Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Braves 8, Mets 4
can't pitch against the Braves. We get it. This particular plot point is being beaten to death as though it were the punchline of a Saturday Night Live sketch. It could certainly use some sort of twist to liven things up. Perhaps John Smoltz could steal Glavine's wife. They could cut to a shot of her sitting in the owner's box next to Ted Turner the next time the Mets are in Atlanta and then back to a closeup of Glavine as he grits his teeth in a display of his newfound resolve. It'd give the people a reason to tune in, I tell you.
As it is, we're stuck with this rerun. The one where Glavine allows nearly as many hits as he records outs, and given that he lasted into the fifth inning, that's no small number. He lasted four and one-third innings and gave up twelve hits and three walks, while striking out just one. It was a wonder that it took until the third inning for Atlanta to score a run. Hell, the Mets were actually in the lead for a few minutes, thanks to a Doug Mientkiewicz
home run in the bottom of the second, at which point Glavine had only allowed two hits and three walks.
But things got rolling in the third as the Braves put two on the board. They did the same in the fourth and then upped it to three in the fifth, when Glavine finished with a flourish, allowing back-to-back home runs to Eddie Perez and Wilson Betemit, the latter being the first in Betemit's major league career. Heath Bell
, working for the second consecutive day, gave up a home run to Andruw Jones in his second inning of work, the seventh, to complete the Braves' scoring.
The Mets kept it close for a little while before Atlanta blew it open in the fifth, as Cliff Floyd
's sixth home run of the year, a two-run shot in the fourth, put the score at 4-3. But they were only able to put one more run on the board despite loading the bases with no outs in the eighth. Mike Piazza
, who had walked to lead off the inning, scored on a passed ball, but a Mientkiewicz fly out and a Victor Diaz
double play ended the threat in a hurry.
The newly .500 Mets take tomorrow off before starting their first series of the season in our nation's capital. Jae Seo
(1-0, 1.50) looks to follow up a good first start as he takes on Livan Hernandez (2-2, 5.34) and the Nationals
. The Mets are only 3-7 on the road so far this year and beating up on the red-hatted stepchildren of the division seems like a good way to start to turn that record around.
Braves 4, Mets 3
So it turns out that Pedro Martinez
isn't perfect. Which is to say that even Pedro gets unlucky sometimes. For while last night may have been his worst start of the season thus far, it wasn't because the Braves were hitting him particularly hard. He suffered his second three-run first inning of the year, this one bore little resemblance to the Adam Dunn-fueled Opening Day troubles. He allowed four hits in the first, but just about none were particularly sharply hit. They just happened to find a spot of grass without a fielder standing on it, as so many balls had failed to do in Pedro's first four starts.
But, as he did on Opening Day, he basically put a stop to that starting with the second inning, though he did allow another run on two hits in the third and he didn't dominate the Braves in quite the spectacular fashion that he flashed against the Reds
. He wound up lasting seven innings and giving up just those four runs on seven hits and a pair of walks. That walking two batters in seven innings was somewhat of an alarming departure for Pedro is still refreshing in comparison to the rest of the rotation. And of course, he's still Pedro, so he struck out eight.
But he left the game trailing, as John Smoltz once again shut the Mets down early. David Wright
drove in one run with a double in the second, but that was all the Mets could manage in the first eight innings, even though they racked up seven hits and three walks in the six and two-thirds innings that Smoltz pitched. But in the ninth, things got pretty interesting as the Braves went to their closer. To those who say that any reliever can get three outs with a three run lead, I submit Dan Kolb.
Kolb did get two quick outs, despite a leadoff hit and a sharply hit grounder. Those two things added up to a double play. But then it was a double for Eric Valent
, formerly of the Mets' right field platoon. Kolb kept on throwing pitches, so of course Jose Reyes
swung at them and this time he turned one of them around and into a double. Mike Piazza
came up with a pinch hit single and it was 4-3. Carlos Beltran
singled and it was first and third. And so Bobby Cox took the unusual step of removal his closer from the game. And so Cliff Floyd
popped up on the infield and the game was over. Floyd had two hits on the night, as did Wright and Reyes, both of whose were doubles, but it wasn't quite enough in the end.
Today this series gets settled as Tom Glavine
(1-2, 3.97) takes on Mike Hampton (2-0, 1.17).
Mets 5, Braves 4
Okay, now I"m confused. Which one is real? The good Aaron Heilman
--let's call him "Home Aaron"--showed up again to baffle the Braves for seven innings. Home Aaron again looked like an entirely different pitcher than that incompetent Road Aaron fellow, allowing just one run on two hits and a walk while striking out five. The bullpen and the defense made things a little scary before it was over, but in the end the Mets held on to get Home Aaron his second win in as many tries.
He's now pitched sixteen innings on the year and allowed just one run, three hits and five walks and has struck out twelve. Road Aaron, meanwhile, has pitched only nine innings in two starts and has given up twelve runs on nineteen hits, though he has struck out six as compared to just one walk. Road Aaron has had some trouble with the longball, though, giving up three home runs, which is three more than Home Aaron has allowed. In his two starts, Home Aaron has shown a lot more of the first round-caliber player the Mets thought they had drafted than Aaron Heilman ever had previously in his major league career. Only once
prior to this year had he ever pitched as many as seven innings in a game and allowed fewer than two runs. And now he's done it twice in two weeks. It might be time to start considering the possibility of thinking about Home Aaron as maybe a legitimate major league starter. Now if he could just have a word with that Road Aaron character.
While Heilman was busy confusing the Braves' hitters and me, the Mets' offense lay dormant for five innings, going scoreless with just three hits. But they exploded in the sixth, with Mike Piazza
driving in the first run with the second of his two doubles on the night. Cliff Floyd
then smacked his fifth home run of the year to drive in Piazza. And after Chris Woodward
--inexplicably batting sixth--singled, David Wright
went deep as well, his fourth of the season. Wright did have a pretty awful night defensively, though, which contributed to some tense moments late in the game.
He booted one grounder in the sixth which luckily deflected right to Jose Reyes
, possessor of the cannon arm to throw out Marcus Giles at first. Then after Roberto Hernandez
had tightened things up a bit by allowing a two-run homer to Pete Orr in the eighth, Braden Looper
came in to pitch the ninth. He got into trouble on his own pretty much right away, giving up a pair of singles with one out. Then Wright bobbled a potential double play grounder and was lucky to get one out at second. Then he completely botched the next play, failing to even get a throw off after fielder a grounder and thus allowing a run to score. This was his only official error of the game. But Looper got Julio Franco to ground out to second, giving the Mets the win. This wasn't the first time this season that Wright has looked shaky defensively and he has three errors on the year. Tentativeness has seemed to be his problem most of the time and I do believe that it's correctable, but he really needs to be more consistent with the glove.
Tomorrow's game will be less of a surprise if someone turns in a great pitching performance, as Pedro Martinez
(2-0, 2.17) will square off again with John Smoltz (0-3, 4.30). Their last matchup produced a terrific game in which Smoltz struck out fifteen but still got outpitched by Pedro, who went the distance and allowed just one run. Tomorrow's weather will likely be more conducive to hitting than tonight's was, but it should still be quite a game.
Nationals 11, Mets 3
isn't a good major league pitcher. There's just no way around that. He's not a tweak or two away from excellence. He may not even be a tweak or two from adequacy. Even putting aside the stupidity of the way in which he was acquired, if he keeps pitching like he has so far this year, sending him out every five days to pitch is going to be a serious drain on this team.
Today was his worst start of the season to be sure. If, four starts into your season, the one where you give up eight runs in five and one-third innings isn't your worst start, you've got serious issues. He did only walk three batters, which is a sort of progress for him, but then, he only struck out four and did hit two batters and give up nine hits including one home run. He's now got an ERA of 5.64 and an astounding WHIP of 2.01. Every inning he pitches, an average of slightly more than two batters reach base.
Last year, the pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title with the highest WHIP in the National League was Colorado
's Jason Jennings, with a comparably paltry 1.70. Al Leiter's baserunner bonanza of 2004 yielded a mere 1.35. Zambrano has been flatly bad so far this year, and not just because he's been forced into the position to be the Mets' third best pitcher by various injuries. His pitching is making me long for the consistent mediocrity of Kris Benson.
The Mets' offense didn't have too great a day either, though they did collect ten hits and three walks. Every starter reached base at least once. But only Jose Reyes
had more than one hit, going 2-for-5. And only Mike Piazza
went for extra bases, driving in three of the Mets' four runs with a double in the first inning.
Still, the Mets took two out of three in this series, are now 7-2 at home and remain just a game out of first place. Tomorrow they start a three-game series against one of the two teams tied for the top spot as they face the Braves
. The first pitching matchup is hardly the most glamorous as Aaron Heilman (1-2, 6.00) takes on Horacio Ramirez (1-1, 3.78).
Mets 3, Nationals 1
Mets 10, Nationals 5
On Friday the Mets' offense once again fell back to earth just in time for a Tom Glavine
start, but this time the weather and the strike zone were to Glavine's liking and he was able to escape with a win. Glavine went seven innings and allowed just one run on two hits and three walks and struck out seven along the way. It was definitely Glavine's best start of the young season, even if he did give up a home run to Christian Guzman. Glavine's been walking a concerning number of batters so far this year--13 in 22 2/3 innings--but at least this time he made up for it with a good number of strikeouts. In two of his four starts he's walked more batters than he's struck out, though he now has 16 Ks on the season.
The offense had a decent night with seven hits and five walks, even if it only added up to three runs. Kazuo Matsui
had a good night with two walks and a single while Carlos Beltran
had a double and a walk. Each of those two scored a run in the third inning. And Cliff Floyd
kept on doing what he's been doing, smacking his fourth home run of the year.
Saturday saw the Mets' boomeranging offense turn back in the other direction as they smacked 16 hits, including five doubles, and drew six walks on the way to their third ten-run effort in the last five games. And they got some surprisingly solid starting pitching to go along with it. Victor Diaz
was once again the offensive star as he was on base five times with two singles, two doubles and a walk. He's now hitting .362/.492/.702 and the Mets are going to have an interesting decision to make when Mike Cameron
is healthy, because sending Diaz down to Norfolk
so that he can play every day no longer seems like a reasonable option. David Wright
, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Beltran and Chris Woodward
each had two hits on the day and Wright, Beltran and Miguel Cairo
each hit a double. Wright also had a walk while Beltran added two free passes and a brilliant diving catch in the gap in right center in the sixth inning, laying out to make the catch when the score was already 10-0.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was emergency starter Jae Seo
. Replacing an injured Kazuhisa Ishii
isn't exactly a situation where you've got a high standard to live up to, but Seo had been struggling mightily in Norfolk and was pitching on three days rest. So his six innings of one-run ball were a lot more than anyone could have reasonably expected. He allowed six hits but didn't walk anyone and struck out four, getting through six on 79 pitches before willie Randolph went to the bullpen. And the bullpen was quite a bit less effective than Mister Seo.Dae-Sung Koo
had an awful seventh inning, allowing three runs on three hits and a hit-by-pitch. He neither struck out nor walked anyone. Manny Aybar
followed with a solid eighth, allowing one hit and striking out one. And the dominance of his time in AAA eluded Heath Bell
in the ninth, as he allowed his first run of the season, giving up two hits and a walk in the process, while striking out one. But in the end, the offense had done more than enough to cover for some shoddy relief work and get Seo his first win of the season.
On Sunday the Mets try to finish off the sweep, though the pitching matchup is less than favorable, early season statistics aside. Victor Zambrano
(1-1, 3.71) goes for the Mets against the Nationals' ace Livan Hernandez (1-2, 5.76). If he has a solid game, Mr. Ten Minutes might just get his ERA lower than the 3.68 sported by a certain young lefty
who apparently has the potential to be just as good as Zambrano is now three or four years down the road. Of course, that guy's pitching against teams like the Red Sox
in the league with the DH, whereas Zambrano is facing a team that started Carlos Baerga on Saturday, so that really shouldn't be too hard. Right?
Grant Roberts Is On Drugs
But you knew that already. What might surprise you is that the drugs Roberts has been using lately have been of the performance-enhancing variety, though I suppose using the word "surprise" in discussing the subjects of Grant Roberts and disciplinary action is something of an antiquated practice from days gone by. Roberts has been suspended for fifteen days for violating the minor league steroids policy, though as far as I can tell, he is no longer employed by any particular major league franchise, having been released by the Mets
eight days ago. So it seems that any team itching to get a hold of his unique talents will have to wait fifteen days after signing him to do so.
Roberts first pitched in the Mets organization back in 1995 at the age of seventeen, posting a 2.15 ERA in 29 1/3 innings of work in the Gulf Coast League. He struck out 24 and walked 14, which isn't too impressive, but he did post good numbers in the following two years, striking out 214 and walking 81 over 198 1/3 innings across the next two rungs of the Mets' minor league ladder. But as he progressed through the higher levels of the minors, his ERAs and K:BB ratios got less and less pretty. He made it to the majors in 2000 and began a five year stretch in which he became increasingly familiar with travel routes between Shea Stadium and the Norfolk metropolitan area. He had occasional bouts of effectiveness as a reliever over short periods of time, but never really established himself as much of a major league pitcher. Various injuries have kept him from pitching even 100 professional innings in any year since 2000, but it's been even longer than that since he posted the kind of results that would qualify his absence from the Mets' major league roster as any kind of tragedy. Pointing to him as an example of squandered potential likely overstates how good he was to begin with. Presumably this latest controversy will be enough to sever his ties to the Mets organization permanently.
Mets 10, Marlins 1
There's nothing like a start from Al Leiter to give a struggling offense a good kick in the pants. Tonight Leiter was in his 2004 form, lacking only the luck that allowed him to skate through that year with a 3.21 ERA while walking more than one batter per two innings pitched. This time he only made it through three innings despite throwing 82 pitches on the night thanks to five walks and six hits allowed. That all added up to eight runs and a quick exit for the formerly beloved former Met.
It all fell apart for Leiter in the second when two walks and a fluke bunt single loaded the bases for Doug Mientkiewicz
who unloaded them in a hurry with a shot to right. Another walk and three more singles gave the Mets seven runs in the inning, an inning in which Cliff Floyd
stole second base twice. Floyd was on base three times with two singles and a walk, Jose Reyes
had a pair of singles though his first walk of the season continued to elude him and Victor Diaz
walked another three times on the night. Carlos Beltran
's fifth inning home run was only the second extra base hit for the Mets.
Of course, the ten runs wound up looking very much like overkill as Pedro Martinez
continued his dominance of the National League. He got into some trouble in the first inning, allowing a run on one hit, but he cruised from there. He went seven innings on just 88 pitches and allowed only three hits while walking nobody and striking out eight. His ERA is now 2.17, but even that understates the quality of his work as he's given up seven runs on the season despite allowing only eleven hits and four walks while striking out a ridiculous 38 in 29 innings. His WHIP is 0.52. He hasn't allowed more than five base runners in any one start or struck out fewer than eight. His four starts have all come either in a good offensive park or against one of the Mets' top division rivals and he's been stellar every time. Every other spot in the Mets' rotation comes with some sort of question marks, regardless of who's healthy, but Martinez looks like the kind of sure thing that few teams in the majors can boast.
Tomorrow the Mets take on the brand new Washington Nationals
for the first time in a game that counts. Tom Glavine
(0-2, 5.17) is coming off an ineffective performance in his last start. He'll take on one-time good pitcher Esteban Loaiza (0-0, 4.58), who probably knows as well as anyone that it's not 2003 anymore.
Marlins 9, Mets 2
And thusly was Aaron Heilman
reacquainted with his long-time companion, reality. After shockingly shutting down the Marlins on Friday, Heilman's second shot at the fish saw him get smacked around enough for two starts. He lasted just four innings in which he gave up seven runs on eleven hits, including one home run, and one walk while striking out three. Early on it seemed like he was just having some bad luck with grounders finding holes, and the strikout-to-walk, looked at in isolation, is pretty nice. But as the game progressed, he was just getting smacked around. Juan Encarnacion--he of the career .439 slugging percentage entering the season--was the guy that hit the home run, which is just one indication of the vast distance between Heilman and the top of his game on this night.
The offense also settled back into its usual chair of impotence, managing just two runs on four hits and three walks. Victor Diaz
did keep up his hot hitting, driving a ball about as far as one can in the major leagues without being credited with a home run. The shot that ricocheted off the "434" sign in center field was enough for him to earn a stand-up triple, drive in one of the team's two runs and subsequently score the other. No one else managed more than one base at a time, though both Cliff Floyd
and David Wright
had a single and a walk on the night.
Tomorrow it's a rematch of Saturday's fine pitchers' duel as Pedro Martinez
(1-0, 2.45) faces Al Leiter (0-1, 2.55). Pedro's been excellent so far this year. Hopefully tomorrow's the day that the Mets score some runs before he leaves the game.
Mets 16, Phillies 4
You'd think on a night when Victor Zambrano
was pitching like Victor Zambrano against a potent offense like the Phillies', it might not be the Mets' night. Seven home runs will do a lot to compensate for a questionable pitching performance.Jose Reyes
started things off innoncently enough with a shot to left that barely escaped the park. And then the Phillies came back in the bottom of the inning to load the bases with nobody out, but Zambrano Leitered his way out of it, allowing only one run. That's when the Mets started to put some distance between the teams, though Zambrano did his best to let the Phillies keep up for a while. Victor Diaz
hit a two-run bomb in the second. After the Phillies came back with another run, the Mets reinforced the point in the third. Mike Piazza
. Doug Mientkiewicz
. Diaz again. Three home runs accounting for five more runs, and the game was pretty much out of reach.
After the Phillies added two more, the Mets got to work on doubling their run total. Reyes went deep from the other side of the plate. Zambrano drove in two of his own with a triple. And after Cliff Floyd
drove in one with the single, David Wright
put the cherry on top with a grand slam in the sixth. Zambrano went six innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on eight hits and three walks while striking out five. He also allowed two home runs, but it was enough to get him the win. Heath Bell
also made his long-awaited season debut in the ninth, striking out one in a perfect inning.
The Mets hadn't scored as many as sixteen runs in a game since August 30, 1999, when they trounced the Astros
17-1 on the strength of Edgardo Alfonzo's 6 for 6, 3 home run day. The seven home runs broke the team record of six which had been set on April 4, 1988 when Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds each blasted two and Kevin Elster and Lenny Dykstra each added one. It was tied once on June 15, 1999 when Rickey! hit a pair and was joined by Piazza, Alfonzo, John Olerud and Matt Franco. The six walks the Mets drew last night were nice to see as well, even if two of them were intentional.
Tonight, having expended their offensive output for the month, the Mets roll into Miami for a rematch of Friday's stunner against the Marlins
. It's Aaron Heilman (1-1, 3.21) vs. Josh Beckett (2-1, 0.45) again, and while there's no way Heilman will repeat his amazing performance, it is time for him to start proving he can get major league hitters out consistently and beating Beckett again would be a great opening statement.
Phillies 5, Mets 4
Tonight, the four-run Mets collided with the bad Kazuhisa Ishii
, and while the chronology of it all made for some tense moments, it ended up as another loss. Ishii started things off the way you have to fear he'll start off every one of his games. He had walked two guys and given up two hits before he'd even recorded an out, which is not the ideal winning strategy if you've got the Mets' offense backing you up. Somehow he managed to get out of it only allowing two runs, but for most of the game that looked like it would be enough. Just to be sure, he walked four more batters (one intentionally) and gave up four more hits, adding up to a total of five runs allowed in five innings. He only struck out two, although one of them was Jim Thome. Of course, the other was Randy Wolf, who he'd walked earlier in the game. Three Met relievers added four more walks of their own to bring the total to an even ten. Maybe they thought they'd get a free Subway
As if to balance the cosmic scales, the Mets didn't draw a single walk all game. They did manage ten hits, but until the ninth, they were on their way to being on the receiving end of a complete game. Again. And a shutout this time. But the top of the lineup came to life in the top of the ninth, with Jose Reyes
, Kazuo Matsui
and Carlos Beltran
each singling to put a run on the board and Randy Wolf on the bench. Mike Piazza
had another solid game with a pair of singles, but he couldn't come through in the ninth, striking out. But the returning Cliff Floyd
shook off the rust in time to jack one over the right field wall and bring the Mets within one. But David Wright
struck out and Doug Mientkiewicz
grounded out to end the game and drop the Mets back below .500.
Phillies pitchers threw 120 pitches in this game. Mets pitchers threw 152. And that was only in eight innings. I think that gives you a pretty good snapshot of what the Mets are doing wrong, both the hitters and the pitchers. The ratio was 105:154 on Sunday, if you're curious. Things appear likely to proceed in the same vein as they send out Victor Zambrano
(0-1, 4.09, 10 K: 8 BB) to take on Vicente Padilla (7-7, 4.53 in 2004) in his season debut.
Marlins 5, Mets 2
And so you see what happens when the Mets don't score runs. Tom Glavine
gave a less than stellar pitching performance, and the team's increasingly impotent offense was unable to compensate, bringing to an end the team's six game winning streak and their stay in the bucolic paradise of above-.500-dom. Of course, the defense wasn't so hot either.
Glavine went six innings allowing six hits and three walks while striking out four. This added up to four runs, three of which were earned. The defense was charged with two errors, but both of those were by Jose Reyes
on the same play. Aside from that, though, Kazuo Matsui
had a pretty awful day in the field. Or at least a pretty awful second inning. He looked bad in missing two seemingly playable ground balls and throwing high in failing to turn a potential double play. I'm not going to join the Shea Stadium crowd in calling for Miguel Cairo just yet, but it would be nice if Matsui would show us something, with the bat or the glove, before too long. He's not alone in struggling, but he really needs to start playing well with some consistency.
Also in need of a map detailing the location of the right track is Jose Reyes. Today's errors aside, he's looked good defensively. But his "not taking a walk" streak is looking a lot less forgivable now that it's not being accompanied by a bunch of hits. He's now hitting just .278, and while that looks okay under the "BA" column, it's a lot less pretty sitting beneath "OBP". It's rather harsh to call him hopeless after just 54 at bats, but he seriously needs to get to the adjusting already if he's going to remain not only in the lineup but atop it. Willie Randolph seems unlikely to make significant adjustments to his lineup just because they might make sense, so Reyes' getting going is a pretty important step toward getting the offense back on track.
Of course, the slumping isn't limited to the middle infield. David Wright
has fallen all the way to .189/.318/.405. He's got a longer track record of success than Reyes, so his struggles aren't as troubling for the long term, but still, he could maybe get a hit every now and then. Carlos Beltran
is down to .298/.365/.447. Doug Mientkiewicz
is at .293/.348/.390. Mike Piazza
's showing signs of life, but he's still at .200/.282/.400. Right now the hottest non-injured hitter the Mets have is Victor Diaz
, who homered for the first time today and is hitting .321/.441/.500 out of the eighth spot in the lineup. Getting Cliff Floyd
back in left field would be a potential boost to the offense, but I won't even bother speculating on when that might happen.
Shea Stadium in April isn't the easiest place to hit. In fact, Diaz's home run was the only one hit there in this entire six-game homestand. And it was a sucessfuly stand even in light of today's loss. So it's clearly not time to panic about the 6-6 Mets. Heck, even George Steinbrenner's reaction
to the massively disappointing 4-8 Yankees
is probably a bit premature. But if the Mets are going to keep winning, they need to start putting some runs on the board.
Tomorrow the Mets start a short series in Philadelphia against the Phillies
(6-6). The Phillies rank near the middle of the league both in scoring runs (57) and allowing them (56), much like the Mets. Tomorrow, we see if Kazuhisa Ishii
(0-1, 3.29) can put together two consecutive good starts as he faced off with Randy Wolf (0-1, 6.00). Wolf has put up pretty solid strikeout and walk numbers through his first two starts (11:3 in 12 innings), but he has given up fifteen hits and a pair of home runs already, which might account for the high ERA. Perhaps a trip to Citizen's Bank Park is just what the Mets' offense needs to put some runs on the board.
Mets 4, Marlins 3
The Mets need to score more runs. This just isn't going to keep working, particularly as long as Braden Looper
remains incapable of getting anyone out. Scoring 43 runs while only allowing 42 isn't the worst possible situation, I suppose, but eventually, they're going to lose a game or five.
Today was your standard Pedro Martinez
start--seven innings, nine Ks, one walk, three hits, two runs. And his record still sits at 1-0 becuase the Mets didn't put their second run of the day on the board until the bottom of the eighth. Somehow Al Leiter got through seven innings allowing only three hits and two walks. That's the Mets' offense for you. Fortunately, the bats came to life against someone at least as deserving as Leiter, Todd Jones. They put up two with two out in the eighth on one of Carlos Beltran
's three singles on the day and a Mike Piazza
double, which unfortunately bounced over the left field wall, preventing a third run from scoring. But still, they took the lead in time to hand it over to the closer.
Sadly, Braden Looper '05 looks like an entirely different beast than his '04 counterpart. This time he gave up three hits, including a double by Juan Encarnacion of all people, and didn't strike out anyone. Somehow this only added up to one run, thanks in part to an apparently blown call on a tag at the plate.
But once again the Mets managed to score just enough runs to win. Victor Diaz
doubled with two down to leave things up to ninth-inning defensive replacement Ramon Castro
. And Castro came up with his fourth single in nine at bats this season, this one to the gap in right center, to bring Diaz home and win it.
So this win gives the Mets six in a row and a record of 6-5 on the year, putting them one game shy of the division lead. And just to make sure you realize how meaningless eleven games in April are, the team they trail is the Washington Nationals
Tomorrow the Mets go for their second straight series sweep with Tom Glavine
(0-1, 5.59) taking on AJ Burnett (1-1, 2.40).
On an entirely unrelated note, the Yankees
currently have the worst record in the American League. Hooray for April.
Mets 4, Marlins 0
"Heilman strikes out the side in the eighth inning."
That sentence, uttered by Ted Robinson at around 9:15 EDT, is best not to take all at once. Breaking it down into smaller pieces makes it much easier to digest. "Heilman strikes out..." Now that's not too strange. Aaron Heilman
had struck out 76 major league hitters in his career prior to Friday night. It's bound to happen a time or two when he takes the mound. He's not Danny Kolb out there. "...strikes out the side..." Well, that's unusual, but probably not unprecedented. He could have just gotten lucky with the bottom of the order, I suppose. It's not like the Marlins' lineup is the deepest in the league. "...in the eighth inning." And here's where things get a little tricky. Aaron Heilman was effective into the eighth inning? Aaron Heilman pitched into the eighth inning? Has he ever done that before? (No, he hasn't.) Aaron Heilman faced three batters in the eighth inning and struck them all out. Wow.
Looking at that eighth inning in isolation leaves one impressed and surprised, but doesn't really prepare one for the further shock of looking at the other eight innings of the game. The ones where Heilman didn't give up a run. I know what you're thinking, and no, he didn't enter the game in relief. First-round flop Aaron Heilman pitched a complete game shutout against the Marlins. Take as much time as you like to wrap your head around that one. This is text. You're allowed to read it at your own pace.
Got it? Okay. It's all true. He struck out seven. He walked three. He hit one. He needed 107 pitches. He gave up one hit. Seriously. Aaron Heilman outpitched Josh Beckett. His pitches had some velocity and some nice location and some serious movement. And it was about 40 degrees out and the wind may have been blowing in. But it was still a terrific performance, the best by a Met this year and by Heilman ever. Last week he was so bad it wouldn't have been surprising if the Mets called up somebody else to pitch in this game. Ths week he dominated Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado and the Florida Marlins. The Marlins reached base five times and three of those were Luis Castillo. Heilman has never, even in the high minors, shown himself capable of pitching like this on a regular basis. But then, he's never pitched like this even once in the majors. Like Kazushisa Ishii
's start a couple days back, this was not enough to start relaxing about the back end of the rotation. But watching Heilman pitch, it was enough to let one imagine that the Mets might actually have a young pitcher capable of retiring major league hitters right now. If Heilman turns a corner and becomes a productive major leaguer at this point, it will be downright shocking. But then, so was what he did on this cool Friday night in Flushing.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Piazza
went Mark Twain on the rumors of his demise, smacking a pair of doubles and driving in three runs. Jose Reyes
also doubled. And Victor "needs to work on his discipline" Diaz
drew three more walks to put his OBP at a robust .423. The Mets got some help from three Florida errors, but thanks to Heilman, one run was all they ever needed. His one-hitter was one of the more improbable pitching performances in Mets history and even if he comes back and gives up three home runs in his next start, he was excellent for one night.
Tomorrow's pitching matchup figures to be quite entertaining as well, even if it's for different reasons. Pedro Martinez
(1-0, 2.40) tries to keep on blowing people away while Al Leiter (0-1, 3.38) makes his return to Shea in a uniform even uglier than the the Mets' black duds. If Jose Reyes is ever going to draw a walk, this may be the day.
Mets 4, Astros 3
did his best Al Leiter impression on Thursday and while that's never much fun, it was enough to keep the Mets in the game long enough for them to come back to win. Jim Fregosi '04 did manage to go a full six innings on 105 pitches, but he was weaving in and out of trouble the entire time thanks to four walks and nine hits. And he only struck out four, none of them with anyone on base, so there was quite a bit of luck involved in his not allowing more than three runs along the way. He even got smacked around by opposing pitcher Brandon Backe who scored a run after hitting a triple and drove in another with a single. But, Backe's exploits aside, Zambrano did exit the game with the Mets still in it. And the offense eventually came to life. Sort of.
The Mets did get one run in the first when they strung together three two-out singles with Doug Mientkiewicz
driving in Carlos Beltran
. But it wasn't until Houston went to the bullpen that the Mets took the lead. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, the Mets put runners on second and third with one out thanks to a David Wright
walk and a Victor Diaz
double. But Astros manager Phil Garner had apparently seen enough as he reached into his bullpen to resolve this critical situation and pulled out...John Franco. It might have been fun had the Mets just smacked Franco around mercilessly, but the way they got it done may have been even more enjoyable. The first two batters to face Franco drove in the tying runs on two grounders that didn't even reach the infield dirt. Marlon Anderson
grounded out and Jose Reyes
reached on an infield single and that was it for Franco. Fellow former Met Dan Wheeler came in to relieve him and after Reyes stole second, Miguel Cairo
grounded one past third baseman Mike Lamb, who was charged with an error on a tough hop, to score Reyes.
The Mets had only seven hits to Houston's ten, two for extra bases compared to Houston's three and just three walks to the Astros' six, but somehow it added up to Mets 4, Astros 3. Four relievers pitched three scoreless innings, with Manny Aybar
at least getting past a leadoff walk to record two outs without allowing a run. Braden Looper
got his first save of the season, pitching a perfect ninth to preserve the Mets' fourth straight win.
Next up is the Marlins (5-4), who have allowed a league-low 15 runs on the season, which isn't great news for the Mets' mediocre offense. And tomorrow night's matchup is about as bad as it gets with Aaron Heilman
(0-1, 9.00) squaring off with a currently healthy Josh Beckett (2-0, 0.00). This appears to be the part of the season where Beckett looks like he might live up to the hype and the promise for a while, so this doesn't like like the day to bet your live savings on the guys from Flushing.
Mets 1, Astros 0 (11)
In his first three seasons in the major leagues, Kazuhisa Ishii
started a game and went as many as seven scoreless inning four times. Last year, his worst season in terms of ERA, featured a pair of complete game shutouts along the way. So seven good innings aren't exactly cause to calculate how to afford both playoff tickets and the materials necessary to build an adequately shiny statue of Rick Peterson. But Ishii had one of his very good days against the Astros on a night when the Mets needed every bit of what he gave them.
Ishii pitched seven innings and allowed a reasonable three walks and just two hits while striking out five. And it was a good thing he did, as Roger Clemens was similarly stifling the Mets through seven. So it came down to the bullpens and Willie Randolph had the novel idea to send out the best guys he had, while Phil Garner decided to leave things up to John Franco and Dan Wheeler. Roberto Hernandez
shut the Astros down with one strikeout in a perfect eighth before giving way to Braden Looper
, who got the job done in slightly more hair-raising fashion for two innings. Looper gave up one hit, walked two batters and hit another while striking out two. But he managed a strikeout to end a bases loaded jam in the tenth and preserve the scoreless tie. Mike DeJean
added a scoreless eleventh.
Of course, Houston's Lidge-free bullpen attack was almost as effective as the Mets' as New York's offense managed just four hits and two walks for the whole game while striking out twelve times. But they managed to put a walk and a hit together in the same inning in the end, and that was enough to win it. Victor Diaz
led off the eleventh with a walk and, after a Chris Woodward
sacrifice bunt, scored on a Jose Reyes
single up the middle to end the game.
Tomorrow's game will probably be a little less tense, as the pitchers will be Brandon Backe (0-0, 3.60) and Victor Zambrano
(0-1, 3.60). Though I suppose if Ishii can go seven scoreless, nothing should surprise us.
Mets 8, Astros 4
Maybe the rest of the Mets just don't like Tom Glavine
. As often happened during the first half of last year, Glavine pitched extremely well and failed to get credit for the win due to some poor relief pitching and tardy hitting. Of course, the team managed to win this one in the end, so it's hard to get too upset about it all. But Glavine bounced back from the trouncing of his first start with a very good six-inning performance, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out six. He left after ninety-seven pitches with a 3-1 lead.
Then Manny Aybar
came in to do what he did for the first week of the season and allow some runs. This was Aybar's fourth appearance of the season and the third in which he's allowed the opposition to score. This time he allowed three runs on four hits with a little help from Dae-Sung Koo
, who failed to prevent an inherited runner from scoring after Aybar was allowed to start a second inning of work for some unknown reason. Koo threw one pitch and former Met Jose Vizcaino hit it for a double. So it wasn't his sharpest outing either. But Roberto Hernandez
came in to save the day and continued his early-season excellence, tossing another scoreless inning with one strikeout. He's now struck out six while walking just one through three and one-third innings and has been the most effective reliever so far in the small sample size portion of this season.
After Hernandez had quelled the Astro uprising, the Met bats came to life and a steady barrage of singles and poor outfield play added up to a five-run eighth inning that put the game out of reach for Houston. Of the team's thirteen hits on the day, only David Wright
's early double went for more than one base and while Houston right fielder Jason Lane was only charged with one error on the day, his inventive routes to fly balls aided the Met offense more times than that. Victor Diaz
did reach base four times on the day with two singles and an unexpected pair of walks. The eighth-inning outburst was enough to put a save out of Braden Looper
's reach, but he did pitch a perfect ninth for his first scoreless inning of the season, dropping his ERA to a slightly less embarrassing 18.00. Actually retiring batters when he enters a game is doing wonders for his stats.
The modestly streaking Mets get a day off to think about what they've done before engaging in a pitching duel significantly less interesting than those of the past two days. Broken bat-wielding maniac Roger Clemens (1-0, 1.29) gets the ball for Houston. Kazuhisa Ishii
(0-1, 6.75) goes for the Mets.
Braves 6, Mets 3
Mets 6, Braves 1
On Saturday, the worst team in the major leagues sent Aaron Heilman
to the mound in search of their first win. And I bet you can guess how that worked out. Heilman continued his love affair with the longball and a second-inning grand slam by Brian Jordan was enough to put away the Mets and their suddenly slumbering offense. Heilman went five innings and allowed five runs on eight hits, including a pair of home runs, while striking out three and walking none. Jose Reyes
' first home run of the season provided the only real offensive excitement for the Mets.
So they entered the last game of this road trip with a real chance of heading home 0-6, already the last winless team in the majors. Pedro Martinez
and John Smoltz faced off and put on a pitchers duel that exceeded my expectations. After getting pounded in his first start of the season, Smoltz bounced back to strike out fifteen Mets through seven and one-third innings. Martinez only allowed one run on two hits and one walk, and yet through seven innings it looked like the Same Old Mets would find a way to lose it for him, as they trailed 1-0 heading into the eighth inning and were being thoroughly dominated by Smoltz.
But then the New Mets came through. Jose Reyes hit his second single of the game to lead off the eighth. And after a Miguel Cairo
sacrifice moved him to second, Carlos Beltran
came to the plate with a chance to tie it and at least get Pedro off the hook. Instead he took a 2-1 pitch and lined it over the right field wall to put the Mets on top and send Smoltz to the dugout. As if to reemphasize the point, Cliff Floyd
followed with a home run of his own. And after a Doug Mientkiewicz
double, David Wright
launched one of his own over the center field wall to put the Mets up by four. Each man's homer was his second of the season.
With a cushy lead in hand, Pedro kept cruising along and wound up going the distance on just 101 pitches, striking out nine, to earn his first win as a Met and the team's first of the season. The Mets added another run in the ninth when Reyes turned a ground ball past the second baseman into a double with his blazing speed and scored on a Beltran single. Reyes has yet to draw a walk on the season, but he is hitting .393 and slugging .607 for a nice round OPS of 1.000, best among the team's starters.
The Mets will still return home with the worst record in the majors, but there's still plenty of reason for optimism this early in the season. While the rest of the starting pitching may be a disaster, Pedro Martinez is looking like he's worth every penny after two dominant starts, as is Carlos Beltran (.296/.321/.556). And Reyes, Floyd (.304/.385/.565), Mientkiewicz (.333/.375/.524) and Wright (.250/.375/.600) are all off to good offensive starts. The defense hasn't been too shabby either.
Tomorrow afternoon's home opener features Tom Glavine
(0-1, 12.27) trying to get his season back on track against Andy Pettitte (0-0, 1.50) and the Astros
. Houston is 4-1 on the season, but they've scored even fewer runs than the Mets, 19, against 15 allowed. We'll see if the Mets can keep up their two-inning offensive resurgence against that pitching.
Braves 3, Mets 1
Well, there are 158 more games on the schedule. I remain confident that the Mets will win one of them. But I'm just an irrepressible optimist.Victor Zambrano
didn't do a lot to allay the concerns about him, even if he might have escaped the first inning without allowing the two runs charged to him had Kazuo Matsui
made the play on a tough but playable ground ball. Zambrano only made it through five innings on 100 pitches, he walked four batters and hit another. He did strike out six batters and only allowed those two runs on five hits. He was like a discount Kazuhisa Ishii
Of course, the more important story of the night was the Mets' offense being shut down for the second consecutive day, this time by John Thomson. They managed nine hits and no walks, but the only hit that went for extra bases was Mike Piazza
's first home run of the season. And both Jose Reyes
and Cliff Floyd
were caught attempting to steal, even if Reyes looked to be safe and did manage to steal a base later in the game. The new aggressive Mets are now two for six on the season in stolen base attempts, which is not too encouraging. Floyd has already been caught twice.
Tomorrow night, the NL East's cellar dwellers try to revive their bats against Horacio Ramirez (2-4, 2.39 last year) and the Braves. Aaron Heilman
(1-3, 5.46), who replaced the recently DL'ed Mike Cameron
on the roster and the less recently DL'ed Kris Benson
in the rotation, will take the mound for the Mets. This matchup doesn't exactly inspire confidence that tomorrow will be the day the Mets finally outscore somebody.
Reds 6, Mets 1
Aside from the fact that he was charged with six runs allowed, Kazuhisa Ishii
's Mets debut wasn't quite a disaster. He did strike out seven and allow just two hits through six and two-thirds innings. And there was a point in the game where he looked dominant, though not quite to the same degree as Pedro Martinez
three days earlier. Unfortunately, there were other times when he pitched just like you'd expect him to, walking four batters and hitting another. At least he pitched long enough that the Mets only needed to use two relievers, though I suppose pitching badly enough that the other team doesn't have to bat in the ninth isn't anything to really be proud of.
More disturbing was the way in which the Mets' offense was entirely shut down by Aaron Harang and the Reds bullpen. Harang lasted six and one-third innings and allowed just one hit, although he did walk three. The Met bats came alive a little bit once he was out of the game, but not enough to put any serious offense together. They wound up with just four singles and five walks on the day. David Wright
was the star of the show, accounting for one of the former and three of the latter and scoring the team's only run on a passed ball in the eighth.
This opening series was pretty disastrous for the Mets, with the starting pitching being the most disturing part. Getting one adequate starting performance out of three isn't going to cut it, no matter how this questionable bullpen turns out. The team's offense has looked looked solid so far, hitting .291/.351/.495, even if they only scored twelve runs. That's basically just me digging deep for any positive I can find aside from the individual performances of a handful of players, but that's where we are at this point. And things aren't about to get any easier.
The Mets head to Atlanta to take on the Braves
this weekend, with Victor Zambrano
(11-7, 4.37 last year) taking on former Met John Thomson (14-8, 3.72) in the opener. Hopefully the Mets' offense keeps hitting, because I wouldn't bank on Zambano holding the Braves to, oh, let's say one run through five innings
Reds 9, Mets 5
This is not quite the way this season was expected to go. The Mets are now 0-2 with the soft underbelly of their starting rotation about to take to the mound in the next three days. Of course, if this is the way the top of the rotation is going to pitch, I'm not sure how we're supposed to tell the difference. Tom Glavine
didn't even make it through four innings tonight, allowing five runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out just two in three and two-thirds. Of course, all five of the runs could have been avoided had reasonable pitches been called inning-ending third strikes in the first and fourth innings. Each of the first four runs was driven in on a single immediately following an apparently blown ball call. It may be something like cosmic justice that the man who carried his own personal strike zone with him throughout the nineties is now getting squeezed, but I don't see how it's particularly fair or just to Mets' fans, who've been on the wrong side of these strike zone shenanigans the whole time.
Anyway, the bullpen followed Glavine adequately for a while, with Mike Matthews
, Manny Aybar
and Dae-Sung Koo
managing to escape jams, of their own making in the case of the last two. And Roberto Hernandez
pitched a dominant inning and one-third, striking out the side in the seventh. But Mike DeJean
had an awful eighth, culminating in a grand slam from legendary power threat Joe Randa. So the Mets used five relief pitchers the night before Kazuhisa Ishii
is pitching in a game that starts at 12:30 in the afternoon. This week could get ugly in a hurry.
The offense did have another solid day, scoring those five runs on 12 hits, although, as on Monday, they only drew two walks on the day. David Wright
and Doug Mientkiewicz
each homered for the first time this season. Victor Diaz
had three singles starting in right field to go along with at least one defensive misadventure.
Tomorrow, Ishii (13-8, 4.71 last year) tries to prevent a freefall against Aaron Harang (10-9, 4.86) and the Reds.
Reds 7, Mets 6
Well that sucked.Pedro Martinez
's Mets career got off to a rocky start before he settled in and blew the Cincinnati Reds away for a few innings, only to have his efforts wasted by a bullpen collapse. Martinez allowed a three-run home run to Adam Dunn in the bottom of the first inning, right away blowing an early lead provided by Kazuo Matsui
's second Opening Day opening inning home run in as many years. He then retired thirteen of the next fourteen batters, an astounding twelve of them via the strikeout. He finished up with a scoreless sixth inning in which he allowed his second walk of the game for a line of six innings, three runs on three hits and two walks and the aforementioned 12 Ks. Meanwhile the New Mets' offense was putting another five runs on the board, in large part thanks to two-run home runs by Carlos Beltran
and Cliff Floyd
. Those two each had three hits on the day, as did Jose Reyes
, with Beltran adding one double and Reyes hitting a pair.
Unfortunately for Pedro, oh, and for the rest of the team, Manny Aybar
entered in the seventh and provided only the second worst Mets bullpen performance of the day. He allowed a run on a pair of doubles to center, one of which glanced off the outstretched gloved of Beltran at the edge of the warning track. He did manage to strike out a pair along the way. Dae-Sung Koo
followed with a strong eighth inning, maintaining the Mets' 6-4 lead with a couple of strikeouts of his own.
Then entered the one apparently dependable pitcher in the Mets' bullpen, Braden Looper
, who proceeded to allow three hits, two of which landed on the wrong side of the outfield wall thanks to Adam Dunn and Joe Freaking Randa. That was enough to end the game in the Reds' favor and leave Looper with the always fun infinite ERA, as he failed to retire a single batter. I know that when I expressed my concern about the Mets' bullpen this year, this wasn't quite what I had in mind. Last year, Looper allowed a total of five home runs, never two in the same month, let alone the same game. It's amazingly early to be drawing conclusions about flaws in Looper's mechanics or the eventual fate of this team, and the fences at Great American Ballpark do seem to be about a yard and a half from home plate, but it was still a disappointing way for the game to end. Oh, and Kris Benson went on the DL
with a torn, or as the Mets are calling it "strained" pectoral muscle.
Still, there were a lot of encouraging signs though the first six and a half innings or so. Pedro looked pretty awesome after the first inning, though it did take him a few more pitches, 103, than you would like to get through six innings. Jose Reyes appeared capable of hitting major league pitching, at least to the extent that the Reds' bullpen qualifies as such. And the new centerpiece of the offense, Carlos Beltran, had a big day. The Mets got fourteen hits, eight of them for extra bases, and their pitchers struck out fourteen while walking just two. That that wasn't enough to get a win in the first of 162 games can't be too disappointing.
The Mets and Reds take a day off before meeting up again on Wednesday with Tom Glavine
(11-14, 3.60 last year) and Eric Milton (14-6, 4.75) taking the hill.