Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
  Phillies 6, Mets 3

On Wednesday, Jae Seo pitched one hell of a ball game. He lasted eight and one-third innings and allowed just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out nine. This dominant performance was enough to get his ERA down to a terrific 2.99 and earn him his sixth win of the year. Of course, he did all of these things in Toledo, Ohio for the Mets' AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. Seo had the temerity to give up four runs in eighteen major league innings at the start of the season, which got him banished to Norfolk, apparently never to return.

In his stead, the Mets are stuck with Kazuhisa Ishii who, to the surprise of very few outside the Mets' front office, isn't good. Ishii, who gave up at least five runs in three of his first four starts this month, topped all of those efforts by not even getting through the fourth inning. He did tie his season low in hits allowed with two, but that hardly matters when you walk the first three batters of an inning. That's what he did to start the fourth, meaning that the single and the home run he subsequently allowed were enough to get him to the magic five run level. He failed to win any fabulous prizes for that feat, but after recording just ten outs he did get a nice early shower on what was a damp, hot, uncomfortable night. He had walked four batters in all while striking out just one, putting his K:BB ratio for the season at an equitable 37:32.

The Mets' offense wasn't quite so potent against Cory Lidle, though I suppose if he'd walked three guys before one of the two home runs he allowed, things might have gone better for them. The first long ball actually sprung from the bat of Jose Offerman in a pinch hitting role, making the man colorfully referred to as "Awfulman" a perfect two-for-two with two RBI as a Met, likely earning him more of the manager's confidence than he will ever deserve. Cliff Floyd hit the Mets' other bomb, his twenty-first of the year. The Mets only managed three other hits, and one of those was also Floyd's. Mike Cameron doubled and scored.

Tomorrow should go quite a bit more smoothly for the Mets, as the matinee will be started by Pedro Martinez (8-2, 2.72), who is in many ways the anti-Ishii. Jon Lieber (8-7, 4.93) goes for the Phillies in order to demonstrate the fact that all eight-win starting pitchers are not equal. Should they win this game, the Mets would be a game closer to not being in last place anymore.
  Mets 8, Phillies 3

I've found myself using the word "effective" to describe the efforts of certain Mets pitchers lately. It's accurate, in that they are preventing runs, which is their job. But it doesn't convey the sense that they're doing so via some extraordinary exhibition of skill. Because while the bottom line is that keeping runs of the board is all they need to do, another line in the vicinity of the bottom delineates the notion that they're unlikely continue to prevent runs at their current rate if they persist with their current approach. Their casual relationship with the strike zone may not immediately doom every start of theirs to be a failure, but it is not the sort of pitching likely to be effective in the long term. Of course I'm referring to Kris Benson, who really ought not spell his name with that weird K if he's going to pitch like this, and tonight's starter, Victor Zambrano.

Zambrano pitched five more effective innings tonight against the Phillies, though I suppose there is something inherently ineffective about a starting pitcher's performance if he records a mere fifteen outs. But he only gave up one run along the way, and he struck out an impressive seven batters. That's enough strikeouts to make three walks in five innings not seem like a big deal. This is especially true if you ignore the two batters he hit, or rather the one batter he hit twice, which of course you shouldn't. But those five base runners, along with the four who reached via the ordinary single, were not enough to put more than a solitary run on the board, and so Zambrano earned his fourth win of the year as the Mets provided him with far more offensive support than he needed.

The Mets got offense from each spot in the lineup, as every starter reached base one way or another. Carlos Beltran had a big night with a double and a triple. Mike Piazza launched his ninth home run of the year over the left field fence. Mike Cameron had a double and a single. Jose Reyes went hitless, but drew a walk and scored a run. Even Jose Offerman got a hit in a pinch hitting role.

Heath Bell and Royce Ring combined for two scoreless innings of relief. Danny Graves followed them and provided something less useful. He got through two innings and allowed only two hits, which is a plus. But they were both home runs, which is a minus. It's good to see Graves being used in situations suited to his abilities, like a seven-run lead. It's something less than good to see that he's not necessarily a lock to hold such a lead.

Tomorrow, the Mets, who've now won just as many games as they've lost, put that adequacy in serious jeopardy by sending Kazuhisa Ishii (2-6, 5.25) to the hill in hopes of some of his intermittent "effectiveness." Cory Lidle (6-6, 4.12) goes for the Phillies, who'll try to avoid slipping into last place by a margin of half a game.
Monday, June 27, 2005
  Yankees 5, Mets 4

The Mets' bullpen is not good. You know this and I know this. But could either of us really have expected them to out-suck the Yankees' defense? It seems impossible, but that's exactly what happened on Sunday night. After two very good starting pitching performances, the Yankee fielders did their best to give it away, but would not be outdone by the Met relievers.

Kris Benson had another oddly effective performance, allowing just one run through the first six innings despite walking four batters while striking out just three. But aside from the free passes, all he gave up was three singles. Randy Johnson was similarly stinging through the first six frames, allowing his lone run on four hits and zero walks while striking out five. It was when both men stepped out on the field to pitch the seventh that things began to fall apart for them.

Johnson gave up a single to David Wright with one out and a double to Chris Woodward with two outs. Of course, that wasn't enough to actually score a run given that Wright had been thrown out at second when Willie Randolph called an inexplicable hit-and-run with Woodward, who swung and missed. But Johnson couldn't get out of the inning quite that easily, as one wild pitch plus two errors equaled three runs for the Mets. After bouncing a pitch to get Woodward to third, Johnson got a ground ball to second baseman Robinson Cano, but he couldn't handle it and the Mets' had their first unearned run. Tom Gordon replaced Johnson and got another ground ball to the right side but Jose Reyes beat it out and Jason Giambi threw it far enough away to allow two more runs in. Surely the Mets' relievers could prevent three runs from scoring in three innings.

Of course, one might also think that Willie Randolph would remove his starting pitcher after a sixth inning in which he clearly began to lose control of the game while giving up the Yankees first run of the game. Instead Benson got the opportunity to walk Bernie Williams to lead off the seventh before being removed. Then Aaron Heilman came in and escalated the situation in an innovative way, balking Williams to second. Heilman did get a couple of outs afterwards and he only allowed two runs. But he's finally getting some shots in high leverage situations and his failure to take advantage and earn Randolph's elusive confidence is quite disappointing. Royce Ring and Roberto Hernandez each got a couple of outs without too much trouble.

Then it came time for Braden Looper. And he made sure to remind everyone that the 2005 version of him bears little resemblance to the 2004 vintage. To begin the demonstration, he walked his tenth batter of the year, putting him 62.5% of the way toward his walk total of a year ago in less than one-third of the innings. Facing four batters without retiring any of them is not the way to reaffirm your ability to close out games, but I suppose if it takes that long before a run scores, you can count that as some sort of moral victory. Looper gave up a double, an intentional walk and a two-run single in his out-less appearance to blow the Mets' chance at a sweep. And the fact that the Mets use him as if he were the best reliever is not nearly as disturbing as the fact that he may actually be. The Mets have a lot of guys who are sort of okay out in the bullpen, but right now, no one out there inspires confidence.

Still, winning two out of three from the Yankees isn't a bad way to spend a weekend. Neither is winning your second consecutive series. The Mets may still be under .500, but some things are going in the right direction. Of course, over the weekend they also put Doug Mientkiewicz on the disabled list and replaced him with Jose Offerman. Offerman, Gerald Williams and Danny Graves all on the same roster. That is exactly what a last place team looks like.

On Tuesday the Mets get another chance to climb the divisional ladders as the Phillies come to town having lost four in a row and five out of six. Winning two out of three still wounded be enough to get the Mets into fourth place, but it would get them back to the break-even mark. The pitching matchup will be a rematch of last Wednesday's game in Philadelphia. Both Victor Zambrano (3-6, 3.97) and Robinson Tejeda (1-0, 2.03) pitched well in that game, though neither figured in the decision as the Mets won 8-4.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
  Mets 6, Yankees 4
Mets 10, Yankees 2

There's nothing quite like the defense of the 2005 New York Yankees to make a struggling offense look like it's back on the right track. They only comitted two errors in the first two games of this series, both in game one, but the inability of their outfield to do basic things like catch the ball and throw the ball certainly played a role in the Mets' two wins. Beating the Yankees is always fun, but watching them beat themselves is pretty amusing, too.

Of course, the Mets did get some pretty effective starting pitching in both of these games, and it started exactly where you'd expect, with Pedro Martinez making his return to Yankee Stadium. He gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, but after that things went quite a bit more smoothly. It wasn't exactly a dominating performance, as he only struck out three batters, but he lasted eight innings and gave up two runs, which I suppose is good enough. He allowed six hits and two walks and after the Yankees scored their second run in the third inning, he gave up just a pair of singles the rest of the way.

The Mets' offense gave him plenty of support on his way to his eighth win of the season. It started in the second inning, where they achieved the unusual feat of hitting three sacrifice flies in the same inning. The second was a fairly routine fly ball which bounced out of the glove of the statue of Bernie Williams the Yankees have erected in center field. The third was set up by a throwing error by Mike Mussina. But the Mets brought more than just productive outs to this game, as both Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran homered, their eighteenth and ninth on the year, respectively. Mike Cameron, Mike Piazza and Doug Mientkiewicz each had a double. And Marlon Anderson had a pair of hits, thus proving Willie Randolph right for batting him ahead of David Wright, who had one measly walk in the game and saw his slugging percentage dip below .500 for the first time in about six weeks. Jose Reyes drove in the Mets' sixth run with another sac fly.

Things got pretty interesting once Randolph called on Braden Looper to preserve a four-run lead after the Mets scored in the top of the ninth. With one out he allowed a walk to Jorge Posada and a home run by Tino Martinez to bring the Yankees within two. A great play by Wright was all that stood between Tony Womack and a bunt single. But after a single by Derek Jeter, Looper was able to retire Robinson Cano to end the game.

Things weren't quite so tight on Saturday, even as Tom Glavine seemed ready to give away the lead at any time. Glavine was ahead on the scoreboard from the moment he steped on the mound and though it's hard to figure exactly how he did it, he was able to limit the Yankees to jus two runs over six innings to earn his fifth win of the year. He gave up seven hits and walked two batters while striking out one. But he was able to avoid big innings as most of the hits came with two outs and no one in scoring position.

The man who gave Glavine the lead he would never relinquish was Floyd, whose two-run bomb in the first inning provided a relatively inexpensive souvenir for some fan sitting halfway up the upper deck. He went deep again with a man on in the fifth to give him twenty on the year, and while that ball also went a long way, any fan in the right field bleachers who caught it probably paid a significant sum of money for his ticket. Also participating in the Mets' charitable ball-distribution program was Wright, who launched his eleventh over the right field wall in the second inning. Wright also hit his twentieth double of the year batting sixth since Anderson's potent left-handed bat got the day off. Ramon Castro had a pair of doubles while Piazza, Beltran and Chris Woodward added one each. The only Met starters without two hits on the day were Cameron, who drew a walk, and Mientkiewicz, who left the game after two at bats with hamstring troubles and was replaced by Brian Daubach, who also went hitless. Jose Reyes drew his first walk of the month of June to go along with his two hits an stole his twenty-third base of the year to close within one of league leader Rafael Furcal.

Aaron Heilman pitched a perfect seventh inning for the Mets, striking out one batter. Danny Graves also gave a characteristic performance, giving up a run on four hits in two innings of work. He did strike out two batters and lower his ERA to 7.43 in the process, though.

So tonight the Mets go for their first ever series sweep at Yankee Stadium. Last year they swept the Shea portion and won the season series for the first time. Now they have a chance to go 4-2 against their cross-town rivals for the second straight year. In any other year, the pitching matchup wouldn't seem to favor the Mets. But Kris Benson (6-2, 3.90) has pitched well in three of his last four starts. And he's actually got a better ERA than Randy Johnson (7-5, 4.02), who got rocked last time out by the Tampa Bay Bay Devil Rays. And if these first two games are any indication, you don't have to strike the Yankees out to get them out, so Benson may be in a pretty good situation.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
  Mets 8, Phillies 5
Phillies 8, Mets 4
Mets 4, Phillies 3

Well would you look at that? The New York Mets won themselves a series! And not just any series. No, it was a road series against a division opponent. And given the current state of the Mets, any intra-division series is an opportunity to gain ground on someone. The Mets' offense woke up at least long enough to press the snooze button and as a result, they won two out of three without a whole lot of help from their starting pitchers.

On Tuesday, Kris Benson did what mainstream baseball writers often refer to as "keeping his team in the game" and what sane people refer to as "pitching like crap and getting lucky." Benson didn't get completely annihilated, which was good enough to earn him his sixth win of the season. He lasted six innings and gave up five runs, though only four of those were earned. The misbegotten run scored, in part, due to an error by Doug Mientkiewicz. But Benson gave the Phillies plenty of other opportunities, allowing nine hits and a walk while striking out just two batters. Among those nine hits were two doubles and a home run.

But luckily for Benson, the Mets brought their bats to Philadelphia and made short work of de facto Phillies ace Brett Myers. Myers lasted just three and one-third innings and allowed six of the Mets' eight runs on ten hits. Mientkiewicz, Mike Piazza, David Wright and Carlos Beltran each hit doubles against him and Jose Reyes had a triple among his three hits. Mientkiewicz and Brian Daubach also homered in the eighth inning against new Phillie Ugueth Urbina. When the Mets are getting that kind of production out of the first base position, you know they're having an unusually good night.

There was very little unusual about Wednesday night, though. Victor Zambrano pitched fairly well for six innings, which he's been doing with some consistency lately, and the Mets lost, which is what usually happens when he starts. This time he gave up two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four. He gave up a couple of double and a home run, but he exited the game having given the Mets a legitimate chance to win, even though they'd failed to take advantage of it to that point in the game. He was relieved with the scoreboard reading 2-2.

But then three relievers combined to ensure that the final score looked more appropriate for a game started by Zambrano. Royce Ring struck out one left and walked another. Then Aaron Heilman got the shot in a pretty big spot and gave up his first run as a reliever. Then he gave up some more. Three singles, a walk, a hit batter and a wild pitch meant one run for Ring and five for Heilman, though three of those scored when Dae-Sung Koo entered and gave up a bases loaded double.

The Mets would score two more runs as the offense had its third straight game that could be rated at least adequate. Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd each hit home runs, their eighth and seventeenth, respectively. Piazza continues to pull himself up from his dreadful start. He's not exactly red hot right now, but he's hit legitimately well in June (.321/.379/.453) and has gotten his overall numbers up into the "pretty good for a catcher" range at .266/.329/.446. He may never be a great offensive force again, but there really isn't a National League catcher having a better year with the bat at this point either.

The offense showed up again on Thursday afternoon, and this time they got solid pitching of both the starting and relief varieties. The Mets got the lead early and Kazuhisa Ishii was able to preserve it, probably saving his spot in the rotation for a few more weeks. Reyes had another big game with three singles and three stolen bases. Mientkiewicz hit another home run, his ninth.

Ishii lasted six and two-thirds innings and gave up just three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out two. His first decent start in almost a month lowered his ERA to 5.25 and earned him his second win of the season. Meanwhile Jae Seo has a 3.20 ERA in 76 innings with 75 strikeouts and 21 walks for AAA Norfolk. And that includes a few terrible starts early this season before he was called up and send back down by the Mets. The Mets may not be scoring a lot of runs lately, but they're not putting their best possible starting rotation on the field either.

This weekend it's more hot interleague action as the Mets (35-37) head across town to battle the Yankees (37-34). Pedro Martinez (7-2, 2.76) goes for the Mets having already pitched well against the Yankees once this season. The Yankees counter with the guy they have who can pitch, Mike Mussina (8-4, 3.82).
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
  It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times

The Mets have sent Kazuo Matsui to the disabled list and Mike DeJean to the unemployment line only to replace them with Dae-Sung Koo and Gerald Williams. Dumping DeJean is a no brainer, as he's been absolutely horrid this year and his terrible performance has been pretty well in line with his career numbers. Aside from 21 1/3 excellent innings with the Mets in 2004, he hasn't been any good since 2002. So there's no real reason to chalk his 25 2/3 innings of 6.31 ERA this year up as a fluke. He's allowed 36 hits, including three home runs. He's struck out seventeen batters. And he's walked eighteen. And while that last part could be interpreted as him angling for a spot in the starting rotation, it's more likely that he just stinks.

And while I remain one of the crazy few who think that Matsui's performance this year (.234 /.284/.321) isn't representative of his true ability level, a couple of weeks off might do him and the team some good. Or at least it could if he wasn't joining Miguel Cairo and Jeff Keppinger on the DL. The Mets are left with Chris Woodward and Marlon Anderson to play second base. And while those guys have OBPs of .360 and .361, respectively, thus far this season, neither has shown much power and it's hard to believe either will keep his batting average above .300 playing every day.

As for the returning Mets, I'm not ready to throw Koo under the bus quite yet. True, he hasn't been much good this year--5.65 ERA, 15 K, 10 BB in 14 1/3 innings--but unlike DeJean, this is his only major league experience and I'm not sure fourteen innings are quite enough to draw a conclusion about him. Sure, he wasn't exactly dominant in his last two seasons in Japan either, but I don't think he's as obviously a lost cause as DeJean.

And then there's Williams. What is there to say? Last year he hit .233/.277/.419 when Art Howe saw fit to give him 129 at bats. And now he's thirty-eight years old. Gerald Williams shouldn't be within two time zones of the Mets' major league roster and the fact that Omar Minaya thinks otherwise does a pretty good job of negating any good will he deserves as a result of the DeJean move.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
  Mariners 5, Mets 0
Mariners 4, Mets 1
Mariners 11, Mets 5

Apparently Mike Cameron is the key to the New York Mets' offense. In his absence, they have ceased to be any good at scoring runs. David Wright is doing all he can to carry the team, but alas, he is only one man. Things went a little better in the third game of the series than in the first two, but the Mets got enough really terrible pitching to compensate for the oversight.

On Friday, the Met third baseman batted second in the lineup and hit a single three of his four times at bat. Not a spectacular game or anything, but a pretty good night. Of course, he didn't score a run any of those three times on base, as his teammates combined to earn only three base hits all night. Brian Daubach hitting a double was the only other real noteworthy moment.

In addition to the laughable offensive production, the Mets got the same old Kazuhisa Ishii on the mound. Well, I suppose it was a somewhat different Ishii, as he only walked one batter in five and two-thirds innings while striking out five, but finding new and interesting ways to give up runs isn't exactly a badge of honor for a starting pitcher. Ishii allowed five, though two were unearned, on nine hits. The man who should have his job, Aaron Heilman, came in to pitch an inning and one-third of perfect ball with one strikeout when the Mets were already trailing by five runs.

Saturday was more of the same, though Wright did manage to get the Mets a run this time, driving in Daubach with a triple in the seventh. As a reward for his three-hit night, Wright got to relax and bat seventh on Saturday, behind such offensive juggernauts as Daubach and new leadoff man Marlon Anderson. Of course, Wright apparently didn't take this practical night off in the spirit in which it was intended, putting his body on the line with a ridiculous dive into the stands to make an inning-ending catch in the fourth inning. And this wasn't some Derek Jeter "catch the ball and then dive into the stands" moment, either. Wright caught the ball while in the air, hurtling himself toward the front row of seats. It was an amazing play, though perhaps not the smartest one he's ever made.

The Mets' pitching did some surprises, as Pedro Martinez was unable to bend the Mariners' bats to his will, losing to them for the first time in his career. He wasn't exactly pounded by hard-hit balls, but the hits started falling in, as we all knew they'd have to at some point this season. The Mariners racked up nine hits--seven singles and two doubles. Two of the hits were infield singles, but more importantly, five of them came in the fourth inning, leading to all of the Seattle runs. Pedro still struck out seven and walked just one, but that wasn't quite enough to get the job done this time. But it's pretty amazing, given how much better his record might be given some more offensive or bullpen support, that this loss dropped him to 7-2. While his 2.76 ERA is still not enough to lead the league, he remains atop the list in K/9 (10.16) and WHIP (0.78)

On Sunday Tom Glavine did his best to put the game out of reach early, giving up six runs before the second out of the third inning had been recorded. Glavine lasted just two and one-third innings and eight hits, including one home run, and two walks were enough to put the game out of reach for the Mets' offense. Glavine had started to turn things around after his awful start to the season, but this is certainly a step in the wrong direction.

But in a surprising turn of events, the Met bats nearly made a game of it. When Glavine left the game, they'd already scored one run on Cliff Floyd's sixteenth home run of the season, but they weren't done there. The Mets had ten hits in the game, and four of them, as well as one walk and a hit batter, came in the sixth inning, which added up to four runs and a narrow one-run deficit.

Because while the Mets were coming back, Heilman was doing his usual thing, pitching excellent relief in a lost cause of a game. He entered with a five run deficit, two runners on and only one out. And he managed not only to get out of the third inning with no further damage, but he pitched two more scoreless innings as well, allowing just two hits while striking out four. So for some reason, as soon as the game got close, Willie Randolph replaced him with Mike DeJean, who pitched just as well as everyone aside from Randolph expected. He almost got through an entire inning without allowing a run, as when he recorded the second out of the sixth inning, he'd only allowed a pair of singles. Then he walked a batter to load the bases. And then, he walked another. Walking in a runner was enough to convince Randolph to get him out of there, but neither Royce Ring nor Heath Bell could get DeJean off the hook, as the each allowed a single to bring DeJean's run total to four. Bell didn't have too great a game himself, allowing three more hits and a run in the seventh. Only Roberto Hernandez emerged unscathed, pitching a perfect eighth with two strikeouts.

Several Met hitters had good games, though. Mike Piazza had three hits including a double. d Wright, batting seventh again, drew three walks. And Jose Reyes had a couple of singles. But their efforts were not enough to undo what Glavine, Randolph and DeJean had wrought.

Another Monday off awaits the last place Mets (33-36) before they head to Philadelphia to take on the resurgent Phillies (38-32). The Mets really need to get back on track in this series if this season isn't going to spiral completely out of control. Game one's pitching matchup is not exactly one to mark on your calendar, as Victor Zambrano (3-6, 4.06) takes on Vicente Padilla (3-6, 6.23).
Thursday, June 16, 2005
  Athletics 5, Mets 0
Athletics 3, Mets 2
Mets 9, Athletics 6

This isn't rocket science, people. Scoring runs is quite often the difference between winning and losing in the game of baseball. The Mets tried to go with a different approach in the first two games of this series, and it worked out about as well as you'd expect. The starting pitching was at least solid and still they lost both games. It wasn't until the long-absent bats showed up that they managed to slink away from Oakland with a win.

They managed a grand total of four hits on Tuesday night, and half of those were from the man manger Willie Randolph designated for the job of hitting under the wacky rules of American League baseball, Marlon Anderson. Mike Piazza also had a hit, and Carlos Beltran had the Mets' only extra base hit of the night, a double in the ninth inning. Only once did the Mets have more than one base runner in the same inning. In the eighth, they got a pair of singles with no one out and actually loaded the bases with just one out thanks to their only walk of the game. But Victor Diaz grounded into a double play, and that was that. Shut out by Joe Blanton and friends.

Tom Glavine had something of a rough night on the mound, allowing ten hits in six innings. But he did limit the damage to just four runs, three earned, which would count as "keeping his team in the game" if his team weren't the June 2005 version of the New York Mets. He only struck out two, but he continued to limit the walks, as he only allowed two of those. Danny Graves pitched a scoreless inning of relief to get his ERA under seven, while Mike DeJean continued his surge in the other direction, allowing a run in the eighth on two hits.

Wednesday was a slightly better effort, in terms of both pitching and hitting. But still, the Mets' impotent bats let a winnable game get away with the aid of some curious late-inning managing. The Mets added a fifth hit and second walk to their offensive assault, and that, along with consecutive seventh-inning doubles by David Wright and Doug Mientkiewicz and a couple of productive outs, was enough to put a pair of runs on the board. This time no Met had more than one hit, but no one grouded into a double play either.

Meanwhile, Victor Zambrano had another solid outing, despite a Bensonesque strikeout rate of just one in seven and two-thirds innings. But he only walked two batters for the second straight start and that, along with five hits, added up to just two runs. I don't think we can call Zambrano "fixed" just yet, but getting his ERA down to 4.06 makes it hard to agitate for his demotion to the bullpen or the minors.

So the game was tied when Zambrano was relieved with two out and two on in the bottom of the eighth. And Randolph used his only lefty, Royce Ring, who went right ahead and struck out the resurgent Eric Chavez. But in the ninth, things got interesting. Randolph has been pretty good about using Braden Looper, presumably the best reliever the Mets have, in the ninth inning of tie games at home. But on the road, it's possible even in extra innings that a situation might arise where Looper could earn a save. So rather than use his best man in the tightest spot, he goes with lesser relievers. This time that meant leaving Ring in for one more batter, who he walked, and bringing in Roberto Hernandez to clean that up. He got a couple of outs via a sac bunt and a strikeout, but in the end even he could not fell the mighty Marco Scutaro, who drove a ball to the gap to end the game. Maybe Looper couldn't have tamed Scutaro's powerful bat either, but it's hard to justify losing a game in the ninth with your best reliever sitting in the bullpen.

On Thursday the Mets switched over to the time-tested approach of scoring a ton of runs and this worked out a whole lot better. Both Piazza and Beltran broke significant home run droughts and a reconfigured Mets lineup scored nine runs on nine hits and six walks. David Wright batted higher than fifth for the first time all season, looking perfectly natural in the second slot. He only managed one RBI single in five at bats, but obviously this new sane approach to lineup construction benefited the whole team. Another new twist was the debut of Brian Daubach at first base. He drew three walks and scored two runs out of the sixth spot. DH Piazza and catcher Ramon Castro were the only Mets with two hits, but Diaz also reached base twice via the base on balls.

It was Kris Benson, the K-less wonder, who took advantage of all of this offense to earn his fifth win of the season. He only lasted six innings and once again didn't strike anybody out. But seven hits and two walks added up to just three runs despite two home runs and that was enough for this uncharacteristically potent Mets offense. Heath Bell pitched a quick seventh inning, getting three outs on just nine pitches with a six-run lead. But The New Suck Danny Graves followed him, and quickly made a game of it. He gave up three runs on four hits to put a blowout back in jeopardy in a hurry and raise his ERA all the way back to 7.97. Luckily a three-run ninth inning lead is tight enough for Looper to get in the game and he preserved the lead with just a walk allowed in the ninth. Looper's line of just eleven strikeouts and seven walks in twenty-four and one-third innings is pretty unimpressive, but you can't really argue with his 2.96 ERA or his thirteen saves in fifteen tries. This doesn't look like the same Looper who was so good early last year, but he's at least getting the job done.

The Mets (33-33) continue their tour of the bottom half of the AL West this weekend with a stop in Seattle. The Mariners (28-35) with send out Jamie Moyer (5-2, 4.90) in game one. The Mets counter with Kazuhisa Ishii (1-5, 5.48).
Sunday, June 12, 2005
  Angels 12, Mets 2
Mets 5, Angels 3 (10)
Angels 4, Mets 3

And the Mets lose another series. They managed to squeeze in one extremely fun dramatic victory along the way. But in the end, a little bit of bad pitching, a little bit of bad defense and a lot of not scoring runs kept the Mets in last place, just a game above five hundred.

Things started out pretty well, as Kazuhisa Ishii dominated the Angels for the first five innings on Friday. He didn't allow a run. He only walked one batter. He only allowed two hits. And he struck out eight. It looked like his streak of alternating good and bad starts would continue. But then came the sixth inning. Five runs on a walk and four hits, including a pair of home runs, and he was done. He's finally got more strikeouts than walks on the season, but the guy keeping Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo out of the rotation now also has a 5.48 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. As for those other seven runs, well, Mike DeJean and Manny Aybar suck. But you knew that already. Aybar has since been designated for assignment to make way for fellow crappy reliever Danny Graves.

As for the Mets' offense, they managed a meager seven hits and not a single walk against Bartolo Colon and company. Ramon Castro and Cliff Floyd each had doubles. Castro and Jose Reyes were the only Mets with two hits.

On Saturday, the Mets got some excellent starting pitching, though that wasn't all they needed to get the win. Kris Benson lasted seven innings and gave up just two runs on four hits. Once again he didn't walk anybody, though he did manage a couple of strikeouts this time. But he exited the game on the losing end, with the Mets having scored only one run. He drove it in himself by walking with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning.

But then the most improbable of things happened. With one out, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Marlon Anderson came up to pinch hit. He's been terrific in that role all year, but this was clearly his finest moment, as he hit the Mets' first ever pinch-hit inside-the-park home run. He hit a ball to center field which caromed off of Steve Finley's leg and to the wall. And he just kept on running until he had tied the game up on a fairly close play at the plate. And somehow that wasn't the most dramatic comeback of the night.

Because in the top of the tenth inning, Braden Looper relieved Heilman, who'd pitched two good innings. And with one out he gave up a single. Then Adam Kennedy stole second base. But Looper got another out. And then Jeff DaVanon grounded the ball to defensive wizard Doug Mientkiewicz, who booted it to put runners on first and third. Darin Erstad drove Kennedy home with a single before Looper could get the third out.

So the Mets once again had to tangle with the Angels' fearsome bullpen to stay in this game. Brendan Donnelly entered, but Reyes singled and Mike Cameron walked. With no one out and two on, Carlos Beltran came to the plate. But he struck out, as did Mike Piazza. And it was all left up to Floyd. The count ran to three and two. Then Floyd fouled off the next three pitches, one with a long drive that ended up just on the wrong side of the right field foul pole. But on the ninth pitch of the at bat, Floyd didn't need any body English, as he crushed the ball to right field to give the Mets a 5-3 win. A game that seemed like a lost cause more than once due to the impotence of the Mets' bats turned into perhaps the most exciting victory of the season to this point. Floyd has cooled off considerably since the early season, but his fifteenth home run of the year showed that he's still got plenty left in the tank.

Sadly, no one else had much left come Sunday afternoon as the Mets were unable to stage another rally. Things started out fine as the Mets put three runs on the board early with Pedro Martinez rolling along. Seven hits and six walks seemed like they should be plenty. Cameron and Wright had doubles, Floyd had two singles and Beltran drew a pair of free passes.

But Pedro couldn't quite maintain the dominance on this day. Through four innings he'd given up just one hit and two walks while striking out two. But in the fifth a diving attempt by Cameron went wrong to the tune of an Orlando Cabrera triple and he soon scored the Angels' first run. And in the sixth, Pedro came apart about as much as he ever does, giving up two runs on a walk and two hits to tie the game. He lasted into the seventh and had a decent game, allowing just the three runs. But six hits and four walks against just three strikeouts were enough to keep him from his eighth win of the season.

Roberto Hernandez got the job done in the eighth, allowing two hits while striking out one and keeping the Angels scoreless. But in the ninth, Looper was once again at the mercy of his defense. He did walk the first batter, and a sacrifice and a ground out put him at third. But a sharp grounder to third turned into David Wright's eleventh error on the season and the Angels' fourth run on the day.

Wright's been tremendous with the bat this year, but his defense is definitely a concern. All fielding stats are flawed in one way or another, but leading the majors in errors at third base while ranking near the bottom in both range factor and zone rating paints a pretty grim picture. Wright had a great defensive reputation as he made his way through the minors, but this year he's looked tentative a lot of the time and has just made too many mistakes. Of course he's young and has plenty of time to learn on his way to being the best third baseman the National League has to offer, but the defensive signs so far aren't encouraging.

The Mets (32-21) take another Monday off before starting a series in Oakland. The new-look Athletics (25-37) are having quite a dismal season, with numerous players both new and old failing to live up to expectations. Tom Glavine (4-5, 4.56) goes for the Mets in game one. He'll be opposed by 24 year-old Joe Blanton (1-6, 6.13), who's walked more batters, 27, than he's struck out, 25. I wonder what the Mets will offer Oakland for him.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
  Mets 3, Astros 1
Astros 4, Mets 1
Astros 6, Mets 3

I did not intend for this to be the first time since Sunday that I posted anything. And while it may be true that I am lazy, I also have a variety of good excuses for why I haven't written anything since then. But you don't care about those, so on to baseball, where the Mets' offense also decided to take a little breather.

This series didn't exactly put the extremes of the Mets' starting pitching on display, as nobody had a really disastrous outing. But it did prove, once again, that one guy is on a whole other level from the rest of them. Pedro Martinez did finally give up a hit in the seventh inning of Tuesday's game, but even after his shot at a no-hitter went by the wayside, he continued to dominate the Astros. He finished his second complete game of the season with four consecutive strikeouts to bring his total for the game to twelve. He walked just one batter and gave up one run on two hits, with Chris Burke's first major league home run doing the only damage. His 2.45 ERA still isn't enough to lead the league but his 104 strikeouts in 88 innings certainly are.

The Mets did have a reasonably productive day at the plate despite their paltry run total. Those three runs were the product of twelve hits, though they only drew one walk. Mike Cameron and Cliff Floyd each had doubles in the first inning to get the Mets their first run and they, Carlos Beltran and Kazuo Matsui each had two hits on the night. That's not a whole lot to get excited about, but at least there's one pitcher in the Mets' rotation who can make such a score stand up.

On Wednesday, Victor Zambrano came back down to Earth following his best start of the season. He gave the Mets his standard six-inning performance and they didn't put enough runs on the board to salvage a win. He only walked two batters, which is the fewest free passes he's allowed in any start this season. But he only struck out three, and six hits added up on three runs. Three runs in six innings is a pretty standard performance for Zambrano, whose 4.26 ERA is a lot prettier than the 5.12 you get if you count the six unearned runs he's allowed. Zambrano may be settling into a level of mediocrity rather than abject awfulness, but I still wouldn't shed a tear if he were yanked from the rotation.

The Mets had a good offensive night in one respect in that they drew seven walks. But all seven were drawn by just three players--Cameron, who had three, Matsui and David Wright. And they only had six hits, with only two going for extra bases as Wright and Ramon Castro hit doubles. They again scored a run in the first inning, but this time they couldn't add to it and wound up outscored by the league's worst offense.

On Thursday the pendulum swung back to the middle as things were quite even until a Mets bullpen collapse. Tom Glavine had another decent game, lasting seven innings and allowing just three runs, though those were enough for him to be trailing as he left the game. He struck out five and walked just one, continuing his recent string of good control. And he allowed a reasonable seven hits, five of which were singles.

Again that wasn't quite enough for the Mets' offense, though Wright tried his best to carry them early on. Batting fifth with Mike Piazza on the sideline with a minor injury, Wright homered in his first at bat and drove in another run with a single in his second. But his next two at bats didn't go as well as he struck out both times, ending the game with his second K. He finally got some help in the bottom of the eighth as the Mets scored their third run to tie things up without hitting the ball out of the infield. Matsui got hit on the foot with a pitch and wound up scoring on a two-out infield single by Cameron.

Then Willie Randolph brought in Braden Looper to pitch the ninth inning of a tie game, a fine idea if ever there was one. And Looper pitched well, getting through two scoreless innings with just two hits allowed to keep the game even. But as the Mets' offense continued to flounder against the Houston bullpen, Heath Bell entered to relieve Looper and things quickly went sour. The first two batters hit singles which could perhaps be chalked up to bad luck. But Morgan Ensberg's subsequent RBI double was a little more than just fortunate placement. Bell struck out the fourth batter he faced to finally get an out, but the next one singled to drive in two more runs and end Bell's night. Aaron Heilman came in to mop things up, hardly an efficient use of his talents.

So, the Mets lost two out of three to one of the worst teams in the league, thanks in large part to putting only seven runs on the board. The Mets still rate in the upper half of the league's offenses and three games aren't the end of the world. But in such a tight division, they really need to take advantage of opportunities like an extra series with the Astros when they come along.

The heart-pounding excitement of interleague play returns to Shea as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from Orange County which is in California, one of the United States of America (34-25) come to town. The Mets (31-29) aren't exactly putting their best foot forward, as Kazuhisa Ishii (1-4, 5.14, K:BB 20:23) gets the first start. The resurgent Bartolo Colon (7-3, 3.10) goes for the Angels. Colon's ERA is down nearly two full points from last year's 5.01 as he's improved his strikeout rate and cut down on the walks and home runs. This doesn't quite seem like the perfect opportunity for the Mets to get their offense back on track.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
  Mets 5, Giants 1
Giants 6, Mets 3
Mets 12, Giants 1

On Saturday, Tom Glavine continued his slow climb toward adequacy with another good outing. He lasted seven and two-thirds innings and only allowed one run on nine hits. He only struck out three batters, but he didn't walk anyone. And that has been the key to his resurgence. Over his last six starts, he's walked two or fewer batters each time and has an ERA of 2.82. In his first six starts he had an ERA of 7.04 and walked at least three batters every time out, culminating with six walks in his sixth start. Thank goodness the number of the beast was recently revised to 616 or all of these sixes would have me concerned about the source of Glavine's newfound powers. Glavine's still not striking anyone out, having fanned just 34 in 70 innings this season, so it's hard to predict dominance for him from this point forward. But if he can continue to limit the free passes, he can be a useful piece of the Mets' rotation.

The offense had a solid day as well, putting five runs on the board on twelve hits and four walks. Mike Cameron's sixth home run of the season got the scoring started in the first. Mike Piazza had a terrific day with three singles in five at bats. And David Wright had a pair of hits. Jose Reyes's eleventh double of the season was the Mets' only other extra-base hit.

On Sunday afternoon, neither the pitching, the defense nor the offense was quite as effective. Kazuhisa Ishii took the mound and though he only walked two batters in six and one-third innings and could have gotten more help from his defense than he did, he still had a pretty unimpressive start. He gave up six runs, five of which were earned, on ten hits. And he only struck out one batter. Wright's throwing error and Carlos Beltran's inability to run at full speed contributed to his difficulty, but it's not like he was dominating the Giants' hitters.

Ishii did have a good day with the bat, though, as he had two singles and drove in the Mets' first run. They didn't score again until the bottom of the ninth, when Doug Mientkiewicz led off with a double which was followed by singles from Victor Diaz and Chris Woodward. Reyes grounded into a fiedler's choice to drive a run home, but that was all the Mets could muster.

So the Mets had to win the second game of Sunday's doubleheader to avoid dropping into last place in the National League East, a full two games behind the division-leading Washington Flukes. They took a novel approach toward achieving the nearly inevitable doubleheader split. They scored a ton of runs.

Cliff Floyd was the star of the show, as he launched two long home runs to give him fourteen on the year. But Wright and Diaz both went deep as well, for the ninth and fifth times, respectively. It wasn't exactly a barrage of hits, as the Mets only needed thirteen hits to score twelve runs, and they drew a modest four walks. But extra bases were the order of the day, as in addition to the four long balls, the Mets got doubles from Reyes and the starting pitcher. Reyes also stole his fifteenth base of the year while Wright swiped his sixth. Floyd, Wright and Reyes each had three hits.

The beneficiary of all of this offense was Kris Benson, who had another good start. He did it in a pretty unusual way, though. He lasted seven innings and gave up just one run on three hits. And he didn't walk anyone. And he somehow pulled all of this off without striking out a single batter. So Mets starters went thirteen and one-third innigns on Sunday and struck out a grand total of one batter. Weird things can happen over the course of just seven innings, and I suppose shutting down an offense without a single K is an example. Hopefully Benson doesn't try to repeat this trick against a less inept group of bats.

The third-place Mets (30-27) take a day off before starting a series against what's left of the Houston Astros (21-34). The league's worst offense will have to contend with Pedro Martinez (6-1, 2.62), which should be fun to watch. But a duel of pitchers may be on tap, as the Astros will send out Roy Oswalt (6-6, 3.06).
Thursday, June 02, 2005
  Mets 6, Diamondbacks 1

So this Pedro Martinez fellow is rather skilled in the art of pitching. How fortuitous for us all that he realized this fact at a young age and was able to pursue it as his chosen vocation. What a sadder place the world would be had he instead decided to become a carpenter or a garbage collector or the inventor of a hilarious refrigerator alarm.

Yes, I've decided that describing the awesomeness of Pedro in conventional, baseball-related terminology every five or six days might grow boring and repetitive and chosen to spice it up a bit. It may be funnier next time. I make no promises. Pedro, on the other hand, promises to be excellent nearly every time out, and tonight was no exception. The Mets' fragile, declining ace threw another eight innings and gave up just one run. He added nine more to his league-leading strikeout total. And he didn't walk anyone. The Diamondbacks managed five hits and only a second-inning home run by Tony Clark was of any consequence. Martinez lowered his ERA to 2.62, which is lower than any ERA by a Mets starter over a full season since Al Leiter's 2.47 in 1998.

The offense had a pretty good night as well, though they got quite a helping hand from the Arizona defense. Second baseman Craig Counsell committed three separate throwing errors, two of which played a role in Mets run-scoring. But nine hits, including four for extra bases, helped the cause as well. Pedro worked his usual magic on the bat of Carlos Beltran again, as the center fielder hit his seventh home run of the season which was also his seventh home run in games started by the Mets' ace. It would be nice if one of these days Beltran went deep with someone else on the mound. Providing a long ball on the days when the Mets' need offense the least is not really the most efficient distribution of resources.

The slumbering bat of Cliff Floyd woke up as well, as he hit a pair of doubles in the game. And Kazuo Matsui not only played a spotless defensive game, but he came through with a big hit in the sixth inning, driving in a pair of runs with a double to the wall in left center field. Matsui has an opportunity to win back the New York fans and, oh yeah, his job with Miguel Cairo nursing a minor injury. Hopefully he'll take advantage of it. Chris Woodward had a fine game starting at first base and smacking two singles. Mike Cameron didn't have a hit and did commit an error, but he also had about the most ridiculous catch I've ever seen in the top of the sixth inning. Jose Cruz Jr. lined a ball to right field and Cameron got turned around, slipped and fell flat on his face only to stick his glove out while lying on the ground and have the ball land in it for the second out of the inning. I strongly urge you to consult your highlight show of choice to see this one. I wouldn't encourage anyone to watch Baseball Tonight under normal circumstances, lest the "insights" of John Kruk cause your head to explode, but taking a peek at their "Web Gems" would be worth your while on this night.

The Mets (28-26) continue their battle with the National League's Western division this weekend as the San Francisco Giants (23-29) return to the city of their birth for a three-game series. Tom Glavine (3-5, 5.05) starts the first game for the Mets and actually gets to square off with a pitcher boasting an ERA even higher than his own. Noah Lowry (2-5, 5.37) goes for the Giants in the midst of what people in the business call a "sophomore slump." His ERA is more than a point and a half higher than it was last year and though I haven't seen him pitch yet this year, I would guess that the eleven home runs he's allowed in fifty-eight and two-thirds innings might have something to do with it. Of course, six of those came in two starts in Colorado, so things may yet even out for him.
  Diamondbacks 7, Mets 0
Mets 2, Diamondbacks 1

Scoring two runs in two days isn't the best way to go about winning a baseball game. Given who the Mets were sending out to pitch, a couple of losses would be the most likely outcome of that sort of offensive output. But they managed to sneak out a win somehow. And it only took the least likely of pitching performances to get it done.

Game one of this series was not a great one for the middle of the Mets' batting order in general and Carlos Beltran in particular. The Mets' center fielder made his return to the lineup after a week off and got plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Jose Reyes had a terrific game with three hits, including a double, and a stolen base. Miguel Cairo was batting second and had two singles and a stolen base of his own. You'd think with the Mets' top two hitters reaching base five out of eight times, their third hitter might get himself an RBI or two. Sadly, this was not the case. Beltran went hitless in four at bats and never actually got the ball out of the infield. No one else in the Mets' lineup fared much better as only Mike Cameron managed a hit against Diamondbacks starter Brad Halsey.

Mets' pitching didn't have a great night either, as Kris Benson got roughed up a bit. A first inning two-run home run by Jose Cruz Jr. was all the offense the Diamondbacks needed, but Benson would up allowing four runs in six innings. He struck out seven while walking just two, but he wasn't able to overcome eight hits. Dae-Sung Koo had another terrible game in relief, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning. At least Willie Randolph didn't feel the need to use Heath Bell with a seven-run lead, as Manny Aybar and Mike DeJean got the mop-up duty they deserved.

But the next day, something funny happened. Not "ha ha" funny so much as "repent your sins, the end of the world may be nigh" funny, but funny nonetheless. Victor Zambrano pitched well. Not just well, he pitched excellently. This wasn't the sort of good performance where he only gives up a run or two, but he allows a bunch of base runners and racks up such a pitch count that he has to leave after six innings. This was a legitimately good game.

First of all, he lasted eight innings, a full two innings more than any of his previous starts this season. The last time Zambrano pitched as many as eight innings in a game it was against the Toronto Blue Jays last June 23rd. And those eight innings took him 128 pitches, whereas these eight took just 99. He gave up just one run and that one didn't score until he was relieved by Braden Looper in the ninth. The hit Zambrano gave up to start the ninth that led to his exit was just the Diamondbacks' fifth of the game. And he walked only three batters. That's right, he had only as many base runners as innings pitched! And he struck out more than he walked, fanning five. It was truly a departure from the Victor Zambrano we'd seen to this point in the year. Looper had a pretty scary inning of relief as he gave up three hits in the ninth, but he got a double play in there as well to prevent further damage.

The Mets' offense didn't have a great game, but they did manage ten hits. Once again the top of the lineup was key, as Reyes had another three-hit game. He manufactured a run basically all by himself in the first inning on an infield hit, the first of his three stolen bases and a pair of ground outs getting him all the way around the diamond. Beltran had a much better night with a double and a walk, though it was clear that his quadriceps muscle was still bothering him on the double as he jogged all the way to second base. Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd also had doubles while Piazza and David Wright both had a pair of hits. Mike Cameron had a hit and a terrific catch, perhaps robbing Luis Gonzalez of a home run in the third. I don't think there's a lot of question that Cameron is the best outfielder the Mets have, especially given Beltran's leg troubles. Switching around the alignment isn't a realistic possibility and probably wouldn't make too significant a difference, but the current setup is likely not optimal.

Tomorrow the Mets try to take this series with something of a mismatch on the mound. Pedro Martinez (2-1, 2.79) goes for the Mets having pitched brilliantly in each of his last two starts. Shawn Estes (4-3, 3.79) goes for Arizona in the midst of a pretty solid season. He's apparently improved his control considerably since leaving the Mets as he's not having too much trouble hitting a strike zone that is considerably smaller than Roger Clemens.
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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