Browsing Archive May, 2008

Mets Game 54: Win Over Dodgers

Mets 3 Dodgers 2компютри втора употреба

I’m starting to believe that the Mets are becoming the team we’ve been dying to see for over a year.

The New York Mets — OUR New York Mets — came from behind AGAIN to steal a win away from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There was life, there was spirit, there was drama — and best of all, a story with a happy ending.

High on the list of outstanding performers was Mike Pelfrey, who pitched seven innings — six of them excellent — and held the Dodgers to only two runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out three. I’m absolutely convinced he was motivated by my suggestion he swap places with Aaron Heilman a few hours before the game. No doubt, he’s cemented his place in the rotation once Pedro returns … let’s hope we don’t have to suffer through five awful outings before we see another gem. Oh, but let’s stay on the positive …

While Pelfrey was setting down the Dodgers, Chad Billingsley was doing the same to the Mets — until the 8th, when he was removed for Jonathan Broxton. Broxton gave up a double to David Wright and homerun to Carlos Beltran to tie up the ballgame, then allowed a single to Carlos Delgado. Delgado was replaced by pinch-runner Nick Evans, who was sacrificed to second by Damion Easley. Brian Schneider was then intentionally walked, and Fernando Tatis ripped a single up the middle to score Evans, put the Mets ahead for the first time and for good.

Billy Wagner came on in the ninth and struck out the side on 15 pitches to earn his eleventh save. Dominating.

Notes

This game was reminiscent of the ones we enjoyed in 2006 — plenty of chutzpah, and a never-say-die effort. Tatis is playing the role of Jose Valentin — the washed-up veteran middle infielder who reinvents himself and surprises everyone.

Next Game

The final game of the series will be played at 8:05 pm and carried on ESPN. Johan Santana takes the hill against Hiroki Kuroda.

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Mets Game 53: Loss to Dodgers

Dodgers 9 Mets 5

I absolutely refuse to blame Aaron Heilman for this game.

Rather, it is the fault of Willie Randolph / a.k.a. “Bill R”.

The Mets led 5-4 going into the top of the 8th, and Pedro Feliciano had pitched a scoreless 7th. However, because lefthanded-hitting Juan Pierre was leading off, Feliciano was left in to start the frame. BAD IDEA. Why? Number one, because it’s stupid to apply the lefty-lefty thing to a singles hitter such as Feliciano — particularly when the next guy coming in, you supposedly believe “matches up well” against lefties. Number two, Heilman is MUCH better when pitching with the bases empty, which is guaranteed when he starts an inning. Number three, Feliciano is supposed to be a LOOGY or a one-inning guy. Having him pitch multiple innings means you can’t use him for the rest of the weekend.

So Pierre leads off with a ground ball out, but the first base umpire flubbed the play and called him safe instead. Since there is a righthanded hitter up next, Willie strides out to the mound to remove Feliciano and insert Aaron Heilman. Apparently, Willie was completely oblivious to these facts:

a.) Heilman just pitched two innings two days ago, and had pitched two innings two days before that;

b.) Heilman’s batting average against is almost 200 points higher with men on base than with bases empty;

c.) Someone (Rick Peterson?) has messed with Aaron’s mechanics so his hand is now below the ball at release, which causes pitches to be higher than intended.

The main point is (a) — Heilman has routinely pitched less effectively when overused. And yes, now that MLB regularly tests players for PEDs, most pitchers cannot pitch as regularly in the past (this is not to indict Heilman as a past user; rather, it is pointing out that managers must re-evaluate individual relief appearance frequency based on more humanly possible expectations).

I stated this in a recent post: I do not like the low arm angle Heilman has pitched with in his last few outings — the stats and performance be damned. Throwing from that sideways release MIGHT be OK when he’s feeling strong, but if he’s even a tad bit fatigued, his angle will drop by merely an inch and as a result his pitches will be up in the zone instead of down. And, wow, what do you know? The majority of his pitches in this abbreviated stint were up. Huh.

Anyway, back to the game.

It looked as though the Mets were going to win their fourth straight game when they went ahead 5-4 in the seventh when a bases-loaded grounder by Ramon Castro plated David Wright. The run capped a fine fight by the Mets, who came back to tie the Dodgers twice earlier in the game. If nothing else, this contest showed the Mets still have spirit. However, John Maine had a tough time, allowing three runs in the first frame, and a solo homer to Russell Martin in the fourth. On the offensive side, the Mets had a few opportunities to have huge innings, loading the bases in the third, fourth, and seventh, but scored only one run each time. Their only multiple-run inning came in the first, on Luis Castillo’s third homerun of the season and second in three days.

Notes

Carlos Delgado was inspired in game 52, but back to his old ways in #54. It’s borderline hilarious — to a non-Mets fan — to watch Delgado’s response to ground balls to the right side. If you watched Aaron Heilman’s horrible outing in the eighth, you saw at least two of the four hits go through the right side. The balls bounced past Delgado, who made absolutely zero attempt to move toward the balls, but rather turned his head ever so slightly and watched them zip past. Now, I’m pretty certain he couldn’t have made a play on either of the grounders, but geez louise — at least make a MOVEMENT, a REACTION to the ball. After diving all over the field the night before, Delgado went right back to cementing his feet into a comfortable spot of clay and acting as a curious spectator on balls to the right side.

Although Scott Schoeneweis has been pitching very well recently, and has a sparkling ERA, I must once again mention that he is the last person you want to see running in from the bullpen if you are a Mets pitcher leaving the game with runners on base. It’s amazing how many inherited runners he allows to score; I thought it was my imagination but the stats support my vision — he’s allowed something like 50% of inherited runners to cross the plate. Note to Willie: as we suggest with Heilman, let Scho start innings. Your old teammate Rich Gossage was adamant about that, too — you should remember.

Luis Castillo left the game after straining his hip flexor on a double play turn. Is this Jose Valentin’s window of opportunity?

BTW, who the heck is Charlie Minn and what is he doing on SNY’s Daily News Live? I can’t wait until web and TV converge and all the nasty MetsBlog commenters can rip guys like Minn to shreds while they’re watching the show (hmm … it would be kind of like The Gong Show).

Next Game

Unfortunately, it’s a FOX game on Saturday, so a 3:55 pm start. Mike Pelfrey goes against Chad Billingsley. My confidence in Big Pelf is as low as always, but who knows, he might surprise us and have one of those sparkling starts.

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Mets Game 52: Win Over Dodgers

Mets 8 Dodgers 4

Someone call the authorities! The New York Mets have been kidnapped, and a collection of hungry independent-league ballplayers are playing in their uniforms!

The Mets hit, they ran, they fielded the ball, they threw the ball … it was like … what’s it called? BASEBALL, at its finest. They scored first, and they tacked on. They gave up a few runs, then answered with some of their own. They hustled down the line on routine grounders. They dove for balls in the infield. They took pitches. They hit the other way. They spoiled pitcher’s pitches. They drove in runners in scoring position with two outs. In short, they had energy and they EXECUTED. I haven’t been this giddy watching the orange and blue since the first week of April 2007.

Oh, and they’re back to .500. That may not seem too special, but considering how things were looking only a few days ago, getting even is a significant milestone.

The turning point in the game came in the bottom of the fourth, when Dodgers catcher Russell Martin interfered with Claudio Vargas’ swing with two outs and no one on. Jose Reyes followed with a single, putting runners on first and second for Luis Castillo, who smacked a double to score both runners and make the score 4-0. David Wright followed with a smash over the wall to extend the lead to 6-0 and bury Brady Penny.

Claudio Vargas threw four good frames, then gave up three runs in the fifth on two homeruns. No biggie, IMHO, as he was working with a six-run lead. I’d much rather see a pitcher with a big lead give up a few homers because he’s throwing strikes, rather than walk people. Vargas stayed through two outs in the sixth, but allowed a double and a walk before yielding to Pedro Feliciano. Pedro Lite failed in his assignment to retire lefthanded hitting James Loney, allowing a single to drive in a run and make the score 6-4. Unbelievably, Willie “Keep the Bench Warm, Rook” Randolph then called on recent callup Carlos Muniz to extinguish the fire. Muniz responded by striking out slugger Matt Kemp to end the inning.

Scott “Ol’ Reliable” Schoeneweis then did his usual routine — one and two-thirds innings of perfection, expending an efficient 15 pitches in the process. Joe Smith was equally effective, throwing 17 pitches and allowing no runs and only one hit in the last inning and a third, striking out two.

On the offensive side of things, David Wright was the player of the game, driving in four with his tenth and eleventh homeruns of the season. Luis Castillo went 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, an RBI, and two runs scored. The top five hitters in the lineup were a combined 11-for-21 with 7 runs and 5 RBI.

Notes

Amazing what a bit of motivation can do to a team. For example, Carlos Delgado. This game was the first time in three years I witnessed dirt on Delgado’s uniform. He dove to make plays not once but TWICE, staining that bright white uni with the orange clay substance covering the Shea infield. Don’t worry, Carlos, it’ll all come out in the wash (Charlie Samuels will Shout! it out). “Dirty” Delgado played the most inspired baseball I’ve seen from him since his Toronto days. Perhaps Willie should make a habit of sitting his big butt on the bench.

I’m still stunned that Willie brought in Muniz with a slim two-run lead. This could be a turning point in Willie’s reign — when was the last time he trusted an unknown rookie in a tight situation?

I love hearing “experts” such as Lee Mazzilli spout silly things such as his postgame synopsis of Brad Penny’s tough day. Maz pointed out that Penny was relying on his 95+ fastball to a “fastball-hitting team”. I don’t mean to pick on Maz — he’s one of my favorite former Mets — but just once I want to hear a pundit say that a batter is a “curveball hitter”, or a “slider hitter”, or a “changeup hitter”. That will be quipped immediately after the legitimate report of a swine flying.


Next Game

The Mets host the Dodgers again at 7:10 pm on Friday night, sending John Maine to the mound against rookie Clayton Kershaw. The contest will be broadcast on SNY, WFAN, and XM 186.

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Mets Game 51: Win Over Marlins

Mets 7 Marlins 6

Wow … this is EXACTLY what we’ve been waiting for — for about a year.

Fernando Tatis continued his case for regular duty, slamming a clutch two-run double in the 12th to push the Mets past the Marlins.

The big hit came after light-hitting Alfredo Amezega punched a ball over the rightfield fence in the top of the inning to give Florida the lead. However, these “new” Mets did not roll over, but rather came back for the second time in the evening to earn a huge win over the first-place Fish.

But early on, there didn’t appear to be a need for the comeback kids. Oliver Perez was cruising right along, setting down Marlins batters like Earl Anthony used to knock down bowling pins. He retired 12 of the first 14 Fish he faced, allowing only a harmless solo homer to catcher Mike Rabelo. Meantime, the Mets jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first frame on a two-run dinger by Luis Castillo, and extended it to 3-1 on a sac fly by Fernando Tatis in the fourth.

However, Dr. Perez transformed into Mr. Hyde in the fifth, allowing a leadoff homer to Cody Ross and then losing the strike zone, walking two before wiggling out of the inning without further damage — thanks to a spectacular running catch of a line drive by Carlos Beltran. Miraculously, manager Willie Randolph allowed Perez to start the sixth, despite his struggles in the fifth and obvious sudden loss of confidence. Perez was given a free pass by Jorge Cantu, who flied out on the first pitch, but then walked Wes Helms in a nine-pitch at-bat. Dan Uggla followed with an infield hit, and then it was Cody Ross again. I kept waiting to hear “… and now Willie Randolph will go out to the mound”, but strangely, there wasn’t even anyone warming up in the bullpen. Apparently, Willie is not aware that his job is on the line. He left Hyde out there, and it was “deja vu all over again” as Ross put another one over the fence to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead. Only after the ball exited the playing field did someone in the dugout finally get on the phone to the bullpen. Amazing.

Scott Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless seventh, and then Aaron Heilman, of all people, changed the tone of the game. Heilman pitched with a fervor for two frames, retiring all six batters he faced with a dominance we haven’t seen since the first week of the season. His performance was something of an inspiration to the men in the dugout, who heartily congratulated Heilman after finishing the ninth. Endy Chavez was so excited, in fact, he led off the bottom of the ninth with a homerun off closer Kevin Gregg to tie up the ballgame.

Notes

It looks to me like Heilman is over-exaggerating an attempt to “stay closed” with his front shoulder, and also pitching from a lower arm angle than normal. Although he had great success tonight, I fear it may be a short-term fix. As has been mentioned here several times before, Heilman’s release point is extremely fragile, and he can very quickly get too much under the ball. This occurs when he’s overused, and gets fatigued. Pitching from a more upright position, he has a better foundation from which to stay on top of the ball and throw on a downward plane. The way he threw tonight, he’s already starting low, and throwing from more of a level plane — he looks a lot like Joe Smith, actually. I’m happy Heilman pitched well — I’m his biggest fan — but am guarding my optimism at this point in time. There’s not question Heilman can be an effective pitcher, but what worries me is when Willie starts using him five times a week.

The Mets bullpen retired 16 straight Fish before Amezega’s solo homer.

In the bottom of the 11th, Endy Chavez led off with a single, and Randolph put on the hit-and-run with Brian Schneider at the plate and the pitcher on deck. It was a good call, in my opinion, because a) the right side was wide open with the first baseman holding the runner and b) Schneider is a dead-pull hitter who seems to hit a grounder to the right side every other time up. Unfortunately, for only the second time in his career, Schneider hit the ball the other way, and in the air. Figures.

Duaner Sanchez got it up to 93 MPH on the Shea Stadium radar gun. Unfortunately, Alfredo Amezega used aikido to redirect that energy over the fence.

I have to admit I was concerned when John Maine was sent out to pinch-run for Carlos Delgado. Sitting on the bench all night, with his body cold, all I could think was “don’t run too hard, don’t pull a hammy”. Next time, send Mike Pelfrey out there — if he pulls something the impact would not be nearly as great.


Next Game

The Mets host the Dodgers for a four-game series this weekend, starting with a 7:10 pm game on Thursday night. Claudio “Don’t Call Me Jason” Vargas goes to the mound against Brad “JC” Penny. Strangely, the two teams finish the series with an 8:05 pm game on Sunday — and then both teams have Monday night games in California. Talk about jet lag. I wonder if they’ll be sharing a plane.

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Told You So

Sometimes I hate when I’m right.

It doesn’t happen that often, which makes it doubly frustrating. But since I’m wrong so often, I have to occasionally point out the times I”m right, so you don’t think I’m completely full of manure.

For example, almost TWO YEARS AGO, I said the Mets Need a Gamer (and followed it up with examples). They never obtained one. Now they need more than just a scrappy ballplayer — they need an unquestionable leader. Those are hard to come by. Jim Edmonds might have been a decent choice, if his skills weren’t so eroded and he wasn’t injured as often as Moises Alou. And I wouldn’t care about him batting from the left side — some things are more important than matchups (personalities, for instance).

The sabermetricians disagree — most are still wondering why the Mets haven’t signed Barry Bonds (ha) — but having actually played the game on real fields, with real people, I can say without question that a winning team requires certain personalities, in addition to the people who can accumulate numbers. And the Mets are missing one or two of those personalities.

Early this spring, I made another outlandish claim: that Johan Santana was NOT the key to the Mets’ success in 2008. If you read that article, you’d know the key is actually Carlos Delgado. Maybe I was slightly off — after all, I can’t imagine where the Mets would be right now without Santana. However, I still stand by my opinion that the Mets’ offense is extremely reliant on Carlos Delgado being a 30-HR, 100-RBI, .275 hitter. Right now, it looks like Delgado would be lucky to meet any of those targets — and as a result the lineup has a hole the size of the Grand Canyon. To make matters worse, it appears that Delgado is the de facto leader of the team. Where he can lead them is anybody’s guess — but it certainly won’t be to the postseason.

For every two times I’m right, I’m wrong five or six. For example, I thought keeping Joe Smith on the roster over Stephen Register and Ricardo Rincon was preposterous … though in the same article suggested that Mike Pelfrey be left back in AAA. I didn’t think much of the Angel Pagan move, and that turned out pretty well until he injured himself. On the other hand, I really wanted the Mets to go after Mike Sweeney — who is now hitting .307 as a regular with the A’s.

Of all my dumb predictions and opinions, though, I never once suggested — nor thought — that the Mets would be fighting to stay out of last place at the end of May. Having Johan on board, and all those arms in the bullpen, it appeared that the Mets would have one of the stronger pitching staffs in the NL — and good pitching beats good hitting, right?

Except, of course, when bad pitching beats your bad hitting.

One more prediction: the Mets WILL turn their season around, and provide us an entertaining summer. I’m not sold on the idea that this is a championship team, but I’d at least like to look forward to watching the games every evening. Is that so much to ask?

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