Archive: July 12th, 2007

Mets Game 88: Win over Reds

Lastings Milledge slaps the plate ahead of the tag to score the winning run for the Mets

Mets 3 Reds 2

It was a good way to start off the second half of the season — in many respects.

First of all, Orlando Hernandez pitched a masterful ballgame, going six complete innings and allowing only two runs on three hits and three walks, while striking out seven. Truth is, the Reds would not have scored at all if El Duque had not suddenly and inexplicably lost the strike zone for about a ten-minute period.

After Jose Reyes and Ruben Gotay hit back-to-back homeruns to lead off the bottom half of the first and put the Mets ahead 2-zip, El Duque walked Adam Dunn, struck out Edwin Encarnacion, allowed a single to Alex Gonzalez, then struck out catcher David Ross and appeared to be out of the inning as opposing pitcher Bronson Arroyo (batting .081) stepped to the plate. However, he walked Arroyo to load the bases, and then fell behind 2-0 to Scott Hatteberg as his fastball continued to veer far from the strike zone. Eventually, Hatteberg drove a liner to right that Shawn Green dove for, but could not come up with, driving in Dunn and Gonzalez and sending Arroyo to third. Hernandez regrouped to get Ryan Freel to popup to David Wright to end the inning, and then retired 12 of the next 13 Cincinnati batters — with only Ken Griffey reaching base on a walk in the third.

The game remained tied at two until the bottom of the fifth. Lastings Milledge — promoted earlier in the day — led off the inning with a sharp basehit to right. El Duque could not get the sacrifice down and struck out, and Jose Reyes lined out to left. With two outs and Milledge still on first base, Ruben Gotay stepped to the plate. Gotay worked the count to 2-2, fouled off a few pitches, and then hit a low liner to shallow center while Milledge was in motion. Centerfielder Ryan Freel made a valiant stab, but could not catch the ball on a fly and it rolled under his body. Milledge never broke stride rounding second, and was waved around third as Freel fumbled for the ball. The hustling Lastings and the ball reached the plate at the same time, but Milledge made a leaping slide/dive over and around catcher David Ross, and slapped the plate just before the tag to score the go-ahead — and eventually, winning — run.

Joe Smith pitched a perfect seventh, Pedro Feliciano threw a seven-pitch, perfect eighth, and Billy Wagner closed out the ninth to earn his 18th save.


In case you missed it:

  • Lastings Milledge was recalled
  • Julio Franco was DFA’d
  • Hitting coach Rick Down was fired
  • Rickey Henderson was hired — though not necessarily as batting coach
  • Jose Valentin hurt his finger during an “altercation” over the break

But nothing else of note occurred yesterday.

Ruben Gotay — playing only because of Valentin’s finger injury — went 2-for-4 with a homerun and two RBI, and is now hitting over .340. That said, odds are 5-to-1 he starts in Friday night’s game.

There were two balls that Shawn Green didn’t catch, but Carlos Gomez might have. In the first, Griffey lined the ball into right-center, and Green got a good jump, dove, but could only trap the ball and smother it, holding Griffey to a single. In truth, it was probably a ball Carlos Beltran should have had — but since the Cameron incident, he’s pretty shy around hard-charging rightfielders. In the second inning, with two out and the bases loaded, Hatteberg’s line drive to right was just out of the reach of an again-diving Green. He didn’t get a great jump on the ball — its low altitude seemed to throw him off at first, and by the time he realized he might be able to snare it, it was a second too late. Granted, El Duque shouldn’t have been that far in the inning — he walked the pitcher preceding Hatteberg — but the ball might have been catchable by a young and fleet Gomez (or Endy Chavez). If Green doesn’t start hitting soon, he could find himself on the bench if and when Moises Alou ever reappears.

In the second inning, El Duque hit a single up the middle, then stole second without drawing a throw, and found his way to third on a wild pitch. He was stranded there when Jose Reyes was picked off first by Bronson Arroyo.

Next Game

John Maine goes for his eleventh win of the season against Matt Belisle in another 7:10 PM start. Rickey Henderson says that Rickey will be in New York and in uniform and right by Will-o’s side.


The Blog Red Machine

Cincinnati Reds baseball capEarlier today, you were treated to insight on the Cincinnati Reds from Reds beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Post.

Now, you get the viewpoint of a Reds fan and blogger, Bill from RedlegNation, a popular blog covering the Redstockings.

1. After making a legitimate run for first place in 2006, the Reds stand at 36-52, 13 games behind and in last place. What the heck happened?

I think the problems started when Wayne Krivsky made what some of us term “the trade” with the Nationals. Basically, it was two everyday players (Austin Kearns & Felipe Lopez) for two relievers (Bill Bray & Gary Majewski) and the Reds bullpen didn’t get any better and the offense got worse. He extended players that he shouldn’t have (Cormier and Castro, for example) and made some bad signings (Stanton). The bullpens a mess, the rotation hasn’t performed as well as expected, etc. Conversely, the offense isn’t as bad as expected because of Hamilton and Gonzalez playing well offensively and Griffey being healthy and effective.

2. Who deserves more blame — Jerry Narron or Wayne Krivsky?

Krivsky. Narron’s not blameless. He put together some decent lineups at times, but his seemingly personal issue with Edwin Encarnacion and his constant concern about hitting Griffey and Dunn back to back didn’t help. But Krivsky put the team together. He inherited a team that was a borderline playoff team in a bad division and has turned it into one of the worst teams in baseball.

3. Thirteen games back means nothing in the NL Central — where sometimes it seems like no one wants to lead. Do the Reds have any chance to make a run of it in the second half, and if so, what has to change?

No chance and they shouldn’t even be thinking about it.

They should be looking to be sellers, not buyers. Kyle Lohse, Scott Hatteburg, Ryan Freel possibly Ken Griffey Jr and any other older or overpriced player should be looked to be traded for players that will help this team in the future. The problem is they’re trying to trade Adam Dunn (terrible idea, IMO) and I think they’ll also unload Edwin Encarnacion either now or in the off season.

Don’t be surprised if Adam Dunn is traded for a closer. (ugh)

4. Josh Hamilton has had a remarkable first half. Is he the real deal, and the face of the Reds for many years to come?

I was a huge skeptic, but he really appears to be the real deal. He doesn’t seem to have many bad ABs and doesn’t have long dry periods. He’s getting on base more than I expected he would and is a very, very good defensive player with a huge arm. I don’t know about “the face of the Reds”…we’ll have to see.

5. Speaking of the real deal, give us the scoop on the recently demoted Homer Bailey. Will he be back this year? What’s keeping him from sticking with the big league club?

I was at the game Saturday night when he threw against the Diamondbacks and he looked good. He threw too many pitches, but hitters are going to make him throw pitches until he shows he can get ahead of the hitters. He went 5 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits and only walked 2, striking out 5.

I don’t think anyone expected him to come up and be “lights out”, very few young guys are. He’s only 21. I’d seen him numerous times in 2005 when he was in A ball, he’s come a LONG way. He’ll be fine.

I’m not sure what the thinking was with sending him back to Louisville, the Reds said it was to keep him on a regular pitching schedule. If so, he should be back up in about a week. We’ll see.

From what I’ve read and heard the key for him is his change and curve improving and getting in front of the hitters.

6. Young lefthander Bill Bray was one of the unknown keys to last year’s trade with the Nationals. How do you feel about his upside, and does he project to be closer at some point in the future?

We heard about all this before he came over…but he was a disappointment last season and has been hurt all this season. He’s presently still rehabbing at AAA. IMO, until he shows otherwise, he’s an example of Krivsky getting duped by Jim Bowden.

9. Edwin Encarnacion: do you see him as someone to hang onto, or an eternal enigma?

I like EE. I think he’d be fine if Reds management left him alone. The kid is only 24 and he’s developing. I’m not saying he’s going to be Mike Schmidt, but he’s a good prospect, quit messing with his head.

10. Ninth inning, tie game, two outs, man on third. What Red batter do you want to see at the plate?

Tony Perez, but I’m showing my age. Now? Junior, I guess.

Thanks again to Bill for giving us the inside scoop on the Cincinnati Reds. You can read more from Bill and several other excellent Reds bloggers at Redlegnation.


Series Preview: Mets vs. Reds

Cincinnati Reds baseball logo from 1960sIn September 2006, the Cincinnati Reds were making a legitimate run for the NL Central title, and finished the season in third place, just three and a half games behind the NL-champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Fast forward to the All-Star Break 2007, and the once-rising Reds are sitting in the cellar of the NL Central, 13 games out of first place. What was once a promising season has evolved into a lost one, and Cincinnati is on the brink of a fire sale at the trading deadline. One would guess that the struggling Mets are facing the Reds at the right time, and in the right place.

As always, the most complete scouting reports on the Cincinnati Reds pitchers can be found at MetsGeek.

Game One: Orlando Hernandez vs. Bronson Arroyo

El Duque was hit hard and had poor command in his last start in Colorado, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the thin air. After all, the lack of humidity at that altitude more or less eliminates the sharpness of the curveball — his bread and butter. A return to Shea and weeks’ worth of rest should do Duque right.

Arroyo was a sensation upon his return to the NL last year, but has not come close to the success the second time around the league. He’s been hit hard, and there are questions that he was overworked last year (he logged 240 innings). However, he’s strung together three straight strong starts, and is coming into Shea on a high note. He gave the Mets fits last year, and will try to ride that confidence toward a successful outing.

Game Two: John Maine vs. Matt Belisle

Maine finished the first half on a high note, pitching perhaps his strongest and most inspired outing. Some of it may have been driven by his being snubbed for the All-Star squad, and we can only hope he’s still mad going in to the second-half. An angry John Maine is one tough customer.

Matt Belisle is relatively unknown to the Mets, which immediately sends up a red flag (pardon the pun) and invokes the Wandy Rodriguez Effect. A converted reliever, he’s a fastball-curveball guy who has trouble against lefthanded batters. Lately, he’s had a lot of trouble with walks and homeruns, and hopefully that trend will continue against the Mets.

Game Three: Tom Glavine vs. Aaron Harang

Tommy’s coming off a strong outing against Houston, but will be facing a more powerful Cincinnati lineup in this start. He’s had bouts with his command this year, as well as the long ball, and that’s not a good combination against the likes of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., and rookie phenom Josh Hamilton. Glavine will have to take advantage of the free-swinging nature of this club and the expanse of Shea’s outfield to pitch deep into the game.

Unless Arroyo rediscovers his magic against the Mets, we’ll guess that Aaron Harang will be the toughest pitcher the Mets face this weekend. At 6’7″ and 275 pounds, he’s an imposing presence on the mound, and mixes a heavy fastball with a nasty slider, average changeup, and slow curve. He’s 9-2 this year, and somehow didn’t get one Cy Young vote last year despite tying for the NL lead in wins.

Game Four: Oliver Perez vs. Kyle Lohse

Perez is coming off the 15-day DL for what was termed back stiffness. However he made a successful rehab start on July 10th and is expected to be at full strength. Despite his svelte ERA, stingy WHIP, and excellent strikeout rate, Ollie is more or less a .500 pitcher — mainly because his mechanics and stuff are still either “on” or “off” from game to game. It’s time he took the bull by the horns and stepped up his rate of consistency — no better time than his first start of the second half.

Lohse has been an enigma since posting a 14-11 record in 2003 with the Twins, at times looking like an ace while other times a AAAA pitcher. His best pitch is a sharp-breaking overhand curve, and he can get his fastball into the low 90s. When he’s on, he can be outstanding — simply take a look at his last two starts before the break (two runs allowed in 16 innings). In addition, he can be a workhorse, so if he’s rolling don’t expect him to leave the game — he has two complete games this year including a shutout. In essence, he is the lefthanded version of Oliver Perez, circa 2006. His kryponite, though, is lefthanded batters, so the lefty-heavy lineup of the Mets could cause him some problems — particularly if his curve is not sharp.

Mets Bats

The lineup appeared to be coming out of its month-long slump right before the break, so we’ll see what carries over. We certainly hope that Carlos Delgado can continue to build on his fine finish to the first half.

Though there hasn’t been any official word on who the Mets’ batting coach will be now that Rick Down has been let go, we’re going to assume that both Howard Johnson and Rickey Henderson will have a strong influence on the bats. We can only hope that the Mets hitters listen to (and can decipher) the pearls of wisdom flowing from Rickey, perhaps the greatest on-base guy in the history of the game. The Mets’ biggest issues at the plate this year are directly related to overaggressiveness, an inability to decipher the strike zone, and the discipline to wait for one’s pitch. In contrast, those were all of Rickey’s strengths as a player. Though it’s doubtful we’ll see any sweeping changes in the Mets’ offense right away, maybe we’ll see some of the building blocks of Rickey’s philosophy start to appear before this series is over.

Reds Machine

As a team, Cincinnati has struck out 640 times (over 100 of those are Dunn’s), trailing only Florida and San Diego for most in the NL. They are a free-swinging bunch to say the least, and Dunn is hardly the only longball threat. There’s this guy named Griffey who’s gone a yard more than a few times in his career, and Josh Hamilton has opened eyes with his Mickey Mantle impression thus far. Not to be forgotten are Brandon Phillips’ 17 homers, the 14 clouted by catcher David Ross, or the 13 by shortstop Alex Gonzalez. That makes six guys in the starting lineup with homerun totals in the double-digits, with Scott Hatteberg just a few away from joining the group, and the enigmatic Edwin Encarnacion always a threat to go deep.

However, the tater totals are a function of the cozy confines of Great American Ball Park — they’ve hit 80 homers in Cincinnati, and only 48 on the road. That said, we can hope that the deep alleys of Shea will keep some of those flyballs from finding the seats.


How this four-game series plays out could be indicative of where the Mets find themselves come October. After all, this Cincinnati squad is downtrodden, its hopes for the postseason completely dashed. In other words, it’s a team that the Mets should, and need to, beat — that is, if they’re interested in remaining at the top of the NL East. A split is a minimum requirement, but three out of four is the goal.


Inside Look: Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds baseball logoThe Mets are hosting the Cincinnati Reds at Shea for the first time in 2007, and since the New York media doesn’t let much word in regarding teams west of the Meadowlands, we’re counting on the Reds’ beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Post to give us the scoop.

Don’t worry, we’ll still be getting the perspective of the Reds fan later in the day, from one of the top Cincinnati baseball blogs.

Until then, here is a Q&A with C.Trent:

1. At 36-52 and 13 games behind, it looks like it’s going to be a long second-half for the Reds. After a strong showing in 2006, was there any way to see this coming?

Last year’s team overachieved and put some expectations on this year’s team, which still, on paper is better than last year’s. This year’s team has underachieved. Just look at the Pythagorean W-L. This year it’s 41-47 — not great, but still about how good they are. Last year’s was 76-86 but the real record was 80-82. So, this year they’re underachieving by five games and last year overachieved by four. They’re somewhere around there in the middle. And, the bullpen was always tenuous — but it’s just been bad pretty much every time out, which has hurt.

2. The Philadelphia Daily News is reporting that nearly the entire Reds roster is available for trade. Is that true, and if so, who are the most likely players to be dealt?

Oh, just about everyone is available — but there’s a price. I think Dunn’s contract and Griffey’s injury history will make them tougher to trade than everyone hopes. I don’t see them getting the asking price for either of those two guys. Most likely to get dealt will be some of the veterans — Scott Hatteberg, Jeff Conine, David Weathers, Mike Stanton. They have track records and could help some teams. Hatteberg in particular could be a steal for a team looking for a 1st baseman. You know any teams that need one of those?

3. The Reds have been hit with multiple injuries throughout the season, and their pitching has been less than par. That said, did Jerry Narron deserve to get the blame?

No, but does the manager ever? It’s just the typical play from the playbook. It surprised no one.

4. Wayne Krivsky was awarded much of adulation after a Reds resurgence in 2006. Does HE take the blame for the failures (so far) of 2007?

Some are putting it on him, but after so much turnover from the GM spot in the last couple of years (Krivsky in his second year, O’Brien just had two years here) that it would set the organization back to start over once again.

5. What does Krivsky — and the Reds — have to do to finish this season strong and renew the optimism for 2008? And, do you think there’s any chance of making a race of it this year, in the weak NL Central?

No. 13 games isn’t impossible, but there are five teams they’d have to jump. That’s not happening. But if they play .500 ball the rest of the way, there could be some guarded optimism for next season.

6. A bright spot: the Josh Hamilton story has been wonderful to watch. Will we get to see the phenom this weekend, or is his wrist injury going to keep him out?

We’ll see. Hamilton had a cast on Sunday and is going to get it off tomorrow (Thursday) and have it reexamined. We’ll see.

7. How much of an impact did Narron’s relationship with him have on Hamilton’s success? Will Johnny Narron be kept on board?

Johnny and Jerry Narron are baseball guys and understand the business of baseball. Johnny knows Josh needs him more than Jerry does. So Johnny keeps coming in and putting on the uniform. Johnny and Josh have become very close, and Johnny will be around in some capacity for a while. Narron’s relationship helped early, as Narron said Hamilton would get a chance to play every day in spring training and he’d stick with him even if he started 0-for-80. Well, that didn’t happen and Hamilton’s talent took over. And here we are.

8. Does Ken Griffey retire a Red? Will the Cincinnati fans miss him if he leaves?

Two very, very interesting questions. Griffey said in Seattle that he wanted to retire a Mariner. But, he could still play his last game as a Red and then officially retire as Mariner — a la Emmitt Smith and the Cardinals/Cowboys. Junior — a big Cowboys fan — even said, “like Emmitt” when he talked about retiring as a Mariner. Griffey won’t play in a Reds uniform past 2008. I think the season he’s having has rejuvenated him a little. I think he seriously thought he’d retire after next season, but now I think he may be rethinking that. As for the fans of Cincinnati? Some will really miss him and some won’t. The expectations put upon him here were just too high when he came in 2000. Anything short of seven World Series titles wasn’t going to be enough for Reds fans.

Thanks again to C. Trent for his invaluable insight. Be sure to check out his blog at the Cincinnati Post — he’s clearly one of a handful of baseball beat writers who “gets” this blog thing.