Tag: kenshin kawakami

Mets Game 121: Loss to Braves

Braves 3 Mets 2

So strange to feel indifferent with Chipper Jones and the Braves in Flushing.

I tried really hard to care about this game, but just couldn’t get anything going — much like the Mets offense.

Kenshin Kawakami held the Mets to one run on seven hits through seven strong innings, pitching just a bit better than Johan Santana. Santana pitched well, but just well enough to lose, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits.

Notes

Fernando Tatis grounded out with the bases drunk in the first, the first of only two rallies by the home team on the evening. With that, the Mets are 4-for-49 this season with bases loaded and two outs.

Mets pitching threatened to go an entire game without walking a batter, until Francisco Rodriguez entered and handed two free passes.

Luis Castillo collected another two hits and is now hitting .312 — good for ninth in the NL.

Strange to see the Braves bunt in the ninth after K-Rod walked the leadoff hitter. I’d never give outs to Frankie Fantastic, and especially not when he might be struggling.

Billy Wagner made his 2009 debut in the 8th and pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning, hitting as high as 96 MPH on the SNY radar gun. If he’s throwing a legit 96, I see no reason to trade him now unless he brings back serious prospects. Pick up the option and shop him all winter … and shop K-Rod as well. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have them both in 2010.

Wags was throwing with a slightly low elbow on several of his pitches, which is a mild concern. He needs to make sure he gets on top of the ball at release.

When was the last time you heard entrance music for a reliever in the 8th inning? Pretty cool … and emotional.

Many pundits criticized the Braves for acquiring Adam LaRoche, but the guy is hitting a shade under .400 since re-joining Atlanta. The Braves’ defense was that he is a second-half hitter and strong finisher. Well played.

Next Mets Game

The Mets begin a four-game series against the Phillies on Friday night at 7:10 PM. This is the Mets’ big chance to get back into the race … if they sweep the Phils, they’ll be back to within single digits of first place. Mike Pelfrey faces Cole Hamels.

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Mets Game 90: Win Over Braves

Mets 5 Braves 1

It took them 90 games, but the Mets finally learned how to play small ball.

Johan Santana and Kenshin Kawakami engaged in a pitchers’ duel for the first five innings, before the Mets scratched out two runs on a bases-loaded walk and a groundout. Then, in the top of the ninth, the offense turned the clock back to 1910 — singling, tripling, walking, stealing, and suicide squeezing their way to three more insurance runs.

Santana shut out the Braves through seven innings of stellar spinning, allowing just five hits and two walks, striking out five. It took four relievers to get through the bottom of the eighth, and Frankie Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth to not earn a save.

Notes

Angel Pagan went 3-for-4 out of the leadoff spot, including a triple, an RBI, and a run scored. Alex Cora went 2-for-4 with a run scored hitting in front of the pitcher. Who needs Jose Reyes?

Jeff Francoeur also had two hits, as well as an RBI.

Luis Castillo and Pagan executed a textbook suicide squeeze in the top of the ninth. Personally, I find the squeeze much more exciting than the homerun, and would like to see them more often.

Next Mets Game

The series concludes in Atlanta on Sunday night at 6pm. Fernando Nieve faces Javier Vazquez. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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5 Things You Should Know About the Braves

braves-capInsulated by our New York cocoon, we may not know what exactly is going on with the Braves — outside of what we can glean from the stat lines and the ESPN highlights. So, we’ve called on Mac Thomasonfrom BravesJournal.com to give us a quick update on the Atlanta Nine.

1. Vazquez vs. Maine & Kawakami vs. Hernandez : how are you liking / not liking these matchups?

I like the first one a whole lot. Vazquez has looked good in all his starts (he lost his last one, but that was due to a fluke inning) and is among the league leaders in strikeouts, while Maine has struggled this year. Of course, he’ll be facing the Braves offense, which is a heck of an equalizer right now. The second, by all rights, should be a game where each team uses about six pitchers, but given the Braves’ offensive strugges I can’t too optimistic. Although Braves fans still remember 1997, in the regular season Livan is 3-15 against Atlanta with a 5.52 ERA, so thanks to Jerry Manuel for pushing Santana back.

2. Jordan Schafer: the real deal?

I think so. He’s an odd player, a guy who walks a lot and strikes out a lot, but who has only midrange power. I don’t care about the strikeouts the way some do, but it’s hard to maintain a good batting average when you strike out nearly a third of the time.

3. As a Braves fan, do you care much / worry about the Mets? What team in the NL East concerns you most / do you see as the favorite and why?

To be honest, I think the Phillies are the team to beat. They’re the champs, they’ve won the division the last two years, and they’re right in the race (ahead of both the Braves and the Mets) despite not really playing their best ball yet.

4. Braves’ biggest issue thus far is … ?

Lack of power on offense. The Braves are sixth in the NL in OBP, but eleventh in runs scored, largely because they’re tenth in slugging and thirteenth in home runs. Nobody on the team has more than three homers, and the leading slugger among the regulars is Chipper at .456. (Actually, Dave Ross, who is filling in for McCann, is slugging .543. He usually hits eighth.) The most-usual cleanup hitter with McCann out is Casey Kotchman, who hasn’t hit a home run this year.

5. One thing about the Braves this year that a Mets fan might not know ?

The Braves, despite their offensive struggles, have probably the second-best strikeout/walk ratio in the league. They’re third in walks, third from last in strikeouts. The Mets, however, are second and second from last…

Thanks to Mac, who keeps regular tabs on the Braves at BravesJournal.com. Be sure to check it out.

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Mets Pitching Answers from Japan?

The Mets need to add this winter, at minimum, one starting pitcher and one relief pitcher. They would like to do that without trading away any of their few near-MLB-ready prospects, and without having to commit to an overvalued, long-term contract.

Enter Japanse hurlers Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami.

Uehara is a veteran starter-turned-closer who will be 34 years old next year, and is intent on playing in the US in 2009. He’s a free-agent who will not be subject to the ridiculous posting process, which is nice. Although he has been an outstanding pitcher in Japan, and saved 30 games last season, I doubt he’ll come in and be a star in MLB. But from the reports, it sounds like he could be a decent middle reliever or back-of-the-rotation guy. Because of the difficulty in projecting his success, he should command a cheaper deal than similarly talented American free agents.

Kawakami is reportedly on the same level as Uehara, or possibly a notch below, and will likely cost in the neighborhood of $30M for three years. Like Uehara, he projects as a middle reliever / swing man.

Of course, there is enough projection to make signing either of these pitchers risky. But both of them are among the best pitchers in Japan, and the majority of recent imports — i.e., Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito — have proven to be solid MLBers. Unlike position players coming from Japan, the pitchers seem to be more likely to make a smooth transition after crossing the Paciifc. Yes, you can point out Kei Igawa as a failure, but he seems to be the exception rather than the rule (I feel that Igawa was neither mentally nor emotionally prepared to make the move to MLB, and NYC in particular).

There are two things I like about taking a chance on either Uehara or Kawakami. First, all they cost is money — no one needs to be traded, and no draft picks will be lost. Compare that to who might have to be traded for, say, Kevin Gregg, or the #1 pick that would be surrendered for a middle man such as Doug Brocail. Second, the Japanese pitchers have the advantage of mystery — batters never having seen them before — which seems to be an advantage on its own for at least a year. After that “mystery period”, both should be well prepared to adjust to MLB hitters after the hitters adjust to them, since they are longtime veterans (unlike Igawa, but like Saito).

The most obvious problem, of course, is the Mets’ recent history with Asian imports. Kaz Matsui was a bust, and Mr. Koo was underwhelming. But that shouldn’t keep them from trying again. After all, Tsuyoshi Shinjo can be judged as a success.

For more on ALL the Japanese free agents, check out NPBTracker, which provides fantastic coverage of baseball in Japan. Also, hat tip to MLBTradeRumors.

ADDENDUM: apparently all the Mets bloggers are thinking alike today. Check out Andrew Beaton’s post on Japanese imports at the HotFootBlog and a video of Uehara posted at MetsBlog.

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