Browsing Archive April, 2010

Mets Game 21: Win Over Dodgers

Mets 10 Dodgers 5

Break up the Mets!

By taking the second game of their doubleheader with the Dodgers, the Mets have won their third consecutive series, and are now threatening to take the lead in the NL East.

I urge you to bask in this current glory, because one can never know what the future brings. Live in the present, and be happy!

Game Notes

Oliver Perez was his usual awful self. The numbers he put on paper in the first three innings seemed innocent enough — no runs, one hit, one walk — but your eyes should have told you a different story. From his very first pitch of the game and throughout his short stint, Ollie was consistently missing his target by a foot and a half or more. A FOOT AND A HALF. I’m talking about his intended target, not the strike zone — there is a difference. You can miss your intended target and still get lucky enough to have the ball pass over the plate on occasion. Additionally, his velocity was topping out in the high 80s. With that combination, it was only a matter of time before the roof caved in — as it did in the fourth.

Ollie’s issues stem from his inconsistent mechanics, which often are sending his momentum side-to-side rather than toward the plate, and in turn cause his release point to be all over the place. A pitcher can get away — for a while — with bad mechanics if his release point is relatively consistent. Perez has no consistency with anything he does from the moment he toes the rubber.

The fourth inning that sent Ollie to the showers could have been much worse. Hisanori Takahashi — who otherwise provided another admirable job in long relief — had walked the bases loaded, walked Reed Johnson to force in a run, and might have walked James Loney to force in another, but was saved by some questionable strike calls by home plate umpire Angel Campos. Takahashi was struggling mightily in his initial inning (maybe he wasn’t completely warmed up?) and who knows what might’ve happened if Loney walked to force in another run and bring up Blake DeWitt with the bases still loaded? The Dodgers could have broken the game wide open there and set the momentum in another direction. It’s nice to see the Mets getting breaks like this, after watching them on the short end so often the last three years.

Jason Bay followed up his first homer as a Met in game one with a first-inning triple and a spectacular diving catch in the second inning to steal a hit from Jamey Carroll. Who said he couldn’t play defense?

David Wright had a huge day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a walk and 4 RBI. His bases-clearing triple in the sixth cemented the win. Guess I can shelve my “Whats Wrong with Wright” article.

Hisanori Takahashi was better than Perez in 3+ innings of relief, but nothing to write home about. He’s following in the 2010 Mets tradition of inefficiency, using 75 pitches to get 10 outs.

Jennry Mejia got one inning of work in the 8th. So glad he’s up in MLB for these garbage innings, rather in the minors honing his craft for a possible future as a starting pitcher. The Mets can’t trust Jack Egbert or Pat Misch with a six-run lead?

Timing is everything; the Mets caught the Dodgers at just the right time, and took advantage. Los Angeles is currently without Manny Ramirez, Vicente Padilla, Cory Wade, and Jeff Weaver, didn’t have Rafael Furcal due to a tight hamstring, and for all intents and purposes didn’t have Ronald Belisario nor Hong Chih Kuo available (both recently returned to the roster and are being handled carefully by Joe Torre). James Loney exacerbated the situation by getting ejected in the fourth inning. Again, nice to see the Mets take advantage, since they likely will face a much different Dodger team the next time the two teams meet for four games in late July.

Next Mets Game

The Mets hope to finish the sweep on Thursday afternoon with John Maine taking the mound against a mystery pitcher who is most likely to be Josh Towers (who is currently in AAA). Game time is 1:10 PM.


Mets Game 20: Win Over Dodgers

Mets 4 Dodgers 0

Johan Santana threw six scoreless innings, Jason Bay hit his first homerun in the orange and blue, and Luis Castillo drove in two runs as the Mets cruised to an easy victory in the front end of a twi-night doubleheader.

Can’t say much beyond that, because I didn’t see the game … there’s this other thing I do during the day that allows me to pay the bills. So please if you have any comments to share, please do so below. Thank you!


Inside Look: LA Dodgers

In a matter of a few days, the Mets went from the NL East basement right into the thick of the race, simultaneously changing their outlook from bleak to bright. Their sudden “about face” was the result of several factors, not the least of which included strong pitching, a spark by Ike Davis, poor execution by their opponents, and a little bit of luck.

Can the Mets remain on a positive course? We shall soon see, but it appears as though their timing remains good — the Dodgers stumble into town playing below their potential, marred by multiple injuries to their pitching staff, and without the bat of Manny Ramirez.

To get a glimpse of what’s going on in Dodgerland, I’ve called on fellow ESPN SweetSpot Blogger Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts.

1. Prior to the season, the Dodgers – on paper – looked like the best in the NL West. However, they’ve struggled out of the gate and are sitting near the cellar with an 8-10 record. What’s going on? Have they been playing down to their competition?

Keeping in mind that there’s only a three-game difference between last and first in the NL West, it’s true that the Dodgers’ play has been problematic. They’ve had virtually unprecedented fielding troubles, and the starting pitching outside of Hiroki Kuroda has been inconsistent. I expect that the fielding and pitching will improve some, but the offense – which has been about the best in the league – will cool down, so it’s hard to predict how good they’ll be.

2. With the Padres at the top of the division, it’s obviously still early. Which teams do you see as the main competition for first place come August / September?

I still expect the Rockies to be the Dodgers’ team to beat, with the Giants in the thick of it if they can maintain any kind of hitting.

3. With hot starts by Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Casey Blake, it seems the Dodgers are less reliant on Manny Ramirez’s big bat for success. Would you agree? Will they miss Manny while he’s on the DL?

His bat is always good to have around – many pundits (gleefully) gave up on him at the end of last year, ignoring his hand injury – but in any case, the Dodgers showed last year they can produce without him.

4. Are Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley ready to take their game to the next level and lead the LA pitching staff, or are they still a year or so away?

I wouldn’t frame the question that way. Some days they’re already at the next level, other days they’re not. Billingsley was arguably one of the two or three best pitchers in the NL in the first half of last season. They just need to execute more consistently.

5. Russ and Ramon Ortiz? Really?

Two of the Dodgers’ top four relievers, Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo, started the year on the restricted and disabled lists, and Jeff Weaver went on the DL last week. So while I wouldn’t have chosen the Ortizs, I don’t think many major-league teams have No. 8 and No. 9 relievers that are much better. Russ is now gone, and Ramon is the last guy in the pen and poised for release if the Dodgers get completely healthy.

6. Does Joe Torre’s (ab)use of middle relievers like George Sherrill and Ramon Troncoso concern you?

Sherrill hasn’t been abused (he has never thrown more than 20 pitches on consecutive days, or more than 10 pitches on three consecutive days, as a Dodger), but to the larger point, it does and it doesn’t. There have been times when Torre has fallen in love with a particular reliever, but I also think it has been overblown. I kept track last year of reliever pitch counts and found that it was rare that Torre actually was working a pitcher above what anyone would think is acceptable. One of the few times it happened was with Belisario during one weeklong stretch last summer. Belisario went on the DL, but honestly, that was the exception. Torre has become as careful with Kuo, for example, as one can be.

Torre has had to go to the pen a lot this month, but given how poorly the Dodger pitching performed, there isn’t much any manager could have done differently. I don’t think Torre is a saint or that he’s outstanding with his bullpen use, but I think too much is made of this aspect of his managing in comparison with others. For every Scott Proctor or Belisario, there’s been a lot of good relief performance by the Dodger bullpen under Torre’s control, without injury consequences.

Frankly, I’m a little more concerned by Torre’s use of Billingsley in 2009. Billingsley had the most pitches thrown in the first half of the season of any NL pitcher.

7. Speaking of relievers, how is “former Met” Carlos Monasterios looking?

Monasterios looks like a keeper – not perfect by any means, but a valuable guy for the back of the pen for now. He pitched 2 2/3 innings to get the win in the Dodgers’ 13-inning game at Washington on Saturday.

8. What is the key to the Dodgers making it into the postseason in 2010?

They simply can’t be among the worst in the league in pitching and fielding. They certainly have the talent to make the playoffs, but if they can’t show it on the field, it ain’t gonna happen. They need to improve their performance in those areas just to make sure they stay in contention.

Thanks again to Jon Weisman for his excellent insight. To keep up with what’s going on in Los Angeles baseball, be sure to check out his blog Dodgers Thoughts.


Mets Game 19: Win Over Braves

Mets 1 Braves 0

For once, everything went right for the Mets.

Mike Pelfrey did not pitch well, but battled and stranded a small country on the bases. Tommy Hanson pitched very well, but was the unlucky recipient of poor defense and wet conditions that allowed Jose Reyes to steal a hit, steal a base, and steal a run.

And though Big Pelf threw over 100 through five frames, it didn’t matter, because the game was called due to rain after one pitch was thrown (by Raul Valdes) in the sixth.

Game Notes

Mike Pelfrey threw 71 pitches in the first three innings and was out of the game after the fifth. His final line was 5 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 3 K, 0 R, 106 pitches, 59 strikes. Going by current standards, that’s an “outstanding” performance. Meh. Big Pelf did extend his consecutive scoreless innings total to 24, which is the longest by a Met since John Maine threw 26 scoreless in 2006.

In case you were wondering, Mark Guthrie threw 27 scoreless innings in 2002.

Another interesting stat: Pelfrey’s 0.69 ERA thus far matches Nolan Ryan (1970) for best by a Met in March/April.

Luis Castillo went 2-for-3, and was the only batter with a multi-hit game.

David Wright struck out again, and is now hitting .222. According to the statheads, Wright’s BABIP is far below his career average, suggesting that he’s simply unlucky. I don’t know though … has Wright put a ball in play in the last two weeks?

But hey, what does it matter? The Mets swept the Braves!

Next Mets Game

The Mets host the Dodgers for a 3-game series in Flushing beginning at 7:10 PM on Monday night. Oliver Perez attempts to pitch against Hiroki Kuroda.


Mets Game 18: Win Over Braves

Mets 3 Braves 1

Suddenly, things are looking up.

The Mets beat the Braves for the second consecutive time and simultaneously won their second straight series on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Flushing.

Game Notes

Jon Niese pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and 5 walks, striking out 6 and expending 116 pitches. Considering that the SNY crew labeled his previous start as “outstanding”, I guess this one would qualify as “spectacular”. If he does any better, I guess we’ll have to call it “legendary”. Maybe I’m getting old and ornery, but in my day, such superlatives were reserved for, well, more superb performances.

Jason Bay is clearly out of his slump — he went 3-for-4 with a double and a sac fly for an RBI. Bay’s 3 hits accounted for more than half of the Mets’ total for the game (5).

Jeff Francoeur lashed an RBI double for the game-winning hit in the 7th, and had a key assist earlier in the game to end an Atlanta rally.

Yunel Escobar was the dunce that allowed Francoeur to get that assist. Standing on third with one out, Escobar did not tag up on a deep fly to right by Troy Glaus. However, the man on second — Martin Prado — did tag, and got caught in a rundown between second and third while Escobar scrambled back to 3B and tried to score. It wasn’t even close.

Bobby Cox will definitely be retiring after this season — maybe before the All-Star Break — if the Braves continue to display such awful fundamentals. I would not be surprised to see Escobar benched on Sunday, though he’s not the only culprit. Overall, the Braves are nowhere near the rock-solid executioners they were in their heyday, which must drive Cox crazy but also severely damage his pride.

Larry Jones was not chipper on his (and Pat Zachry’s) birthday — he struck out looking twice on back-door curveballs from Niese and left the ballgame with a sore hip. Glass Jones’ sporadic availability combined with the Braves’ poor execution will be Atlanta’s downfall in 2010.

Henry Blanco drove in the insurance run in the seventh with a short fly ball to left, but more importantly, he stole a base — his first since little league. OK, I’m exaggerating … Blanco last recorded a stolen base in 2001. Seriously.

Former Brave Manny Acosta threw 1 2/3 innings of nearly perfect relief, striking out 3 and walking one. I’ve decided he’s the 2010 version of Jorge Sosa: a slider machine who can also throw a fairly hard and straight fastball, and will do well over a short span of time. That said, I’m OK with Jerry Manuel running him out there until the hitters figure him out.

Speaking of the Smartest Manager in Baseball, Jerry Manuel won his second consecutive game using the brilliant strategy of Jose Reyes in the 3-hole. You can’t argue with success, so don’t even try. I especially like the idea of batting Alex Cora second, so that Reyes has the opportunity to hit without the distraction of a runner on base — it’s kind of like he’s always leading off.

Jose Reyes, by the way, went 0-for-2 with 2 walks, a run scored, and a stolen base in the three spot.

David Wright looks terrible at the plate. He seems to be using a different stance every time up, and he’s taking huge swings at the ball. Usually when Wright is in a slump, he’s still around .280-.290. He’s currently hovering at .230. Color me concerned.

With this win, the Mets have sent the Braves to the basement and are now tied for third place with the Washington Nationals. If that’s not reason to believe I don’t know what is.

Next Mets Game

The final game of the series — which at this point is moot — will be played at 8:05 PM on Sunday night. Mike Pelfrey faces Tommy Hanson in what could be a very interesting matchup. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.