Browsing Archive July, 2006

Game 88: Win

Mets 17 Marlins 3

If I’m John Maine, I’m running up and down the dugout screaming “where was that an hour ago???!!!!”

Anyone with a remote interest in the Mets was excited about this game for one reason: the debut of Mike Pelfrey. With barely three months of professional ball under his belt, Pelfrey was brought in to start a Major League game. He struggled a bit, but was given enough support get through.

Cliff Floyd and Jose Valentin drove in a combined 12 runs, and Paul LoDuca added another 3 RBI, as the Mets trounced, thrashed, and completely devastated the Marlins. Talk about erupting …

Valentin, in fact, nearly hit two grand slams in back-to-back innings, missing his second granny by just a few feet. Whatever he had for an in-between-games meal, I’ll take two, please.

Marlins’ rookie starter Ricky Nolasco has been fairly impressive against everyone else in the NL, but can’t seem to find a groove against the Mets. He gave up 10 hits and seven runs in his earlier outing, and the Mets roughed him up again for nine in less than two innings. Joe Girardi used nearly his entire bullpen in the first game, and made Jason Vargas the sacrificial lamb for the remainder of the game. I’m not sure if Girardi didn’t want to waste another arm in this game, or if he just didn’t have a better bat to pinch-hit for Vargas when his turn came up.

Notes

Pelfrey was a little shaky in his first ML start, which we can probably chalk up to first-game nervousness. The reports we heard were that Pelfrey threw nothing but fastballs in the minors, and he didn’t have a breaking pitch. Well, I saw a pretty good fastball, a nice breaking ball, and I thought I saw some changeups in his debut. If nothing else, his fastball and the breaking ball should be enough to help the Mets out of the bullpen right now; whether or not he can anchor a spot in the rotation this year depends on whether he really does have a change-up and/or he can command the fastball up here the way he did in AA. According to Omar Minaya, Pelfrey or Maine will get the next start when the #5 spot comes up. I like Maine, and I think he’ll be fine as a #5. However, I’d like to see a less-nervous Pelfrey make another start, and see what he can do.

The reports we got on Henry Owens were that he had a heater and a good breaking ball, and that he had an injury earlier in the year which precluded him from pitching back-to-back days. So what does Mr. Willie do? Pitch him on back-to-back days, of course. One inning on Friday, and two innings on Saturday. Maybe Randolph read the report as back-to-back “games”, and therefore counted the first game of the doubleheader as an off-game for Owens.

In any case, it is fun to watch Owens throw gas with that funky delivery. He seemed to either get tired or nervous in this outing, as he did walk two batters. However, if he settles down and can go every other day, he looks like he could be a good matchup ROOGY for days that Bradford needs a rest. He might even vie for a setup role as early as next year. Unfortunately, for 2006, he might be on his way back to the minors until September. That is, unless Mr. Willie plans to carry 15 pitchers on the roster.

Aaron Heilman closed out this blowout, probably to get game work in a relaxed situation and be able to work on some things. Though he threw a perfect inning, he still doesn’t look “good”. His body language is less fierce and confident than it was in April; he’s clearly concerned about his mechanics and his command. I really think it’s time to demote him to the starting rotation, and promote El Duque to #2 setup guy behind Dirty Sanchez. El Duque is much to valuable to the bullpen to keep him in the rotation.

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Game 87: Loss

Marlins 3 Mets 2

Tough loss for John Maine, who pitched a good game except for three swings of the bat — three that produced three solo homers and were ultimately the deciding runs of the game.

Perhaps tougher to take was losing by one run in the first game, then watching the Mets’ lineup terrorize Marlins pitching in the second game, scoring 17 runs. Where were those bats in the opener?

Marlins starter Jason Johnson was underwhelming in five innings, walking five, but managed to escape the game with only two runs scored against him. Joe Girardi put a new pitcher out for every inning thereafter, and the Mets could manage only a walk and a hit against them. The batters were lackadaisical, as if they were just trying to get the game over with.

On the bright side, Chad Bradford and Dirty Sanchez both pitched well in relief. John Maine deserved better. He’s no ace, but he looks to have the makings of a solid #4 or #5. In fact, he should give the Mets the same kind of production they’re getting from Steve Trachsel. I see a string of 12-12 seasons in his future.

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Game 86: Loss

Marlins 7 Mets 3

Everyone on the planet — save Omar Minaya and Mr. Willie — knew that this game was being conceded the minute Jose Lima was announced as the starting pitcher. In fact, even Jose Lima himself knew there was no chance of winning the game. It was kind of like watching a Disney movie: emotional and predictable.

Knowing Lima was the starter made this loss easier to swallow; after all, expectations were slightly below whale shit, especially considering that the opposing hurler was D-Train. The fact that Jose was able to hold the AAA Marlin lineup to single digits was enough of an accomplishment to incite excitement. And, if nothing else, Lima showed that he can really throw excellent BP. Maybe D-Wright can bring him to Pittsburgh to be his personal Homerun Derby pitcher.

Thankfully, it appears that the LimaTime! experiment is finally over, as Lima was DFA’s for the second time this year. It’s time for him to pitch in an independent league and reinvent himself as a minor league clown / crowd-pleaser.

Hmmm … bright spots … well, Xavier Nady was 2-4 with a dinger, so that’s encouraging. On the other hand, Julio Franco all night looked like a 47-year-old trying to catch up to 92+ MPH heat. Darren Oliver was sparkling with the mop, and we did get to see Henry Owens’ debut, so that was cool. It took Owens 18 pitches to get through the ninth, but it was a perfect ninth and he did strike out one. I’m guessing he had some butterflies, and he’ll be even better the next time around. I for one am hoping there IS another appearance, as he looks to have an electric fastball and some potentially filthy stuff.

Big news tomorrow is the long-awaited debut of Mike Pelfrey. I’m not sure there’s been this much anticipation since Tom Seaver; even Doc Gooden’s debut was somewhat tempered, and didn’t have enough time for a buildup (he began the ’84 season on the roster and started game four on April 7, just a week after spring training broke). Hopefully Pelfrey will stay calm and show us a glimpse of what he’s capable of. It should be a fun and exciting game. John Maine is penciled in to start the other game, and I will be rooting hard for him as well. It would be great to see Maine throw well and earn himself another start, if for no other reason than he seems like a good kid.

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Game 85: Win

Mets 7 Pirates 5

After a frightening, blowout loss to the Pirates in the opening game, the Mets went on to take the next three games and the series.

Guess who returned to the spotlight? None other than David Wright, who had two hits, two RBI, and scored two runs. His two hits were a homerun and a double. He is definitely out of his mini-slump.

Jose Reyes and Cliff Floyd both went 1-3 with two RBI, and Reyes stole another two bases. Now at a steady .300 with an adequate 30 walks, Reyes is making excellent strides as a leadoff hitter — and proving to be a one-man scoring machine in the vein of a young Rickey Henderson or Willie Wilson.

Steve Trachsel pitched another adequate game to earn his fifth straight win; miraculously, Mr. Willie allowed him to throw 118 pitches. Billy Wagner is now in mid-season form, and likely would have pitched a perfect inning if not for a misplayed fly ball by Eli Marrero. On the other hand, Aaron Heilman had another un-Heilmanlike outing, taking almost 40 pitches in an inning and two-thirds and giving up a run. Maybe the Mets brass should re-evaluate his role in the bullpen; it’s possible that he’s just not built to pitch 3-5 times per week.

Notes

Marrero gave Carlos Beltran a well-deserved day off in center field, and well … let’s just say he likely won’t be making any more appearances in center. Shouldn’t be a big deal, as we normally have Endy Chavez to back up, and there’s always Lastings Milledge. Better to find out now that Marrero is ill-suited for the position, rather than in the third game of the NL Championship series.

Trax was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the sixth, and immediately the umpires warned both benches. Why? Who knows. I wish that MLB would eliminate this “warning” crap; all it does is take the inside part of the plate away from the pitcher, and make the batters more comfortable in the box. A little fear in the batter’s mind worked out fine in the first 140 years of baseball.

Pedro was put on the disabled list, and Henry Owens was brought up to take his place on the roster. In AA, Owens has struck out 51 batters in 25 innings, giving up eight hits and eight walks, garnering a sparkling 1.08 ERA. If he can do a K-Rod-like job in the second half, he’d be a great addition to the bullpen. One wonders if this is the intention, and part of a grand plan to push Heilman into the starting rotation (hey, I can dream!).

In addition, Mike Pelfrey was brought up, and will start one of the games against the Marlins in the Saturday doubleheader. At worst, he’ll be nervous and implode, getting knocked out in the first inning. At best, he’ll throw 6-7 innings of shutout ball and earn himself a second start. I’ll be happy to see something in between. Facing the Marlins is a good entry, as they were closer to a AAA team than MLB earlier this year, and though they are in second place, the lineup is mostly youngsters, so Pelfrey shouldn’t be too overmatched; it will be kind of like him facing a AAA All-Star team that has a ringer (Miguel Cabrera). The reports from the minors say Pelfrey throws in the mid- to upper-90s, relies very heavily on the fastball, and throws only an adequate breaking pitch and changeup. If those reports are accurate, I could see him challenging hitters and throwing a lot of strikes, but perhaps giving up a few long balls. In any case, it will be exciting to see him pitch on Saturday.

OK, now the bad news: Friday night is LimaTime ! Why? No one’s quite sure. One blogger suggests that he has incriminating photos of Omar Minaya and/or Willie Randolph. I’m inclined to believe it. The only shining light is that I was merciless on Jose Valentin early in the year, and he’s turned out to be a productive starter at 2B; so I could be wrong about Jose Lima.

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Game 84: Win

Mets 5 Pirates 0

OK, I’ll admit it: my itchy finger was hovering on the panic button.

After getting swept by the Bosox, losing two of three from the Yanks, blown out by the lowly Pirates, and then barely beating the Pirates, the true Met fan inside of me started spewing doubt.

This game pushed the doubt aside … for now.

El Duque was brilliant, allowing four hits, two walks, and striking out seven. It was the type of performance we hope to see in October, as our #3 playoff starter. He could have easily finished the game and picked up a shutout, but Mr. Willie’s alarm clock went off at 100 pitches, and removed him after the snooze button alarmed him to 107.

The theory is that you need to “save” the pitcher so that he won’t be tired at the end of the season. Of course, this is nonsense: the less you do something, the less you’ll be able to do it in the future. It is absolutely baffling that pitching in baseball is the only action in all of sport where the professionals are limited in their repetition. Every other athlete in every other sport uses a conditioning program of “building up” their endurance, so that they can go further, and stronger, later in the season. The dope-smoking pitching coaches are the only ones who choose to do the opposite. And the arm injuries and surgeries have gone UP in the last 20 years. Imagine that?

Anyway, I digress …

As stated, Orlando Hernandez was marvelous, Chad Bradford perfect in his “bounceback” appearance, and Dirty Sanchez was his usual filthy self.

The only issue, if there was one, was the fact that the Mets did not get a hit after the first inning. Luckily, they scored five runs in the first, but were held hitless the rest of the way by Kip Wells — who is having an awful season so far — and some scrub with a 5+ ERA named John Grabow. WTF?

Notes

A clean-head-shaven Jose Lima was spotted “getting his work in” in the bullpen at the end of the game. Frightening.

Word is that there is an outside chance that Mike Pelfrey will get a start on Saturday if Pedro can’t go. Or, it’s LimaTime! Ugh.

David Wright took a well-deserved day off. He should come out like gangbusters in the next game.

Trax vs. some guy named Gorze-something. You know what that means … the Mets never saw him, therefore they’ll make him look like Sandy Koufax. Maybe we can pull out a 1-0 victory.

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Game 83: Win

Mets 7 Pirates 6

Whew! The Mets very nearly blew this game, very nearly lost the series to the Pitts.

In fact, the game was all but lost had it not been for Endy Chavez, currently the only Mets player outside of Jose Reyes with a heartbeat lately.

Chavez was not even supposed to be in the game, but a concussion knocked out Cliff Floyd. With the Mets down 6-4 in the bottom of the 8th with D-Wright on first and Carlos Delgado on second, Chavez hit a ball far enough to score Delgado, which meant it was far enough to put himself on 2B and D-Wright on 3B. Chavez then scored the winning run on a single by Xavier Nady, using a remarkable slide to get under the tag of catcher Ronny Paulino.

Billy Wagner did what he was supposed to in the ninth, earning career save #300.

Notes

Nady FINALLY got a big hit. About friggin’ time!

Tom Glavine was awful. Let’s just forget this outing, please.

Aaron Heilman pitched two innings and gave up another run. His ERA now stands in the mid-fours. He is un-valuable enough to be thrown into the rotation? The Mets could really use a starting pitcher …

Jose Reyes collected another three hits and two stolen bases. He’s a man on fire again.

While no one was looking, the Mets optioned Heath Bell to Norfolk and brought up (gasp!) Jose Lima. Dear God…

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Game 82: Loss

Pirates 11 Mets 1

Um … just what the heck is going on?

After taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Mets have had a meltdown. OK, I can understand being intimidated by the Bosox and Fenway and getting swept. I can sort of (but not really) understand losing two of three from the Crankees. But after dealing with the AL Beasts, you’d think the lowly Pirates (yes, they’re still in the league) would be a cakewalk.

Indeed, it seemed it would go that way. For the first four innings, last-minute replacement John Maine struck out six and walked none, shutting out the Pirates.

Then came the fifth.

According to the US Navy: “… terrible explosion on board Maine shattered the stillness in Havana Harbor. Later investigations revealed that more than five tons of powder charges for the vessel’s six and ten-inch guns ignited, virtually obliterating the forward third of the ship. The remaining wreckage rapidly settled to the bottom of the harbor. Most of Maine’s crew were sleeping or resting in the enlisted quarters in the forward part of the ship when the explosion occurred.”

Oops, that was the USS Maine, circa 1898. It was a second-class battleship sitting outside Cuba during the Spanish-American War whose gundpowder magazines exploded, thereby destroying itself (imploding). However, the report otherwise fits pretty succinctly.

John Maine imploded in the fifth, much like the USS Maine of 1898. After getting the first two outs of the fifth, all of a sudden he was walking people left and right, including the opposing pitcher. Somehow, he managed to escape the inning (and the game) giving up only three runs. The Mets, however, much like the USS Maine’s crew, continued to sleep or rest in the enlisted quarters for the remainder of the game.

Things got ugly in the seventh, when the usually lights-out Chad Bradford allowed five runs to cross the plate. His LOOGY buddy, Pedro Feliciano, must have felt bad for Chad, and gave up three runs himself, including back-to-back homers by some guys named Paulino and McLouth (or was it McMillan and Wife?).

Notes

For a while there, it looked like John Maine might be the answer for the #5 spot in the rotation. Maybe not.

Alay Soler was optioned to Norfolk to make room for Maine. Maine is likely to stay on for another start on Saturday, while Soler simmers in the minors.

Cliff Floyd had two hits, a walk, and a stolen base.

Jose Reyes looks hot again, as he stroked three hits, stole a base, and scored the Mets’ lone run.

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Game 81: Loss

Yankees 16 Mets 7

I was not impressed with the Yankees offense tonight. After scoring 16 runs in the first five innings, I was sure they’d end the game with 20 (or 18 at the least). Instead, the mighty Yanks were completely shut down over the last three innings by the ROOGY-LOOGY tandem of Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano. In fact, had the game started in the sixth inning, the Beltrans would have won the game two-zip.

Unfortunately, the game started at the regular interval, the first inning, after an hour and a half rain delay. The Mets jumped ahead four-zip quickly, and looked like they might trounce the Yankees and make this game a laugher, as they chased starter Jaret Wright from the game in the third. Well, the Mets did make this game a laugher all right.

Alay Soler was awful, again. In eight big league starts, he’s been brilliant, so-so, and godawful. Though he has shown that he can pitch well against good teams at this level, he has an extreme problem competing. In other words, he is an excellent pitcher when things are going well, but when things are not so great, he’s unable to compete; to adjust, and rise to the challenge. As has occurred in other games this year, Soler had a different interpretation of the strike zone than the home plate umpire. This is a serious problem for a starting pitcher (ask Tom Glavine). While it’s true a pitcher needs to pitch his game, he also must understand that there is a man standing behind the catcher, and not because he’s purchased a really expensive ticket. That man decides what is and isn’t a strike, and if he is deciding that your pitches are not strikes, then you must make an adjustment. Instead, Soler gyrates, makes faces, and generally acts like a 12-year-old. Further, he allows these calls and other outside influences to affect his focus and overall game. I like Soler, and I want him to do well. However, he needs to mature, very quickly, if he is to stay in the Major Leagues.

Lost in this debacle was a 4-5, two-homer performance by Carlos Beltran, who after chilling for a few games is once again red-hot as the season hits its midpoint.

Notes

Julio Franco went 2-4 and both scored and drove in a run. One must wonder why teams don’t apply some kind of reverse shift on him, as nearly every one of his hits goes to right field.

Xavier Nady, who is now playing with a broken bone in his hand, dropped a fly ball that led to four Yankee runs in the fourth. He also went 0-3, dropping his average to below .260. Not sure if his hand is affecting his play, but I won’t be surprised to see Eli Marrero getting some starts in RF.

Paul LoDuca had some choice words for Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod’s grand slam in the third. I’ll presume that LoDuca’s issue was with A-Rod’s obnoxious posture at home plate as he watched the ball clear the RF fence. Kudos to Paulie for setting him straight. Interestingly, juiceboy Jason Giambi made a move toward LoDuca after the exchange, and our Paulie did not back down. As it was, nothing happened, but I would have loved to see Brooklyn boy LoDuca duke it out with steroid-surfer dude Giambi. Juiceambi’s girth notwithstanding, I’ll take LoDuca in three rounds.

Speaking of the Giambino, he’s looking awfully puffy lately. I wonder what undetectable designer ‘roid he’s using now? HGH ?

Baseball has definitely changed over the last 15-20 years. I don’t think, in 1986, you’d see a team score 16 runs without SOMEONE getting knocked down. I thought for sure Heath Bell would dust A-Rod, but instead served him a gopher ball on a silver platter. As Goose Gossage has said, this is no longer a game so much as nine innings of BP.

Soler better get his emotions in check. I’m guessing his leash is about three starts long. If he continues allowing his hot temper to affect his game, the Mets must turn to John Maine and/or Evan MacLane as they wait for Brian Bannister to return. As much as I’d like to see Mike Pelfrey come up, I think the Mets will wait till August, and see if he can pitch well enough to help them in the playoffs. The California Angels did something similar with a young phenom in 2002; today they call that phenom “K-Rod”. I’m not sure Pelfrey’s ready to be a #3 starter come playoff time, but there’s a really good chance he’ll be effective as a one- or two-inning guy to even further shorten a game.

I HATE having to watch the Mets on ESPN. Joe Morgan is a blithering idiot. For three innings he hemmed and hawed about Mr. Willie leaving Soler in the game to give up eight runs, while Joe Torre pulled Jaret Wright immediately to stop the bleeding during the Mets’ four-run second. Morgan couldn’t understand why Darren Oliver wasn’t coming into the game, and admonished Willie for not “playing for today”. Well gee Joe Moron, there’s a reason you’re in the broadcast booth and Willie’s in the dugout. If Morgan ever watched three consecutive Mets games, instead of once a month, he’d know that Mr. Willie plays every game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series, to the point where he’s nearly burned out his bullpen at the All-Star break. And secondly, Oliver is needed to start tomorrow in place of tub-slipping, bad hipping Pedro. If Oliver comes in to save the day, who’s the starter tomorrow? Chad Bradford? Somebody, PLEASE, fire Joe Morgan!

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