Archive: April 21st, 2008

Mets Game 17: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 7 Mets 1

We thought it might be a pitchers’ duel, and it was just that … until the ugly eighth.

It wouldn’t have made a difference, because Carlos Zambrano was just a bit better than John Maine anyway.

Maine didn’t look particularly great, and didn’t have his best stuff, but somehow he managed to match zeroes with Zambrano until the fourth, when Aramis Ramirez jumped all over a first-pitch fastball with a man on to put the Cubs ahead 2-0. Unfortunately, the Mets could only manage one run — scored on a double play no less — against Zambrano and the Cubs bullpen.

Through most of the game, Maine struggled with his command, falling behind hitters and not getting on top of his pitches. He allowed the leadoff man to reach base in three out of the first four innings. However, he kept the Mets in the game, pitched six full innings, and the final stat line looked pretty good: 6 strikeouts, two walks, five hits, two earned runs.

The eighth inning started innocently enough, with Jose Reyes booting an easy ground ball; apparently he did not realize a prankster had stuck a bullfrog into the pocket of his glove before he left the dugout. The next batter Aramis Ramirez got in the way of an inside pitch and was awarded first base. Then Kosuke Fukudome fouled off 75 pitches before slapping a seeing-eye single into left field to load the bases. Aaron Heilman regrouped however, inducing a popout from Geovany Soto and striking out Mark DeRosa. He was about to strike out Ronny Cedeno as well, but felt bad for the weak-hitting defensive specialist, and gave him a nice meaty pitch to drive into centerfield to drive in two runs. By then, Heilman had matched the pitch counts of Maine and Zambrano combined, so Willie Randolph removed him from the game in favor of homerun specialist Jorge Sosa.

Sosa did as expected, hanging a flat slider to Felix Pie, who deposited the ball into the bleachers to extend the lead to 7-1.

Though it was completely unnecessary, the teams insisted on taking the field in the ninth, and the Mets were gracious enough to put an end to the game quickly, retiring themselves on six pitches.

Notes

Though it didn’t help things to plunk Aramis Ramirez in the eighth inning, I enjoyed seeing Aaron Heilman throw inside to Ramirez — and pound the inside of the plate against the other batters he faced. What really had me scratching my head, though, was why in the world Raul Casanova set up on the outside part of the plate for four consecutive pitches after getting two quick strikes on feeble-hitting Ronny Cedeno??? Cedeno was looking to hit the ball to the opposite field, has a slow bat to begin with, yet Casanova and Heilman were targeting the outside part of the plate — the one place Cedeno had a chance to get around on a pitch and put it in play. When Casanova FINALLY moved his target to the inside, it was four pitches too late, and Heilman didn’t get it far in enough, but left it over the middle of the plate. Had he gone to a fastball in on the hands, maybe a little up, before wasting five pitches on the outside, he might have disposed of Cedeno immediately.

Yeah, I know when you give up all those runs so late in the game, it’s difficult to stay “up” for the final at-bat. But, the Mets’ last at-bat was atrocious. In Little League, they teach you to take a strike when you’re behind. Luis Castillo took a strike before grounding out to first, but both David Wright and Carlos Beltran were hacking with 1-0 counts, down six in the last inning. Call it what you want — I call it giving up and getting the game over with, and that’s disappointing.

If nothing else, at least make Kerry Wood break a sweat. There’s another game tomorrow, folks, and if it’s a close game, Wood will be fresh and ready to fire away after expending only a half-dozen pitches. On the other hand, Aaron Heilman will not be available after throwing 30 pitches in his one-inning outing. (I know, I know, some of you snarks say that’s a good thing, but that’s being really nearsighted; Heilman did not pitch poorly, despite letting up four runs. Sometimes the stats don’t tell the whole story.)

Lost in the disaster was another encouraging outing by Duaner Sanchez — or as Mike Francesa refers to him, “DWAY-nar”. Dirty wasn’t dominating, but he was OK, using 17 pitches (12 for strikes) in a scoreless inning of work.

Next Game

The Mets won’t have the excuse of a late night flight tomorrow, but they will have the ability to blame the day game if they come out on the field as uninspired as they were this evening. Nelson Figueroa goes against Ted Lilly in a 2:20 PM start that will be carried on SNY, 660 WFAN and XM 184.

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Inside Look: Chicago Cubs

cubslogo.jpgThe Mets are in Wrigleyville for a two-game set, playing the 2007 NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs return as the favorites in 2008, led again by skipper Lou Piniella, sluggers Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee, and riding the arm of Carlos Zambrano, among others. New this year is their closer, who as of now is Kerry Wood.

To get a more in-depth look of the Cubs, we turn to Rob G. of The Cub Reporter.

1. After a first-place finish in 2007, the Cubs look poised to make a return to the postseason in 2008. Who do you see as the most serious challengers to the NL Central crown, and why?

The Brewers remain our biggest competition. There’s a lot of talent over there, a lot of young talent that you just hope doesn’t take off at the same time. That being said, Sheets is already dealing with his yearly injury and Prince Fielder has one home run after going on a vegetarian diet. And signing Eric Gagne a few days before the Mitchell Report came out, might go down as one of the boneheaded moves of all time.

Otherwise I thought the Reds were the only team with a chance before the year started, but they’ve got the wrong manager for that group of young talent. A manager who still thinks Corey Patterson can bat lead-off.


2. Do the Cubs go to the postseason without Lou Piniella as manager?

Oh sure, Lou is great and all, but the Cubs have a payroll in the top five. That probably has more to do with their success than the bench jockey. But I’m glad he’s sitting on the Cubs bench…

3. Tell us about Kosuke Fukudome — something we can’t see in his statline.

He strikes me as an incredibly smart ballplayer that knows the situation at all times. The common perception that Pacific Rim players are well-trained in the fundamentals, certainly seems true in this case.

4. How and why did Matt Murton not make the Opening Day roster? (I do see he was finally promoted)

There are a few reasons. First, he’s gotten into a funk with his swing and seems to be hitting everything on the ground right now. Mostly Lou wanted a little more versatility off the bench and a left-handed bat over a right-handed one. With Mike Fontenot, he can move Mark DeRosa to left or right if needed and Fontenot can play shortstop in a desperate pinch.

5. Are you comfortable with Kerry Wood as the closer and do you think he’ll stay in that role all season?

As long as he stays healthy he’ll be the closer all year. Kerry possibly has the best “stuff” in all of baseball (a career K/9 rate of 10.81 being the basis for that statement), so I think he can handle the role just fine.


6. Is Ryan Theriot for real?

Well yes, he isn’t a cyborg. Snark aside, he’s an okay ballplayer with a limited skill set that he does a great job of maximizing. If he can keep an average around .300, and he has the contact ability and speed to do that, he can be incredibly valuable as he’ll likely have an OBP of around .350 or .360 then. Because of his limited power though, he’s at the mercy of the BABIP gods (Batting Average on Balls In Play) when it comes to his batting average. If he hits in the .260 range though like last year, he’s not so useful and the Cubs will be looking for an upgrade.

7. Predictions: Who will be the Cubs’ MVP in ’08? Who will be the biggest surprise?

I’ll go out on a limb on this one and say the guy leading the league in home runs right now, Derrek Lee. Before the season, I would have said Aramis Ramirez. As for biggest suprise, I’ll go out on another limb and take the guy with the 3-0 record, Ryan Dempster. But I do think most folks expected him to crash and burn as a starter, while I think he’ll be be an asset to the team.

Thanks again to Rob G. for his insight into the Cubbies. Be sure to check out The Cub Reporter for all the “inside info” on the Chicago Cubs.

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