Browsing Archive August, 2008

Los Mets Game 129: Win Over Astros

Los Mets 3 Astros 0

Music superstars Tito “El Gallo Salsero” Rojas and Wason Brazoban excited the Shea Stadium crowd with a hot night of salsa and merengue in headlining a very special “Fiesta Latina” celebration hosted by Carolina Bermudez.

The opening act, led by Venezuelan-born Johan Santana, was nearly as thrilling. Los Mets scored three unanswered runs en route to their 11th win in the last dozen games.

Santana was magnificent, setting down the ‘stros through seven strong innings, scattering eight hits, striking out five and walking one. His season-high 121-pitch effort was surprisingly inefficient, and though he pitched through a few jams, never really struggled at any point in the game.

David Wright drove in Jose Reyes in the first frame to give Santana the only run he needed, and Brian “Power Surge” Schneider slugged a two-run homer to provide a cushion. Aaron Heilman pitched a perfect eighth inning, and Luis Ayala struck out two in the ninth to earn his first save as a Met.

Notes

As a team, the Mets managed only four hits and one walk in eight innings against Roy Oswalt, who finished what he started.

Ryan Church returned to the lineup and managed an infield hit in three tries, scoring a run on Schneider’s blast. Luis Castillo is scheduled to return from the DL and to the starting lineup on Saturday, which likely means the demotion of Argenis Reyes.

Schneider’s homer was his fifth of the year and third in the last ten days. Ron Darling commented that Schneider “has found his homerun stroke”. Who knew he had one to lose? Keep it going, Brian!

Ayala has now pitched three times without allowing a run. Based on that I’m guessing that he’s Jerry Manuel’s closer until further notice.

Hunter Pence remains an idiot. Standing on third base with one out, the score 1-0, the pitcher on deck, and the infield playing back, Pence froze on a grounder to deep short and remained on third. Oswalt struck out to end the inning.

Next Game

It will be a Saturday night special, with the Mets and Astros playing again at 7:10 pm. John Maine goes to the mound against Brandon Backe. Astros manager might be tempted to bat Backe in the top half of lineup, as his .308 average is fourth on the team.

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Bullpen Discussion Tonight

Put off your weekend getaway until early tomorrow morning — the traffic will be lighter and this way you’ll be able to hear me talk about the Mets bullpen on “Live From Mickey Mantle’s” from 6pm to 6:45 pm tonight.

In addition to addressing the Mets bullpen issues with Andrew Vazzano of The ‘Ropolitans, we’ll also have a discussion with former Mets trainer Bob Sikes regarding the rash of injuries suffered by Mets players this year, and we’ll be chatting with Phillies blogger Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley.

From 7-7:45pm, the show will switch to the AL East, where we’ll hear from the Rays bloggers Erik Hahmann and Tommy Rancel of Outs Per Swing, Boston Red Sox podcaster Paul Testa of “Fireside Chats“, and Dave and Aziz Nekoukar of NJ.com’s Pride of the Yankees.

In other words, it should be, as Ed Sullivan might say, a really big show. I encourage you to listen in, call in with your questions, or download the show later by visiting Live From Mickey Mantle’s

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Inside Look: Mets vs. Astros

astros_throwback.jpgAfter sweeping the Braves out of Shea, the New York Mets begin a weekend series tonight against the Houston Astros.

The Astros come in with a 64-63 record, which is respectable, but puts them in fourth place, 14 games behind the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

In many ways, the Astros are something of a disappointment this season, considering their offensive output in 2007 and significant offseason moves. However, it’s not looking good for them right now, and we’ve called on Lisa Gray of MVN’s Astros Dugout to give us an idea of what happened down in Houston.

1. What the heck happened? After acquiring Miguel Tejada in the offseason, the Astros seemed poised to make a serious run at the playoffs. Where did the plans for success go wrong?

Miguel Tejada was not the offensive force that the Astros thought he was and in fact, he has had only one good month with the bat. J.R. Towles and Michael Bourn also were not the offensive forces. But the main reason there hasn’t been the kind of success that the Organization hoped for is that they simply do not have good pitching.

2. Any consideration to putting Brandon Backe at 1B or LF when he’s not pitching? That .308 average and .513 slugging percentage is pretty impressive.

Well, we have Lance Berkman at first and he is kind of pretty good you know what I’m sayin. The person he might replace is Hunter Pence in right, who has seriously regressed as a hitter this year, another reason this team hasn’t done nearly as well offensively as predicted.

3. In mid-July, the Houston was mired in last place, over a dozen games out of first in a division that is clearly dominated by the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs. Yet, GM Ed Wade was wheeling and dealing like the Astros were in the thick of the pennant race. What was he thinking, and how do you as a fan feel about him bringing in re-treads and rentals such as Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins?

I understand why it was done – the owner thinks that if he doesn’t put a team of vets on the field and say that we’re “competing” that fans won’t show up. However, he really has no one of any value to trade who doesn’t have a no-trade, and there really are no minor leaguers near to ready to come up. I just hope that we don’t re-sign LaTroy Hawkins and Randy Wolf.


4. Maybe I’m being too harsh … as an Astros fan, are you still hopeful that the playoffs are possible, or have you resigned to rebuilding for 2009?

Oh, I’m always hopeful. I’m hopeful that Grady Sizemore will call me this afternoon and tell me he’s in love with me. However, I’m not holding my breath. And I’m not holding my breath about “rebuilding” for 2009 either. We may see Felipe Paulino in the rotation, if he’s healthy, and we will probably see J.R. Towles take Ausmus’ spot, but I doubt there will be any trades of veterans for prospects.


5. Who has been the biggest surprise this season? The biggest disappointment?

The biggest surprise has been Ty Wigginton, who has fielded better than the absolute disaster I expected, and hit better (except with RISP) than I expected, even before his hot streak.

The biggest disappointment, I guess, would be Miguel Tejada, who occupies the #3 hole and can’t hit with MOB or drive in runs. Unlike many other fans, I didn’t expect Tejada to hit .330 and hit 50 homers, but he hasn’t lived up to even 50th percentile projections.


6. What would you like to see happen with the Astros between now and the end of the season? During the offseason?

sigh….

What I would LIKE to see isn’t going to happen.
I would really like this team to try to acquire prospects and good young players, but they won’t, so at the very least, I would like them to try to sign at least ONE starter who could be a #2 as we ALREADY have plenty of #5 type guys.


7. What youngster(s), either on the Astros 25-man roster now or in the minors, should we be looking for this September and in 2009?

I would like to see Tommy Manzella, shortstop, whose glove is said to equal Adam Everett’s and J.R. Towles, who has regained his stroke at AAA. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if they instead call up a bunch of washed up AAAA guys.

Again, in 09, best I can tell right now, the only guys I am pretty sure about are Paulino and Towles. IF Brian Bogusevic, who couldn’t get A ball guys out as a pitcher, continues to hit like Ankiel, he might could earn a call-up, youneverknow.

Thanks again to Lisa Gray for her insight. Be sure to check out Astros Dugout for more information on the Houston Astros.

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Manny Revisited

Yesterday on WFAN Omar Minaya was interviewed by Mike Francesa on the “Mike and No More Mad Dog Show”.

Francesa asked Minaya if he went after Manny Ramirez, knowing full well that Omar is a big fan of the big bopper. Minaya’s first response was that Theo Epstein needed a replacement for Manny’s bat, and Omar didn’t have .

“Right but they used a third team in the mix. Couldn’t you have used a third team in the mix?”
” … when it was all said and done, it was going to cost me three prospects, and for all we know it could have been the kids playing there right now … and it was gonna be a rental. And I just cannot, coming off the trade for Santana … for me to give up three good prospects for a rental, I just couldn’t do that.”

Interesting admission. It’s easy to say now that the Mets shouldn’t have given up Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, and, say, Jonathan Niese in a deal for Manny, looking at how well Evans and Murphy are playing lately. Or is it?

Seriously now, do we really believe the Murphy and Evans platoon is a difference maker in the pennant race, in the way Manny Ramirez is a difference-maker? Will Jon Niese be the next Sandy Koufax?

Ramirez is currently hitting .406 with 21 RBI in 19 games with the Dodgers, with a 1.024 OPS. Murphy is actually doing nearly as well, hitting .404 with 11 RBI and a 1.108 OPS in 18 games. Add Evans’ 5 RBI and .695 OPS and you could argue that the two kids are keeping pace with Manny.

However, when the playoffs begin, who do you want at the plate with runners on base in a tight ballgame? Murphy, Evans, or Ramirez?

Remember too, that if the Mets were unable to re-sign Manny in the winter, they would receive two compensatory #1 draft picks to help rebuild their farm system.

Personally, I’m torn, but only because I’m seeing what Murphy has done. Back on July 31st, I wouldn’t have hesitated — even if the deal had to include F-Mart.

Your thoughts?

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Mets Game 128: Win Over Braves

Mets 5 Braves 4

Another sweep!

It was a tight ballgame all night, and was a 4-4 tie going into the ninth. However, the dynamic duo of David Wright and Carlos Delgado — who were the stars all night — fittingly produced the winning run.

In that final frame, Wright smacked a one-out double, and Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally to set the stage for Delgado. Delgado — who was already 4-for-4 on the evening, kept it a perfect night and played the knight in shining armor by singling in Wright to win the ballgame.

Pedro Martinez had nothing … I mean nothing … but wiled his way to a win through wits and guile. He didn’t get the win, but he deserved it, setting down the Braves through seven frames. Yes, he gave up four runs, which isn’t magnificent, but it was the way that he “gutted” his way through the game that was so impressive — and he kept the Mets in the game longer than anyone could have expected. His assortment of slowballs and benders kept the Braves batters off balance, and every once in a while he’d keep ’em honest with an 89-MPH heater that looked like 99 after all the junk. The man remains an artist.

Meantime, the Mets offense was stymied by Mike Hampton, who allowed only three runs in six innings. I think the batters, like me, were so stunned to see him participating in a Major League game, their concentration was thrown off. Hampton threw 100 pitches and didn’t even sprain an eyelash.

Two men who DID assert themselves offensively were Carlos Delgado and David Wright, who provided all the scoring. Delgado was a perfect 5-for-5, driving in three runs, including the winning one (driving in Wright) on a clutch single in the ninth. In fact, you could argue that Delgado drove in the tying run — his infield single in the seventh was speared by Martin Prado, but thrown away, allowing Nick Evans to score the Mets’ fourth run. Wright was less than perfect — “only” 3-for-4 — including a solo homer, two doubles, and three runs scored.

Luis Ayala got the last four outs to pick up his first win as a Met.

Notes

In truth, the Mets were kind of lucky in this game. Firstly, the historically strong fundamentally Braves made several mistakes on both defense and offense, many of which either led to runs for the Mets or prevented the Braves from scoring. Secondly, the Mets were helped by a botched out call in the top of the 9th that ended the inning. Carlos Delgado screened the first base umpire, who called Gregor Blanco out on a play in which he was clearly safe. It was the third out of the inning and it stranded Martin Prado on third base. Ironically, Delgado’s two most clutch hits could have been called errors. We already pointed out the one thrown away by Prado that tied the game. Delgado’s game-winning hit was actually a fly ball that bounced out of Omar Infante’s glove in left field (looked like he lost the ball in the lights). That’s OK — the Mets had their share of bad luck in the first half of this season … it’s nice to see things balancing out.

Fernando Tatis just missed a three-run homer in the seventh that would have wrapped up the game, but his fly ball was caught at the leftfield wall by Omar Infante.

Ramon Castro and Jose Reyes pulled off a brilliant double play in the eighth on a bunt in front of home plate, each throwing bullets. I think that DP took the air out of Atlanta — a team that in past years would have done a much better job of executing.

Luis Ayala pitched another effective outing, further making me look like an idiot. I would very much like him to continue getting outs, and hope he does. I’m a bit concerned about how many of his pitches finish high in the strike zone — especially considering he’s a sinkerball pitcher. What I do like is his previous experience pitching in the late innings of tight ballgames.

Julian Tavarez remains the ugliest active MLB player.

When he was a Mets announcer, I absolutely, positively, could not stomach listening to Tom Seaver. At the same time, I respected his achievements and, moreso, his intense study and knowledge of the art of pitching (I give pitching lessons, and look to Seaver as the IDEAL when it comes to mechanics and approach). So when he joined Gary, Keith, and Ron during the game, it was an extremely enlightening and enjoyable inning. I particularly appreciated his take on pitch counts — maybe because I share his opinion. If you missed it, Seaver said, in a nutshell, that everyone is different, and therefore everyone should have different limits — it makes no sense to have a “blanket” limit that applies to all pitchers. Personally, I think 100 pitches should be the MINIMUM limit, not maximum. If a pitcher has sound mechanics, is in shape, and throws a minimum of damaging pitches (i.e., sliders), then he should be allowed to go to 130-135 or more in an outing. Al Leiter went to 140-150 all the time and had no arm problems in the latter part of his career.

Did anyone else laugh during SNY’s Wheelhouse, when the usually elegant-speaking Brian Custer asked Mike Pelfrey, “get real with me here, Mike, were you trippin’ when Jerry Manuel said you might be used as a closer?” Jerry’s “goin gangsta” routine seems to have affected Custer just a little.

Next Game

Mets start a new series on Friday night, hosting the Houston Astros for a three-game set. The opener will be a battle of the aces – Johan Santana vs. Roy Oswalt. Game time is 7:10 pm.

I’ll be at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant as of 6pm to do the “Live From Mickey Mantle’s” radio show. Come on by and I’ll buy you a refreshing beverage.

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Mets Game 127: Win Over Braves

Mets 6 Braves 3

Once again, Mike Pelfrey was magnificent.

And once again, it didn’t matter that the Mets don’t have a closer.

Pelfrey pitched a complete game, three-hitter as the Mets beat the Braves 6-3 — and it wasn’t even that close. Big Pelf was extremely efficient — 108 pitches, averaging a fantastic dozen pitches per inning — and never struggled. Even when he gave up two runs on two walks and an infield single in the sixth, it was effortless and hardly a cause for concern. If this guy ever develops a legit offspeed pitch, he will eclipse Johan Santana as the Mets’ ace.

The Mets scored five of their six runs in the first frame, giving Pelfrey plenty of support and an opportunity to relax and throw strikes. The big blow came off the bat of Daniel Murphy, who delivered a two-out, two-run single. Did you purchase a Murphy’s Law T-Shirt yet?

Notes

Argenis Reyes is making a strong case to stick around once Luis Castillo comes off the DL — which could be this weekend. And I’m not just echoing Keith Hernandez’s obsession with Reyes — I’ve also been impressed with his old-school approach and all-out hustle. However, I still question batting a man with a .306 OBP second in the lineup.

Speaking of OBP, I was astonished to see Brian Schneider’s is over .350. Do you realize he gets on base more often than Ryan Braun, Jimmy Rollins, Garret Atkins, and James Loney (among others)? Oh yeah, and his OBP is 30 points higher than that Milledge kid. Now if only he can squeeze out a few more extra-base hits, he might actually be an asset on the offense.

Jose Reyes was 0-for-4, and made both the first and last outs of the first inning. However he’s still stinging the ball and I wouldn’t worry about him dropping off anytime soon.

David Wright mashed a solo homer in the fifth, his 24th of the season.

Dan Murphy is still hitting over .400.

Next Game

Another 7:10 pm start on Thursday night, with Pedro Martinez going to the mound for the Mets. The Braves claim that Mike Hampton will throw their first pitch, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

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Mets Sign Another Reyes

Today the Mets bolstered their bullpen by signing free agent reliever Al Reyes, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays — no doubt based on the scouting report by MetsToday’s own loyal reader “sincekindergarten”, who suggested Reyes a few days ago.

Signing Reyes makes great sense from every angle — and solidifies the Mets’ chance to finish the year with the more Reyeses on the roster than any other MLB team.

Seriously though, in Al Reyes you get not a great pitcher, but a decent pitcher who could benefit from the mystery of not pitching in the NL since 2005. His experience as a closer in the hard-hitting AL East certainly can’t hurt, either.

What can hurt, though, is his shoulder — he’s been on the DL twice this season with tendinitis issues. When he did pitch, he was inconsistent, sporting a 4.37 ERA in 26 games — though he did strike out 19 in 23 innings.

Is he the answer for the Mets’ closer job? Not likely, but if he’s healthy he might be able to get two or three outs in innings 6-8.

In related news, it’s been rumored that David Weathers, David Riske, Huston Street, Eric Gagne, and Jamie Walker have all cleared waivers.

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Blogger: Joe Torre

Now I’ve seen everything.

Former Mets manager Joe Torre (I know he managed somewhere else, but can’t remember where) has a blog. And yet there isn’t one ad for Bigelow Tea.

Speaking of former Mets managers, what I’d really like to see is a blog from Davey Johnson, who as you might know is managing Mets pitcher Brandon Knight (among others) at the Olympics in Beijing.

Johnson is doing a fine job with Team USA, which most of us are happy to see — partly because we as Americans are rooting for our team, but also because it’s hard to be a Mets fan and not like Davey, who managed the Mets out of the basement and into one of their most glorious seasons.

Davey’s US team of no-names beat Japan in 11 innings to grab the third seed. However, that means their next opponent is second-seeded Cuba (South Korea is #1). Johnson is sending the team’s only amateur — San Diego State righty Stephen Strasburg to the hill against the Cubans on Friday. Game time is 6pm in China, 6am EST for the rest of us.

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