Mets 7 Cubs 6
It was an extremely exciting game, with all the late-inning dramatics a fan lives for. Yet, for some reason, it felt somewhat empty.
Perhaps it was the fact that the Mets were playing the Cubs’ second-stringers, and nearly lost to them.
Pedro Martinez pitched only OK, not great, though he kept the Mets in the game through six. He began the seventh by allowing the first two batters to reach base and was replaced by Ricardo Rincon. Unfortunately, Rincon’s nice string of performances came to an end, as the first pitch he threw was redirected over the right field wall for a three-run homer. Not only was Rincon due to fail — he hadn’t allowed a hit in six of his seven appearances this season — but he ran into the buzzsaw named Micah Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir — whose three-run dinger against Rincon highlighted a 5-for-5 day — is essentially the Cubs’ version of Valentino Pascucci, who after tearing up the PCL returned home to California rather than receiving a cup of coffee in Flushing.
The Mets fought back, though, scratching out a run in the bottom of the seventh and another two in the eighth to even things up. Then in the ninth, Jose Reyes led off with a walk against some scrub named Kevin Hart. Daniel Murphy failed three times to sacrifice Reyes to second and struck out by fouling away a bunt, but a Carlos Delgado walk pushed Reyes to second. That set up a heroic situation for Carlos Beltran, who took the bull by the horns and ripped a single past first baseman Micah Hoffpauir to chase Reyes home with the winning run.
It’s a win, I’ll take it, but Lou Piniella seemed to do everything in his power to make it easy for the Mets — and they STILL nearly screwed it up. Piniella sat Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Geovany Soto — plus Met killer Mark DeRosa, who is nursing a mild injury. And regular centerfielder and .307 hitter Reed Johnson rode the pine. Rich Harden was a shell of his usual self, topping out around 92-93 with poor command, rather than his typical 96-97 filthiness. In addition to sending out the “B” team, Piniella also refrained from asking Carlos Marmol to hold the lead in the 8th. So excuse me if I’m not as excited as some fans with this otherwise dramatic win.
Speaking of Harden, he looks EXACTLY like John Maine did before Maine went on the DL. Harden has the same fatal flaw in his delivery — he carries the ball behind his back, causing his front shoulder to fly open and pitches to ride up and away to lefties / up and in to righties. Every pitch he threw turned my stomach, and I can’t understand — especially after all his injury issues — why no one has ever took the time to make the correction. Teams can talk all they want about using the 100-pitch count to protect their investments, but if a guy throws like Maine or Harden, it doesn’t matter if you limit him to 50 pitches — eventually, there’s going to be a major breakdown.
Funniest quote of the night: “Jerry Manuel continues to push all the right buttons” — by Gary Cohen in
reference to Ramon Martinez’s RBI single in the 8th inning to pull the Mets within one. Um, yeah. Note to Gary: Manuel is the same guy who “pushed the button” to allow Pedro to start the seventh, and then “pushed the button” that brought in Ricardo Rincon to face Hoffpauir in the seventh.
Second funniest quote, by Keith Hernandez: “Jerry Manuel loves the hit and run … he’s hit and run quite a bit”. Keith, what games have you been watching? Manuel puts on the hit and run about three times a month — and I’m being generous.
The Mets begin the final three-game series of the year, and play the final three baseball games ever at Shea Stadium, this weekend beginning with a 7:10 pm contest against the Marlins. Mike Pelfrey takes the hill against Chris Volstad.