Game 111: Win
Though the game was tight from beginning to end, it somehow “felt” like the Mets would win the game. Maybe it’s the way the Mets conduct themselves, or the way the batters kept Padres’ starter Woody Williams on the ropes all night, that exuded confidence. It seemed like every inning the Mets had the bases loaded, and despite the close score, it was apparent the Mets would do nothing other than win the game … spoiling Mike Piazza’s return to Shea.
Piazza received a well-deserved, moving, standing ovation in his first at-bat. He was much beloved in Flushing, and it’s remarkable that he could be so respected and loved, yet not missed. I doubt there is any remotely knowledgeable Met fan who would take him over Paul LoDuca this year, in spite of Mike’s good numbers.
Hey let’s think about this for a moment: Piazza still on the Mets. What might the clubhouse be like? How many games would have been lost purely due to Mike’s poor catching skills? Where would he bat in the lineup? Would Beltran be batting second? What if Piazza and LoDuca were both on the roster, and putting up the same numbers they are now … how would the press respond? Would it be a harmonious platoon, or a controversy similar to a NY Jets training camp? It matters not, since Mike’s enjoying life on the Left Coast, but it’s fun to consider.
Back to the game …
Steve Trachsel pitched an above-Trachsel game, allowing only two runs in 5 2/3 innings in crusing to his 11th victory. Remarkably, Royce Ring came on in relief in the one-run game; we’ll assume Mr. Willie was on some kind of narcotics. It’s not that I don’t want to see Ring in that situation — in fact I was very happy to see him — it just seems too phenomenal that Willie would trust him there. Naturally, poor Royce responded to the challenge by giving up a double (on a good pitch), which put runners on second and third, and then walked lefty Todd Walker on four pitches. Ring squeaked out of danger by inducing a groundout. Though he did not allow a run to score, I’m guessing it will be a long time coming before Mr. Willie puts him into a similar situation.
Darren Oliver was stellar in middle relief before yielding to Roberto Hernandez and Pedro Feliciano, who were perfect. Billy Wagner shut the door in the ninth.
Meantime, the bats did what they needed to do. David Wright made his mini-slump a distant memory, going 3-4 with the only two Mets RBI, a run, and a stolen base. Carlos Beltran remained hot, also going 3-4 with a run scored.
The other run came home in the second inning on a bases-loaded, double-play grounder by Lastings Milledge. Milledge showed his youth by jumping on the first offering by Williams in a situation where he needed to be more patient. Wright had led off the inning with a single, Jose Valentin followed with a walk, and Endy Chavez bunted a ball that Williams bobbled to load the bases with no outs. It was a prime situation to mount a steaming rally, as Williams was having trouble throwing strikes and staying calm. Instead of waiting for a good pitch, Milledge lunged at a breaking ball falling off the outside corner and Milledge pounded it into the ground for a tailor-made DP. Had he taken a few pitches, he might have gotten ahead on Williams and forced a better pitch to hit, or drawn a walk. This situation no doubt will get buried in the win and the season but it’s a tiny detail that could become huge under the microscope of a do-or-die playoff game, where every little thing counts. As talented as Lastings is, and though it’s great he’s able to cut his teeth at the Major League level, it’s a little disconcerting to think that his inexperience could be the difference between a win and a loss come playoff time.
In a curious move, the Mets claimed veteran OF Ricky Ledee on waivers from the Dodgers, and dropped Eli Marrero. Actually, the curious part of all this is the way Marrero was utilized (or rather, not utilized) by Mr. Willie. From Marrero’s arrival, it was apparent that Randolph had no idea who he was or what he was capable of; witness his starting Marrero in centerfield one day, then third base the next — two positions he’d never played before. Further, it was assumed that the whole point of Marrero was to give Randolph the opportunity to use Ramon Castro as a pinch-hitter if he so wished, but that never materialized. In fact, Marrero only caught one or two games in his tenure, even though Castro missed over a week nursing an injury and LoDuca caught over a dozen straight games.
I feel bad for Marrero, and had hoped he’d be given more of a chance. He seemed like an ideal guy to have in the clubhouse and on the team, the type of guy who will play anywhere, anytime, and not complain. Just as importantly, he had shown in the past that he could be a valuable bat in the lineup when given semi-regular duty; check his career stats and you’ll see some good numbers when given 250+ at-bats. He has a long, loopy swing, the type that will cause a lot of strikeouts but also the kind that can get into a carry-the-team type of groove. His loopy swing was definitely NOT for pinch hitting, and unfortunately his role with the Mets was as a 6th-inning pinch hitter. With Xavier Nady traded away, there was an opportunity to platoon Endy Chavez and Marrero in right field, and I truly believe that could have been a potent combination. However, it was not to be, and I wish Eli well. Who knows, he might end up in Norfolk.
So now the Mets have Ricky Ledee, who is a solid defender with a so-so bat. I’m guessing that he will be the new 6th-inning pinch-hitter, but not sure what else he’ll do as long as Endy is around. Maybe the Mets plan on using Ledee and Endy in the corners for defensive purposes? Though it doesn’t seem like part of Omar’s plan to sit Milledge in the late innings; it would be a blow to his confidence in the field. Apparently, the Mets needed another lefty bat off the bench to balance Julio Franco, Chris Woodward, and Castro (when he returns), so I guess it makes sense.
Stinks to be Michael Tucker or Jacob Cruz, two lefthanded-hitting outfielders who are currently at Norfolk and apparently not considered to be better options than Ledee for the role.
On another note … This has nothing to do with the Mets whatsoever, but is so remarkable it needs to be repeated: according to Allan Wood of joyofsox.blogspot.com, David Ortiz has come to the plate 19 times in walkoff situations since the end of the 2004 regular season (postseasons included) and reached base 16 times. He is 11 for 14 (.786), with 7 HRs and 20 RBIs. This season, he is 8 for 9, with 5 HRs and 15 RBIs. Holy S.
Pedro tomorrow night vs. Clay Hensley. The Mets’ Magic Number is 40.