Mets Game 126: Win Over Braves
Mets 7 Braves 3
The best plan when you don’t have a closer? Score enough runs that it doesn’t matter who pitches the ninth inning.
After learning that Billy Wagner’s elbow was still swollen and would remain out of action indefinitely, the Mets took pressure off the bullpen in the late innings by exploding for five runs in the eighth, trouncing the Braves by a four-run margin.
But it was a much closer game for the first seven innings.
Oliver Perez pitched the first six and a third, allowing only three runs on seven hits and an alarming five walks. After 114 pitches, Ollie was replaced by latest acquisition Luis Ayala, who retired the two batters he faced to close out the seventh. Aaron Heilman came on in the eighth to keep the Mets in the game, and pitched a scoreless, though grueling frame.
The turning point of the game came in the bottom of the eighth. After Jose Reyes grounded out to lead off the inning, Nick Evans and David Wright drew back-to-back walks, setting the stage for Carlos Beltran to be a hero. Beltran responded by mashing two threads of the baseball, bouncing a dribbler toward Chipper Jones for an ugly but effective infield hit to load the bases. Carlos Delgado followed with a clutch laser beam to the left-center wall to chase home the tying and go-ahead runs.
After Delgado’s double, the game really opened up. Eventually, Jose Reyes came to the plate for a second time — at which point the Mets had scored five runs and the Braves went through three pitchers since the last time he took his place in the batter’s box.
Scott Schoeneweis came on in the ninth in a non-save situation and pitched a pressure-free, scoreless inning to finish the game.
Nick Evans went 2-for-3 with a walk, and has boosted his average to a respectable .276. He had the only Mets hit from innings one through seven. Carlos Beltran was the only other Met with more than one hit — he also collected two singles.
David Wright had a walk and a sac fly but no hits, so his 12-game hitting streak came to a close.
First impression of Luis Ayala: he is definitely not the guy I remember before Tommy John surgery. I’m not sure if the Mets already adjusted his arm angle, but the way it looks now is ugly. His elbow is too low and his hand is too much to the side and/or under the ball at release, causing all of his pitches to be up in the zone. He got away with it in this game, but unless he changes his release to get more downward movement on the ball, I expect to see opposing batters hit him hard.
Mets and Braves do it again at 7:10 pm on Wednesday night, with Mike Pelfrey facing Jair Jurrjens.
And we’ll have plenty of time to piss on Ayala’s parade when he actually screws up. For this one night, in his Met debut, he did a fine job, so give credit where credit is due. On the downside, now Jerry probably thinks he’s found his man who can get everybody out in every key situation, which means he’ll be calling for Ayala 6 times a week from now until season’s end. If that’s true, then there’s no doubt that Ayala will be no savior to the beleaguered bullpen. All we can do is hope Jerry does the right thing.