Browsing Archive September, 2008

Momentum Built

Before yesterday’s game, we discussed the sensibility of starting Johan Santana on three days’ rest after throwing a career-high number of pitches. With Johan being in the first of a seven-year contract, and the Mets more focused on the future than 2008, it didn’t seem like a great plan.

However, it worked out for today — Saturday’s win kept the Mets in the hunt for a postseason bid — and we’ll hope it has no impact on 2009 and beyond.

One thing we didn’t consider, and was astutely pointed out by longtime MetsToday loyalist “Murph”, is the momentum that Johan’s performance has given to the team. Momentum is everything in baseball, and there’s no doubt that Santana’s 3-hit shutout was uplifting — and possibly inspiring to the most important person today, Oliver Perez.

Let’s hope like heck that the Mets win the game, otherwise the postgame ceremonies could get really bizarre. A Mets win guarantees at minimum a one-game playoff tomorrow, but a loss will cause everyone to be hanging on every pitch of the Brewers-Cubs contest. It will be a weird send-off for Shea if, in the middle of the “celebration”, the Mets are eliminated from the postseason.

By the way, you can head on over to MetsChat.com to discuss / chat / twitter about the game with other Mets fans.

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Postseason Consideration

Johan Santana threw 125 pitches three days ago, and another 117 today (Saturday). If by chance the Mets find their way into the postseason, there is a chance their first playoff game will be on October 1st.

Some quick math (for me, counting IS math) tells us that October 1 is four days from today. That means that if Johan were to pitch, it would again be on short (three days’) rest. Otherwise, I imagine we’d see Mike Pelfrey starting the opener on regular (four days’) rest.

It’s also possible the first NLDS game would be on October 2nd, which would mean the Mets could safely start Pelfrey or Santana.

I know, I know, we don’t want to look beyond tomorrow … and a one-game playoff on Monday could throw everything off-kilter. Just trying to create a positive-minded discussion …

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Mets Game 161: Win Over Marlins

Mets 2 Marlins 0

Jerry Manuel allowed Johan Santana to take the ball on short rest, but with one caveat: no more than 105 pitches.

So when Santana threw 104 pitches in his first eight shutout innings, Manuel had to let him out there to close it out.

Thank goodness he did.

Santana pitched the game of his life in the most important contest of the Mets’ 2008 season, ensuring that Sunday’s season finale would matter. Johan allowed just three hits and three walks, striking out 8, in earning his 16th win and second shutout of the season. He spent 117 pitches in the process.

Jose Reyes gave him the only run he needed in the first frame, after singling, stealing second, going to third on a single by #2 hitter Carlos Beltran, and scoring on a Carlos Delgado sac fly. The Mets scored again in the fourth when Ramon Martinez doubled in Daniel Murphy.


Next Game

The Mets finish their regular season against the Marlins on Sunday at 1:10 pm, weather permitting. Oliver Perez pitches on three days’ rest and a very short leash against Scott Olsen.

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While You Wait

While you are waiting for the tarp to come off the field, you can listen to last night’s edition of “Live from Mickey Mantle’s“. There are two shows to download — in the first, Mark Healey and I interview Skip Shaw, the CEO of Mattingly Sports (yes, as in Don Mattingly) and in the second, we talk baseball like three guys “on the stoop” with Alex Belth of Bronx Banter.

You can also surf over to MetsChat.com and twitter with me and other Mets fans about the Mets and today’s game.

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Winners Want the Ball

the_replacements.jpg

In the immortal words of Coach Jimmy McGinty, speaking to Shane Falco:

Winners always want the ball… when the game is on the line.

Johan Santana is pulling a Shane Falco and demanding the ball for Saturday’s game. With that information, I’m doing a rain dance.

Because although Johan is clearly the ace, and the one “big game” pitcher the Mets have, I don’t see this as a great decision. First of all, Santana is pitching on short rest, and coming off a game in which he threw a career-high 125 pitches. If he has anything at all, it can’t be enough to get him through more than six innings — if that. Let’s pretend Johan no-hits the Fish through those six, then runs out of gas. Guess what? The vaunted Mets bullpen takes over. Yee ha.

Better yet, let’s assume the best possible scenario: Johan pitches great, the Mets win. Now who starts in the next version of the most important game of the season on Sunday? Ollie Perez on short rest? His history — both recent and working on short rest in his career — is questionable at best. Certainly Jon Niese won’t get the ball. I suppose Jerry Manuel would be forced to take his matchup strategy to the max — possibly using a different pitcher (or more) every single inning.

And then there’s thinking about beyond tomorrow, beyond Sunday, and beyond 2008. Johan Santana is signed for seven years. Although he hasn’t shown any signs of breaking down, pitching on three days’ rest, after throwing 125 pitches, could push him beyond his limits and cause the beginning of an overuse injury — particularly if the Mets DO make the postseason and Johan, obviously, continues pitching in October.

The desperate moves to push the team into the offseason should have happened on July 31, not September 28th. If it was so important to save the prospects “for the future”, and not give them up for people like Jon Rauch, Chad Bradford, Manny Ramirez, Xavier Nady, etc., then that same long-term thinking must be applied when it comes to protecting their most expensive investment. If the Mets truly are concerned about 2009 and beyond, then Johan does not pitch on Saturday — regardless of whether he wants the ball. Of course he wants the ball, he’s a winner!

Back to my original idea: rain dance. Let’s hope it rains all night and all Saturday, so Johan is forced to wait an extra day. It could mean all the difference in the world for the future of this franchise.

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Mets Game 160: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 6 Mets 1

With both the Brewers and the Mets entering the last three games of the seasons with identical records, the 162-game season was distilled into three. Unfortunately, the Mets find themselves a game behind with two to go.

Mike Pelfrey did his job, hurling six strong innings and allowing just three runs. However, no one else on the team did theirs, and as a result the Mets found themselves on the wrong end of the final tally.

Once again it took seven relievers to cover the last three innings of the game, and that crew allowed another three runs. But their ineffectiveness didn’t matter much in the end, since the offense was non-existent. The Mets managed to place 11 runners on base, stranded nine, and scored one — on a fielder’s choice.

Notes

What’s there to say? The bullpen is completely spent — has been for weeks — and now the offense feels a swelling in their throats. Two games to go, and the Mets are one behind. If the Brewers can win their next two games, there’s nothing the Mets can do.

Next Game

Saturday’s game is scheduled for 1:10 pm, and Johan Santana is insisting on taking the ball against Ricky Nolasco. I’m hoping for rain.

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Mets Game 159: Win Over Cubs JV

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.

Notes

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.

Next Game

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.

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Mets Game 158: Loss to Cubs

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.

Notes

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.

Next Game

Mets finish their four-game series with the Cubs with a 7:10 pm finale on Wednesday. Pedro Martinez goes against Rich Harden.

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