver does, and it drives me crazy.

Another thing I hate about Fox’s coverage, and this extends to ESPN as well – in-game interviews.  SNY has done this with starters who exit the game too, and I hate it.  Don’t talk over live action.  The game that is happening now is what I am into at this moment.  If I want to know what was going through the manager’s mind for this play or that play, I’ll watch his post-game press conference.  If I gave a crap about what John Smoltz has to say about this game, or if he has anything interesting to say, I’m sure a clip of this will air on the post-game show.  But broadcasters need to stay in the moment of the game and worry about what is happening on the field.  The worst is the arrogance of those who produce the games, who will say that somebody like me “doesn’t know what baseball fans really want.”  Guess what?  I know a lot of baseball fans, and they all feel the same way I do; stop interrupting the game with trivial bullsquid and pay attention to the damn game!

I would be remiss if I completed this recap without mentioning my momentary burst of fury in the 5th, when the Mets had the bases loaded with one out.  Jose Reyes hits a little blooper to left-center.  Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay dives but can’t catch the ball – he traps it in his mitt.  The dumbass umpire rules it caught, which freezes up Ryan Church, who gets passed by Angel Pagan.  Kotsay throws to 2nd for the easy double play and the inning is over.  Willie Randolph argues, the umpires confer, and finally rule that Kotsay did NOT catch the ball, and all base runners can advance one base on the play.  Bobby Cox comes out to argue with the umps, saying that since Pagan passed Church on the basepaths, that he should be out, but the umpires rule that since they were the dumbasses who were the reason behind Pagan passing Church, that Pagan is safe at third regardless.

Now, my problems with the above scenario:  first, of course, I jumped out of my chair in incredulousness that the umpire would dare call a blatant trapping as a catch, particularly since it went from giving the Mets two runs to ending the inning for the Mets down 4-1.  Then they confer and decide that Kotsay didn’t catch the ball after all.  I mean, what the hell?  It’s not like they had a replay they could watch; how could they suddenly decide “Whoops, I guess we blew this one”?  Not that I’m particularly unhappy about this, since it put the Mets back in the inning, but how can they suddenly just change their minds on this without the benefit of replay?  Also, how is it fair to the Mets that they were cost a run on this play because the dumb umpire couldn’t get the call right the first time?  There was just so much wrong on display just with this series of calls, and so far in this brief season, it has been a running subplot; the umpiring to start the season has felt particularly bad.  Hopefully it’s just a case of crews being off a little bit to start the season, and we’ll see things change as the year goes on, but I’m doubting it.

Finally, today was the first time I saw Tom Glavine in a Braves uniform, and…well, it actually felt strange.  I mean, he had been a Met for five years.  Sure, he wasn’t particularly great during that time frame, and at no point had he been the ace that the team had been paying him to be.  And yes, when the Mets needed him most during his five years in the team, he absolutely crapped the bed.  Still, it definitely felt weird to see him back with the enemy, although I did chuckle when I saw him plugging Tim McCarver’s book, as though I couldn’t imagine two more loathsome people pairing together.  I’m just glad he’s not pitching in this series after all; that would have been too weird to start the year.

The Mets will try to split what has now become a two-game series tomorrow back at Turner Field, where it will be a battle of aces.  John Smoltz will pitch for Atlanta against Johan Santana in a game I am expecting to be a real pitcher’s duel.  If I were you, I wouldn’t tune in late, because you might miss a good chunk of this one.  Game time is 1:30 and the game is on SNY tomorrow, a rare Sunday game on SNY.

That will renew some optimism in a hurry

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Today was as fun as yesterday was not.  Really, as a Mets fan, you can’t hope for much better than a 13-0 thrashing of the Florida Marlins, even if the umpires stole a home run from Carlos Beltran.  Today the team was just doing everything, making contact, hitting for power, great pitching, great defense…really, what else could you hope for in a game?  This was just a Mets team that came roaring back after last night’s disappointing game and more than made up for it.

Oliver Perez had a stellar game, allowing no runs on 5 hits and a walk in 6 innings, while striking out 8.  Great performance; the Marlins couldn’t manage a single extra base hit against him, although Hanley Ramirez probably would have had one had he hustled more on a hard-hit ball to the outfield in the first.  The Mets bullpen also found the strength and intestinal fortitude to maintain the thirteen run lead, with scoreless innings pitched by Pedro Feliciano, Billy Wagner, and new Met Nelson Figueroa (more on him below).

Then there was the Mets hitting.  Remember when I criticized them for not managing an extra base hit yesterday?  Well, they made up for that today, with six doubles (three by Carlos Beltran) and two home runs, including Ryan Church hitting the Mets’ first homer of the season, and David Wright hitting his first home run at Dolphins Stadium.  One of Carlos Beltran’s doubles should have been ruled as the third home run, but umpires ruled that it struck the top of the fence, despite replays showing it had hit the railing behind the fence.  No matter – the extra run it would have netted the Mets was meaningless, and unless Carlos Beltran hits 72 home runs this year, I doubt that home run will even come into play.

If there’s one thing this series illustrated to me, it’s that the Marlins could be in for a rough year.  Sure, they won yesterday’s game, but they needed seven pitchers to do it.  They used another six to lose today’s game, and their Opening Day starter, Mark Hendrickson, leads the team through three games with five innings pitched.  Clearly, they do not have a lot of faith in their starters (and they haven’t pitched well enough to deserve faith) and their bullpen doesn’t look to be any great shakes, either.  They have had some injury problems with some of their young starters, and that might be affecting some things, but they could be even worse than expected if they can’t get some good innings out of their starters.

In other news, Pedro Martinez was placed on the 15 day disabled list today with a strained hamstring.  He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, and frankly, I hope it’s more towards the 6 than the 4, as I’d hate for the team to have to rush Pedro back only for him to hurt something else compensating for the injury.  Nelson Figueroa was promoted to take his place, and it looks like he will not start the Mets home opener, as he pitched one inning of relief today.  The Mets will not need to use Figueroa right away, as they have an off-day on Monday, so he will probably not have to start until April 12th against Milwaukee.  Orlando Hernandez is expected to make three rehab starts for the St. Lucie Mets, so Figueroa’s time with the Mets may be brief, but he looked good in the inning he pitched today, so that’s a good sign, at least.
The Mets will have an off-day tomorrow followed by a three game series against one of two teams expected by experts to give the Mets their biggest challenge in the NL East, the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.  Tim Hudson will get the ball for the Braves, where he will be opposed by John Maine, making his first start of the season.  Game time is 7:30.

So much for optimism

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Well that didn’t take long.  The high from opening day is already gone.  Pedro Martinez is hurt 3.1 subpar innings into 2008.  The bullpen blew a game in extra innings.  Mets bats disappeared after the 6th inning.  Didn’t we already go over this last year?  Unfortunately, the script is all-too-familiar.

Not that there wasn’t some good in this game.  David Wright continues to swing a good bat.  Angel Pagan is justifying the front office’s faith in bringing him north through two games.  The bullpen actually pitched mostly well, as between Pedro’s hammy tightening up and Robert Andino’s walkoff home run, they had not allowed a single run, a span of 6.1 innings.  Brian Schneider had a 3 for 4 day at the plate, which is better than any Mets fan’s reasonable expectations.

There was just as much bad, though.  The story of the Mets’ bullpen giving up a massive home run to drop a game was a script that brought back harrowing memories of 2008.  Despite 9 hits, the Mets did not manage a single hit for extra bases – all nine of those hits were singles.  Considering that 16 Mets reached base tonight, including every Mets’ positional player, that is a bit disappointing – one more hard hit ball against Rick VandenHurk or one of the six relievers that the Marlins brought into the game, and they could have ended this thing before it went to extra innings.

Then there’s the ugly – Pedro’s performance tonight.  Even before he got pulled from the game with a tight hamstring, Pedro just did not look good at all.  His stuff just wasn’t fooling anybody, and he was getting hit hard – three of the four hits he allowed were for extra bases, including two home runs and a triple.  In addition, he only struck one batter out of the ten he retired.  He just did not look good out there at all; the pulled hamstring was almost a mercy killing, except, you know, the team kind of needs him.  If he’s forced to miss a start…well, you folks attending the home opener might be in for a bit of a letdown as far as who starts that last home opener at Shea Stadium.

So while there were silver linings to be found in this loss, ultimately it stings a lot; the poor performance of Pedro followed by the injury clinched that this wasn’t going to have a happy ending no matter what.  Just look at it this way – only five more days until Johan pitches again!

The Mets will try to take the rubber game of this three game series tomorrow night in South Florida, with Oliver Perez making his season debut against Marlins rookie Andrew Miller.  Game time is 7:10, game will be broadcast on SNY in the NY/NJ area, and on Extra Innings and MLB.tv.

Cytanna Leads Mets on Opening Day

Monday, March 31st, 2008

From the first pitch, Johan Santana was on. His fastball was in the low 90’s and his changup would have fooled Ty Cobb, and he pitched 7 strong innings to lead the Mets to a 7-2 win over the plucky Marlins on Opening Day 2008.

Santana struck out Hanley “I think I’m better than Jose Reyes” Ramirez to start the game, and he then proceeded to retire the first nine hitters to face him. It wasn’t until a very bad ball call by home plate umpire Rick Reed that Santana allowed a base runner, walking the aforementioned Ramirez to start the 4th. After erasing Dan Uggla and Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham gave the Marlins their only highlight from the night, a two-run bomb of a home run to left/center.

Otherwise, Santana scattered only two more hits the rest of the way through seven very solid-looking innings. He struck out eight and walked just two, a ratio that is very nice to see. What’s more is he worked at a very quick pace throughout his time on the mound, ensuring that his defense was awake and ready behind him.

You could probably blame the Mets offense for Santana’s “shaky” forth inning because in the top half, the boys in gray sent ten batters to the plate over the course of half an hour. Santana was probably rusty from sitting on bench for so long between innings.

The story of the offense was all told in that forth inning. Beltran, Pagan, and Wright all doubled, Church and Reyes both singled, and, after it was all said and done, the Mets sent six runs home. Reyes’ single and Wright’s double both came with two outs and runners on base, so it’s nice to see them come through in the clutch. They would add a tack-on run in the top of the 9th when Marlon Anderson, who had singled earlier in the inning, went to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a terrible throw to third that went into no-mans-land behind third base.

It was a great day for Mets fans. Here’s some observations:

1. Marlon Anderson continued where he left off last season and got a pinch hit in the 9th inning. Plus, he played heads-up ball by scoring from second on a series of Bad News Bears plays by the Marlins.

2. Jose Reyes did seem a bit toned-down today. What was really nice was seeing him sacrifice bunt Anderson to second to help get him in scoring position. A “selfish” player wouldn’t give up a chance for a hit so early in the season, especially with what was at the time already a four-run lead.

3. The Mets’ aggressiveness on the basepaths was seen, thought not to much avail. Castillo stole second in the fourth, but Reyes got thrown out at second to end the sixth and then Wright made the second out trying to steal third base in the seventh.

4. Angel Pagan looked really strong today. He looks fit and I’m excited about having him in the lineup.

5. Enough can’t be said about how strong Santana looked today. If this is what we can expect from him, he’s going to run away with the Cy Young voting.

6. All the commentators (it was good to hear Ron, Keith, and Gary again!) commented pretty regularly on how the Mets are the best in baseball on Opening Day. All I can help wondering is, which team is the best in baseball on the last day of the season, when it really matters?

7. Both Jorge Sosa and Scott Schoeneweise looked great in the 8th inning, and Aaron was great in the 9th. Other than Matt Wise, who seemed tired or something, the pen did a fantastic job holding the lead.

8. The Marlins have male dancers. They’re fat and balding and ugly, and I love them. Thanks to Grim for the link.

Mets won’t balk at win, defeat Giants 5-4 in 12

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

“Balkin” Bob Davidson made his impact felt Tuesday night at Shea, more than Ben Johnson’s debut did. Johnson wen 0-2 as a late inning replacement, whereas Davidson raised the ire of Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca on a called swinging strike 2 during an at bat on which it appeared neither the Giants nor home plate umpire Randy Marsh seemed to believe warranted an appeal an inning before his true effect on the game could be felt, as the Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-4 in 12 innings to improve to 33-17 on the season.

The game was actually quite a spectacle is you like young pitchers with electric stuff. Tim Lincecum made his 5th career start and looked everybit the stud roto geeks have been cheering about since the spring. With a quirky delivery, a mid-upper 90’s fastball that explodes in the zone, and change up that comes at you sometimes 20mph slower than his fastball…he has the goods. He also shows no fear to go at hitters and works at a frantic pace. For the Mets, they sent Oliver Perez to the mound for the 10th time this season, Ollie was coming off a tremendous outing in Atlanta and having won 4 of his last 5 games.

The game didn’t start pretty for Perez, as he gave up a lead off Home Run to Randy Winn and then 2 batters later gave up another solo shot, this time to one of the hated Molina’s, Benji. After the second home run though, something impressive happened. Not only did Perez not allow another hit until the 6th inning, he didn’t allow a base runner…in other words, no walks.

Lincecum was simply awesome, not allowing a base runner until there were two out in the 4th when Carlos Beltran took his 36th walk of the season (later he got his 37th) and then served up a long bomb to Carlos Delgado off the base of the RF scoreboard to tie the game at 2. Lincecum would then strike out 4 of the next 5 batters he faced though, and held the game at 2-2 until Jose Reyes led off the 6th with a single and then, on a play only a handful of players can do, went from 1st to home on a double down the right field line by Beltran with out a hitch or a single doubt not only that he would try t do it, but that he would.

If you want to hang anything bad on Perez from this start, it would be that he have up the long ball. Two in the first, and then another one in the bottom of the 7th, the latter to Giants left fielder Dan Ortmeier, tying the game back up, 3-3. It would have been nice to see Perez not give up the lead a half inning after his team got him the lead. However, he was composed on the mound an never once did he fall into a situation where he couldn’t find the plate. That’s Both Perez and Lincecum would go 7 innings and both would strike out 8 and allow 3 runs. Perez wouldn’t be in line for a decision, but his past 4 outings, he has pitched 30 innings allowed 6 ER 24 Ks and 6 BBs. I’m not saying this is now “who” Oliver Perez is, he has had two implosions this season, but it’s getting harder and harder to say, “eventually we’ll see the real Oliver Perez.” …That might be who was are seeing.

Back to the game, it would remain 3-3 and would head to extra innings thanks to an outstanding diving stop of a Julio Franco line drive up the middle by perennial gold glover Omar Vizquel. Earlier in the inning, David Wright had thought he hit a walk off HR, but the ball hit off near the top of the wall and came back onto the field of play. The 10th inning would lead to a scare, as once again Scott Scheoenweis would not do his job, allowing a walk to some guy pinch hitting named Bonds and a ground rule double to 2B Kevin Frandsen to make it 2nd and 3rd with two outs. Aaron Heilman, another guy I have no confidence in, came in and got a line out to Damion Easley at second. Heilman would then pitch a perfect 11th inning as the Mets were held at bay on offense in both the 10th and 11th. Joe Smith came on for the 12th and just did not have it. He had no control with his slider darting every which way. He walked Vizquel, the Vizquel advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then, following a sacrifice, and hitting pinch hitter Mark Sweeney, the Giants had 1st and 3rd and one out. With the infield in, Randy Winn hit a hard ground ball to 1st and Delgado snagged.  He decided to take an extra step and step on the first base bag to get the out before throwing home, and by that time it was too late as Vizquel slid just under Lo Duca’s tag. I personally have no problem with what Delgado did. He had to spin towards first base anyway from the way I saw it and I don’t know how much of a difference the extra second would have made. However, had he thrown home w/o getting the out at first, and Vizquel still got in safely, then you have a potential for a big inning. As it was, Smith would get Frandsen on a check swing (which looked to me like a make up call by Davidson for the Lo Duca call the previous half inning) strike 3, to bring the Mets up for their last licks.

If I were a Lit major, I would type something as silly as, “It looked very bleak for the Metropolitans, as the fans that remained, who had rooted so hard for their team, started preparing for a late night trek back to the homes when all of the sudden, a ray of light appeared from the outfield wall…” Instead, I will put it this way…ARRRMAAAANDO! BENITEZ!!! It is games like this that I need to remind myself of when Billy Wagner gives up a hit or two or a walk or two in the 9th inning of games, “AT LEAST IT’S NOT BENITEZ.” Jose Reyes would lead off the inning, and instantly was up there the annoy. After getting 2 pitches out of the strike zone, Reyes almost in jest showed bunt on ball three. He would then take 2 strikes, the second very questionable, before fouling the 6th pitch off and taking the 7th for ball four clapping all the way to meet HoJo at the 1B bag. Enter “Balkin” Bob. With Endy Chavez at the plate trying to sacrifice Reyes over to 2nd, Benitez would be called for a balk, sending Reyes freely to second base. What Benitez did, I have no idea. Crew Chief Randy Marsh said after the game, speaking for the crew, “he started and stopped.” Hey, I’ll take it. Chavez would get the job done and move Reyes over to third. Once at third, with Benitez on the mound, I was sure Reyes would find away to get to that plate. It would not be immediately though, as Beltran came up with a RISP and grounded sharply to the drawn infield for an out. So with 2 away and down to their last out, Benitez, now was out to prove he could implode with the best of them. I was surpirsed Reyes haddn’t been jumpy at 3rd with Beltran was up, but apparently he decided that he would save his patented “fake a steal of home” move for Carlos Delgado’s at bat (you’ll remember it was Delgado last year who was actually a bit annoyed at Reyes’ antics when he debuted his 3rd base shenanigans. This year, using it more sparingly, it finally worked. Before even throwing a single pitch to Delgado, after Reyes sprinted halfway down the line when Bentiez was coming to his stretch, Armando clearly flinched and a second balk of the inning was called, this time seemingly by multiple umpires (3B ump Hunter Wendelstendt was the original caller), forcing Reyes home to tie the game, 4-4. Come on Mets fans, you all know how this one ends…Once you start pulling on that thread, Armando Bentiez completly unravels, and this was no exception. A few pitches later, Delgado would deposit his second home run over the right center field fence, his thrid walk off RBI of the season, to “Put it in the books;” a 12 inning, come from behind 5-4 victory.

The win combined with a Braves loss in Milwaukee to the Brewers, gives the Mets a 5 game lead in the NL East. They will play the second of this three game set Wednesday night at Shea, as would-be Met Barry Zito hauls his absurd contract to the mound and will counter Tom Glavine. Game time is 7:10 ET

NOTES:

The day started out like most have for the Mets the past few weeks, with uncertainty. By mid afternoon, Shawn Green was on his way to the DL for the first time in his career. Green broke a bone in his right foot in the series against the Marlins over the weekend. He wanted to try and take another day or two off, saying he was starting to feel better, but doctors warned that playing on the foot could further injure it and the team chose to send him to the DL. Green will be eligible to come off the DL on June 10th in Detroit, however doctors have said it will take almost 6 weeks to completely heal, so don’t expect him back immediately unless the Mets desperately need him.

Because of the open spot on the roster, and Moises Alou not ready to come back just yet, the Mets activated Ben Johnson who had traveled with the team from Miami in case he would be needed.

Also, Tuesday was the Mets’ 50th game of the season. With that, Guillermo Mota’s 50 game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs has come to an end. Mota, who has not been allowed to play all season, was immediately re-called follow Tuesday’s game. In 7 games with New Orleans this season, Mota has a poor 7.02 ERA with 7 Ks and 5 BBs in 7.2 innings. To make room for Mota, the Mets optioned Ambiorix Burgos to AAA. Not that Burgos has been anything to be excited about, but after re-signing Mota to a 2 year deal worth 5 million dollars even AFTER the suspension was announced, Omar may not need to come out looking smart here, but it wouldn’t hurt, because the baseball world will keep a close eye on Mota early on.

Pink Panther Mustache will begin a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday in Class A St. Lucie.