Archive: May 24th, 2007

Mets Game 46: Loss to Braves

Braves 2 Mets 1

Mets pitcher Tom Glavine pitched just well enough to lose to the Atlanta BravesTom Glavine pitched a good game, but it wasn’t good enough to beat John Smoltz.

Smoltz had his typical unbelievable performance against the Mets, and received a boatload of magnificent support from his defense.

The Mets’ best chance to score against Smoltz came in the top of the third, when they loaded the bases with two out for David Wright. Wright made a check swing with two strikes that the first base umpire ruled was a swing to end the threat. Replays from every angle showed that Wright had checked the swing, and that the pitch was outside and low, but unfortunately the replays mean nothing. Their only other threat came the very next inning, again with two outs, when Paul LoDuca was standing on third and Ruben Gotay at bat. Gotay slashed a wicked grounder that appeared to be destined for right field, but Kelly Johnson made a fantastic diving play to stop the ball and throw Gotay out at first to end the inning.

Oh, and then there was the ninth, when the Mets got the first two runners on, moved them to second and third on a Gotay sacrifice, but only managed one lousy run on a putrid check swing grounder by pinch-hitter Julio Franco. Jose Reyes followed with a just-as-putrid infield popup to end any possibility of a tie, stranding pinch-runner Carlos Gomez at third base.

Meantime, Glavine gave up two runs — one on a sac fly in the first and the other on a solo homer by Matt Diaz leading off the second. He finished up completing six innings, allowing five hits, two walks, and two runs, striking out two, on 110 pitches. Any other night, that output probably results in a win.


Glavine is now 3-10 career against the Braves.

Aaron Heilman retired the Braves 1-2-3 on five pitches in the eighth.

John Smoltz, behind his slippery slider, won his 200th freakin’ game.

Carlos Beltran was 2-for-3 with a walk. Yippee!

Ruben Gotay must have bumped into Willie Randolph on his way into the clubhouse and introduced himself, because Randolph started him at second base. Gotay played flawlessly in the field, dropped the key bunt in the ninth, stroked a line drive base hit in the seventh, and should have had a second hit and RBI in the fourth but was robbed by Johnson. For someone who should have been rusty, he swung the bat a-ight.

Next Game

The Mets continue south to play the Marlins on Friday night. Jason Vargas is listed as starting against Sergio Mitre, but word is that Orlando Hernandez is ready to come back and take his turn instead. Game time is 7:05 PM.


Mets Setup Man

Mets pitcher Joe Smith slinging a pitch from the sideIn last night’s 3-0 shutout of the Braves, Willie Randolph chose Mighty Joe Smith to pitch the eighth, bridging the gap between the outstanding start by Oliver Perez and the 11th consecutive save by Billy Wagner.

At the beginning of this year, Aaron Heilman was the setup man / eighth-inning guy, but he’s had some issues with the long ball of late.

Willie Randolph has also auditioned Scott “The Show” Schoeneweis and Pedro Feliciano in the role, but the results have been mixed. As much as Willie would like to be able to use one or both of those guys for a full inning, it’s becoming more apparent every game that neither is capable of being more than a situational lefty / LOOGY. The Show is quickly pitching himself into Aaron Sele’s mopup role, and has been an extreme disappointment. And, as well as Feliciano has performed, he seems to lose effectiveness after facing two batters.

Enter Joe Smith, the sidewinding rookie who went from spring training invite to unlikely MLBer to now one of the most trusted arms in the New York Mets bullpen. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering Randolph’s tendency to trust his “veteran guys” in critical roles. But so far, Smith has more than fulfilled the “show another look” role (a.k.a. “bring the funk”) vacated by Chad Bradford.

Personally, I didn’t think we’d see Smith pitching 8th innings in tight games for at least another month — based on Willie’s reluctance to trust rookies. But I’m glad to see him in there, and right now have more faith in Smith than I do Heilman (that’s saying something, considering my three-year platonic man-crush on Aaron).

In a few weeks, Guillermo Mota will also be available as a setup option, but until then, it’s going to be a mix of Smith, Heilman, Feliciano, and possibly Amby Burgos — though it would take serious fatigue of the first three before we saw Burgos in a tight situation.

What’s your opinion? Vote in the pollbooth to the right, and leave your comments below.


Last Call for Todd Walker

Todd Walker batting for the San Diego PadresAs of Monday, Todd Walker is retired — but he admits that could change.

With reports that Jose Valentin won’t be ready to rejoin the Mets for at least another month (or possibly longer), and Willie Randolph completely uninterested in using Ruben Gotay in anything other than a Wednesday afternoon game (and there’s a solar eclipse, and Mars is in line with Uranus), wouldn’t it make sense to give Todd Walker a call and see if he’ll tie up the spikes for a few more months?

I know, we’ve covered this story before, but Walker’s 10-day assignment is now complete, and he’s a completely free agent. No players have to be traded, and the contract can be miniscule (he’s already collecting paychecks from both the A’s and the Padres). He can play second base, first base, and third in a pinch, and he’s a professional hitter. There’s nothing wrong with his offensive skills, evidenced by his .271 average with the A’s and the .288 line he compiled with the Padres in the last 44 games of 2006. His limited range at second base is no worse than Easley’s, he’s sure-handed, and he can turn the double-play fairly well. Further, he’s a tough son-of-a-gun, and known to be a great clubhouse guy. Oh, and that .370 average in the 2003 ALCS vs. the Yankees would sure come in handy when the postseason arrives.

Considering that Randolph is committed to playing Easley for a full nine innings every day, there’s no point in Gotay wasting a roster space. If Gotay were being used appropriately — as a late-inning defensive replacement — then there would be no discussion regarding Walker. But since Gotay’s role is as a pinch-hitter and rare second-base starter against righthanders … well, is there any available player on the planet more qualified than Todd Walker? I’m a big Gotay fan, but if we’re in the heat of a September pennant race, and the Mets need a big hit in a key situation off a tough righty late in a ballgame, I’d much rather see Walker at the plate than Ruben.

Enough with the dilly-dallying, Omar — call Todd Walker today and get this done! (And Carlos, get those shears humming!)