Game 116: Win
Mets 3 Nationals 1
Yesterday, a Mets’ relief pitcher vultured an undeserving win. Today, a Mets’ relief pitcher rightfully earned a well-deserved win.
Chad Bradford came on with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game, and retired the Nats’ best hitter and most dangerous hitter — Alfonso Soriano — on a harmless ground ball. OK, that’s not entirely fair … Jose Valentin made a really nice play on Soriano’s scorcher, so ChadBrad could easily have been the goat. But in the boxscore it looks pretty harmless: groundout to 2B.
Recent star Michael Tucker made the most of the positive momentum by blasting a go-ahead home run in the top of the eighth to seal the victory.
At the beginning of the season, it was believed that Carlos Delgado was going to be an albatross on the right side of the diamond, so much so that Mr. Willie and Omar insisted that defense was most important from their second baseman. If anyone, on April first, were to foretell the combo of Delgado and Valentin manning the right side, nearly everyone would laugh and assume that ground balls would leak through to right field like hydrochloric acid through cheesecloth. Instead, both players have been more than adequate on defense, with some parts of their respective games bordering on excellent. Delgado, for one, has done an outstanding job of picking throws in the dirt. Sure, his range is nothing to write home about, and he has somewhat clunky hands on most ground balls. However, he rarely allows a low throw to get by, and also does a very good job on high throws and wild throws that take him off the base. And he made a nice play on the final out of the game.
The Stache, meanwhile, has been surprisingly excellent on the double-play pivot, and seems to extend his range by the day. It’s remarkable that this guy, a natural shortstop who has played more third base and outfield over the last few years, could step in so easily and quickly and turn double plays like he’s been doing it on that side of the base all his life. And even if you don’t agree that his range is above average, you have to admit that he rarely, if ever, botches the routine play. That doesn’t seem like a big deal until you think back to when Anderson Hernandez went down, Kaz Matsui crumbled, and people were thinking that a very similarly-tooled defensive player — Mark Grudzielanek — might be the answer. There’s no way on God’s green earth that Grudzielanek is a better defender than Valentin right now, and I’ll take Jose’s born-again offense over the aforementioned punch-and-judy batter any day.
A few days ago, I mentioned that this is Michael Tucker’s golden — and possibly last — opportunity to stay in the big leagues. Unquestionably, he’s motivated, and making a strong case to stay on the roster when Uncle Cliffy returns (at least, so far). He’s been doing the all-important little things — playing solid defense, making the most of at-bats — and today did one of the big things: blast a go-ahead home run. If he keeps this up the Mets might forget about trading for Shawn Green … though I would really, really, like to see Green in a Met uniform this year.
While ChadBrad, Billy the Kid, and Darren Oliver all pitched well out of the ‘pen, it was another underwhelming outing from Royce Ring. It would figure. In yesterday’s post I mentioned that Mr. Willie might want to call on Ring in LOOGY situations, with Pedro Feliciano’s ineffectiveness against first batters and inherited runners. So, what do you know, Ring is called on to face pinch-hitter Daryle Ward and what does he do? Walks him on four pitches. It was bad enough that Ring wasn’t perfect in his first outing; he’s now completely botched any future opportunities in meaningful situations till at least 2007. Personally, I’d give Ring a few more chances (and I’d also have Heath Bell up here), but Mr. Willie is from the Joe Torre school of bullpen management, where there are two rules: 1. go with the one guy who gets outs, every single day, until his arm falls off; and 2. if you try somebody new, and he isn’t perfect the first time out, nor the second, never use him again unless there is a six-run difference in the score. My guess is we’ll see Ring sent back to Norfolk, and some schlep such as Dave Williams take his place. It’s really a shame, because there’s no doubt in my mind that Ring and Bell would develop into top-flight middle relievers, if only Mr. Willie would give them more than a six-inch leash on a spiked choker collar. Both guys are aware that they have to be perfect to get another chance, and that’s no way to be thinking when you’re trying to get big-league hitters out. I guarantee that we’ll see one or both of them pitching lights out for somebody else next year … very similar to what happened with Dan Wheeler and Tom Martin a few seasons ago.
Pedro tomorrow vs. the Phillies and rookie flamethrower Cole Hamels. I wonder if we’ll see Chris Woodward in LF ?
OK, I’m starting to “harp” on this subject … but if you’re a regular reader then you know I have a tendency to really beat dead horses even after they’ve been turned to glue … so … I’d really like to see Shawn Green come to the Mets this year … how about Steve Schmoll and we’ll assume the rest of the contract?