Browsing Archive September, 2008

Mets Game 157: Win Over Cubs

Mets 6 Cubs 2

The Cubs offered the Mets an easy win, and Johan Santana took advantage.

Santana breezed through a Cubs lineup devoid of regulars Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto, allowing just two runs on seven hits through eight innings and 125 pitches. He struck out ten and also had a key broken-bat hit in the fifth that led to two Mets runs.

Santana’s strange single helped the Mets tie the game two-all, and the rest of the lineup scorched Cubs reliever Chad Gaudin for four runs one inning later. The key blow came off the bat of Jose Reyes, who cleared the bases with a bases-loaded triple — his 200th hit of the season.

Notes

Strange not to see Jose Reyes running on contact from third in the sixth inning with one out, Luis Castillo at the plate, and a four-run lead. With that kind of cushion, you have the luxury of being overly aggressive. As it turned out, Castillo bounced the ball to Mark DeRosa, and Reyes would have scored easily. Instead he was stranded after David Wright struck out to end the inning. In the end, the run didn’t matter, but still it was a situation that called for aggressiveness, and instead the Mets were passive. At this time of year, with so much at stake, I’d be leaning toward the aggressive side whenever possible.

David Wright had two hits and two RBI. For all the criticism he gets, Wright is hitting .300

Speaking of lack of aggressiveness, some funny quotes by Keith Hernandez in the fifth, regarding Jerry Manuel: “… he’s unpredictable, and he’s hit and run a lot since taking over …”

Actually, Keith, he’s remarkably predictable — you could set a watch by his managerial moves. And as far as the hit and run, no, actually, the Mets run it much LESS often since Jerry took over. It only seems more often because it’s so rare, you notice it. But we’ll excuse Keith — he also thinks the Mets have been stealing more bases since Manuel took over, while the numbers unabashedly prove otherwise. For example, did you know the Mets have stolen all of 12 bases this month? I’m really not understanding where Keith gets this notion of the Mets being “much more aggressive under Manuel” … if anything, JM leans toward the safe / conservative side of baseball.

SNY displayed a line of stats showing how the Mets relievers do not do well against opposite-hitting batters (i.e., lefties vs. righties and vice-versa). This was used as the explanation for why Jerry Manuel “needs” to use so many relievers every game, and work so hard on “matchups”. Well, here’s my theory: if you don’t give a guy a chance to face many opposite-hand hitters, and tell him he’s a specialist, he’ll turn into a specialist. I would have been more curious to see the actual number of at-bats, and the stats month-by-month. I have a funny feeling that these “specialists” were the product of nurture, rather than nature. This situation was created, and remarkably, all the “experts” are knocking their hands against their heads wondering how this happened. Is everyone else really that inattentive?

I’d love to be Luis Ayala’s agent right now … he is the king of the “up-by-three-plus-runs” save. All these easy saves will be wonderful artillery when Ayala goes for a new contract / arbitration this winter.

With Sean Marshall on the mound, Henry Blanco behind the plate, Jason Marquis’ bat on the bench, and a guy named Casey something at third base, the Cubs were clearly giving this game away against Johan Santana. If the Mets lost this one, I might have begun to get concerned. However, since they won, and the Brewers remain a motherless child waiting to be eliminated, I am confident the Mets will cruise into the postseason via the wild card.


Next Game

The Mets will need an acelike performance from Oliver Perez as he faces Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano in another 7:10 pm start on Wednesday. Ollie’s been remarkably focused and effective in “big” games, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 7- or 8-inning gem from him. For Zambrano, it’s a tune up for the postseason, so I’m liking the Mets’ chances.

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Free Magazine, Free Video

The best things in life are free … especially in this economic climate.

Whether you’re a reader or a viewer, I have two great links for you:

Video: Playing for Peanuts, Episode 1.4 is now available for viewing online at the Playing for Peanuts Blog. This particular episode is timely, since it includes a skydiver.

Magazine: Gotham Baseball Magazine
The only magazine that covers the past, present, and future of New York baseball has gone digital!
You can read the most recent issue — with Johan Santana on the cover — for free online. All you have to do is fill out a quick survey for access. No, they won’t spam you, they’re simply building demographics info for future issues. Great stuff in there, I recommend it highly.

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Strange Bullpen Options

With the Mets’ bullpen breaking down due to overuse and gross mismanagement, desperate and curious considerations have been brought to the table. The most recent and ridiculous suggestions involve starters John Maine and Pedro Martinez.

First, let’s discuss Maine, who has no business throwing a baseball and should have had his surgery two weeks ago. Maine has managed to finagle a few bullpen sessions, at which he’s thrown well under his usual mid-90s velocity and with questionable control. The Mets are allowing John to do this because Jerry Manuel ran his top five relievers to the ground over the last four months, and Omar Minaya did absolutely nothing to fortify the bullpen against the predictable breakdown.

Naturally, Maine’s most recent session ended with a lot of positive remarks from the Mets’ staff and players. But did he REALLY look good, or was it desperate desire to see success clouding reality? The mind plays tricks on judgment in times like this — not unlike visions of an oasis in an empty desert. Yes, I’m talking mirage. One must step back from the situation and judge the session detached from the Mets’ bullpen performance of late. For example, if the Mets bullpen was doing a fine job, would Maine’s BP throwing look quite as impressive?

Even if his 86-MPH tosses did look great, what does he bring the Mets, other than a warm body? Let’s call a spade a spade: John Maine stunk prior to the shoulder injury. Perhaps time — or again, the bullpen situation — has glazed over the fact that John Maine was NOT an effective pitcher in June, July, or August. His performance, in fact, was not only down from 2007, but got worse as his velocity dropped. Even if he can top out at 92-93 MPH, that’s not enough for Maine to be a valuable asset — it makes him, essentially, another Duaner Sanchez or Aaron Heilman. We won’t even get into the precariousness of the situation — the possibility that he’ll hurt himself even worse. Sure, the “experts” claim that Maine can’t do any further damage to his shoulder — but that doesn’t mean he won’t change his already screwed-up mechanics to compensate for the pain, and hurt something else.

Even if Maine doesn’t hurt himself, and can get his velocity into the mid-90s for a one-inning stint, there are two other issues. First, there are six games left in the season — so when is he going to get a “safe” opportunity to pitch in a game? What are the chances that the Mets will be in a game where they have a five-run lead and can give an inning to Maine as a test? Second, I will point out this number: .300. That’s the batting average of the first batter to face Maine this season. That stat would suggest that Maine would only be effective starting an inning, with the bases empty.

Which makes for a great segue into the Pedro Martinez issue. Pedro made news by announcing he’d be willing and happy to come out of the bullpen in the postseason if necessary. Gee, Petey, that’s great, since there’s no chance in hell you’ll get a start if the Mets can help it. But let’s get right to the brass tacks: first hitters against Pedro are pounding him to the tune of .471! Yeah, that’s exactly the type of guy I want coming into a bases loaded situation … don’t we already have Scott Schoeneweis to clear the bases?

I can see Pedro pulling an El Duque in the playoffs — coming in to relieve Oliver Perez in the third inning of one of Ollie’s “Mr. Hyde” games, and giving the Mets four or five strong innings. But otherwise, I’m just not seeing him as an effective middle reliever — and that’s what the Mets need right now.

So if Maine and Martinez are not the answers, what can the Mets do for innings 7 and 8 (assuming Luis Ayala has the ninth covered)? Well, they might make trade for someone like Chad Bradford, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Scott Eyre, Arthur Rhodes, Anthony Reyes, David Weathers, Todd Coffey, Damaso Marte, Jamie Walker, or someone else who is available on the cheap. But then, that ship has sailed, as the Mets “didn’t have a match” for any of these men.

But the Mets didn’t have to wait until the trade deadline to pick up an arm. There were many pitchers available last winter, and mentioned here. Just a few off the top of my head: Joe Nelson (huh, we thought he was a good idea back in November 2007!), Troy Percival, Octavio Dotel, Eddie Guardado, Scott Strickland, Jorge Julio, and David Aardsma. All of those arms were available for next to nothing and would have been very useful.

Since the Mets had no “match” for an external option, it’s necessary to solve the problem from within. Using Bobby Parnell before the last week of the season might have been a nice idea. Having Eddie Kunz on the expanded roster could have been of benefit. Eddie Camacho out-pitched both Parnell and Jon Niese with the B-Mets, and came out of the bullpen all season — why not give him a shot? One also wonders why the Mets kept Willie Collazo and Ruddy Lugo on the 40-man roster all season, only to DFA them both at the beginning of September — exactly the time when they were desperate to add arms to the ‘pen. Nate Field struck out 55 in 50 IP at AAA New Orleans, in the hitter-friendly PCL … where is he?

All these people are NOT on the team, yet we have Adam Bostick, Ramon Martinez (why is this guy on the roster?? did someone owe him a favor??), and Gustavo Molina hogging spots on the 40-man, not to mention Billy Wagner and Maine, who both should have been transferred to the 60-day. Oh, and did you know that only 38 of the 40 spots are currently filled? For the second straight year, there are serious questions about the way the September roster has been handled.

We keep hearing how the bullpen stinks, and the Mets just have nobody to turn to in the late innings, but looking back, they had plenty of opportunities to avoid this situation. Bottom line: there’s been mismanagement at every level, from the field up through the front office. At this point, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. It shouldn’t have come to this.

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Mets Game 156: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 9 Mets 5

Jon Niese was spectacular through his first inning and two-thirds, showing exactly why he was an “untouchable” at the trade deadline. However, he started to falter soon after, and the bullpen couldn’t get into the game quickly enough to keep it close.

Niese allowed 6 earned runs and was removed after allowing a grand slam homer to opposing pitcher Jason Marquis in the fourth (I think Marquis pulled similar two-way feats playing in the Staten Island little league). Nelson Figueroa didn’t fare much better — I’m guessing he didn’t have enough time to properly warm up — and by the time the inning ended the Cubs were up 7-2 and the Mets lost their enthusiasm.

But, our boys from Flushing did garner a bit of energy in the bottom of the ninth, rallying against lights-out reliever Carlos Marmol. It was nice to see, but too little, too late.

Notes

Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and Ryan Church each had two hits apiece. Church and Delgado also walked twice each. However, for their combined eight times on base, only one run was scored, by Delgado on a wild pitch.

The Mets left a total of 11 runners on base.

Not sure why Ramon Castro didn’t start against Marquis, considering his .455 career average against him (Schneider was 1-for-17 against Marquis going into the game). I guess the Mets’ firewall blocks Jerry Manuel’s PC from sites like ESPN, which make stats like this readily available 24 hours a day. Who knows, maybe Castro would have driven in four or five runs.

Luis Castillo may keep Aaron Heilman alive … the Shea fans certainly would like to murder Castillo before they hang Heilman. Luis grounded into a DP, almost grounded into a second one, and made the last out during the Mets’ ninth-inning rally. Not sure why a pinch-hitter wasn’t brought in for Castillo in the ninth. I guess the desperation that causes all the relief pitching changes doesn’t necessarily apply to the offense.

Kind of funny to see Joe Smith warming up in the bullpen with two outs in the ninth, down by five. Surprised Scott Schoeneweis wasn’t tossing next to him.

If there was a silver lining in this game, it was the fact that the Mets got to Marmol, and forced an appearance by Kerry Wood. Chances are we won’t see either of those relievers on Tuesday.

Tottenville alum Jason Marquis wasn’t the only local boy who done good in this game — former Bergen Catholic standout Mark DeRosa went 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored. DeRosa would have had a fourth hit if not for a Gold Glove caliber catch by Carlos Beltran.

Next Game

The Mets and Cubs do it again at 7:10 pm on Tuesday. Ace Johan Santana takes the mound for the Mets against Sean Marshall. Originally, Rich Harden was supposed to make this start but Cubs manager Lou Piniella moved things around. On the bright side, it appears to be a “gimme” for the Mets. On the other hand, Harden will now start against Pedro Martinez in the series finale. Ouch.

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Mets Game 155: Loss to Braves

Braves 7 Mets 6

Anyone else get the feeling of deja vu during this game?

The Mets jump out with an early lead, the starting pitcher mows down the opposition, meantime the offense goes to sleep, the bullpen blows the lead, and the Mets lose the game. It’s as if the Mets were following a script.

Mike Pelfrey pitched well, allowing only three runs on six hits in six innings. However, the bullpen was not so good. Jerry Manuel once again went to the “bullpen carousel” strategy, sending in a new arm for each individual Braves batter. The last time Manuel pulled this insanity, it worked, and he was lauded for his great managing. Today, it didn’t work, so I suppose we’ll blame it on Aaron Heilman. Sound good? (Yeah, I want Jerry’s job too.)

In truth, the Mets would not even have been in the game if not for Carlos Delgado, who continues to carry this team on his shoulders. Delgado went 4-for-5 with 2 runs and 3 RBI, and collected both his 2000th hit and his 37th homer of the season. David Wright played a supporting role, scoring 3 runs and collecting two hits, including a two-run homerun (his 32nd of the year). Wright and Delgado, in fact, combined for 6 of the Mets’ 8 hits and 5 of thier runs, and for those keeping score, Luis Castillo drove in the sixth Mets run.

Notes

Manuel used six relievers for innings seven and eight. The only one whose performance could be described as effective was Ricardo Rincon, who retired the one batter he faced.

Despite this game, I’m still not worried about the Mets’ chances for the playoffs. The Brewers won, yes, putting them only a game and a half behind the Mets in the wild card standings. And though Milwaukee has three games coming up against Pittsburgh, they finish with a three-game set against the Cubs — a team they have had trouble with all year. Not to mention that they don’t have Ben Sheets and their bullpen is in worse shape than the Mets, if you can believe that. The Brewers have earned exactly one save this month.


Next Game

The Mets begin the final homestand in the history of Shea tomorrow night, opening a four-game series with the Cubs at 7:10 pm. Rookie Jonathan Niese faces Jason Marquis.

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Mets Game 154: Loss to Braves

Braves 4 Mets 2

Pedro Martinez wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t great, either, and he didn’t get enough offensive support to make up the difference.

The Mets managed just two runs on five hits against starter Jorge Campillo, and were shut out by three Atlanta relievers the rest of the way.

Ironically, Pedro drove in both of the Mets runs with a fifth-inning double. Go figure.

Notes

If this were 1960, the season would be over (154-game season back then) …. though, there wouldn’t be any divisions so they’d have finished in second place, behind the Cubs.

In a move that surprised everyone, Bobby Parnell made his second MLB appearance in this contest, spinning a perfect two-thirds of an inning. The Mets were down by only two — I’m going to guess that Jerry Manuel’s glasses fogged up in the Atlanta humidity and he thought the score was 8-2.

David Wright’s slump continued — he went only 2-for-4 with a double. Hopefully he’ll break out of this soon, as the Mets need 5-for-5 days from him.

Next Game

The rubber match will be played at 1:35 pm. Mike Pelfrey goes against James Parr.

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Mets Game 153: Win Over Braves

Mets 9 Braves 5

What a sloppy, annoying game … but in the end the Mets won so who gives a hoot?

I apologize, but have little energy for a postgame due to a really bad cold and sinus infection, which makes me cranky and ornery. Or maybe it was seeing a different pitcher for each batter in the seventh that made me ornery …

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Mets are guaranteed to make the playoffs, which makes the inane pitching changes even more ludicrous. Here’s the thing: the Brewers are done, no question, no worries, and no concern. The next-closest wild card team is the Marlins, who at five games out probably are too far away to realistically sneak in. Further, if the Marlins beat the Phillies, then that helps propel/keep the Mets into first place. If the Phillies beat the Marlins, that pushes the Fish further away in the wild card. Either way, the Mets benefit.

The worst possible scenario is if the Fish win all of the rest of their games, AND the Phillies win all of their games after their series with the Fish, AND the Mets go 3-3 in their next six games. It’s mathematically possible, not realistic — it would mean the Marlins finish the season with an 18-game winning streak. Or something like that … the medicine is clouding my head …

Please post your comments on the game below …

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Mets Game 152: Win Over Nationals

Mets 7 Nationals 2

Now that’s more like it … a playoff-bound team is supposed to be beating up on the last place teams at this time of year.

Johan Santana made the Nats hitters look like minor leaguers, allowing only one run in seven innings of balls missing bats. Johan allowed 8 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 8.

On the other side of things, the offense continued its onslaught, again sparked by Jose Reyes. Reyes doubled to lead off the game and scored on a single by Daniel Murphy to give the Mets a lead they never relinquished.

The Mets added two runs to their lead in the second inning, thanks to the first of two homers by Brian Schneider and an RBI single by Reyes. And they plated another pair in the third, courtesy of a Carlos Beltran triple and a Ryan Church single. In the fourth, Schneider blasted another bomb to put the Mets ahead 6-zip, and Church drove in another run in the fifth frame to give the Mets a 7-0 advantage.

The Nationals held the Mets scoreless through the remainder of the game, but the damage was done.

Notes

Schneider, Church, and Murphy all went 2-for-4, and Reyes had two safeties in five tries.

David Wright continued his “slump” with another oh-fer. It’s obvious he’s pressing, but the question is why? Wright was unconscious against the Braves last weekend, then goes hitless one game and everyone is wondering what’s wrong with him. He must have been reading / listening to the pundits, because he’s looked tight ever since that 0-for-4 Monday game.

Speaking of tension, it should be relieved for the Mets, and we should see them go ballistic on the Braves. That is, if they’re being realistic and can see what everyone else is seeing: the Milwaukee Brewers are finished, which means the Mets can skate into the postseason via the wild card. Earlier in the day, the Cubs essentially ripped the heart out of the Brewers, overcoming a 4-run deficit in the ninth and taking the game in the 12th inning. The Brew Crew was already on its last shred of courage, and this latest disaster no doubt will put them into a mental state that will be next to impossible to overcome.

And while we’re segueing into mental games, what’s up with Jerry Manuel’s quick hook in the ninth inning? I realize the bullpen has been shaky, but why is he managing a 5-run lead like it’s the seventh game of the World Series? It’s bad enough he’s been doing it in three-run games since June, but I don’t see the advantage of burning through both of your top LOOGYs in a 7-2 contest. Besides wearing out arms that might be needed tomorrow, he’s also sending a negative message to every man in the ‘pen: be perfect, or be gone. Who can perform their best with that kind of expectation? The pundits can keep yapping about the relievers being “terrible”, but I’m sticking to my evaluation that Manuel is an absolute moron when it comes to bullpen management — yes, he’s WORSE than Willie.

Which brings me to one more point: where the heck was Bobby Parnell? Before the game, a reporter asked Manuel if it would take another blowout situation for him to see Parnell, and the answer was “no”. Yet, this would have appeared to be a perfect time to see what the kid could do — finish up a game with a five-run cushion. I understand that there is still the concern that he’ll crap the bed and ruin Santana’s gem, but wouldn’t you rather find out now, rather than, say, game 160? Further, isn’t Parnell one of the “untouchables” who the Mets couldn’t trade away for people like Jon Rauch, Huston Street, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, or Manny Ramirez? If he’s that good and is on the roster of a team vying for the postseason, shouldn’t we be seeing him make a contribution? For all the hype we were fed, I was expecting Parnell to be our version of the 2006 Adam Wainwright. Instead, we get a combination of Philip Humber / Aaron Sele.

Last bullpen point: Al Reyes was released. I’m guessing that he never fully recovered from the shoulder ailment that kept him out for the past few months.

Oh, in case you missed it, Brian Schneider is looking fresh. We know this because Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Kevin Burkhardt all brought up the fact that Schneider’s lack of playing time early in the season means he’s fresh now, at the end of the season. Lee Mazzilli mentioned it in the postgame, as well, and Burkhardt brought it up with both Jerry Manuel and Schneider himself in postgame interviews. Matt Yalloff and Gary Apple mentioned it too, so it must be true. So why are we worried about the tendinitis in Schneider’s knee?

A good, much-needed win. I really feel like it’s going to be smooth sailing from here on — the Brewers are dead and the Fish have too much ground to cover in too short a time.

Next Game

The Mets begin a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday night with Oliver Perez going to the hill against Jo-Jo Reyes. First pitch is at 7:30 pm.

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