Game 75: Win
Mets 7 Blue Jays 4
The Metropolitans passed their second test in their grueling interleague swing, winning the series against a hard-hitting Toronto ballclub. Of course, the batters are only going to be hitting harder and harder on this trip, as the Boston Red Sox are on deck and the Yankees thereafter.
Steve Trachsel pitched adequately, giving up four runs on three walks and six hits in five innings. Nothing spectacular, but he held the lead long enough to give the reins to the Crisco Corps, who did a fine job. Once again, Chad Bradford was sparkling, throwing two shutout innings, and Aaron Heilman seems to be well over that frightening slump of a few weeks ago. Billy Wagner, on the other hand, is making me nervous, as he had trouble with his command once again.
Strangely, Wagner has pitched poorly when Ramon Castro is behind the plate. What I thought was just me coming up with another conspiracy theory was backed up by numbers published on MetsBlog.com. As noted in the post, it is a small sample size, but there may well be something to it. My guess: a combination of Wagner not trusting Castro’s pitchcalling (or Castro not calling well for Wagner) and Wagner not liking the way Castro sets up behind the plate. And when I suggest Castro’s calling, I don’t mean to say that Castro doesn’t call a good game. Rather, it could just be that Castro and Wagner are not yet on the same wavelength — Castro calling a pitch opposite to what Wagner might be thinking about throwing — and the discrepency is throwing Wagner out of rhythm. Yes, Wagner is a professional and these things shouldn’t matter, but the pitcher-catcher chemistry is a delicate thing, and pitchers tend to be finicky. Of course, it could be dumb luck that Castro happens to be catching every time Wagner loses control.
Hopefully, there isn’t a physical issue with Billy the Kid. In years past, I remember that the game was over — door slammed shut — whenever his team was up going into the ninth. He came in and threw 100-MPH, knee-high BBs seemingly with his eyes closed; it looked so effortless and fluid. Since he’s come to the Mets, however, he looks to be struggling. The spring training scare with his finger sheath further fuels my fear. Maybe he doesn’t have a good feel for the ball, or can’t get the right grip. It does look like his release point is all over the place: sometimes too early, sometimes too late, sometimes at different angles. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that Rick Peterson can’t help him, mostly because Wagner doesn’t respect him — nor any other pitching coaches. Wagner has mentioned in a few interviews his disdain for coaches. OK, he never really came out and said he doesn’t like pitching coaches, but in his roundabout way, if you listen between the lines, it’s clear he puts more faith in fellow bullpen pitchers than in any coach.
Enough of the arms, let’s talk about the batters! Who’s hotter, Carlos Beltran or Jose Reyes? Beltran has been belting home runs and driving in runs like an MVP candidate lately, but Reyes has been hotter than a flaming vodka shot this past week. He had ANOTHER four-hit game, his third in a week, and has raised his average 40 points in ten days. Don’t look now, but he’s currenly over .300. Interestingly, though he hasn’t walked once in the last ten days, he is definitely taking lots of pitches, going deep into counts, and patiently waiting for his pitch. Watching him at the plate this last week is like watching some other man. Someone please find out what he’s eating for breakfast! By the way, if he doesn’t receive NL player of the week honors, the voters should be shot.
Beltran, Reyes, and Jose Valentin all went a yard in the game, giving David Wright a rest from jogging around the bases. Valentin has been stroking hard liners the entire series, and seems to be settling in quite nicely as the irregular second baseman. Shame on me for wanting him hanged or sent to a faraway island earlier this year. His production notwithstanding, I still think Omar is going to pull off a deal for a second sacker, but it will be a big-ticket such as Jose Vidro rather than an Adam Kennedy or Mark Grudzielanek.
Ramon Castro broke out of his slump, and should be back on track toward being the best backup backstop in the NL.
Julio Franco continues to amaze. He hit a 99-hop single up the middle that barely got out of the infield, bouncing just off the glove of a diving Aaron Hill, and stretched it into a double. I believe that makes him the oldest player to turn a 99-hop grounder into a double.
Endy Chavez had no hits today, but managed another outfield assist, nailing Reed Johnson as he tried to turn a single into a double. It was a good gamble by Johnson, as the ball went into the corner and only a perfect throw would get him. Unfortunately for Johnson, Chavez made a perfect throw.
Monday is a travel day but then on Tuesday, hoo-boy, it’s Fenway. How the series will turn out is anybody’s guess. It’s Soler vs. Lester, Pedro vs. Beckett, and then Glavine vs. Schilling. On paper, it looks like it will be a series of dominating pitching, but the games will be played at Fenway, which makes everything a crapshoot. Though each game should be great entertainment, in a way I’d rather see Glavine in Yankee Stadium. As well as he’s pitching, I have a queasy feeling about a flutterballing lefty facing an avalanche of righthand hitters targeting the Green Monster. Since El Duque threw only two innings in his last start, and would be getting a full four days off anyway, it wouldn’t be out of the question to flip-flop he and Glavine. As it stand now, it’ll be Hernandez, Trachsel, and Soler against the Yanks. While the bottom end of the rotation has been outperforming the top two of late, I’d much prefer to split up the aces against the top two teams in the AL East. Then again, if Reyes, Wright, the Carloses, and Valentin stay as hot as they are, it won’t matter if LimaTime is on the mound (I did NOT just say that…)