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.