Archive: July 17th, 2006

Game 92: Win

Mets 13 Cubs 7

OK, I’ll admit it: in the second inning, after El Duque gave up two walks, seven hits, and five runs, I was ready to to turn off the TV and do something else with my Sunday evening.

Then came the sixth. Hooo boy!

Two grand slams, 17 batters, about 75 pitches and eleven runs later, the Mets were ahead 13-5 and the Cubs were not only losing but completely demoralized.

It was a great game for just about everyone, save El Duque and Aaron Heilman, whose performances are getting more and more concerning. In particular, it was a great day for Cliff Floyd, who seems to have erupted in his hometown. With Carlos Delgado putting up Mientkiewicz-like numbers over the last month, some production from Uncle Cliffy is just what the Mets need. Hopefully this successful Chicago trip will parlay into a great second-half for Floyd.

Notes

The Mets bullpen — other than Heilman — was practically perfect in relief of Orlando Hernandez. Heilman, though, has pitched so poorly I wonder if the Mets will consider sending him to AAA to get back on track. Wishful thinking has me plotting to send him to Norfolk as a starter: stretch him out with 3, 4, 5, then 6-inning starts over the next month, then have him ready to join the rotation at the end of August. Presto! there’s your #3 playoff starter.

Of course that will never happen, but if Henry Owens hadn’t self-destructed on Saturday, one must wonder if there was a real possibility of Heilman being moved — to Norfolk or elsewhere. Heath Bell threw a strong inning in his first appearance back from AAA, and a string of good outings could put him in Heilman’s 7th-inning role. With the ChiSox desperate for relief pitching, and dangling Minaya favorite Javy Vasquez, it’s easy to envision a deal sending Heilman to Chicago. Personally, I’m hoping for the aforementioned AAA starter plan … and yes, I continue to dream …

Jose Reyes missed another game. No biggie, and I see no reason to rush him back with the Mets dominating the division. Let him get completely healed and hungry to play; we’ll need him in September and hopefully October.

Same goes for Pedro. I’d be fine with Pedro missing his next five starts and not returning till late August. Let him rest up and get ready for the playoffs; John Maine and Mike Pelfrey can pull up the slack, and don’t we have Brian Bannister coming back soon?

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Game 91: Loss

Cubs 9 Mets 2

Early on, Tommy Glavine looked to be back to his usual self, though the home plate umpire seemed to be squeezing him on the corners. It’s apparent in this stage of his career that if Tommy isn’t getting the corners, he’s going to stuggle; though he can still be effective, it will take him many more pitches. With Mr. Willie’s 100-pitch program, that makes it tough for Tommy to go deep in such games.

As well as Glavine pitched, Cubs’ starter Carlos Zambrano was that much better. He cruised through the first five innings, breezing the ball past the Mets’ batters in an effortless style.

Then came the sixth inning, and both pitchers faltered.

Zambrano gave up a leadoff triple to the Stache, and eventually allowed two runs to score. Little did we know that would be all the scoring the Mets would do on the afternoon.

Glavine gave up three of the five runs scored in the bottom of the inning, though it really wasn’t all his fault … and he certainly didn’t deserve to be removed from the game. The leadoff triple he allowed to Ryan Theriot should have been caught had Endy Chavez not lost the ball in the sun. After the triple, he wisely gave Derrek Lee nothing to swing at. Unfortunately, Aramis Ramirez drove in Theriot on a ball that just got by Chris Woodward, and Mr. Willie inexplicably removed Glavine from the game in favor of Chad Bradford. Why? No one’s sure. Glavine didn’t look like he was tiring, despite throwing 90 pitches.

Let’s take another look at the situation. You bring in Bradford, presumably, to get a ground ball double-play. Well, isn’t that Glavine’s forte? The DP grounder? I understand removing a guy like Steve Trachsel, who isn’t known to get very far beyond the fifth inning, or a youngster, but a veteran workhorse like Glavine, who used to be a bonafide ace — and who may very well be the Mets’ current ace — should be kept in the game to work out of the inning. He’s done it hundreds of times before, and unless there is a physical issue (injury, exhaustion), I just don’t see how you remove a top dog like Tommy Glavine from the ballgame after throwing just five innings. I have before and will continue to be against this seventh game of the World Series strategy. It’s fine once in a while, such as when your bullpen is abnormally well rested or other circumstances allow it, but to apply this quick-hook strategy every single game is dangerous over the long haul. First, you burn out your bullpen, and second, your starters never learn how to pitch through tough situations. Eventually, you condition starting pitchers to pitch to the predefined limit, and then they have little or no chance of going past that limit — mentally or physically. Which means that when playoffs arrive, you MUST rely on the bullpen every game. And there is no bullpen on the planet that can pitch every single day and be perfect.

Had Glavine remained in the game, the Mets still would have lost, since they stopped scoring. But he may have been able to wiggle out of sixth without too much damage, and possibly thrown at least another inning. Instead, the Mets used four relievers, including rookie Henry Owens, who had a meltdown in the seventh. Maybe Glavine throws the seventh instead, then gives way to a reliever in the eighth, and then the Mets have used only two pitchers in the game instead of five.

Sure the Mets are so far ahead of everyone right now that the point seems moot. However, I’m looking ahead, to the end of September and beginning of October, when we’ll need starters who, when they’re pitching effectively, can remain in the game through seven or eight innings. And if we need to go to the bullpen, I want them fresh and healthy, not overworked and riddled with tendinitis all around.

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