Game 61: Win
Mets 5 Diamondbacks 0
If you missed the first inning, you pretty much missed the game.
For the fourth straight night, the Mets batters came charging out of the chute, scoring a quick three runs in the first frame. Carlos Beltran remains red hot, nearly blasting another home run but settling for a double smashed off the wall. And guess who — David Wright — had another run-scoring single. To complete the tri-fecta, the still-hot Jose Valentin poked a run-scoring double off the left-field wall to give Alay Soler a three-run cushion as he took the mound in the bottom of the first.
And Soler was super, cruising through nine shutout innings on 108 pitches, giving up only two hits. Just a week ago, this same Arizona team knocked Alay around for eight hits and seven runs in five innings.
Ah, but this is not the same Arizona team. These Diamondbacks are minus one player, a nondescript mopup reliever named Jason Grimsley. And therefore they are plus one huge black cloud hovering over the team. Though the D’Backs players would likely say that the Grimsley situation is not affecting them, there is no question that the team is playing much differently since Grimsley’s house was raided by federal agents. And the timing couldn’t be better for the Mets, who are in the midst of perhaps their most difficult road trip — and three-week stretch — of the year. With trips to Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Baltimore up next, and a series each against Toronto, Boston, and the Yankees looming, the Mets can use all the help they can get right now. Luckily, the stars are currently aligned in their favor, and perhaps they can use these big wins as momentum going into the next two tough weeks.
Alay Soler really looks like he could be a good-hitting pitcher. Whether he ever actually gets his second big-league hit, though, remains to be seen.
Jose Reyes continues to have an uncanny ability to drive in runs from the leadoff spot; he knocked in Endy Chavez with two outs in the top of the ninth to provide an insurance run. Combined with his evolving home-run power, one must think that he’ll have at least one Joe Morgan-type, monster, MVP season at some point in his future. (As much as I hate Joe Morgan the broadcaster, you have to give the man credit as a ballplayer; he was hands-down one of the best all-around second basemen to ever play the game. Too bad he isn’t the quietest.)
Once again I have to praise Paul LoDuca, and again say that he has done an outstanding job of replacing Mike what’s-his-name. LoDuca does it all, but most importantly, makes a difference behind the plate. He was like a cat pouncing on a bunt and throwing out the speedy Orlando Hudson at third early in the game, and continued to show his mobility by stopping a number of pitches in the dirt that likely would have gotten by other catchers. And then there’s the part that no one really notices, because it’s nearly impossible to see: his ability to call a game. Since Alay Soler has only pitched in four big-league games, and has no knowledge of NL hitters, he must rely on LoDuca’s mental library and trust his ability to call a game. LoDuca’s contribution in this regard cannot be ignored; in fact, he should share the heroics in this remarkable pitching performance.