Browsing Archive April, 2010

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.


Happy Birthday Pat Zachry

pat-zachryThe day June 15, 1977 lives in infany as the darkest day in Mets history.

For those too young to remember, it was the day that the Mets traded “The Franchise” — Tom Seaver — to the Reds in return for a gaggle of Cincinnati’s worst “top prospects”: Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, Dan Norman, and young hurler Pat Zachry. In addition, Dave Kingman was also traded on the same day — the Mets’ only offensive force at the time.

Zachry, born on April 24, 1952, was a stringbean of a pitcher with a scruffy beard, standing 6’5″ and weighing about 180 lbs. Though he managed winning records in ’77, ’78, and ’79, he never quite escaped the shadow of that fateful day, nor the fact that he replaced Seaver in the Mets’ rotation. Though he showed promise as a 24-year-old rookie in 1976, going 14-7 for the Big Red Machine, Zachry never won more than 7 games in a season after the age of 26 — the victim of woeful run support and injuries to his foot (he kicked a dugout step after allowing Pete Rose to tie the NL record for hits in consecutive games) and, later, his elbow.

Another happy birthday shout out goes to Carlos Beltran, who ironically, was born on this date in 1977.


Mets Game 17: Win Over Braves

Mets 5 Braves 2

Jerry Manuel is a genius.

Manuel finally followed through with his brilliant plan of batting Jose Reyes in the third spot of the lineup, Reyes had a great day at the plate, and the Mets won.

It’s all smooth sailing from here on in.

Game Notes

Jose Reyes went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his debut as the three hitter, rapping his third double and second triple of the season. He had no RBI and scored once.

Ike Davis smashed his first MLB homerun, a high, deep blast that fell just short of Shea Bridge.

Jason Bay and David Wright continued to break out of their respective slumps, both delivering RBI hits. Bay hit a triple immediately after Reyes’ — the first time this year the Mets hit back-to-back three baggers.

John Maine left the game with spasms and pain in his left elbow. Yes, that’s his non-throwing elbow. From Adam Rubin’s blog:

“I couldn’t bring my arm down,” Maine said. “It’d lock up and get kind of stuck. I was able to throw. I went out there and threw in the fourth inning — I don’t know how effective. Like I said, it’s just one thing after another.”

The left side and the right side work together to throw the ball — the left side pulls down to help drive the right side around, kind of like a wheel. I wonder if Maine’s over-rotation issue — which looked somewhat improved at times during his short stint — puts more of a strain on his left side than other pitchers, and contributed to the spasm? Thinking more along those lines, now I’m thinking that the reason he wasn’t over-rotating as much was because the pain was preventing him from doing so.

In any case, I’m not sure what others were seeing — the people who said and wrote that Maine looked pretty good before leaving the game. His velocity was sitting around 84-86 (other than one 89-MPH strike three fastball to Jason Heyward) and his command was inconsistent as usual. My guess is he started experiencing the pain and/or spasms early on.

Hisanori Takahashi did a good job in relief of Maine, allowing two hits, a walk, and one run in three innings of work and striking out 7. Others used more superfluous adjectives to describe the outing, but I’ll remain grounded and stick with “good”. You can call me negative or responsible, it’s up to you. My concern is that when a Mets pitcher actually DOES display an “outstanding” performance, I will be out of appropriate words to describe it (“these go to 11”).

As usual, K-Rod kept the game interesting in the 9th, bringing the tying run to the plate, but closed things out successfully for his second save of the season.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 1:10 PM on Saturday afternoon. Jon Niese goes to the hill against Jair Jurrjens.


Adam Bostick Suspended for PEDs

According to a press release put out by the Kansas City Royals, former Mets farmhand Adam Bostick has been suspended for 50 games after a second positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Bostick was on the roster of the Royals’ AAA Omaha club.

The exact drug was not mentioned, and it’s quite possible he was using something other than steroids. Cheating is cheating, but I believe there are different levels. For example, taking something that significantly and semi-permanently changes strength, speed, and/or vision (like steroids and HGH) is different from taking something that offers a temporary enhancement (i.e., amphetamines). That said, it would be nice to know if the drug were made public — it’s not necessarily fair that someone who took greenies to stay awake after a long bus ride gets lumped into the same category as a guy who did a d-bol cycle that created the strength needed to become a homerun hitter.

Hat tip to isuzudude for the story.


Inside Look: Atlanta Braves

The 8-7 Braves come to Flushing this weekend for a three-game series against the 7-9 Mets. With the two teams fairly close in regard to won-loss records, this is an important matchup for the first month of the season. Two weekend wins by the Mets puts them a half-game behind the Bravos, while a sweep sends them ahead and into the running for the NL East lead. On the other hand, if the Mets lose the series or get swept, it will bury them into a deep hole that will take quite an effort to emerge from.

Luckily for the Mets, the Braves look good on paper but haven’t exactly set the world afire. To give us some insight on what’s going on in Atlanta, I’ve called on fellow ESPN SweetSpot blogger Peter Hjort of Capitol Avenue Club to answer some questions about the Braves.

My questions are in bold, Peter’s answers in the blue boxes.

1. Seems like every time you turn on the TV or radio — even here in NY — you hear something about Jason Heyward. How do you compare him, right now, to where Andruw Jones was in Jones’ rookie season?

The hype is similar. Andruw Jones was one of the best prospects of all time, but Heyward is a similarly elite prospect. Andruw was rated BA’s #1 overall pre 1996 and pre 1997, Jason Heyward was rated BA’s #5 overall pre 2009 and #1 overall pre 2010. Andruw was a bit underwhelming–offensively at least–during his rookie year, hitting only .231/.329/.416 and stealing 20 bases at a 65 per cent success rate. Right now, Heyward is hitting like Adrian Gonzalez (.269/.397/.558), and if he keeps it up he’ll end up having a much better season than Andruw’s rookie year.

2. Martin Prado is quietly having a great start in Heyward’s shadow. Can he keep it up throughout the year? Why or why not?

Well, he’s obviously not going to hit .417 all year, but I’m expecting a very nice season from Prado. He’s hit .315/.369/.459 during his MLB career, which is about what I expect going forward.

3. Do you miss Javy Vazquez?

Yes. A lot. Javy was one of my favorite players on the team last year. I understand why the Braves traded him, but I do still miss him quite a bit. It was a joy to watch him pitch. A lot of Yankees’ fans don’t seem to appreciate Vazquez, which is a shame, really. It’s also very idiotic. If some Yankees fans really thinks trading Melky Cabrera for a guy coming off a Cy Young type season hurt their ballclub, they need a labotomy.

4. He’s in a slump now, but will it be tough to watch Jeff Francoeur have a comeback year for the Mets? (Not saying he will, but wondering how you’ll feel if he does.)

No. I hate the guy both for all the wins he cost the Braves over the years and for personal reasons that I won’t discuss here. The day he was traded was one of the happier ones of my life. I couldn’t care less what he does, so long as it’s not in Atlanta. And, honestly, what does a comeback year for Francoeur look like? .300/.330/.450? No thanks.

5. How confident do you feel late in games with Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito closing things out?

I’ve always been extremely confident in Wagner. Two weeks ago I would’ve said “no” on Saito, given his age, injury history, and the fact that he wasn’t particularly effective in 2009. But Saito has pitched extremely well–both statistically and from other talent evaluation perspectives–these first few weeks. The bullpen is the biggest strength of the team and I have a ton of confidence late in games, probably more so than I’ve had since John Smoltz was a full time relief pitcher. Furthermore, this may be the best bullpen, top to bottom, the Braves have ever had.

6. I thought Jonny Venters was a blues guitarist (I guess that was Johnny Winters); who is he and will he be making noise as the season progresses?

Jonny Venters was a 30th round draft pick out of Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, FL in 2003. He’s been used primarily as a starter for his minor league career, mostly with pretty bad numbers. He’s not going to make a lot of noise, really, he’s not a late-innings reliever and likely won’t ever be, but his mid-90’s sinker from the left side will probably be one of Bobby’s favorite toys this season.

7. The Vazquez – Melky Cabrera deal seemed to be more about clearing cash for Troy Glaus and otherr winter pickups. Is that how it went down and if so do you feel the Braves made the right moves?

Yes, the Vazquez-Cabrera deal was strictly about saving money. The good news is the Braves got Arodys Vizcaino, an elite pitching prospect, in the deal. I think the Braves made the right moves, given the situation they were in. I thought the Takashi Saito signing was a waste of cash at the time, but, like I said, he’s been fantastic. A lot of key players become arbitration eligible for the first time this upcoming off season, specifically Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar, and Jair Jurrjens. If trading Vazquez means keeping that trio around (along with Tim Hudson), I think it was a good move.

8. The Braves look great on paper, and so far are in the thick of things in the NL East. What are the keys to them getting into the postseason?

Right now four or five of the regulars (depending on how you count Matt Diaz) are slugging sub-300. Getting everyone on track is pretty much what the Braves need. Like you said, they look good on paper, it’s just a matter of guys doing what we expect them to. Of course, dealing with this mess of a LF situation–getting rid of all the tweeners and acquiring a real LF’er–certainly wouldn’t hurt.

9. Is Bobby Cox REALLY going to retire at the end of the year? If so, who is next in line?

I guess. I can’t know for sure, but all signs seem to indicate he will stay true to his word and hang up the spikes at year’s end. I don’t know who is next in line, though. The organization has been predictably tight lipped about the situation.

Thanks again to Peter for giving us the scoop. Be sure to check out Capitol Avenue Club for all things Braves.


Mets Game 16: Win Over Cubs

Mets 5 Cubs 2

The Mets did nearly everything they could to give Chicago the game, but in the end the Cubs just weren’t interested. As a result, the Metropolitans won their first series of 2010.

Game Notes

Johan Santana did not have his best stuff, but had enough to win. Hey … where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah — in all of his starts thus far. Once again the velocity was on the low side (though higher than in previous games) and his command was less than stellar. However, he had an occasionally nasty, vanishing change-up that induced many swings and misses. A few more crafty, savvy performances like this and we may start to wonder if this is what we’ll expect from Santana as a rule, rather than an exception. If so, that’s OK, as long as he keeps winning. Though, the high pitch counts that keep him from plowing through a full seven innings will eventually take their toll on an already overused bullpen. I’m going to assume that Johan’s slow start to the season has something to do with the recovery from elbow surgery. By mid-June he may be at full strength and these so-so (for Santana) starts will be considered a temporary anomaly.

Jerry Manuel is operating like a man managing for his life. In other words, he’s managing every game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series, with a beheading certain to follow a loss (previously he managed every game like it was the seventh game of the World Series, but with the assumption that his life would be spared if he were unsuccessful). This short-sighted strategy may get him through May, but will be detrimental in the long run — particularly to the bullpen. His desperation to win this game and this series led to four relievers in the final 2 2/3 innings, including Fernando Nieve’s 11th appearance and a five-out save from Francisco Rodriguez.

Speaking of, Fernando Nieve is on pace to appear in 110 games this season. In contrast, K-Rod is on pace to save 10 games over the course of the year.

Enough of the negativity; on to the positive.

Ike Davis had 3 of the Mets’ 7 hits, going 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored. He also collected his first Major League extra-base hit, a double to left field in the 8th. Granted, Alfonso Soriano was standing next to the peanut salesman in the stands along the left field foul line, and took his time in chasing the ball, but we’ll take it. Half of Davis’ 6 hits in this series came against lefthanded pitchers.

David Wright had only one hit, but it was a big one — a double to left that scored Jose Reyes for the first run of the game. Wright struck out three times on the night and was down 0-2 in that particular at-bat, but fought back and took a strong cut to blast the ball over Soriano’s head. God bless Alfonso Soriano.

Jeff Francoeur also had only one hit, but his also was a biggie — a single to score Wright only moments later. Frenchy flew to first base on the hit, having shed a gorilla-sized monkey off his back (he had been 0 for 24 prior to the RBI single).

There’s just one more middle-of-the-order slugger to bust out of a slump, and I won’t mention his name but you may currently think of him as the righthanded Jeromy Burnitz.

The Mets are in last place in the NL East but currently have a better won-loss record than the Boston Red Sox — so, there’s that. See, I can see a silver lining.

Next Mets Game

The Mets host the Braves for a three-game weekend series in Flushing beginning at 7:10 PM on Friday. The matchup pairs two winless starters in John Maine and Kenshin Kawakami.


Backman Blow-up with the Posse

It’s time for another installment of “Playing for Peanuts,” starring current Brooklyn Cyclones manager Wally Backman. Of course, “Playing for Peanuts” is a TV show about Wally’s team in 2007 – the South Georgia Peanuts. It’s a quirky, crazy story about Wally’s attempted comeback as a professional manager. In retrospect, it was a pretty good comeback attempt (Cyclones, remember?), but anyone who watched the show on SNY knows it was a very rocky road back for Wally Backman. Which leads us to…

“Peanuts” producer John Fitzgerald is offering Mets bloggers a $5 commission for every 3-DVD set sold on the web. Not a bad deal for us bloggers, but it also gives you the chance to help support some of your favorite Mets blogs, including OntheBlack, BrooklynMetFan and MetsToday.

The DVD set contains all 10 episodes of “Playing for Peanuts” on 3-DVDs. Also included are bonus scenes and interviews with Ron Darling and Conor Jackson.Click here for ordering information.

Since Backman will be back with the Mets organization this summer, John Fitzgerald will be sending me some of the bonus footage that he has released online, along with some commentary. Here’s the latest:

Playing for Peanuts – Web Extra Clip #38

John Fitzgerald:

In this clip, Wally discusses some of his biggest blowups while managing in the minor leagues. According to Wally, one of his most memorable blowups occurred while managing the Tri-City Posse of the Western League. It’s a great story… I can’t add anything more than that.

Buy the 3-DVD Set (10 episodes + Bonus Content)