Archive: September 7th, 2007

Mets Game 140: Win Over Astros

Mets 11 Astros 3

Ah, yes … that’s how we roll around here …

After falling behind 2-0, the Mets rallied for three runs in the third, highlighted by a game-tying two-run double by David Wright (who received MVP! chants upon stepping on second base) and capped by a run-scoring, go-ahead single by Carlos Beltran. They tacked on another two in the fifth via a Beltran blast far beyond the leftfield wall and an opposite-field RBI single by Jeff Conine that scored Moises Alou (who had doubled).

Their 5-2 lead wasn’t enough, though, so the Mets offense exploded for six runs in the sixth. It all started with a leadoff triple by Jose Reyes, who appeared a step faster after two days of rest. Reyes came home when Luis Castillo blistered a ball through the drawn-in infield, and D-Wright walked to put runners on first and second. After Beltran struck out, Alou hit his second double in two innings, scoring Castillo. Conine was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Paul LoDuca lifted a 2-0 pitch into right field to score Wright with a sac fly. With men on second and third, “Blastings” Milledge drilled the first pitch he saw into the leftfield seats. I had a view from the loge section in shallow left, and can tell you that thing went out like a bullet — it was a clothesline drive that left the park so quickly it didn’t have time to elevate. The three-run blast put the Mets up 11-2, and came a half inning after Milledge made a miraculous diving catch in right with the bases loaded to save at least one run (a play which earned him a standing ovation). He was clearly the hero of the inning — both halves.

Meantime, Mike Pelfrey pitched a second straight solid start. He went five and a third, and though he allowed ten hits and two walks, only two runners came around to score. The Astros loaded the bases twice in the first three innings, then again in the sixth, but each time were foiled by defensive wizardry. An unusual double play thwarted the Astros’ second-inning rally (Reyes booted the ball, but it landed right in Castillo’s glove), Pelfrey squirmed out of the jam in the third, and Milledge and Jorge Sosa bailed Pelfrey out in the sixth.

Sosa gave up a run-scoring double to former Met and fan favorite Ty Wigginton in the seventh, but by that time it hardly mattered. Guillermo Mota pitched a perfect eighth using only ten pitches, and Willie Collazo finished up with a scoreless ninth.

Notes

The Astros’ first run came on a ball off the bat of Lance Berkman that just barely made it over the centerfield wall. However, Beltran made a leaping grab and snowconed the ball, but couldn’t hold on. That’s why they call it a game of inches.

Strangely enough, the Astros out-hit the Mets, 13-12.

If David Eckstein were 6′ 4″ tall, he’d be Hunter Pence.

Beltran, Alou, and Milledge were all 2-for-4, and Castillo, Alou, and Wright scored three times each.

Ruben Gotay came into the game late for David Wright and made two fine plays at the hot corner. He also hit a double in his only at-bat — hitting from the right side.

Carlos Gomez replaced Beltran in center, his first MLB game since breaking his hand on July 5th.

Endy Chavez, who came in for Alou in the top of the seventh, made a great running catch of a hard liner to rob Carlos Lee of a double. Hard night for the ‘stros … if I’m Lee, behind by nine, hitting the ball on the screws like that and having Endy come out of nowhere to make a web gem … I dunno, I might just pack it in for the evening.

In the second inning, Astros catcher Humberto Quintero was hit by a pitch that he was taking a swing at, and was awarded first base. I was stunned from the stands, and further stunned watching the DVR replay when no one in the booth even suggested that he remain in the batter’s box. Since when is an HBP awarded to a hitter who swings into the pitch? I keep reading the MLB rule book, over and over, and the words remain the same:

MLB Rule 6.08(b) The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when — He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;

In Quintero’s case, he began to take a swing, held up, was hit in the elbow by the ball. Why bother printing the rule if no umpire will ever adhere to it?

People wonder why there are so many HBPs these days … it’s because NO ONE learns to get out of the way, and ALL umpires give them first despite breaking the rules and not getting out of the way.

Hmm … 3 runs in the 3rd … 5-2 score in the 5th … 6 runs in the 6th … is there a pattern here?

The Phillies lost to the Marlins, and their hopes are fading fast. Their loss plus the Mets’ win drops the magic number to 17 with 22 games to play.

Next Game

Bring your AARP card to Shea, as it’s Oldtimers Day (how come they don’t do that anymore?). The Mets’ 41-year-old Tom Glavine drags his bones up on the hill (the mound’s uphill both ways, FYI) against 41-year-old Woody Williams in a 1:10 PM start.

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Series Preview: Mets vs. Astros II

Houston Astros baseball old Astrodome logoAfter firing their manager and general manager, and remaining mired near the bottom of the NL Central, the Houston Astros season is all but over. Almost ten games out of first with 22 games to play, it would take a major miracle for the ‘stros to get into the postseason, even in the most fragile division in MLB.

That said, it should be interesting to see how Houston performs in this weekend series at Shea. Unlike the Reds, who are auditioning Pete Mackanin for the 2008 managerial job, Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper has little to no chance of returning at the helm next year — not with a new GM coming in, who likely will want to hire “his guy” to take the reigns. However, a number of veterans likely won’t be back in ’08, such as Craig Biggio (who is retiring), and potential free agents Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus and Mike Lamb.


Game 1: Mike Pelfrey (1-7, 5.43) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-12, 4.49)

Can Mike Pelfrey build off the momentum of his first win of 2007? Can the Mets reverse the curse of Wandy Rodriguez?

We can only hope that Pelfrey can pitch effectively again. We don’t need a lights-out performance, just enough to offer encouragement — something to show us that he’s advancing, making steps forward. With a boost of confidence, who knows what this kid might accomplish.

As far as Wandy goes, it’s a tossup. Without the Mets on the schedule, who knows if this guy would still be in MLB? In his last game against New York, he threw a 4-hit shutout. If he has his great curve working, it could be a similar performance. However, there is one thing going against him — a 2-9 record and 7.11 ERA away from Minute Maid Park.


Game 2: Tom Glavine (12-6, 4.06) vs. Woody Williams (8-13, 4.95)

Interesting, isn’t it, how often Glavine starts against the other team’s oldest geezer? Or does it just seem that way because we notice it every time it happens?

Anyway, Tommy is coming off two excellent starts against the Phillies and Braves, and pitched seven strong innings against the Astros earlier in the year. If the ‘stros start a lineup full of aggressive youngsters, it should be a good thing for Glavine.

Woody Williams is not the worst starting pitcher in the NL, but he’s close. Adam Eaton, Scott Olsen, Kip Wells, and Josh Fogg are probably worse … strangely, though, the Mets have had trouble with all of them. In fact, Woody’s ERA would probably be over 5 if not for the seven and two-thirds innings against the Mets on July 7th, when he gave up only three runs. Like the Wandy game, who knows what to expect? For whatever reason, the Mets don’t hit well against mediocre pitchers.

Game 3: Pedro Martinez (1-0, 3.60) vs. Roy Oswalt (14-6, 3.35)

Oswalt is having another stellar season, and pitched seven strong if unspectacular innings against the Mets back in July. If I remember correctly, however, that was one of those games that the Mets packed it in and gave up after the third inning — but then, you couldn’t blame them with Dave Williams on the mound and David Newhan batting second in the lineup. Had Williams not started and given up eight runs in four innings, the Mets might have had a shot, as they touched Oswalt in the sixth and seventh innings — but it was too little, too late.

But, we don’t really care how Oswalt pitches, do we? We’ll be concentrating on every pitch that floats from Pedro’s fingers, from the first through the 80th. Can Pedro throw 80? Can he get to 85? Will he complete five innings again? Can he get into the sixth? This will be Pedro’s first start after his first start, so everyone is wondering how he rebounds after five days of rest. What if it’s not enough? What if it’s too much? What if he regresses? This game will be less of contest and more of a litmus test.

Bottom Line

Usually, you can look at the pitching matchups and get some idea of how the series might turn out. In this case, though, nobody knows. All year, the Mets offense has flopped against mediocre pitchers such as the Wandy and Woody show, and woken up against the Roy Oswalts of the world. Mike Pelfrey is as questionable as Pedro Martinez, and Tom Glavine’s effectiveness is often directly tied to the size of the home plate umpire’s strike zone.

Carlos Delgado will be missing for the entire series, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing. Sure, the Mets will be a little stronger defensively, and have a little more speed on the bases, but Delgado was starting to heat up and provide protection and production in the middle of the lineup. Can Shawn Green and Jeff Conine pick up the slack? Will Delgado’s absence turn out to be a blessing, because Endy Chavez and Lastings Milledge will be playing more regularly?

My guess it the Mets will take two out of three from the downward spiraling ‘stros, but if they don’t, it might not matter. After all, the Braves are too far behind to be a concern, and the Phillies seem to have shot their load in their four-game sweep of the Mets last week. Unless the Phillies get hot again, it’s just a matter of time …

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Bad News Mars Happy Story

Only hours after Rick Ankiel powered the Cardinals with two homeruns and 7 RBI in a 16-4 victory, questions arose as to what was powering Ankiel.

According to the New York Daily News, Ankiel and minor league teammate Steve Woodard received eight shipments of HGH Signature Pharmacy in Orlando from January to December 2004, including the brand-name injectable drugs Saizen and Genotropin. Signature is the pharmacy at the forefront of Albany, N.Y., District Attorney David Soares’ two-year investigation into illegal internet prescription drug sales, which has brought 22 indictments and nine convictions.

“This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty told The News on Thursday. “If it’s true, obviously it would be very tragic, along with everything else we’ve had happen to us this year.”

There is good news, however. According to the Signature records obtained by The News, he stopped receiving HGH just before Major League Baseball officially banned it in 2005.

Unfortunately, the timing of the news could not be worse. Ankiel just had the best offensive day of his pro career, and has been one of the “feel good” stories in baseball this summer for his remarkable comeback and transition from pitcher to cleanup hitter. Instead of basking in the afterglow of his 7-RBI game, Ankiel will instead be heading for cover as the media hounds him with HGH questions.

It’s absolutely possible that Ankiel has been completely clean and natural during this amazing summer. But, does it matter? Can anyone look at his 2007 season and not have at least a shred of suspicion? Additionally, can we look at ANY baseball player without having that bit of doubt in the back our heads?

Shame, the things we have to consider when watching a baseball player perform. It would be nice to sit back and enjoy the game. The current section of baseball history is not unlike the the years surrounding 1919 — where you have to question whether any player is “on the level”.

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