Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

In case anyone is actually reading this site and wondering, the recaps I'd been doing of Mets games are on hiatus until which point as the team's play begins to resemble that of a major league baseball franchise. I just can't bring myself to write anything about these last four games. I hope that happens tomorrow, but even if it doesn't, I'll still have a thing or two to say about the Mets from time to time, as well as the standard irregularly scheduled wrestling content. That is all.
Friday, April 25, 2003

Mets 4, Diamonbacks 3

Steve Trachsel got himself in a little bit of trouble tonight, but managed to minimize the damage for the most part. Trachsel hasn't been spectacular this season, but he's been solid enough to make for a good fourth starter now that Pedro Astacio is back and pitching well. Tonight Trachsel went six innings on 111 pitches, giving up nine runs and two walks, but only three runs, while striking out five. He failed to get the win, as the game was tied when he was taken out, but he certainly got the job done well enough to deserve one.

All the damage was done in the third inning, putting the Mets in an early 3-0 hole, but they came back with two in the bottom of the inning, as the bottom of the lineup got the job done. Mike Piazza led off the inning with a single, part of a three for four night, and Mo Vaughn got one of his four walks on the night. One of them was intentional, and the other three were of the "unintentional intentional" variety, as Miguel Batista apparently remembers that Vaughn's pounded him in his career and wanted no part of him tonight. So Vaughn got on base four times without registering an at bat. But, like I said up there, the newly constructed bottom of the lineup were the ones driving in the runs tonight. Raul Gonzalez tried an ill-advised bunt and Piazza was forced out at third, but Timo Perez and Ty Wigginton, batting seventh and eighth, respectively, followed with singles to score Vaughn and Gonzalez, bringing the Mets within one.

In the sixth, Tony Clark came through again in a pinch-hitting opportunity, hitting for Trachsel, driving in Vaughn to tie the game.

Mike Stanton pitched a scoreless seventh to keep the game tied and the offense went to work again in the bottom half. After Oscar Villarreal got the first two out for the D'backs, Piazza doubled to the gapped, Vaughn got that intentional walk and Gonzalez came through with a double of his own to put the Mets on top, continuing his productive hitting since being called up on Wednesday.

Stanton was perfect in the eighth, and it was time for some drama. Armando Benitez had yet to successfully preserve a one run lead this year, blowing four such opportunities. So of course he walked the first batter he faced. That batter, David Dellucci promptly stole second when Piazza bounced a throw to second base and things began to get really interesting. Steve Finley grounded to the right side for the first on a close play with Benitez covering at first, but Dellucci advanced to third. But Benitez got Craig Counsell to pop out useless to Wigginton and Junior Spivey grounded out to end the game. Benitez got his eight save in twelve chances, tying him for the NL lead, and his first in five tries with one-run leads.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, the Mets try to even up their record at 12-12 as Tom Glavine goes for his fourth win against rookie Brandon Webb.

Mets 7, Astros 4

Pedro Astacio made his first start of the season and gave a boost to the back end of the Mets' starting rotation by looking a lot more like the Astacio that established himself as a potential staff ace in the first half of last year than the one whose ERA looked like it must have been compiled at Coors Field in the second half. He pitched six strong innings on just 85 pitches, giving up two runs on just four hits and a walk while striking out four.

The new Met outfield contributed offensively in a big way for the second straight night, going four for nine with two walks, one run and three RBI. Raul Gonzalez was the catalyst again, going two for three with a walk, run and RBI. And Roberto Alomar continued his hot hitting from the left side of the plate in the leadoff spot, going two for three with pairs of doubles, walks, runs and RBI, raising his offensive numbers to .296/.400/.432. Mo Vaughn continues to lead the team in RBI, getting his 13th and 14th of the season on a pair of groundouts.

Scott Strickland pitched two scorless innings in relief. Jaime Cerda had a rought night, giving up back to back solo home runs to Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent in the ninth, which turned the game into a save situation for Armando Benitez, who retired the final batter to earn his seventh save in eleven tries.

Everyone in the division won tonight, so the Mets are still in last place, three games out of three-way tie for first, but they're now at 10-12 and have won three consecutive series after the nightmare in Puerto Rico. Tomorrow, one of three NL teams who've scored fewer runs than the Mets, the Diamondbacks, come to town for a three game series, and the Mets will miss at least two of their top three starters, with only Randy Johnson potentially pitching on Sunday.

Also, I think I can take down the "Mets Centerfield Watch" now that the forces of reason have emerged victorious and landed Roger Cedeno on the bench. It was fun while it lasted... Wait, no it wasn't. It was painful while it lasted and I'm glad it's finished.

Blame the brevity on this post on my staying up to watch the five overtime Stars/Ducks marathon. At least justice was finally served at the end.
Thursday, April 24, 2003

Mets 4, Astros 2

It's a new day at Shea Stadium. The mistakes of the past are beginning to be corrected, and those who would hamper the Mets' ability to win are beginning to be removed from the starting lineup. This afternoon I turned on the damnable YES Network to hear Met manager Art Howe's weekly interview with WFAN's Mike & The Mad Dog, and he came bearing excellent news. The Mets had come to their senses. The days of Roger Cedeno patrolling center field were over. Tonight he'd take a seat on the bench, and when he returns to the lineup, it will be in right field. The Timo Perez/Tsuyoshi Shinjo platoon that I've been asking for since Spring Training is finally a reality. Perez got the start tonight against Roy Oswalt with Cliff Floyd and Raul Gonzalez flanking him in the outfield.

The Mets got on the board early again as Perez got a walk with one out in the first, Floyd followed with a single and Mike Piazza followed with a walk to load the bases. Mo Vaughn grounded out to drive in the first run of the game.

Gonzalez led off the second for the Mets and in his first major league at bat of the season took Oswalt deep to left center to put the Mets up 2-0. Cedeno's out of the lineup and the Mets' outfielders have already produced two runs.

In the third inning, they made in a trifecta, as Ty Wigginton drove in Floyd with a single, giving starting pitcher Al Leiter all the runs he would need.

Leiter went six innings on 109 pithces, giving up just two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out five, leaving his season ERA at 2.35. David Weathers pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

The Mets tacked on another run in the eighth when Jay Bell drove in Ty Wigginton, who had walked, with a sacrifice fly. Also in the eighth, Cedeno settled into a role where he might actually be an asset, pinch-running for Mo Vaughn.

And then it was time for Met fans to hold their breath, as Armando Benitez came in to try to preserve the two run lead. Of course, it wasn't quite as scary as if it'd been a one run lead, but I'm still not in a place where I can feel comfortable seeing him walking toward the mound. He gave up the standard double to Orlando Merced but managed to get through the inning without giving up any more hits, earning his sixth save of the year in ten chances. His WHIP and ERA are still an ungodly 2.29 and 6.35, respectively, thanks to an equally terrifying .353 batting average against.

Tomorrow, Pedro Astacio returns from injury to make his first major league start of the season. Here's hoping he looks more like 2002 (First Half) Astacio than 2002 (Second Half) Astacio. He will be opposed by Wade Miller, who is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.52 WHIP so far this season.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Mets made a few roster moves today. Jeromy Burnitz and David Cone both wound up on the disabled list, as expected. And Jason Phillips got sent back down to Norfolk. Phillips has shown some ability to hit in the minors, but the Mets clearly have more important holes to fill than that of third catcher.

On his way back to the majors is Joe McEwing, who hit .316/.435/.474 in 19 at bats in AAA, but hasn't looked like any kind of threat against major league pitching in quite some time. He had been one for six with the Mets before being sent down. I suppose if they put him at shortstop he couldn't be any more useless than Rey Sanchez, but that's not saying a whole lot.

Also coming up is pitcher Pat Strange. While I'd really like to see Aaron Heilman at the major league level soon, Strange has put up the slightly better numbers so far this year at Norfolk, and does have a little bit of major league experience. Last year he pitched eight innings for the Mets, giving up one run on six hits, walking one and striking out four. So far this year, while Heilman has given up more walks than I'd like to see (10 against 22 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings), Strange has struck out sixteen while walking just five in 17 2/3 innings, along wih a 2.04 ERA and a 2-0 record. Strange and Heilman have both given up 20 hits despite the dispairity in their innings pitched, though. Strange is also the younger of the two at 22 to Heilman's 24. I don't know yet whether Strange will assume the fifth spot in the starting rotation or come out of the bullpen, but given the way this season has started out, I'm all for giving some young guys a shot to impress at the major league level.

And in an instance of the Mets actually doing something I wanted them to do, outfielder Raul Gonzalez will be joining the major league roster. The 29 year old hit just .260/.297/.375 over 104 at bats with the Mets and Reds last year, but he's been tearing up AAA pitching so far this year, hitting .383/.464/.533, and if he can manage to push the hapless Roger Cedeno out of the starting lineup, I couldn't be happier to see him. Hopefully the outfield will look something like this while Burnitz is out: Cliff Floyd in left, a Timo Perez/Tsuyoshi Shinjo platoon in center, and Gonzalez in right. Unfortunately Floyd will be playing with an injured Achilles for the rest of the season and will apparently have to take a day or two off each week, but five days of half-speed Floyd in left is still better than seven days of full-speed Cedeno in center.

So, overall, nothing huge will likely come out of these moves, but I look forward to seeing what Strange and Gonzalez can do.

Astros 6, Mets 2

The David Cone comeback doesn't have much of a leg to stand on right now, so to speak. Tonight he just pitched two ugly innings on 51 pitches, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks, before being removed due to a "sore hip". Insert your own jokes about his age here. Jae Seo came in and didn't fare much better, giving up four runs on eight hits in five innings. It's too soon to say what this all means for Cone's status in the starting rotation, but it looks like he'll probably miss at least one start.

Mike Piazza tried to carry the offense on his back, hitting a double and a home run and scoring both Met runs, but he wasn't getting much help tonight. Roberto Alomar hit a double of his own, as did Jeromy Burnitz, who drove in Piazza, but those hits, along with a Ty Wigginton singel, accounted for all the hitting from the Mets.

But the other sad story of the night was the story of a meeting between Burnitz's hand and Billy Wagner's fastball. Burnitz will be out between four and six weeks, and the Mets' outfield situation has gone from, well, "bad to worse" is probably too nice, so I'll say it's gone from worse to whatever comes after worse. Burnitz was leading Met starters with his .878 OPS, and has three home runs and seven doubles on the season. And Cliff Floyd, the other Met outfielder who's done some hitting has missed a few games nursing his strained Achilles tendon. Roger Cedeno still can't hit or play centerfield, and neither Timo Perez nor Tsuyoshi Shinjo is really tearing it up at the plate, but they seem to be the three guys likely to get the bulk of playing time in the outfield. Raul Gonzalez is hitting .375/.462/.536 at Norfolk, and I would love to see him get called up and get some playing time, but I'm dreading that this will be Joe McEwing's ticket back to the majors. Is there any way we can swindle the Royals out of Carlos Beltran now?
Sunday, April 20, 2003

Mets 7, Marlins 4

This was billed as a potential pitchers' deul, with Tom Glavine and young Josh Beckett getting the starts. And it lived up to the hype early, as both teams were held scoreless through four innings. But in the fifth, the offenses started to break through.

Derek Lee led off the top of the fifth with a long home run to left off of Glavine, and after Alex Gonzalez got on base with an infield single, Juan Pierre drove him home with a single to put the Marlins up 2-0.

Beckett had baffled Met hitters through the first four, striking out seven and allowing just one hit and one walk. But in the fifth, the Mets began to get some offensive contributions from unlikely sources. It was an unusual lineup with normal third and fourth hitters Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza getting the day off, replaced by Tsuyoshi Shinjo in left and Vance Wilson behind the plate. Jeromy Burnitz, batting sixth, led off the fifth with a walk. Wilson, batting seventh, flied out before Rey Sanchez amazingly came up with a single to right, putting Burnitz on third. Glavine hit a high chopper to second that scored Burnitz and the Mets were on the board. Leadoff man Roberto Alomar came up and struck out, but the third strike was a wild pitch that normally surehanded catcher Ivan Rodriguez couldn't handle and Alomar was safe at first. Then, in the most shocking development of the inning, Roger Cedeno, who came to the plate with two strikeouts on his record for the day, hit a little blooper over the head of the shortstop into left to score Sanchez to tie the game.

Glavine started off the sixth inning by walking Rodriguez, only to later pick him off. But Mo Vaughn's throw to get Rodriguez at second went into left field and Rodriguez made it safely to third on what should have been the second out of the inning but was instead Vaughn's second error of the game. Gonzalez drove Rodriguez home with a single and the Marlins were on top again.

Beckett retired the Mets in order in the sixth, but was taken out of the game after that, having thrown 107 pitches. All weekend watching these games I've had to listen to otherwise fine color commentator and Met legend Tom Seaver complain about Jeff Torborg not letting his young pitchers pitch enough innings. This, despite Torborg the Burninator's reputation for destroying young arms with excessive usage during their formative years. Aaron over at Aaron's Baseball Blog had a good piece on that very subject a few days back.

However, as if to prove Seaver's point, Vladimir Nunez came in and immediately surrendered a game-tying home run to Vance Wilson. Then Rey Sanchez got on with his second hit of the game. Tom Glavine, who had looked like he would be taken out, unable to get the win, before Wilson's home run, came up to sacrifice. He did so well enough that Nunez couldn't handle it and Glavine was safe at first on the error. Then in a mind-boggling move, after the Marlins brought in lefty Michael Tejera, Roberto Alomar went up to sacrifice. Now I know Alomar has been fairly awful from the right side of the plate, but even so, the man batting behind him is Roger Freaking Cedeno, who's been consistently awful from both sides of the plate. Somehow, some way, this bone-headed move worked out, as Cedeno bounced the ball about fifteen feet down the first base line, getting on with an infield single, scoring Sanchez. The Mets had only seven hits in this game, and Cedeno and Sanchez accounted for four of them. It was a truly unusual day. Cedeno stole second and Ty Wigginton got a walk to load the bases. Then Mo Vaughn, the man with two strikeouts and two errors on the day, came through in the clutch again, as he has often in the past week, singling up the middle to score two runs. Shinjo then grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring Wigginton to put the Mets up 7-3, ensuring Armando Benitez a day off.

Glavine wound up coming out of the game after all, having pitched seven solid innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and three walks with one strikeout. David Weathers came in and retired the Marlins on just eleven pitches in the eighth. Mike Stanton came in in the ninth and gave up a home run to Alex Gonzalez to pull the Marlins within three, but Art Howe resisted the temptation to bring in Benitez and Stanton managed to close out the 7-4 win for the Mets. Glavine got his third win in five starts and the team won two out of three in the series for their second consecutive series victory, putting their record at 8-11, good for last place in the very tight NL East.

Tomorrow the Mets have the day off before the Astros come to town on Tuesday.

Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuharu Misawa [24 July, 1995, All Japan Triple Crown]

My previous reviews of matches from this feud can be found here and...hmmm...the second one seems to be MIA at the moment. You can dig around for it yourself when the archives are back up in full working order if you missed it the first time.

Anyway, this is a fairly pivotal match in their series, as it's their first singles match since Kawada pinned Misawa for the first time ever in The Tag Match To End All Tag Matches on the 9th of June. As such, this match could determine whether Kawada had really surpassed Misawa after years of chasing him, or whether Misawa was still The Man in All Japan, capable of rebounding from the tag loss and proving that he was still Kawada's superior.

Kawada seems to wrestle with the same thought in mind, as his methods betray a sense of fear and doubt in himself and the appropriate willingess to hurt Misawa by any means necessary to go along with that doubt. Early segments of the match establish parity between the two, as they both come up with counters to each other's early attempts at offense as usual. They soon move to trading elbows in the middle of the ring, still on equal footing, but Kawada knows he can't let this continue, so he switches up from the standard elbow to the head and targets the orbital bone that he broke with a kick in their Champion Carnival match four months previous. Misawa immediately crumples to one knee and Kawada begins his savage attack, laying in kicks to the head while Misawa rests against the turnbuckles despite the referee's protests. After another kick to the eye, Misawa rolls out of the floor. Kawada sees another chance to extend his advantage and can't afford to take the honorable route and just wait in the ring for Misawa to return. He pushes the referee aside and heads out to the floor where he powerbombs Misawa and follows up with a knee drop off of the apron. He's had to fight a little bit dirty to get the edge on the Champion, but doing so has indeed given him the upper hand for the time being as both men return to the ring.

But even when Kawada is in control of the match, Misawa still comes across as the one more in control of his emotions and his body. Kawada is brash and violent, still the lower man on the totem pole, trying to dethrone Misawa both literally and figuratively. Misawa is the Champion and the Ace and carries himself as such. When Kawada tries to continue the beating with another flurry of kicks in the corner, Misawa realizes the danger of the situation and uses a little bit of fighting spirit to shake off the kicks for the time being and get out of the corner to avoid letting himself get too deep in the hole. Kawada tries to change things up and goes for a German suplex to put Misawa down again, but Misawa isn't nearly out of it enough for that and blocks the attempt and responds with a rolling elbow to put Kawada down.

Kawada gets to his feet, but Misawa is now ready to assert firm control of the match, as he coolly and calmly pounds the shit out of Kawada with a series of brutal elbows to the head. The Champion is back in the driver's seat. This is a crtical moment in the match, as the severity of the blows seems to haunt Kawada for the rest of the match, almost as if he'd been concussed. Misawa immediately tries to irish whip him, but Kawada is so out of it that he can't even run, and just collapses in the middle of the ring. Kawada's selling from this point on is just brilliant, as even when he's in a good enough state to sit up or know where he is, he's shaking his head, trying to get the cobwebs out. And when he's not in such good shape, when Misawa's just pounded his fragile head with his elbow or against the mat, Kawada's got the kind of glassy look in his eyes that only he can pull off. The ferocity of the strikes was reminiscent of the series of elbows that rattled Kawada's brain enough to let Misawa hit the Tiger Driver '91 for the pin to conclude their previous Triple Crown match on the 3rd of June, 1994, and here they damaged Kawada enough that he began having to rely on instinct to defend himself against Misawa's more calculated assault.

Misawa immediately tries to capitalize with a German suplex of his own, but Kawada is able to escape after only a two count. Now Misawa's trying to put Kawada away early while he has him on the ropes, as he tries for a Tiger Driver to follow up, but Kawada is able to block that. He winds up eating another German and it's a moment that reveals a lot about the state he's in at the point in the match. He tries to shake off the effect of the German long enough to get one kick in on Misawa before selling the effects of the German, but as he jumps up to try to do this as he has so often in the past, he can't pull it off. He falls on his ass. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and Kawada is in trouble. Misawa capitalizes with a facelock, but Kawada is able to make it to the ropes. Misawa tries for another German, but Kawada clings to the ropes for dear life long enough to get his head together and spin around with a chop to the head. He follows up quickly with a lariat to the back of the head, a boot to the face and a lariat that gets him a two count. He's weathered the storm of Misawa's offense enough to regain control of the match but he knows his position is precarious and has to do whatever he can to maintain the advantage while he tries to clear his head. And so he goes for a sleeper with a body scissors on the mat, but turns it into a choke before the ref forces him to break. He comes back with a clean sleeper, but Misawa makes it to the ropes. Kawada goes for the stretch plum but Misawa blocks it and tries to come back with elbows. But Kawada is able to cut this off quickly and puts Misawa down with a drop toe hold before kicking him in the face again.

Here the differences between their offensive repertoires come into play. As I said earlier, Kawada is the more instinctive and impulsive of the two, which necessitates his offense be simpler, as compared to the more vast and complicated array of moves that the cool customer Misawa brings. There's nothing much simpler for a man still suffering from head trauma to do to hurt his opponent than just grab him by the waist and throw, and that's what Kawada does. He nails two consecutive brutal backdrops, dropping Misawa right on his head and neck. He goes for a pin after the second and gets a two count. While Misawa won't stay down, and surely isn't anywhere near being pinned given his usual resilience, Kawada is now firmly in control of the match and able to go for his more complicated offense. And by "complicated" I mean "powerbomb." Kawada goes with what brought him to the dance, the move that's won so many big matches for him, the move that pinned Misawa a month and a half ago. But Misawa isn't beaten yet, and knows the damage the powerbomb can do, so he blocks it with a back body drop. Kawada settles for the stretch plum to wear Misawa down further, and this time he's able to apply it. After a while he lets go and gets a two count. Again he goes for the powerbomb, but again Misawa wants no part of it and grabs the ropes to prevent it. Misawa fires back with an elbow, but Kawada isn't giving up control that easily as he hits a ganmengiri and follows up with a German suplex of his own. After a short kick to the face of a bent-over Misawa, it's time to try the powerbomb again and this time he hits it, but Misawa is able to kick out at two. An immediate attempt at another is thwarted, but a scoop slam and kick later and Kawada hits his third powerbomb of the match, including the one on the floor. Three powerbombs is what beat Steve Williams to win the Champion Carnival the previous year. Three powerbombs is what Kawada couldn't hit on Misawa in the previous Triple Crown match. But here, three powerbombs still isn't enough to put away the Champion. Now Misawa has seemingly weathered the best that Kawada has to offer and he begins to show signs of reclaiming this match.

Kawada tries to follow up with another powerbomb, but Misawa blocks it. Kawada tries another backdrop, but Misawa grabs the ropes and Kawada's control of the match is slipping away. He hits an enzuigiri and Misawa slumps down against the ropes. But when Kawada tries to follow up with another backdrop, Misawa inches a little closer to taking over, as he turns into into a cross body. Kawada tries to fire back with strikes, but now Misawa has had enough and it's time for him to impose his will on the match. They trade elbows and then kicks to the face, but Misawa wins the battle and hits another rolling elbow to put Kawada down, once again traumatizing his head. Kawada manages to fight back and hit another backdrop, but the match has clearly slipped away from him, as he is unable to recover after hitting the move. His body is beginning to give out on him. Misawa ducks an attempted ganmengiri and blocks a kick before hitting an elbow to the head and absolutely spiking Kawada with a release German suplex. A second German is blocked, but Misawa is able to hit a Tiger Suplex for two. Kawada is now just defending himself on instinct. He gets up and throws a punch in a move reminiscent of his response in desperate moments of losses past. Misawa responds in kind and puts Kawada down again with the rolling elbow. Kawada is clearly fighting against his own physical limitations at this point, as he tries to stand and can't. There's a desperation in his eyes as he drags himself to his feet, using the ropes to support himself. He wants to prove that the tag match victory over Misawa was not a fluke, but he just can't overcome the Champion tonight. Misawa launches Kawada across the ring with a release Tiger Suplex and tightly hooks both legs for the pin. Kawada manages to break free after a two count, but he's not in much shape to do anything else. Misawa tosses him with another relase Tiger Suplex and Kawada is folded up and bounces until he's tangled up in the ropes on the opposite side of the ring. Kawada gets to his feet and withstands another rolling elbow, but Misawa puts him down for good with a running elbow.

This one doesn't match up with their classic encounter from '94, but aside from that, it is one of my favorite of their singles matches. While the Kawada mark in me isn't a big fan of seeing Misawa reestablish himself as the man in the feud, I just can't quibble with how well both men pulled off that particular story. Kawada's selling was golden all the way, and Misawa's stoicism worked well in establishing himself as still the man to beat contrast to Kawada's demeanor of increasing desperation.
Saturday, April 19, 2003

Marlins 6, Mets 5

Sometimes it doesn't seem like it, but it's true. A .160 hitter does get on base once in a while. Roger Cedeno proved this right from the start of today's game, as he manged to get on base on an error in the first inning. He then stole second base. It should be noted that replays of both of these plays showed that Cedeno was likely out both times. But the umpires, out of pity perhaps, let him stay on base so that Cliff Floyd could drive him home with a single and give the Mets a 1-0 lead. And just to prove that a .160 actually does get hits every now and then, Cedeno hit a single in the third inning, driving in Jay Bell. Bell started at shortstop in place of Rey Sanchez and gave a decidedly unSanchezian effort, going one for one with three walks (!), as well as a run and an RBI.

Unfortunately, Bell's defensive game was also dissimilar to what one would expect from Sanchez, as the Marlins scored their first run of the game in the fourth inning when former Rookie of the Year turned potential reason to let the pitcher bat eighth Todd Hollandsworth grounded to Bell at short with the bases loaded. Bell was unable to get any out and Juan Encarnacion scored to bring the Marlins within one.

Steve Trachsel started the game for the Mets, and while he pitched well enough through the first five innings, Art Howe uncharacteristically let him stay in for the sixth and he got into some trouble, giving up three runs before Jaime Cerda came in and quickly stopped the bleeding. But the sixth inning was really Roger Cedeno's inning. After looking like a competent major leaguer early in the game, Cedeno played some centerfield like only he can. Derek Lee hit a ball to center and Cedeno took one of his trademark circuitous routes to it, turning an out into a double to break the inning open. After a nice bout of booing, the Shea Stadium faithful broke into a more appropriate chant. "Timo! Timo! Timo!" The score was now 4-2 Marlins.

In the bottom of that same inning, Mo Vaughn got on with a single and Jeromy Burnitz walked. This allowed Bell to get that hit and that RBI I mentioned earlier, singling to left to drive Vaughn home. Scott Strickland came in and pitched a shockingly scoreless seventh for the Mets.

Jay Bell continued to atone for his defensive troubles in the eighth, as he got on with one of his three walks and was pinch-run for by the aforementioned Mr. Perez. Jason Phillips then pinch-hit for Strickland and managed to reach on an error, moving Timo to third. Rey Sanchez ran for Phillips and Roberto Alomar doubled into the gap in right-center, driving them both home. Cedeno came up and promptly grounded out before Cliff Floyd grounded out to end the inning. The Mets had a 6-5 lead and you know what that means. That means it was time to once again test the wisdom of those who say a "dominant closer" is obviously better than the so-called "bullpen by committee" that those lousy stat-geeks are trying in Boston. It was time for the counter-example, Armando Benitez.

I won't belabor the point. Benitez gave up two runs on a pair of hits and a pair of walks. It was his fourth blown save of the season. It was his third loss of the season. I don't want to talk about it.

Tomorrow, Super-Glavine tries to save the day again against Josh Beckett.
Friday, April 18, 2003

Mets 6, Marlins 3

This was a really fun game. The Mets struck early again as Mo Vaughn continued his hot hitting from the night before, driving in Cliff Floyd with a single in the first.

Al Leiter had a solid start, even a Quality Start, as they say, giving up three runs in six innings on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine. He did have some serious problems holding runners on, though, as the Marlins stole six bases. The Marlins scored all three of their runs in the fourth, putting the Mets in a 3-1 hole. Would it be another long night of failing to drive runners in, or would the Mets return to their cardiac ways of years past?

Well, in the fifth, the big bats came through like they had last night. Roberto Alomar led off the inning with a ground-rule double, off of a left-hander no less. It was only his second hit against lefties so far this year. Art Howe was employing the bizarre "Tsuyoshi Shinjo Lineup," which calls for Shinjo to take Roger Cedeno's place in center, but bat eighth, putting the hitless wonder Rey Sanchez in the second spot. So the best Sanchez could do after Alomar's hit was get him to third by grounding out to the right side of the infield. Cliff Floyd fouled out and up came Mike Piazza with two outs and a man on third. And as I've been saying, the Mets have been just horrid with runners in scoring position and two outs so far this year, but Piazza came through with a single to score Alomar and bring the Mets within one.

Graeme Lloyd relieved Leiter in the seventh, pitching a perfect inning on just nine pitches. Leiter could no longer get the win, but he pitched well enough to keep the Mets in the game. In the bottom of the seventh, Sanchez led off with a groundout to get out of the way and let the real hitters bat. Floyd promptly singled. Piazza walked. Vaughn struck out, and it was another two out RBI situation. This time it was up to Ty Wigginton. But Wigginton has been the one man seemingly immune to the Mets' offensive troubles all season, and he came through again here, singling to left to score Floyd and tie the game.

David Weathers came in to pitch the eighth in a double switch, taking Jeromy Burnitz out of the game, putting Cedeno in center and moving Shinjo to right. After giving up a walk and a hit, Weathers got out of the inning without giving up a run.

Shinjo led off the eighth and fouled out and it was looking like a quick inning, but Cedeno remarkably got on base with an infield single. Alomar followed with a walk and the Mets had something going. Art Howe wisely pinch hit for Sanchez and in came Tony Clark, the man the Mets had taken a chance on in spring training after a horrendous season in Boston last year. Clark had hit so well in the spring to earn a spot on the Met bench and that decision paid huge dividends here. Clark hit a pinch-hit three-run home run to right center to put the Mets on top 6-3. Now all that was left was for Armando Benitez to come in and save it.

Clark stayed in the game at first base and Jay Bell replaced Sanchez at short. Benitez got Mike Mordecai swinging to start the inning and Keith Hernandez made one of his many amusing comments on the night. "I'm throwing 97 miles per hour. You're Mike Mordecai. Catch up to it." I thought Hernandez was fun to listen to all night, as he was willing to be downright nasty toward player who deserved it. But then Benitez got into some trouble. Brian Banks worked a walk. Juan Pierre, who had won a game with a hit off of Benitez last week, singled to center and now there were two men on and it was starting to look like your standard Benitez nail-biter. But he got Luis Castillo to ground into a double play and earned his fifth save of the year.

This was a second consecutive good night for the Met offense, as they got 12 hits tonight after getting 13 last night. They also drew four walks and generally did a good job getting pitchers to throw a lot of pitches, an average of 4.4 per at bat. Tony Clark was the big star of the game in his one at bat, but Mike Piazza had another good game, going two for three with a pair of walks and an RBI.

Tomorrow, Steve Trachsel goes for the Mets against AJ Burnett as the Mets try for their first three game winning streak of the season with their renewed offensive confidence.

Mets 7, Pirates 1

Early on I had a feeling that we'd see a different Mets offense tonight. It started when I saw the lineup. No Roger Cedeno in center. No Rey Sanchez batting second to compensate for the absence of Cedeno's offensive ineptitude at the top of the lineup. No, this time Art Howe sat Cedeno down and actually configured the top of the lineup well. Roberto Alomar was in the leadoff spot with Timo Perez batting second and I had a feeling the Mets might score some runs tonight. Jeff D'Amico's presence on the mound opposite the Met hitters was not entirely unrelated to this.

And so, Alomar came to the plate to leadoff the game and promptly did something that could never be expected of Cedeno in that spot. He walked. Perez and Cliff Floyd both flied out, but the Mets' offense would not be deterred on this night. Mike Piazza, who had been slumping mightily prior to a solo home run the previous night, singled to keep the inning alive. And Mo Vaughn, who in recent games would've been expected to ground out and end the threat, instead lined a ground rule double down the left field line to score Alomar. Ty Wigginton hit the ball hard as usual, but right at shortstop Jack Wilson. The first inning was over. The Mets had only scored one run, but the big bats had already shown that they were on their game this night.

And in the second, just to make sure everyone got the message, Jeromy Burnitz led off with his third home run of the season. The third inning brought more of the same, as Wigginton came to the plate with Vaughn and Floyd on first and third, respectively. He didn't get a hit, but he once again managed to reach on an error. It was the third time in this series and fourth time in a week he'd managed to pull that off. Floyd scored the Mets' third run.

And while the offense was waking from its slumber, rookie Jae Seo was sending the Pirate hitters down in short order. Seo pitched seven sharp innings, giving up just five hits and no runs. In three starts this season he has yet to walk a batter. He just pitched a solid, efficient game, constantly getting ahead of hitters with first-pitch strikes and never getting in much trouble.

In the seventh inning, the offense came to life again. Alomar walked. Perez tried to sacrifice him over, but wound up on first thanks to an error. And Piazza singled to load the bases for Vaughn. Again, this is the exact kind of situation in which the Mets have failed to come through so far this season, but failure was not part of Mo Vaughn's vocabulary tonight, as he doubled to left center to clear the bases and give the Mets a 6-0 lead. Vaughn finished four for five with four RBI and two doubles, raising his offense numbers to .244/.333/.439 and giving him 8 RBI on the season to lead the team.

Seo left the game after the seventh and left it in the shaky hands of Scott Strickland. Strickland gave up his customary run in the eighth, cutting the Met lead to five.

But Mike Piazza would have none of that, so he hit a home run to center that is best described as "gi-normous" to put the Mets up 7-1.

Before the game, the Mets, in a rare bout of common sense, sent Joe McEwing down to AAA and called up Jason Middlebrook to fill the hole in the bullpen left by Mike Stanton's minor injury. McEwing is of course full of fire and piss and vinegar and heart and determination and grit, but it seems that filling up on all those things has pushed any hitting talent he might have had right out the top of his head and he wasn't going to be of much use to the Mets any time soon. Middlebrook had failed to earn a spot on the roster in spring training, but had started out the AAA season pitching well. He came in in the ninth and gave up one run on two hits, while striking out two to finish off a 7-2 win for the Mets.

Vaughn was clearly the offensive star of the game, but Piazza also wound up three for five with two runs and an RBI on his second home run of the year and in as many nights. Alomar went just one for three, but also had a pair of walks and a pair of runs. And Burnitz providing a one for four night with a home run out of the seventh spot is more than acceptable. Rey Sanchez was the only Met starter without a hit, including Jae Seo, and the middle of the lineup seems to be awakening. If that keeps up, this team might not be done quite yet.

The 6-10 Mets return home tomorrow and send Al Leiter and his 1.45 ERA to the mound against Mark Redman and the Marlins.
Thursday, April 17, 2003

I don't appreciate wise-ass comments from the WWE.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Pirates 6, Mets 3

The Mets continue to struggle to get hits at any meaningful point in the game. Mike Piazza and Mo Vaughn both homered tonight, their first and second of the season, respectively, but they both did it to lead off an inning rather than actually getting it done with men on base. Piazza got the Mets third run home as well, but he did it by grounding into a double play after coming to the plate with runners at the corners and no outs, so it can hardly be considered a victory. No other Met had an extra-base hit, although the middle of the lineup did look a little bit better tonight, as Roberto Alomar went 2 for 4 with a run scored, raising his average to .281, and Cliff Floyd went 1 for 4, although he left three runners on base. The only other Met to get a hit was Jeromy Burnitz, who went 1 for 4, although the ever-resourceful Ty Wigginton did manage to once again reach base on an error.

David Cone gave the Mets an adequate five innings of work, allowing just three runs on six hits and two walks, while striking out three. But after Jaime Cerda pitched a scoreless sixth inning, the normally reliable David Weathers came in and gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in the seventh to give the Pirates the lead for good, although Cone wound up taking the loss.

In a small sign of managerial intelligence, Art Howe brought in Tsuyoshi Shinjo to replace the hitless wonder Roger Cedeno in center in the seventh.

Now, one thing I've been noticing during the Mets' struggles throughout the first two and a half weeks of the season is that while their offense has seemed largely inept, they also seem to be facing an inordinate amount of excellent, often young, starting pitching. They've faced the top three in the Cubs' rotation, as well as the good youngsters from Montreal and Florida. I did some calculating and found out that the total ERA of the thirteen starting pitchers the Mets have faced in their fifteen games (Tomo Ohka and Livan Hernandez have each faced them twice) is 2.74. Not too shabby. But interestingly enough, their total ERA in starts against the Mets is 3.12, compared to 2.52 against the rest of the league. So, somehow, during this dismal start, the Mets have actually been hitter better against these quality pitchers than everyone else has. Of course, it's a rather small sample size, and the fact remains that the Mets have yet to score more than five runs in a game, or more than four earned against any starting pitcher.

Five of the thirteen have higher ERAs against the Mets than against the rest of the league. Seven are lower against the rest. And Livan Hernandez has yet to pitch against anyone other than the Mets. Because of this, Hernandez is fairly irrelevant, but removing him from the equation only drops the ERA vs. Mets down to 3.09, so he's not the reason for the disparity. It seems the reason is mainly that these five starters just didn't stay in the game for very long. In fact none of them gave up more than three earned runs. Kerry Wood, who went five innings against the Mets, has a 3.60 ERA against the Mets, 2.40 against everyone else. Matt Clement is at 9.00 vs. 1.88 thanks to a three run, three inning outing. Tony Armas Jr. is at 5.40 vs. 0.45, having given up only one earned run in twenty innings against other teams. Javier Vazquez is at 4.50 vs. 1.42. And tonight's starter for the Pirates, Jeff Suppan, gave up one earned run in six innings for a 1.50 ERA, as opposed to 1.13 against everyone else.

So, what's the point of all this? Well, for one thing it shows that the Mets haven't done jack against bullpens this year. But it also shows that maybe the Mets' offense isn't quite as hopeless as their record would lead one to believe. Maybe when they get a shot at some of the less than stellar starters the National League has to offer, they'll be able to score some runs. Tomorrow night the Mets face JefF D'Amico and his 5.79 ERA, and we'll see if he'll be what the Mets need to get their bats going.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Mets 3, Pirates 1

In his last start, Tom Glavine went out and pitched six shutout innings and wound up with nothing ot show for it thanks to the crapshoot that is the New York Mets' bullpen. The Mets signed him to be their ace and, aside from a poor start on Opening Day, he's pitched well enough to be worthy of the title. Unfortunately, he's not going out there and tossing complete games every five days, so his fate will continue to rest in the hands of the bullpen as long as the Mets' offensive woes continue. Tonight he went 6 1/3 innings on 101 pitches, giving up just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out five. His ERA for the season is now 2.91, thanks to it being just 1.00 over his last three starts. Jaime Cerda pitched two-thirds of an inning, surrendering just a walk, before the "big guns" came in to make things interesting. Scott Strickland came in in the eighth and allowed a walk and a hit before retiring the side. And then it was time for He Who Is Called "Closer." He of the three blown saves. He of the sensetive temperment. Armando Benitez came into the game in the ninth and started off the inning by walking the first batter, Rob Mackowiak. He then struck out Abraham Nunez for the first out. Matt Stairs came up to pinch hit and Benitez got him to two strikes before he lined a single to right field, putting Mackowiak on second. Kenny Lofton came up and grounded to first and pinch-running pitcher Kip Wells was the second out at second base, but Lofton was safe at first, Mackowiak safe at third. Jason Kendall came to the plate and the stage was set for a game-winning three-run home run. Except somebody forgot to tell Kendall, because he somehow managed to ground the ball to Rey Sanchez at short, and unlike yesterday, Sanchez was able to end the inning by tossing to Roberto Alomar at second for the third and final out of the inning. Armando Benitez, 6.48 ERA and all, had his fourth save of the season and Glavine his second win. The losing streak was over and the Mets had faced the toughest pitcher the Pirates were likely to throw at them and emerged victorious.

The Mets' offense, being the Mets' offense, didn't exactly pound starter Josh Fogg, but the three runs they put up, on only six hits and one walk, proved enough for Glavine and the 'pen this time. Ty Wigginton failed to get a hit in four at bats, but was robbed of one early on a diving grab of a line drive by Nunez. Things actually evened out for the Mets later, though, as Wigginton reached on an error by Nunez in the fifth, allowing him to score when Jeromy Burnitz, on his 34th birthday, launched his second home run of the year. Roberto Alomar reached on an infield single in the sixth and stole second. Cliff Floyd provided the third and final Met run by driving him in with a double.

Roger Cedeno went one for four while playing some unique but effective defense. Tsuyoshi Shinjo came in in the eighth as a defense replacement, but once again it was for Floyd, not Cedeno.

Tomorrow, the 5-9 Mets try to continue their winning ways, sending David Cone, who looks to rebound from his tough outing in Puerto Rico, to the mound against Jeff Suppan, who is off to a good start this year, with a record of 2-0 and a 1.35 ERA.

I seem to not be able to update my template at the moment, so I will just tell you that Timo is now hitting .261/.280/.348, Shinjo is at .273/.250/.273, and I am listening to Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin.

Expos 5, Mets 3

And so the Mets' journey to Puerto Rico ends, swept by the Expos. It would be easy, and not too inaccurate, to blame this one on the bullpen yet again, but sometimes you need your shortstop, who's only there for defensive reasons, to play good defense. And Rey Sanchez failed to do so, misplaying a grounder in the eighth, extending the inning so that the Expos could score two runs, breaking a 3-3 tie and putting themselves on top for good. Sanchez was also inexplicably batting second for the second time this year, but he did manage to get a hit and score a run in his four at bats, raising his average to a robust .150. In other news, Jose Reyes went 2 for 3 today with a walk, a run and his eleventh stolen base of the year in eleven tries, raising his average above .300 for the AAA Norfolk Tides. If you choose to draw any connection between the last two sentences, you should feel free to do so.

The Mets got some more solid starting pitching, this time from Steve Trachsel, who went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out three. But Scott Strickland, who got his first loss of the season, gave up one unearned run in 1 1/3 innings of relief, while Mike Stanton gave up another in 1/3 of an inning before having to leave the game with a "strained right knee muscle," according to That diagnosis sounds not quite right to me, but I'll assume they're referring to the quadricep until I learn otherwise. David Weathers pitched the final third of the eighth inning, with no runs and one hit being charged to him.

The Met offense didn't exactly come alive, but Tony Clark finally hit the team's first home run of the series in miniscule Estadio Hiram Bithorn, driving in wunderkind Ty Wigginton, who went 1 for 3 and also walked once. Roberto Alomar continued his mini-revival, hitting a solid double off the wall in right center in four at bats. The ball would've been a gapper in any other ballpark, but it was very nearly a home run in this one.

Timo Perez and Tsuyoshi Shinjo started in left and center, respectively, but neither got a hit. Roger Cedeno showed he is very effective in the role of bench-warmer.

Tomorrow night, the Mets head north to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates in a three game series. Maybe facing a team that's not completely stacked with solid young pitching for once will help the bats of the Mets not named Ty and Timo get going a bit. Tom Glavine, coming off of a pair of good starts, the last of which didn't earn him a win thanks to that infernal bullpen, takes on Josh Fogg, who is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts this year.
Monday, April 14, 2003

Ring Of Honor: 12 April, 2003

The setup for the show was slightly different this time, and I think it looked a lot better. First off, there was a black curtain behind the last row of fans on the side opposite the hard camera, which will probably look a lot better on tape than the wall and doors on that side. The biggest change, though, was the new lighting. Instead of just using the normal overhead lights in the gym, they had a row of television-style flood lights set up on each of the four basketball hoops on each side of the room and turned off the overhead lights when the show started. There were some issues with the lights going on or off or dimming at inappropriate times, but for the most part it made for an excellent atmosphere live, and will probably also look better on tape. It also put the focus on the ring, while the fans were somewhat in the dark, which was a nice reminder to certain fans that no, they are in fact not part of the show. Also, they turned the lights off between matches to allow for mini-laser light shows to accompany the entrances, which was nice if not a bit excessive at times. Overall it made for a more serious atmosphere.

The Backseat Boys (Trent Acid & Johnny Kashmere) vs. Da Hit Squad (Mafia & Monsta Mack)

One of the reasons the Backseats' recent work in ROH hasn't bothered me much, and has in fact entertained me a good deal from time to time, is that they haven't been doing some of the things that annoyed the hell out of me in what I've seen of their CZW work. Principal among these is stalling. One of the odd things about CZW on the shows I've seen is that wrestlers seem to switch from face to heel and back again within matches with no particular rhyme or reason. The Backseats will come out playing to the crowd and getting a big reaction, and then they'll stall for an inordinate amount of time outside the ring to piss off the fans, followed soon after by hitting a high spot or two and posing for the fans again. This kind of bizarre and infuriating work hadn't shown up much in their ROH work before this show, but in this match it was all there.

This match only ended up going about eight minutes, so the Backseats stalling for a couple of minutes early in the match was really uncalled for. Maybe they felt they needed to go back to these tactics because the Hit Squad aren't small or agile enough to participate in the standard Backseat choreographed counter-wrestling to open the match, but it sure was annoying. And given that they get one of the biggest babyface reactions from the ROH crowd, it really doesn't make sense that they'd try to annoy the fans. While the match was in the ring, it wasn't half bad. The Backseats were bumping pretty well for the standard Hit Squad spots, at least. The Hit Squad's selling was subpar as usual, but this was a decent short match. The Backseats pinned someboday, probably Mafia, with the T-Gimmick.

After the match, the lights went out and Special K's music came on, accompanied by some smoke and lasers. Mike Whipwreck led the group of cruiserweight ravers to the ring. I think there were about six or seven of them. He cut a promo saying that he knows something about tag team wrestling, having tagged with Mick Foley and Yoshihiro Tajiri, as well as training the SAT and Divine Storm. It doesn't really make a lot of sense that he'd put over those last two, given that he's feuding with them and that neither of them are particularly good, but I suppose the storyline is that he's on drugs and he only said that they were "pretty good." He said that Special K would be the next great tag teams and that they would use the Backseats as their stepping stones to become the top tag team in Ring Of Honor. Of course this brought out the true top tag team in ROH, Dunn & Marcos, the Ring Crew Express, who took exception to Whipwreck's statements. And then out came the Carnage Crew, looking for a fight, so Trent Acid said these three teams should have a scramble match, and the winner would face the Backseats on the next Philly show, May 31st.

Special K (Dixie & Hydro) vs. The Ring Crew Express (Dunn & Marcos) vs. The Carnage Crew (Loc & Devito)

This was something of a mess, as there were at least half a dozen people at ringside. It was also rather short. It got to a dive sequence to the outside of the ring rather quickly and in a nice touch not often seen in these "scramble matches", Dunn & Marcos were both clutching their backs, selling previous offense as they climbed to adjacent corners to hit their dives. Then they both yelled "stage dive!" and made the international symbol of heavy metal before diving onto the pile outside the ring. Then there was a dive sequence inside the ring where everyone kept hitting a dive on top of the guy who had just hit one until there were five or six guys piled up in the middle of the ring, with the guy on top trying to get the pin. Eventually the mass Special K assemblage distracted the referee long enough for Whipwreck to come in an hit some stunners and give Special K the victory. They will face the Backseats the next time ROH is in Philly. I assume it will be Dixie and Hydro representing Special K again, but who knows? This match was a decent little spotty affair.

AJ Styles & The Amazing Red vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe [ROH Tag Team Championship]

I was wary of this match, wondering how they'd go about trying to top their spot-tastic encounter from a month ago, but they did it in a way I really didn't expect. They went out and had a very well-constructed wrestling match. There were plenty of spots, to be sure, but this match had a much better build and was basically a well-executed Southern tag with high-tech spots. It started out with a sort of synchronized swimming feel, with both teams going for double dives to the outside and being thwarted once before Styles and Red were able to hit criss-crossing topes, one over the top rope, the other through the middle. Once the match got back in the ring and settled down a bit, Styles and Red were able to isolate Mark and get some double-teaming in before he was able to make the tag and the Briscoes then isolated Red for a while. Red makes a great underdog babyface and this worked well. There was a good build from more simple spots in the beginning of the match toward the spectacular at the end and the Briscoes did a pretty good job of giving Red some short comebacks only to cut him off before he finallly made the hot tag to Styles. Styles came in and cleaned house of course, until Red was ready to come back in and make with the double-teaming. In a nice touch, Styles and Red tried to reprise last month's finish, but this time the Briscoes were ready for it and countered into a combination top rope powerbomb/neckbreaker on Red for a near fall. I wasn't sure I'd seen a tag and thought Styles was still the legal man at this point, but that's a minor quibble and it's entirely possible that I missed a blind tag in there somewhere. For the finish, Mark dove onto Styles on the outside, looking to turn it into a hurricanrana, but Styles reversed into the Styles Clash on the floor, putting him out of comission as Jay went for the J-Driller on the inside on Red, but Red blocked it and turned it into something resembling Genki Horiguchi's Beach Break (sit-down tombstone with the opponent against the attacker's back instead of his chest, dropping him right on his head), followed up with a Red Star Press for the three count.

Last month these guys showed that they could come up with some elaborate and spectacular spots, but this month they showed that they could work these spots into a very coherent and well-structure storyline. It almost makes me wonder if someone else helped them put this together, because it was a lot better than I expected out of these guys. Or maybe Red learned something in All Japan after all.

BJ Whitmer vs. CM Punk

This was a good simple match, with Punk playing the heel and working the back. It seemed odd at the time, as he doesn't have any kind of back-related finish that I'm aware of, and Whitmer didn't seem to really be selling the back work too specificallly, but it was generally solid work. And Punk made sure to remind everyone that he is still feuding with Raven, as he taunted Raven in his absence during the match, doing the Raven pose before an offensive maneuver. Aside from that, the details of this match seem to have slipped my mind. The match ended it what's being called a no-contest when Punk German suplexed Whitmer off of the apron through a table on the floor. I couldn't see the impact from where I was sitting and it sounded like more of a thud than a crash to me, and both men stayed down for a while. I'm not sure why this wasn't a disqualification, as the referee was looking right at it, and he called for the bell very quickly, but the official word is no-contest because neither man could continue.

Homicide vs. Christopher Daniels

This was my chance to finally gauge Homicide's ability in a singles match with a decent opponent and he looked pretty good, but not on the same level as the top workers in ROH. Early in the match they did some solid matwork with both men seeming to target the neck, as would make sense given their finishers, but this wasn't really followed up on or sold throughout the body of the match, so it came of as mostly perfunctory. Neither man really focused on working a body part toward a particular finish. Occasionally Homicide would do something like work the neck and leg for a brief period to set up the STF, but none of this work had a lasting effect on the rest of the match, as their manner of building toward finishes mostly relied on teasing them early and often. Daniels kept going for the Angel's Wings and Homicide for the Cop Killer and they'd each have to scramble to get out. The basic story of this match was that Daniels would be in control of the match for a lengthy period of time until Homicide was able to sneak in some big move to turn the tide and take over for a little while before Daniels regained control and the sequence played out again. The progression of moves from more basic stuff to the bigger moves was well done and the work was generally solid. Occasionally when there was a quick succession of reversals, Homicide would get a little sloppy and seem lost for a second while Daniels had to wait for him to catch up, but these flaws weren't particularly major. Late in the match Daniels hit the Angel's Wings for a good near fall. Although this move had been teased repeatedly, the kickout made sense as when Daniels finally hit it, it wasn't at the conclusion of any kind of heated exchange so although it was a finish that had been built toward, it didn't really feel like a definite finish at the moment he hit it. This was followed by a desperate scramble with Daniels trying to hit another big move to finish Homicide off while Homicide desperately tried to avoid being finished off and finally managed to beat Daniels with a rollup. The finish, like the rest of the match seemed solidly in "good, not great" territory. Definitely not on the same level as Daniels' excellent match with Doug Williams from last month, but a good first match between the two and it gives them something to build upon in future matches.

After the match, Samoa Joe, CW Anderson and Jack Victory of Steve Corino's group, creatively titled "The Group," attacked both men, with Joe choking out Homicide, until Mafia ran in to make the save. Daniels and Mafia stared each other down and Daniels ripped the front of Mafia's shirt down the middle, but Mafia removed it to reveal a Prophecy (Daniels' stable that also includes Donovan Morgan and Xavier) shirt, and placed his old shirt over Homicide's face. Mafia will apparently now be using his real name, Danny Maff.

At this point the show went to intermission.

Alexis Laree vs. Ariel

I had never seen nor heard of Ariel before and all I learned from this approximately ninety second match was that she needs to work on her strikes. Alexis won.

Samoa Joe vs. Hotstuff Hernandez [Non-Title]

This match started out well with the two big men taking it to the mat and Joe working on Hernandez's arm a bit. Hernandez sold this quite well even after he was able to make it to his feet and generally impressed me with all of his selling here. He was mostly playing the "agile big man" character here, hitting his monstrous tope con hilo as well as a couple of other highspots, while Joe was doing his "shooter" thing, using mostly strikes and submissions. The match ended rather abruptly less than seven minutes in, as Joe turned a Hernandez spinebuster into a triangle choke for the tapout. Hernandez looked better than I expected and I am interested to see more of him and in particular I would like to see a longer match between these two at some point, perhaps for the title.

After the match, Joe grabbed a chair and sat down in the middle of the ring, leading Gary Michael Capetta to come out and ask him what he was doing. Joe said the fans deserved to see a title defense, and challenged the participants in the three-way that was up next to go up against him in a four-way where anyone who beat him would get the title.

Samoa Joe vs. Colt Cabana vs. Tom Carter vs. Matt Stryker

Carter is the guy you may have previously known as Reckless Youth. This started out as basically a three-on-one with all three trying to take down Joe, but when it came time to pin him, they stopped being on the same page and this turned into more of a traditional four-way with only two men in the ring at the same time. Joe spent most of the match on the apron just watching the other three fight amongst themselves. He basically played a comedy role for a lot of it, interjecting himself to smack somebody on the back of the neck or kick them in the face to break up a submission hold before returning to chill on the apron. The structure of this match encouraged spottiness and Cabana, Carter and Stryker were basically just playing out short sequences with each other, two at a time, trying to hit a big move to get the win. The logic of this was somewhat odd, as they couldn't get the title by pinning each other. They did a fairly good job with this, as they mostly used submissions against each other rather than pins, but there were a few pins in there that seemed out of place. Stryker established himself as the fiery unibrowed babyface trying to stand up to Joe and thus became the subject of Joe's wrath often early in the match, as Joe would take an occasional swing at him from the apron and seemingly focus more of his attention on messing with Stryker and breaking up his submissions than on anyone else. Cabana was his normal exuberant self and the bulk of Carter's offense consisted of wacky T2P-esque submissions that didn't really focus on one body part throughout the match so much as they all were complicated enough to work a lot of body parts at once. Eventually Joe decided he'd had enough and came in to kick some ass and win the match, but Stryker was able to get some revenge for Joe's earlier toying with him, lifting the bigger man up for a death valley driver to put him out of commission for a brief period. Eventually Joe was able to take out Stryker and get Cabana in a rear naked choke. Carter came off the top with a frog splash, but since Joe was on his back with Cabana on top of him, Carter hit Cabana who tapped out soon afterwards, allowing Joe to retain the title. This was a fun match with some comedy and some nice spots and sequences that did a good job to get all four men's characters over and get Joe over as a dominant Champion without making the others look too weak.

Paul London vs. The American Dragon Bryan Danielson [2/3 Falls]

In the day that's passed between this match happening and my beginnging to write this review, already a good deal of glowing praise has been heaped upon this match by those who saw it. This was more than just a wrestling match. This was an event. Dragon and London first met in November as part of a gauntlet series of matches to determine the Number One Contender to the ROH Championship. Dragon made London submit to the Cattle Mutilation but went on to lose to AJ Styles in the final of the gauntlet. A month later, the two met again, this time with the Number One Contendership riding on their match. In this match, Dragon played the role of established veteran to London's flashy, up-and-coming babyface, outwrestling London and testing him while London used his heart and determination to try to overcome Dragon's assault. The finish saw London head to the top rope to hit his Shooting Star Press, but Dragon ran up to try to stop him, so London tried to knock him off with a series of stiff chops, forearms and headbutts. They repeated this a few times as Dragon refused to stay down until London had given him everything he had. Eventually, Dragon could no longer withstand the beating and fell to the mat as London hit the shooting star press for the victory. After the match, London got on the mic and said that while he may have won the match, he knew that Dragon was the better wrestler.

Paul London was originally scheduled to wrestle Low Ki on this show, but Ki got called away to Japan and this rematch was scheduled, with the fans being asked to choose the stipulation on the ROH website. The voters chose 2/3 Falls over a 30 Minute Iron Man match and the anticipation began.

The new lighting really seemed to make the in-ring action appear more special than on the previous shows, and this match in particular just had the atmosphere of a major happening from the start with the lighting and the crowd contributing to the sense that something big was about to go down. The crowd was attentive and hot from the start as the entrances began and stayed that way throughout the entire match. Both men are very popular faces and it seemed like while the majority of the crowd appreciated both men, the crowd was split with about half favoring each man, and about as heated as 550 people in a tiny rec center can get. Numerous times throughout the match, chants of "Let's Go London" would be met with "Let's Go Dragon," back and forth, getting louder with each go-'round.

Dragon and London set the tone early, starting the match with an intense struggle over a collar and elbow tie-up which led the match to start on the mat with Dragon taking the lead. Dragon was clearly established as the superior wrestler on the ground. Dragon would initiate the matwork and as soon as London had figured out a way to counter, Dragon would already be a step ahead of him, leaving London to play catch-up again. Eventually, London was able to get even with Dragon on the mat, working an extended headlock sequence that Dragon could not escape. Every time Dragon got near the ropes, London would springboard off and roll through, holding onto the headlock. But just as Dragon had set the pace early, forcing London to struggle to hold his own, once London had demonstrated that he could hang with Dragon on the mat, Dragon elevated his game again, this time reestablishing his advantage by using his strikes to break out of London's hold, putting London back behind the eight ball, struggling to keep pace. And every time that London would find an answer for his strikes, Dragon would just bring a more brutal variety, progressing from chops to elbows to headbutts until London could no longer withstand the assualt and stay standing. When Dragon was back in control, he was able to return to the mat and work on wearing down London for the Cattle Mutilation, attacking his shoulders, neck and back. As in their earlier matches, London was forced to be opportunistic and use his high-flying to combat Dragon's more technically sound attack. Dragon tried to respond in kind with the small aerial arsenal that he has, bringing out the tope suicidda and the diving headbutt, but this was the one area in which he couldn't outdo London and when the headbutt failed to garner the pinfall, he went back to his more traditional attack. The first fall of the match came when Dragon went for the top rope backdrop suplex, a move that often gets him a late match near-fall. But London was able to reverse it mid-air into a cross-body for a pin 20 minutes in.

The second fall saw Dragon take on a more vicious attitude to retain the control of the match that had slipped away from him with the fluke-like first fall. The two shook hands before the start of the second fall, but Dragon slapped London in the face and began a frenzied attack of brutal elbows. London responded in kind and the two traded strikes until London had knocked Dragon down near one of the turnbuckles. He went up with his back to the ring, but Dragon got up and knocked him down into an awkward Tree Of Woe that left London's hanging by his left knee from the top rope. Dragon, like a shark smelling blood, immediately went wild on the knee, laying in a flurry of elbows until the ref had to pull him away from the corner. Dragon sensed this was his opportunity to take control of the match and really put a serious hurting on London and he was not going to let the referee stand in his way. After a lengthy struggle, the referee was finally able to get Dragon away from the corner and free London. With his opponent injured, Dragon really began to play heelishly to the crowd. He looked to the side of the building where most of his fans seemed to be situated (the side where I happened to be sitting) for approval, while taunting the London side while they cheered on their man, even cupping his hand to his ear a la Hulk Hogan in response to the thunderous "Let's Go London" chants.

With London down, Dragon first thought to try to beat London with the move that had beaten him in November, the Cattle Mutilation. But when London was able to make it to the ropes, Dragon focused all of his attention on the injured knee, grabbing a half-crab and repeatedly pulling London back into the middle of the ring as he tried to make it to the ropes. London was at first able to force Dragon to break the hold with a series of brutal kicks to the face with his free leg, but he was in no condition to capitalize on the situation and take control of the match, so soon Dragon had him in another half-crab and was once again preventing him from reaching the ropes. Dragon eventually turned it into an torturous elevated half-crab with his knee pressed down in the middle of London's back, forcing London to submit about six minutes into the second fall.

London's selling of the knee was great from the start, and only got better as Dragon continued to attack it into the third fall. As soon as Dragon had first attacked it, London had completely ceased any rope-running and by the third fall he could barely walk. Dragon tried to get him with the half-crab again, but this time, after being pulled to the center a couple of times, he was able to make it to the ropes. Dragon was also repeatedly trying to hit the top rope backdrop that had been reversed for the first fall. But each time this led London to fight his way out of the precarious position, bludgeoning Dragon with his fists, elbows and head until Dragon fell to the mat in sequences reminiscent of the finish of their last match. Dragon's insistence on using this move failed to produce any advantage for him, as his placing London on the top rope allowed London to get to a position from which he could fight back and do some damage that he would have had difficulty climbing to on his own. And every time London tried to climb to the top rope, his selling was fantastic as he would not put any weight on the injured left leg, using just his arms and right leg to slowly pull himself to the top in hopes of putting Dragon away with the Shooting Star Press as he had in December. This battle for position on the top rope proved to be the key to the third fall, as Dragon was determined to put London away with the top rope backdrop, once even trying to hit it from the turnbuckle to the floor, only for London to rebuff him each time. The one-legged London fought desperately to prevent this and put Dragon down long enough to hit him with the Shooting Star Press. Once again it was Dragon's wrestling superiority against the heart and determination of London. And in the end, determination won. Dragon, after another struggle on the turnbuckle, was left crawling face down on the mat near the corner, and found himself on the business end of a Shooting Star Press that put him away for good. Over 40 minutes in, Paul London had pinned the American Dragon and both men were down and out in the corner of the ring.

It's entirely possible that I call things "the best match I've ever seen live" too often. I mean, it was only thirteen or fourteen months ago that I first went to an indy show and already this is the third one. Dragon vs. Low Ki from March of last year was an awesome thing to see on only my second indy show (first if you don't count CZW shows, which is very well within your rights). And then, as my appreciation of wrestling and attention to detail in the shows I watched continued to evolved, I saw Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, Spanky and Doug Williams wrestle for an hour and called that the best match I had ever seen live. And reviewing the tapes of those two matches, I still thought so. But right now, I feel comfortable saying that this match is better than those matches, that this match is the best match I have ever seen live. It had the great atmosphere and tremendous crowd heat that made for an extremely fun live experience, but all of that stuff isn't what made this a great match. This great match is what made all of that stuff happen. My memory of the details probably can't do justice to all that was going on in this match. There's no way to replicate the experience of seeing this live by watching a videotape, but I urge you to get the tape anyway. In a time when great work and classic matches are hard to find anywhere in the wrestling world, Paul London and Bryan Danielson went out and told a brilliant story that was complex and yet simple, multidimensional yet easy to follow. This is professional wrestling, and if two guys this young can produce such a great wrestling match, you can't help but have some hope for the future of the art.

Dusty Rhodes, Homicide, Iceberg, J-Train, Louie Ramos and maybe some other people vs. CW Anderson, Jack Victory, David Young and some other people [Unsanctioned I Quit Bunkhouse Riot]

No wrestling match could have followed London and Dragon, so it's a good thing this wasn't much of a wrestling match. There were some nice touches that got over the unsanctioned-ness of it all. The turnbuckle pads that say "R O H" and "HONOR" were taken down. The ceiling lights were turned up. There was no ring announcer and only Dusty got entrance music. And the "match" started behind me, when Young and Iceberg came brawling in through the back door. After that, this was completely chaotic, with people fighting all over the building, very few in the ring, and almost everyone bleeding. As a giant mess of a brawl, this was okay, and Dusty moved somewhat better than I expected, but there's nothing to really analyze here. Jack Victory said I Quit, the faces won and Dusty said nice things about Homicide after the match. Hopefully this riot angle is over.

There was some very solid stuff on the undercard. The Tag Team Title match was one of the better tag team matches I've seen in ROH, even if that isn't really saying much. Dragon/London is something you need to pay someone money for if they offer to sell it to you. Great show.
Sunday, April 13, 2003

Expos 2, Mets 1

It is too late to get one of those bullpen committees that are all the rage? Al Leiter came out into the bright, hot sunlight of Puerto Rico and pitched quite well. As of this point in the season, he looks to be quite good at any time of day. Leiter went six innings and failed to surrender any runs, giving up three hits and four walks along with one strikeout on 106 pitches on a day when thermometers on the artificially turfed field reached up into the 130s. David Weathers came in in the seventh and pitched two excellent innings, surrendering just a walk on seventeen pitches. And if not for the mentality that any ninth innning in which the Mets have a lead of three runs or fewer belongs to Armando Benitez, perhaps he would have been allowed to finish the game out given the ease with which he'd recorded the first six outs. But no, it is the law that such situations belong to he who is designated Closer, and thus, Benitez was allowed to come in in the ninth and surrender a game-tying home run to the first batter he faced, Orlando Cabrera, for his third blown save of the season. He managed to get out of the inning without giving up any more runs, but he had squandered Leiter's great start and left it up to the abysmal Mets offense to score another run and win this game. They failed to do so in the top of the tenth, and in the bottom of the inning, Mike Stanton's first pitch to Jose Vidro wound up in the seats behind the left field wall, giving Stanton his second loss of the season. The Mets offense provides no room for error within the bullpen, and failing to stick with the guy who actually showed an ability to get people out, Weathers, cost the Mets.

Estadio Hiram Bithorn in lovely San Juan, Puerto Rico has not proven to be quite the offensive paradise it was made out to be in the days and weeks before this series began. The Mets scored their only run in the first inning after Timo Perez, who was starting in left field in place of Cliff Floyd, hit a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single up the middle by Roberto Alomar, who seems to be picking up his offensive production somewhat during this series in his homeland. He went 2 for 4 with a walk. Perez went 1 for 4 with a walk and seems to be solidifying his case to be the starting centerfielder and bat leadoff every day. Roger Cedeno, starting in center and batting first today, went 0 for 5 with five infield groundouts, three to the shortstop and one each to second and third.

Tomorrow afternoon, the last game of this series will see Steve Trachsel take the mound for the Mets against Javier Vazquez of the Expos.
Disseminating descriptions and accounts of New York Mets games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball or the New York Mets since 2003.

Location: Hatboro, Pennsylvania, United States
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