Mets Game 51: Win Over Marlins
Mets 7 Marlins 6
Wow … this is EXACTLY what we’ve been waiting for — for about a year.
Fernando Tatis continued his case for regular duty, slamming a clutch two-run double in the 12th to push the Mets past the Marlins.
The big hit came after light-hitting Alfredo Amezega punched a ball over the rightfield fence in the top of the inning to give Florida the lead. However, these “new” Mets did not roll over, but rather came back for the second time in the evening to earn a huge win over the first-place Fish.
But early on, there didn’t appear to be a need for the comeback kids. Oliver Perez was cruising right along, setting down Marlins batters like Earl Anthony used to knock down bowling pins. He retired 12 of the first 14 Fish he faced, allowing only a harmless solo homer to catcher Mike Rabelo. Meantime, the Mets jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first frame on a two-run dinger by Luis Castillo, and extended it to 3-1 on a sac fly by Fernando Tatis in the fourth.
However, Dr. Perez transformed into Mr. Hyde in the fifth, allowing a leadoff homer to Cody Ross and then losing the strike zone, walking two before wiggling out of the inning without further damage — thanks to a spectacular running catch of a line drive by Carlos Beltran. Miraculously, manager Willie Randolph allowed Perez to start the sixth, despite his struggles in the fifth and obvious sudden loss of confidence. Perez was given a free pass by Jorge Cantu, who flied out on the first pitch, but then walked Wes Helms in a nine-pitch at-bat. Dan Uggla followed with an infield hit, and then it was Cody Ross again. I kept waiting to hear “… and now Willie Randolph will go out to the mound”, but strangely, there wasn’t even anyone warming up in the bullpen. Apparently, Willie is not aware that his job is on the line. He left Hyde out there, and it was “deja vu all over again” as Ross put another one over the fence to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead. Only after the ball exited the playing field did someone in the dugout finally get on the phone to the bullpen. Amazing.
Scott Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless seventh, and then Aaron Heilman, of all people, changed the tone of the game. Heilman pitched with a fervor for two frames, retiring all six batters he faced with a dominance we haven’t seen since the first week of the season. His performance was something of an inspiration to the men in the dugout, who heartily congratulated Heilman after finishing the ninth. Endy Chavez was so excited, in fact, he led off the bottom of the ninth with a homerun off closer Kevin Gregg to tie up the ballgame.
It looks to me like Heilman is over-exaggerating an attempt to “stay closed” with his front shoulder, and also pitching from a lower arm angle than normal. Although he had great success tonight, I fear it may be a short-term fix. As has been mentioned here several times before, Heilman’s release point is extremely fragile, and he can very quickly get too much under the ball. This occurs when he’s overused, and gets fatigued. Pitching from a more upright position, he has a better foundation from which to stay on top of the ball and throw on a downward plane. The way he threw tonight, he’s already starting low, and throwing from more of a level plane — he looks a lot like Joe Smith, actually. I’m happy Heilman pitched well — I’m his biggest fan — but am guarding my optimism at this point in time. There’s not question Heilman can be an effective pitcher, but what worries me is when Willie starts using him five times a week.
The Mets bullpen retired 16 straight Fish before Amezega’s solo homer.
In the bottom of the 11th, Endy Chavez led off with a single, and Randolph put on the hit-and-run with Brian Schneider at the plate and the pitcher on deck. It was a good call, in my opinion, because a) the right side was wide open with the first baseman holding the runner and b) Schneider is a dead-pull hitter who seems to hit a grounder to the right side every other time up. Unfortunately, for only the second time in his career, Schneider hit the ball the other way, and in the air. Figures.
Duaner Sanchez got it up to 93 MPH on the Shea Stadium radar gun. Unfortunately, Alfredo Amezega used aikido to redirect that energy over the fence.
I have to admit I was concerned when John Maine was sent out to pinch-run for Carlos Delgado. Sitting on the bench all night, with his body cold, all I could think was “don’t run too hard, don’t pull a hammy”. Next time, send Mike Pelfrey out there — if he pulls something the impact would not be nearly as great.
The Mets host the Dodgers for a four-game series this weekend, starting with a 7:10 pm game on Thursday night. Claudio “Don’t Call Me Jason” Vargas goes to the mound against Brad “JC” Penny. Strangely, the two teams finish the series with an 8:05 pm game on Sunday — and then both teams have Monday night games in California. Talk about jet lag. I wonder if they’ll be sharing a plane.