Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  Mets 1, Marlins 0
Mets 6, Marlins 1
Marlins 6, Mets 3

The Mets got three good starting pitching performances in a row over the weekend, and while that wasn't quite enough to complete the sweep of the Marlins, taking three out of four in this series is a fine accomplishment. The Mets' offense wasn't at its best in these three games, yet they were in each of them until the end. With some better work from and/or usage of the bullpen, they might have pulled off the sweep.

On Friday it was just another brilliant performance from the Mets' ace. The seven-inning, hundred-pitch Pedro Martinez lasted eight and threw one hundred and eleven and dominated the Marlins' hitters the whole way. He struck out ten. He walked zero. And he gave up five hits, with only Carlos Delgado's two doubles going for more than one base. This was enough to put his ERA back under three at 2.79 and earn him his fifth win, though the offense made it a close call. He's now got a strikeout to walk ratio of 83:12 in 71 innings. While seven starters in the National League have lower ERAs, none has struck out more batters and only Javier Vazquez has a superior K:BB ratio. Pedro's absurd 0.72 WHIP also leads the league. There are a lot of pitchers with impressive numbers in the NL right now--four guys have ERAs under two--but the Mets pretty clearly have a Cy Young candidate on their hands.

One of those guys with sub-2.00 ERAs is, amazingly enough, Brian Moehler, who Pedro just barely managed to beat on Friday. Mike Cameron hit one of his two doubles on the night in the fourth inning and Cliff Floyd followed with one of his own to drive in the only run of the game. Like the Marlins, the Mets had only five hits on the night, but four of them were doubles as Eric Valent added one of his own before being sent down in favor of Victor Diaz.

On Saturday the good Kazuhisa Ishii showed up and the Mets got a slightly more comfortable win. In a lot of ways it was a typical Ishii start, as he walked as many as he struck out--three. But he managed to pitch his way out of some jams over the course of six and two-thirds innings and allowed just one run on five hits. Ishii's basically been alternating good and bad starts this season, and I'd still rather see Jae Seo or Aaron Heilman in his spot, but he's not totally useless.

Nor was the Mets' offense on this day, as they smacked fourteen hits on their way to six runs. They went another day without a home run, but hit four more doubles as Mike Piazza had a pair while David Wright and Chris Woodward had one each. Piazza had an increasingly rare excellent game with three hits and a walk. Miguel Cairo also had three hits and Mike Cameron added two on a day when every Met starter had at least one.

Willie Randolph made another curious bullpen move, having Heath Bell pitch an inning and one-third. He entered in the seventh with two out, no one on and a four-run lead and then stayed in to pitch the eighth after the Mets extended the lead to five. It's nice that Bell's getting as much work as he is, but you would really think that Mike DeJean could handle a situation like that.

On Sunday it was Tom Glavine shutting down the Marlins for a while only to have the bullpen give it up. Glavine only lasted six innings, and he gave up eight hits and two walks. But he struck out four and limited the Marlins to just one run. He left the game with a narrow lead of two to one, the kind of lead that never seems to hold up for him.

The Mets scored their first run on a home run by Doug Mientkiewicz, his seventh of the year. The unexpected power isn't enough to make up for Mientkiewicz's general incompetence with the bat this year, but at least it's something. The second run scored when Floyd drove in Jose Reyes, who had reached by drawing one of his shocking two walks on the day. Reyes now has eight walks this year, which isn't at all good enough given that he's had 215 at bats and he's only batting .260, but at least he's showing signs of improvement in that department.

But Bell entered to start the seventh and gave up a pair of ground ball singles. Now, there's some bad luck in that, and I can't say that he was tired, but maybe if he hadn't pitched those meaningless innings the day before, he could have struck someone out on Sunday. Of course, the real problem was the 3-0 pitch Dae-Sung Koo threw to Delgado, starting out right in the middle of the plate and ending up on the far side of the outfield fence as it did. After Bell failed to get anyone out, they brought in Koo to face the lefty, and he did quite a bad job of it. Once the Mets were down 4-2, Randolph found a use for DeJean, who came in and gave up two more runs in an inning of work. Heilman pitched a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts after the Mets had cut the deficit to three runs. I'm not sure it's worth trying to make sense of that one.

All told, it was a pretty successful weekend for the Mets (26-25), even if they only gained two games in the standings in the end. Taking three out of four on the road from one of the better teams in a tough division is a job well done. On Tuesday they'll welcome the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks (29-22) to town. Kris Benson (3-1, 3.86) goes for the Mets in the midst of a pretty solid streak of starts. Brad Halsey (3-2, 3.34) takes the ball for Arizona.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
  Mets 12, Marlins 4

You see what happens when you move David Wright up in the lineup? The Mets' best hitter got elevated to the sixth spot for this game and the result was instant offense. Just imagine what would happen if he hit fifth! The consequences of his hitting any higher than that are perhaps too much to contemplate. But if tonight's game taught us anything, it's that moving David Wright toward the top of the lineup equals runs.

Now, Wright himself only went two for four with two singles, a walk, a run and two RBI. He did not have the best game among the Mets' starters, all nine of whom had at least one hit and seven of whom drew a walk. But his presence in a more just spot in the lineup clearly had a positive effect on the entire team, as even the coldest hitters on the team managed to get on base. Cliff Floyd had a double and a walk, as did Eric Valent. Doug Mientkiewicz had a single and though he did hit two of his patented double play balls to the second baseman, one of them resulted in a two-run error instead of his customary rally-killer. The power of the Mets' young catalyst seems to know no bounds.

But on a night when the team leading the National League in home runs scored twelve times entirely on balls that stayed in the park, the real stars of the show were at the top of the lineup. Jose Reyes, now and forever the Mets' leadoff hitter, had an excellent game. Not only did he draw his sixth walk of the season, but he smacked his sixth and seventh triples of the year as well. The first was a grounder down the first base line on which he just kept running, but the second was a long drive to the wall in center that showed off both speed and power. Reyes drove in three runs and scored two more. Miguel Cairo hit second again and had two singles and a walk. But the other offensive force for the Mets was Mike Cameron, who hit third and went three for five with two doubles and a walk. He also had three RBI and scored a pair.

The Mets got pretty solid pitching as well. Kris Benson's final line isn't awe-inspiring, but given that he compiled it around an eighty-two minute rain delay in the bottom of the first inning, it was a pretty nice game. He wound up pitching six innings on ninety-eight pitches and allowed three runs. He gave up five hits and two walks while striking out four and did allow one home run to Carlos Delgado. Those numbers aren't spectacular, but that does make three straight good starts for Benson, who the Mets really need to step up as a good second starter if they're going to remain competitive despite their stubbornness regarding Kazuhisa Ishii and Victor Zambrano's spots in the rotation.

Willie Randolph's bullpen management was again curious, as he chose to use one of his best relievers to preserve a nine-run lead in the seventh inning. I thought that one of the reasons the Mets released Scott Strickland was so that they could retain Manny Aybar to use as their long man. Well, if you're not going to use your long man up 12-3 after six, when are you going to use him? Of course, given the way Aybar pitched when he did make it into the game, in the ninth, I can see why Randolph might lack confidence in his ability to pitch three innings without allowing nine runs.

So Heath Bell got the call to start the seventh and struck out the first three batters he faced. And, to ensure that the Mets wouldn't have Bell tomorrow if they needed him in a close game, Randolph sent him out to pitch the eighth as well. Just to make sure that everyone realized how dumb this was, Bell struck out two more batters. He did give up a couple of hits, but allowed neither a walk nor a run as he struck out five batters in two innings. At the very least Bell should be the Mets' second most trusted setup man, behind Roberto Hernandez. By the end of the season, he'll likely prove himself to be the best they've got. Using him in a game like this rather than someone like Aybar or Mike DeJean defies common sense. Aybar pitched the ninth and gave up a run on two hits while striking out a measly one batter.

Tomorrow looks like another favorable pitching matchup for the Mets. Pedro Martinez (4-1, 3.14) gets the start after a strong outing on Sunday. The Marlins will counter with Brian Moehler (2-1, 2.13), who really isn't as good as that ERA might lead you to believe.
  Braves 3, Mets 0

Eighteen innings. That's how long it's been since the New Mets scored a run. Now, this is hardly a historic drought. Two consecutive shutouts isn't a reason for outright panic, even if it has extended a losing streak to four games in a row and five out of six. But maybe, just maybe, going two whole games without putting a run on the board will give someone a clue that the seventh spot in the lineup isn't the appropriate position for the team's best hitter.

David Wright didn't have a monstrous game. Just a double and a single in four at bats to extend his hitting streak to seven. The double led off the third inning, yet somehow the fact that David Wright didn't get to the plate until the third inning isn't the bad part. The bad part is that David Wright doubled to lead off an inning and he didn't score! According to Baseball Prospectus, in 2004, starting with a runner on second and no outs, the average number of runs scored in an inning was 1.1596. Now, obviously a run isn't scored every time this situation occurs and sometimes that's just dumb luck. But sometimes it's that the runner on second is batting in front of Doug Mientkiewicz, Victor Zambrano and Jose Reyes, among whom the highest on-base percentage entering this game was .301 and the best slugging percentage .415. Mientkiewicz actually did get a hit following Wright's double--he had two in the game--but it was a popup to left that looked like it might have and probably should have been caught, so Wright couldn't advance past third. Zambrano couldn't even bunt the ball in the direction of the ground. And Reyes, whose spot in the lineup makes about as much sense as Wright's, grounded into the first of his two double plays on the night. And a double play ball has to be pretty darned routine for someone with Reyes' speed to get doubled up.

Among starters who have been with the team since the start of the season, Wright leads the team in OBP by upwards of fifty points. He also leads the team in runs scored with twenty-six, but the margin there is only one run. And he probably wouldn't even have that many if not for Victor Diaz hitting .296/.430/.556 out of the eighth spot in eighty-one at bats. For not only has Wright been having to depend on the Mets' eighth hitters, who are, aside from Diaz, batting .217, and pitchers to drive him in. But he's also only tied for third on the team in at bats, though he moves into sole posession of third past Mike Piazza if you count plate appearances. And he's only that high on the list due to his durability, having played in all but two of the team's games, better than all of his teammates save Reyes, who's missed just one and stepped the plate about thirty times more than Wright.

The first position in the lineup might not be the ideal spot for Wright on either a very good offensive team or this one. But given his OBP of .407 and Reyes' .288, I'm inclined to just say switch the two of them. Willie Randolph was willing to get Kazuo Matsui out of the second spot in the lineup after weeks of not hitting. Why not hold Reyes to the same standard? And arguing that the twenty-two year old Wright needs to "pay his dues" and earn his way to a better spot in the lineup is not only stupid, it's pretty inconsistent given that Reyes is six months younger than Wright and has been batting leadoff since Opening Day. The Mets are now 23-24 and five games behind the Marlins for first place in the division. This isn't a dire situation requiring a drastic shakeup. But every day that David Wright continues to bat seventh, behind the likes of Reyes, Miguel Cairo and Marlon Anderson, will be another blow to my opinion of Randolph's managerial ability.

The beneficiary of the Mets' offensive ineptitude was Zambrano, who shocked the world with a halfway decent start. He lasted six innings and allowed three runs, but only one of those was earned. Of course, the unearned runs were the result of his throwing the ball to third base about as accurately as he usually does to the plate, so it's hard to feel sorry for him there. He did only walk three batters, which is a sort of progress for him, but then he only struck out two, so that K:BB ratio remains as ugly as ever. He did only give up four hits. There is no dark side to that particular stat.

Aaron Heilman pitched in relief again and did a merely mediocre job. He lasted an inning and two-thirds and only struck out one while giving up two hits. But he didn't allow any runs, thanks in part to some support from his fellow relievers. Dae-Sung Koo relieved him with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth and hit the only batter he faced. But Roberto Hernandez struck out the next batter to keep the margin at an insurmountable three runs.

Tomorrow the Mets try to pull out of their tailspin in a place where the stakes will be even higher. They head to Florida to take on the first place Marlins with a chance to either make up some ground or dig themselves a hole in a four-game series. Kris Benson (2-1, 3.70) starts for the Mets having pitched well in each of his last two starts. Veteran Frank Castillo will make his first major league start since 2002 for the Marlins. If the Mets are going to win a game, this would be the one.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
  Braves 4, Mets 0

Of course the one time Tom Glavine pitched adequately against the Braves the rest of the Mets would find a way to blow it. Could it have gone any other way? Did you expect anything else from this team? Glavine pitched a very winnable game against his former organization and the Mets still found a way to lose.

His final line may not look too impressive. Six and two-thirds innings. Seven hits. One walk. One strikeout. Four runs. But that really doesn't tell the whole story. Two of those hits were slow rollers to third by Raul Mondesi. Prior to the seventh inning, Glavine had allowed just one run on four hits and no walks. And aside from the triple that drove in the fourth run, none of the runs were batted in on particularly hard-hit balls. And even that triple might have been played better were the Mets not trying to pass Marlon Anderson off as a right fielder, not that anyone else would have stopped the run from crossing the plate. Still, it's not like anything beyond the first run mattered, as the Mets' offense just couldn't get anything done against Tim Hudson.

It's not that they didn't have their chances. In each of the first three innings they had two runners on with fewer than two outs. But they just couldn't get that key hit to drive in a run. In the first, Willie Randolph's decision to have Miguel Cairo lay down a sacrifice bunt didn't help matters and looked especially silly after Jose Reyes subsequently stole third without the Mets having to hand the Braves an out in the process. In the second, Doug McEwingwicz grounded into yet another double play to aid in squelching the threat. The Mets only had six hits and two walks (both by Mike Cameron) on the game, and Cairo's third inning double was the only extra base hit. But they certainly had opportunities to put a run or two on the board early. Mientkiewicz did get one hit on the night to get his average back to .200 as a weak grounder up the middle with none on and two out in the fourth found its way between the infielders. David Wright, batting seventh behind such offensive powerhouses as Anderson and Cairo, had a single in three tries.

Tomorrow looks like another ugly game for the Mets on paper. Victor Zambrano (2-4, 5.19) will pitch the first four or five innings for the Mets. Kyle Davies (1-0, 0.00) goes for the Braves. The Mets will likely be without Carlos Beltran and his strained quadricep muscle again.
Monday, May 23, 2005
  Braves 8, Mets 6

Starting pitching has been a problem for the Mets this year. Pedro Martinez has really been the only pitcher who's managed to both be effective and keep his job. Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo have both looked capable of being solid contributors, but neither of them makes enough money to maintain a spot in the rotation. They can't get a shot because the Mets would rather send out someone like Kazuhisa Ishii, Proven Veteran. Ishii has had a three year major league career throughout which he's basically been either mediocre or crappy. Yet the Mets keep sending him out there as if Rick Peterson fixing what's wrong with him were a likely outcome. Given that what's wrong with him is that he can't throw strikes, that seems overly optimistic to me.

Tonight he came crashing down hard following his latest surprisingly good start. This time he lasted just four innings, though it did take him eighty-four pitches to get through them. He did show slightly more control than fellow incompetent Victor Zambrano did in his last start, as he only walked three batters. Of course, he made up for that oversight by making sure those walks counted. For instance, there was the second inning, when he walked the opposing pitcher. With the bases loaded. Truly that takes a special brand of incompetence. And he compounded his uselessness by not striking anyone out and allowing seven hits. Four of those were for extra bases and they added up to seven runs. Ishii's ERA is now a ghastly 5.59. His K:BB ratio is 16:18 in 29 innings. Now, that's not a lot of innings and Ishii has never been this bad over a full major league season. But Seo got booted down the minors in just 18 innings, and he had an ERA of 2.00. And Heilman got sent to the bullpen after compiling a 4.71 ERA as a starter in 42 innings, and at his best he showed a lot more ability to dominate major league hitters than Ishii ever has this year. Keeping Ishii in the rotation is basically throwing games away given that the Mets have two clearly better options available. Whether it's Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson or Omar Minaya who's responsible for it, it needs to stop if the Mets are going to remain competitive in the National League East.

Speaking of players who are dragging the team down, Doug Mientkiewicz had another terrible night and is now batting a laughable .197. And not only is he getting himself out when he comes to the plate, he's retiring other Mets as well. He came up twice tonight with at least two runners on base and both times grounded into a double play. In the eighth he came to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out and proceeded to ground softly to first base. David Wright tried to take out the shortstop at second base so that Mientkiewicz could reach first safely, but he was ruled out for interference and was subsequently ejected for arguing the call. It was an arguable call, but probably a good one, as Wright was several feet away from the base as he slid at Rafael Furcal. Mientkiewicz's painfully predictable failure left the Mets trailing by two runs. If only he'd been competent enough to just strike out, maybe they'd have been able to tie things up.

The rest of the Mets' offense had a pretty good night. Wright in particular had another terrific game, with a single, double and home run in three at bats and also a bases loaded walk. He did have a throwing error in the second inning, but he continues to amaze with the bat. The twenty-two year old third baseman may already be the best hitter the Mets have, as he's hitting .303/.406/.559 in 145 at bats. There are a lot of things about this team to make one angry, but Wright is unceasingly fun to watch. If he stays healthy, there should be at least one thing to like about the Mets for years to come.

Also having a big game was Mike Cameron, who went three for four with another home run. Jose Reyes had two hits, including a triple. And Chris Woodward went two for four with a home run.

In other news, Scott Strickland is a free agent, as the Mets have chosen not to call him up. Strickland has never quite been an elite reliever and probably wouldn't have made too much of a difference in the Mets' bullpen. Still, it's hard to understand choosing Manny Aybar over him.

Tomorrow doesn't figure to be pretty, as Tom Glavine (3-4, 5.44) takes another crack at his former team. Tim Hudson (4-3, 3.47) will go for the Braves in what doesn't figure to be a close game. Heilman should be available to pitch some long relief.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
  Yankees 5, Mets 2
Mets 7, Yankees 1
Yankees 5, Mets 3

Defense was the story of the weekend. This series featured one blowout bookeneded by a pair of close games in which sloppy defense played a significant role. The Mets' infielders weren't the only ones kicking the ball around, as the Yankees committed three of the series' seven errors. But the Mets' blunders were the ones that wound up deciding the first and last game of the trio.

Victor Zambrano pitched another crappy game on Friday, walking six batters in just five and one-third innings. He also gave up four hits and struck out four. For most of those innings he was able to keep the abundant base runners from scoring. After five innings the score was tied at one. But after Zambrano loaded the bases with only one out on a single and a pair of walks, things fell apart.

Zambrano very nearly got out of his own mess again, but a potential double play ball to Kazuo Matsui was blown so thoroughly that he didn't get any outs. The next batter hit another grounder but this time it was defensive wizard Doug Mientkiewicz who erred, and another run scored. Zambrano exited after 108 pitches, relieved by Heath Bell. Bell, good pitcher that he is, struck out the next two batters to end the inning quickly. He added another strikeout in a perfect seventh inning.

Matsui's defensive disaster was especially unfortunate given that he'd been having a good game up to that point. He drove in the Mets' first run with a double in the fourth, bringing home David Wright, who reached both first base and home plate as a result of errors by Derek Jeter. If there was a silver lining in this game, it was the amusingly bad play of Cap'n Clutch, who, in addition to the two errors, went hitless in five at bats and struck out three times, leaving six men on base. Sadly, the Mets' offense wasn't too much more effective. Jose Reyes doubled and scored in the seventh, but that was the extent of it.

Roberto Hernandez gave up two more runs in the ninth inning and had to be removed after just two outs. He gave up three hits and a walk and didn't strike out anyone. Hernandez got off to a terrific start this year, but one has to wonder if the forty year old can really handle the workload he's being asked to endure. Friday was the third straight game he'd entered, though the Mets did have Thursday off. He would get into all three of the games in this series, with less than stellar results.

Saturday was a much happier day for the Mets, in almost every respect. First of all, they wore the blue hats again. And, perhaps more importantly, they got both good pitching and good hitting. Kris Benson came through with his second consecutive very good start, though he wasn't too efficient in doing so. He lasted just six innings on 106 pitches. But he didn't allow a single run and gave up just three hits and three walks. He only struck out three, but that was enough to get the job done.

The Mets' offense got to Randy Johnson early, smacking three hits in the first inning, though they failed to score a run. Three more singles in the second added up to one run. The third was another three-hit, one-run inning, this time with a double by David Wright doing the damage. Benson exited with a two-run lead after allowing a hit to start the seventh inning and it was then that The Legend of Mister Koo was born.

Dae-Sung Koo relieved Benson in the seventh. Alex Rodriguez was caught stealing due to some pretty bad base running and then Koo struck out the next two batters to end the inning. Then he led off the next inning. In his first major league at bat last week, Koo stood about as far back in the batter's box as possible and promptly struck out looking. This time the Korean lefty came to the plate to face Randy Johnson, so fearsome a left-handed pitcher than neither of the Mets' lefty every day players started the game. And Koo proceeded to smack a double to the gap in right center. And then, when Reyes bunted Koo over to third, Koo noticed that no one was covering home. So he sprinted for the plate, did his best to slide around a lunging Jorge Posada, and scraped his fingers across the tip of the plate to score the Mets' third run of the day. Some may say that Posada tagged him before he touched the plate. I say that none of the television replays were definitive and the umpire had about as good a view of the play as anyone could. Whether he was safe or out, the crowd fell in love with him, a sellout crowd shouting "KOO!" He may not be an elite reliever, and Willie Randolph may not always use him in ways that make sense, but on this day, a folk hero was born. Mister Koo made Randy Johnson and the Yankees look silly.

All told, it didn't really matter much whether Koo was safe or out, as the Mets scored four more runs on the day. The next batter to the plate after Koo's mad dash, Miguel Cairo, took Johnson deep for his first home run of the season. And in the eighth, the Mets added three more runs on a David Wright's second double of the day and a triple by Jose Reyes. The Mets had fifteen hits on the day, five for extra bases, though they only drew one walk. The only real downside to this game was that both Matsui and Carlos Beltran left with minor injuries.

Sunday's game was a lot more like Friday's without a lot of runs but with some bad defense deciding things. The Mets got off to a quick three-run lead, thanks in part to some bad Yankee fielding. With runners on second and third in the bottom of the second, Pedro Martinez grounded a ball to third that Rodriguez botched, leading to one run scoring. Reyes drove in another with a single. And Cliff Floyd's twelfth home run of the year provided the third run in the next inning.

Meanwhile, Martinez was shutting the Yankees down. He had a rough first inning, throwing thirty-one pitches to get out of it scoreless after allowing two hits and a walk. Then he really got going, retiring thirteen batters in a row before allowing a leadoff single in the sixth. Questions about his parentage were lain aside as he lasted seven innings and struck out six while allowing just one run on four hits and a walk. He left with a 3-1 lead. He had thrown only 99 pitches and was still pitching very well, but given his recent hip trouble, removing him after seven seemed like a perfectly reasonable move.

Sadly, The Legend of Mister Koo took a hit on this day, though it was hardly his fault. He got the first batter he faced to fly out, but a Tony Womack grounder to third was bobbled by Wright and then Reyes blew the turn on a possible double play for another error and Koo left with two runners on and only one out. Then Hernandez came in and things quickly went to hell. After a double steal moved the runners to second and third, he got Rodriguez to pop out in foul territory. But then a single by Hideki Matsui tied things up and a double by Bernie Williams put the Yankees on top. Koo might have gotten through this inning with ease if not for the poor defense behind him. Hernandez had no such excuses as he gave up the lead. Mike DeJean gave up another run on two hits and two walks.

If you ignore the defense, the Mets played pretty well this weekend. They got a couple of very good pitching performances and one great offensive show. Sadly, the defense counts in the standings, too, and it cost the Mets this series. Three of the Mets' four errors were from guys who are either very young or learning a new position. Mientkiewicz's error was pretty inexcusable given that he's batting sixth in the lineup every day despite the fact that he's hitting .203/.308/.361. I question whether his defense has enough value to warrant his starting every day to begin with, but if he's not going to be just about perfect with the glove, he really serves no purpose on this team. The Mets' other options may not be ideal at this point, but I still think it's time they start exploring them.

Tomorrow, the real big games get going, as the Mets begin a series in Atlanta. The second-place Braves are 24-19 on the season, 1.5 games out of first, and just as many ahead of the fourth-place Mets, who are now 23-21. Kazuhisa Ishii (0-2, 3.96) starts the first game for the Mets. He had a solid return from the disabled list last week, allowing one run in six and one-third innings and at this point he does not qualify as the worst pitcher in this rotation. Horacio Ramirez (2-3, 4.69) goes for the Braves.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
  Mets 2, Reds 1
Mets 10, Reds 6

Kazuo Matsui's dreadful start to the season has been well-documented. Prior to Tuesday he was hitting an abysmal .234/.281/.313 and receiving a commensurate reaction from Mets fans at Shea Stadium and on the internet. I had not yet brought myself to dislike Matsui. Sure, I was disappointed with his performance at the plate and in the field. But I somehow remained patient, refraining from calling for his head or his lineup spot. I don't say this to brag. Those upset with Matsui had every right to be so. I've just always liked Matsui for some reason, probably even before that first pitch home run last year. So the last couple of days have been a lot of fun for me.

Most of the Mets spent Tuesday night being dominated by Ramon Ortiz of all people. Prior to the seventh inning the Mets had just four hits and no walks, though Mike Piazza had smacked a ground rule double to lead off the second inning. The Mets entered the bottom of the seventh trailing one run to none. With one out, Doug Mientkiewicz reached on a single. One out later, he was still on first and things were left to Matsui.

The Mets' second baseman hadn't gone entirely without exciting moments to this point in the season. He did have a pair of home runs. And he hit a key three-run triple over the weekend. But when he took a pitch from Ortiz and drove it over the right field wall to give the Mets a lead of one run, it was perhaps the gratifying moment of his season. At times this year, he's looked completely incapable of hitting a ball far enough to escape Shea Stadium. It's too early to say if this one hit is a sign of things to come, but it was at least a reminder that somewhere within Kazuo Matsui is a dynamic and valuable player. Having that guy in the lineup would be a lot more useful to the Mets than having to settle for Miguel Cairo because Matsui's lost his starting spot.

Of course, the drama of this moment wouldn't have been possible if the Mets hadn't gotten a pretty good pitching performance and again they found one in a rather unlikely spot. Kazuhisa Ishii returned from the disabled list with a flourish. He wasn't exactly blowing the Reds away, as the only struck out two batters in six and one-third innings of work while also walking two. But he managed to limit them to just three hits and as a result kept them to just one run.

Things got a little scary in the ninth inning, though. With the Reds sending up three lefties to start the frame, Willie Randolph sent out Dae-Sung Koo to protect the slimmest of leads rather than going with his closer. While it's nice to see Randolph deviate from conventional wisdom given that he sometimes seems a slave to it, this didn't quite work out as he planned. Koo wound up only recording one out while allowing a hit and a walk and had to be rescued by Braden Looper. With runners on first and second, Looper got a fly out and a strikeout to end things and earn his tenth save of the season. He even retired the dreaded Joe Randa, his Opening Day tormenter.

Wednesday was another day for new offensive heroes, as Cliff Floyd had another hitless day. Floyd has played an enormous role in the Mets' offensive success to this point in the season given the struggles of so many of the team's daily players. But in these two games he went zero for nine and others had to pick up the slack. Matsui had another good game with a pair of singles and is now hitting a slightly less awful .243/.286/.338. But others were left to do the heavy lifting.

Jose Reyes, who has not hit much better than Matsui thus far, had a big day with three hits including two triples, both of which preceded his scoring a run. Perhaps even more impressive a day was had by Mike Piazza, who reached base in each of his five plate appearances with a double, three singles and a walk. Piazza is another slow starter who's beginning to come around. Two weeks ago he was hitting a pitiful .198/.274/.349. But since then he's launched four home runs and had five multi-hit games, including two four-hitters. Wednesday's barrage lifted him all the way to .242/.301/.455.

Also joining in on the fun that is an Eric Milton start was Chris Woodward, starting in right field because the Mets had just sent Victor Diaz down to the minors because they didn't think they'd be able to find him enough playing time. I think the Diaz decision is generally defensible given how well all three of the team's starting outfielders are playing right now, but the Mets really can't wait too long to find a way to get Diaz into the major league lineup on a regular basis. I don't know if handing him a first baseman's mitt is a good idea, but it's probably worth at least a discussion. Anyway, in Diaz's absence, Woodward hit his first home run of the season. David Wright and the red-hot Mike Cameron also left the building, for the seventh and fourth times, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Mets got good enough starting pitching from Tom Glavine. He lasted six innings and gave up a scary nine hits, but he only walked two and managed to limit the damage to two runs. He only struck out two batters along the way. It took three relievers for the Mets to get out of the seventh, but only one run was scored and it was charged to Heath Bell, who allowed a hit and a walk and struck out the only batter he retired. Roberto Hernandez pitched a perfect eighth with one K to set things up for Looper in what was then a 6-3 game. But the Mets scored four in the bottom half, so things were left to the only other reliever they hadn't already used, Manny Aybar. He gave up three runs on three hits, including a home run, but at least he didn't walk anybody.

Interleague play gets an early start this weekend as the Yankees swing by for three games. As I write this, the other New York team is engaged in what is surely a thrilling duel with the Seattle Mariners, tied at six in the seventh inning. That contest will determine whether the presently 21-19 Yankees begin the weekend in third or fourth place in the American League's Eastern Division. The Mets are at 22-19, which puts them in fourth place, though a mere game and a half separates them from the top spot, whereas the Yankees will be at best five games shy of the Orioles at the end of the night. Game one of the series promises to incite fans of both sides to fling obscenities at their team's starting hurler, as the Yankees will send Kevin Brown (2-4, 6.08) to the hill to battle Victor Zambrano (2-3, 5.45) and the Mets. Which one will suck the least? Tune in Friday to find out!
Monday, May 16, 2005
  Mets 9, Reds 2

It figures that Kris Benson would pick the day when the Mets didn't really need a good pitching performance that much to give them one. With a little help from the Reds' defense, the Mets smacked Paul Wilson around while Benson held the Reds offense in check. And it all added up to the team's largest margin of victory in almost a month.

Jose Reyes started things off for the Mets with a stand up triple and scored on a sacrifice fly. Then Cliff Floyd blasted his league-leading eleventh home run of the season and the Mets were already up two after one. Two more runs in the second put the Mets up four to one and from that point on, things were never really in doubt. In the end the Mets had thirteen hits, six for extra bases, and two walks, both by Floyd. David Wright had a pair of doubles and Kazuo Matsui and Mike Piazza each had one. All three of them had two hits on the night, as did Reyes.

Meanwhile, Kris Benson's third start of the season was clearly his best. First of all, it was his longest, as he went seven and two-thirds innings on 112 pitches, allaying concerns about his durability. And he was quite effective along the way. He only allowed four hits and two walks and he struck out eight. Benson's still got to work on his consistency and prove that he can be more than just adequate over a full season, but he looked good tonight. And there are some good early indicators, like his 17:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 1/3 innings. If it weren't for the four home runs he gave up in his last start, he'd have very impressive peripheral statistics overall.

Tomorrow, Kazuhisa Ishii (0-2, 4.82) will make his return to the Mets' rotation. No roster moves have been announced yet (aside from Mike DiFelice replacing the DLed Ramon Castro), but right now things don't look good for Aaron Heilman. Ramon Ortiz (1-1, 6.75) will go for the Reds.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
  Cardinals 7, Mets 6
Cardinals 4, Mets 2

Early in the season, home runs were rather hard to come by at Shea Stadium. It wasn't until the Mets' sixth home game of the year that Victor Diaz smacked the first round-tripper out of the park. Whether it was the result of the cold weather or just a random occurrence, balls weren't traveling over the fence in Flushing back in early April. That is no longer the case.

Pitching has been the Mets' biggest problem all season long, and this weekend they got a couple of rough outings from the men who had been their two most dependable starters. The home run ball had a lot to do with their difficulties. Pedro Martinez took the mound on Saturday and he didn't exactly get smacked around. He allowed only five hits and two walks in six innings, which certain other Mets starters would gladly take, though he did only strike out four. But it was a pair of home runs by Mark Grudzielanek and Abraham Nunez that did a lot of the damage, driving in three of the five runs, four earned, that Martinez allowed. A spike in his home run rate contributed to his career-worst 3.90 ERA last year. But while the longball has played a role in elevating his ERA to 3.38 so far this year, he has only allowed five home runs in fifty-six innings. That's quite a bit better than last year's 26 in 217.

The Mets still very nearly won this game, and Martinez was in fact the pitcher of record on the winning side when he was relieved. Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Mets trailed five to two, but two singles and a walk loaded the bases with zero outs. Kazuo Matsui stepped to the plate and came through with perhaps his biggest hit of the season, smacking a triple to tie the game. He then scored on a single by Diaz to put the Mets in front. Jose Reyes then reached on an error to give the Mets first and third with none out. But sadly Reyes was then caught trying to steal second and the Mets wound up not scoring any further runs.

Heath Bell pitched a scoreless seventh in relief. But Roberto Hernandez entered in the eighth and couldn't hold the lead. A walk, a single and a double with none out tied the game up. He got a ground out to keep the runners at second and third, but then after another walk loaded the bases, Larry Walker hit a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals the lead they would not relinquish.

On Sunday, it was more home run hijinks from a pitcher with some history in that regard. Egregious home run rates had been a significant factor in the transition of Aaron Heilman from first-round pick to major league flop in his first two seasons. He started off this year doing a decent job keeping the ball in the yard, allowing just three home runs in his first thirty-nine and two-thirds innings. But Sunday afternoon he looked a little more like the old Aaron Heilman, with John Mabry and Reggie Sanders taking him deep to account for three of the Cardinals' four runs. He still did some other things well, like striking out seven batters while walking just one in five and two-thirds innings, but one has to be concerned about the consequences of this mediocre start coming so close to the impending return of Kazuhisa Ishii from the disabled list. Heilman can't really be giving the Mets excuses to choose him as the guy to move to the bullpen or the minors to make way for Ishii. He's still had a significantly better season than Victor Zambrano or Tom Glavine so far, but he has a lot less margin for error than those two.

Offensively, the Mets couldn't get a whole lot done on Sunday. Mike Cameron did have a terrific day, hitting his third home run of the season and his fifth double while also drawing a walk. He scored both of the Mets' runs. Carlos Beltran also had two hits on the day, but both were singles.

On the bright side, the Mets did finally wear the one true Mets cap, the blue one with the orange logo. Remember those? If I'm not mistaken, this was the first time all year they'd worn them, which is simply a travesty. The excuse that they don't match the black jackets the Mets have to wear when it's cold out doesn't impress me at all. I'd be quite happy to never see the Mets wear a black jacket, jersey or hat ever again. But I suppose I don't work for the team's merchandising department.

Tomorrow's matchup at Shea sees a pair of first overall draft picks gone wrong squaring off. Kris Benson (0-1, 6.75) will get the start for the Mets hoping to rebound from the pounding he absorbed in his last start. And he'll be opposed by former Met Paul Wilson (1-4, 7.46) of the Reds, who's certainly coming down hard from that decent year he had last season.
Friday, May 13, 2005
  Mets 2, Cardinals 0

There's a reason they play 162 games, you know. Any crazy-ass thing can happen in one baseball game. Jose Jimenez might throw a no-hitter. Mike Cameron might hit four home runs. Or Tom Glavine might forget what year it is and pitch seven scoreless innings. That's just what happened tonight.

Glavine, without the aid of any time machine as far as I could tell, shut the Cardinals down over seven, allowing just four hits and not walking anybody. He only struck out three, but still, he pitched like a completely different guy than the one who started his first seven games of the season. You know, the one who's responsible for the fact that after pitching seven shutout innings in May, Glavine's ERA is still 5.77. Now, we can't draw any conclusions from this start until Glavine takes the mound again. One terrific start can't erase all the terrible pitching that came before it. But it's a step in the right direction.

The Mets needed everything Glavine gave them, as Cardinals' starter Jason Marquis was nearly as effective, allowing just three hits and one walk over seven. But one Met hitter did show up to play, as Cliff Floyd smacked a pair of long home runs to right field. Floyd had cooled off a bit over the last week after a brilliant start to the season. But tonight's pair of bombs gave him ten home runs on the season, putting him in a four-way tie for the league lead, at least for the moment. Some Met hitters have gotten off to disappointing starts, but Floyd is doing all he can to make up for them.

Speaking of disappointing starts, Kazuo Matsui very nearly ruined Tom Glavine's night with some awful defense in the eighth inning. Glavine allowed a single to start the inning, but then got So Taguchi to ground the ball right at Matsui, who proceeded to butcher this potential double play ball to the point where he didn't even get one out. This was his second error of the game. Glavine left the game with two on and none out. Luckily for him, and for Matsui, Roberto Hernandez was able to squelch the threat with a strikeout and two groundouts. Braden Looper pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing one hit, to earn his ninth save of the season.

Matsui has been nothing short of a disaster so far this year. There wasn't much reason to expect a lot from him defensively, but his offensive disappearing act is more of a mystery. Tonight he went hitless in two at bats and drew a walk and he's now hitting a horrendous .227/.273/.286. To put that into perspective, pitcher's best friend Joe McEwing hit .254/.297/.312 last year. Matsui is sub-McEwing. I'm still willing to be a little patient with him given his history of success in Japan and the flashes he showed last year, but even I can't wait too much longer.

Tomorrow looks like one hell of a game on paper. Pedro Martinez (4-1, 3.06) takes the hill for the Mets against Mark Mulder (5-1, 2.70) and the Cardinals. These two former American Leaguers have been blowing away the senior circuit in the early going and their locking horns could rival the pitchers' duel we saw tonight.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
  Cubs 7, Mets 0
Cubs 4, Mets 3

Perhaps counting on Kris Benson to be the savior of the Mets' starting rotation was a little hasty. Having to watch Victor Zambrano and Tom Glavine pitch for weeks can lead to an unusual sort of desperation. And Aaron Heilman gives one hope that a pitcher can turn a corner. But, it appears that Benson may be what he's always been. And that is nothing to get excited about.

Part one of this week's Black Friday double feature was a gentle reminder not to get our hopes up about the former first overall pick. He did last six innings on just eighty-four pitches, which is solid enough in and of itself. And he didn't walk anybody, which is terrific in comparison to some of the Mets' other starters. But he also allowed six runs on ten hits, including a ridiculous four home runs. And he struck out just three batters. The Cubs do currently lead the National League in home runs, but that hardly excuses Benson's performance.

One start won't tell the whole story of a season (or a three-year contract), and Benson will almost certainly get his ERA down from the 6.75 where it currently sits. But this start didn't do much to support the notion that Rick Peterson has worked his magic on Benson. The fact that the Mets only managed three hits in the game, and two of them were from Chris Woodward, did little to ease the pain.

And speaking of Rick Peterson's coaching expertise, Victor Zambrano took the mound on Thursday afternoon with predictable results. Maybe Rick meant "ten long minutes". I suppose Zambrano's allowing only three runs in six innings is a minor triumph, but the fact that this has to be discussed as perhaps the best of his seven starts this season reveals a greater failure. He allowed three in six in his second start of the season, but this time he did allow only three hits, compared to nine in that game. Oddly enough, both times he struck out four and walked four. This time he also hit a batter, balked and threw a wild pitch.

If Victor Zambrano was some twenty-two year old kid just breaking into the majors and pitching like this, he'd be back in AAA. Hell, if he were a twenty-eight year old with a couple of major league seasons under his belt making $1.8 million less, I guess he'd be in the minors, too, regardless of how he was pitching. But since the Devil Rays were dumb enough or desperate enough to keep sending him out there for a few years, he's acquired that "proven veteran" glow and the contract to match. Right now he's not only pitching worse than he was before Peterson got his hands on him, he's pitching worse than other available options that the Mets have under contract. He's below "replacement level" in the most concrete sense imaginable. Continuing to send him out there when he can't or won't get his shit together is either ego or stupidity.

The Mets did manage to score some runs in this game, though they certainly took their sweet time in doing so. Victor Diaz plated a pair in the second inning with a bases loaded double. But it wasn't until the ninth that the Mets matched the third run the Cubs had scored. Eric Valent came off the bench with only his second pinch hit of the season to drive home Doug Mientkiewicz.

With the game tied, Willie Randolph once again called on Mike DeJean to pitch the bottom of the ninth, apparently choosing reverence for the save rule over common sense. With Braden Looper watching from the bullpen, DeJean allowed a bunt single and a walk to the first two hitters before finally retiring someone. Dae-Sung Koo then entered and walked lefty Corey Patterson to load the bases. Heath Bell had to be called upon to save these two guys' asses, because presumably bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game isn't an important enough situation to use your nominal ace reliever. Bell did get out of the jam, though, inducing Neifi Perez to reveal his true self and ground into a 1-2-3 double play.

Bell wasn't so effective to start the tenth, though, as Derrek Lee led off the inning and took the eleventh pitch out of the park to end it. The wind had been knocking down long fly balls all day, but Lee was able to break through against Bell and win the game and the series for the Cubs. Heath Bell has been good, though not great, for the Mets so far this year, but this time he couldn't get it done.

The Mets take Thursday off before starting a nine game homestand. First up will be the defending League Champion Cardinals. Tom Glavine (1-4, 6.87) will head out first to serve up batting practice for the Champs. Jason Marquis (5-1, 3.26) will likely have a very impressive 6-1 record by the end of the night
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
  Mets 7, Cubs 4

Aaron Heilman is amazing. Tonight wasn't his best start of the season, though it probably was his best road start. But it was a very impressive performance all the same. He only lasted five and one-third innings, but over the course of those innings, he sat through two rain delays that lasted a total of ninety-four minutes. In spite of this, and the fact that he was going on short rest, having pitched three and one-third innings on Thursday, he was very good until he ran out of gas in the sixth. He left having allowed five hits and two walks while striking out four. He hadn't given up any runs when he was relieved by Dae-Sung Koo either.

Koo entered with runners on first and third and one out to face left-handed Jeromy Burnitz. Getting lefties out is supposed to be the thing Koo is good at. Prior to tonight they were hitting just .091/.286/.182 against him in eleven at bats, whereas righties were killing him to the tune of .389/.409/.556 in eighteen at bats. So his giving up an RBI single to Burnitz can just be seen as him not getting the job done. But his staying in to pitch to right-handed Michael Barrett is on Willie Randolph, as is the game-tying three-run home run Barrett hit. Koo got a lefty and a righty to end the inning, but he and Heilman both wound up with two runs on their record as a result of his efforts. Of course, Randolph left Koo out to start the seventh and he gave up a hit to a lefty while retiring two righties. Then again, one of those righties was Neifi Perez, so it's hard to count that in his favor.

The Mets had taken the lead early thanks to more of their longball power. With two outs on the first, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd singled in advance of The Old Mike Piazza stepping to the plate and crushing one nearly over the left field bleachers. Piazza is quickly catching up with the team leaders in home runs as he now has six, trailing only Floyd's eight. And in the second inning, Kazuo Matsui put aside his recent slump for a moment to drive one just barely over the fence for his second home run of the season.

Mike DeJean followed Koo and got the final out of the seventh, only allowing an intentional walk. Then Doug Mientkiewicz broke the tie in the top of the eight with his sixth home run of the season. Mientkiewicz certainly hasn't been great with the bat this season, but his power has been a pleasant surprise to go along with his terrific glovework. The Mets added two more runs in the top of the ninth on four singles.

Heath Bell pitched a scoreless eighth inning, allowing one hit while striking out one. And Braden Looper gave up a double to lead off the ninth, but wound up closing things out without allowing a run by striking out Derrek Lee. Nobody in the bullpen was perfect tonight, but with Heilman and the offense rolling, they were good enough to get the job done.

Tomorrow Kris Benson (0-0, 3.86) goes for the Mets. His ability to follow up a solid debut with some consistenly good pitching will be very important for the Mets' rotation going forward. He'll be opposed by Greg Maddux (1-1, 4.50).
Monday, May 09, 2005
  Mets 7, Brewers 4
Mets 7, Brewers 5
Brewers 5, Mets 4

One thing that distinguishes this year's Mets team from those of recent years is that they quite often have enough offense to compensate for their starting pitchers' less than stellar efforts. They currently rank fourth in the National League in runs scored. Last year they ranked twelfth, which was the highest since the 2000 National League Champions ranked seventh. There are still 130 games to be played, but it certainly looks like the Mets' run-scoring apparatus has been drastically improved.

On Friday, Victor Zambrano got the start for the Mets, so of course the bats needed to step up. Zambrano did have a less than disastrous outing, very nearly lasting a full six innings, but not enough to drag his ERA below five and a half or anything. He went five and two-thirds and allowed three runs on six hits and four walks and he also struck out four. Willie Randolph made some curious decisions with regard to the bullpen, as Heath Bell relieved Zambrano in the sixth and Randolph just kept on sending him out there until he finally got into trouble in the ninth. Bell went two and two-thirds, allowing a run on three hits and a walk while striking out two. After forty-one pitches, Bell took a seat and three relievers closed the game out.

The offense provided enough of a cushion for these unusual bullpen machinations, smacking four home runs on the night. Mike Piazza continued his revival, blasting long shots in each of his first two at bats to give him five on the year. Mike Cameron hit his first of the season and David Wright went deep for the fifth time.

On Saturday, Pedro Martinez did a lot of things right, but a pair of home runs allowed accounted for his most runs allowed in a start this season. He lasted seven innings and gave up just three hits and a walk while striking out eleven, but he also hit a batter, and each of the five base runners he let on scored. That's been the story of his season, as he's now allowed twenty-five hits, nine walks and the one HBP and seventeen of those thirty-five runners have scored. He's now got a pretty nice 3.06 ERA, but imagine what it'll look like once his runners allowed to runs allowed ratio settles into a more normal level.

Even allowing five runs, Pedro was able to record his fourth win of the season as the Mets blasted another four home runs. This time it was Carlos Beltran doing double duty, finally starting to show the power numbers he's capable of compiling. David Wright homered again to match Beltran with six on the year. Doug Mientkiewicz hit his fifth.

Sunday was another weak pitching performance, though four runs in six innings was good enough to drop Tom Glavine's ERA back under seven. He did strike out more than he walked, fanning three while handing out just two free passes. But he also allowed eleven hits, which is the sort of thing that's going to happen from time to time if you allow as many balls in play as Glavine. And things could have been worse but for a pair of Brewers thrown out at the plate, including one by Victor Diaz, who started in left field. Diaz has shown a strong arm and decent speed over the first month of the season. He really seems to have at least some of the tools to be a competent outfielder or better, despite his reputation.

This time the offense wasn't quite up to the task of overcoming the bad pitching, as they only put four runs on the board on five hits and five walks. Mike Cameron hit his second home run and Carlos Beltran went three for four with a double, but those two accounted for all five of the team's hits. They drove in three runs while David Wright drove in the fourth on a fielder's choice.

Still, Glavine and the offense did well enough to keep things tied after eight, with a little help from Heath Bell and Roberto Hernandez, each of whom pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Then Willie Randolph made the bizarre move of calling on perhaps his worst reliever to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game, despite the fact that his closer was both warmed up and rested, not having pitched the day before. Mike DeJean didn't exactly implode, but he did give up a pair of hits which, with some help from a stolen base, added up to a game-winning run. It looked to me like Mike Piazza had thrown out Junior Spivey trying to steal second on a pitch out, but it was close and he was called safe and so, with two outs, JJ Hardy drove him in. Randolph's bullpen moves haven't reached the Art Howe level of inexplicableness yet, but he certainly hasn't worked out all the kinks yet.

Next the Mets (17-15) head to Chicago to take on the struggling Cubs (13-17). Aaron Heilman (3-2, 4.19) goes for the Mets after pitching excellently in relief last week. Jon Leicester (0-2, 7.50) is apparently starting for the Cubs, though he's only pitched in relief so far this season.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
  Mets 7, Phillies 5

Kris Benson has been counted on to bolster a pitching staff that, let me tell you, is in serious need of some bolstering. And while he was on a pitch count and less than perfect, his first start of the season was an encouraging first step. He seemed to run out of gas a little in the fifth inning after exceeding the eighty pitches he was supposed to be limited to, but prior to that he was quite effective and the Mets were still able to get out of the jam he started. He struck out six and walked two in four and two-thirds innings, which is a promising start given the generally mediocre strikeout rates of his career. He also allowed five hits and hit a batter, but allowed only two runs despite exiting with the bases loaded. Obviously he's got to build up his endurance somewhat, which should also help with his pitch efficiency, but he definitely got things started in the right direction. If he can continue in this vein he will be an important addition to this team.

Another important piece of the team's pitching staff is Aaron Heilman, who relieved Benson with two out in the fifth and the bases loaded. He got that third out immediately and then kept on rolling for another three excellent innings. He struck out five while allowing just one walk and one hit. Heilman will return to his regular spot in the rotation next week where he'll look to continue his work as the second or third best pitcher the Mets have.

The Mets' offense also had a good day, thanks in large part to the returning Mike Cameron and the resurgent Mike Piazza. Cameron had a pair of doubles and was also hit by a pitch and scored two runs. And Piazza went four for five, capping things off with a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth that wound up providing the margin of victory. Overall, the Mets had twelve hits and drew five walks, with Doug Mientkiewicz, Victor Diaz and David Wright also hitting doubles. Offensive Machine Cliff Floyd had the day off.

This seemed like more than enough to get the Mets a win, but then Mike DeJean entered to pitch the ninth. He increased the intensity in a hurry, giving up a three-run home run to Jimmy Rollins with just one out. He got one more out before leaving with a runner on first and having allowed four hits. Braden Looper came on to strike out Pat Burrell to end the game on a pitch that was well outside but still called strike three for some reason.

The Mets now head to Milwaukee to take on the hottest team in the National League. The Brewers have won seven in a row as the Mets come to town. They will send Doug Davis (3-3, 4.79) to the mound to take on Guy Who Sucks Victor Zambrano (1-3, 5.81) and the Mets.
  Phillies 10, Mets 3
Mets 3, Phillies 2

The impending returns of Kris Benson and Mike Cameron left the Mets with some decisions to make. Not only did they have to free up a couple of roster spots, but they specifically had to find a spot in the starting rotation for Benson. One would think that Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo would be the prime candidates to be demoted to make way for Benson given that neither is a highly paid "proven veteran". But you'd like to think that performance would at least factor into it somewhat.

Tom Glavine went out on Tuesday to try to turn his disappointing season around in no real danger of being the fall guy. Stink as he might, Tom Glavine is still Tom Glavine and he's about as likely to don a Norfolk Tides jersey as he is to win another Cy Young Award. With that job security in hand, he went out and produced his worst outing of the year, which is saying something given that he allowed seven runs in four and one-third innings in his previous start. This time he didn't even make it through the fourth inning and gave up a total of eight runs, though only seven of them were earned as Jose Reyes had a pretty awful defensive night. Glavine's estrangement from his old buddy the strike zone continued as he walked a ridiculous six batters in three and two-thirds innings while only striking out one. Even Victor Zambrano and Kazuhisa Ishii probably found that tough to watch. Glavine now has the worst strikeout to walk ratio on the team as he's struck out eighteen and walked twenty-two. Given those numbers, it should not surprise you to learn that Glavine's ERA is now a first-week-of-April-ugly 7.04. He's started six games and his ERA is above seven. If a control pitcher loses his control, what good is he?

The offense wasn't much prettier in that game, as they scored only three runs on seven hits and four walks. Jose Reyes did finally draw his first walk of the season with the bases loaded in the ninth to drive in a run. He also doubled. And Cliff Floyd continued his hot hitting going two for three with his seventh home run of the season.

So despite Glavine's continued ineffectiveness, Jae Seo took the mound on Wednesday with his spot in the rotation in serious jeopardy. And he pitched like he knew it. After a rough second start in which he allowed three home runs in five innings, Seo bounced back with an excellent outing. He lasted seven innings and shut the Phillies out on just one hit and two walks while striking out eight. He's now struck out fourteen while walking just three in eighteen innings and lowered his ERA to an even 2.00. That's better than any other Mets starter, with the others who are currently healthy sitting at 2.51, 4.65, 5.81 and the aforementioned 7.04.

And yet, Seo has been sent to the minors along with Royce Ring. I understand that Glavine can't be sent down and sort of understand wanting to see more of Aaron Heilman at the major league level, but in what way is Victor Zambrano more useful than Seo? Not only has Zambrano--possessor of the 5.81 ERA--been awful this year, but he's also never had a season as effective as Seo's 2003 as a major league starter. The only thing that says "proven veteran" about Zambrano is his paycheck and that perhaps Rick Peterson likes him more than Seo. I have a lot more confidence in a Mets win every time Seo takes the mound than I do Zambrano, who appears to be no better a pitcher than before Peterson's attempts to "fix" him. Choosing Zambrano over Seo looks in no way like a smart baseball decision and comes off like plain incompetence at best and favoritism at worst. Zambrano isn't even justifying his spot on the roster at this point, let alone the trade that brought him here, and choosing him over Seo seems quite likely to cost this team wins.

Meanwhile, the offense had another less than stellar night, rescued only by Seo's outing. They put another three on the board on five runs and four walks. Victor Diaz--or, The Useful Victor, as he might be called--smacked his fourth home run of the year and kept his spot on the major league roster while Cliff Floyd went deep again. This was his eighth home run of the year and he's now hitting an amazing .391/.443/.701. He also robbed Jason Michaels of a home run with a great jumping catch.

Floyd isn't only the best hitter on the team right now, he's one of the best in the league. It's hard to truly buy into, but maybe he really is as healthy as he said he was prior to the season. He hasn't played in as many as 146 games since 2002, so counting on him to be around all year is tough, but what he's doing right now is incredible to watch, so we might as well enjoy it while we can.

Also of note in this game was Jose Reyes' long-awaited second walk of the season, drawn in a pinch hitting role. His OBP is all the way up to .298, which is still terrible, but hey, at least it's moving in the right direction. Carlos Beltran hit his seventh double of the season, though he's yet to really break out offensively. He's hitting .297/.352/.468, which isn't so bad for a center fielder, but certainly less than he's capable of.

And Braden Looper's troubles continued as he allowed a pair of solo home runs in the ninth to tighten this game up, though he did finally close it out, striking out two in the process. This was his second two-home run inning of the season after allowing just five all of last year.

Tomorrow afternoon Benson (12-12, 4.31 in 2004) makes his first start of the season as he takes on Vicente Padilla (0-3, 11.45). Hopefully Benson fares better than the other starter the Mets acquired that dark day last July has thus far. Not that that would be too terribly difficult.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
  Mets 5, Phillies 1

Once again, all it took was Pedro Martinez to make the Mets fun again. This guy is just amazing. The man who entered the game having given the Mets more value than the rest of the starting staff put together just kept on rolling with another strong seven-inning start after a lengthy rain delay. It was the first time all year that he had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched, as he only fanned six, but he also only allowed one run on four hits and two walks which was more than good enough to earn him his third win of the season.

The offense did make things pretty close for him as he exited after the top of the seventh with the score still tied at one. But his fellow New Met Carlos Beltran quickly took care of that. With one out in the seventh, Jose Reyes singled and stole second and Kazuo Matsui walked. Beltran then launched a shot over the right field wall for his fourth home run of the season. Cliff Floyd then singled and stole second and eventually scored on a wild pitch after the bases had been loaded to account for the Mets' fifth run.

Reyes had scored the Mets' first run in the third when he came around from first on a Matsui single to right. Reyes' on base percentage remains an atrocious .287, but he had one of those games tonight that makes it hard to stay mad at him. He had four singles in five at bats and stole a pair of bases. When he manages get on base, he's unquestionably exciting to watch. Hell, when he gets to a three-ball count he's pretty exciting. The crowd got rather loud when he got to 3-1 in the ninth inning, but he wound up grounding out sharply after taking a second strike. He's still without a walk on the season and batting him leadoff continues to make about as much sense as batting David Wright seventh. Wright did finally get moved ahead of Doug Mientkiewicz in the lineup against a right hander pitcher tonight, hitting in the fifth slot with Mike Piazza taking the day off. But lineup construction continues to be one of Willie Randolph's weaker points as a manager.

Tomorrow the Mets try to keep this modest winning streak going, though they'll have to send one of The Other Guys out to pitch. This time it's Tom Glavine (1-3, 5.67) taking on Brett Myers (1-1, 1.35). Glavine has never pitched for the Phillies, so it's possible he might be able to get some of them out.
Monday, May 02, 2005
  Nationals 5, Mets 1
Nationals 5, Mets 3
Mets 6, Nationals 3

Dear Kris,

What's up, man? How's the pectoral muscle? I see you've begun making your way back to the majors with a rehab start in St. Lucie. Three hitless, walkless inning with four strikeouts. Not too shabby. Sure, you hit a batter, but nobody's perfect, right? I'm sure he deserved it. I bet he was leaning out over the plate. What else could you have done?

Look, I know I've said some less than complimentary things about you in the past. I'll admit to getting a little hung up on stuff like "stats" and "numbers" and "things that have happened on the field of play." This may have led me to underestimate your untapped potential. I mean, sure, you're thirty years old, but the average life expectancy of an American male born in 1974 is nearly 70 years. To call you old would simply be inaccurate.

And even if five years of major league experience have given us a pretty good idea of what to expect of you, I may have underestimated the value of an ERA around four. I would have thought that a team with postseason aspirations would be able to get more than that out of their second or third best starting pitcher. In this, I was mistaken. It turns out, in comparison to the guys the Mets are sending out there now you start to look like a good pitcher.

First of all, there's Jae Seo. Now, this guy's only made two starts this year, and one of them was quite good. But in his second shot at major league hitters, he stumbled. He lasted only five innings on Friday. Now, he gave up only three hits, which sounds pretty solid until you realize that all three of them landed on the other side of the distant RFK Stadium fences. He only walked one batter, but then he only struck out two. Seo had one pretty good year (which is plenty of reason to keep giving a guy chances, right Kris?) and it's too early to write him off this year, but counting on him to be more than the fifth best guy on the staff seems like a stretch. At least it does until you start looking at the rest of the staff.

Have you seen this Victor Zambrano guy? Dude sucks. If you thought Seo lasting five innings was bad, Zambrano only got through four! Against the Nationals! He gave up three runs, too. He didn't give up any home runs, but he did walk three batters and allow four hits while striking out just four. He's now struck out 23 this season in 26 1/3 innings. But he's walked 17! Seriously, this guy has a major league contract. And he didn't even have that one good season, like you and Seo. The deal they made to get this guy makes your contract look like a good idea.

And then there's Aaron Heilman. He's got that first round draft pick sheen that you've turned into a career, though he was only picked eighteenth, so it hasn't gotten him quite as far. At times this year he's looked like a bonafide major league pitcher. In a couple of starts at home he's been excellent. But he's still having trouble on the road. This time he did last six innings, though he also gave up three runs. And while he did last longer longer than the previous two guys, it wasn't pretty. He struck out five, which is all well and good, but he also walked five, as many as he'd walked in his four previous starts combined. This one looks like he might be an adequate back of the rotation guy, but what good is that when your rotation has no middle?

At least the offense showed up for Heilman, though it certainly took them long enough. Miguel Cairo made it home from third in the first as Carlos Beltran was picked off of first. And a couple of doubles by Beltran and Cliff Floyd and a single by David Wright in the fouth put two more runs on the board. But that was only enough to tie it. In the ninth, Eric Valent and Marlon Anderson singled and then Jose Reyes beat out a sacrifice bunt to load the bases. A sac fly by Cairo and another Beltran double cleared them and that was enough to give Braden Looper a comfortable lead to protect, which he did, despite giving up a two-out triple to Christian Guzman.

But overall, the Mets did not look good this weekend and subpar starting pitching was a big part of it. Seo and Heilman provide some reason for hope, but not a lot, and even the rosiest predicitions can't peg them as much more that solid back-of-the-rotation guys. So please, hurry back Kris. Your consistent adequacy would be a nice change of pace.


P.S. Tomorrow the Mets kick off a four-game series at home against the Phillies as the one pitcher they've got who can safely be described as better than you, Pedro Martinez (2-1, 2.75) takes on apparent Yankee blunder Jon Lieber (4-1, 3.03).
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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