Mets Game 26: Win Over Diamondbacks
Mets 7 Diamondbacks 2
The Mets jumped out to an early lead off Micah “Babe Ruth” Owings, led by the top three batters in the lineup — Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, and David Wright — who were a combined 9-for-14 with 5 RBI and 6 runs scored.
John Maine showed signs of struggling in the first frame, struggled in the second — giving up two runs — and continued to look downright angry through the rest of his outing. He seemed aware of his bloated pitch count, and was especially frustrated by an inability to put away hitters after getting ahead of them. His main swing-and-miss pitches — his high fastball and down and away slider — were not being chased by the usually over-aggressive, young Arizona hitters, and many of his best two-strike pitches were spoiled time and again by defensive foul tips. In addition, his changeup was not finding the strike zone consistently — and it looked like he was throwing his hard split-finger as his main offspeed pitch instead of his straight change (something Aaron Heilman and Ollie Perez do as well). The split has more downward movement, but if the batter lays off, the pitch is generally a ball.
When it was all said and done, Maine gritted his way through six innings, allowing six hits, two walks, two runs, and striking out six — but that tidy stat line belies his effort and the struggle he had through the outing.
Joe Smith pitched an effective inning and two-thirds, getting some help from Pedro Feliciano in the eighth. Duaner Sanchez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out 2 and expending 8(!) pitches — seven for strikes.
I wonder if Willie Randolph said to Johnny Maine, “hey, this game, I’m letting you go to 140-150 pitches before I think about taking you out” — would John pitch with more relaxed execution? I sincerely believe that Maine gets caught up in efficiency, and wants very badly to stay in ballgames beyond the fifth / sixth inning. I further believe that he’d fit right into the rotations of the 1970s and early 1980s — with the old-school starters who were 7- and 8-inning workhorses, and who regularly expended 140+ pitches per game without a second thought. Remember guys like Jerry Koosman, Craig Swan, Jon Matlack, Mike Torrez, Steve Rogers, Pete Vukovich, Dennis Leonard? Maine would be right there with them, completing 12-15 games a year with no problem, since he relies almost exclusively on stress-free fastballs and changeups, and uses the slider only sparingly.
Jose Reyes — the last man to hit for the cycle — nearly hit for the cycle in this game, going 4-for-5 with two triples, a double, and a single. His second triple was actually an attempt at an inside-the-park homerun that fell short by a few feet (I’d be lying if I didn’t say my heart sank as he rounded the bases, fearing he’d pull his hammy). Jose also made a few spectacular plays in the field, showing off his athleticism and rifle arm.
So, if the poor performance of Jose Reyes in April was the fault of Willie Randolph, can we credit Willie for Jose’s four-hit evening and stellar glovework?
Carlos Delgado had two more hits and an RBI; he’s 5 for his last 14 and beginning to see the Mendoza Line from a rearview mirror.
Carlos Beltran swung on 3-0 pitches twice (and didn’t swing on a third 3-0 count) but was unsuccessful in converting those swings into a hit. As much as I like to see batters get into deep counts and make the pitcher work, when it comes to elite sluggers such as Beltran I LOVE to see 3-0 swinging. Usually, the batter will get an easy pitch to hack at, and if it’s Beltran, or David Wright, or a similarly gifted homerun hitter, I think it’s a no-brainer to let him swing away.
On a similar note, Moises Alou — who scorched the ball all night — was given a breaking pitch in the dirt on a 3-0 count in the sixth inning. Talk about respect … that’s the kind of thing Mike Piazza used to see in his heyday.
The Mets are 6-0 with Ryan Church batting second; Jose Reyes is hitting .500 in those games and Church is at .400. Maybe Willie should stick with this plan for a while?
The Mets have now won 14 of their last 15 at Arizona. Crazy.
The Mets stay in Phoenix to play another one against the Diamondbacks, it’s a FOX-friendly 3:45 PM start. So put the TV on Fox, click the “mute” button, and watch sinkerballer future Mike Pelfrey go against sinkerballer present Brandon Webb. Hopefully Big Pelf will learn something from his opponent — who already has six wins.