Browsing Archive September, 2007

Mets Game 162: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 8 Mets 1

The worst collapse in Major League Baseball history is complete. The Mets couldn’t find the “on” switch (not surprisingly — it was a very dark room with no windows).

What a waste of a beautiful fall afternoon. I should have listened to my wife and gone for a ride, went to the park, the beach, wherever, and enjoyed one of the few last gorgeous days of the year. But no, I had to sit inside and watch the 162nd, and most crucial, Mets game of the year.

Of course, the season should not have come down to this, the last game of the year. But we’ll discuss that over the next few days.

It was Tuesday night all over again. Before anyone could settle down in their seat with their hot dog and beer, Tom Glavine allowed four runs … and then Jorge Sosa allowed Glavine’s other three baserunners to score as well, giving the Marlins a 7-0 lead before the Mets came to bat.

The Mets had HUGE opportunities in both the first and second innings to get back in a hurry, but both were squandered, taking the Fish off the hook. From that point on, it was slow torture.

Notes

Tom Glavine’s MLB career may have ended with the worst outing of his life. Will that motivate him to return, or convince him to hang ’em up?

Paul LoDuca’s career as a Met may have ended with a weak check-swing grounder back to the pitcher with the bases loaded. Though, it was a damn tough full-count pitch — a nasty slider that likely would have been called strike three.

Shawn Green’s career as a Met ended with him sitting on the bench, despite batting .407 in the month of September. Not sure what Willie was saving him for.

Jeff Conine’s career ended with a weak fly ball to centerfield in the eighth. Quiet golf clap for a guy who played the game right and enjoyed a fine, if unspectacular, 17 years in MLB.

Jose Reyes is popping up mainly because of his pitch selection. He’s going after pitches above his hands, and over-reaching for pitches off the outside part of the plate and low. It’s next to impossible to get on top of a high pitch, and when a batter reaches, the bat goes to more of a 45-degree angle and the barrel drops, causing the ball to go in the air (same concept as bunting low pitches — keep the bat level).

No help from the Nationals today. That same team that was so fired up to be spoilers at Shea laid down for the Phillies this afternoon. I witnessed two Nats jogging leisurely down the first base line on double play grounders. Thanks for the effort, guys.

Though it’s really painful to see the Phillies as NL East champs, it’s excruciating due to Jimmy Rollins’ preseason boasts. Yes, he backed it up, but he had no basis to shoot off his mouth in March. If you make proclamations AFTER winning something, then fine — you’ve earned that right. This “new school” crap of strutting your stuff before winning anything nauseates the hell out of me (part of the reason it’s been hard for me to like LMillz).

I hope the Phillies and their fans really enjoy their day today … it’s going to be a quick exit for them in the NLDS.

On the bright side, we get all our money back from the Wilpons for the postseason tickets. Hopefully it’ll come back in time for Christmas gifts.

Next Game

… will be sometime in 2008. However there will be plenty to blog and argue about over the next 5-6 months.

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Mets Game 161: Win Over Marlins

Mets bum rush the Marlins during rhubarb

Mets 13 Marlins 0

Hey guys, where the heck was that yesterday? Or the last two weeks?

John Maine chose his most important start of the year to pitch the game of his life, becoming another in a long line of Mets hurlers to come very close to a no-hitter but falling just short. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, struck out 14, and allowed one dinky hit, two walks, and zero runs.

Stealing some of the thunder of that performance was the Mets offense, which exploded for over a dozen runs.

Jose Reyes remained absent early in the game, but two-hitter Luis Castillo took ownership of sparking the offense from the top of the order.

The Mets’ next-best table setter followed a first-inning Reyes flyout with a drive off the top of the left-center wall for a double. David Wright hit a single to right to chase Castillo to third, and after Carlos Beltran ripped a hot liner into the glove of Miguel Cabrera, Moises Alou picked him up with a base hit into center to drive in Castillo with the first run of the game and send Wright to third. But the Mets weren’t done, as Carlos Delgado also singled up the middle to score Wright.

In the second frame, Lastings Milledge led off by working the count full against starter Chris Seddon, then ripped a single to left. He was sacrificed to second by John Maine, and took third on a lazy groundout to the right side by Reyes. Castillo singled Milledge in for the third run of the game, and Wright walked to put men on first and second. Beltran belted another ball, but this time it found a hole, scoring Castillo, chasing Wright to third and sending Seddon to the showers. Reliever Ross Wolf was greeted with another single by Moises Alou to make the score 5-0.

Wolf wasn’t any better the next inning, giving up a leadoff single to Ramon Castro and a two-run homer to Milledge. Maine walked, and Reyes chopped a ball off the plate that catcher Miguel Olivo fielded in fair territory — but Reyes inexplicably stood at the plate, and Olivo made an easy throw to first for the first out. Castillo followed with a double down the leftfield line to score Maine, making the score 8-0 and sending another Fish pitcher to the frying pan.

Milledge jumped all over another fastball in the fifth and sent it to nearly the same spot as his last blast, making the score 9-zip. After Maine struck out and Reyes doubled, Marlins pitcher Harvey Garcia threw two pitches behind Castillo, nearly causing a brawl. Order was restored and Castillo walked, but while Fish manager Fredi Gonzalez was pulling a double-switch, Miguel Olivo charged Reyes at third base and all hell broke loose.

The entire Mets team rushed onto the field, and looked like a massive offensive line pushing against the Marlins. Mike DiFelice was cracking heads all over the place, and it took five Fish to hold him back. Even the mild mannered Carlos Delgado was in the middle of the rhubarb, pushing and shoving like a hardened rush-hour commuter on the #7 train. By the time it was all over, Olivo was tossed, Reyes remained in the game, and LMillz hadn’t capped anyone.

When play presumed, Wright singled in Reyes for the Mets’ tenth run of the game.

A few minutes later, John Maine took the mound after a long, long break, and would have been excused if he wasn’t sharp. However, there was nothing to be concerned about — he blew through three Fish, striking out the first two and nearly striking out the third.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Mets tacked on another run, thanks to a (surprise) a solo homer by Ramon Castro. They added yet another when Delgado drove in Wright with a single in the seventh.

In the top of the eighth, John Maine set down the first two Fish (one by strikeout) before backup catcher Paul Hoover — who had replaced the ejected Olivo — hit a slow bouncer about thirty feet down the third base line that Wright could do nothing with. The infield single broke up the no-hitter and took Maine out of the game — who had thrown 115 pitches.

Willie Collazo came on to get the third out.

But the Mets still weren’t done … they scored another run in the bottom of the 8th on a double by David Newhan, who pinch-hit for Wright.

Carlos Muniz pitched a perfect ninth to end the most exciting game of the last two months.

Notes

I think I’ve figured out John Maine’s inconsistency. He’s over-rotating just slightly when he lifts his leg, which is turning his shoulder about 2-3 inches too much toward second base, and because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, it is causing that same shoulder to fly open toward home plate too early. That’s why his right arm is dragging across and his release point is up, and the pitches are going up and away to lefties. It’s a slight mechanical error, and he doesn’t do it every pitch, but it’s enough to mess with his control. It’s also going to cause his slider to flatten out. I don’t know that it is something that can be corrected in-game — you don’t really want a pitcher to be thinking about mechanics while in competition. But if he can correct it over the winter / during spring training, he should get back to being the pitcher he was in the first few months of 2007.

And yes, I did see that he struck out 14 Fish and nearly threw a no-no. However, he did not have great command of his fastball, and was helped a bit by the Marlins swinging at pitches out of the zone.

Reyes is completely burnt. Someone needs to beat him over the head and scream “RUN! every time you hit the ball, don’t look, just turn toward first and RUN!” The kid is a mess. However, his emotional outburst during the fifth-inning fracas may have been helpful — I think he’s had a lot of bottled up, negative emotion over the past month or so, and needed to get some of it out.

A few innings after Reyes didn’t run out of the box, Lastings Milledge stood on second base on a popup, unaware that there were two outs. It was reminiscent of watching a high school JV game. Although Maine’s performance and the offense overshadowed these actions, these fundamental brain farts remain alarming, and part of the reason the Mets don’t have 90-93 wins right now. If I’m Willie I’m getting right into both of these kids’ faces after the game. (Yeah, easy for me to say … how do you motivate a 23-year-old who is making millions more than the manager? It’s not like Willie can affect them with a $1000 fine or something.)

Frustrating to see Marcos Carvajal pitching for the Fish. It wasn’t bad enough that Florida turned Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens into MLB relievers, but they had to claim Carvajal — another guy who throws north of 95 MPH — as well. Granted, in a million years Willie would never have trusted any of the three, but it still stings to see these electric arms throwing pitches in big league games — especially when the Mets dropped Carvajal to make room for the likes of Brian Lawrence, Sandy Alomar, and Aaron Sele. Why they didn’t simply put Easley or Valentin on the 60-day, no one knows.

Next Game

The last game of the regular season takes place at 1:10 PM at Shea. Tom Glavine goes against Dontrelle Willis in what could be the most important game of the season — unfortunately, it will all depend on what happens with the Phillies tonight and tomorrow.

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Mets Game 160: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 7 Mets 4

The Mr. Hyde alter-ego of Oliver Perez took the mound, and with it, the ballgame. From the first inning, it was apparent that Ollie didn’t have his command, but it appeared as though he was going to grit his way through. Unfortunately, he couldn’t deal without his command and the bit of adversity that struck him in the top of the third.

Just minutes after rapping an unlikely, two-out, RBI hit to drive in the first Mets run, Perez gave up a similarly unlikely bloop base hit to opposing pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim — he of the .033 batting average. It was pure, sheer luck — a Texas Leaguer in the Bermuda Triangle between Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, and Luis Castillo. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. The next batter Hanley Ramirez got ahead 2-0, but Ollie came back to even it up 2-2. Ramirez fought off a few good potential strike-three pitches, then got sawed off by another great pitch on his hands. However, the ball flew a few dozen feet past his barrel, over David Wright’s head and into the no man’s land exactly opposite of Kim’s hit. Perez then hit Dan Uggla to load the bases, but got Jeremy Hermida to ground to Wright, who went for the forceout at home. LoDuca fired back to third to nail Ramirez for the DP, but Wright flaked and tried to tag Ramirez instead of simply stepping on the bag. Perez then pulled off the dramatic, striking out slugger Miguel Cabrera, and it appeared he’d get out of the mess. With the crowd behind him, and the momentum of retiring the Marlins’ best hitter, Mr. Hyde reappeared, and hit the next two batters, driving in two runs.

In the bottom of the inning, the Mets fought back, with Luis Castillo singling and stealing second, then jogging home on a 450-foot homer by Carlos Beltran, getting the Mets as close as they’d get all night: 4-3.

It looked like all would be OK when Ollie started off the fourth with two quick outs. Unfortunately, the opposition making two outs has been the kiss of death for the Mets lately, as the Fish hit an infield single, a legit single, drew a walk, then hit another infield single — and scored two more runs. Watching it all unravel was mind-boggling. Other than the walk, Perez didn’t make bad pitches. Maybe he needs to read The Secret.

And that was the ballgame, because the Mets offense shut down after Beltran’s blast (unless you want to count a crappy RBI groundout by Wright that scored Castillo in the fifth. It’s amazing — the Marlins can score two runs riding two infield singles, and the Mets couldn’t muster much of anything with a dozen base hits of their own. Of course, it doesn’t help when your opponent draws four bases on balls and three HBPs in key situations and you only reach base with hits (oh, and one lousy walk — though NONE against Kim, who walks around five for every nine innings).

Notes

Luis Castillo was 3-for-5, Carlos Delgado poked two useless hits in the hole vacated by Cabrera during the shift, and Shawn Green rapped two singles up the middle. All those singles and Beltran’s homer was pretty much the extent of the excitement on the offense.

In case you missed it, the Phillies won (surprise, surprise), giving the Mets sole possession of second place.

Next Game

John Maine faces Chris Seddon at 1:10 PM. It’s do or die — and now that the Phils are one up, destiny is out of the Mets’ control. Bravo, boys, and best of luck. Let’s hope the young Marlins decide to hit the NYC club scene all night long, and show up with a collective hangover — the Mets need every edge they can get at this point.

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Embrace the Collapse

The Underdog MetsA long, long time ago … I think it was in late May (feels like centuries ago) … it didn’t feel “right” when the Mets were on top of the NL East by five games over the Braves, and looking like they were going to run away with it again.

That’s because being a Mets fan is the exact opposite of being a Yankees fan — we don’t EXPECT to be in first place, we don’t EXPECT to make the postseason every year, and we don’t EXPECT to beat every team we face. To be a Mets fan is to be the follower of the underdog, of David vs. Goliath, to hope against hope that somehow, some way, our team will pull off a miracle with their “Mets Magic”.

So instead of looking back on the last 105 games — during which the Mets have gone 52-53 — with disgust, and instead of looking at the 7-game lead disappearing in two weeks with disdain and disappointment, EMBRACE the collapse. Because by free-falling into near oblivion, the Mets have put themselves back into their proper position as underdogs.

Look at the momentum of the Philadelphia Phillies — they’re on a roll and it looks like nothing is going to stop them. Read the headlines, listen to the shock jocks on sports talk radio, read the pundits and the bloggers online, and what do you see and hear? The Mets’ season is effectively over. With their loss after loss after loss — against terrible teams, at home, no less — the Mets are now expected to fall flat on their faces this weekend and concede the NL East flag to the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins and his big mouth were right, back in March, when he proclaimed that the Phillies were the team to beat. Consider it, and almost believe it — it’s crucial to your state of mind as a Mets fan.

In other words, be thankful that everyone has written off the Mets, and that it looks like the Mets have no chance to get into the postseason now. Because then the Mets will be the underdogs — their proper place in baseball history.

In 1969, the Mets were coming off an 8th place finish and had no business ending up in 6th, much less the 6th game of the World Series. In 1973, the team lost 80 games and didn’t have a player with more than 76 RBI — yet they made it into the World Series. In 1986, when they dominated the rest of the NL during the regular season, they had to fall behind in both the NLCS and the World Series in order to rediscover their mojo as underdogs — it was the only way to win. Last year, the Mets dominated the NL again, but were underdogs in the NLDS because El Duque and Pedro were unavailable. The only reason they couldn’t get past the Cardinals was because the Cards were even MORE of an underdog.

The Mets need to be the underdog — it’s the only way they can be truly endearing. Blowing through the NL and winning the East by 10 games would have been nice, and we’d have taken it, but it wouldn’t have felt completely satisfying — not to a true Mets fan. For us, it’s not about our team being all-powerful and dominating — it’s about cheering on the lovable losers, and having them surprise us by overcoming the odds stacked heavily against them.

Their backs were already slammed to the wall, and they’re now lying against it, barely breathing, with little hope of the season surviving past this weekend. They’ve recaptured the role of underdog, and now as Mets fans it is our duty to run to Queens and provide our form of mouth to mouth resuscitation …

LET’S GO METS !
LET’S GO METS !
LET’S GO METS !

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To Mo, Or Not To Mo

Mo Vaughn with the New York MetsI need some help here, and asking for your opinion.

I’m going to the Mets game tonight. I own one “authentic” Mets jersey — a home black Mo Vaughn, #42. It was a gift.

Despite his bust of a career with the Mets, Mo was and remains one of my favorite all-time Mets — it’s a personal thing (I played against him in college, and for years afterward when we bumped into each other at various off-field places, he always remembered me as a former foe and treated me like a friend. He may have issues with overeating, but he’s a class act.).

Obviously, wearing a Mo Vaughn jersey to a game at Shea is slightly less humiliating than walking around stripped, tarred, and feathered. However, every time I’ve taken it out of the mothballs and braved the jeers, sneers, and laughter, the Mets have won. Maybe it’s complete coincidence. Considering that Mo Vaughn is a glaring symbol of the downfall of the Mets early in the 21st century, you would think that the jersey would bring bad karma into the Stadium — so I’m pessimistic of its potential in the way of magical powers.

So here’s the question — do I wear the Mo Vaughn jersey tonight, or no?

Please leave your comments below before 5pm. Thanks!

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Mets Game 159: Loss to Cardinals

Cardinals 3 Mets 0

Pedro did his job, holding the Cardinals to just three runs and pushing through seven full innings. However, the offense — which had been averaging about seven runs per game lately — did not show up to work.

Joel Pineiro — the guy who had a 6.36 ERA last year, and was dumped by the Red Sox (and who I clamored for both over the winter and after he was DFA’s) — pitched the game of his life, allowing only three hits and no runs over eight innings. You can’t really fault the Mets offense for this one — Pineiro was marvelous, with pinpoint command of every pitch in his repertoire. Oh, and the Cardinals defense collected about fourteen web gems (can’t decide who I loathe more, David Eckstein or Miguel Cairo).

Meantime, Rod Serling showed up in Citizen’s Bank Park to narrate the Braves-Phillies matchup. John Smoltz — a.k.a., Mr. Stupendous — pitched an awful four innings before being knocked out. Gold Glover Mark Teixeira made a critical error (as did Smoltz). When it was all over, the Phillies breezed to a 6-4 victory (it wasn’t nearly as close as the final score), and the phabulous Phillie phans were waving towels in jubilation at their team’s entrance into first place for the first time all year.

Notes

The Mets have zero passion, and are devoid of intestinal fortitude. Feel free to make plans for October — there won’t be any games to miss.

Keith Hernandez reminded me today of why I hated his announcing when he first came on board as a color man a few years ago. He started commentating when the Mets stunk, and he’s more of a bandwagon jumper than a homer — pointing out all the great things that the winning team is doing and criticizing the losing team’s shortfalls in any particular game. And often, the criticism is baseless or illogical. For example, he was getting on the Mets in the later innings for not being aggressive and swinging at first-pitch strikes. Hello? Keith? Have you watched the first 158 games of the season? If you paid attention, you may have noticed that the Mets were the most over-aggressive team in MLB, and routinely swung at first pitches regardless of the score. It was just their dumb luck that it took them 158 games to finally take a sound fundamental approach, and they happen to run into a guy who’s pitching the best game of his career.


Next Game

Does it matter? Oliver Perez will lose tomorrow against Byung-Hyun Kim in a 7:10 PM start at Shea. I will be in the Loge Level, Section 20, two-fisting adult beverages until I can’t see. Please feel free to stop by and swat me over the head with a toy bat.

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Outnumbered

The writers, bloggers, talk radio personalities, and other pundits have come up with a long list of reasons why the Mets have faltered so dramatically in the past few weeks. Such points as Willie Randolph’s managing; Omar Minaya’s inability to get the right personnel; the exhaustion of Jose Reyes; the gasoline the relievers have been pouring on the fires; and myriad other explanations have been pointed out as the reasoning behind their downfall. But everyone is missing one major factor:

They’ve been outnumbered.

It’s true, and it’s as plain as day — kind of not seeing the forest for the trees (or however that saying goes). Take a look at a boxscore from the last two weeks — any boxscore, from any game, be it a Mets game or someone else’s. You’ll see an unusually long list of players in the lineup, and a similarly lengthy string of pitchers that often threatens double digits — and the majority of the names are of those you’ve never heard before. Now, take a look at the Mets’ side of the boxscore. Huh. Same names as April and May. Eureka! The rest of Major League Baseball has been playing with 40 men, while the Mets continue to stick to their 25!

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I checked the Mets “active” roster and it appears that 37 men are dressing for the game. But apparently, Willie wasn’t aware he could actually USE all 37 until very recently, when someone let him know that the kid with “Humber” stitched across his back was, indeed, eligible (good thing, too, because Willie was thinking that Dave Williams was his only option).

While the Nationals have trotted out eight, nine, ten pitchers per game — most of whom I’ve never seen before — the Mets continue to push out the usual suspects (Schoeneweis, Smith, Mota, Feliciano, Heilman) day after day after day after day. Willie says you can’t force-feed the babies, because they’ve “never done it before”. Done what? Pitch a baseball? What the heck have they been doing from mid-February to September, then? Playing stickball? All he needed to do was take a look across town, where youngins’ like Joba Chamberlain, Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Jeff Karstens are taking the ball in the most crucial moments of a pressure-packed pennant race (not to mention kids like Tyler Clippard, Darrell Rasner, Kei Igawa, Matt DeSalvo, and others who were given chances earlier in the season). The Braves seemed to have an all-new bullpen ever other week. That team nipping at the Mets’ heels, the Philadelphia Phillies, are throwing every arm they can find — young and old — to stop the bleeding and patchwork their way into the postseason. Kyle Kendrick, JD Durbin, Clay Condrey, JA Happ, Francisco Rosario, Mike Zagurski, and Fabio Castro are just some of the names not heard before who have contributed to the Phils’ mad rush. Granted, some of those names have performed less than admirably, but at least Philadelphia is trying to find solutions — rather than continually marching out the known (and underperforming) quantities.

In contrast, the Mets have had essentially the same cast of characters since April Fools’ Day (unfortunately, not a joke) — the only changes being the addition of Mota at the beginning of June, the month-and-a-half disappearance of Joe Smith, and the recent addition of Jorge Sosa. With every reliever other than Aaron Sele getting into 40 or more games, there’s no mystery. This corps is what it is, and it’s nothing special. After appearing 75 times and proving to be a mediocre pitcher, there isn’t much possibility of Pedro Feliciano suddenly becoming Willie Hernandez. With an ERA of 6 after 50+ games, you can’t think a PED-less Guillermo Mota will recapture the magic. And after 111 innings of throwing 95% sliders, it’s isn’t likely that Jorge Sosa will magically develop another pitch.

Meantime, Carlos Muniz, Phil Humber, Willie Collazo, Eddie Camacho, Ryan Cullen, Steve Schmoll, and others languished in the minors, never getting the call. Marcos Carvajal toiled in AA all year, then was picked up by the Marlins — who used him against the Mets within days after acquiring him. In addition, the Mets did not so much as sniff several pitchers who became available — both before and after the trading deadline. LOOGYs Mike Myers, Ron Villone, J.C. Romero, and Ray King. Joe Kennedy. Byung-Hyun Kim. Bob Wickman. Brett Tomko. Joel Pineiro, who’s starting against them tonight. Maybe none of those pitchers would have made much of a difference — but we’ll never know. And as we’ve seen, even if any of the youngsters were promoted, Randolph likely would have allowed them to rot on the bench (right next to Aaron Sele).

September is the time the rosters expand to 40, providing an opportunity to give a look-see to the up-and-comers. Every other team in MLB is doing just that — regardless of whether they’re in a heated pennant race. The Mets made the promotions, but had no plans to use them in anything other than long-lost situations. Instead, we continue to see the same old, used-up arms jog in from the bullpen — the same men who helped lead the team to a 52-52 record since June 2nd.

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Multiple Scenarios

It’s agonizing, I know, but let’s look at the current NL East standings (preferably on an empty stomach):

Mets 87-71
Phillies 86-72

Let’s pretend the Mets lose tonight, and the Phillies win. Both teams will be in a tie for first, with three games to play. Whichever team plays best in the last three-game series of the year, wins the NL East. Of course, it’s also possible that both teams finish with identical records.

Or, tonight, the Mets could lose and the Phillies also lose. Then:

Mets 87-72
Phillies 86-73

Still, it’s going to come down to whomever plays better in the last three — and a tie is still possible.

Let’s say the Mets win and the Phillies win:

Mets 88-71
Phillies 87-72

Again, it will come down to the best team in the last three games of the year, though the Mets will have a slight edge. And a tie remains possible.

What if the Mets win and the Phillies lose?

Mets 88-71
Phillies 86-73

If this is the case after tonight, the Mets would have to get swept by the Marlins, and the Phillies would have to sweep the Nationals (something they nearly did last week), for the Mets to lose first place.

The Worst-Case Scenario

The Mets lose the last four games of the season, the Phillies win the last four:

Phillies 90-72
Mets 87-75

Obviously, in that case, the Mets only hopes would ride on the Wild Card race, which currently looks like this:

Padres 87-71
Phillies 86-72
Rockies 86-72
Braves 83-75

Oh boy. That’s not good. Unless the Padres also lose their next four games, and the Rockies go 1-3, and the Braves DON’T go 4-0, the Mets would be watching the postseason in the comfort of their million-dollar homes.

Vote for Pedro.

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