Game 101: Win
Mets 1 Cubs 0
Ahh … back to the winning ways …
Could John Maine be the answer? He pitched beautifully through the first five innings, and when faced with a challenge in the sixth, responded in spectacular fashion.
After Mark Prior struck out to lead off the inning, Juan Pierre reached on a swinging bunt. Maine was too preoccupied with Pierre on first, and ended up walking Todd Walker — though in defense, a few of the pitches were borderline. Still, Maine was clearly concerned with Pierre, possibly because Mark Prior was throwing a no-hitter on the other side; he may have felt that one run would mean the game. Mr. Willie made a rare appearance for a quick chat, and Maine proceeded to strike out Africa-hot Aramis Ramirez and get Jacque Jones to bounce out weakly to second base to end the inning. Whatever Willie said seemed to unleash the monster within Maine, as he immediately relaxed and turned it up a notch by adding a few MPH to his fastball.
If that wasn’t enough to impress anyone, he came back in the seventh and struck out the side.
All game he was consistently hitting good spots; even the balls were around the strike zone or well-placed. His only issue seemed to be the breaking ball, which was occasionally wild.
Watching him pitch, and with his lean build, he reminds me a lot of, ironically, Kris Benson. Think about it: he relies heavily on a well-spotted, moving yet not overpowering fastball, mixes in an inconsistent curve, and occasionally shows a nice change-up. If Maine can give the Mets Benson-like performance, at the ML minimum salary, we may well have found our #3 starter.
Too bad he went over the 100-pitch limit (118). It would have been nice to see him pitch the 8th and 9th and possibly finish with a second consecutive shutout.
The Mets batters had a difficult time, getting no-hit through six innings. It took a Jose Valentin popup lost in the sun to fall just beyond the reach of shortstop Ronny Cedeno to put an H on the board. That’s about all the Mets were doing on this sunny afternoon: popping up. Prior induced 7 fly balls, I’d guess all or most of them were popups. Reason? Not sure, but maybe the early 12:10 start had something to do with it. Perhaps the Mets are not used to hitting so early, and/or tired from the night before and were simply lazy with the bat. It’s a valid argument, considering that the Cubs batters looked just as groggy.
After walking the leadoff batter and then giving up a sacrifice and a fluke infield single to Ronny Cedeno, it looked like Aaron Heilman was going to give up the lead in the top of the tenth. However, he bore down and squeaked out of danger by inducing two 3-2 popups. Had he given up a hit there, you could blame him for the leadoff walk, but the single was really a potential double-play grounder that somehow caused David Wright to fall flat on his kiester.
In the bottom of the tenth, with two outs, the Mets bats finally woke up. Carlos Beltran hit a single, Carlos Delgado chopped an opposite-field double, and David Wright was intetionally walked. Jose Valentin hit a solid single to drive in the winning run and give the Mets their first win in four days.