Game 141: Win
Mets 3 Dodgers 2
El Duque needed to be good … and he was.
Orlando Hernandez put forth a postseason-like performance, allowing only five baserunners and one earned run in seven innings — and did it in only 91 pitches. He outlasted Greg Maddux, who also pitched well but was bounced early in the sixth, en route to his tenth win of the season.
From the offensive side of things, it was the David Wright show, as D-Wright continued his hot hitting, going 3-3 with two RBI. His clutch, two-run single in the sixth came soon after Maddux was chased from the game and was the ultimate difference in the game. Interestingly, Wright was struck out on a breaking ball the pitch before his hit, but the home plate umpire called it ball three. No doubt that irked the heck out of Maddux, who could only smolder helplessly on the sidelines.
The only other Met run scored as a result of Carlos Delgado’s home run in the second inning.
How can you beat the Mets’ bullpen? With a slim, one-run lead, Aaron Heilman made it look easy, pitching a perfect eighth on seven pitches (five for strikes). Billy Wagner followed with a slightly less efficient, 18-pitch ninth that included one strikeout and one hit.
Shawn Green didn’t get any hits, but he made a great play in the top of the fourth, stealing a potential extra-base hit from Kenny Lofton. He caught the ball right at the wall, and if it wouldn’t have gone over it definitely would have bounced off and been either a double or a triple. At the time it didn’t seem too important, but considering the final score it turned out to be a huge defensive play.
While we’re on the subject of little things, Orlando Hernandez did something that no one will ever notice, but means a lot in the great scheme of things. In the bottom of the third, he executed a perfect sacrifice bunt that advanced Kelly Stinnett — which would have been vital itself had the Mets scored that runner. But further, he forced Greg Maddux to throw the ball to first, rather than be tagged. It meant nothing, as Maddux — a perennial Gold Glover — threw a perfect strike to first base, but El Duque performed as a winner in forcing that throw. You never know what can happen; for example, Maddux could have thrown the ball high and up the right-field line, allowing Stinnett to advance to third or possibly score. As it was, that didn’t happen, but there would have been no chance of it had Hernandez allowed himself to be tagged. Winning teams — such as the Braves through the 1990s — constantly force the issue and make the opponent execute … then make the most of opportunities when the opponent fails.
To further digress on that play … later in the game, in the top of the sixth, Greg Maddux was similarly effective with his baserunning, as he induced a rundown between third and home on a sharp grounder to David Wright in an attempt to get Kenny Lofton over to third base. At the end of the rundown, he pushed hard at El Duque’s glove as the tag was applied to him. I’m not sure whether it was heads’ up baseball — Maddux trying to dislodge the ball — or a case of disgruntled payback for El Duque’s third-inning play. Either way, Orlando Hernandez didn’t like it, and nearly went after Maddux as he sprinted back to the dugout like a scared and sniffling nine-year-old running home to his mommy. As much as I enjoy watching Maddux pitch, I hate watching him compete against my Mets!
Carlos Beltran walked twice in this game, giving him 81 on the year — a career high. Ironically, his unusually high walk total can be directly attributed to the presence of Carlos Delgado behind him in the lineup. Whereas you would think he’d be walked less by opposing pitchers, the fact is that Delgado behind him has taken the pressure off Beltran to be the big RBI guy — and the result has been him being more patient and waiting for good pitches to hit. Last year, he chased pitches out of the strike zone because he felt that he had to be the guy to drive people in … kind of like the ringer on a beer league softball team. This year, he takes pitches, gets his, and has been belting it.
The TV camera caught John Maine stretching his fingers with a forkball grip around a baseball. Nice to see that he’s looking to possibly further improve his game … and it sure would be a benefit if he could add a strikeout pitch to his repertoire.
Interesting trivia tidbit: if you overlook Mike Hampton’s Gold Glove Award in 2003, the last NL pitcher to win the Award before Greg Maddux was none other than New York Met pitcher Ron Darling — in 1989.