Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Felt Like '06...


I haven't heard the postgame responses form tonight on the radio, or read them on the internet, and I don't really care how the fickle mood of the conspiracy theorist Met fans who behave like Yankee fans has been swayed one way or the other, but I can tell you plain and simple: that was the kind of game that just made you feel really good.

It not only made you feel good, but it put a lot of things in perspective after what in my mind was one of the single greatest days of fan overreaction in the history of sports. Maybe some of that negativity coming from the fans trickled in to the clubhouse, or was already present, and lit a fire under them, but that's not my feeling. My feeling is that this is a really good team that's going to amass a hefty sum of wins, and this was one of them, as the 6 losses were 6 of the 60-70 some games any 90-100 win team will lose.

So much for Reyes being done, huh? My expectation was that the slump would ease its way out, possibly beginning with a nice 2-4 game with a SB, and then maybe a 1-4 with a double and an RBI, but the leadoff man, after 2 1/2 days off, returned with quite a bang, going 4-5. Reyes singled, doubled and tripled in succession, and the whole park smelled cycle, but alas hit #4 was a mere single again. All of his hits were hard, and all of them were well-timed. Bravo, Jose. It's just impossible to convey, or rather, to put into words what the effect on this entire team is when Reyes is on his game. All that tension, all of the bad taste that you have in your mouth through collapses and slow starts, it's all gone. When Reyes is on, it just feels like everything's going to be OK.

Not to short David Wright, who homered in his 3rd consecutive game, barely clearing the fence in right center (right center? left center? my memory is escaping me...), doubled twice, and drove in 5 runs,
5 runs. Not a bad night to have David Wright on 4 different fantasy teams. The Captain apparent is now back to .300, and has knocked in a total of 15 runs, tying him with Mark Reynolds for the NL lead.

Beltran knocked one in. Pagan kept his hitting going. Church looked good in the 2-spot, where he was inserted today, notching 1 hit, 1 BB, scoring 2 runs, and successfully bunting Reyes to 3rd in the bottom of the 1st. I haven't seen any signs of late that Luis Castillo is capable of such tasks. Brian Schneider was unimpressive with the bat against his old squad, but looked great gunning Milledge on a caught stealing at 3rd.

Speaking of the Great Lastings Milledge, I liked him when he was here, and I still like him. I wore my custom #44 "Stings" Jersey from last year today, and I'll wear it tomorrow. You can count me out of the Milledge Boo-Birds. To me, he's an exciting player with a ton of potential which he may or may not fulfill, and all of his alleged off-the-field issues were totally overblown. In contrast with the DUI's, assault charges, weapons charges, domestic abuse, tax fraud, and steroid usage that is rampant in all of sports, I was never too offended by Lastings choosing to give high-fives to some fans and recording a rap album. I wasn't, and still aren't gonna listen to it, and probably disagree with some of its content, but that doesn;t influence my interpretation of Lastings Milledge the outfielder too much. I'll cheer for him tomorrow.

Duca, on the other hand, who didn't play today but should be in the lineup for DC tomorrow...
That's really tough, and I may just have to sit it out, not boo or cheer. The guy was a favorite of mine, but was not only
on the Mitchell Report, he was very prominently featured, and probably introduced a good number of other players to the juice. He also wrote checks to buy drugs, which is just dumb as all hell. Come on, Paulie.
But I loved him, really did, as much as any ballplayer...
Gonna have to sit down and be silent.

To the issue at hand again, all guns clicked last night, Tuesday night, offensively. The leadoff man led-off, the #2 man got him over, the #3 man got 'em in, and the rest of 'em helped. Pelfrey was truly impressive, picthing 7 shutout innings, though not peril-free, and the bullpen was quick and done. Heilman got some boos after issuing a 4-pitch walk in the 8th, but no harm was done, SO STOP BOOING EVERYTHING, MET FANS! ESPECIALLY BEFORE ANY DAMAGE IS DONE! IT'S NOT GONNA HELP WHEN A GUY IS STILL IN THERE TO BOO HIM!

And who pitched the 9th? An indescribably welcome sight in Duaner Sanchez. He gave up one hit, but was locating well and K'd one batter in his one inning of scoreless work. It has to be remembered that he is working his way back to full strength, so if he gives up some hits now and tops off at 92, that isn't necessarily a permanent thing. Anyhow it was great to see him at all, and great to see him have a good inning; you forget just how dominant he was 2 years ago before in between Heilman and Wags.

Mets Win, 6-0. Solid score, no drama. They're the far superior team of the two, and they showed it. I was never worried, just enjoying myself.

Elsewhere, the Braves got blanked by former standout Scott Olsen in Miami, but the Jose Valverde and the 'Stros really blew it for us, giving up 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th in Philly and dropping a game which they led 3-0 going into that inning. That was an annoying score to see updated on the scoreboard. I'm sure Pedro Feliz is very happy with himself. Ugh.

Tomorrow/tonight, whenever it is, Maine will be facing Matt Chico, who is winless on the year, and should remain so.

It will also be my final game at Shea before I have to move to Atlanta, Georgia, (yes, I know. No, I'm not going to become a Braves fan, we've covered this) although certainly not my final game at Shea. They have things called airplanes and I have something called an obsession and something else called season tickets which I am not relinquishing. Gimme a bye for now win, guys.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gabe the Babe.


When Oliver Perez hits the first batter he faces, you know that nothing good is coming. It's either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, and today it was Mr. Hyde. Ollie's line today: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP. Yech. The highlight of his day? Backing up an ill-advised errant throw home by Carlos Delgado. Jorge Sosa didn't help him much, giving up 2 runs of his own, but the rest of the pen actually looked very good.

Gabe Kapler has completely forgotten that he is a replacement level player, going 3-4 with a homer, a double and 3 RBI's on the days, bringing his average up to .423 with 4 HR's. Maybe he'll start against righties now, too. Both of these losses to Milwaukee are probably wins without Kapler's timely hits.

So how do you rack up 14 hits and still lose a ballgame? You hit in to double plays in 5 CONSECUTIVE INNINGS. I've never seen anything like that, and to be honest, I was very *ahem* unsure about a couple of those out calls at first, particularly the ones on Church and Schneider, but I haven't seen a highlight, so who knows. To be fair, my seats at Shea aren't far from first base, and are in line with the 1B umpire's view, and they looked safe.

That doesn't, however, mean that there is any excuse for hitting ground balls right at infielders with men on first and less than 2 outs in 5 consecutive innings, and can somebody tell me why Brady Clark was running on contact from 3rd with no one out in the bottom of the 8th? If he holds up there, worst-case scenario is men on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out for David Wright, and after Delgado flied out to end that 8th inning rally, Clark's being thrown out at home proved the dagger for the Mets.

Some other bones to pick, though they didn't end up hurting the Mets in the game:

1. Why did Delgado make that throw home in the 1st? If you don't recall the situation, Carlos caught a pop up in foul territory not far from first, and as usual the runner at 3rd bluffed that he was going. Rather than run the ball in, like any highschool player would do, Delgado flings the ball in to Schneider, and it gets away. If Ollie isn't perfectly positioned to back that ball up, a run scores. It's just another example among many in the early days of this season of something far less than fundamental baseball.

2. What in the world was Willie thinking with his pitching changes today? He brought Scott Schoenweis in to start the 7th, (who for whatever reason I've come to like) and Show got the pinch-hitter Joe Dillon out on 2 pitches. Instead of letting him stay in to face Jason Kendall, who hit .242 last year and has hit 4 home runs in the last 3 seasons, who Ned Yost bats 9th, behind the pitcher, Willie goes and gets Joe Smith. Look, you can like Schoenweis or not, but when you're chasing 3 runs, as they were at the time, how do you go to your 3rd reliever in the 7th inning after the guy you have in there has thrown 2 pitches? If it were Ryan Braun up, maybe, but it was Jason Kendall.

So Smith finishes the 7th, giving up 1 unearned run because David Wright can't throw a baseball (even though Delgado got the error officially) and Feliciano comes in to pitch the 7th. Feliciano retires Fielder, and whaddaya know, that's it for Pedro. Wilie wants Heilman after Feliciano has faced 1 batter. Was he tired? Doubtful, as he had only pitched 2 innings all year. Heilman comes in, and the pitcher's spot is due to leadoff the bottom of the inning, so Willie double-switches in Brady Clark, when anyone in their right mind knew that a righty would be coming in to pitch the 8th for Milwaukee; the Brewers have burned their only lefty RP. As it happened Clark got a hit, but I always want Marlon Anderson facing a righty over Clark. So now we're in the 8th inning, and Willie has just used his 5th relief pitcher, now chasing 2 runs, and his hot-hitting 6 hitter in right field, Church, is out of the game for the pitcher's spot.

That all to me just reeked of horrible mismanagement, and while it didn't eventually hurt us today, other than having Anderson bat instead of Church in the 9th, those kind of moves will lose you games. Mind you, I've never been a Willie hater, but I have questioned his ability to handle pitching changes and double switches.

On a brighter note, congrats to David Wright on his 100th career home run in the 1st inning today, his 2nd in as many at-bats.

Off day tomorrow, and we can only hope to beat up on the Nats, hopefully with Reyes back and Duaner Sanchez on board, and come out of this homestand over .500.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Johan Gets the Sheets Pulled Out From Underneath Him


Maybe it shoulda rained...

Johan Santana is a hell of a pitcher, make no mistake, but it looks like his propensity to give up the longball isn't out of his system. It really comes with the territory with a pitcher who lives on a changeup: when the change doesn't fool a hitter it can be hit very, very far, and Gabe Kapler knew it was coming in the 7th inning. Funny to think a guy who was managing the Greenville Drive last year can take Santana deep.

To put it in perspective, Johan has a career ERA just over 4 in April and May, and his second half ERA is under 3. He does come from a country that hugs the equator, so one could understand how pitching in NY for the first time in April, hot as it may seem to us, could be initially discomforting. Point is, he'll be fine, and I
can't believe that I heard boos as he left the game today. Come on.

Sheets was iffy in the 1st, giving up two runs, but he was simply untouchable after that all the way up until David Wright took him out to left field too little too late.

I felt hopeful when Eric Gagne came in, cuz if anyone can pull a Benitez these days, it's him, but he was very efficient, getting the Mets 1-2-3 in the 9th.

Ollie pitches tomorrow against our old friend Jeff Suppan; initial word is that Reyes will not play, though his MRI was negative.

Manny Ramirez just doubled in two runs off of Moose to give Boston a 3-2 lead in the 6th. Hold on, fellas. Let's go Sox.

The Tigers can't win a game, nearly being no-hit by GAVIN FLOYD, and eventually losing 7-0, dropping to 2-9 on the year.

Smoltz looks as if there never was an injury, as he gave up only 1 run over 6, dropping his ERA to 0.82 in a 10-2 Braves W over the Nats. Jeff Francoeur went 3-5 and hit 2 homers. He has caught fire.

Philly plays later, pitting Cole Hamels against the Cubbies and Ted Lilly at CBP. Hopefully the lefty shuts the Philly big boys down.

Let's Go Mets.

How to Solve your Corner Outfield Woes: Go to Church and Seek the Help of Angels


Boy, has it ever been a while since we had a win streak...

My baseball week started on a very sour note, after waiting all April to see the Mets in person, I finally drove out to Turner Field, as I happened to be in Atlanta, last Friday, and what did we get? A rainout. Oh well, I thought, we'll get 'em on Saturday and Sunday. Not so much. 2 swings by Kelly Johnson and Mark Teixeira and it's Tomahawk Chops galore.

Oh well, I again think, I'll be back in Brooklyn tomorrow and on Tuesday we'll turn it around at Shea. And again, not so much with the second part of that arrangement. To be fair, I'll always be grateful to have been at the last opener at Shea, especially with my father close to his birthday, but on the baseball end of things the game was ugly and the second out #27 was recorded all the baseball Seventh-Day Adventists of the message board and talk radio world stuck their heads out and cried, "the end is near!" I'll admit, while the more rational and optimistic end of me was rife with self-reminders of the insignificance of week 1 records, they were accompanied with some foreboding.

And then the bats went off on Wednesday, led by, of course, Angel Pagan, with a good deal of help from the Philly defense, and Pelfrey gave us one of his better Major League showings. Eric Bruntlett is officially my all-time favorite Philly.

Thursday Maine looked very good, surrendering one run over six, and he had enough help to win it, but Heilman indulged himself in that one nasty habit of his, that is giving up bombs, and there were those phightins, right back in it. In extras the bats looked weak, they looked not so much with the clutch, and you were just waiting for the ball to drop with the bullpen.

As a side note, I understand completely why going in to Thursday night, any Met fan would have been sour on Scott Schoenweis, and why they would have booed him as he exited his prior appearance, but to me it seems counterintuitive to sit at a relatively important baseball game into extra innings and boo your own pitcher coming in in the 11th. I mean you want him to succeed, don't you? Boo him after he fails, or boo him if the situation doesn't matter, but in a tie game in the 11th, with 2 men on and Philly's best hitter at the plate, do you really want to shake Schoenweis' already shaky psyche?
And hey, he got the job done.

But the ball did not drop with the bullpen; the only ball that dropped was a line drive off the bat of the shortstop right in between Werth and Jenkins. Reyes stood at 2nd, and WHO ELSE BUT ANGEL PAGAN, 3 for 5 on the night overall, provided the winning base hit. Who knows if Reyes scored? It counted.

Friday, we had a feel-good story that will be hard to top. Brooklyn's own (And this time the player in question actually grew up here, rather than Paul LoDuca who quickly fled to AZ after birth) Nelson Figueroa pitched his ass off if you don't mind me saying, allowing 2 runs over 6, and the bullpen was nearly perfect behind him, Joe Smith allowing the only baserunner on a walk to Rickie Weeks. Delgado contributed to the runs, as he has been doing, Easley gave us one, even Raul Casanova managed to get away from the ladies for a moment to knock one in. And who roped a key, late RBI single? ANGEL F'IN PAGAN! Mets beat the Brewers, the Brooklyn boy shines, Heilman gives up no bombs, Wagner gets save numero uno, there's the first 3-game win streak of the year.

The bad news? Reyes leaves with a hammy strain, said not to be serious. There are many rumblings that perhaps it's more than they're letting on, but methinks something else might be brewing. What has been the single loudest whine about Reyes since last summer? "Someone needs to give him a good talkin' to!" I think Willie might have done just that. Physically he has looked fine, but his approach has stunk. He had the one highlight scoring the run on Thu. night, but otherwise he has swung early and made no good contact. He just hasn't gotten on base, and it seems to be a bad combination of simultaneous cockiness and subtle lack of confidence. That's a long, presumptuous way of saying he's pressing, and I really believe that with a lead in the game and the bullpen set to go according to the late-inning plan, Willie sat Jose down. I think he did this, and I think he figured that with Santana going on Sunday and some unlikely characters producing well, he could really make a point by giving Jose a day on the bench and a Monday off to think. Why not?

And why not bat Castillo 8th once him and Reyes are back? Let Pagan swing the bat, baby. Moises Alou is a distant memory. Here's to a fine discovery in left field. Right now I want no one else up in the big spot. Well, maybe that guy who plays third.

Tomorrow we get to see our Ace live and in person at Shea, and I can't sleep. Oh by the way, he's facing a pitcher in Ben Sheets who hasn't allowed a run this year in 15 1/3 IP. This is a good game waiting to happen. My hope is that Castillo can play tomorrow so he can bat leadoff with Pagan #2, but that may be unlikely. Pick a lineup, any lineup, if Castillo isn't ready.

One more sad note. I have made a business decision to move right in to the belly of the beast, to the town where a Larry Jones jersey is a common sight. As such, this homestand is my Shea Stadium farewell tour, sort of...
Hell, no I'm not giving up my seasons! My job in Atlanta will be right next to the airport and guess what ballpark's right next to LaGuardia? I could get off work at 5 and still see half of 7:00 game!
I'll miss NY, namely Brooklyn, my hometown and the greatest little big city in the world.

Let's Go Johan.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Santana and the Mets Shine in Miami; Everyone Else Loses


So it's only April, yeah, and it's only April 1st, but that being said I couldn't have asked for much more to kick-start the 2008 season and completely bury 2007.

Johan had no opening day butterflies, and was simply brilliant, making one mistake to the Hammer, Josh Willingham, after getting squeezed for a walk the previous batter, hence the two runs. Aside from that blemish, Johan gave all the elements of a well-pitched game that you could ask for. He fanned 8 in 7 IP, at one point downing 4 consecutively, but also mixed up his outs, getting fly balls when it was easy to do so and ground balls, less so, when required. He made a couple of solid plays with the glove, and when he got into trouble, he got out of it. For me, the highlight of his performance was the full-count strikeout of Hanley Ramirez, leaving two runners stranded for the Marlins in their only real shot at a rally.

And then we had
our rally...

And as an aside, yes, I will loosely refer to the Mets as
us, though some folks turn their nose up at it. I will not follow a team day in and day out, on season and off, buy merchandise and buy seats all year, and refer to them as some alien entity with which I have no identifiable connection. They're Us.

But anyhow,
when was the last time we had a rally like that? My guess would be August? Everyone got involved, and the big guys led the way. That is how an offense of this caliber is supposed to function, not scattering hits and relying on the longball, but looking to Wright and Reyes and Beltran to get things churning or finish them off, while the lesser hitters just keep it going in between. Again, this was only day one, but it's all we've got, and I can't think of a better way to get it going. Let me reiterate, too, as always, David Wright was huge, and needs to be the Captain of this team,

Pagan, at least for a day, really earned his spot on this roster, while Ruben Gotay was busy striking out in one pinch-hit AB in a braves uni.

Which leads me to the other news of the day. I have been in Atlanta for over a week now for family/business reasons, and am staying through this weekend to see the Mets come in to town, hitting a peak on Sunday with Santana v. Smoltz. But yesterday, I watched the Met game, happily, and then turned the Braves on. Noticing plenty of empty seats, I decided what the heck, why not go, and sure enough, not only was Turner Field NOT sold out on opening NIGHT, I mean you can't even say you had to go to work, but I got in there, complete in a Mets hat, jersey and '86 starter jacket, for FREE. Some guy just gave me his extra ticket as I walked up to go buy one. What I got was more than I expected. I expected to go antagonize some rednecks, which I did, but what I got was an epic game, with the Braves scoring 5 in the 9th to force extra frames, the last two runs plated on an error on a pop-fly, only to be defeated by good 'ol Xavier Nady, the X-man himself, who belted a 3-run game winning shot about 10 feet away from me in the 12th inning, and also went 4 for 7 with 4 RBI on the night. I wanted to get some angry rednecks and maybe see the Braves lose to a sorry team, and what I got was angry, drunk, tired, heartbroken rednecks and a disgrace of a loss for the Braves. All I can say is This.

Did I mention that Flash Gordon got absolutely Mota'd in the 9th down in Philly? 5 runs on 4 hits in the 9th=it's gonna be Mets-Nats on top all year. (Ok, well...) The Phils still hit like they do, but their criminal of an ace, their hero Brett Myers, was very unspectacular, yielding 4 runs over 5 innings to a weak offense. Day One in the NL East could not have been scripted better.

Elsewhere, the spanks' final opening day at the toilet party was ruined by rain, the Injuns beat the ChiSox in a good one in 10 innings after a horrible interference call that prevented a Chicago run scoring in the 9th. Ozzie Guillen, not so much with the happy.

The Cubbies and Brew Crew duked it out for 8 innings without scoring once, as Sheets and Zambrano were both excellent, and then it got real interesting: Milwaukee scored thrice in the top of the 9th, setting the stage for Eric "le drug buddy de Paul LoDuca" Gagne to walk two batters on 9 pitches to start the bottom half of the 9th. Then stepped in the new guy, Kosuke Fukudome, already 2 for 2 with a walk on the day, who proceeded to take Gagne's 3-1 over the Ivy and outta here. That Japanese guy, he's good. But oh wait a minute...Kerry Wood can't hold the tie in the 10th, Brewers win anyhow, oh well.

Rocktober has clearly come to an end, as the Rox hot finish last year was cooled with a 7-1 thrashing from the RedBirds. Eric Bedard was pretty good in his Mariners debut, Webb outdueled Harang for a Dbacks W, and Peavy did the same to Oswalt as the most boring team in the majors that doesn't play in Oakland won their opener and stayed classy in SD.

The scrappy Royals spoiled the Tigers opener with an unlikely rally, Tampa downed the O's, Barry Zito still ain't worth all that cash, and apparently the Twins will not go winless without Johan or Torii Hunter, the latter of whom got a standing O in Minnesota yesterday, then went 0-4 in a Twins win. And that's that.