Archive: April 8th, 2007

Game 6: Loss

Braves 3 Mets 2

In 2006, it took three months for the Mets to lose a three-game series. This year, a very different story — perhaps indicative of the fact that 2007 will be no cakewalk for the Mets.

Though Aaron Heilman was officially charged with the loss, the Mets really lost the game in the first inning.

Jose Reyes led off the game with a walk, was balked to second, and made it to third base on a ground ball by Jose Valentin. With one out, Reyes on third, and the two Carloses due up, the Mets should have been up one-zip by the time El Duque took the mound in the bottom of the initial frame. Instead, both Beltran and Delgado failed in their job as RBI men and stranded Reyes on third.

Then leadoff batter Kelly Johnson jumped on the first pitch by Orlando Hernandez and put it into the right-field stands to put the Braves up 1-0.

Yes, it’s true that the Mets came back to take the lead via back-to-back solo homers by Shawn Green and Ramon Castro, but if not for those two blasts, the Mets would have been shut out. Their inability to move runners beyond second base — much less drive them in — was main reason for their loss to the Braves. Two innings ended with Reyes standing on third — and that’s too many times for one game. With the way teams shift their defense for Carlos Delgado, it’s mind-boggling to NOT see Reyes attempt a steal of home. With the third baseman playing in the shortstop position, he would get at least a 25-foot lead — which should be plenty of head start distance to beat the pitch to the plate.

Speaking of Delgado, he is having a terrible time getting his bat started so far. He seems behind on all pitches, evidenced by the high number of pitches he’s foul-tipping. Without his big bat in the middle of the lineup, and David Wright still struggling, the Mets are going to have trouble scoring runs.

By the way, is it me or does Moises Alou either swing at, or check swing on, every pitch?

Green’s solo blast was his first of the year, and he’s so far doing a fine job filling the seventh spot in the order. He seems to be on one of his hot streaks, as he’s seeing pitches well (better than the home plate umpires, in fact), and laying off the breaking pitches he was waving at during August and September of last year. He’ll need to stay hot and drive in runs while Delgado fights out of his slump.

While it was incredibly disappointing to see the Mets lose their first series against the Braves, I’m not terribly concerned. First, the Braves’ bullpen still looks pretty damn shaky — Mike Gonzalez in particular looks nothing like the dominating force he was with the Pirates last year — and second, their defense and fundamentals are not as solid as in previous years. Finally, if the Mets’ starters continue to pitch as well as they have — and remain healthy — our Flushing heroes should win at least 92-95 games and separate themselves from the rest of the division. Whatever happens, 2007 promises to be a much closer, and more exciting season than last year.

On Monday the Mets face the Phillies in their home opener. The Phils’ have so far fulfilled their preseason prediction that they were the team to beat — everybody’s beating them. John Maine takes his turn to beat the Phillies at 1:10 pm. Second-year phenom Cole Hamels starts for the Phils.


Game 5: Loss

Braves 5 Mets 3

It had to happen eventually. Surely we didn’t expect the Mets to go 162-0.

Things started out well, beginning with Paul LoDuca’s solo homerun in the top of the first and Tom Glavine’s first-pitch out in the bottom of the frame.

Just one problem — that first-pitch out was dropped by Carlos Delgado, and everything snowballed from there.

Well, maybe not exactly snowballed … but Glavine never really got into a groove for the rest of the game. He missed badly on balls, and many of his strikes were borderline. He seemed to be behind every batter, causing every sequence to feel forced and a frustrating battle. Hopefully it had something to do with the cold and wind — it was in the 40s at game time with 25-MPH winds. In any case, it was not the same Glavine we saw on Opening Day.

Still, Tommy might have pitched well enough to win, if only the Mets had played the same as they’d been playing in the previous four games. Though some of the scores were overwhelming, in truth the Mets went 4-0 behind pitchers who threw strikes, impeccable defense, and manufacturing runs. In Game Five, Glavine wasn’t throwing too many strikes, but enough to survive had the defense remained impenetrable. Unfortunately, Delgado’s early error set the tone for the remainder of the game. Overall the Mets’ defense was less than stellar, as several players fell victim to the same harsh winds that afflicted several Braves the night before. The second crucial error in the game was charged to Shawn Green, who fell prey to the swirling winds on a Matt Diaz fly ball in the sixth. Unlike earlier games, there was no double play to save the day, and a total of four runs were tied directly to the miscues by Green and Delgado — in other words, enough to beat the Mets’ three.

Green nearly made up for his error in the ninth. With two men on and two out, he hit a blistering line drive toward right field that was snared by first baseman Craig Wilson to end the game.

There was one shining light in the ballgame. In the battle of the bullpens, the Mets clearly had the edge. Though the Braves supposedly improved their pen, their prime relievers — Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, and Bob Wickman — were underwhelming. Gonzalez struggled through a 24-pitch 7th, allowing a run on two hits and a walk. Soriano and Wickman threw scoreless innings, but Wickman was lucky to squeak out a save. The Mets batters seemed right on his pitches, and were on the verge of taking control of the game before Green’s liner. On the other hand, the Mets’ relief corps was commendable, throwing two and two-thirds scoreless innings, scattering two hits and two walks and never allowing the Braves to sniff a rally.

Easter Sunday pits Orlando Hernandez vs. Kyle Davies at 1:05 PM.