Archive: May 31st, 2006

Game 52: Win

Mets 1 Diamondbacks 0

When the Mets broke camp at the end of March, I couldn’t figure out how or why both Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin made the big league roster. I was convinced that both of these guys were dead weight, and would be gone long before the end of May.

At the end of April, I still couldn’t figure out why both of these incompetents were taking up space on the bench, and worse, taking a number of at-bats while youngsters such as Jeff Keppinger and Victor Diaz rotted away in Norfolk.

Now that we’re on the cusp of June, Chavez and Valentin are not only proving their worth, but becoming integral parts of the first-place Mets.

Valentin has wrested the second base job away from Kaz Matsui (though, according to Mr. Willie, Kaz has remarkably not lost his job … he’s just keeping the bench warm while Valentin plays), and is red-hot over the last two weeks. Chavez has been a more gradual improvement, first showing signs of value when Carlos Beltran was injured early in the year, and continuing to be a sparkplug and clutch hitter in his limited role off the bench … a role that is becoming less limited every day.

Tonight, it was Valentin who smashed an opposite-field double to lead off the 13th, doing a very nice job of stroking a tough sinker off the outside edge of the plate. It was not an easy pitch to hit, much less drive to the outfield. After pinch-hitter Ramon Castro grounded out to short, moving Valentin to third, Chavez, who came in earlier as part of a double switch, ripped a high line drive over the drawn-in outfield to score Valentin and win the game. Another walk-off, extra-inning win for the Metsies, who are fulfilling my prediction that if nothing else, it would be a fun and exciting season.

Player notes ….

Lastings Milledge started for the second consecutive day in right field, in place of the disabled Xavier Nady, and looked so-so at the plate. In the field, he dropped a line drive hit straight at him, but more than made up for the miscue later in the game with a laser-beam throw to third base that retired Craig Counsell, who attempted to move from first to third on a single. His throw was electric, and had plenty of mustard; it harkened back to the days of Ellis Valentine (remember him?), who quite possibly had the strongest and most accurate outfield arm in Mets history. The scouting reports were dead-on: this kid has tools. If and when he puts it all together, we’ll have an all-around star. With his raw skills, he should at the very least become an all-around better ballplayer than Steve Henderson, possibly as good as Darryl Strawberry, and likely somewhere in between.

Carlos Beltran took a nasty foul ball to his knee, and I’m guessing Endy or Lastings will be starting in center for the remainder of the week.

Pedro Martinez threw another gem, eight innings of shutout ball, and left the game with another no-decision. This is the first time in his career he’s gone an entire healthy month without garnering a win. Shame on you, Mets batters.

Pedro, Billy Wagner, and Duaner Sanchez combined for 13 innings of shutout ball, giving up 7 hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts, and they did it all in only 143 pitches (99 for strikes). That’s downright dominating, and amazingly efficient.

Taking another look at what was just stated: Duaner Sanchez threw 27 pitches (20 strikes) in three innings. That’s nine pitches per inning. Wow.

Carlos Delgado suffered another oh-fer, but all is not lost. He mashed a bomb to the centerfield wall but was robbed of an extra-base hit as Eric Byrnes made a spectacular catch. Delgado is hitting the ball hard and driving it well again, so it is only a matter of time before he starts finding the gaps again. What made his performance more encouraging was the fact he had these good at-bats against arguably the toughest pitcher in the league this year, Brandon Webb.

Byrnes, by the way, either just happens to be red-hot right now, or has become a Mets Killer. Maybe he’s ticked off at Omar for not being signed in the offseason to play right field. As I remember, in the week before the Delgado trade, there was a lot of talk that he would come in and compete with Victor Diaz for the spot, while Xavier Nady would platoon with Mike Jacobs at first base. (Personally, I like Byrnes, but I’m pretty happy the way things turned out.)

Anyone notice that Brandon Webb, Brandon Lyon, and Brandon Medders held the Mets to no runs on six hits, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. If the D’Backs had one more Brandon on the staff, this game might still be going on…

Off day for the Mets on Thursday, then the San Francisco Giants come into town on Friday. Tommy Glavine vs. Matt Cain.