Browsing Archive August, 2008

Mets Game 137: Win Over Marlins

Mets 6 Marlins 2

It was a close ballgame until the seventh, and then the “offensive closer” came on to give the Mets enough cushion to make the bullpen relatively irrelevant.

With men on first and second and one out in the seventh, Jose Reyes smacked an opposite field RBI single that chased starter and loser Scott Olsen and ignited a three-run outburst that gave the Mets a comfortable four-run lead that they never relinquished.

Pedro Martinez pitched six strong innings, allowing only two runs on seven hits and a walk, to earn the win. After Pedro, the Mets required only five relievers to protect the lead over the final three innings. Good thing the cavalry is coming tomorrow (five pitchers from AAA).

Notes

Gary Cohen used the word “meritocracy” to describe the Mets’ bullpen. I believe that is the first time in 35 years I have ever heard the word “meritocracy” used in a baseball broadcast. In fact it may be the first time I’ve heard or seen the word since my SAT test.

There was talk from the SNY announcers that Fernando Tatis may start against the righthanded Ben Sheets on Monday — which means either Ryan Church or Daniel Murphy would not play. The way Murphy’s been hitting, I don’t see how you can sit him. Although Church has struggled since coming off the DL, I think you have to keep putting him in there until he gets his timing back — the way he swung the bat in the first two months of the season, you have to give him every opportunity to “get right”. We’ll see what happens.

Nick Evans hit his first big-league homer, a powerful blast into the left field seats. It was the second solo shot of the day for the Mets, and immediately preceded a dinger by David Wright. Evans hit a few homeruns in the minors, and many internal people believe he will develop legitimate big-league power as he gains experience. Four baggers would be a nice addition to his already sound, if slightly overmatched, offensive game.

Wright was 3-for-5, and Carlos Beltran hit the first dinger of the day, though didn’t do anything afterward. Beltran, though, has been either hitting laser beams or squibs, and I still think he’s on the verge of going ballistic.

Endy Chavez stroked a nice opposite-field single as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. It was a great thing to see, as he’s seen his playing time dwindle to nothing with the emergence of Evans/Murphy and the return of Church. Endy is no superstar but when kept sharp is a vital component — offensively and defensively — off the bench.


Next Game

The Mets travel to Milwaukee to face the Brewers in a 2:05 pm game on Monday. Aces Johan Santana and Ben Sheets will do battle.

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Postseason Roster

With today the last day of August, it is also the last day for postseason rosters to be set. In other words, anyone who is NOT on the “active” or 25-man roster today, cannot play in the playoffs (should the Mets make them).

For a player to be eligible for the postseason, Major League Baseball rules require him be on the team’s active 25-man roster or on the disabled, bereavement, suspended or military lists before midnight on Aug. 31 of that season. So, playes on the 15-day DL such as Billy Wagner, Matt Wise, Ramon Castro, Marlon Anderson, Trot Nixon, John Maine, El Duque, and, believe it or not, Jason Vargas, are all eligible for the postseason roster. Several players are also on the 60-day DL as of today, including Angel Pagan, Moises Alou, Tony Armas Jr., and Ambiorix Burgos.

In addition, the rules also say that if a player eligible for the postseason is injured, the team can request permission from the commissioner’s office to replace him with a player from the minor league system — as long as the player was on a minor league roster within the organization as of Aug. 31 and still with the organization at the end of the regular season. Also, an injured pitcher can only be replaced by another pitcher and a position player by another position player (though,the positions don’t have to match, so an outfielder can replace a second baseman, for example).

Due to these rules, these players would NOT be eligible for the postseason roster (if there IS a postseason for the Mets): Al Reyes, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Argenis Reyes, Carlos Muniz, Eddie Kunz, Ruddy Lugo, Claudio Vargas, and Ricardo Rincon, among others. Perhaps none of the aforementioned would be valuable in a short series, but we don’t know what September will bring. For example, what if it turns out that Al Reyes can be a legitimate closer? What if Rincon recaptures the magic of being a lights-out LOOGY? What if Niese or Parnell fulfill the hype?

Most likely, if any of these players turns out to be a valuable asset, and the Mets make the playoffs, someone will turn up lame — either coincidentally or by design. I have a feeling, for example, that Duaner Sanchez could find himself disabled in the coming weeks — he simply wasn’t ready for the workload of a full season.

And speaking of the expanded roster — we’ll likely see new players arriving as early as tomorrow — I have two “sleeper”: Rincon and Amby Burgos. After seeing Rincon pitch in spring training, I couldn’t figure out how he didn’t make the roster. He spent the entire year on loan to a team in Mexico, and was quietly returned to the Mets a few days ago. If he pitched anything like he did in Port St. Lucie, the Mets may have a guy who can get out a tough lefty hitter in a key situation. And it’s no coincidence he was “hidden” in the Mexican League, where few advance scouts spend their summers — he’ll be something of a mystery to NL hitters over the last few weeks of the season.

Burgos is a longshot, and I haven’t seen him pitch since returning from Tommy John surgery. His numbers are not good in his rehab assignment in the lower levels of the minors, but that’s not necessarily an indicator — he could have been told to simply throw fastballs, stay away from sliders, and not worry about getting hit. If Burgos is anywhere near his pre-surgery velocity — which was in the triple digits — he could be a factor down the stretch. Again, a longshot, but that’s why he’s a “sleeper”.

Hat tip to “isuzudude” for suggesting this topic as a point of discussion. That said, please discuss ….

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Bullpen Point

During Friday night’s edition of “Live From Mickey Mantle’s“, my co-host Mark Healey brought up an interesting point (if you missed the show, you can download it and listen to it at your leisure).

I won’t provide the exact quote, but the gist of Mark’s point was this: after the 2006 season, when the bullpen was absolutely spectacular, the Mets let two key components walk away — Chad Bradford and Darren Oliver. After the bullpen’s atrocities of the 2007 season, instead of an overhaul, they brought back the exact same personnel (except for Guillermo Mota).

I’m not going to say ChadBrad and Oliver would have definitely been the difference — though I will point out they both have continued to pitch well since their exit — but it is strange that the Mets would choose to dismantle the bullpen that “worked” and retain the one that didn’t.

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Mets Game 136: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 4 Mets 3

As usual, the Mets jumped out to an early lead, then slumbered. They scored two runs in the first, another one in the third, then went right to bed. Meantime, Mike Pelfrey pitched another gem, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. He left with a 3-2 lead, which we all knew would not last.

Naturally, the bullpen blew the one-run lead. Duaner Sanchez gave up a solo homer to Mike Jacobs to make it 3-3, and Jerry Manuel set up Aaron Heilman to fail in the ninth.

Notes

Go ahead, blame Aaron Heilman if you’re a “Heilman hater”. I blame Jerry Manuel, the “genius” who demanded on back-to-back intentional walks to load the bases. Tell me again why that’s such a brilliant idea? Oh yeah, it’s not — because when there’s a ground ball hit to a drawn-in infield without a force, it is just as easy to nail the runner at home via tag play as it is via force play. Loading the bases intentionally is one of the most illogical and senseless recent trends in baseball management — all it does is create a situation where the pitcher has no room for error. Completely idiotic.

I’m not saying Heilman would have gotten out of that jam. However, I don’t see the point in making his job more difficult by creating a situation where he CANNOT walk a batter. With the winning run on third base, the pitcher’s goal more than any other time is to make the batter hit a “pitcher’s pitch”. It’s difficult — close to impossible — to succeed in getting three outs that way with no margin for error.

I’m amazed at the stupidity of postgame reporters who were asking why Aaron Heilman threw so many balls, wondering if perhaps there was something wrong with his mechanics. Did you watch the game? Some of Heilman’s pitches missed by a lot, but some of the others were damn close. In fact I thought ball four to Hanley Ramirez could easily have gone either way — home plate umpire Jim Wolf was squeezing both sides all night.

Will some sabermetrician please remind Manuel and all the other “genius” managers out there that even the very best hitters FAIL 7 out of 10 times?

While the talking heads and knee-jerk pundits continue to berate the bullpen, how about we go back to my theory: score more runs! Yes, the Mets bullpen blows a lot of games. But they’re also handed too many opportunities to blow games. Again, I call for a math geek — please tell us how many times the bullpen was given a one-run lead or less? These games would be much easier to win if the offense would provide a few runs of cushion.

Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy were the only two Mets in the lineup with more than one hit.

Pelfrey hit Cody Ross in the bottom of the second, and Ross took issue with the action, sparking a bench-clearing non-brawl. It was clearly a mistake, so not sure why Ross was going crazy. Someone needs to check him for greenies. A few minutes after the teams returned to their dugouts, Pelf picked off Ross at first.

My vote for 2009 Mets manager: Lee Mazzilli. He’s the only guy who seems to understand how a bullpen works.

Next Game

The rubber match will be played at 1:10 pm. Pedro Martinez goes against Scott Olsen. Coverage will be on CW11, WFAN, and XM 183.

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Mets Game 135: Win Over Marlins

Mets 5 Marlins 4

Wow … talk about dramatic.

As usual, the Mets scored first, but the Fish fought back to go ahead 2-1 in the third, and that’s the way the game remained until the final frame.

Then, Florida closer Kevin Gregg did anything but close. Gregg got two quick outs before allowing a single up the middle to Luis Castillo. David Wright followed with a single to left, and then Gregg hit Carlos Delgado to load the bases for Carlos Beltran. At this point I have to admit I was expecting Beltran to pop up or wave at three breaking balls. Instead, Beltran came through with his biggest late-inning clutch hit of the year, blasting a hanging slider into the right field seats for a super-clutch grand slam to put the Mets ahead 5-2.

At that point, you would think the Marlins would have rolled over like, um, dead fish. Instead, the dramatics continued.

Mets interim closer Luis Ayala began the ninth retiring two of the first three batters he faced, allowing a single to Jeremy Hermida. Hanley Ramirez then pushed Hermida to second on an infield single, and pinch-hitter Mike Jacobs singled in Hermida. Jorge Cantu followed with a 9-pitch, 5-minute at-bat that included a near three-run homer (it went foul) but concluded with a double that scored Ramirez. Surprisingly, pinch-runner Alfredo Amezaga was held up at third as Dan Murphy rushed the ball back in to the infield — and stranded there as the potential tying run when Wes Helms grounded out to Jose Reyes to end the ballgame.

Notes

Third inning, 1-1 game, David Wright on first with one out and Carlos Delgado hitting. Marlins have the shift on. Why in the world is Wright NOT stealing against Volstad/LoDuca on one of the first two pitches in that situation? As it was, he didn’t steal, Delgado bounced a grounder to Dan Uggla to force out Wright, and Carlos Beltran followed by ripping a single that would have scored Wright easily. LoDuca can’t throw out the garbage at this stage of his career, and should have been exposed at every opportunity.

Later in the game, Beltran was on first with Arthur Rhodes pitching and Matt Treanor catching — a better catcher but not a difficult lefty to get a jump off. Beltran stayed put, and Daniel Murphy stroked a single that sent him to third, where he was left stranded. Again, why not attempt a steal in that situation? After Murphy was Brian Schneider and then the pitcher, so it’s not as if you’re sitting back waiting for a homer. Little things like this win and lose ballgames — and if I hear Keith Hernandez say one more time that he likes the “aggressiveness” of Jerry Manuel’s team I’m going to puke.

Beltran is now five for his last nine, and 9-for-21 in the past five games. Is he finally going to put this team on his shoulders and carry them through a stretch run? He just might. Keep it going, Carlos!

Strange the way Luis Ayala is anointed the “closer” and then is allowed to work out of his own mess in the ninth. The other “interim closers” were pulled from the game at the first evidence of trouble. Glad to see a change in strategy — I’m tired of seeing five pitchers used in an inning to get three outs.

By the way, Ayala threw 32 pitches in that ninth inning. That said, who’s the Saturday night closer?

Oliver Perez allowed only one earned run and three hits over six innings, but he didn’t look good. His mechanics were atrocious, his release point all over the place, and the only thing consistent about his pitching was leaving the ball up and away against the righties (cause: opening up too early, dragging arm behind). Ollie walked five and was helped by an overly aggressive Marlins lineup. Hopefully it was just a bad day, and he’ll get himself back on track. If not, it might not be a big deal — his next start will be against the similarly free-swinging Brewers.

Next Game

Another 7:10 pm start on Saturday. A pair of 13-game winners — Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco — are pitted against each other.

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