Browsing Archive April, 2009

Mets Game 6: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 2 Mets 1

Johan Santana and Josh Johnson hooked up in a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, and at the end, Johnson was the one left standing.

In a remarkably quick, 2 hour, 4-minute game, Johnson emerged as the victor and owner of MLB’s first complete game, dispatching of the Mets hitters through the use of a 96-MPH fastball and a filthy slider.

Santana, meanwhile, was no slouch, striking out 13 hitters and allowing only three hits and one walk. Unfortunately, he also allowed two runs — both unearned — and that was the difference in the ballgame.

The Marlins’ two runs came with two outs in the bottom of the second, when Danny Murphy dropped a Cody Ross fly ball, allowing Jeremy Hermida to score. Ronny Paulino followed with another single to score Ross.

The Mets’ lone run came in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, when Carlos Beltran singled up the middle to drive in Carlos Delgado, who had doubled. Delgado’s double came after what looked like a called third strike — which would’ve ended the game — but home plate umpire Bob Davidson called it a ball.

Game Notes

Marlins starter Josh Johnson did not allow a hit until Luis Castillo managed a broken-bat blooper in the sixth, and he threw a first-pitch strike to 19 consecutive hitters. His 101st pitch of the ballgame was clocked at 98 MPH. He was downright nasty all day.

It almost looked as if Johan made the decision to take it upon himself to retire the Fish on his own after Murphy’s error. After the error, Santana struck out 8 of the next 13 hitters he faced.

David Wright has collected a base hit in every game this year.

Ryan Church also has a hit in every game, as he hit yet another double. He now has 6 and is batting .478.

Kevin Burkhardt spoke about Ramon Castro’s offseason running program, which was a daily, intensive routine. Castro ran every single day and dropped a grand total of 15 pounds … I hope that means he gained some muscle weight, because he looks like the kind of guy who could shed more weight than that over four months of training. Burkhardt said he wasn’t sure why Castro decided to partake in such a regimen in this past particular offseason — apparently he’s never worked out hard in the winter months before. Here’s a hint, Kevin: contract year.

Cameron Maybin might strike out 200 times this year. He does look to have a world of talent, though. The Fish might strike out 1500 times as a team before it’s all said and done.

Not much to say about this game, other than the Mets ran into a very hot pitcher. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap, as they say.

Next Mets Game

The Mets play their first-ever regular season game at Citi Field against the San Diego Padres on Monday night at 7:10 PM. Mike Pelfrey takes the ball against 32-year-old Mexican League journeyman Walter Silva. Tom Seaver throws out the ceremonial first pitch to Mike Piazza. Apparently Sandy Koufax and Joe Pignatano were unavailable.

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Mets Game 5: Win Over Marlins

Mets 8 Marlins 4

Ricky Nolasco’s struggles against the Mets continued, as he allowed 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings en route to his sixth career loss (against two victories) to the orange and blue.

The Mets’ offense finally figured out how to push all those runners around the bases, exploding for 8 runs on 15 hits, including a homerun by Jose Reyes and doubles by Reyes, the two Carloses, and Ryan Church (2).

Livan Hernandez lulled the Marlins hitters to sleep (who knew that Fish slept?), using a variety of lollipop curves, slow changeups, and fading fastballs. By the time the Fish woke up, Livan had muddled through 6 2/3 uneventful innings, the first Mets starter to see the seventh inning. A variety of Mets relievers turned the final seven outs into a circus, but Francisco Rodriguez arrived with his cape in the ninth to end the madness.

Game Notes

As expected, Marlon Anderson was DFA’d before the game to make room for Livan Hernandez. Anderson is a lock to pass through waivers, as no one is going to claim a pinch-hitter with a 7-figure contract. However, there’s an outside shot someone might be interested in him as a free-agent, if he chooses that route. I personally will miss Marlon, as I love the way he plays and approaches the game, but unfortunately there simply isn’t room on an NL roster for him. If he was a little better with the glove, particularly in the infield, he’d be more valuable, but at this point in his career, he’d need to be an outstanding pinch-hitter (like he was in 2007), and even then, I’m not sure there’s room. Good luck Marlon!

So Jerry Manuel had a chat with Luis Castillo before the game and told him he needed to be more aggressive at the plate. Castillo responded with four hits, so Manuel is a genius motivator. My only question is, what did Manuel say differently in this most recent chat, that he didn’t say in the previous 15 chats on the same subject going back to July of last year? Better explanation: Luis reads MetsToday, and was determined to prove that an old dog COULD learn new tricks!

By the way, where did Manuel get the idea that Castillo needed to be more aggressive? Was it all the pitches down the middle he’s been taking with runners in scoring position? Huh, I hardly noticed (*sarcasm*). Manuel = Master of the Obvious.

Speaking of hitting with runners in scoring position, the Mets still weren’t exactly awesome in that area, despite the eight runs scored. They left 10 runners on base, seven of which were in scoring position. Further, of their 8 runs, half scored via homeruns and doubles with a runner on first, and two more scored on infield groundouts. All told, they also failed to hit safely 9 times with runners in scoring position during the course of the game — for those with calculators, that comes to 2 hits in 11 chances, or a .181 average. Nitpicking, maybe. We certainly must be happy to see the hitters finally drive in a few of those ducks on the pond.

Livan Hernandez is not just a pitcher, he’s a ballplayer, meaning he plays, and takes pride in, every aspect of the game — not unlike that of Johan Santana and Tom Glavine. He showed it in this game with solid defense and outstanding bunting fundamentals. Every little bit helps, and when you can execute the little things, you can win in double digits despite an ERA over six.

The latest Danny Murphy comparison is Pete Rose, per Keith Hernandez. Rose, Mattingly, Boggs … those are some big names to live up to (I’m sticking by my Mike Hargrove comparison). Can we just let the kid be himself, please? He’s being set up for major disappointment … does no one remember Gregg Jefferies?

Next Mets Game

The series finale between the Mets and Marlins takes place at 1:10 PM on Easter Sunday, with Johan Santana going to the hill against Josh Johnson.

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Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a time-honored adage that applies in many situations.

old_dog_new_tricks.jpgFor example, you wouldn’t expect to be able to teach a 10-year-old dog how to ride a bicycle, if he hasn’t even learned how to sit. It’s just too late — a dog that age is already set in his ways, and did his learning during his formative, puppy years.

Similarly, it’s simply too late in the game to ask a 33-year-old, 14-year MLB veteran to suddenly change his entire offensive approach — such as in the case of Luis Castillo.

Only three times in 14 years has Castillo driven in as many as 40 runs in a season. It’s not what he does. Rather, Castillo is a “table setter”, a guy who finds a way to get on base. He takes a lot of pitches, looks for walks, bunts, and punches little bloops all over the field. His career OBP of .367 would make a Billy Beane disciple drool, and he also has above-average baserunning speed, even at his advanced age. As an added bonus, he plays one of the “skill” positions. In any era, from the 1880s to now, a second baseman with Luis Castillo’s skillset would be a valuable piece of a championship ballclub. His game is not unlike that of Jim “Junior” Gilliam of the great Dodgers teams in the 1960s, Nellie Fox, Johnny Pesky, Willie Randolph, or Chuck Knoblauch. Yes, in the steroid era, his power numbers are feeble, but he’s not supposed to be a star. Used correctly — at the top of the lineup — he’s an ideal complement to a lineup of power hitters. His patience makes a starting pitcher use and show his full arsenal of pitches in the first inning, and his ability to get on base sets the stage for the sluggers.

Or, you could just put him wherever you damn well feel like in the lineup and ask him to completely change his approach and mindset at the plate. Just don’t be stunned or disappointed when he begins the season 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Yet, here we are, after four games, and Luis Castillo’s job is being called into question by pundits, the media, the blogosphere, and possibly even his manager Jerry Manuel — ironically, the man who has put him into position to fail. Castillo, after all, is hitting only .100, and there’s all those LOBs. Surely he’s the reason the Mets have lost two games this year. There are already calls for Alex Cora to take over the second sack. Yes, the same Alex Cora who is a career .245 hitter (.312 OBP), the same man who drove in all of 9 runs last year in 179 ABs, the same Cora who, in his career, has hit .249 with runners in scoring position. Sounds like a great plan.

Hold on, folks. Let’s look at this in perspective — even taking away the fact that Castillo is in the wrong spot of the order. HE HAS ONLY TEN AT-BATS. He’s 1-for-10 thus far. That’s basically two ballgames. Do you know how many times David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran will get only one hit over ten at-bats at some point this season?

Consider this: David Wright, one of the Mets’ key RBI men, is currently 0-for-4 with RISP. Does that mean Fernando Tatis should be starting at third soon? Danny Murphy is also 0-for-4 with RISP, so should Jeremy Reed (who is hitting 1.000 with RISP) be taking over in left field?

But we’re getting off the point here. The point is, no one should be surprised that Castillo is failing in his current role of #8 hitter. He’s completely misplaced, batting in a position where he frequently appears with runners on base. One of his best skills — bunting — is completely useless batting ahead of the pitcher. It’s a bad fit, and it’s irresponsible to ask him to suddenly be something completely opposite of what’s he’s been for the past 13 years.

I’m not saying you change your entire lineup to make Luis Castillo fit better. Rather, I’m saying you take a look at the skillsets of the players you have, and find a way to make them best work together. Danny Murphy has proven he can hit no matter where he is in the lineup, so how about moving him — a relative puppy — into a position in the order where his potent bat can be better used? Luis Castillo will never be an RBI guy, but Murphy might learn to be. Sure, Murphy might turn out to be a high OBP guy as well, but won’t the lineup be stronger if he’s further down in the lineup, both getting on base AND driving in runs?

Oh and hey, for those not paying attention — Castillo played in only one of the Mets’ losses this year. Alex Cora was the second baseman in the Mets’ loss to the Reds on Thursday afternoon.

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Mets Game 4: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 5 Mets 4

Though the Mets lost this one, they did show a lot of fight in the later innings, which is something we didn’t see enough of in 2008.

John Maine pitched well enough for his first outing since shoulder surgery, allowing two runs on two hits and one walk in five innings, striking out five. Both runs came on solo homers, on the same high fastballs that Keith Hernandez “likes to see”. Yes, those high fastballs can be strikeouts, but they can also be gopher balls, unfortunately. At one point, Maine retired seven Fish in a row, and he began the game with two consecutive strikeouts. His velocity was up to around 93 MPH, but his command was nonexistent. It appears he’s healthy, and on the way back, but will take some time.

Spoiling Maine’s encouraging performance was the Mets bullpen, which allowed three runs over the final four innings. If this were 1978, we might have seen J.J. Putz enter in the sixth and K-Rod record a two-inning save, but this is 2008 and pitchers don’t do that anymore. So instead, we watched Sean Green, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and Darren O’Day show us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On a positive note, Carlos Beltran belted his first homer of the year, with three hits on the day. Ryan Church also had three hits, as did Danny Murphy, though two of Murphy’s “hits” easily could have been scored errors. We’ll take them, though.

On a negative note, the Mets stranded 14 runners on base. Fourteen. Ouch. Well, at least they’re getting guys on base, right?

Back to the positive: Jeremy Reed came through HUGE with his hit as a New York Met, blistering an RBI single in the ninth inning off Matt Lindstrom to tie the game at four. He was the Mets’ best hitter in spring training, and it’s a wonder it took this long for him to get an at-bat in a regular-season game.

However, Feliciano and O’Day couldn’t hold the tie, and the blur known as Emilio Bonifacio won the game with his legs, reaching base on an infield single and racing home on a hit by Jorge Cantu. It was the second time in three innings that Bonifacio changed the game with his speed — he’d earlier reached base on a two-out bunt off Parnell, eventually scoring the Fish’s fourth run.

Game Notes

John Maine’s stats belied his performance. He gave up only two runs and walked one, but many of his strikeouts had more to do with undisciplined Marlins hitters chasing balls out of the strike zone than Maine throwing great pitches. Further, Maine was consistently missing spots, even when he was throwing strikes. This may not make sense, or it may sound like nitpicking, but the truth is, Brian Schneider was doing a lot of reaching to catch Maine’s pitches, because Maine was missing the intended target by a foot or more — that’s too much for an MLB pitcher.

Luis Castillo came to bat with runners in scoring position about fifteen times in this game, and failed in each one. We’ll still try to hammer that square peg into the round eighth hole of the lineup.

Speaking of, did anyone notice Castillo’s strike-three looking in the top of the seventh? It was a darn close pitch on the inside black of home plate. Maybe you also noticed Marlins catcher John Baker “stick” that pitch — he held it exactly where it crossed the plate, and was awarded with strike three. Maybe I’m harping too much on the art of catching lately, but the concept of “framing” is one of those universally taught, yet completely illogical, baseball skills that needs to called out and buried. (That “thump” was the sound of me hopping off the soap box.)

Ryan Church remains red-hot, against righties and lefties. He must like the month of April, because he started out similarly last season.

A little strange to see Gary Sheffield, instead of Ramon Castro, come in to pinch-hit for Brian Schneider. Seems like a waste to burn two players in one shot like that, especially in a close game where you might be going into extra innings.

Sean Green appeared in yet another ballgame. For those unaware, Green pitched very well for Seattle for the first half of 2008, then had a poor second half, and most people felt it was because of overuse. His arm action and mechanics certainly do not make him look durable. Green, Parnell, Feliciano, and Putz are on pace to appear in 121 games each this season.

The young Marlins look like they are finally starting to “get it”. If they can find one more solid bullpen guy — or a legit closer — they will be a serious playoff contender.

People love to bash Jorge Cantu for his poor fielding, but the guy made some really nice snares on hot smashes in the late innings. That man has no fear of the ball, that’s for certain.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Marlins do it again, serving as the opening act to Flo Rida. You won’t see the first hour of the game, but can listen to it on WFAN or XM Radio. SNY coverage begins at 7:00 PM. Livan Hernandez makes his Mets debut against Ricky Nolasco, though there’s no guarantee that either pitcher will still be in the game by the time it is broadcast on your TV set.

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Mets Game 3: Loss to Reds

Reds 8 Mets 6

You can’t win ’em all …

Not a good day for Oliver Perez, who was charged with 8 runs in less than five innings of work — though he wasn’t helped by Darren O’Day, who allowed two inherited runners to score.

Ollie cruised through the first two innings, then allowed four runs in the third and fell apart in the fifth. Other than O’Day, the bullpen did its job in holding the Reds scoreless, and the offense tried to chip away, but fell short.

If nothing else, it was interesting to see that the Mets would in fact play all nine innings when behind. There was some speculation that they would concede the contest after the seventh, since JJ Putz and K-Rod were acquired with the intention of shortening the game by two innings.

Sure, you don’t like to see the Mets lose, but look at it this way — they took two out of three, and won their first series.

Mets Game Notes

Prior to Opening Day, the Reds were my sleeper pick for the Cinderella team of 2009. If these first three games are any indication, I’m WAY off. Their pitching is thinner than it appears on paper, and their young hitters may still be a year away. Mostly, though, they look sloppy in the field, reminiscent of the Marlins of the past few seasons. If they don’t find another quality starting pitcher and tighten up the defense, they’re headed for another dismal season.

Before the game, Jerry Manuel told reporters that “if you can get six good innings out of Ollie, that’ll be great”. No kidding. That’s pretty much the hope for every starting pitcher, isn’t it? For example, wouldn’t it have been “great” if Johan Santana could have given the Mets six good innings on Opening Day? I can’t believe they cut away from the game action to show us that pearl of wisdom.

Ryan Church is starting out similarly to last April, mashing line drives to all fields.

I seem to remember the Mets having a hard time winning the final game of a series when it was a weekday, day game. I can’t find the numbers anywhere to support that assumption, but it sure felt that way.

Keith Hernandez likes the new SNY graphics. I don’t, since they remove about one-fifth of my TV screen real estate. Andrew Vazzano of TheRopolitans agrees.

Keith and I do agree on one thing though — Joey Votto is the real deal. I’m sticking by my outrageous MVP prediction.

A number of missed hit-and-runs from both sides in this series, yet nearly all of them resulted in a stolen base.

Gary Sheffield made his Mets debut in this game, appearing as a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth (he struck out looking). Strange move, since high-OBP man Luis Castillo was available on the bench. Maybe Jerry Manuel promised Castillo a full day off — I’m sure he was absolutely exhausted after playing two full games over the previous three days.

Ramon Castro remains a sloppy catcher, who drives me crazy with his annoying habit of jerking (I’m sure he calls it “framing”) every pitch. I spotted at least five occasions where Castro lost a legit strike because he jerked his glove toward the middle of the plate instead of catching the ball when it was a strike (a.k.a., “beating the ball to the spot”). One of those pitches came in the fifth and would’ve been strike three to Votto, and on the next pitch Votto hit an RBI single. Think about that. Votto’s single would’ve been an out, which means there would not have been a man on third so Brandon Phillips’ fly ball would not have been a sac fly driving in a run, and Ryan Hanigan’s fly ball would’ve been out number three, and Paul Janish would not have come to bat and singled in two. Do the math, and you tell me whether I’m nitpicking.

No, Paul Janish is not related to me. People in my family can hit, and have much larger feet. And my name is not pronounced “Yahn-ish” — it’s “Jan-ish”.

Next Mets Game

The Mets travel to Miami to play the first-place Marlins in a three-game set, beginning with a Friday night game at 7:10 PM. John Maine is scheduled to face Anibal Sanchez.

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Confirmed: Maine was a Throw-in

This morning on XM 175 MLB Home Plate, former Mets and Orioles GM Jim Duquette confirmed that John Maine was a throw-in when the Mets sent Kris Benson to Baltimore for Jorge Julio.

This may not be huge news, and many of you may have suspected as much, but at least a few people (including myself) have lauded Omar Minaya for his ability to spot a golden nugget in Maine in his fleecing of the Orioles.

However, Duquette described the trade this morning quite differently. He said that when he first took the job at Baltimore, members of the Orioles organization saw Maine as a #5 starter, or a “swing man” (someone who would likely be a long man out of the bullpen and spot starter). According to Duquette, the Orioles felt supported in this analysis when the Indians refused to take Maine in a proposed trade. As a result, the O’s had been looking to trade Maine quickly, while he still might have value to another MLB club.

When Duquette and Minaya began talks, Minaya was desperate to unload Benson mostly as a salary dump (the team needed to clear payroll after acquiring Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner) and partially because of Anna Benson’s outfit at the annual Christmas party. According to Duquette, Minaya liked Jorge Julio’s power arm, and asked for Adam Loewen as well — who at the time was the #2 prospect in the organization. Duquette obviously rejected that request, and Minaya said he “needed a throw-in” to complete the deal. Since the Orioles had been trying to trade Maine earlier, Duquette suggested him as the “throw in”, and the rest is history.

Now, this could be Duquette’s way of covering his arse — after all, he was also the person publicly responsible for the trade of Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays. But, the story does make sense when you look back on it.

Hyannis Mets

In another interesting tidbit, Duquette said that the Mets used to give their old uniforms to the Hyannis Mets, which is a Cape Cod League team, to help Hyannis defray some of their costs. As a thank-you, Hyannis would send a dozen lobsters down to Flushing.

Isn’t that an ironic twist, considering that MLB recently put the hammer down on amateur organizations using MLB logos and team names, and specifically went after the Cape Cod League?

So one must wonder if the Mets will still “sell” their old uniforms for the market price of New England lobsters, or if Hyannis will be forced to buy the unis from a licensed vendor?

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Angels’ Adenhart Killed in Crash

Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart is dead, killed in a hit-and-run accident that occurred early this morning, only hours after he pitched in a game.

Adenhart was only 22 years old, and a promising piece of the Angels’ starting rotation. He had just pitched six shutout innings of a game against the Athletics that was eventually lost by the Angels.

Eerily enough, this morning his photo was on the Angels official home page, not for the death, but for his impressive performance.

More information is available from the Los Angeles Times.

No official word yet from the Angels nor MLB. I’d assume that tonight’s game between the Angels and A’s will be canceled. In addition, this news will probably reschedule the Angels Hall of Fame induction of Brian Downing and Steve Finley. At this point, those two events are not nearly as important as addressing the needs of Adenhart’s family, friends, and teammates.

Hat tip to Walnutz.

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Mets Game 2: Win Over Reds

Mets 9 Reds 7

This one was reminiscent of a 2008 ballgame: Mets jump ahead, Mike Pelfrey has control issues, loses the lead, gets it back, and barely gets through five, and the bullpen keeps us on the edge of our seat through the final out. If this were 2008, we’d expect the offense to go to sleep after the fifth. But this is 2009, and the offense did something that was rarely seen last year: they tacked on runs in the later innings.

Carlos Delgado gave the Mets a two-run lead with a prodigious blast in the top of the first, but Joey Votto did one better with a not-so-prodigious but more productive fly ball.

It took Pelfrey 43 pitches to get through the initial inning, an early signal that the bullpen would play a key role in the contest.

However the Mets came back with three runs in the fifth, when Delgado grounded out with the bases loaded and Carlos Beltran followed with a two-run single. Delgado added another run in the seventh, singling in David Wright. The two Carloses combined for 6 of the Mets’ 9 runs on the night.

Brian Schneider broke the game open in the seventh with a three-run double to make it easy on the bullpen, which was less than perfect.

Notes

Luis Castillo made several key defensive plays throughout the game, including a throw to home to cut down Joey Votto attempting to steal home on a pickoff attempt.

Big Pelf was falling behind with his sinker, which was running too hard and far in on the righties / away from the lefties. My guess is he was having trouble getting a good grip on the ball in the cold weather, and/or his thumb was a little too high and to the side of the ball at the release. When the thumb slides up, the ball will go flying in the opposite direction. Cold, slightly humid weather can make the ball feel slick and cause that to happen.

Bobby Parnell started off the sixth with two quick outs, then walked the next two batters. He was saved by Darnell McDonald, who showed why he spent 11 years in the minors by swinging at the first pitch (out of the strike zone) following a four-pitch walk. McDonald fell behind 0-2 and grounded out weakly to end the almost-rally. Parnell was hitting 94-95 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball, but was unable to spot the slider in the strike zone.

Pedro Feliciano and J.J. Putz gave up a run each in the 7th and 8th, which was OK since the Mets had a significant lead. However, Francisco “Don’t Call Me K-Rod” Rodriguez made things interesting in the ninth, giving up another run(wow it sure felt like he did) loading the bases with one out before retiring the side on a strikeout and a long fly ball to the warning track. Get used to this, Mets fans — Frankie was famous for these thrillers in Hollywood.

Nine walks by Mets pitchers in this game. That’s too many, for those who aren’t sure.

K-Rod threw 30 pitches; is he available to close on Thursday afternoon?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Reds do it again in an early afternoon game tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST. Oliver Perez goes against Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo had been suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, but reportedly is OK after a cortisone shot. Too much guitar playing?

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