Archive: May 12th, 2007

Mets Game 35: Loss to Brewers

Brewers 12 Mets 3

JJ Hardy rounds the basesApparently, the Devil hasn’t paid attention to Major League Baseball in the last ten years, otherwise he wouldn’t have placed Joe Hardy on the Brewers. Hardy is supposed to be ripping up the Yankees, and Beelzebub probably thought Milwaukee was still in the American League. An honest mistake, when you think about it. Who ever would believe that a team could switch leagues? The only way that would ever happen is if the owner of the team was also the Commissioner of Baseball, and …

Anyway, I digress …

So J.J. Hardy is apparently getting the same B-12 shots that Miguel Tejada gave Brian Roberts in 2005 — except he’s on a pace to hit about 50 homeruns instead of 18 (hmm … maybe it was a mixup with one of Brady Anderson’s 1996 vitamins). Hardy had only one hit, but it was a grand slam off Joe Smith in the 8th that essentially ended the game — his second tater in as many games. Hardy is now leading the NL in RBI and is tied for the homerun lead with Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn, and Prince Fielder. Huh. Maybe Houston shortstop Adam Everett should have a chat with Hardy, since they were more or less the same player a year ago.

Before Hardy put the game out of reach, the Mets looked to have an outside chance of stealing the game away from the Brewers, who should have put the game away much earlier. It was a 4-3 game before the Brew Crew came to bat in the 8th, but things changed quickly as Pedro Feliciano gave up a leadoff single, Craig Counsell intentionally allowed the ball to hit him on a bunt attempt, and Gabe Gross was legitimately hit by the first pitch thrown by reliever Joe Smith. Then Tony Gwynn, Jr. worked the count full before swatting a bases-loaded single, and Hardy hit the first pitch he saw over the fence. Within five minutes, the game went from very tight to out of hand.

Looking back, the only reason the Mets made it as close as it was up to that point was due to Ben Sheets pulling an Oliver Perez. Sheets was throwing very well through the first four innings — borderline dominating — but lost his sh*t in the fifth after Billy Hall dove for a Shawn Green fly that turned into a triple. Why Sheets panicked with a four-run lead and Mike Pelfrey facing him is anyone’s guess, but the misplay clearly affected Big Ben’s game. After Green’s blast, Paul LoDuca worked a ten-pitch walk to further infuriate Sheets, and he uncorked a wild pitch to Ruben Gotay to score Green. Gotay grounded out, advancing LoDuca, but pinch-hitter David Newhan mashed the first pitch he saw over the rightfield fence to make the game 4-3. Unfortunately, that inning was the exent of the excitement for the hometown fans. The Mets collected only six hits the entire game, looking defensive and overmatched in their swings against Sheets and the Brewer bullpen.

Meantime, Mike Pelfrey did not pass muster in his fifth start. He allowed 4 earned runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings, and looked much worse than that. Once again, he was a nervous nelly in the first inning, allowing one run but barely escaping before more damage was done. He got through a scoreless second against the bottom of the order, but allowed another run in the third and two in the fourth. His command was erratic, and his fielding was inadequate; at least three base hits were right back up the middle, and he was too slow in covering first base on a ground ball to the right side in the fourth.

With each start, Pelfrey looks less and less like a Big Leaguer. In fact, he’s shown nothing to suggest that he’s ready to pitch at this level, and does none of the little things to help himself. As a sinkerballer, he should field his position well, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t mix up his moves and takes too long to deliver the ball, so players run wild on the bases. He can’t hit whatsoever, and isn’t able to bunt, either. For a guy who is supposed to be pitching to contact, he walks too many batters. He cannot throw his change-up for strikes, and as a result relies on a flat slider too often for strikes. Add all these issues to an obvious lack of confidence, and there’s only one decision best for everyone: go down to the minors and get some seasoning.

Some day, Pelfrey might evolve into a solid Major League pitcher — maybe an excellent one. But first he needs to develop his secondary stuff, and he must improve his overall game. It’s not fair to him nor the Mets to have him try to figure everything out on the big stage. Even if El Duque misses his next few starts — which looks likely — I’d be surprised to see Pelfrey take another turn.


Not a whole lot of positives in this game. The Mets, as a team, played sloppy baseball. For example, in the fourth inning, with one out and down by four, David Wright smacked a line drive to the right field wall and was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. He was out by about five feet, and had no business trying for an extra base in that situation — not when you have sluggers like the two Carloses coming up next. In a tight game, maybe, but down by four — no.

It wasn’t any better in the field, epitomized by a crazy play in the fourth. Pelfrey loaded the bases with one out and appeared to have gotten a big out by inducing Prince Fielder to pop up to shallow right. Ruben Gotay backpedaled to catch the ball, and Craig Counsell — the poor man’s version of David Eckstein — incredulously tagged up from third and ran home. With his momentum going backward and on his heels, Gotay had no chance to make a strong throw and Counsell scored easily. However, Tony Gwynn had also tagged up from second and J.J. Hardy from first, and Paul LoDuca had Hardy caught between first and second. LoDuca fired the ball to Reyes at second, who was not paying attention to the fact that Gwynn never slowed down and was rounding third. Hardy stayed in the rundown long enough to allow Gwynn to score before being tagged for the final out of the inning. In 34 years of watching baseball — at all levels — that was the first time I ever saw two runners score on an infield fly that resulted in an inning-ending double play. You don’t see comedy like this in little league!

Jose Reyes was an ugly 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Against Sheets’ curveball, Reyes appeared to regress to 2005, flailing away at breaking pitches in the dirt. A good deuce can do that to a hitter.

Carlos Delgado also had a bad day, also 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts. He wasn’t getting any help from home plate umpre Phil Cuzzi, either, who was calling high and outside strikes on Delgado all day.

Moises Alou was hitless as well, but more importantly, left the game with a strained left quadriceps muscle. Expect “Everyday Endy” to be in the lineup for the next few days.

Next Game

The rubber match pits human slot machine Oliver Perez against ace lefty Chris Capuano for a 1:10 PM start. Oh, you thought Ben Sheets was the ace? Think again. Capuano is currently 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA and a stingy 1.13 WHIP. He threw eight shutout innings against the Nationals in his last start. Let’s hope Ollie can keep his underpants clean for this start and give the Mets one of those seven-inning masterpieces.


Mike Pelfrey: Do or Die?

Mike Pelfrey pitching for the New York MetsEarly May is hardly the time to evaluate a Major League Baseball player. Only a month into the season, it can take some time for guys to get into the swing of things, find a rhythm, and make minor mechanical adjustments. Also, the weather is just starting to get comfortable, and many players simply don’t play well in the often chilly, unpredictable April weather.

So is it too early to say that today’s start against the Brewers is a “do or die” situation for young Mike Pelfrey?


In five starts so far this year, Pelfrey has zero wins and four losses. Those four losses represent one-third of the team’s total loss count. With the Braves back to their “win 3, lose 1” routine, and the Mets a half game behind in the standings, every win — and loss — counts.

Over those five starts, Pelfrey has a 6.39 ERA. In 25.1 innings, he has given up 28 hits and 14 walks. As a sinkerball pitcher, you don’t mind the hits so much, as he’s supposed to pitch to contact. The 14 walks, however, are alarming.

His best start came on May 1, when he pitched into the 7th inning (6 1/3 total) and gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs. Not an outstanding game, but encouraging. His other four starts range from awful to poor to so-so. He’s been shaky at the start of games, looking uncomfortable and confused in the early innings. He’s also been inefficient, getting to his 100-pitch count before he can get into any kind of rhythm. In addition, he does not help himself with the little things, as he is below-average to poor when it comes to holding runners, fielding his position, hitting, and bunting.

All these signs suggest that MIke Pelfrey simply isn’t ready to pitch at the Major League level. How long will the Mets continue to allow him to learn on the job, while they fight the Braves for first place?

Part of the reason Pelfrey has made it this far is by default: there simply aren’t any better options in the organization. If El Duque didn’t go down, Jorge Sosa might have forced Pelfrey’s demotion. Other than Sosa, the Mets have little else in AAA. Chan Ho Park failed miserably in his one start, and both Philip Humber and Jason Vargas are at a similar stage in development to Pelfrey. Humber was just named the PCL pitcher of the week, but his 4.86 ERA isn’t exactly earth-shattering. Vargas is at 5.30, mixing in good starts with bad.

Things aren’t getting any easier for Pelfrey; today he faces the red-hot Brewers, who will be trotting ace Ben Sheets to the mound. If he loses again, he’ll be 0-5, and the Mets will have to start to consider how losing is going to affect the kid’s confidence and long-term development — not to mention the team’s chances to overtake the Braves. How far do you let him go? 0-7? 0-10? At what point does he —and the team — think a loss is the most probable outcome when he takes the mound? The Tigers let Jeremy Bonderman lose 19 games his rookie year, and didn’t blossom until three years later. Was it the right move? Who knows?

Chances are, Pelfrey will get at least one more start beyond today’s — really, it all depends on how much longer El Duque is out. With Sosa turning in back-to-back masterpieces, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out who goes down when El Duque returns.

On Pelfrey’s side is this: if he pitches well, and earns a win, it will be a tremendous boost of confidence, the kind that he can ride through his next few starts. Beating the team with MLB’s best record, against their ace pitcher, can do wonders for an impressionable young kid trying to find his way. He’s shown subtle development so far, but nothing to get overly excited about. Rather than a “good effort” in a losing cause, Pelfrey is ripe for a big win over a formidable opponent — something that he can build on going forward. Beating the Brewers could give him enough confidence to ride to a win in his next start, and make the decision of who to demote more difficult when El Duque leaves the DL.

Otherwise, he’ll likely find himself in New Orleans.


Mets Game 34: Win over Brewers

Mets 5 Brewers 4

This was a big win for two reasons. One, the monkey named Jeff Suppan is off the Mets’ back. Two, the Mets are one win away from winning the series.

The Suppan thing was especially irritating, considering that he is the epitome of “average”. A lineup like the Mets is not supposed to be dumbfounded by someone like Suppan, even on his best day — and certainly not in their own house. By beating Suppan on this Friday evening, there is little chance of a Mike Scott-like mental issue entering the picture. With the Brewers looking as good as they are in this young season, it’s less than a longshot that these teams will meet again in the postseason.

As far as the series goes, this was the game the Mets were supposed to win, and it was important from the standpoint of re-establishing home field advantage. During their last homestand, the Mets were “supposed” to take two of three from the Marlins — and in particular game two against Ricky Nolasco. Instead, they lost two of three, just as they had in the previous week at Shea against the Braves. The habit of losing at home has to stop if the Mets are to contend for the NL East crown — especially with the Braves back to their winning ways. A team must be comfortable and confident in their own house, especially when the postseason starts. What? May is too early to be thinking about the postseason? Peeshaw!

About the game …

Jorge Sosa had another surprisingly effective outing, though he still likes to give up the gopher ball. Sosa nearly finished seven full innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and only 2 earned runs. The only negative was that half the hits were homeruns. After throwing his 100th pitch, he walked off the mound to a standing ovation and a 5-2 lead. Pedro Feliciano came on to strike out pinch-hitter Corey Hart to end the inning. Lucky for Feliciano, Hart was wearing his Sunglasses at Night

Aaron Heilman chose to make the game interesting by giving up an infield hit and a two-run homer to the first two batters he faced in the eighth, then rebounded to retire the next three and setup a tight save opp for Billy Wagner. Wagner, who appreciates tight games, obliged by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth — in an efficient 6 pitches, 5 for strikes — to earn his 9th save.

Four of the the Mets’ five runs came via the longball, beginning with a solo shot by David Wright to left-center in the fourth. Carlos Beltran followed with an infield single, then Carlos Delgado went a yard to the opposite field to put the Mets ahead 3-zip. Moises Alou continued the brigade with a near homer off the centerfield fence that resulted in a double, and two batters later was driven in on a single by Paul LoDuca to make the score 4-0. Damion “Dr. Dramatic” Easley added an insurance run on a solo homer into his favorite spot — in the vicinity of the leftfield bleachers — in the seventh. As it turned out, the insurance was a sound investment, as his blast was the decisive blow.

Similarly, the Brew Crew scored all their runs on homers, as Geoff Jenkins and Prince Fielder touched Sosa for solos before J.J. Hardy got to Heilman in the 8th. Fielder’s shot was a line-drive missile; Shawn Green and Carlos Beltran did not even move, they just turned and watched it fly just below sign beyond the rightfield fence. It was a hanging 0-2 slider.


Jose Reyes swiped his 20th stolen base. He’s on a pace to steal 95 for the season.

Paul LoDuca continues to stop the running game. He threw out Rickie Weeks on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out DP in the first. He’s now nailed 10-of-16.

We’ve been waiting for Wright and Delgado to get hot, and what do you know? Great timing, since Moises Alou has been cold and it appears Shawn Green is cooling off as well. Wright’s homer was the first hit of the game for the Mets, and followed a long fly to the right-center wall in his first at-bat. Both shots began as line drives, so maybe he really is on his way back.

Similarly, Delgado’s homer went over the leftfield fence, and when Carlos is hitting well, he’s waiting well. A great sign to see him driving the ball to the opposite field, especially after hitting his last homer off his front foot. Beltran, by the way, might have been out preceding Delgado’s blast. Prince Fielder ranged far to the left to nab a grounder, whirled and threw a perfect strike to Suppan, who seemed to beat Beltran to the bag by a half step. However, the first base umpire ruled that he was off the bag. It was an extremely close play that could have gone either way, and in the end turned out to be much larger than it was at the time.

Alou missed the third homerun of the fourth inning by about six feet; it bounced a little higher than halfway up the centerfield wall.

Not sure how Sosa is doing it, but I’ll take it. Eventually, the fact that he doesn’t throw a true offspeed pitch, and often throws the slider for a strike (meaning, it stays flat), will catch up to him. Hopefully, he can continue the magic until El Duque comes back.

Next Game

Mike Pelfrey vs. Ben Sheets at 1:10 PM. By winning the opener, some pressure is removed from Pelfrey to keep a series win alive. A win would sure be a nice shot in the arm for the 0-4 Pelfrey — and might be necessary to extend his stay on the 25-man roster.