Going against reigning Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb, not much was expected of Jorge Sosa. The Mets hoped he could somehow get through five innings and hold the Diamondbacks to a few runs in what promised to be a low-scoring game. In other words, keep the Mets in the game, keep things close enough to give the bats a chance to win. If he could do that, Willie Randolph would be ecstatic.
Instead, Sosa gave Willie six and one-third innings of shutout ball.
In those 6 1/3, Sosa gave up 4 hits, 2 walks and 1 earned run, striking out 3 in the process. 65 of his 101 pitches were strikes, as he mixed a 95-MPH fastball with a diving slider. Simply put, he did more than keep the Mets in the game — he handed them an opportunity to win.
Sosa seemed a bit nervous in the first inning, giving up a single and a walk, but settled down to end the threat without a run. Few believed it would be Arizona’s best chance to score for the next five innings.
In the top of the second, Shawn Green dropped an opposite-field, two-run homer over the leftfield fence to provide a seemingly fragile lead that stood for much of the game.
Then the dam burst.
It started out simply enough — two walks issued to the two Carloses by Brandon Webb to start the inning. Paul LoDuca followed with a line drive single to leftfield that went under Jerry Hairston’s glove and to the wall, scoring Beltran and Delgado and landing LoDuca on third. A few pitches later, Shawn Green jumped on a high change-up and sent a grounder up the middle to score LoDuca. Green stole second and was advanced to third on a chopper back to the pitcher hit by Damion Easley. Endy Chavez followed with a sacrifice fly to score Green and make the score 6-0.
Other than the homer to Green, Webb had pitched very well up to that point. He clearly had run out of gas but D’Backs manager Bob Melvin was caught blindsided by the sudden lack of effectiveness, and had no one getting ready in the bullpen. It was up to Webb to get himself out of the inning, and luckily for the Mets, he wasn’t up to the task.
Brandon Webb had a lot of fun in the early innings displaying his overhand curveball. His 12-6 deuce is a prime example of why I disagree with Rick Peterson’s decision to ditch Mike Pelfrey’s curve. I simply do not buy into the idea that sinkerballers have to be sinker-slider pitchers, nor that the slider is a more appropriate complement to a sinker than a curve. The reason I prefer a curve is that it can and should be thrown in the strike zone; it’s a pitch you throw for strikes. In contrast, the slider is a pitch that is more effective when thrown OUT of the strike zone; when pitchers force it over the plate, it tends to flatten and be very hittable. Even John Smoltz’s nasty slider is vulnerable when thrown for a strike. OK, I’ve stepped down off the soapbox … just had to get that off my chest.
David Wright had shown signs of breaking out of his slump, but is now 1-13 in this series. He’s still taking more of an uppercut swing as opposed to the more level, line-drive cut he used previous to last year’s All-Star game. Last week, Keith Hernandez also pointed out a more pronounced front leg lift, which may also be throwing things off. Until he corrects these issues, Wright can forget about being a .300 hitter again.
Delgado, on the other hand, is stroking the ball better, though he is still swinging too hard on occasion. Watch him and you’ll see that both of his feet leave the ground when he swings and misses — he’s actually jumping at the ball. He’ll be fine once he starts staying back and taking a more controlled swing.
Sosa may have benefitted from a weak Arizona lineup. His inability to throw anything other than the fastball for a strike could make him vulnerable to stronger offenses. (Similarly, John Maine had trouble spotting off-speed pitches on Friday night, but it didn’t seem to matter much against Arizona’s weak bats.) However, you can’t knock his guts and ability to rise to the occasion in this standout performance. At the very least, he deserves another start — if needed.
Joe Smith did what he needed to do to preserve the shutout, inducing a routine double-play grounder from Chris Snyder in the seventh. However, Jose Reyes botched the transfer from Damion Easley, and Snyder reached base safely to extend the inning. Pinch-hitter Miguel Montero doubled over the head of Endy Chavez to score two runs. Smith then struck out Eric Byrnes to end the inning.
Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman did their usual thing to close out a game that had been over since the second inning.
For those that missed it, Amby Burgos was sent down to make room for Sosa. So, Lino Urdaneta may yet get a chance to turn that sideways eight into a real number.
Mike Pelfrey faces Livan Hernandez at 4:40 PM EST in a Sunday afternoon game.
In the 9th inning of the first game of this series, things looked bleak for the Mets. They were down 4-3, Jose Valverde looked to be on his way to an 11th save, and the possibility of being swept seemed entirely plausible. After all, John Maine was due to take a loss (wasn’t he?), the always-tough Brandon Webb was on the hill on Saturday night, and if they had lost the first three, it seemed very unlikely that Pelfrey would have a chance to beat the wily veteran Hernandez.
However, the combination of a meltdown by Valverde and one sweet swing of the bat by Damion Easley turned not just the game, but the entire series around. Now, a sweep is indeed possible, but by the Mets OVER the D’Backs.