Archive: April 18th, 2007

Game 13: Win

Mets 9 Marlins 2

The D-Train was finally derailed.

Since bursting on the scene in 2003, Dontrelle Willis has been the Mets’ #1 nemesis. Prior to this game, Willis was 11-2 career with an ERA around 2.00 against the Mets. Also prior to the game, D-Train was one of the NL’s hottest pitchers, with a 3-0 record, 3.32 ERA, and 17 Ks in 19 innings.

But the 2007 Mets lineup is unlike any other other he’s seen from Flushing, and the best he’s faced this year.

The Mets pounded Dontrelle for 10 hits and 7 earned runs in 5 innings, boosting his season ERA a full two runs in the process. Mets batters jumped on first-pitch fastballs from Dontrelle, and were handsomely rewarded. The first inning, in which Willis threw 23 pitches before getting an out, looked like an extension of Mets batting practice, as everyone but Shawn Green teed off Dontrelle’s high meatballs. Willis was also hurt by his defense, which committed two infield errors in that same first inning (the Marlins previously made 4 errors all season).

Perhaps it was the excitement and comfort of warm weather that got the Mets’ bats going. Or it could have been a great scouting report combined with effective approach. I have another theory — D-Train was tipping his pitches. I could be wrong, but the way the Mets were swinging and smiling, it appeared as if they knew what was coming.

Nearly lost in the excitement of the offense was the outstanding performance by John Maine, who for most of the game was efficient with his pitches and very quietly took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. This was not the Maine we saw in the Shea opener, but the Maine we saw against the St. Louis Cardinals. He mixed his pitches well, spotting the slider and change-up at the corners and the knees, perfectly complementing a hard running, sinking fastball and a rising fastball that evoked a number of swings and misses. He broke some bats, got a lot of grounders, and was ahead of most hitters. Maine did have his typical “flake-outs” here and there, as he walked four batters for no apparent reason. If he ever manages to eliminate the lapses in concentration, he’ll be part of conversations that include Brandon Webb and Chris Carpenter.

Once again, the Mets bullpen was stellar. Aaron Sele pitched one scoreless inning and Aaron Heilman finished the game by getting three outs on four pitches.

On the Offensive

Wow. Where to start?

Jose Reyes went 4-6 with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and an RBI. He’s now hitting .364.

Carlos Beltran is now swinging the bat with authority. He had two hits, scored two runs and drove in three with a single and his third homerun of the year. He’s up to .314.

Moises Alou went 2-4, boosting his batting average to .356.

Carlos Delgado finally busted out a double in that big first inning, though he went 0-4 the rest of the way.

David Wright extended his hitting streak to 25 games, dating back to last year. He went 2-5 with a ribbie.

Shawn Green eeked out two very cheap hits — a Texas Leaguer popup and a seeing-eye single — but those make up for the hard liners he’s been hitting right at people.

Jose Valentin remains hot, and now is hitting .279 after a 3-5 game.

Things that Make You Go Hmmm …

After getting blasted by the Mets, and challenging a radio deejay to a fight, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel announced that ace starter Brett Myers would be moving to the bullpen to become the setup man for Tom Gordon, with Jon Lieber taking Myers’ spot in the rotation. Hmmm … hey Charlie, what are you going to do about the seventh and eighth innings?

Next Game

The Mets will have Orlando Hernadez on the hill against Rick Vanden Hurk. Game time is 7:05 PM.

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Game 12: Win – Mets Sweep!

Mets 8 Phillies 1

The New York Mets brought the broom to Citizen’s Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia and swept their series against the Phillies.

OK, so it was only a one-game series, but it’s still a sweep !

Once again, Tom Glavine did not have his best stuff, but used his veteran guile to gut through a win. It helped that the Phillies are incapable of hitting with runners on base; perhaps that was part of Glavine’s strategy? Knowing the Phillies’ abysmal statistics with runners in scoring position, Glavine might have intentionally allowed runners in an effort to thwart the middle of the Philly lineup. (Kidding, of course.)

An early clue that the Phillies were in deep doo-doo came in the first inning. After Shane Victorino blooped a broken-bat double, Chase Utley came up with Victorino on second and one out. On the first pitch, Utley attempted to bunt but held back. Hmm … is that what a team wants their #3 hitter doing in that spot? As it turned out, Utley walked and Ryan Howard bounced into a double play to end the inning.

Most of Glavine’s game went that way. He’d struggle with his control, walk a batter, then get out of it with help from the pitcher’s best friend. At the end of six innings, he’d thrown 103 pitches — only 59 for strikes — but allowed only one run on 6 hits and 5 walks.

The Mets bullpen again did an outstanding job the rest of the way, with Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, and Ambiorix Burgos each putting up a goose egg.

But the story of the day was Moises Alou, who mashed two homeruns and made an amazing, diving catch while the game was still tight. After seeing Alou in the first dozen games of the year, it should be clear to everyone that spring training means absolutely nothing.

Alou led an eight-run thrashing of Phillie pitching, beginning with their “ace” Freddy Garcia. During the offseason, I was one of the fans wondering why the Mets didn’t go after this guy, and how they allowed him to slip to Philadelphia. After seeing him make his 2007 debut, however, it’s completely understood — this is not the Garcia who made his name as a workhorse and power pitcher. He had some bicep issues in the spring, and was barely breaking 90 on what appeared to be a fast gun. Granted, it was his first start, and he was coming off an injury, but several scouts reported him throwing in the mid-80s in spring training, and this is a guy who threw in the mid-90s with ease. If he comes all the way back from his injury, that’s one thing, but if not, the Phillies are going to have a long season — as he was the key acquisition in their “successful” off-season.

In addition to Alou’s two dingers, Jose Valentin ripped two more doubles — giving him 5 on the year — Carlos Beltran had 2 hits and 2 RBI, Ramon Castro went 2-2 with 2 RBI. Castro entered the lineup after Paul LoDuca was nipped by a foul tip and had to leave the game. Jose Reyes went 2-4 with another walk and another 2 stolen bases, and may not actually be “hot” but simply “being”. His excellent numbers so far this year are the product of approach, not a streak, and I’d hate to be an NL pitcher if Reyes ever does go on a hot streak.

With his second-inning single, David Wright has hit in all 12 games this year, and extended his two-season hit streak to 24 games. Shawn Green blasted a double to deep left-center in the sixth, after Alou’s second homer, but was caught stealing home when Tom Glavine missed the squeeze sign. I wonder how many times in his career Green’s been caught stealing home? Though there was a miscommunication, it was pretty cool to see Willie Randolph trying a squeeze, especially since he hadn’t attempted one in two years. Anything to keep other teams on their toes.

LoDuca OK

A foul tip slammed into Paul LoDuca’s right index finger, but X-rays have shown no breakage. He might be cleared to play in tonight’s game, but it doesn’t make much sense with supersub Ramon Castro available. A sprain or bruise on that finger will seriously affect LoDuca’s ability to hold and throw the ball, regardless of how tough he is. Even if LoDuca were completely healthy, Randolph might have considered starting Castro anyway, as he is 4-11 — with two doubles and two HRs — against Dontrelle Willis.

Bullpen Notes

Amby Burgos closed out the game, and continues to impress in non-pressure situations. After allowing a single to Jimmy Rollins and a walk to Shane Victorino, he kept his cool and induced flyouts by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The one Howard tagged might have been held up by the wind, as it was another monster shot to centerfield. But, we’ll take it.

Burgos was right around the mid-90s with his fastball, showing good movement and life. If he can continue to spot the ball down and use his forkball only sparingly, he should be able to avoid the longball and be trustworthy for tighter situations. Time will tell.

Joe Smith gave up a leadoff, monster double to Ryan Howard that went to the deepest part of Citizen Bank Ballpark, but rebounded by whiffing Pat Burrell on a nasty slider and getting Wes Helms to ground out. He then walked Aaron Rowand after getting ahead, but Carlos Delgado came over from first to offer him some advice and Smith disposed of Carlos Ruiz on the next pitch — ironically, a grounder to first base. Delgado is visiting the mound more and more often, conjuring memories of Keith Hernandez back in the 1980s. It’s great to see him doing that, particularly with the youngsters taking the mound for the Mets these days. Just as Keith helped out a young Doc Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling, and others, Delgado has the experience, respect, and presence to keep the inexperienced hurlers focused and confident. Another one of those intangibles that can’t be seen in the boxscore.

Next Game: Marlins

The Mets open a 3-game series in Florida against the Fish, with Maine vs. D-Train.

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