Browsing Archive September, 2007

Mets Game 151: Win Over Nationals

Mets 8 Nationals 4

Now, now, that’s more like it.

With the Mets desperate for a win, Mike Pelfrey stepped up and met the challenge, holding the Nats to three runs in five innings and earning his third win of the season. OK, it wasn’t exactly a dominating performance, but in comparison to the way Mets starters were knocked around the last few days, he looked like Cy Young.

Just as encouraging, the bullpen held up the win for him, headed by two strong innings by Jorge Sosa. Aaron Heilman threw a perfect eighth and Billy Wagner had a shaky but harmless ninth to close out the Mets’ first victory in the past six days.

Also encouraging was the offense, which not only scored eight runs but showed the relentlessness of a starving pit bull, hungry for runs every inning. They seem to have learned something from the two most recent games — you remember, the games where they jumped out to a big lead and then put on the cruise control? This time, they scored, then scored again, then looked to score some more — and would have kept grinding out runs if the ninth inning didn’t stop them.

Leading the way, finally, was Jose Reyes, who had two hits and scored two runs, including a double that by all rights should have been an inside-the-park homerun (the umpires decided to change the ground rules on the fly … kind of like a friend of mine who used to change the rules while playing whiffle ball in his backyard). David Wright also earned a few more MVP votes, driving in three runs and scoring another with his two hits. Paul LoDuca also added to the damage, driving in two runs without a hit (two sac flies).

Notes

How hot is Shawn Green? All of the doubters who called for his head at various points this season, please come forward. If we’re going to buy into the Willie Randolph theory that September is the most important time of the year, then Green has answered the bell. He went 2-for-2 with a run scored after being brought in as part of the double switch that included Sosa. He has 7 hits in his last 9 at-bats, with 2 HRs and 4 runs. He’s also 10 for his last 17, with 5 walks … and batting .418 in the month of September. And some people thought he should have been released to make room for Endy Chavez at the end of August.

Speaking of hot, how about Moises Alou? He makes Shawn Green’s September average look paltry with his scorching .459 for the month — not to mention his 23-game hitting streak. Alou went 3-for-4 with an RBI and 2 runs. So much for the sore quad.

Jose Reyes has made four errors in the last four games. He had only made eight errors all season, and went 43 consecutive games without one until the first of his recent “slump”.

Pelfrey pitched pretty well, pounding the bottom of the zone and owning the inside part of the plate with his fastball. His secondary pitches are still, well, secondary, but his command of the fastball was a nice thing to see. I hope he pitches a bit in winter ball to hone his changeup and/or breaking pitch.

Regarding the Reyes fly that got stuck in left field, Gary Cohen’s quick comment that a ball lodged in the padding of the outfield wall is an automatic ground rule double is completely wrong. There is nothing in the rules that stipulates such a thing, and the Washington Nationals’ ground rules do not cover such an occurrence (that’s why it’s called a “ground rule” double). In fact, it varies from park to park — for example, in some parks, the outfielder is supposed to attempt to pull the ball out of the padding, and if it comes loose, the play continues. If it remains stuck, the ball is dead and the ground rules apply. In the case of Jose’s drive, Wily Mo Pena did not see the ball until Reyes was rounding third. Granted, it’s a quirky occurrence that should have been covered somewhere in RFK’s ground rules — but to be technical, it wasn’t, and therefore the umpires could have made any call in their judgment. That’s why Willie was out there arguing — he wanted to know why the umps gave Jose only second base when there was no such “ground rule”.

Next Game

The Mets fly south to Miami to play the Marlins for a four-game set in Dolphin Stadium. It all starts at 7:05 PM on Thursday night, with Tom Glavine taking the mound against Dontrelle Willis.

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Choker Selection

Some new wearables have become available to keep you in line with your favorite baseball team …

Mets leather chokerShow your support of the Flushing Fools by wearing this 100% “heart of the hide” leather choker, dyed traditional Mets blue and contrasted with a heavy Mets logoed medallion. Unisex versatility — looks great on him or her. You can also attach more Mets logos or other objects to the sterling silver rings. The inside of the choker is lined with a soft, anti-allergen cotton material to provide comfort and absorb sweat.

Wow the ballroom crowd at your next high-falutin function by wearing this gorgeous choker Mets fancy chokeradorned with genuine diamelles, tiger’s eye pearls, and the classic New York Apple encrusted with the Mets logo. Comes in either high-polished silver (shown) or 14-carat Italian gold. This is the same fancy choker worn by all the Mets wives at charity functions and team events, including the annual Christmas party. It can also be worn as a tiara or armband — it all depends on your mood!

Looking for something a bit more classy to go with your evening wear? This is a stunning choker, with the Mets logo encased in sterling silver and mounted on five strands of fresh water pearls tinged in Mets’ orange. It is understated simplicity with over-stated elegance at a bargain price.

Mets classy pearl choker

Why should Fido be left out of the fun? Keep your dog in check with this rugged, stainless-steel choke chain. It’s high polish won’t irritate the gruff of your pup’s neck, and the Mets logo tag alerts intruders of your dog’s favorite baseball team.

Mets dog choker chain

All of the above chokers are available direct from the Mets’ clubhouse. Contact William Randolph or Omar Minaya for bulk sales orders.

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Shades of St. Louis 2006

On September 20th, 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals were 80-70, a full 7 games ahead in the NL Central.

The Cardinals went 3-8 the rest of the way, just barely hanging on to the NL Central title by outlasting the Houston Astros and surprising Cincinnati Reds. Everything came down to the last three-game series of the season — the Cardinals won two of three from Milwaukee and the Astros lost two of three to the Braves, finishing 1 1/2 games out of first place.

You know the rest of the story — the Cardinals rode that last week of mayhem into a momentum that made them the World Champions.

Buckle up, Mets fans … anything can happen in these last dozen games, and it could be a very fun ride.

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Mets Game 150: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 9 Mets 8

The players had a team meeting. Willie Randolph had a closed-door meeting. The team was facing one of the worst teams in the National League. They were motivated to get rolling. All signs pointed to “go”.

And the Mets lost.

Gosh … where do we start? What was the worst part of this game? The fact that John Maine gave up eight runs in four innings? That Willie Randolph remains only slightly more animated than a corpse? That Jose Reyes had another oh-fer? The news that El Duque will be out at least another week to ten days? The injury to Moises Alou? The fact that we as Mets fans not only have to deal with a colossal collapse but simultaneously have to tolerate the glib and goading Yankee fans that have re-emerged out of the woodwork to point out the opposite directions the two New York teams are taking lately?

Let’s just glaze over all the negatives and focus on the positives. For example, the Mets did not make an error. That’s right, they went error-free for a full nine innings. Shawn Green went 3-for-4 with another homerun. Endy Chavez and Jeff Conine were a combined 5-for-5 with 3 RBI. Moises Alou had two hits and extended his hitting streak to 22 games. Paul LoDuca went 2-for-4 with a double. David Wright hit two doubles. Guillermo Mota pitched a PERFECT one-third of an inning.

All for naught.

The Mets blew a first-inning, four-nothing lead. They blew a 7-3 lead. They blew, period.

I can’t revamp here the summary without getting sick (again). Go to Yahoo to read the recap.

Notes

Usually when a team holds “team meetings”, it’s either the beginning of the end or a collective grasping at straws. In other words, losers hold team meetings. When was the last time you heard of a team rallying around each other and prevailing over their opponents after a supercharged team meeting?


Next Game

The Mets have already lost the series to the lowly Nats and the Phillies are a game and a half behind. And Mike Pelfrey (instead of Tom Glavine) will be facing Matt Chico in the finale in another 7:05 PM start. So yeah, we’re counting on the 2-7 Pelfrey to pull the Mets out of the deepest ditch of the year. Good luck with that.

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Postseason Gear

The chilly weather of this past weekend was a reminder of how cold it can get in the New York City area in the fall. Since we’re assuming our beloved Mets will be competing come October, it’s time to start choosing cold-weather gear to wear to Shea during the playoffs.

Even if you don’t have postseason tickets, no doubt you’ll be heading out to bars and friends’ places in the brisk autumn weather — and you certainly don’t want to be mistaken for a Yankee fan!

So check out the MetsToday Store for the recently added “Cold-weather Gear” section, where I hand-picked Mets jackets, knit hats, gloves, sweatshirts, long sleeve shirts, mock turtlenecks, blankets, coffee thermoses, and every other item I could find to keep warm during the postseason. There are about ten pages to browse through, with items at all different price points, so you’re likely to find something worth ordering. Be sure to order today so you can get your gear in time for the NLDS.

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Head Scratchers

Starting Pitcher: Brian Lawrence

This game was doomed 24 hours before it began, when Lawrence was summoned to be the “emergency starter”. Did we miss something? I didn’t see an ambulance, nor hear sirens.

The gist of it is this: Pedro Martinez needs a full five days’ rest between starts. OK, fine. So throw John Maine on his regular four days’ rest (he last pitched on the 12th), then go with Mike Pelfrey (who last pitched in relief on 9/11) for game two, and Tom Glavine (9/14) for game three. The problem then is who pitches the opener in Florida — but worry about it then, after you’ve likely swept the Nationals and it doesn’t matter as much. You can throw Jason Vargas against the Marlins (who last pitched on 9/14), or Philip Humber, who has pitched all of three innings this month. In fact, why didn’t Humber get the “emergency start” in the opener in DC? Did the Mets really believe that he would do worse than the nail-biting four-inning disasters Lawrence has provided in every one of his previous five starts?


The Double Switch

Poor Willie Randolph has had a hard time wrapping his head around the whole “double switch thing” ever since entering the National League. It’s not really his fault; after all, he spent most of his life in the American League, where they play a modified version of baseball.

Finally, after almost three years, Willie figured out how to execute the complicated maneuver. It was a nice try — and you have to commend him for trying — but it didn’t quite make sense. Willie replaced the pitcher’s spot with Mike DiFelice, and brought in Jorge Sosa to hit in Paul LoDuca’s position in the order. This was an ill-advised decision on several fronts. First, Sosa is actually a better hitter than DiFelice (Sosa was originally signed as a power-hitting outfielder). Secondly, of all the players in the lineup to replace, it can’t be LoDuca — one of the few guys on the field currently with a pulse. According to Randolph, he wanted to pitch Sosa for multiple innings without his turn coming to the plate. If that’s true, why? Despite his recent troubles, Sosa has been one of the guys Willie’s leaned on when the Mets are ahead in the game. If he pitched more than an inning on Monday, he would not be available on Tuesday. That means if the Mets need pitchers for the 6th and 7th the options will include Pedro Feliciano and … Guillermo Mota. This was a bad idea from the beginning, never mind the fact that it was exacerbated by Willie’s decision to pinch-hit DiFelice with Ruben Gotay — thereby eliminating the purpose of the double-switch.

Paulie’s Tirade

Paul LoDuca’s postgame quote:

“There’s no excuses,” said Paul Lo Duca, who appeared to seethe at being removed on a double-switch in the sixth. “We get paid a lot of money and we’re not playing the game the right way. We’re lackadaisical on defense. We swung the bats a little better tonight, but it just seems like we’re not really playing to win. We’re being very passive and leaning back on things and just not playing well. It needs to turn around quickly or we’re going to be going home.”

Not sure why Paulie’s so excited … this has been the Mets’ modus operandi all year. And the strategy has worked quite well — cruise along, put in just enough effort not to lose more than you win, and wait for the Braves and Phillies to lose more often. That strategy looked like it would work fine last night, when the Cardinals nearly came back from an eleven-run deficit to beat the Phils.

The “Big” Games

Throughout the first half of the season, Willie Randolph continually downplayed the Mets’ struggles and justified his giving away weekday afternoon games with the illogical view that the most important games of the year are played in September. (Of course, at the same time, he’s been quoted as saying “every game is important”.)

Willie’s stone-aged philosophy that the games at the end of the year are somehow more important than those in the beginning or middle is now coming back to bite him in the ass. For example, we’re now looking at “throwaway” games — such as the Dave Williams start right before the All-Star break — with new perspective. We’re wondering why Damion Easley and Jose Valentin were given so many chances over the hot-hitting Ruben Gotay in the first half, and no longer buying the “it’s not all about the numbers” explanation handed by Randolph. But perhaps more relevant is the fact that Willie made September games appear so much more important than those played from April to August, that the team is choking. Sound defensive teams such as the Mets do not make ten errors in two days. Only two things cause that kind of lapse: fatigue and/or nerves. It wouldn’t be surprising if exhaustion was at least partly to blame for some of the errors in the field. After all, two of the culprits are the two most-worn players, David Wright and Jose Reyes. Keith Hernandez can say all he wants about youngsters not taking a breather, but the fact is, these two guys are dog-tired — and it’s too late now to do anything about it. Much was made of the day off finally given to Reyes a couple weeks ago, but unfortunately, 48 hours doesn’t necessarily rejuvenate a guy who needed a rest since mid-May.

Back in Keith’s day, players had access to greenies, and almost no one stole 75 bases a year. The biological fact is, bodies eventually break down, and a guy like Reyes — who exerts more than anyone else in MLB — needs more rest than the MLBPA-sanctioned every-other Monday off. Consider this: the year Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases, he played in 149 games — and his position was the outfield, which mentally and physically is less demanding than shortstop. Further, anyone who watched Rickey will tell you that there were plenty of moments he “took it easy” (less-nice people called him “a dog”). However, Reyes doesn’t cruise, or dog — ever. He’s putting out 100% from the first pitch to the last, and Randolph should have realized early on that he would need frequent breaks during the season to stay fresh. With two weeks left in the season, there’s obviously no time for that for either of the Mets’ young stars.

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Fundamentals: a Refresh

Rawlings Major League BaseballOK, no time to panic here. All the Mets need right now is a refresh on the fundamentals of baseball. Perhaps playing in those big stadiums with the frenetic crowds and TV cameras and flashbulbs popping has caused you Mets to lose sight of the fact that, whether it’s played in a sandlot, on a little league field, or in a $500M retractable dome stadium, it’s still baseball. And to win at this boys’ game, you must follow fundamentals. For example:

1. Know the number of outs and the score at all times.

2. When in the field, and before the next pitch is thrown, think about what you will do with the ball if it’s hit to you.

3. When you are behind in the score and leading off an inning, take a strike.

4. A walk is often as good as a hit.

5. Leadoff walks nearly always score — so get them on offense and prevent them on defense.

6. Never, ever make the first out nor the third out at third base (particularly when your MVP is at the plate).

7. In the field, listen to your catcher’s instructions regarding where to throw the ball. He’s the only one on the field who has the play in front of him.

8. On ground balls, keep the glove down. It’s easier to move the glove up on bad hops than to jab it down.

9. In the field, always try to get in front of the ball and use two hands if possible.

10. For pitchers, the most important pitch is strike one.

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Mets Game 149: Loss to Nationals

Depressed Mr. Met by Sal Iovine

Nationals 12 Mets 4

So it wasn’t necessarily the Phillies that were the problem — it’s the Mets, who are finding new ways to beat themselves every day.

It was earmarked as a throwaway game when — unbelievably — Brian Lawrence was rushed up from New Orleans to serve as the “emergency starter”. What the heck was the emergency? Because El Duque couldn’t pitch? Don’t the Mets already have Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber on the roster, in uniform, ready to show what they can do toward a 2008 job?

Coming into the game, Lawrence had a 1-2 record with a 6.83 ERA and 1.93 WHIP. In his last start, at Philadelphia, he was knocked out in the fifth inning after allowing 10 hits, 2 HRs, and 5 runs. In his previous four starts he BARELY completed five innings — though anyone who saw those games knows very well that he was lucky beyond belief to get that far. So it’s not like it was any surprise when he could go only 3 1/3 in this contest — the surprise, in fact, was that he remained on the 40-man roster. Some may disagree, but I would have been more confident to see Jason Vargas on the mound before Brian Lawrence. Just what in the world was Omar, Willie, and the rest of the organization thinking with this decision?

As it was, Lawrence “pitched” (if that’s what you call it) 3 1/3 frames, and gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and a walk. Like Oliver Perez a day earlier, though, he left with the game tied — at which point the Mets brought in another “sure thing” in Aaron Sele. For anyone who has watched the Mets this year, you know Sele is indeed sure to give up at least one run — regardless of the number of innings he pitches. Though Sele worked out of a jam in the fourth (thanks in large part to Paul LoDuca picking Rob Fick off third base), but predictably gave up the go-ahead run in the fifth. He was replaced by LOOGY Scott Schoeneweis, who struck out pinch-hitter Tony Batista to end the inning.

And here’s where Willie Randolph has problems. Willie, if you’re reading, “LOOGY” is shorthand for Lefthanded One Out GuY. That’s what “The Show” is — a guy you use for ONE OUT. However, the cement-head that Randolph is, chose instead to push his luck and use Schoeneweis for another inning. Bad choice — and that’s not coming from the Monday morning quarterback, it’s what was screamed at the television when the bottom of the sixth began.

Hmm … sound familiar? Perhaps you remembered Sunday afternoon’s contest, when the sixth inning “happened”. Well apparently the same copywriter was hired to write Monday night’s story, because again it was the sixth that the Mets had a collective brain fart and gave the game away. First, David Wright allowed a DP ball to skip under his glove. Then, Schoeneweis threw away a bunt. Then, Jorge Sosa forgot to throw out Nook Logan scoring from third on an easy bouncer back to the box. Before it was all over, it was Nationals 9 Mets 4.

The bottom of the seventh wasn’t much better, as the Nats added another three and a pound of salt to the Mets’ wounds. Not much more to say.

Notes

Kudos to Carlos Beltran for swinging at the first pitch he saw in the eighth and popping up to the catcher, down eight runs. No need to be smart or fundamentally sound at that point — just get the game over with as quickly as possible.

The Mets wasted a two-run homer by Beltran and a solo shot by Shawn Green. Green was 2-for-3 on the evening.

Willie found a way to use all four of his catchers in the game, wasting Mike DiFelice in a double-switch — only to pinch-hit for him later — and giving Ramon Castro a pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth.

The Washington Nationals came into the game as the worst-hitting, lowest-scoring team in all of Major League Baseball. They amassed 12 runs on 13 hits.

The Phillies bludgeoned the Cardinals and are now 2 1/2 games behind with 13 games to play.


Next Game

John Maine goes against Joel Hanrahan in another 7:05 PM start. Who knows what might happen?

Note: The image accompanying this article was drawn by Staten Island artist Sal Iovine. Be sure to view his websites IOBLOG and www.saliovine.com to view all of his great illustrations and artwork.

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