Archive: April 16th, 2008

Mets Game 13: Win Over Nationals

Mets 5 Nationals 2

It took three starts, but John Maine “finally” earned his first win of 2008.

Maine threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing only five hits and two runs, in evening his record to 1-1. He ran into a bit of trouble early on, walking leadoff batter Cristian Guzman to begin the game and then watching the Nats manufacture a run in the most classical way (hit and run, sac fly), but Maine eventually settled down and cruised through the next five innings. He gave up a solo homer to Austin Kearns in the fourth but otherwise had no troubles at all until walking two batters in the seventh with two out.

Joe Smith was brought on to strike out Ryan Zimmerman — who looked completely uncomfortable against the sidearm slinger — and he proceeded to pitch a perfect 8th before giving the ball to Billy Wagner for an effortless save.

Meanwhile, the offense gave Maine plenty to work with, scoring five by way of the long fly ball. Jose Reyes and Ryan Church hit solo shots over the fence, and Carlos Beltran provided the big blow, a three-run bomb that took all the air out of the Nationals.

Notes

Smith is looking great, both with the movement on his sinker and his confidence. The pessimist in me, however, wonders if his early success is due to the change in his motion — in other words, what happens when he doesn’t look “new” anymore?

Lastings Milledge got plunked in the eighth inning by Joe Smith. About five seconds before it happened, I remarked to my wife, “wow, Lastings is really on top of the plate … he must be worried about that slider off the outside corner”. Then, “plunk”. Looking at the replay, Milledge didn’t even try to get out of the way — he actually strode into the pitch, seemed surprised that it was so far in, and by then it was too late to get out of the way. This isn’t Lastings’ problem so much as young players in general, who no longer are taught to get out of the way and who generally are not exposed to inside pitches. IMHO this is one of the biggest differences in baseball over the last 20 years, and a huge factor in the recent offensive explosion in MLB — in short, the batters have no fear. It was a whole different ballgame before body armor and pitchers thrown out of games for throwing inside.

Chad Cordero looked awful in his one-inning stint. He looked like he was playing darts in a pub with those weak 77-MPH “fastballs”. He makes Orlando Hernandez look fast by comparison (remember El Duque?).

David Wright and Carlos Beltran are on fire — both seeing and hitting the ball well. Beltran’s numbers are not as gaudy as Wright’s right now, but they don’t bear out how “locked in” Carlos is so far this season. Beltran is having great at-bats, waiting for his pitch, taking walks, and when he swings, is stinging the ball all over the place. Yes he’s under .300, but many of his outs this season have been hard line drives and long fly balls. His approach is reminiscent of 2006 — he appears focused and prepared, like a patient tiger twirling its tail and waiting for the right moment to strike its prey.

I said it a few days ago, I’ll say it again: I thought Ryan Church couldn’t hit lefties? Last time I was reminded of his vs. LHP stats, which weren’t great. My point then, and is now: Church is hitting the ball solidly off lefties — regardless of his average. Now he’s hitting close to .300 vs. lefties, and has proven he’s capable of handling southpaws — it’s not like he can be paralyzed simply because a guy throws with his left hand. Whether he can keep up this pace is another question.


Next Game

Mets and Nats do it a final time — until next week — at 7:10 PM. Nelson Figueroa makes his second start of the season against John Lannon

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Where Is Ricardo Rincon?

Ricardo Rincon pitching for the Mets in spring training at Port St. LucieDuring spring training, non-roster invitee Ricardo Rincon looked like he might make Scott Schoeneweis expendable, seeming to have recaptured the form that made him one of baseball’s elite lefthanded middle relievers and a favorite of Billy Beane in the early part of this decade. Injuries had affected his performance in recent years, but this spring Rincon was finally healthy, showing good command and a sinking fastball that occasionally touched 90-91 MPH.

However, the Mets didn’t have room for him in their overstocked bullpen, and he was reassigned.

But where did he go?

He’s not with the New Orleans Zephyrs, nor in Port St. Lucie, nor anywhere else within the Mets organization … yet, believe it or not, he is pitching professionally, and is technically still Mets property.

Turns out, Ricardo Rincon was “loaned” to the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils, for those of you who failed Spanish 101) of the Mexican League, and could return to the Mets at some point if necessary. Rincon had planned to retire if he didn’t make the team, but his spring performance was encouraging to the Mets brass, and the arrangement allows Ricardo to pitch in his native land, near his home (kind of like Roger Clemens, minus the Hummer).

I haven’t been able to track down an “official” statement regarding this arrangement, but I did find Ricardo Rincon’s 2008 stats and he is indeed on the Diablos roster. Thus far he has pitched in 5 games totaling 5 innings, striking out 5, walking none, allowing 3 hits and no runs.

Yes, The Show looks OK right now, but it’s early, and it doesn’t hurt to have a LOOGY like Ricardo Rincon in your back pocket … even if your pants are in Mexico.

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