Mets Game 98: Win Over Dodgers

Mets 5 Dodgers 4

It’s been a while since we had one of these — watching the TV at the edge of your seat, nervous energy flowing through the veins right to the last pitch of the game. In the end, all Mets fans breathed a collective sigh of relief as Billy Wagner saved the contest, and preserved Chip Ambres’ status as a hero.

Who is Chip Ambres? The career minor leaguer came up big by bouncing a single past a diving Nomar Garciaparra and into leftfield to score Lastings Milledge with the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth inning. He’s the man most likely to return to New Orleans when Moises Alou returns on Tuesday, but he made his short stint significant.

El Duque pitched a fairly good game, but was hurt by the few mistakes he made — first, a gopher ball to Rafael Furcal on his second pitch of the game put the Dodgers ahead 1-0. Then in the fourth, he allowed a single to Luis Gonzalez and a two-out RBI double to James Loney to make it 2-zip.

Meantime, the Mets struggled to get anything going against lefthander Eric Stults — whose only Major League victory came against the Mets last September. That is, until the sixth inning. After Orlando Hernandez struck out swinging, Jose Reyes rapped a triple into the rightfield corner, and was brought home via a hard-hit double to left by Lastings Milledge. L Millz moved to third on one of Carlos Beltran’s trademark grounders to the right side, and scored when David Wright dumped a two-strike pitch safely into shallow leftfield for an RBI single.

However, Hernandez gave to lead right back to the Dodgers in the bottom of the inning, by walking Gonzalez and then allowing a two-run homer to Nomar Garciaparra. Garciaparra, incidentally, had hit two homeruns in 89 games in 2007 — before hitting two in three games against the Mets in this series. El Duque struggled through the remainder of the inning, but completed it without allowing another run.

The Mets did not score in the seventh but did reach Roberto Hernandez for a run in the eighth. Jose Reyes led off with a double and advanced to third on a Milledge shot off Bert’s glove. Beltran followed not with a grounder to second but a fly ball, scoring Reyes with the Mets’ third run of the game.

In the ninth, with the Dodgers again turning to Jonathan Broxton, Carlos Delgado led off with a rare infield single off James Loney’s glove and was immediately replaced by Anderson Hernandez. AHern reached second on a wild pitch, then was pushed to third on a grounder to short by Paul LoDuca. With the count 0-2, Shawn Green lifted a shallow fly into rightfield that Matt Kemp lost in the sun, scoring AHern with the tying run and landing the hustling Green on second base (ironically, and inexplicably, Kemp was brought in at the beginning of the inning for defensive purposes). Green scampered to third on the second wild pitch of the inning by Broxton, but was stranded there when both Ruben Gotay and pinch-hitter Ramon Castro struck out swinging.

Pedro Feliciano retired the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the ninth to hold the tie, and that set the stage for the unlikely hero.

After D.J. Houlton retired Jose Reyes on a groundout to lead off the inning, Lastings Milledge rapped a single to left. Beltran then walked, and David Wright grounded to Garciaparra to start what looked to be a potential double play. However, Wright beat the throw to first, putting men on first and third with two out for Ambres, who entered the game in place of Green (who moved to first base when AHern pinch-ran for Delgado) in rightfield and in Delgado’s spot in the order. Ambres took a ball off the outside corner before rapping the next pitch into left.

In the bottom of the tenth, Billy Wagner came on but walked Juan Pierre to open the inning. Wagner had him picked off first but Shawn Green dropped the ball on the exchange and Pierre slid safely into second with none out and Russell Martin up. Martin struck out, and the Mets decided to intentionally walk Jeff Kent — putting the winning run on first base and slugging youngster Matt Kemp to the plate (and Nomar on deck). Kemp struck out swinging, bringing up cagey veteran Garciaparra — who’d been hot the entire series and second in the NL with a .393 batting average with RISP. Nomar worked the count to 1-1 before Wags uncorked a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third. The count went full before Wagner snuck a slider on the outside edge of the plate to catch Garciaparra looking and end the game.

Notes

Home plate umpire called at least four “automatic” strikes when Mets hitters showed bunt when taking a pitch — twice to El Duque, once to Ruben Gotay, and once to Paul LoDuca. The last time, to LoDuca, came in the top of the ninth on a 3-0 count with a runner on second. There’s no doubt it was ball four — it was inside and in the dirt — and LoDuca definitely drew the bat back. Eventually, the count went full and LoDuca bounced out to shortstop for the first out of the inning. The grounder did advance the runner, but it would have been nicer to have men on first and second, none out, than man on third and one out. Personally, I’ve always thought faking the bunt on 3-0 was bush league, and find it particularly annoying when MLBers do it. Batters would serve themselves much better by taking their normal stride and getting a good track on the baseball as it comes in — makes it much easier to blast the 3-1 delivery, which is often the same pitch.

Aaron Heilman pitched two innings of fine relief to hold the fort and keep the Mets in the game. He retired all six batters he faced, expending 19 pitches.

Nice to see the Mets manufacturing runs in this game, and making productive outs. Keep it going, boys, and good things will happen.

In contrast to the rest of the Mets batters, the majority of Shawn Green’s at-bats have been horrendous since the firing of Rick Down. (Yes, he got the big “hit” in the ninth but that was more luck than anything.) Through most of the season, Green took pitches early in counts, kept his hands back, and laid off garbage in the dirt (for the most part). Lately he’s been waving at everything thrown toward him, missing badly on off-speed pitches low and away. He must return to his early-season approach of keeping the hands back, deciding later on pitches, and focusing on opposite-field hitting.

Next Game

The Mets get a day off on Monday, and we get to go to sleep early two nights in a row. On Tuesday, the Mets host the ice-cold Pittsburgh Pirates, who were just shut out by Woody Williams and the Houston Astros. Game time Tuesday is 7:10 PM, with John Maine going against Ian Snell.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. sincekindergarten July 22, 2007 at 7:06 pm
    Almost a day for the “Wandy Rodriguez Effect,” eh, Joe? When they got the run in the eighth, I figured that we had a chance. The slider that caught Nomar looking was expletive-deleted filthy. No other way to describe it. Clutch hitting all around. Yeah, Ambres probably goes down tomorrow, but he had a hellacious time up, didn’t he? I’d even wager that his chances of going back down are a bit less, now that he came through in such a clutch situation, but then who would go down?

    One other thing–if Green isn’t running flat-out as he goes around first in the ninth, the ball gets thrown home, and maybe AHern doesn’t score. It’s a little thing, but Green drew the throw. A tiny defense of the guy. He deserves it.

  2. joe July 22, 2007 at 7:39 pm
    yeah, the Wandy Effect was “in effect” … and it’s about time someone other than myself stands up for Shawn Green
  3. david35711 July 22, 2007 at 8:59 pm
    On Sean Green: the ball dropped by Kemp rolled away, and by the time Juan Pierre picked it up, Hernandez was already home. No way Pierre lets the tying run score to keep Green off of 2nd–he had no chance against a speedy Hernandez, and Green’s running hard had nothing to do with it. Green did nothing deserving praise. Lousy outfield defense on Saturday, dropped a pick-off throw today in the 10th–not to mention no RBIs on this entire road trip. When Alou comes back, its time to move Lastings into right field, at least against lefties (against whom Green is batting under .200) and preferably on a full-time basis. It should be Lasting’s spot to lose, not Green’s spot to hold on to based on his past performance.
  4. JIMMYJ723 July 22, 2007 at 10:10 pm
    Wow…. looks like David like Shawn Green almost as much as I like Guillermo Mota.
  5. joe July 23, 2007 at 12:02 am
    I’ll exuse Shawn for the dropped ball at first — even though the timing was atrocious — only because he’d played a grand total of ten minutes at first base this year prior to the tenth inning.

    However, the rest of his game has been similarly abysmal of late. I’m pulling for him to get out of his slump and do some thumping very soon. He’s too good a guy and too much of a team player to continue with the bad karma. A handful of timely doubles in the gap will glaze over all his other shortcomings.

  6. sincekindergarten July 23, 2007 at 4:27 am
    The Pirates (Xavier Nady notwithstanding) and the Nationals are just the two teams to do it against. The Pirates are throwing Gorzelany, Snell, and Maholm against the Mets, and I’d take any one of those three in a heartbeat.
  7. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 6:40 am
    Dont forget Zach Duke, he’s in the doghouse much like Ollie was. But he might be the best arm of the bunch.

    also: AHern should get some time at SS/2B. he might not be the offensive whizz, but he is hitting .371 in july and he has a history of slow adjusting with the bat. To me he is a perfect infield complement to Gotay. And Easley should see time in the OF and is our best PH option.

  8. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 7:15 am
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/
    1. Mets Mulling Options At Second Base: I Like the Ahern/Gotay mix here with Easley seeing time against tough lefties
    I think this changes because ala tony pena jr, I think Ahern’s stock is cresting now and his defense will be attactive to say Pitt who need some defense at 2B/SS. (Zach Duke/Damaso/Marte 4 Ahern/Pelfrey).

    Metsblog have Omar in on Jay Payton. I love this personally. Between 1999-2003 SP traded away most of our minor talents; Payton for Thomson, Steve Reed for Bay, He let Dinardo go (rule V), Dotel, Izzy, Terry Long, Alex Escobar, billy Traber

    Jay Payton embodies what could have been. We laugh at the fact that Payton was part of the 2000 WS team with Agbayani, but Payton was a pure hitter (and still is). A first rounder, 2000 was his overdue breakout with a 291 avg and 17 HR. In 2001 he dropped to.255/8HR. But lets remember BV could not figure where he should hit (leadoff?) then came the injury. He was on a tear only to be injured (again) in Col . And with it the Mets went flat (2001). he came back next yr to hit .284/8HR but he inexplicably was traded. He hit .335 for Col with 8HR, while the Mets went virtually winless the rest of the way. and hence bye bye Phillips. He would be the perfect complement to Millz and Gomez if we are committed to their development. http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/5773/career;_ylt=ApLAEomVKfAJSl8FSRm0uoCFCLcF

  9. joe July 23, 2007 at 7:56 am
    If Shawn Green and Stings both hit the way they can, I like AHern getting some time in the middle.

    I’d really like to see AHern prove he can finally hit MLB pitching — in fact, all I want to see is a line drive hit out of the infield.

  10. joe July 23, 2007 at 8:00 am
    Payton = Milledge with more experience (and less mistakes)
  11. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 10:43 am
    millz: Lets not minmize here either. David is DEAD on with Green. I applauded his addition in Aug last yr. He was dealt because of Conor Jackson & in particular Carlos Quentin. Well Quentin has now lost out to Eric Byrnes. Green is in the same pressure cooker as Julio Franco. Yes he can get hot, but so can julio Franco. He does provide a lefty bat with power (off the bench).

    On the flip side Millz is hitting .205/1HR but has been a continuous spark including 2 more runs yesterday. He IS a CFer and so looks like he needs to run to CF before going to a routine fly to LF/RF. But he is a good looking player. Certainly the difference in this past winning road trip.

  12. JIMMYJ723 July 23, 2007 at 10:57 am
    I am a big fan of Shawn Green because of how he plays the game and because he’s an all-around good guy but I do have to agree that he’s best days are wayyyy behind him. He should be coming of the bench.

    In other news…

    Those Damn Yankees signed Scott Williamson to a AAA contract. He’s already their next best option behind Rivera (unless you count that 28-Million dollar reliever).

  13. isuzudude July 23, 2007 at 10:58 am
    The reason Payton was traded was because Steve Phillips, being the nincompoop judge of talent that he is, though Timo Perez was the team’s future CF. But when Timo fell in love with the fences in 2003 and failed to accept the fact that he weighs all of 130 lbs, the Mets had to scrap that idea and scrap Phillips along with it. I agree the Payton to Colorado deal was AWFUL, but the rosier side of the story is that his departure allowed the Mets to sign Mike Cameron, who they shipped to San Diego to get Xavier Nady, who they shipped to pittsburgh to get Ollie Perez. So it worked out pretty well for us. Plus we got a pretty good player patroling CF now so I’m not crying over spilt milk. However, I wouldn’t be in favor of trading for Payton this season…not only because the Birds would like be looking for Pelfrey, Humber, Lastings, or Heilman, but because he’s not the answer for this team. What can’t Gomez or Milledge do that Payton can, besides cost a couple million bucks?
  14. joe July 23, 2007 at 11:01 am
    Green and Franco are not comparable in any way, shape or form. They are completely different in everything but possibly Strat-O-Matic cards.

    I wouldn’t know what Franco’s “hot” looks like in the 21st century because I haven’t watched him play regularly since 1987. Green used to be a monster when he got hot but now is merely a guy who when hot can work good at-bats, drop some balls into leftfield, and hit some doubles.

    That said, if Green is in his version of a “hot streak”, he and LMillz make a nice platoon tandem filling out the bottom of the order.

  15. joe July 23, 2007 at 11:06 am
    I have to agree with isuzudude … I’m not interested in Payton unless he’s coming REALLY cheap. Personally, I always thought he was more interested in bodybuilding than baseball playing and never thought he’d turn into more than a platoon player when he left the Mets. I think we can agree that one year at Coors Field helped his career immensely.

    And again, why pay millions for Payton when you already have him in a younger and cheaper version as Milledge?

  16. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 11:32 am
    1. I mention Payton because the rumor mill did. also because he might be a salary dump for the O’s picking up say Corey Coles. This opposed to the Jermaine Dye price also rumored.

    Why get an OFer anyway. Me, I’m content if beltran, millz, alou is my starting OF with Endy and Green as depth. An acquisition might be made at the expense of Green, with the playoffs in mind.

    Why pay millions for Payton?- He’s cheaper than Green, and with Millz (and Endy ) we have a cheap OF. Remember Omar has $$$$ to spend and is way under the budget given to him in the off season. With alou, Green, glavine even valentin possibly coming off the books in a few months he might even look forward.

    Oh and….’when he got hot but now is merely a guy who when hot can work good at-bats, drop some balls into leftfield, and hit some doubles’ou pretty muched summed up the similarity b/w Green and Franco.

  17. joe July 23, 2007 at 11:55 am
    Let’s stick to your “why get an OFer anyway” and leave it at that. Payton makes $4.5M this year, and the Mets are paying Green only about $3 – $3.5M (AZ picks up the rest) so he’s not cheaper if the O’s want to dump the salary.

    Oh and as far as Franco:Green. … Franco doesn’t hit doubles, and he doesn’t hustle, and he’s a whiner, and he hits from the right side, and he doesn’t play the OF (OK, it’s a stretch to say that Green DOES LOL), and he’s too old to play every day, and he hits only one homer a season, and he barks at the umpires too often, and he’s hitting around the Mendoza Line. But otherwise, yeah, I guess he and Green are basically the same player.

  18. isuzudude July 23, 2007 at 12:28 pm
    I agree with Mic that the Mets should stand pat in the OF. When, or should I say if, everyone gets healthy, the Mets have an OF of Alou, Beltran, and Green with Milledge, Chavez, and Gomez as backups. Why get anyone big who would cost the team a key prospect if they’ll be nothing more than a platoon player? However, I disagree with Mic and agree with Joe regarding the Franco/Green comparison. Remember that Green began this season batting .355 through April. If he’s gotten that hot in the past, he’s certainly still capable of doing it again (as long as his foot he hurt in Florida isn’t still acting up). The thing about Green, though, is that you’re fooling yourself if you think he’s going to be a .320, 20 HR player. Those days are gone. But like Joe said, he’ll work the count, play everyday, and get a big double here or there to help the team out. Franco’s big contributions are striking out with runners on 1st and 3rd and 2 out in the 7th or 8th inning. You’d feel good about predicting in April that Green can finish the season batting .270 with 15 dingers and 70 RBI. Can you say the same for Franco if you gave him everyday playing time?
  19. joe July 23, 2007 at 12:34 pm
    Green at .270/15/70 is acceptable in the 7th spot. The problem is, Beltran and Delgado are struggling in the .250s, LoDuca’s nowhere near the .300 hitter he was a year ago, Alou’s been MIA, and the production from Valentin at 2B also vanished.

    The Mets were counting on better production from those other players, and since they’ve all underperformed, it makes Green’s lack of production that much more glaring. Fact is, Green’s one of the few who is giving us pretty much what we expected.

  20. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 1:26 pm
    Interesting. As I looked up Green, I found he has a .271/7HR line. Mostly based on a hot April, but he had good rotisserie #s this past week. Is Millz pushing him?

    Baseball players, other than Robin Yount, Albert Pujols, and Ichiro are rarely ‘consistent’. By that I mean they run hot and cold. At the end of the yr most fit in their ranges. Del will hit 25-30HR and hit for .260-270. beltran will get back to .280/30HR. Neither of which is bad. The GOOD is that both are heating up when we really need it.

    Dont look but the Mets have the NL best record going into a soft part of the schedule, with the big guns heating up going into Aug.

  21. joe July 23, 2007 at 2:15 pm
    Very good point on the soft schedule upcoming.

    You are right about the hot/cold thing regarding most players. However, Beltran is the one who really has me concerned, because although he’s been known to go on unconscious hot streaks, he’s been fairly consistent wire-to-wire in the past — and even in his worst years, did not go three straight months under .240. This is a long, long slump for Beltran, and I’m not convinced he’ll finish near .280.

    People remember Beltran’s postseason with Houston, but forget he batted .258 for the Astros in 90 games with them that year. His spurts tend to be very short (but dramatic!).

  22. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 2:44 pm
    Beltran: http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/playerStats?categoryId=85146
    His first yr he had 16HR total, and 266 avg. Last yr he hit .275/41HR. He is rougly 2/3 thru the season. He definately can dial up and down, so looking at his numbers I agree…we have a .270-275 guy again with 30HR. What concerns me is he had 510AB last yr, 599 the yr before. I think he is a player who needs time off. For example a sunday game with a travel day next ….he’d have sat for me, Let Chip start.

    You started the series with the NY home for former dodgers, but how about KC…Gotay, CB, Burgos and now Chip.

  23. isuzudude July 23, 2007 at 3:14 pm
    If I’m paying a guy $119 million, I’m doing the most I can to get 162 games and 600+ at-bats out of him. He’ll get days off during the winter.
  24. Micalpalyn July 23, 2007 at 3:25 pm
    Hence the disappearing act.
  25. joe July 23, 2007 at 3:37 pm
    Regardless of salary, I’d have to agree with the plan of more rest for Beltran. Even if he doesn’t need it physically, he may need it mentally. Plus, no more greenies or performance-enhancers to make the down days go easier, so rest is more important for the pansy-ass “modern ballplayer”.

    Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll see Chip in centerfield anytime soon — except maybe in New Orleans. Plus, if Gotay has to hit .350 over a three-month period before earning Willie’s trust at a position covered by broken-down has-beens, what does Ambres have to do to displace an All-Star — even if it’s only for a game once every two weeks?

    We need Endy to come back. Willie trusts him enough to start once in a while.

  26. sincekindergarten July 23, 2007 at 4:35 pm
    Or we need Carlos Gomez to come back. How long has it been since he was injured? Yeah, I’d much rather have Endy, but I’ve heard some bad things about his bad quad. Who will be back first?
  27. fafhrd316 July 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm
    Beltran’s batting average right now is indicative of him trying to carry the team on his back. He occasionally goes through times where he thinks he’s the only batter that can produce- and thus he overdoes it. He’s also forgetting that he’s got Wright and Delgado behind him- both of who are hitting over .300 for July and hitting for power. As for resting Beltran, that’ll come when Endy comes back. Keep in mind, the Mets went through a part of their schedule where Endy, Gomez, and Milledge were all injured, and the Mets had to put Easley and Newhan (shudder) in the outfield. Thus, even if you wanted to rest Beltran, it’s not happening.

    Green’s fine as a .270/15/70 RBI guy, which is basically what he is. The Mets just need another bat to balance the lineup out (ie; Alou or a trade) and they REALLY need to figure out what to do with LoDuca. He’s a shade of what he was last year (part Willie’s fault- batting him 6th is a bad idea), hitting .265, and also grounding into ALOT of expletive-filled double plays that have killed rallies. They should seriously consider starting Castro and trading Lo Duca.

  28. isuzudude July 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm
    There may be a more informed person to answer that question, but from what I’ve heard Chavez has the better chance of returning first. However, neither are likely to contribute until late August at best, and there’s a possibility that both of their seasons are over. Their injuries put the Mets in a precarious situation: make a deal for an outfielder, at least of the back-up variety, just in case these guys don’t come back production (or at all), or stand pat and have the potential of going into the postseason with a short bench in the OF and an injury-prone Moises Alou.

    Again, just my opinion, but I think they’re better off standing pat. Chances are one of the two will be back by at least September, giving them a month to tune up for the playoffs. And if it so happens they aren’t back, then you make a minor move with a team to obtain a back-up OF who can help temporarily. The Mets can afford to wait until after the non-waiver trade deadline expires because acquiring an OF is not imperative (unless Beltran or Alou were to go down with a season ending injury). If the Mets can grab a Shawn Green after last year’s deadline expired, they can likely grab a similar player this year who can help out.

  29. Mets Today » Blog Archive » Goodbye Mr. Chip November 16, 2007 at 3:29 pm
    […] of July, and appeared in games on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd. That last appearance was, fittingly, the most memorable: his seeing-eye single in the top of the tenth scored Lastings Milledge to put the Mets over the […]