Cubs 9 Mets 6
So much for the theory that Oliver Perez pitches better in “big” games, and/or against the better teams.
So much, also, for the theory that the Mets win when Argenis Reyes is the starting second baseman.
Perez squandered a 5-1 lead, allowing the Cubs to tie the score with a four-run fifth, and the Mets failed time and time again to command the game.
After falling behind 1-zip, the Mets exploded for a five-run third against Carlos Zambrano, highlighted by a grand slam off the bat of Mets MVP Carlos Delgado. But after the Cubs tied the game, and then went ahead 6-5, the Mets could only muster one more run, which tied the game in the eighth. The run came on a bases-loaded walk to Ramon Martinez, and it was a rally that should have produced more than one lousy score. Youngster Jeff Samardzija was struggling mightily, but the Mets let him off the hook. But that wasn’t the worst opportunity blown by the New York bats.
In the bottom of the ninth, Daniel Murphy led off with a triple. You would think that with no outs and a man on third, scoring at least one run is a given. It wasn’t. David Wright struck out swinging, Delgado and Beltran were intentionally walked, Ryan Church grounded into a forceout at home, and Ramon Castro whiffed to demolish a golden opportunity to win the game.
As it turned out, Luis Ayala pitched a second inning of relief, and the Cubs took advantage, first with a bloop RBI single by Derrek Lee and then with a two-run homer by Aramis Ramirez.
A stunning, head-shaking loss for the Mets, who were playing against a team that wasn’t necessarily focused on winning the game.
Another great job of bullpen management by Manager of the Year Jerry Manuel. Manuel had Joe Smith warming up in the fateful fifth, but when things got hairy, Smith sat down and Duaner Sanchez began tossing. Within three minutes after his first warmup pitch, Sanchez was summoned into the game with the bases loaded and one out. Ron Darling explained that Manuel might have had Smith getting ready to begin the sixth, and preferred to use Sanchez in a mid-inning situation, but I’m still scratching my head. So, you have your best righty ready in a crucial spot — maybe the most critical time of the game — against a righty-heavy lineup, but you save him for later? And instead you put in a guy who a) was proven to be spent in late July and b) is not ready to enter the game? Umm …. OK!
Speaking of bullpen management, Lou Piniella gave the Mets a gift by putting Jeff Samardzija on the mound in the eighth instead of Carlos Marmol. I know the Mets lit up Marmol the other day, but he’s still the best setup man in baseball. The Mets were DAMN LUCKY that the Cubs are more in “audition mode” right now, and don’t really care whether or not they win games — yet the still couldn’t take advantage.
As I’ve said many times before, Carlos Delgado is the key to the Mets’ success. Had he not hit that grand salami, the end of the game would not have been nearly as dramatic. Oh, and it was Delgado who started the eighth inning rally with a leadoff double. The Mets might be behind the Marlins right now if not for Delgado’s resurrection.
The Brewers won their game, which means the wild card race is tied. No, I’m still not concerned, because they have to finish their season against the Cubs, who proved in this game that even in “coast mode” are a better team than anyone else in the NL. If the Mets can’t take at least two from the Fish, they have no business in the postseason anyway.
Mets finish their four-game series with the Cubs with a 7:10 pm finale on Wednesday. Pedro Martinez goes against Rich Harden.