Game 106: Win
Mets 6 Marlins 5
Yikes! It looked like deja vu all over again, as Yogi says …
Billy Wagner came startlingly close to blowing a second game in as many days, but luckily the combination of Hanley Ramirez’s inability to bunt, and Marlins manager Joe Girardi’s stubborn refusal to recognize the obvious, Wagner was able to squeak out of danger.
With men on second and third and none out, Girardi ordered Ramirez to bunt the runners over. Hanley failed miserably on the first two attempts, but Girardi kept the sign on, despite the fact that Ramirez has been hitting fairly well lately. Predictably, Ramirez popped up the third attempt for an out, and Wagner recovered from early-inning command issues to strike out the final two batters to end the game.
After allowing a single to Wes Helms, Wagner had unbelievable trouble throwing a strike to pitcher Brian Moehler, who was sent up to the plate as a pinch-hitter for the express purpose of bunting. With Carlos Delgado and David Wright charging to within 15 feet of home plate, all Wagner had to do was throw a simple strike to Moehler, but was unable to in three tries. On the fourth try, he hit Moehler, and it looked like another Wagner meltdown; he seems to have these games where he can’t find the plate and someone needs to run out there and pull him off the mound. The inability of Ramirez to get a bunt down saved Wagner and shifted the momentum against the Marlins; the Mets were damn lucky to get away with a win.
Interestingly, the Mets had no business putting Wagner into that situation, as they had a six-zip lead early in the game. However, Steve Trachsel did his typical routine of pitching just well enough to lose, and the return of Roberto Hernandez was less than inspiring. Bert got into trouble in the seventh, leaving the game with two runners on for Pedro Feliciano, who walked the one batter he faced before allowing his partner in crime, Chad Bradford, to give up a two-run single that pulled the Marlins within one. Although, you can’t blame Bradford, who has been pitching lights out lately and had to give up a hit eventually.
In the top of the ninth, the Mets had the bases loaded and none out with David Wright at the plate, and couldn’t score a run against a struggling Joe Borowski. Shame on D-Wright, Uncle Cliffy, and Jose Valentin for not getting at least one run across against the Bayonne Bullet. Wright popped up, Floyd struck out looking on a pitch he should have been swinging at (he was tossed from the game for arguing) and the Stache flied out to center to end the inning. In that situation, someone HAS TO either hit a ground ball — even if it’s a double play — or put the ball in the outfield to score a run. Instead, both D-Wright and Cliff were swinging for the granny, and after two out Jose didn’t have many options to get the runs home.
On the bright side, Carlos Beltran did not hit a home run but went 2-4 with a walk and a run scored. Carlos Delgado did the right thing and accepted three walks and smacked a run-scoring single the one opportunity he was given. Jose Reyes and Paul LoDuca remained red-hot at the top of the order, going a combined 5-10 with three runs scored and an RBI. LoDuca is now hitting just under .320 and Reyes is at .292. Endy Chavez had a great game, both in the field and at bat; he’s having a career year as a platoon player and has established himself as the top player coming off the bench. With Xavier Nady gone, it appears that Endy will do his job to pick up the slack; we can only hope that Lastings Milledge can hold his end of the bargain.
Aaron Heilman pitched another perfect inning in the 8th; it was the 8th time this year he’s pitched in back-to-back games. However, I’m concerned about tomorrow, because Bert can’t throw back-to-back games, and both Heilman and ChadBrad have thrown back-to-backs already. If it’s another tight game, Mr. Willie will no doubt use the Joe Torre philosophy of abusing arms and put Heilman in the game again tomorrow. If he does, he’s an ass. With a 15-game lead, there’s no reason not to use someone else in a meaningless game against the Marlins. Wouldn’t it be nice to find out if Darren Oliver can do something more worthwhile than long-duty mop up? How about seeing if Royce Ring can pitch in pressure situations now that he’s a sidewinder? Somehow I don’t see either of these guys getting a chance late in a tight game, but who knows?
Mike Pelfrey was sent down and Royce Ring (finally) brought up, in a smart move by the Mets. A six-man rotation was a little silly, and without Dirty in the ‘pen another relief arm was necessary. Since changing his arm angle — a similar adjustment to what Pedro Feliciano did last year in Japan — Ring has been lights out at the AAA level. Hopefully he can bring that effectiveness to the big leagues.
As much as I like the idea of Lastings Milledge cutting his teeth in the bigs, I’m slightly surprised that the Mets didn’t bring up Heath Bell instead, and use a combination of Eli Marrero, Chris Woodward, and Endy Chavez in right field. Bell’s pitched fairly well in the limited situations Mr. Willie allowed him (just what did Heath do, and who did he piss off, to deserve this fate?), and you’d think that the Mets would need another arm in the bullpen more than an outfielder, at least for a week or so while they figure out how to replace Dirty. Five outfielders, plus Woody, plus Julio Franco, equals a lot of bats on the bench. And Marrero is not that far removed from a .320 season in 2004. In fact, Marrero, when given an opportunity to play semi-regularly, has been a grand success over the course of his career. His poor performances have only been in seasons in which the manager forgot he was in the dugout. In my mind, his presence stuck to the bench is a complete waste of talent. With his long loopy swing he has the potential to get into hot streaks starting a few times a week, but that same swing is a detriment in his pinch-hitting role.
Pedro tomorrow vs. D-Train. Let’s hope Pedro can muster the strength to go eight innings, and the Mets can mount a nice five-run lead, so Ring can close it out with no pressure. (Somehow I don’t think it will work out that way.)