Browsing Archive April, 2006

Game 21: Win

Mets 9 Giants 7

Whew … we almost blew this one. At the end of the eighth inning, with a 7-5 lead and Billy’s inning coming up, this one seemed in the bag. It seemed all the more guaranteed when there were two out in the ninth. That is, until Barry Fathead crushed a (supposedly) 99-MPH fastball from Billy the Kid.

With two outs and first base open, there were questions as to why Mr. Willie didn’t put Juiceboy on, especially since he called an intentional walk in the first inning two games before. However, Wagner has a great history vs. Barry, and there is no doubt in my mind that he would have retired Mr. HGH if only he threw the ball inside. Instead, Wagner tossed a chest-high fastball over the middle-out part of the plate. I don’t care if he threw it 79, 99, or 199; if you give a Major League hitter a straight fastball, chest high, over the middle of the plate, there’s a good chance you’ll suffer from whiplash as you turn and watch the ball deposited over the fence behind you.

So to the sportscasters and ESPN “analysts” and others who were gushing about how “amazing” Barry Bonds is, to hit a pinch-hit homerun off of Billy Wagner: please shut up and stop with the shock. First of all, Billy Wagner is human, and this isn’t the last homerun he’ll give up this year. Secondly, I very much doubt Wagner’s pitch was really 99 MPH for two reasons: 1. Wagner hasn’t touched even 95 yet this year; and 2. the last pitch of the game by Darren Oliver — who’s lucky to break 85 — registered 98 on the Giants’ TV gun. And thirdly, Barry Bonds was one of the top 3 hitters in all of baseball without the juice; with the juice he’s an Xbox-type freak of nature playing against Lilliputian little leaguers, so he better damn well hit homeruns at will.

OK, enough of the steroid-driven ranting. Back to the game.

Jose Valentin still stinks, though at least we’ve discovered he can lay down a bunt Yippee. I still want to sign Lenny Harris. Or Danny Heep.

Enough with this Carlos Beltran crap. Put him on the DL already, and bring back Victor Diaz. Even if you won’t start Diaz, I’d rather see him as the top pinch hitter before Valentin.

Kaz Matsui is still looking good. If he can play at this level when he returns to Shea, he’ll not only endear the fans, but he’ll also have the 2B job for the rest of the year. There’s no way that no-hit AHern is a better option than a Matsui who is making the plays, batting around .270, and stealing bases.

Although Darren Oliver pitched two scoreless innings, I still would prefer to see Heath Bell in the bullpen. As it appears that the Mets will not ever demote Jorge Jorrible, Oliver needs to go.

Brian Bannister seems doomed to never get past the fifth inning, this time suffering from a pulled hammy while scoring from second. Bannister, however, is making a case to be the first bat off the bench, as he looks a lot better than Valentin at the plate.

Speaking of Bannister, if he goes on the DL, John Maine must come up. If he doesn’t go on the DL, John Maine must come up and Victor Zambrano get sent down. Maine’s ERA at Norfolk is in the low 3’s and he is already on the 40-man roster. Let’s give him a shot.

Cliff Floyd didn’t get any hits but is still hitting the ball damn hard. I predict a monster series vs. the Braves. We’ll need it.

Carlos Delgado rocks. He is hands-down the best cleanup hitter we’ve had here since Straw.

Quick note: Mike Pelfrey was promoted from A to AA this week. Will he be the next Mark Prior, and be at Shea after the All-Star break?


Game 20: Win

Mets 4 Giants 1

Steve Trachsel is proving me wrong with every start. He threw extremely well for six innings, throwing only 72 pitches and holding the Giants to one run, on a homerun to Barry Steroids.

Another Met proving me wrong is Xavier Nady, who despite the holes in his swing is getting good wood on the ball often enough to be batting close to .340 with homerun power.

However, Mr. Willie has yet to prove me wrong. After his nonsensical strategy vs. Barry Bonds in the opener, Randolph continued to confound by pulling Trax in the top of the 7th with a one-run lead and Kaz Matsui on second with one out. Now, this wouldn’t be such a bad plan if you had Marlon Anderson or Lenny Harris on the bench. However, the Mets have Jose Valentin, who is not a better hitter than Trachsel. In fact, I’d reckon that Rusty Staub, Ron Hodges, and Danny Heep are all better options, if we can convince any of them to come out of retirement. To make matters worse, Valentin dogged it coming out of the box, and didn’t start running hard until he saw Vizcaino mishandle the ball. As it turned out, he was out by a half-step, and definitely would have been safe had he hustled all the way. You would think that a guy like Valentin, who has been waving a lot of air this year, would run like hell just from the excitement of making contact. Oh, and nice example, Jose, you’re a real leader (great job, Omar, of getting veterans like him to show the youngins how to play the game).

Beyond the fact that I truly believe Trachsel had a better shot than Valentin of driving in Matsui, I didn’t see a point in taking out Trachsel when he was dominating the Giants hitters and had a low pitch count. Sure, Duaner Sanchez was fresh and throwing bullets, but there are times when you should let your starter keep rolling, for three reasons. First, to keep your bullpen rested and fresh, second, to give your starting pitcher the confidence and belief that he can pitch deep into a game, and third, and most importantly, because there is no guarantee that the reliever is going to perform as well or better than the hot man on the mound. While it’s true that Sanchez and Wagner were perfect, thus supporting Willie’s decision, I’m not a Monday morning quarterback. I stand by my opinion that Trachsel should have gone at least another inning, if not the complete game.

Random Notes

A move I liked: Duaner Sanchez’s first pitch to Barry Bonds in the bottom of the 7th. Not sure whether it was Sanchez or LoDuca calling the location, but whoever it was, it was good: a moving fastball targeted directly at Bonds’ knees. With Barry Bodyarmor’s medieval shield blocking his front elbow (and eclipsing the sun during day games), it’s impossible to move him off the plate by going up and in. However, he has no protection on his legs, and he is hobbling around on a bad knee. Directing a ball in that area makes him very vulnerable, and probably causes him extreme discomfort as he tries to jump out of the way.

By the way, it was mentioned during the SNY telecast that David Wright is suffering from a strained / sore groin. How the heck is he running as hard and as well as he is with that kind of a nuisance? I hope he doesn’t overextend himself and do real damage. Amazing, though, that he can leg out an infield hit and steal bases while Jose Valentin, with fresh legs, can’t hustle enough to beat out a would-be error by Jose Vizcaino.

Other than the cheesy mustache, Kaz Matsui is looking pretty good so far, both in the field and at bat. In fact, he may very well be a real threat on the bases, as his legs are moving well.

Speaking of facial hair, what IS the deal with all the cheesy mustaches this year? These guys look like a bunch of 16-year-olds trying to look tough for the JV team. Beltran, Nady, Matsui, Woodward, Heilman, and a few other guys need to dab a little milk above their lip and let the cat lick off that dirt. And what happened to Mr. Willie’s “no facial hair” edict?

A final note: based on Cliff Floyd’s non-steroid-enhanced blast into McCovey Cove, as well as several hard-hit line-outs, I think it’s safe to say he’s out of his slump. Look for him to do some real damage in the next week or so … just in time for the Braves!


Game 19: Loss

Giants 6 Mets 2

Some very questionable moves by the Mets early in this game. First, in the first inning, with a man on first and two outs, Tom Glavine fell behind Barry Juicehead 3-0, then intentionally walked him. (The 2-0 pitch was DEFINITELY a strike, but the ump didn’t call it.) This put a runner in scoring position, and brought up Moises Alou, who’s been hitting about .700 vs. Glavine over the last few years. The three-run homerun that followed was thus not a surprise. (Inexplicably, later in the game, with none out, a man on second, and first base open, Glavine pitched to Bonds.)

Later on, in the sixth inning, Kaz Matsui was on third base with one out and Tom Glavine at the plate. Third baseman Pedro Feliz was playing a few steps in front of the bag, but first baseman Lance Niekro was playing behind his bag. Why not call a safety squeeze here? Just have Glavine square around and sac-bunt one down the first base line, and Kaz can take off when the ball hits the ground. Instead, Mr. Willie had Tommy swing away, and he struck out on four pitches. Luckily, Matsui scored on a Jose Reyes infield single.

Then in the seventh, the Mets once again intentionally walked Bonds with men on first and second and one out, thus loading the bases and bringing up the red-hot Moises Alou. To make it even worse, they brought in Heilman to face Bonds and walk him. Why bother? Why not have Glavine walk him, so Heilman can come in and start throwing strikes? But the real question is, why not pitch to Bonds, who is hitting about .220 and is a guaranteed double-play on any ground ball? This chickenshit strategy makes me nuts.

Speaking of Bonds and the strike zone, Glavine struck him out three times in the sixth inning with a man on second and nobody out. However, the umpire refused to punch him out looking. This crap has been going on since Barry started drinking flaxseed oil, and I for one am sick and tired of it. One of these men in boo have to grow some testicles and call this disgrace to the game out once in a while.

Reyes, by the way, is looking awful at the plate. It appears he is trying to swing his way out of the slump, as he is waving the bat at just about anything within a quarter mile radius of home plate. Particularly, he is chasing pitches up and away — a pitch that a man of his footspeed should be automatically taking. If I were the Mets’ bating coach, I’d remove Jose from batting practice before the game and direct him to a spot in the bullpen, where there would be an ax and a cord of logs for him to split. He needs to learn how to hit down to the ball (not necessarily down on the ball), which will not only get him to the ball faster but will also eliminate the possibility of hitting balls above the chest.

Oh, and another thing I’d do if I were the Mets’ hitting coach: smash Cliff Floyd over the head every time he swung at the first pitch. And he’d get two knocks on the head if he did it against a relief pitcher who he’s never seen before. First-pitch hitters don’t hit more than .250; Ted Williams said it first and the stats prove it.

Outside of the Alou homer in the first, Tom Glavine looked very good, once again. Even when the Giants earned hits, you wouldn’t exactly say they were “earned”: at least three of their first five hits were seeing-eye bloops. In other words, the Giants were not making good contact, even when they made hits. In addition, home plate umpire Eric Cooper was squeezing Glavine like it was nobody’s business, especially on two-strike pitches. It appeared that Cooper was afraid to call anyone out on strikes. The most glaring examples came in the sixth against Bonds (Bonds eventually walked) and in the seventh on a 3-2 pitch to Omar Vizquel. That one was definitely a strike, which would have been the second out of the inning, but instead Vizquel walked, making it first and second with one out, and Lance Niekro followed with a run-scoring single. It’s a shame, and it’s getting old; Glavine continually puts forth strong efforts, and yet he is stung by bad luck and anemic hitting support.

A suggestion to Carlos Delgado: lay down a bunt already. Nearly every team the Mets have faced, is using a stupid shift, positioning the third baseman in the shortstop hole. With that shift, Delgado could square around completely and poke the ball toward third base and walk to first for a hit. To his credit, he has been going the other way, averting the shift, but why not start dropping down bunts? It will force teams to play him straight away.


Game 18: Loss

Padres 7 Mets 4

Who says there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” anymore ? The Mets have a guarantee every fifth day: a loss by Victor Zambrano. You can put your money on it.

VZ was vintage Zambrano on Sunday: lots of balls, lots of walks, a few extra base hits given up on two-strike counts. One of those was, um, a grand salami by Brian Giles on a 3-2 pitch, and another was a homerun to rookie Josh Barfield on an 0-2 pitch. In the last nine innings he has pitched, Zambrano has given up five home runs, all on two-strike counts. My theory is that Zambrano is so unaccustomed to being ahead on the count, he doesn’t really know what to do. He has much more experience inducing outs on 3-1, 2-0, and 2-1 counts. Ugh!

If I hear one more positive comment from Mr. Willie concerning VZ’s performance, I’ll puke. Thankfully, Randolph was more or less speechless when asked about this most recent debacle, though he gave no indication that Zambrano was on thin ice, stating “I never lose confidence in my guys … my pitchers are not on trial.” Huh? Are you kidding me? If you never lose confidence in guys, then why won’t you bring in Jorge Julio with less than a seven run lead? If you are not evaluating and measuring the performance of you starting pitchers, then why bother showing up to the games? C’mon Willie!

The issue with Zambrano is that he is always working from behind. It seems that every batter starts out with a 2-0 count, and every inning begins with men on first and second with none out. True, Zambrano has shown the ability to get out of these jams on occasion, but when you are consistently in these situations, every single inning, eventually something’s going to give. I compare Zambrano to the levy that couldn’t protect N’Awlins: barely strong enough to give the perception that it could defend the city, but in reality not up to snuff.

The Mets did show some gumption, figthing back and pulling within one run with a four-run sixth, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it. And you can’t blame the bullpen, as it’s been nearly perfect thus far. You can’t expect those guys to give up zero runs for the entire season.

All in all, this game made one thing perfectly clear: Victor Zambrano is not the answer as the #3, #4, nor #5 starter. It’s time to start rethinking the Aaron Heilman situation, and/or taking a look at John Maine.


Game 17: Win

Mets 8 Padres 1

As has been the case three times previous this year, Pedro was masterful, and in fact overpowering. Eleven strikeouts, two hits, two walks, and one run over seven full innings. And to make this day even better, Jorge Julio finished off the last two innings perfectly, striking out three and giving up only one hit and no walks.

This was a huge win, as it came off a draining 14-inning, 2-1 loss from the night before. Those are the kind of games that can give the winning team a good dose of positive momentum, and if you were to ask Yogi, he’d tell you that 90% of winning is half momentum. Or something like that.

Xavier Nady had another big day, Ramon Castro once again performed like the best backup catcher in baseball, and Carlos Delgado turned three walks into three runs. It was a great game overall for everyone representing the Metropolitans.


Game 16: Loss

Padres 2 Mets 1

This game could have easily gone either way; that’s the way it goes with extra inning games, especially after you pass the 11th. It’s remarkable to me that the Mets had plenty of depth going into the 12th, even though their starter went only five innings and Aaron Heilman had thrown three games in a row. But maybe that’s why they sent down Victor Diaz to bring up an extra arm. (Hmmm … one wonders if Diaz might have helped the Beltranless lineup to score an extra run, and thus not have to go into extra innings.)

Although the boxscore shows the Mets batters looking especially meek, reality told a different story. Many of the Mets hitters were hitting the ball on the button, with several hard line drives caught in the infield and a few well-hit balls dying in the vast outfield (for example, LoDuca, Floyd, Delgado, and Matsui all hit hard outs). So, watching how the hitters are hitting, I’m not too concerned about the Mets’ offense. Though I am worried about seeing Endy Chavez suit up and start day after day … and also pained to see Jose Valentin continue to be allowed to suit up.

In this game, Willie Randolph made some very interesting moves with the pitching staff, starting with the removal of Bannister after five innings. While it’s true that Bannister once again struggled, giving up four hits and five walks, when are you going to let him get past the fifth inning? Though there is some logic to shortening the game, if that is your game plan every day, the bullpen will be burned out by early August.

Another interesting move was Randolph’s decision to use Billy Wagner while behind on the road, and to use him for two innings. While he was well rested, we hope he’ll be 100% for Pedro’s game. The Wagner issue shouldn’t be a big deal, but a particularly curious move was Willie’s quick removal of Pedro Feliciano with one out in the 12th, leaving the bullpen completely dry save Jorge Julio. With the Mets on the road, the bats struggling, it did not seem smart to start playing the LOOGY-ROOGY game. When you’re on the road, your pitcher must pitch TWO innings for you to win: the inning before you hit and the inning after. Considering the far-reaching fences of Petco Park, and each team’s inability to score runs on this particular night, you’d think that Mr. Willie would play a more conservative game. Again, all the moves worked out up until the 14th inning, at which point Bradford HAD to face the lefthanded hitters. Willie is managing like it is the 7th game of the World Series (possibly, his managing made the Pods believe it was the World Series, after seeing their ridiculous celebration at the end of the game). This early in the season, there needs to be some thought for tomorrow, and the day after — not to mention the inning after. Though, for all we know, the Mets are planning to send down an arm to bring up Heath Bell (please please please please).

One specific note: Kaz Matsui looks different — in a good way — this year. I wouldn’t call it confidence, but maybe contentedness. He seems happy, and loose, not strained and pressured like he has in the past two years. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s starting the year in the laid-back atmosphere in San Diego, and amongst a number of stars to carry the load, combined with the fact that there isn’t any chance of him coming out of the lineup while AHern is disabled, and possibly a bit of confidence has entered his soul. At this point, I think Kaz could be on the other side of road. By that I mean he’s reached the very end of the road, to the point of no return, and is now crawling back. This is the point where New Yorkers start to root for a player, because he has transformed from the bust to the underdog. I hope this is the case; I really hope Kaz has a few strong games, maybe a few clutch hits, and comes back to the Big Apple to discover fans supporting him. If so, he might just turn into a usable, if not valuable, piece in the pennant chase.


Game 15: Win

Mets 7 Padres 2

Wow … this game was a LOT closer than what the final score reads.

Coming off two consecutive losses against the Braves, in which they were only able to muster six total hits in the two games combined, the Mets had to travel to the West Coast and face Jake Peavy. Looking at the anemic hitting of the last two days, combined with the fact that Beltran and Floyd were returning rusty and at less than 100%, and having to face one of the top hurlers in the NL … well, let’s just say it wasn’t looking too good.

The concerns were realized through seven innings of Peavy mowing down the Mets hitters, seeming to get better as the game wore on. His hard sinkers and slippery sliders were eating up even the best of the Mets’ batsmen: both Carlos Delgado and David Wright had trouble getting good swings on Peavy’s downward-moving BBs. Only an inside-the-park home run by Kaz Matsui could mar Jake Peavy’s mastery of the Mets.

Then came the bottom of the seventh, when San Diego manager Bruce Bochy inexplicably pulled Peavy for a pinch-hitter in the midst of a bases-loaded, no-out rally. Although it was an opportunity to put the Mets away once and for all, I still was surprised to see Geoff Blum come in to hit. After all, Peavy was dominating, and really didn’t need more than a one-run lead going into the eighth. And with Trevor Hoffman ready in the bullpen, he didn’t have to worry about pitching a complete game — though he probably could have.

So Blum came up and popped out, then another pinch-hitter, Eric Young, grounded into an inning-ending double play (actually, he was probably safe at first, but David Wright made a great diving stop of the ground ball, and Kaz Matsui made such a beautiful turn that the ump HAD to make the out call). After that amazing escape, the Mets had momentum going into the Peavy-less eighth inning.

Then all hell broke loose. Xavier Nady smashed a double, and Kaz moved him to third. Julio Franco twirled his walking cane around and punched a line-drive homerun over the right field wall. Jose Reyes singles, steals second, and tags to third on a Paul LoDuca sacrifice fly to deep, deep center. Endy Chavez, in a rare acknowledgment of his meekness, drags a perfect bunt down the first base line, shocking everyone and scoring Reyes. Delgado follows with an absolute rocket that bounces on top of, and over, the right-centerfield wall. But the Mets are still not done. David Wright follows with a walk, and taking the lead from Reyes earlier in the inning, steals second. Cliff Floyd acknowledges that bit of strategy with a single, scoring Wright. Nady comes up for the second time in the inning, and too exhausted from all the excitement, strikes out to end the rally. And just like that, the Mets go from what looked to be another anemic loss to a pitcher throwing yet another complete game, to a 7-2 win.

And if the offensive explosion of the 8th was not enough to excite Mets fans, the game was capped off by JORGE JULIO pitching a perfect ninth to finish the game.

Hallelujah … this is definitely a new year!


Game 14: Loss

Braves 2 Mets 1

Poor Tom Glavine. If I were him, and saw the lineup posted before the game, and saw that Tim Hudson was on the hill for the Braves, I might have turned around and went home.

To his credit, Glavine threw an outstanding game. Unfortunately, you can’t beat the Braves with Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez starting in your outfield … unless you throw a no-hitter. He almost did, but Hudson was just a bit better.

So there it goes … another series won by the Braves. The Mets haven’t won a series vs. Atlanta since like 1997 or something crazy like that. Oh well, they can try again next month.