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?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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