The Brewers series

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.

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