Browsing Archive June, 2006

Game 70: Win

Mets 9 Reds 2

It’s always a good sign when Darren Oliver is closing the game for the Mets.

Gee, where to start …

Steve Trachsel had one of his “on” games, pitching a strong six innings and helping himself with a solo homer. He didn’t need to help himself too much, though, as the Mets had a three-run lead from inning one and broke it open in the seventh with an extra four runs against former Met David Weathers.

Paul LoDuca was one of the stars, banging two doubles and driving in three. Jose Reyes, who has been hot lately, jump-started the Mets offense with a leadoff double, which LoDuca followed with another double to drive him in. Carlos Delgado followed two batters later with a two-run homer to right field; I think he used a one-iron (which is pretty impressive, because not even God can hit a one-iron).

As if they needed them, Xavier Nady stroked two bombs in his second day back. Nady resembled a human corkscrew the night before, as Bronson Arroyo fed him a steady diet of breaking balls outside. In this game, he found two pitchers willing to feed him inside pitches, and he showed them how quickly an inside pitch can be deposited over the fence.

The Reds scored two runs, but never really had a chance in this game — and their body language showed it. It was another example of clear dominance by the Mets, and the bulk of their offense came from LoDuca, Nady, and Trax.


Lastings Milledge made some nice plays in the field, and did a wonderful job of going the other way on an outside slider by veteran David Weathers. Granted, Weathers clearly did not have much this particular evening, but Milledge had been trying to pull those pitches the first week he came up. He’s more relaxed lately, and doing better waiting and tracking pitches. Though he had to reach a bit to hit the pitch, he waited well and went to right field with it. Milledge will probably be back in AAA in about a week or so, but he’ll bring with him a wealth of knowledge, an itch to get back, and a short list of issues to work on. When he does come back up, it will be to stay.

Steve Trachsel might be the most miserable Major League Baseball player. Even after hitting his first home run in eight years, he did not crack a smile, and admitted during an in-game interview that he was thinking “don’t get too excited…keep your concentration …” when he was rounding second base. Jeez, it’s a shame when a guy can’t enjoy his job, even when he does something great.

I think Trax’s “song” when he comes up to hit should be Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy” …

Tomorrow it’s Alay Soler vs. Joe Mays. With all the hoopla surrounding the World Cup lately, all I can say is … “Ah – LAY, Ah-lay Ah-lay Ah-lay …. aaaah LAYYYYYYY, ah lay ah lay ah lay … “


Game 69: Loss

Reds 4 Mets 2


El Duque threw a borderline marvelous game. However, Bronson Arroyo threw much better.

Just what has gotten into Arroyo this year? His whole career, he’s been consistently inconsistent. One day, he looks like a young Kevin Brown, the next game, he looks like an old Kevin Kobel. This year, he’s been more Brown than Kobel. Against the Mets, he was fabulous, and from the first inning you could see the confidence oozing out of his pores. He’s not necessarily dominant, but his confidence plus his command makes it very difficult to get good pitches and take good swings.

To El Duque’s credit, he matched Arroyo’s performance until the seventh — though it seemed that it took him more effort. A bomb by Junior Griffey put an end to that.

Was this a bad game? Not really … more frustrating. It was merely a case of the Mets bats facing a very tough righthander who is in the middle of a career year.


Carlos Beltran hit a monster shot in the ninth to keep hopes alive, but those hopes were dashed after a strikeout by Delgado and quick outs by Valentin and Nady (David Wright snuck in a single in between).

Is it me, or is David Wright swinging and missing a lot lately? I think he’s guessing more than normal, especially as I’ve noticed him swinging at more first pitches in the last week or so. With the way he’s hitting, I’m sure it’s not a bad thing, just an observance.

Fascinating to me that Mr. Willie chose to give Xavier Nady his first start since coming off the DL against a tough breaking-ball pitcher like Arroyo. Firstly, Nady can’t hit anything moving away from him when he’s 100%, much less when he’s just coming off an appendectomy. And though Lastings Milledge has looked fairly frightening himself against breaking balls, it might have been a good experience for him. Comparing apples to apples at the plate, I’ll take Lastings’ defense and speed over Nady in a heartbeat. Willie also could have started Stache in the OF and Woody at 2B. Granted, Nady had to make his comeback start eventually, but I might have given him a slightly easier pitcher to face. It’s hard enough coming off the DL, and to have to face a guy like Arroyo, who Nady didn’t have a prayer against, could be detrimental to the psyche and hitting mechanics. Or maybe I just want to see Lastings out there ….

Speaking of, I wonder how much longer Lastings will be with us. It appears that he’ll be around until Cliffy comes off the DL, but one must wonder if he’ll stay beyond that. I smell a trade in the works, and wouldn’t be surprised to see Nady go. Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden listed the Mets as a possible trade partner in Sunday’s Washington Post. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Jose Vidro and/or Livan Hernandez come our way, in return for a package of Nady, Victor Diaz, a fringe prospect like Chase Lambin and a couple arms such as Evan Maclane and Henry Owens. But hey, I’m not starting any rumors, it’s all speculation …

Tuesday night the Reds will trot out Elizardo Ramirez against Steve Trachsel. I don’t like this matchup, mostly because Ramirez is a young pitcher that the Mets have never seen before, and that is exactly the type of hurler that has given the Metropolitans severe trouble this year (and last year, and the year before). Oh, and then there’s the fact we’re throwing Trax, and who knows which one will show up: Dr. Trachsel or Mr. Horrendous.


Game 68: Win

Mets 9 Orioles 4

Tommy wasn’t “Vintage Glavine” in this game, but he nevertheless became the first Major League pitcher to reach ten wins, and is establishing himself as the stopper, if not ace, of the Mets staff.

Sure, Pedro Martinez is probably the better pitcher, but it’s been Tom Glavine who has come up with wins after Mets losses, thus keeping the Mets out of extended losing streaks. He performed a similar role on a team in the south that had some success in the 1990s and early 21st century.

For the second straight outing, Glavine pitched under-par, but good enough to win. Maybe it’s karma. After all, he’s pitched several gems over the last two years but received either a loss or no-decision due to a lack of support from the Mets bats. What goes around comes around, and now the offense is coming around, picking up for his lackluster performances.

Wouldn’t you know it was David Wright who provided the most punishing blow of the game, bases-loaded, two-out blast in the fifth inning. Glavine gave up two runs in the top of the sixth to allow the O’s within striking distance, but held the lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Ramon Castro added a solo homer for cushion, which turned out to be needed as the O’s struck again in the top of the seventh.

The 5-4 lead didn’t last long as the Mets pounded out another three runs in the bottom of the seventh frame to put the game away for good.


Though Glavine gave up more hits and runs than he’d like, he didn’t seem to be too far off with his command. It seemed that he was getting a little squeezed, and instead of continuing to peck at the corners, put the ball further into the hitting zone. You can’t fault him for forcing the Orioles batters to earn their runs — he walked no one in his six innings of work. He pitched the way a pitcher with a lead should pitch: throw strikes, and if they score, so what, so long as you hold the lead. Most of the pitches he missed with, looked to be just slightly down in the zone, which is a good place to miss. I think other teams might have swung at a lot of those low balls and grounded out.

Interestingly, Mr. Willie allowed Glavine to bat in the bottom of the sixth, despite the fact he was struggling all day and nearing the 100-pitch count. I guess the alarm doesn’t go off until the pitcher makes exactly 100 pitches.

Aaron Heilman closed out a perfect ninth with two strikeouts. It looks to me like his arm angle is back UP where it’s supposed to be, and he’s getting his fingers on top of the ball most of time upon release. He was putting most of his pitches exactly where he wanted them, and the results were obvious. But I suppose the naysayers will claim that the reason for his success was because the Orioles never saw Heilman before. Some people spend too much time looking at the batter vs. pitcher in their cause-and-effect analysis, rather than watching “glove to glove” (studying the ball from the pitcher’s glove to the catcher’s glove, and everything affecting that two-second process). That’s OK … most US corporations work the same way: looking only at the bottom line. But I digress …

Once again, the Mets look to have timing on their side. They open against the Reds at a time when Cincinnati seems to be slipping. The surprising Bronson Arroyo comes to Shea against El Duque.


Game 67: Loss

Orioles 4 Mets 2

Sometimes I hate when I’m right.

At the end of the last post I stated that Kris Benson would either pitch lights out or get lit … and unfortunately for the Mets he chose the former.

Other than a first-inning outburst and a couple hits by Carlos Delgado, the Mets were mystified by Benson’s repertoire. Further compounding the situation, Pedro had another unPedro outing; his command was off, he wasn’t using his change-up, and he was falling behind on the counts.

Not much else to say … it was a crappy game. And no doubt Anna Benson was the happiest person in New York (though I suppose that in turn would make Kris Benson the happiest person in NY).


Kris Benson hit a solo homer about two minutes after Gary Cohen muttered, “… and here’s Benson, who’s a good bunter but not much of a hitter …” Naturally, in the at-bat after the homer, Benson was called on to bunt, and popped up to Pedro. Can we still make a call for Howie Rose? I do enjoy Cohen’s play-by-play work, but he’s clearly jinxing the Mets. Put him in the radio booth for a few days.

Benson, by the way, looks gaunt. He’s so slim he looks sick. Either he’s legitimately ill, on the Matthew Perry diet, or Anna is doing a mental number on him, depressing him to the point of losing his appetite. Or maybe he needs to get checked for a tapeworm. Whatever the case, he looks weak and thin. And scary, like a Halloween ghost.

What’s up with Brandon Fahey? I vaguely remember his dad Bill being a good-hit, no-field, third-string catcher, back when teams carried third-string backstops. Brandon looks exactly like his dad, but seems to be able to handle the bat. He appears to be the next Craig Counsell.

Coming into the game, Carlos Delgado was 6-12 with 4 HRs vs. Benson. He looked, shall we say, comfortable, against him today.

The Mets will have Tom Glavine holding the dustpan against Adam Loewen’s broom for the Sunday afternoon game. Hopefully the Mets can keep the sweeping items in the closet and pull out at least one win this weekend.


Game 66: Loss

Orioles 6 Mets 3

Quick, somebody put Gary Cohen back in the hospital …

OK, maybe the Mets’ winning streak had nothing to do with Cohen’s absence in the TV broadcast booth. But would it hurt it anyone to flip him and Howie Rose for the next few days, just to see for sure?

After the amazin’ road trip, something had to give, eventually. The Mets ran into lefthander Erik Bedard, who has been remarkably inconsistent since serving a period on the disabled list last year. So far this year, Bedard has alternated between lights-out and knocked-out performances; the Mets were unlucky enough to catch one of his lights-out games. However, rookie Alay Soler matched him for six innings, putting forth a second consecutive impressive start. He seemed to struggle a bit with his command in the first three innings, but found a rhythm in the fourth and put it on cruise control from there. After batting for himself in the fifth, it appeared that he might be given the opportunity to pitch back-to-back complete games.

Ah, but Mr. Willie had other plans. Although Alay was in a groove,the alarm went off: he had hit that magic 100-pitch number. It was time to arrest Alay: cuff him and throw him in the showers.

One must wonder why Omar Minaya bothers with a human being in the dugout. Wouldn’t it be just as easy to allow a robot remove the pitcher? I’m sure there’s a device that can count to 100, then automatically roll itself out to the pitcher’s mound and make the change.

What’s strange to me is Mr. Willie seems not to have retained anything from his playing days, in regard to starting pitchers. While I understand that he and the Jacket have this blind faith in the 100-pitch count, surely Randolph remembers playing in close games when Ron Guidry, Tommy John, or Ed Figueroa were on a roll, and it just didn’t make sense to take the guy out, regardless of pitch count. Every once in a while, a manager has to have a feel for what’s going on in the game, pay attention to the nuances in body language and facial expressions of both his pitcher and the opposing batters. Soler threw the majority of his pitches in the first three innings, but once he got settled, was clearly cruising by the sixth. In fact, if there was a time to take him out, it would have been in the bottom of the fifth. The Mets were down 2-1 at that point and there were two men on with one out. Soler had thrown a lot of pitches per inning by then, the bullpen was fairly rested, and a base-hit would have tied the game. When Randolph allowed Soler to hit for himself — and bunt the runners over — he had committed to giving him at least two to three more innings. It was the type of move where a manager thinks, hey, the guy started out struggling, but he gutsed it out, and it looks like he’s righted the ship and is going to give us at least a few more innings. If the manager didn’t feel this way, then he puts up Julio Franco to pinch-hit in that situation, does the ROOGY-LOOGY thing in the sixth, and then turns it over to Heilman-Sanchez-Wagner. There was absolutely no sense in letting Soler hit in that situation if the plan was to pull him after one more inning.

After the game, nearly every blog message, radio broadcaster, and radio caller speculated that Aaron Heilman is pouting and/or suggested that he is purposely sabotaging his relief appearances because he wants to start. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I pointed out two weeks ago, Heilman’s mechanics are off. His elbow is often dropping below his shoulder, his fingers are beneath the ball on the release of many of his pitches, and as a result he has no control of where the ball is going. When a pitcher doesn’t know where the ball is going, he loses his confidence. No control + no confidence = Heilman’s current situation. Early in the year, Heilman exuded confidence, and a swagger, and commanded the ball all over the strike zone. He put it where he wanted it, and got batters out seemingly at will. Mr. Willie then overused him, he fatigued, as he fatigued his arm angle dropped, and here we are at a point where not only is his release point screwed up, but we can only hope he has not started to injure his elbow and/or shoulder. When the Mets’ staff is going to notice what is going on and make an adjustment, I don’t know. I suppose they’ll wait until something snaps and Aaron goes on the 60-day DL. Then maybe someone will consider comparing video of him in April and June. But then it will be too late.


At least Heath Bell got a chance to throw today. Too bad it takes a six-run lead or a mop-up situation to get into a game. That’s OK, he’ll be a great setup man for somebody this year, after the Mets unload him on the trading deadline.

How clutch is Jose Reyes? There aren’t too many other leadoff batters in baseball who drive in runs the way he does. As with everything else, he seems to truly enjoy RBI situations.

Chris Woodward drove in the only other Mets run. He’s another guy who continues to produce when given the chance. At least Mr. Willie knows how to handle the 2B situation.

Anna …. er, I mean Kris Benson vs. Pedro Martinez coming up. Benson (Kris) will either implode or pitch the game of his life; nothing in between. Anna might sleep with all of NYC in either case.


Game 65: Win

Mets 5 Phillies 4

It was supposed to be the toughest road trip the Mets would face in the first half of the year, possibly of the entire year. They finished it 9 and 1.

Yet again — and it sounds like a broken record — the Mets got runs early and took a commanding lead in the first inning. This time, however, Steve Trachsel was pitching, and we know that Trax is never quite sure what to do with a lead.

In the end, the Mets prevailed, sweeping the Phillies in front of their hometown boo-birds. Though the score was close, the game never really was; the most enthusiastic Phillie on the phield was the Phanatic.

That broken record again: David Wright hit ANOTHER home run. No you’re not reading yesterday’s post, he did hit another one, a three-run blow that capped off a four-run first. He’s making a strong case to earn the third-base spot on the All-Star team, and he picked a year when Scott Rolen is also having a “career” year.

Trachsel pitched just well enough to almost lose, then yielded the game to the Crisco Crew: Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, and Billy Wagner. Heilman looked better than he has; his arm angle was closer to where it was earlier in the season, though I still don’t think he’s exactly where he needs to be. Dirty Sanchez was excellent; his command was nearly perfect. He’s had a lot of rest and obviously benefitted from it. By quietly closing out another game, Billy Wagner made the whole Philly issue a non-issue.

Before the series, Paul LoDuca said to a writer that the Mets needed to sweep the Phils, to “bury” them. They did just that, and I won’t be surprised to see Philadelphia continue their tailspin, and drop behind the Braves in the next two weeks. The Mets’ dominance over them clearly demoralized the team.


Julio Franco’s single in the ninth gave him the NL lead in hits for pinch-hitters. He also stole second base and took third on a wild pitch, making him the oldest person in MLB history to steal two bases in a year and the oldest to take third on a wild pitch. He’s also the oldest to wear a flap helmet, the oldest to get a pinch hit single in a day game against a Phillie, the oldest to ….

Newcomer Eli Marrero got a start in the outfield when Lastings Milledge slept in. Lastings needed the rest, and the time to think about his dogging the night before (when he made Julio Franco the oldest player to ever miss out on an RBI due to a rookie’s lack of hustle). Milledge’s latest escapades will only make it easier for Mr. Willie and Omar to demote him back to Norfolk when Xavier Nady returns from the disabled list.

The Mets finally return home tomorrow, taking on the Baltimore Orioles at Shea as interleague play returns. Alay Soler goes against Erik Bedard. Anna Benson will be available for fashion tips before the game.


Game 64: Win

Mets 9 Phillies 3

As has been the case quite often lately, the Mets got on top early, and there was no one clear-cut star in this game. Everyone in the lineup had at least one run scored and/or an RBI, including pinch-hitter Julio Franco. And everyone — including Franco but excepting Lastings Milledge — whacked an extra-base hit (is that a record?).

El Duque did a serviceable job in his four innings before the rain delay, and Darren Oliver came out of the bullpen and did a standup job in holding the ever-extending Mets lead.

After the Mets got to Brett Myers early, it looked as if all the air was taken out of the Phillies; they were deflated. By the time the rain delay was over, the Phillies returned to the field looking like they just wanted to get the game over with. Even manager Charlie Manuel couldn’t spark the team by getting thrown out for arguing balls and strikes.


David Wright hit ANOTHER homer. It seems he and Beltran are in a competition to see who is hotter. Except now Carlos Delgado has entered to make it a three-man competition. I like it.

Speaking of this trio … if they keep up their present production, there’s a good chance that the NL MVP will NOT be a NY Met, because these three will split votes and a fourth player from another team will win the prize. Actually, that might not make any sense … I’m not really sure how the MVP vote works. But I wouldn’t mind if, say, Albert Pujols won the MVP and the Mets won the NL pennant.

Lastings Milledge received a tongue-lashing from Mr. Willie after dogging it around the bases on a two-out double by Franco in the seventh. He slowed down once while rounding second—it looked like maybe he thought the ball was going over the fence—and then did not look like he was running full speed after rounding third. Ultimately he was thrown out, and I’m not sure who was more ticked, Randolph or Franco. In any case, I’m sure they both let Lastings know what he did wrong. It was inevitable that Milledge would make some kind of a youthful mistake, so there isn’t much to worry about. With all the veterans around him, Milledge will learn quickly.

How much fun is it to watch Jose Reyes play? Almost as much fun as it is to watch and listen to him during the postgame interview. He’s always smiling so much it looks like it hurts, and his answers are always in a sing-song, happy tone, his head bobbing in delight. You can’t help but smile with him.

Heath Bell got into ANOTHER game. Boy, Willie is really starting to lean on this guy. He summoned Bell to close out the ninth, and Bell did a fine job protecting the six-run lead.

How in the world did Bobby Abreu win a Gold Glove last year? Even the Phillies fans were surprised when it happened. I don’t think I ever saw a professional outfielder go so softly into an outfield wall. Even more embarassing for Abreu is seeing Aaron Rowand bust his face slamming into walls next to him.

Speaking of Gold Gloves, David Wright is on his way to one. Maybe not this year, but some year. He’s looking stellar, making the routine plays as well as the spectacular ones. Some time in the next five years I expect to see him and Reyes with the award.

This was supposed to be one of the toughest parts of the Mets schedule this year, and the Metropolitans are turning it into a cakewalk. Right now their offense is dominating, and they’re doing it without Cliff Floyd. How many teams can put a bat like Floyd’s on the bench and not even notice?

Get out the broom ….


Game 63: Win

Mets 9 Phillies 7

I would hate to be a Phillies’ fan watching this game. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Phils … and every time it seemed like the Phillies would take over the game, the Mets came up with remarkable defensive plays to thwart the attack.

The ball was jumping out of Citizen’s Bank Park … every little fly ball into left field seemed to be grabbed by a vacuum and sucked into the stands. To compound the situation, home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt had a strike zone about four inches wide and two inches tall. The combination resulted in eight home runs on the day, three for the Mets and five for the Phils.

Carlos Beltran banged early, again … he might be the best early-game hitter in the Majors. And it was “Two Carloses for One” day again, only this time the two hit back-to-back homers in the third inning.

Oh yeah, David Wright hit another bomb.

Tommy Glavine had a hard time today, mostly with his command and partially with Wendelstedt’s strike zone. He seemed to be getting squeezed on some pitches, but overall he was not vintage Glavine. He was missing high, and often, and that’s not a good plan when that jetstream is pushing balls out. He gave up a home run nearly every inning he pitched, but luckily only allowed solo shots. We can’t get too upset, though, as Tommy has pitched great all year and was due to have at least one bad game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Heilman was summoned to bridge the gap to Billy the Kid, but faltered, allowing a two-run, pinch-hit homer to who else, but new Met killer David Dellucci. What does Dellucci have against the Mets? He loves getting extra-base pinch hits against the Metties. Heilman’s command was a little off, again, and someone better take a look and adjust his mechanics pronto. Even still, Aaron would have been fine in just about any other stadium, but Dellucci’s seemingly routine fly ball hit that jetstream and flew right out.

Billy Wagner came in with only one out and Jimmy Rollins on first, fell behind 3-0 to Chase Utley, then managed to combine with Paul LoDuca on a strike ’em out, throw ’em out to end the inning. LoDuca got rid of the ball quickly but bounced the peg, and Jose Reyes made a fantastic pick and tag on a play that could have gone either way.

Wagner, like Glavine, did not have his usual command and seemed also to be squeezed by Wendelstedt. He was saved by LoDuca and Reyes in the 8th, and then in the 9th by David Wright. Wagner walked leadoff batter Bobby Abreu, then gave up a bullet down the line to Pat Burrell that surely would have been a double. Instead, Wright pulled a Brooks Robinson and speared the ball, threw to second, and Chris Woodward made a perfect pivot to complete an unbelievable double play.


Billy Wagner touched 100 MPH for the first time this year, on a pitch to Chase Utley in the bottom of the 8th. The next pitch looked even faster, but the stadium gun had it at “only” 98.

Jose Reyes walked three more times (twice intentionally), eclipsing his total from all of last year. He’s still not walking enough for a prototype leadoff hitter, but he’s made remarkable strides in one year. He should finish the year with around 60-70 walks, which is not awful.

Reyes also sped around from second to score on a ground ball to third base, when the throw to catcher Sal Fasano to get Endy Chavez was dropped. I blinked and missed it the first time, thank goodness for instant replay. The ball only rolled about five feet from home plate, but Reyes rounded third aggressively and immediately took off for home when he saw the ball get away. His speed is scary … and that play reminded me of the game about a week ago when he should have stolen home.

In addition to his offensive prowess and improvement with walks, Reyes has very quietly become a much more polished defensive player this year. He rarely, if ever, throws the ball away, and there doesn’t seem to be any ground ball or thrown ball that he can’t handle. His first two years, he showed he had range and could make the unbelievable, diving plays. However, this year, he has really done a great job of making the routine plays, and making tough hops look routine. As mentioned earlier, he made a fantastic play to dig out LoDuca’s throw and tag out Rollins in the 8th, and there were a few plays that might have handcuffed other infielders but were easily handled by Jose. It’s really exciting to watch this young talent grow in all areas of the game.