Mets 18 Cubs 5
Where was all this offense for the past fifty or so games?
The Mets exploded for double-digit runs for the first time since June 22nd in Detroit as they rolled over the Cubs in Chicago to avoid a sweep.
Jonathon Niese wasn’t spectacular, but he didn’t need to be with all the offensive support he received. Niese allowed 5 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings, striking out 4 and allowing 2 homers in a 106-pitch effort. His command was inconsistent on all pitches, and his slider and curveball seemed to be confused with each other. Several times when he threw a breaking pitch, I wasn’t sure which one he was attempting to throw, because the ball kind of hung and moved sideways, with a velocity between 82-85. I guess you’d call it a “slurve”, but that couldn’t have been his intent.
Ike Davis had a big day, going 4-for-6 with 3 RBI, 3 runs scored, a double, and his 17th homerun.
Jon Niese helped himself with two hits and two RBI.
Ruben Tejada’s hot streak continued, as he drove in 5 runs (count ’em!) and blasted his first Major League homer. OK, he didn’t exactly “blast it” — it was a long fly ball to left-center that got caught in the jet stream and bounced off the yellow line at the top of the wall. But it counts all the same.
Carlos Beltran went 2-for-4 with 3 walks, 2 runs, an RBI, a stolen base, and saw 37 pitches on the day.
Every single position player in the Mets lineup scored at least one run, as did all three of their pinch-hitters.
Fantasy Alert: Cubs’ second baseman Jeff Baker went 3-for-3 in the game, and is now 8 for his last 12. Pick him up while he’s hot.
I listened to part of the game on XM Radio, which meant I had to hear the Cubs’ announcers Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. Hughes kept pronouncing Lucas Duda’s last name as “Doo – DAH” — you know, like the Camptown Races song? Kind of annoying, but funny as well.
Next Mets Game
The Mets travel to Washington, D.C. to face the Nationals on Monday. Game one begins at 1:05 PM, and features a matchup of Mike Pelfrey vs. Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman will be making only his third start of 2010 after missing a little over a year with an elbow injury — he had Tommy John surgery last August.
Cubs 5 Mets 3
It was a beautiful, sunny day in Chicago, but not so beautiful a debut for Jenrry Mejia.
The much-anticipated first MLB start by Jenrry Mejia was something of a letdown. Mejia allowed 4 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings, striking out 2 and expending 96 pitches. Perhaps more concerning than the stats was the fact his fastball generally hung around the 92-93 range — a far cry from the upper 90s that he displayed in the spring. He also was regularly shaking / shrugging his shoulder in between pitches — not sure if that is simply a habit or if something is bothering him. You may know he was shut down in late June for a few weeks with a rotator cuff strain, so perhaps this habit and the drop in velocity are related to that issue.
Mejia’s other pitches weren’t particularly noteworthy, either. On occasion, he threw a nasty curve with good 12-6 rotation — so there is some potential — but he didn’t have much command of it and he hung it several times. His change-up was more or less a throwaway pitch, as he rarely put it in the strike zone.
You may think that my analysis is “too critical” since Jenrry is only 20 years old. Well, that’s your right, but I’m looking at him as a Major League Pitcher — not as a random 20-year-old. If I saw him pitch this way in A or AA, I’d say, “hey, this kid has some potential — in a couple years the Mets may have something”. But he is NOT in the minors currently — he is in “The Show”, and by all accounts the Mets are penciling him in for a rotation spot (or at least, to compete for one) next spring. So his age is not nearly as important as his stage of development — and if he is in a Major League game, he has to be evaluated as a Major Leaguer. What I’m seeing is raw talent, but talent that needs to be further developed before pitching every five days against MLB hitters.
Something noticeable to me — and glad Bobby Ojeda pointed out in the postgame — was that when Mejia threw a pitch that went past Nickeas with a man on third, Mejia did not cover the plate. Another glaring indication of a pitcher who needs more minor league seasoning.
Mike Nickeas made his MLB debut catching for Mejia, which some people may have found mysterious since Nickeas is not a prospect. However, Mejia has pitched well in the minors with Nickeas as his backstop for the Binghamton Mets and Nickeas followed Mejia up to AAA Buffalo and caught his gem there. So it made sense to keep the tandem together for Mejia’s first MLB start — there certainly is a comfort level between the two. You might compare Nickeas to Crash Davis, without the homerun power.
Carlos Zambrano limited the Mets to 4 hits in 7 innings. What happened to the guy that had no control of emotions nor his fastball, was getting into fights with nice guys like Derrek Lee, and was looking like the Cubs’ version of Oliver Perez?
Speaking of Perez, why not just start using him in games like this? The Mets have no chance at a playoff spot at this point, and you’re paying the guy, so may as well use him.
Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 and Ike Davis had two hits, including a wind-blown homer.
Ruben Tejada is red-hot — he collected another single, and has now hit in 4 of his last 6 games. He’s 5 for his last 15, rocketing his batting average to .181. If he can keep this up a little longer, he will threaten to reach the Mendoza Line. Additionally, Tejada’s fielding resembles that of Mario Mendoza, one of the legendary “good-hit, no-field” shortstops. He made one excellent play in the hole that demonstrated his superior arm strength. If only he could play both the shortstop and second base positions simultaneously, the Mets would really have something.
Next Mets Game
The final game of the series occurs on Sunday at 2:20 PM EST. Jonathon Niese faces Ryan Dempster.
Cubs 7 Mets 6
Win one, lose one, win one, lose one … oh wait, we used that last week.
With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, Jerry Manuel stuck to small ball, perhaps as an element of surprise. It didn’t work.
Meanwhile, the Cubs played big ball, and in the end outlasted the Mets.
Although the wind was blowing hard, it didn’t help R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball, which was swatted unmercifully by the Cubs batters. Dickey allowed 7 runs on 8 hits, including two three-run homers.
I’d theorize that because Dickey throws an unusually hard knuckleball, and some of his success is due to an ability to change speeds on the knuckler, the wind in his face was slowing down his hard knuckler and making it easier to hit as a result. That’s only a guess. Maybe, because of the wind blowing toward him, Dickey was in response over-throwing the knuckler, leading to more spin on the ball. Knuckleballs move more with less spin, so perhaps his had too much spin on this afternoon and stayed straight. Again, only a guess.
You know the wind is affecting the ballgame when Luis Hernandez hits a dinger. I believe it was the first time the Mets hit more than one homerun in a game since July.
Take away Wright and Pagan, and the Mets collected 4 hits on the day. They also left 10 runners on base.
Another bright spot: Lucas Duda rapped his first MLB hit, a double.
Only one team in MLB has lost more one-run games than the Mets … the Cubs.
Next Mets Game
The Mets have more or less a “set” lineup and several immovable contracts. That said there are few places where there is an opportunity to upgrade.
The two places where the Mets might be able to improve would be in the starting rotation and second base.
Sit tight, Mets fans … Omar Minaya is working the phones furiously right now and I’m sure he’s on the verge of a blockbuster!
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.
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.
Cubs 9 Mets 3
Oliver Perez was so-so, the bullpen was awful, the offense was languid. Put it all together and you end the evening with an “L”.
Ollie was unlike himself — he was neither spectacular nor awful, but rather, ordinary. Perez allowed 8 hits and walked 3 in 5 innings, throwing 97 pitches in the process. He never broke 90 MPH from what I saw, which is disturbing. On a positive note, he was gathering his balance at the top of the leg lift and his follow through often had him sort of facing home plate, rather than third base, which meant his momentum was driving toward home plate and he was better able to command his pitches. But his lack of velocity is a bright red flag; I’m guessing that he’s concentrating so much on his mechanics, it’s slowing down his body and arm.
Manny Acosta, Raul Valdes, and Hisanori Takahashi all were terrible, and allowed a combined 6 runs in the final four frames. Thing is, the Mets were within two runs when Perez left the game, so a victory was still very possible. But it felt like the game was being given away, seeing the likes of Acosta and Valdes on the mound. Reminds me of the days of Jamie Cerda and Bartolome Fortunato.
After a hot start that saw him hitting in the .450s, Jeff Francoeur is now 0 for his last 19, and his average is down to .281. Before you say it’s because he’s swinging at too many pitches, look back at the box scores. You’ll notice that even when he was red-hot, he was often seeing less than 10 pitches in 4-5 ABs per game.
Rod Barajas hit a homerun, but struck out twice and is hitting .204 with a .196 OBP. I need a stathead to explain to me how it is mathmetically possible to have an OBP below one’s batting average, because I don’t get it.
The Mets walked 9 batters in this game, and are leading the NL in walks with 77 in 15 games.
David Wright made some sparkling plays at third base — and has been, for the past few games — but has become a non-entity at the plate. He was 1-for-2 with yet another walk (he has a .433 OBP), but he doesn’t yet look “right” (or is it, “Wright”?). The way he’s now cocking his hands and loading up to take big cuts looks powerful, but has yet to produce consistent results. He looks a bit tense, and his swing looks longer now, as he’s dropping the barrel a bit / tilting the knob skyward through the contact zone. I’d like to see him keeping the barrel up longer as he moves the hands forward and “dropping the hammer” on the ball in front of the plate, which he was doing during the first week of the season.
Future Hall of Famer Carlos Silva held the Mets to one hit — a homer by Rod Barajas — through six innings. He left after only 87 pitches and probably could have continued through 7 or 8, but Lou Piniella wanted to give the Mets a chance.
Alfonso Soriano was 3-for-4 with a homerun, triple, and 3 RBI. This from a guy who is a major disappointment and not fulfilling his contract.
Next Mets Game
The final game of this four-game series beings at 7:10 PM in Flushing. Ace Johan Santana faces fifth starter Tom Gorzelanny.
Mets 4 Cubs 0
Things are starting to look up for the Mets.
Mike Pelfrey pitched 7 strong innings, the offense provided four runs, and the bullpen held up their end of the bargain to give the Mets their sixth win of the season.
Big Pelf allowed no runs on 3 hits and 3 walks, striking out 6 in his 7 innings pitched. Finally, he has an offspeed pitch to compliment the fastball — the forkball. Not to pat myself on the back, but I’ve been clamoring for Pelfrey to develop a change of pace of some sort since 2007. If you follow those links and read those posts, you won’t need to know what I’m thinking — which is, the fact that Pelfrey is changing speeds is THE point of differentiation between him being an enigma and fulfilling his sky-high potential. Great outings like this will also build his confidence, which in turn feeds off itself and will push his performance to another level. It’s early, and I may be prematurely excited, but I’m liking what I’m seeing from Mr. Pelfrey.
Jose Reyes went 4-for-5 with 2 RBI and a triple; I think it’s safe to say he’s on his way back.
Fernando Tatis hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer off LOOGY John Grabow in the bottom of the 8th to give the Mets breathing room. Why anyone would throw a low and inside pitch to Tatis is baffling — it’s pretty much the only pitch he can put over the fence.
Ryota Igarashi left the game with a hamstring strain in the 8th. He will get an MRI on Wednesday to determine the extent of the injury.
In relief of Igarashi, Fernando Nieve came up big with a called strike three against Jeff Baker to end the 8th, stranding Koyie Hill on second base and working out of a mini-jam.
Frankie Rodriguez continues to look shaky; he walked two batters with a four-run lead in a non-save situation, expending 26 pitches in the process.
Next Mets Game
The Mets have a chance to win their first series of the year in the third game of this 4-game sequence with the Cubs. Oliver Perez (or Mr. Hyde) faces Carlos Silva in a matchup of the two worst contracts given to