Browsing Archive May, 2007

Win Free Mets Tickets

The contest to win free tickets to the May 29th game between the Mets and Giants is now open.

Visit the Contest Entry page for the questions and the submission form. You will have to answer four questions in order to be placed into the drawing … but they’re not that hard, and three of the answers can be found by poking around this site for about ten minutes.

Once again, there are two tickets, on the Loge level, Section 20, which is on the leftfield side just beyond third base.

Oh, there is one catch … the winner MUST stand up and sing at least one chorus of “Lazy Mary” during the seventh-inning stretch (don’t worry, you’ll have backup).

The contest closes on Wednesday, May 23rd, at 4:00 PM. The winner will be notified shortly thereafter.

Disclaimer: MetsToday cannot guarantee that Barry Bonds will hit his 756th homerun, and further, cannot guarantee that Bonds will be playing without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. Therefore, the winner is advised to watch Barroid at his own risk.

Good Luck !

UPDATE: if you have been having technical difficulties with the form, please email the answers directly to joe (at) janish (dot) com

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Preview: Mets vs. Braves III

John Smoltz pitching for the Atlanta BravesThe third series between the two tops teams in the NL East commences on Tuesday at 7:35 PM in Atlanta. The Mets are coming off a fine series against the crosstown Yankees, while the Braves limp back from Fenway, taking a beating in Boston in two out of the three games. The weekend’s events extended the space between the two teams, as the Mets remain on top of the East with the Braves behind by two and a half games.

Herewith is a quick preview of the series.

Pitching Matchups

Game One: Jorge Sosa vs. Kyle Davies
Just when we were ready to anoint John Maine the NL’s All-Star starter, he strings together two consecutive awful starts. With that in mind, I’ll continue to reserve judgment on Jorge Sosa, who is pitching way over his head.

Kyle Davies represents an enigma of sorts. He’s pitched two masterful games — one against the Mets — but has been mediocre to terrible in his other five starts, often having trouble getting through five innings. He may well be the Braves’ version of Ollie Perez.

Game Two: Oliver Perez vs. Chuck James
The “good” Ollie has been showing up more often than not, and the Braves have already seen him at his best this year. Chuck James is similar to Davies in that he’s pitched two magnificent games, but not nearly as well in his other seven starts. However, he’s been mostly mediocre as opposed to terrible, and he usually pitches into the sixth. He was banged around for ten hits, three homers, and six runs in five innings in his last start against the Mets.

Game Three: Tom Glavine vs. John Smoltz
This is getting to be a habit; once again the feature game pits pals, former teammates, and team aces Glavine and Smoltz. Smoltz served well in his role as stopper in Boston, subverting a massacre by shutting out the Red Sox on Satruday for seven innings of three-hit ball. He pitched poorly in his last start against the Mets, but eeked out a no-decision as the Braves stole the game by scoring six runs off the Mets’ bullpen. Considering that Glavine is unlikely to pitch past the sixth, and Smoltz is unlikely to be ineffective against the Mets a second time, it could once again be a battle of the bullpens. Hopefully the Mets will have worn out the Braves relievers in the first two games.

Mets Bats

David Wright is back, and in a homerun-hitting frenzy. Jose Reyes is batting .400 over the last seven games, and both Endy Chavez and Paul LoDuca are in a groove.

However, Carlos Beltran has cooled off lately, and Carlos Delgado is sputtering like an old Ford with vapor lock — he surges for a moment, then stops. Additionally, though Damion Easley pops a ball into the bleachers every once in a while, his .270 batting average isn’t enough to overcome his deficiencies in the field. Between Easley and Delgado on the right side of the infield, I’ve seen better range from lawn chairs.

Braves Bats

Matt Diaz is batting .526 in his last seven games; I’d say that qualifies as “hot”. Edgar Renteria is hitting .414 and Jeff Francoeur .310 over the same span. Larry “Chipper” Jones is also swinging a hot stick, at .367 over the last week, and newcomer Willie Harris has been seeing more playing time based on a 10-for-29 streak.

Want to know cold? Ask Andruw Jones, who is 3-for-his-last-29 and struck out 5 times in Sunday’s finale at Fenway. Kelly Johnson is cooling off as well, thank goodness. Hopefully the Mets starters will remember to throw anything but a strike for the first pitch of the game.

Bob Wickman is the Inspector Clouseau of savesSummary

For the Mets to take two of three from the Braves, the bats need to beat up on Davies and James early and often, and get into Braves bullpen, which has been vulnerable in the middle innings. The Mets do not want to be down a few runs in the eighth, because Rafael Soriano has been lights out and Bob Wickman is the Inspector Clouseau of closing — somehow bungling his way into a save.

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FREE Mets Tickets !

There will soon be a combination drawing / contest held here, with the winner receiving two tickets to the Mets-Giants game on Tuesday, May 29th (7:10 PM start).

Tickets are in the Loge, Section 20 (left field line, a bit past third base).

There is no guarantee that Barry Bonds will hit his 755th homerun during that game, but anything is possible.

Check back here later today for the contest details.

One note: you will need to be a registered member of MetsToday to be part of the drawing … the rest of the contest is currently being worked out.

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Mets Game 43: Loss to Yankees

Yankees 6 Mets 2

John Maine covers his face but can't hide from the travestyFor the second consecutive start, it was not a good day for John Maine. In fact, he appears to be in something of a slump, when you compare his latest performances to the first six starts of the season. It looks like he’s not finishing his pitches, following through near his waist instead of below his knee — as a result the ball is higher in the strike zone than it should be.

Of course, all the number-crunching statheads are running forward now, screaming their “I told you so’s”, pointing at the FIP, BABIP, and other nonsensical numbers spit out by their calculators.

Personally, I don’t need any complex formulas to explain why John Maine pitched poorly — regardless of what the “batting average on balls in play” is. With my two eyes, I saw: Paul LoDuca set up outside, Maine pitches inside. LoDuca set up inside, Maine throws outside. Maine hangs a flat change-up. Maine misses high and out with the fastball when LoDuca’s target is down and in. This visual experience suggests that Maine does not have his command, is missing his spots, and throwing fat pitches that are easy to hit.

Maine’s debacle of a game resulted in: 5 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, 5 earned runs, 2 homers, 107 pitches. He seemed to go full count on every batter, as the Yankees suddenly remembered how to take pitches. A bad, bad game for Johnny Maine — but he’ll find his way again.

For the Yankees, Tyler Clippard chose his Major League debut to have the greatest day of his life — and it wasn’t even his birthday. It’s amazing what a little bit of confidence can do to propel performance — in addition to his remarkable pitching, he also laid down a good bunt and blasted a double — this from a guy who probably hasn’t had an at-bat since PONY League (actually, he looks like a 15-year-old in PONY League). Clippard should have been knocked out of the game in the second inning, when David Wright blasted an opposite-field homer and then Mets loaded the bases — capped by a walk to the offensively challenged John Maine. Jose Reyes came up and worked a 3-1 count, but could not take advantage and popped out to leftfield. It was the turning point in the game, as it gave Clippard a boost of momentum. Had Reyes come through with a base hit in that situation, I bet my bottom dollar the game would have gone very differently from that point forward. As it was, Clippard retired 11 of the next 13 batters, as the Mets didn’t come close to mounting anything of a threat from innings three through six; it was as if the offense turned their switch to “off”.

Notes

Why isn’t Ruben Gotay getting any starts at second base — other than day games after night games? Damion Easley is NOT an everyday player, so there’s no point in exposing his deficiencies day after day, when the Mets have a much better fielder, faster runner, and equal hitter available. I understand Willie Randolph’s thing about playing “his guys” and his trust in the veterans, so it’s fine if he wants to play Easley for the majority of the time. But I don’t understand why the “majority” can’t be 3 games out of every 5, or four games per week, and then giving Gotay more than one start every full moon. This game, with a rookie righthander on the mound, was a perfect opportunity to give Gotay a start.

Maybe Gotay remained on the bench because Randolph had a hunch that Easley would hit a meaningless homerun in the ninth inning of a 6-2 game

Jose Reyes is having a difficult time discerning the inside strike lately. He struck out twice looking on inside fastballs in this game, and has struck out looking several other times in the last two weeks on similar pitches.

Scott “The Show” Schoeneweis had a fantastic outing, allowing NO RUNS in his one inning of work. And it only took him two dozen pitches! The Show walked one, allowed one hit, struck out two, and lowered his ERA to six and a half.

Aaron Heilman threw two effective innings of relief in mop-up duty.

Paul LoDuca was 2-for-4, the only Met with more than one hit. Ruben Gotay and Shawn Green both hit doubles, Gotay as a pinch-hitter.

The Alex Rodriguez phenomena reared its ugly head once again in this game. With the Yankees down 1-0 in the top of the third with one out and men on second and third, A-Rod whiffed on three pitches. He did, however, manage to rip a line-drive homer in the seventh when the Yanks were already up 5-1. Rodriguez also hit a solo homer in Saturday’s game, when the Yankees were down 8-3. Oh, and while he had that crazy April, hitting 14 homers and batting .355, his team spent most of the month mired in last place. He might be the most talented player in baseball history, but he’s yet to prove that he’s a winning ballplayer.

There was a point in the game — or was it the entire game? — when Joe Morgan was rambling on about something for several minutes, and I’m certain no one heard a word he said. My guess is that most viewers were like me, and managed to completely tune him out after the top half of the first inning. Hopefully the subconscious mind didn’t pick up and store any of his mindless drivel.

Morgan’s monotony was occasionally broken by the “Boston Bore”, Peter Gammons. ESPN might want to consider playing some soft jazz music in the background, in lieu of paying several non-personalities to provide color commentary (actually, the ESPN team should be termed “pallid commentary”.

Hey, anyone remember Victor Diaz? He’s the guy I thought should have been starting in front of Xavier Nady last year. A bad call, in retrospect, but maybe I was a year off — he went 4-for-5 with two dingers against Houston, and now has four homers in his last five games, batting .308 on the season in limited duty.

Next Game

The Mets have Monday off, then travel to lovely Atlanta to play the second-place Braves. Tuesday’s game starts at 7:35 PM, and has Jorge Sosa facing Kyle Davies.

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Mets Game 42: Win over Yankees

Mets 10 Yankees 7

Joe Torre looks on as the Mets rain down on the YankeesWhat began as a blowout ended as a near-nailbiter.

The storyline was impressive: it was wet, it was wild, it was boring for a while, yet by the end you were on the edge of your seat, hoping that Billy Wagner was not made of sugar and be melted down by the pouring rain (he’s not, and so he wasn’t).

With plenty of offensive support, Tom Glavine cruised to his 295th career victory, and fifth of the season. His stuff was mediocre, command slightly off, and the home plate umpire squeezed him — but somehow Glavine held the mighty Yanks to three runs on nine hits and two walks. He tossed 101 pitches in six innings, only 58 for strikes, as he picked around the plate to patient Yankee hitters. No doubt he benefitted from a quick launch of the Met offensive, which afforded Glavine an 8-2 lead in the fourth inning. The Mets scored early and often, and combined with Glavine’s assorted slowballs, the Yankees were lulled into near sleep.

Robinson Cano, in particular, appeared to be sleepwalking. He committed three errors, and would have been charged with a fourth if not for the technicality that you can’t assume a double play. Looking back, his miscues may have been the difference in the ballgame, as the Yankees rallied late and eventually lost by three runs.

The Mets pounded out 12 hits and 10 runs, with David Wright making a statement by hitting two two-run homers. The statement was heard — loud and clear — as Wright was walked intentionally the next three times he came to the plate.

Believe it or not, the scoring began in the first inning with — guess who? — Jose Reyes, who led the game off with a single, stole second, moved to third on an Endy Chavez infield hit, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran. That story sound familiar?

The Yankees were struck by yet another stroke of incredibly bad luck, as starter Darrell Rasner had to leave the game after allowing the aforementioned single to Chavez. Endy bounced a ball back through the box, which deflected off Rasner’s hand and fractured his index finger. Rasner had to leave the game and was relieved by LOOGY Mike Myers. Myers performed well, considering that he collects a paycheck for the sole purpose of retiring David Ortiz. However, his submarining style was no match for the bat of Wright, who blasted one of his offerings high over the leftfield bleachers, extending the Mets’ first inning lead to 3-1.

In the second, the Mets let up on Myers a bit, scoring only one on a single by Legendary Endy. However, Carlos Delgado led off the third with a single, and David Wright reminded Myers of his skillset by launching his second homer off of the outstretched glove of Johnny Damon and over the centerfield wall. That second tater must have sparked the memory of Joe Torre, who suddenly realized Ortiz wasn’t on the Mets and therefore removed Myers from the game.

Luis Vizcaino came in to keep the Mets from scoring further in the third, but in the fourth was victimized for two tack-on runs on a double by Delgado and a fielder’s choice by Shawn Green. By then the Mets were tired from so much swinging, and took a break for four innings.

Meantime, Glavine slopped his way through six before Willie Randolph felt bad for his old mentor and team and chose to throw a bone: Scott Schoeneweis. “The Show” gave up a run-scoring single to Derek Jeter in the seventh and back-to-back homers to A-Rod and Jorge Posada to start the eighth. Randolph saw that as a fair amount of runs to give away, and called Pedro Feliciano in to clean up the mess. Instea, Pedro made things more interesting, giving up a run-scoring double to Josh Phelps and putting Yankees on first and third with Jerky Deter at the plate. Aaron Heilman was summoned to put an end to the madness and he retired Jeter on a groundout.

With the Yankees now within striking distance, the Mets decided to get the offense going again. Carlos Beltran walked, D-Wright was walked intentionally, and with the wet weather pulled off a double steal without drawing a throw from Posada. Seeing that Robinson Cano had dropped the ball every time it came near him, pinch-hitter Julio Franco guided a grounder in Cano’s general direction and, lo and behold, Robinson booted it — literally. Cano made a diving stop of the ball, tumbled over and attempted to throw to first while laying on his back, but instead bounced the ball against his foot, allowing both Beltran and Wright to score.

Billy Wagner came on to close out the ninth, but not before giving up two singles and a run on his throwing error. He rebounded though, striking out Cano and Phelps swinging, stranding men on first and third to earn his 11th save.

Notes

Endy Chavez went 4-for-5, and is now hitting .390 on the year. My wife would like to know why he isn’t an everyday player, and that’s getting to be a more intriguing question each week.

Jose Reyes stole two bases, and the Mets stole five on the day — including one by Shawn Green that went uncontested.

Delgado was 2-for-5, and looked more comfortable at the plate than he has all year.

Schoeneweis threw 25 pitches, 11 for strikes. His ERA is now 6.88.

The Boston Red Sox whipped the Atlanta Braves 13-3, extending their lead over the Yankees while simultaneously helping the Mets. Nice work, boys.

Next Game

The series finale pits John Maine vs. Tyler Clippard, who will be making his Major League debut. If it wasn’t bad enough to have to listen to the “smooth as velvet” Joe Buck and eternally annoying Tim McCarver today, tomorrow’s game is an 8:05 PM start on ESPN. I can’t WAIT to hear Joe Morgan tell us about his days with the Colt .45s and similarly inane comparisons to what may or may not be happening on the field.

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Mets Game 41: Win over Yankees

Mets 3 Yankees 2

Empire State Building Lit Mets Blue and OrangeManhattan will bask beneath the glow of Mets blue and orange for at least one night.

In the feature pitching matchup of the series, both starters struggled ever so slightly in the initial inning. One yielded a run as a result, the other managed to strand a runner at third. At the end of the game, that first frame was all the difference.

Oliver Perez may have his meltdowns, but he has a penchant for rising to the occasion in big games. Though interleague play may have lost its luster, Friday night with the Yankees at Shea was a different ballgame than, say, Mets-Marlins. The stadium was packed, the fans were loud, the media present en masse, and the atmosphere abuzz with an edge of electricity.

And Ollie was awesome.

Perez went one out short of eight full innings, allowing just two runs — courtesy of a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui — five hits and two walks, while striking out five. He was “on”, he was focused, and he was cool as a cucumber. His stuff was short of dominating, but good enough to win. Other than the Matsui homer, the Yankees never threatened after the first inning — in fact, other than the first, the Yanks did not have more than one runner on base in any inning.

However, Andy Pettitte matched Perez inning for inning, and was much more efficient. Pettitte threw just 87 pitches in his seven strong innings of work, allowing five hits and one walk. However, he made one big mistake: a gopher ball to “Legendary Endy” Chavez in the bottom of the fifth, which followed Paul LoDuca’s leadoff double. Those two runs, added to one scratched out in the bottom of the first on a Carlos Delgado sacrifce fly, were the difference in the ballgame.

Perez received a standing ovation when he left the game with two outs in the eighth. Joe Smith — and not Aaron Heilman — came on to strike out Derek Jeter looking on a 3-2 pitch.

Billy Wagner’s ninth was a little more exciting than we would have liked, but through no fault of his own. The potential game-ending grounder was mishandled by Damion Easley and his throw to first pulled Delgado off the bag — though the play was ruled a hit. Wagner went to a full count against pinch-hitter Jason Giambi, who fouled off several pitches before swinging over a nasty slider.

Notes

Endy’s legend grows a little more each week. He may be the most beloved Met of all time before it’s all over, if he keeps pumping out these crowd-pleasing dramatics. In addition to the deciding homer, Endy also threw out Johnny Damon trying to stretch a single into a double in the first. Had Damon made it, the Yankees might have scored at least one more run, since Perez had some trouble with his control at the beginning of the game.

Paul LoDuca was the only Met with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with two doubles. The Yankees were playing him toward rightfield, but Paulie was zoning middle-in and drove two balls down the leftfield line.

Why was Damion Easley in the field in the ninth inning? Ruben Gotay may not be Anderson Hernandez, but he’s significantly better defensively than Easley. Willie takes the “my guys” thing a little too far sometimes … you’d think he would have seen the 1986 World Series Game Six at least once (SNY plays it every two days, after all) — remember, that game that Boston manager John McNamara left in one of “his guys” at first base?

Interesting to see Smith come in to finish the 8th instead of Heilman, since both were well-rested. Jeter’s 1-for-4 lifetime against Heilman, so it probably wasn’t a statistical matchup thing. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks Heilman is hurt. The logical part of me says Willie liked the idea of putting Smith out there because no one on the Yankees had seen him before, and he is nearly unhittable to the uninitiated.

These are not the Yankees of years past. They were flat, boring, and lifeless. It seemed like they didn’t even want to be on the field.

Biggest boos went to A-Rod and Derek Jee-Duh.

Next Game

Tom Glavine goes for win #295 against rookie Darrell Rasner. Game time is FOX-mandated 3:55 PM.

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Preview: Mets vs. Yankees

Alex Rodriguez ponders the subway seriesThe Subway Series !

Ho hum … maybe if they didn’t do this twice a year, every year, it would seem more interesting. For some reason, it doesn’t feel nearly as special as it used to. In fact, it’s something of an annoyance — kind of like going out on New Year’s or St. Patrick’s Day. You know — all the amateurs are out. Similarly, Shea and the bars will be filled with pedestrian New York fans who watch the All-Star Game, one or two World Series games, and the “Subway Series”.

Not to take the excitement out … after all, this is still a big series for both teams — but not because it has something to do with crosstown rivalry.

Rather, the Mets are 1.5 games up on the Braves, so every game counts. By contrast, the Yankees are 9 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, and fading fast. The Yanks can’t afford to continue their current slide if they want to see the postseason, and really need to right the ship, right away. We can pretend that the two teams will be battling for bragging rights, but in reality it’s not about that.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Here’s how the games stack up:

Game One: Oliver Perez vs. Andy Pettitte

The lefties do battle in what appears to be the most exciting pitching matchup of the series. Who will take the mound for the Mets — Dr. Perez or Mr. Hyde? Andy Pettitte will likely do his usual thing — pitch 6-7 innings, give up one or two runs — but will the rest of the Yankee team support him? If the “good” Ollie shows up, it could be a great game.

Game Two: Tom Glavine vs. Darrel Rasner

Darrell who? Glavine has got to get his 295th win out of this game, right? Well, Rasner’s no slouch, and is actually one of the Yanks’ better starters at this point in the season. Rasner is kind of where John Maine was at the beginning of the second half last year — good low 90s fastball, inconsistent breaking pitch, inadequate changeup, but somehow does well enough to get through the lineup twice and give his team a chance to win. After that second time, though, there could be trouble. Most likely, though, he won’t be around for that third time — he averages about 5 1/3 innings per start.

Game Three: John Maine vs. ????
Maine needs to shake off his first poor start of the year and come in with good stuff against a potentially dangerous Yankee lineup. Yes, the Yanks are slumping, but they’re more like a sleeping giant than a team on the skids; they’ll hit, eventually, and the question is not if but when. However, the Mets are already hitting, and you would think they’d have an advantage against the Yankees’ mystery starter — it most likely will be rookie Tyler Clippard, who is a righthanded junkballer with a big overhand curve (i.e., Matt Morris). Luckily he’s not a lefty but could still stymie the Mets — as could Rasner — if the Wandy Rodriguez Effect is in place.

Mets Bats

You’ve likely noticed that David Wright is back and Carlos Delgado right behind him. Delgado may continue to warm up, considering that the Yankees will be throwing two inexperienced righthanders. Expect to see a lot of Carlos Gomez this weekend — he looks like the real deal, and far ahead of where we thought Lastings Milledge was this time last year.

Yankees Bats

Where are they? The Yankees are hitting .274 as a team and have not been the dominating force everyone expected, despite a huge April for A-Rod. Rodriguez has since cooled considerably, and Bobby Abreu has been absolutely awful. There was a time when Abreu could still help a team when he was slumping — be it by drawing walks, stealing bases, or using the glove — but those days are long gone. Jason Giambi most likely will be out all weekend with an injury, so we’ll see Doug Mientkiewicz at first base. Additionally, Robinson Cano is hitting .234 and playing like a zombie, while Johnny Damon has been having issues with his legs all year and only hitting .256. Outside of A-Rod, the only Yankee hitter to be concerned about at this point in time is Jorge Posada, who’s hitting a blistering .371.

Bottom Line

If the Yankees continue not to hit, the Mets should have a wonderful weekend. If by chance Shea Stadium somehow sparks the Yankee bats, it will be a wild and rollicking series.

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Giambi Finally Admits to Steroids

Jason Giambi in his younger and slimmer days playing for Team USAIt took a while, but Yankee Jason Giambi finally, publicly admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Unlike his original public apology — the one in which he didn’t make clear for what exactly he was apologizing — Giambi this time mentioned specifically that he was sorry for taking steroids.

Well, sort of. Actually, he referred to the drugs as “the stuff”, and we can probably infer that “the stuff” is the steroids and human growth hormone mentioned in his grand jury testimony.

“I was wrong for doing that stuff … What we should have done a long time ago was stand up — players, ownership, everybody — and said: ‘We made a mistake.’ … I’m probably tested more than anybody else. I’m not hiding anything. That stuff didn’t help me hit home runs. I don’t care what people say, nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball.”

Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiight … whatever you say, Jason. So if that “stuff” didn’t help you hit homeruns, then why did you take it? To look good at the beach? To impress the girls with your biceps?

And if they didn’t help you hit homeruns, then why should anyone stand up and apologize? If steroids don’t make you a better player, then what’s the issue? Where was the mistake?

Why Giambi chose now to spill the beans is anybody’s guess. Perhaps to deflect the attention from Kyle Farnsworth?

In any case, thanks for the long-awaited apology. Good thing we weren’t holding our collective breath.

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