Archive: April 28th, 2007

Mets Game 22: Win

Mets 6 Nationals 2

It took long enough, but finally the Mets executed the “big hit”.

With one out in the top of the 12th, bases loaded, tie game and the infield in, Carlos Beltran bounced a ball down the first base line, past Robert Fick, and into the right field corner, scoring two runs. Carlos Delgado was intentionally walked to re-load the bases, and David Wright ripped a line drive into left field to score two more.

However, it never should have gone that far.

Tom Glavine threw a masterful game, allowing one run on three hits and a walk over six innings and 84 pitches of work. He likely would have remained in the game had the Mets once-powerful lineup not been shut down by Jerome Williams. Why the Mets made Williams look like Bob Gibson is anybody’s guess; his stuff was mediocre at best, and he walked five batters in his six scoreless innings. My guess is the Nats’ visiting clubhouse attendant drugged the Mets’ Gatorade.

Ronny Belliard was nearly the hero of the game, as he drove in both the tying and go-ahead runs with doubles in the sixth and eighth innings. Both shots were in nearly the exact same spots, down the line and into the corner — well out of the reach of Moises Alou.

But if you watched the game, then you know that Belliard’s doubles shouldn’t have meant anything, and the Mets might have scored more runs earlier in the game — specifically, the fifth inning — when first base umpire Anthony Randazzo began to nearly take the game away. Randazzo got caught up in the excitement of two fantastic, diving stops by Ryan Zimmerman in the fifth, and called out both Damion Easley and Jose Reyes on those plays — when in fact they were safe. So instead of the Mets having two men on and one out, the inning was over. Then in the seventh, Tom Glavine worked out of a difficult situation by inducing a ground-ball double play — except, Randazzo failed to call the batter-runner out at first (he was out by a half-step), and the inning went on. Willie Randolph was justifiably ticked off, and a vehement argument with Randazzo resulted in his being ejected from the game. Moments later, Belliard mashed his first double of the game to the left-field corner on a hit-and-run that scored Felipe Lopez. Had Randazzo made the right call, Glavine would have been out of the inning without a scar; as it turned out, he returned to the dugout down 1-zip.

The Nationals stayed on top, and appeared to have the game won after closer Chad Cordero got Moises Alou to bounce into a double play. However, Shawn Green managed to drill a low inside fastball into right field for his second hit of the game, to keep the inning alive. Endy Chavez came on to pinch-run for Green, and Damion Easley followed with an infield single. Julio Franco then delivered a huge pinch-hit single to chase Chavez home — though the play at the plate was very close. Had catcher Jesus Flores let the ball come into him, Chavez likely would have been a dead duck. But the young backstop leaned out to receive the throw from rightfielder Austin Kearns, then had to lunge back after the diving Chavez, who escaped the tag by inches.

The game remained tied until the twelfth, when the Mets finally chose to bring their bats to the plate. The lumber worked much better than the flimsy asparagus sticks they were using in the first 11 innings.


Just hours after I proclaimed you wouldn’t see Aaron Heilman pitch a complete inning, the Mets had him go one and two-thirds before giving up the go-ahead double to Belliard in the 8th. Without being too high on my horse, I wish Mets officials would read MetsToday — because it’s clear that Heilman is not the pitcher he was in 2005 – 2006, and there is something not right with him. Someone else needs to step up — at least until June, when Guillermo Mota returns — or the Mets are going to lose a lot of games in the late innings.

Pedro Feliciano is certainly not the answer, unless you enjoy heart attacks. His inability to retire hitters who refuse to swing is gut-wrenching. Though he didn’t give up any runs in his inning and two-thirds, he was constantly picking around the plate with breaking pitches, hoping the hitters would swing at something out of the zone. This strategy can work, at times, particularly when facing one hitter, but is a frighteningly dangerous approach when pitching full innings. At some point, every pitcher — other than a knuckleballer — must establish the fastball in order to be effective. It’s been this way for 125 years, and isn’t going to change. Feliciano’s swing-and-miss approach is fine in his role as a LOOGY, but will get him into trouble as a setup man.

In HIS LOOGY role, Scott Schoeneweis retired the one batter he faced. Mighty Joe Smith did the same in his ROOGY role. Aaron Sele pitched a fine one and a third to earn the win.

Shawn Green had two more hits, and is now batting .365.

Jose Valentin left the game in the fourth with a tweaked ankle. Damion Easley went 2-4 with a double in his place.

Ryan Church must have been wearing his Barry Bonds Halloween costume, as he walked four times. Why else would anyone pitch around him?

Next Game

The rubber match takes place at 1:35 PM Sunday afternoon, with John Maine going against Rutgers alum Jason Bergmann. Maine must continue to roll and the Mets bats must wake up — Carlos Delgado’s in particular.


How Hurt is Heilman?

Aaron Heilman pitching for the New York MetsThe New York Mets bullpen has me VERY concerned. Every time Aaron Heilman goes out there, I’m expecting his arm to separate and the elbow joint and fly off somewhere beyond the third-base dugout. After Heilman, the next-best reliever is Joe Smith, who has yet to give up a run — but we all know he can’t go an entire season with a 0.00 ERA, so he’s “due”. Whenever Scott Schoeneweis gets into the game, I’m certain he’s going to have an outing like he did against the Braves last Sunday, throwing 25 pitches before getting an out. Similarly, when Ambiorix Burgos jogs to the mound, I’m counting the pitches before he hangs a forkball that gets knocked over the fence. Even Pedro Feliciano has me concerned — it seems like every outing he gets the first two guys out, then starts collecting baserunners. And if Aaron Sele is in the game, I know it’s a blowout.

After Friday night’s game, I wonder if Willie is thinking the same thing. Or, is there something he’s not telling us?

When Oliver Perez came to bat in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded, one out, and a run down, it seemed perplexing to some. Why didn’t Willie have Juliio Franco, or another pinch-hitter, bat for Perez in that spot? The bullpen just had a day off, and the key men seemed to be well-rested. While Mike Pelfrey only gave them three innings on Wednesday, the men who did most of the cleanup — Aaron Sele and Amby Burgos — would not have been called upon. Willie could have used a smorgasboard of his lefties and righties to get through innings 6-8, and had Billy Wagner close things out.

Initially, I was with Willie’s decision to keep Perez in the ballgame, for two reasons: first, he was pitching very well, bouncing back nicely after the first-inning homer by Austin Kearns, and had only thrown 85 pitches to that point. With Perez rolling, why not leave him in there as long as possible, and continue to rest the bullpen? Secondly, I fully expected the Mets to score more than three lousy runs against Nationals pitching, and figured they’d mount another rally the very next inning.

Hindsight, though, is 20-20, and now I’m wondering why did Willie REALLY leave Ollie in? Especially considering that the Nats have a surprisingly strong bullpen, headed by outstanding closer in Chad Cordero?

Here’s my guess: Aaron Heilman’s elbow is more of a concern than we know.

If Guillermo Mota or Duaner Sanchez were on the roster last night, Willie pulls Perez in that spot, because he knows he can have either of them give him four outs and still be ready for Saturday and/or Sunday. With Heilman, he’s not so sure. For one, Randolph is losing trust in Heilman; for another, he’s not sure about his health. Aaron’s 41-pitch outing in Atlanta on April 8th was the start of it (speaking of, what was Willie thinking by leaving him in so long?), and was compounded by another poor appearance against the Braves on the 22nd. Most recently, he pitched one inning of scoreless relief against the Rockies, but anyone who saw the game knows that Heilman escaped by the skin of his teeth — two balls were hit very hard, one right at Carlos Delgado, and another that might have gone over the fence. Whether it’s his health or a mechanical issue (or combination of both), something is not right with Aaron Heilman, and Willie knows it.

Because of this, we may be seeing Heilman used very sparingly — only when the Mets are ahead by one or two runs, only for three batters or less, and rarely on back-to-back days. In fact, it may be a while before we see Aaron start and complete one full inning.

However, that really ties Willie’s hands behind his back, and shortens up an already short bullpen. As well as Joe Smith has been throwing, Randolph won’t trust him implicity for tight 8th-inning situations until Smith proves himself through at least July. It’s true — as much as Willie likes to say he’ll use the young guys, the truth is, he’s much like his guru Joe Torre in that it takes a long time for him to trust a setup man — and longer if it’s a rookie. With that in mind, Willie’s choices are the men who are supposed to be situational lefties — Feliciano and Schoeneweis. Which means, in turn, that he doesn’t always have his LOOGYs to get the tough outs in the 6th and 7th innings. Add in the fact that Amby Burgos is less trusted than Smith, and you can see why Heilman’s health could become a mini-crisis on a team that relies heavily on the bullpen to win games.

In other words, the Mets are going to have a tough row to hoe until Guillermo Mota returns — and that’s assuming Mota will pitch as well off the juice as he did on it. In the interim, logic would dictate that Burgos would be sent down to the minors, and replaced by another reliever, but the fact is, there’s no one in New Orleans that Willie Randolph would trust anymore than Burgos — so it’s a moot point. It’s not like Willie is going to put Lino Urdaneta or Jon Adkins into tight 7th and 8th inning situations. Which is probably part of the reason we’re not seeing Heilman go on the DL — there’s no one to replace him. The Mets are hoping that they can ease Heilman back to health, and in the meantime don’t look too desperate while trying to make a deal for another setup man. If Heilman goes to the DL, the price for, say, Scott Linebrink just went up.

Maybe Aaron Heilman is fine, and just needs to work out a kink in his mechanics, or cortisone shot for his elbow. Something tells me, though, that it’s wishful thinking.