Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Sunday, July 31, 2005
  Astros 2, Mets 0
Mets 9, Astros 4

I believe July has solidified its place as my least favorite month. It's always been more or less even with August as far as torturous weather is concerned, but adding the constant dread of the Mets decimating their farm system in search of an ill-considered quick fix to the last few days of the month has pushed July over the top. Congratulations, July!

As far as actual baseball games, Saturday's went according to form, as the Mets offense completely robbed the team of any chance for victory. They managed just three hits over nine innings, and one of those was by pitcher Tom Glavine. Jose Reyes hit a couple of singles in the Mets' best offensive performance of the night. David Wright drew a walk and stole a base.

Also turning a pretty good yet futile performance was Glavine, who, in addition to his offensive contribution, also pitched well. He pitched seven innings and gave up just five hits. Sadly one of those was a home run by Jason Lane, which was enough for the Astros to secure the win. Glavine struck out three batters and didn't walk any. Braden Looper gave up a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth.

Sunday was an unusual change of pace, as the Mets' offense actually managed to take advantage of a hitter-friendly park for the second time in seven chances. As if to say, "Manny who?", they exploded for nine runs on seventeen hits and four walks. Mike Cameron, very nearly of the Boston Red Sox, had three hits including a double. Also with unlikely three-hit days were Doug Mientkiewicz and Carlos Beltran. Beltran had a double, as did Wright, Reyes and Miguel Cairo. Cliff Floyd hit his twenty-fourth home run of the season off of Roy Oswalt and was not subsequently hit with a pitch. Marlon Anderson entered the game as a pitch hitter, drew a walk and stole two bases. Beltran and Wright also had steals.

It was a good thing all of those guys did all of that, too, as future middle reliever Kazuhisa Ishii got the start for the Mets and pitched in his traditional manner. He lasted just four innings and gave up three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out two. His job will soon belong to Steve Trachsel. We should all be thankful for that. Juan Padilla relieved Ishii for two innings and gave up his first run of the season, but three other relievers pitched a scoreless inning each.

So, with disaster averted, the same old Mets (53-52) are now four games back in the Wild Card race with four teams between them and the Astros. They will return home to take on the similarly mediocre Brewers (52-54) starting on Tuesday. Victor Zambrano (5-9, 3.78) starts game one for the Mets while Tomokazu Ohka (6-6, 3.87), whose full name is way cooler than his nickname, goes for Milwaukee.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
  Astros 3, Mets 2
Astros 5, Mets 2

The Mets are currently in discussion with certain teams in the American League's Eastern Division to make incredibly amazingly immeasurably unbelievably stupid trades. So I'm going to talk about the games they lost in the last two days. I'll wait until they actually do something before I begin my freaking out in earnest.

So the Mets aren't going to make the playoffs. They can't beat the Colorado Rockies and they can't beat the soft underbelly of the Houston Astros' starting rotation. That makes all that stuff up there even more [insert negative adjective], but I digress.

On Thursday it was Pedro Martinez vs. Ezequiel Astacio. And Pedro did his part. He pitched eight innings on 117 pitches without his arm falling off or costing the Red Sox the pennant. He allowed a mere two runs on four hits and three walks, one of which was intentional. And he added eight more strikeouts to his league-leading total. But that was not quite enough for the New York Mets' offense.

For you see the Mets' bats had the kind of night that lowered Astacio's ERA more than an entire point--To SEVEN POINT ONE SEVEN--over the course of six innings. David Wright had his hit. Mike Piazza hit a double and drew two walks. Miguel Cairo hit the sort of thing that counts as a home run in that stadium they've got in Houston and also singled and walked. Mike Cameron also had two hits and a walk, though he was also picked off of first base and charged with an error on a ball that he may or may not have held long enough before he dropped it taking it out of his glove. But the Mets put together just two runs on seven hits and four walks, and so when Roberto Hernandez gave up hits to two of the first three batters he faced in the ninth inning, the second of which being a double by Brad Ausmus, the Mets lost.

At least on Friday they didn't have the heartbreak of getting a good pitching performance before they lost. Kris Benson gave up three home runs in five and one-third innings, though of course that wouldn't have happened were this game contested in New York. Still, five runs are five runs and it's not like the Mets' offense was coming to bat live via satellite from Shea Stadium. Benson gave up six hits and three walks, though he did striking out six in a surprising development.

The Mets' offense was even worse that the previous night, getting just five hits and two walks. Cairo's double was the only extra-base hit. No one had more than one hit and only Carlos Beltran reached base twice, with a single and a walk. Beltran was one of three Mets to steal a base, the others being Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron. But still, they got owned by someone named Wandy Rodriguez, who now sports a nifty 5.90 ERA. This team is not a playoff-caliber team, and they're not a player or two away from becoming one.

While Met fans everywhere await Omar Minaya's putting the Mets' farm system out of its misery tonight, the Mets will play and probably lose another game. The Mets are currently four games behind the Wild Card-leading Astros, with four other teams ahead of them, and that will probably get worse once Tom Glavine (7-8, 4.69) has had his say. The Astros will send out Andy Pettitte (8-7, 2.73) to pick up the win.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
  Mets 9, Rockies 3

The Mets sent out an unusually Mike-less lineup on Wednesday and exploded offensively. Both Mike Cameron and Mike Piazza has the night off, prompting fears that the Mets had made some dumbass trade for Alfonso Soriano, and Miguel Cairo was left to supply the lineup with Mikeness all by himself. He did a fine job, though, hitting a double and a single in five at bats.

But the real offensive hero of the night was Marlon Anderson. Starting in right field in place of Cameron, Anderson hit a pair of solo home runs to bring his season total up to three. Ramon Castro homered as well, also for the third time this season. Castro also hit one of the Mets' six doubles along with Cairo, Doug Mientkiewicz, Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Cliff Floyd. Those nine extra-base hits helped the Mets put nine runs on the board with a total of just thirteen hits and two walks.

And insuring that people would be able to complain that the Mets should have scored some of those runs in the first two games of this series, when they really needed them, was Victor Zambrano, who pitched another solid game. He lasted seven innings and allowed just two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out five to earn his fifth win of the season. Willie Randolph then made the questionable move of bringing in Danny Graves with a mere seven-run lead in the thin Colorado air in the eighth inning. Graves, sucking as he does, gave up a run on four hits and two walks in two innings of work. He did strike out two batters and lower his season ERA to 7.39. Please release him.

Tonight's game is the sort of contest the Mets should win or hang their heads in shame over. Pedro Martinez (12-3, 2.79) goes for the Mets. Ezequiel Astacio (1-4, 8.24), who has a pretty awesome name and was involved in the trade that sent Billy Wagner to Philadelphia prior to last season, will go for the resurgent Astros.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
  Rockies 5, Mets 3
Rockies 4, Mets 3

The Mets sent Tom Glavine and Kazuhisa Ishii out to pitch the first two games of a series in Colorado, so they more or less got what they deserved. Neither pitcher got annihilated, exactly, and the Mets' offense really dropped the ball after it looked to be on track. But still, sending out those guys out to start these games wasn't quite the proverbial putting forward of the best foot.

Glavine only walked one batter in six innings, and he did get victimized a bit by his defense, but still, he wasn't good. Only one of the five runs Glavine allowed was unearned as a result of David Wright's seventeenth error of the season. He didn't allow a home run, as two doubles accounted for the only extra bases hits he surrendered. But eight hits in total helped put five runs on the board and the Mets' offense somehow couldn't compete with that.

The Mets also failed to hit a home run, and had just six hits overall while failing to draw a single walk. But four of those six hits were for extra bases, as Jose Reyes hit his league-leading eleventh triple of the season, Cliff Floyd also made it all the way around to third for the first time this season and Mikes Cameron and Piazza each had doubles. Reyes also had a single, as did Wright. But against four Colorado pitchers, one of whom was Mike Freaking DeJean, the Mets couldn't do anything more than that and lost as a result.

Tuesday was a similar story, though the pitching was a little better and the defense a little worse. Well, "better" may be the wrong word, as Ishii lasted just five innings and allow seven hits, four walks and a wild pitch. But he limited the Rockies to just four runs, and only one of those was counted as earned due to an error by first baseman Chris Woodward. Ishii did allow the first home run of the series and struck out just one batter. The Mets may never wise up and ditch Ishii for Jae Seo or Aaron Heilman, but at least Steve Trachsel is making rehab starts in the minors now, so we may, at long last, be rid of Ishii anyway.

The offense put up nine hits and a couple of walks this time, but seven of those hits were singles and a last grasp for a fourth run in the ninth was thwarted by Cameron standing a watching a ball cross right over the middle of the plate. Wright bounced back for his paltry one-hit effort with another big game, hitting his fifteenth home run of the season as well as two singles. He was caught stealing, but he's also now hitting .300/.381/.510 on the season and is better than your favorite player was when he was twenty-two. Reyes had another good game with a double a single and a walk (from DeJean). He drove in the Mets third run in the top of the ninth, but there the rally stalled as Cameron struck out for the fourth time in the game to end things.

Tonight's game, which is scheduled to start mere minutes from now, will feature the most favorable pitching matchup of the series for the Mets. Yes, of the three pitchers to start for the Mets in this series, Victor Zambrano (4-9, 3.86) is the best of them. He will face Jamey Wright (5-10, 5.30), who has a WHIP of 1.91 and an ERA of 6.75 at home this season.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
  Dodgers 6, Mets 5
Mets 7, Dodgers 5
Mets 6, Dodgers 0

I don't know quite how it happened, but suddenly the Mets can score runs. They've gotten good pitching in most games since the All-Star Break, but now they're putting runs on the board even when they lose. They've now won six out of seven, and while they still sit in fourth place due to similarly good play from the rest of the division's back end, they sit just three and a half games out of the tie for the division lead and the Wild Card. As the trading deadline approaches, the Mets seem to be contending in a much more realistic manner than they were at the time of last year's blunders.

Friday's game was not one of those in which the Mets got good starting pitching, but they still nearly pulled it out with an unusual offensive outburst. Victor Zambrano got smacked around in his worst start since April. It was only the second time this season he's given up more than three runs, but he gave them up in a hurry. On the bright side, he didn't walk anyone, but thanks to the ten hits he gave up, that made little difference. Four doubles and a home run were among those and that added up to six runs in four and two-thirds innings. He struck out just one batter.

But down 6-0, the Mets did not just let this one go. After the sixth run had been scored and Zambrano had exited in the top of the fifth, the Mets got right back into the game in the bottom half. Doug Mientkiewicz, hoping to keep his job as starting first baseman past next Sunday, smacked his eleventh home run of the season, a two-run shot. In the next inning, Carlos Beltran, perhaps embarrassed at not having any more home runs than Mientkiewicz, hit his twelfth to drive in three more runs. The Mets had just eight hits and one walk, but those two home runs and a double by David Wright were among them and helped put those five runs on the board. But that was all the could muster and thus failed to overcome the six-run deficit despite four and one-third innings of scoreless relief pitching.

Saturday was a different story, though, as while the Mets did again get behind early and have some trouble with pitching, this time they were able to come back. Surprisingly, this time the rough start came from Pedro Martinez, who gave up as many runs as he has all season. He lasted seven innings and gave up just eight hits and two walks, but that included a home run and three doubles and he was charged with five runs. He struck out a paltry four batters.

But the Mets, down three runs after half an inning and down two after five more, just kept coming back as Pedro kept failing to shut the Dodgers down. The Mets didn't hit a home run all day, but Jose Reyes's triple being the biggest hit of the day was plenty. It was just one of Reyes's four hits on the day and he also stole a pair of bases to raise his league-leading total to thirty-four. Beltran, Wright and Mike Cameron also had multiple hits, with Wright hitting his twenty-sixth double of the season. Mientkiewicz also hit a double. Cameron, Beltran and Miguel Cairo each stole a base as well.

And Sunday, the Mets finally had a more relaxing, comfortable victory thanks to some excellent starting pitching. Kris Benson threw eight shutout innings in what was both is longest and stingiest start of the season. He allowed four hits, all singles, and one walk and he struck out five batters. Benson's acquisition last year never seemed quite as dumb as the Zambrano trade, but I wasn't exactly thrilled by the deal, either. It sure would be nice to have Justin Huber right now. And of course Benson's contract was roundly criticized when he signed it. He's certainly not one of the best pitchers in the league, but he has pitched better than the mediocrity of his last three seasons. Both he and Zambrano are providing interesting data points regarding Rick Peterson's ability to "fix" wayward pitchers. I wonder what he'd be able to do with someone who didn't suck in the first place.

The Mets got all the runs they needed in the second inning when Mike Piazza hit a two-run home run into the left field bleachers. It was his twelfth on the season and the 390th of his career. I don't know if he can make it to 400 by the end of the season, but it will sure be fun to watch him try. He also had two singles and a walk in the game. Beltran and Cliff Floyd each had a couple of hits, with Beltran tripling and Floyd doubling.

Tomorrow the Mets (51-47) and their newly adequate offense head to a place where they might be able to keep it up. They'll start a three game series in Colorado against the Rockies (34-63), who despite sucking intensely are one game over .500 at home this season. Tom Glavine (7-7, 4.62) will get lit up for the Mets. Jose Acevedo (1-0, 3.92) goes for Colorado.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
  Mets 12, Padres 0

Mets' record before moving David Wright up to the fifth slot in the lineup: 46-46.

Mets' record after moving David Wright up to the fifth slot in the lineup: 3-0.

I'm just sayin'.

Yeah, I don't know what happened here. I was at work where I don't have a radio and my computer's version of Windows Media Player is so antiquated as to prevent the use of MLB.TV, so I didn't see or hear a moment of this game as it happened. And somehow the Mets scored twelve runs and Kazuhisa Ishii pitched six shutout innings.

Ishii has fared pretty well in ridiculously lopsided pitching matchups this year, having bested both Roger Clemens and Dontrelle Willis so far. But his allowing seven fewer runs than Jake Peavy in this game is quite the shocking development. Ishii only lasted six innings on ninety-seven pitches and wasn't exactly dominant, but he did keep the Padres off the board. Five walks, four hits and three strikeouts is not an impressive line, but it was probably enough to save Ishii's job for a while.

Ishii allowed six base runners in the first three innings, which did not augur well for New York's chance to win. But, of course, none of those guys scored. So Doug Mientkiewicz's third-inning home run--his tenth of the year--gave the Mets all the runs they'd need. The running up of the score began in the fifth inning when Ramon Castro's second home run of the season put two more runs on the board and Jose Reyes's speed helped the Mets add a couple more. Reyes had three singles and a stolen base in the game. Other Mets with multiple hits included Mientkiewicz, Wright and Mike Cameron, with the latter two each driving in runs with doubles. The Mets were unusually efficient in this game, as it took just twelve hits, three walks and one San Diego error to add up to twelve runs.

A modest four-game winning streak has landed the Mets (49-46) in third place all by themselves, just four and a half games shy of the division-leading Nationals and Braves. They will welcome the free-falling Dodgers (43-52) to town for a weekend series. Victor Zambrano (4-8, 3.51) tries to keep the Mets climbing toward the top of the division. He will take on former Yankee flameout Jeff Weaver (7-8, 4.26).
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
  Mets 7, Padres 3

Dear George,

You can almost taste it, can't you? First place is within your grasp. You held it for a day and now you know that you can't let those unwashed punks in Boston win it all. But you're worried that you might not have the team to get it done.

Sure, the offense is fine. Even the new, more natural Jason Giambi is hitting these days. But do you have the pitching? Sure, you've got Al Leiter, who's certainly proven himself a True Yankee, but beyond that...? What you need is a veteran lefty to prevent opposing hitters from taking advantage of that short porch in right field. What you need is a two-time Cy Young Award winner still in the prime of his career. What you need is a man with a lot of postseason experience and a World Series MVP Award to his credit. What you need is a future Hall Of Famer. What you need, George, is Tom Glavine.

Sure, you've been burned a little bit by pitchers coming over from the National League, but is there any doubt that Glavine is the real deal? Why, just tonight he showed what he can do against no less of a challenge that the National League West division leaders. He lasted a robust six innings and had what the experts refer to as a "Quality Start". He allowed just two runs on six hits and only one walk while striking out three. Those three strikeouts moved him past another former Met great who flourished as a Yankee, Dwight Gooden, on the all-time strikeout list. Can't you just picture Glavine tossing a no-hitter in a crucial September game?

You don't have to think too long to realize that Glavine is the perfect solution to your rotation's troubles. He's got the resume of a proven veteran that few can match. He's a lefty. He's known to get along well with your other new star lefty. And he's signed up through next year, so you don't have to worry about replacing his excellent production in the offseason. If you play your cards just right, Omar Minaya might be willing to take that kid you've got playing second base off your hands in exchange for this big name superstar. But you'd better hurry. That deadline is coming up fast.


Joseph Bradley
Concerned New York baseball fan

P.S. The Mets' offense exploded for seven runs, with Carlos Beltran continuing to show signs of heating up with a two-run, first-inning home run, his eleventh of the season. Mike Piazza also had a big game, with a walk, a double and his eleventh long ball. Jose Reyes and Cliff Floyd each had a pair of hits with Reyes hitting a double and stealing two bases, while Floyd swiped a bag of his own.

P.P.S. The Mets will try to sweep the series tomorrow, though the pitching matchup could be described as unfavorable if you had trouble locating your Thesaurus. Kazuhisa Ishii (2-8, 5.57) has somehow snuck back into the rotation. He will face Jake Peavy (8-3, 3.03), who is a whole lot better at pitching than he is, in Thursday's matinee.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
  Mets 3, Padres 1 (11)

A wise man once said "a watched pot never boils." This is, of course, due to the fact that pots are customarily made of metal, which boils at such a high temperature as to make watching it closely unsafe. On the other hand, if you monitor the water within a sufficiently heated pot for a long enough period of time, it will in fact begin to boil. In much the same way, if you give the New York Mets' offense enough innings, they will eventually score a run or two.

This time it took the Mets until the eleventh inning to score the second run they needed to make some excellent pitching hold up. Kris Benson pitched seven good innings, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks while striking out four batters. A home run in the top of the fifth by Khalil Greene did all the damage but was enough to keep the game's outcome in doubt for eleven frames. Cliff Floyd matched Greene in the bottom of the fifth with his twenty-third long ball of the season and that's where things sat for six more innings.

The Mets had some good individual performances, as Floyd had a pair of hits as did Mike Piazza and David Wright, who actually batted ahead of Piazza in a rare moment of justifiable lineup construction. Wright hit a double with one out in the ninth innings which was followed by an intentional walk to Piazza, but beyond that the Mets were plum out of hitters.

Piazza's second single of the night came with one out in the eleventh, though, and this time the Mets were able to capitalize. Once the routine pinch runner was procured, the task fell to pinch hitter Chris Woodward. And Woodward, who's been a pretty useful piece off the bench thus far this year, took the second pitch he saw and drove it into the left field bleachers to bring fast old man Gerald Williams and himself home with the winning second and gratuitous third runs, respectively. Woodward, like everyone else the Mets have tried at first base this year, doesn't hit enough to play first base in the major leagues, but as a bench player, he's a good guy to have around. Braden Looper got the win after two perfect innings of relief.

The Mets now sit a full game ahead of the lowly Florida Marlins in fourth place in the National League East. They'll try to attain the lofty heights of two games above .500 tomorrow in the second game of this series. Making that somewhat less than a sure thing will be the Mets' starting pitcher, Tom Glavine (6-7, 4.71), who's going to have to get injured pretty soon if we're not going to be stuck with him again next year. Woody Williams (5-5, 4.15) opposes him for the Padres.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
  Mets 6, Braves 3
Braves 2, Mets 1
Braves 3, Mets 0
Mets 8, Braves 1

I suppose winning two out of four games from the Braves should be satisfactory. And over the course of this series, the Mets did sort of move out of last place in the National League East. They've now got one more win than the Florida Marlins, though they have one more loss as well. Still, the Mets' inability to make a significant move in either direction remains frustrating, particularly with the trade deadline approaching. Omar Minaya's said a lot of good things this year about building for the future, but we've heard those sort of public statements from Mets management in the past. If the Mets are going to keep playing this sort of mediocre, adequate, not-quite-out-of-the-race baseball, we're just going to have to wait and hope over the next two weeks that they don't do anything too stupid.

Things started off quite promisingly in this series, with the Mets getting plenty of good performances and a dramatic victory. Kris Benson didn't get the win, but he did pitch well over the first seven innings, allowing just three runs, two earned, on seven hits and striking out seven batters while not walking anyone. Three runs have often been enough to beat the Mets this season, but this time the offense stepped up.

David Wright had a huge night at the plate, smacking a pair of home runs in the first four innings. He also drew a walk and scored another run later in the game. Unfortunate, he also made a key error in the seventh to allow the Braves to come from behind 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead. But pinch hitter Jose Offerman drove him in in the bottom of the inning to tie the game up and set things up for Mike Piazza's eighth inning dramatics.

Carlos Beltran doubled for his fourth hit of the night and Cliff Floyd followed with a walk. Bobby Cox called on his third relief pitcher of the inning to face Piazza with two on and one out and Piazza responded with a classic opposite-field blast over the right field wall to put the Mets on top. It was his tenth home run of the season and a reminder of plenty of great moments in his nearly complete Mets career. He may not have many more of those moments left in him, but each one will be a bright spot in what could be an ultimately frustrating season. Mike Piazza is one of the all-time great New York Mets and even though the time has come, it will still be sad to see him go at the end of the season. And he still hits pretty well for a catcher.

No such offensive outbursts were forthcoming on Friday, though, and so the Mets wasting a pitching performance as good as it was unlikely by just putting one run on the board. Tom Glavine somehow managed to tame his former organization for seven innings, limiting them to just one run. He gave up six hits and walked four batters while striking out just two, but he managed to keep them shut down about as effectively as he ever has.

sadly, the one Met who brought his bat was Wright, who, perhaps in a bid to establish himself as the anti-Larry, smacked his fourteenth home run of the season in the second inning. Jose Reyes and Miguel Cairo each had two hits and one of Reyes's was a double, but they weren't able to score or drive in a run.

Roberto Hernandez relieved Glavine in the eighth and wasn't quite as effective as the Mets' starter. He struck out two batters in two innings, but he also allowed one run on three hits and a walk. And that was enough against the Mets' impotent offense.

Saturday was more of the same with another good pitching performance wasted. Happy accident Victor Zambrano did it again, lasting seven innings and allowing just two runs. He walked four batters to go along with six hits, but he also struck out six and did about as good a job of keeping the Braves off of the board as one could expect. The Braves added their third run when Danny "White Flag" Graves was somehow allowed to pitch in a two-run game. He gave up three hits and a walk in one inning.

As for the Mets' offense, they managed to top their effort from the previous night, getting entirely owned by Tim Hudson and three Atlanta relievers. Doug Mientkiewicz did return to the lineup in fine fashion with a couple of singles in four at bats and Miguel Cairo hit his seventh double of the season, but those were the highlights. Wright could only scratch out one single as the Mets managed six hits and zero walks.

But on Sunday the Mets revisited their frequent tactic of saving up runs for when they're least needed, putting eight on the board for Pedro Martinez. Pedro earned his eleventh win of the season with six stellar innings. He allowed a mere two hits and struck out five batters. Heath Bell allowed the only Atlanta run of the game in relief in the eighth as he gave up three hits while striking out two batters. None of the four Mets who pitched walked a batter.

And things were made much easier for Pedro as the Mets' offense tore into 2000 NLCS MVP Mike Hampton in the first two innings, putting five of their eight runs on the board and knocking the Braves' starter out after just six outs. Mike Cameron was the star of the show, smacking his tenth home run of the season, a two-run line shot over the right field wall in the second which was one of his three hits in the game. Reyes also reached base three times with a double, a single and a walk and also stole his twenty-seventh base of the season. Wright, Cairo and Chris Woodward also had two hits in the game, with the latter two each hitting a double and drawing a walk. And Offerman continued to display his pinch-hitting prowess with a single.

So the Mets are right were they were when this series started, at .500, five and a half games behind the Braves for the Wild Card. They did close the gap with the first place Nationals to seven games as the luckiest team in baseball has begun to falter. The Mets (46-46) will take Monday off before beginning a series at home with the NL West-leading Padres (50-43). The Mets have mercifully elected to skip Kazuhisa Ishii's spot in the rotation, so Kris Benson (6-3, 3.57) will get the start. Brian Lawrence (5-9, 4.27) goes for San Diego.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
  Pirates 6, Mets 5 (10)
Pirates 11, Mets 4
Mets 6, Pirates 1

Thank God that's over with. The Mets' frustrating first half came to an end with a thud. The team sits at 44-44, five and a half games out of the Wild Card race. When they return from the All-Star Break, they'll be thrust right into a four-game death match for relevancy. They had a chance to set themselves a little better in this final weekend, but instead they lost two games out of three to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The first game got off to a promising start thanks to an increasingly promising starter. Victor Zambrano at least equaled his best start of the season, going eight innings while allowing just one run for the second time this season. He allowed five hits and for the first time all year walked just a single batter. He only struck out four, but his eight-inning, 111-pitch effort was just another piece of evidence that he may be the second-best starter the Mets have. He lowered his ERA to 3.58 and left with a four-run lead, surely on his way to his fifth win of the season.

The Mets got the scoring started early, as Jose Reyes drew another leadoff walk, reached second on a stolen base attempt that was ruled a caught stealing and an error, but which really looked like a stolen base, reached third on a ground out and scored on a balk. He also scored the Mets' second run after hitting a single in the sixth. Ramon Castro also had a big night, hitting his first home run of the season and driving in another with a single, though a base running blunder in the top of the ninth cost the Mets at least one run. Marlon Anderson and Brian Daubach each had doubles. The Mets' infield made two errors in the first nine innings, but none of them factor in the scoring.

So when Aaron Heilman entered to pitch the bottom of the ninth, the task he was given wasn't an especially difficult one. True, he had to defend that four-run lead against the middle of the Pirates' batter order, but all that meant was that the toughest hitter he'd have to face would be Rob Mackowiak. And he retired Mackowiak! But the next two batters singled. He got the next batter to fly out, but then he walked Jack Wilson, who entered the game with an on-base percentage of .259. Braden Looper then entered to save Heilman's ass and the game. But he couldn't retire Tike Redman, who after an epic twelve-pitch at bat, singled to drive in a pair. A Matt Lawton double brought home two more, tying the game. Looper then got the third out to send the extra innings, where Looper would lose it with some help from an error by Miguel Cairo.

After that depressing collapse, the man tasked with the job of getting the Mets back on the right track was Kazuhisa Ishii, and I bet you can guess how well that went. Ishii lasted five and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five. The Mets were still in the game when Ishii exited, having scored three runs on a two-run home run by Mike Cameron and a solo shot by Cliff Floyd. But the bullpen made quick work of that glimmer of hope.

Heath Bell got Ishii out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth without any difficulty, but come the seventh, he put together his very own mess. A double, a single and a fly out led to an intentional walk to load the bases, and Bell couldn't escape a second time. He gave up a two-run single and the Mets officially threw in the towel, calling on Danny Graves to relieve Bell. The man the Mets want to be "a big part of the bullpen come the stretch run" didn't get an out, allowing a double, a walk and a grand slam home run. It was Jack Wilson's fifth home run of the year, Graves's fourth. Willie Randolph put Graves out of his misery and called on Royce Ring to finish the inning, which he did without allowing a run. Graves' season ERA is now 7.81, which is actually about half a run higher than it was when the Reds released him. He's allowed nine runs in nine and one-third innings as a Met. Perhaps his runs to innings ratio needs to creep above one before the Mets get the hint that if every AAA pitcher were like Graves, Drew Henson might be the Yankees' starting third baseman right now.

On Sunday it was the same old story as Pedro Martinez saved the day and made the Mets look like a major league franchise again. The Ace still hasn't had a start where he's allowed zero runs this year, but he had another one-run gem to earn his tenth win of the season and lower his ERA to 2.72. He lasted seven innings and struck out nine batters, allowing just five singles and one walk. Roberto Hernandez and Braden Looper each pitched a scoreless inning of relief and, perhaps inspired by Pedro, struck out two batters a piece. Looper allowed one hit while Hernandez was perfect.

Carlos Beltran got back into the act of hitting home runs on the days Pedro starts, hitting his tenth of the season in the first inning to drive in Reyes, who had led off the game with one of his four singles. Reyes also stole his twenty-sixth base of the season. Cameron had a double and a single, as did Cairo, who also stole his eighth base of the season. Castro started for the second time in this series and hit another double.

So the Mets close out the first half with a win to wind up perfectly even and in last place, eight games back of the division leaders. Beltran and Mike Piazza will represent the Mets in the National League's starting lineup at the All-Star Game, with Martinez having chosen not to go since he wouldn't be able to pitch. Once the break is over, the Mets will have one last chance to assert themselves in the divisional and Wild Card races, as they take on the Braves at home in a four game series.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
  Mets 3, Nationals 2 (11)

Not only did the Mets take two of three for the division leading Washington Nationals, but they finished it off by beating them at their own game. The Mets failed once again to light up the scoreboard and hardly performed flawlessly even when they did get on base, but they somehow scratched out just enough offense to get the job done. But it all started with the starting pitching.

Kris Benson basically took the month of June off from striking people out, never recording more than three Ks in a start. He tossed thirty-two innings over five starts, never lasting fewer than six or more than seven, and struck out just seven batters the entire month. Twice he went a whole start without a single third strike. His first start in July wasn't too much better, with just two strikeouts over six innings. But on Thursday afternoon, something was different. Maybe Benson changed something about his approach. Maybe he's back on the right track. Or maybe the Washington offense could make Eric Milton look like a competent major league pitcher. But whatever the case, Benson had a fine game, striking out six batters over seven innings while allowing just two runs on seven hits and two walks, one of which was intentional. The Mets got effective starting pitching in every game of this series, and more often than not they scored enough runs to make it hold up.

But this time seven good innings weren't enough. They needed four more, and the bullpen got it done. While the Met bats were struggling to get anything done against the Nationals' pitchers, three Met relievers were shutting down the Nats in a similar fashion. Roberto Hernandez pitched a perfect eighth. Heath Bell got the ninth and tenth and allowed just a hit and a walk. Braden Looper walked a batter in the eleventh, but still was able to secure his twentieth save. Because while they certainly took their time, the Met offense, led by Mike Piazza, did come through with a third run in the end.

Piazza had three hits on the day, including a double and the game-winning single in the eleventh. After Carlos Beltran doubled for his second hit of the day and Cliff Floyd was intentionally walked, Piazza looped a single to right field only to wind up as the first victim of an unusual double play. Beltran scored, but when Piazza tried to advance to second on an ill-advised throw to the plate, he was thrown out, as was Floyd, trying to score on the throw to second. It was a reminder that just because they won three out of four doesn't mean these aren't the Mets. Piazza had driven in Beltran for the Mets' second run with his double in the fourth. Jose Reyes scored the first run of the game after leading off the game with a walk, believe it or not.

The games get a little less important over the weekend as the Mets (43-42) head to Pittsburgh to take on the lowly Pirates (37-47). The newly useful Victor Zambrano (4-7, 3.80) goes for the Mets in game one. Josh Fogg (4-4, 4.43) takes the hill for the once-proud franchise from the Steel City.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
  Nationals 3, Mets 2
Mets 5, Nationals 3

Betting your life savings on a single baseball game is a losing proposition. Pitching matchups like Pedro Martinez vs. Esteban Loaiza or Livan Hernandez vs. Tom Glavine may seem like easy money. But as the last two games have shown, any stupid thing can happen in one baseball game.

Pedro didn't pitch badly on Tuesday. In fact, he was pretty dominant for the first six innings, giving up just one run on five hits and one walk while striking out six. But in the seventh he "fell apart", giving up two runs on three hits to leave him with a ghastly three-run, seven-inning outing. I'm sure there was some announcer somewhere taking a whack at a Quality Start-loving straw man, but really, Pedro pitched well enough to win a game backed up by a decent offense. But instead he took the loss as Loaiza owned the Mets for eight innings.

The Mets didn't get their first hit until the fifth inning, and then they got two on with no one out and failed to even advance the runners past first and second. The offense picked up a little from there, but it wasn't until the ninth that they staged their unlikely and unsuccessful comeback. David Wright drove in a run with his second single of the night and Jose Reyes plated another with a ground out. But that was all the Mets could put together, and the Nationals wound up with their customary one-run win. The Mets had just eight singles and one walk in the game. Aside from Wright's pair of hits, Marlon Anderson had three hits and the walk while Cliff Floyd had two hits. Reyes accounted for the eighth base hit.

The footwear was on the opposite appendage on Wednesday, though, as the Mets scratched out a win against the Nats' ace. Mike Cameron started things off with a one-out, first-inning home run and while Glavine couldn't quite hold on to that lead, the Mets were able to put a few more runs on the board to back up some adequate pitching. Four Mets had two hits and Carlos Beltran and Anderson led the way, each with a double and a single. Floyd and Ramon Castro each had two singles with Castro driving in a pair of runs in the sixth before getting caught going too far around first base. The Mets had plenty of difficulty with base running and fielding in this game, but they managed to overcome it somehow. Wright and Reyes each had errors, though Wright's error could reasonably have been scored a hit, while Reyes likely should have been charged with another error when he dropped a throw from Castro on a stolen base attempt. Errors are a seriously flawed statistic, but the fact that Wright and Reyes have twenty-five errors between them this season does a decent job illustrating their struggles with defensive consistency.

Meanwhile, Glavine was able to get the job done despite a less than stellar effort. He lasted just five and two-thirds innings and gave up nine hits and three walks while striking out two. This only added up to three runs, though. thanks in part to some good relief pitching. Aaron Heilman entered with two outs in the sixth and the bases loaded and got the third out without allowing a run. Heilman pitched two more perfect innings and struck out one batter. So Glavine got a win while Martinez was saddled with a loss. I don't know if a pitcher's win/loss record is more or less useful than a fielder's error total in describing how well they've performed, but it's safe to say that neither is of much use. Speaking of useless statistics, Braden Looper closed things out with a perfect ninth for his nineteenth save.

So the Mets have earned themselves at least a split on the road against the division leaders. That's less impressive than it sounds given the general mediocrity of the Nationals, but it's not a bad three days work. Winning tomorrow would leave the Mets just one game over .500 and eight games out of first, but it'd be a start, both in getting back in the race and cutting the Nats down to size. Kris Benson (6-3, 3.75) goes for the Mets in the afternoon game while the Nationals counter with Tony Armas Jr. (4-4, 5.27).
Monday, July 04, 2005
  Mets 5, Nationals 2

Sadly, it's never appeared that Kazuhisa Ishii has been in any real danger of losing his spot in the Mets rotation, no matter how much his performance may have warranted it. But even if he had, today's solid outing would probably be the sort of thing that would save him for at least a few starts. He didn't dominate the opposing hitters, but he was good for as long as he was in the game and played a significant role in the Mets cutting the Nationals down to size.

Ishii only lasted five and one-third innings and was removed after just eighty-eight pitches, but he was unusually effective along the way. He struck out five batters while walking just one. And he allowed just two runs on five hits, lowering his ERA for the season to 5.50. The Nationals are no offensive powerhouse, having scored fewer runs than all but two major league teams. But Ishii got the job done, at least until he had to be removed with a runner on second and one out in the sixth.

The bullpen came to his aid, though, as three relievers pitched very effectively. Heath Bell was tasked with getting the Mets out of the small jam Ishii left, and did so with ease, retiring the only two batters he faced, one via the strikeout. Then Roberto Hernandez followed with two excellent innings to earn a well-deserved win. He was perfect in the seventh and eighth and struck out a pair.

Of course, it would have been just like the Nationals to score two runs and win somehow. But a significantly reorganized Mets' lineup was able to overcome whatever black magic has gotten the Nats this far. Jose Reyes was dropped to a spot more befitting his production, batting seventh, and had an excellent game with a pair of singles, a stolen base, two runs and an RBI. And he worked some long at bats, making it seem on more than one occasion as though he might conceivably draw a walk. New leadoff man Mike Cameron had a double and a single, while Carlos Beltran had two singles and a walk out of the second slot. David Wright and Marlon Anderson each had doubles and Anderson also had a single.

Four of the Mets' ten hits, including another one of the pinch variety by Jose Offerman, came in the top of the ninth as they scored three runs to break a tie and give closer Braden Looper plenty of breathing room. For once he didn't need it, as he retired all three batters he faced. He did return to his normal tactic of not striking anyone out in earning his eighteenth save of the season.

So the Mets move back to .500 and the Nationals have allowed more runs than they've scored on the season. The Mets are still in last place and trail the first-place Nats by nine games. But tomorrow night's pitching matchup will be what's known in the business as a "mismatch". All Star Pedro Martinez (9-2, 2.74) goes for the Mets while the Nats send former two-time All Star Esteban Loaiza (4-5, 3.81) to the hill. If the Mets can keep up this "run scoring" thing, this one shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
  Mets 7, Marlins 6
Marlins 7, Mets 3
Marlins 3, Mets 0

This is getting boring. The persistent mediocrity of this team may be a step up from recent years, but that doesn't make it fun to watch. If they were getting as consistently lucky as the similarly mediocre Washington Nationals, things might be a different story. The Nationals have outscored their opponents this year by a grand total of two runs and they are currently nineteen games above .500. The Mets have outscored their opponents by four runs and are currently a game under, ten games back of the first place Nats. If the division comes down to a battle between Washington and Atlanta, I will not be amused. The Marlins joining the fray won't exactly make me feel better, either.

On Friday, the Mets managed to overcome a bullpen meltdown due to some unusual offensive output. Tom Glavine survived for five innings without imploding, giving up just three runs on nine hits and two walks. He did get credit for one strikeout, but that was the result of pitcher A.J. Burnett bunting foul for the third strike, so it's hard to say he earned it.

Still, when Glavine was removed after the fifth inning, the Mets were ahead, 5-3. That's not exactly a comfortable lead, but it was better than nothing. David Wright drove in a pair of runs with a single and a bases loaded walk in a rare appearance in the fifth spot in the lineup. Cliff Floyd, Mike Cameron and Marlon Anderson each hit a double, and Anderson and Chris Woodward had two hits a piece. The Mets added a sixth run in the seventh to stretch their lead to three on Mike Cameron's seventh home run of the year.

Meanwhile, Aaron Heilman was pitching excellently in relief. He got through two perfect innings before Willie Randolph sent him out to pitch the eighth. And it's hard to quibble with that decision given that Heilman had needed just twenty pitches to get through those two innings. But regardless of his workload, he fell apart in the eighth, allowing a single, a walk and a two-run double before being removed. Roberto Hernandez entered and got two quick outs, but an infield single by Luis Castillo brought a third run home to tie the game.

But the Mets somehow rebounded. Anderson's double and Woodward second single of the night came in the bottom of the eighth and that was enough to give the Mets the lead again. Braden Looper very nearly blew it again, as the first thing he did in the ninth inning was allow a double to Carlos Delgado. He also walked Juan Encarnacion, but he got out of the jam to record the save. He even recorded a strikeout for the first time in four appearances. He's now got thirteen Ks in twenty-nine and one-third innings as compared to eleven walks. That sort of thing may have worked for Dan Kolb last year, but his fate this year should remind everyone that it's not a way to be successful in the long term.

Saturday was a different story, as neither the offense nor the pitching was quite as effective. Kris Benson got knocked around pretty well, allowing five runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings, though two of the runs were scored as unearned due to an error by Mike Cameron. Benson struck out just two batters and was removed after throwing just seventy-seven pitches. He did have a single, an RBI and a run on offense, though.

Also contributing on offense were Jose Reyes, who had a pair of singles, Beltran, who had a pair of doubles, and Wright, who had one of each back in his comfort zone of the seventh spot. But, as you might expect on a day when both Anderson and Jose Offerman were in the starting lineup, consistency was hard to come by and the Mets could only mange three runs.

Heath Bell was adequate in relief of Benson, pitching two scoreless innings with two strikeouts, though he allowed two hits and a walk along the way. Royce Ring was somewhat less successful following him, as he gave up a hit and two walks, one of the intentional variety, and recorded just one out before being removed with the bases loaded. He was relieved by Danny Graves, so you wouldn't think the bases would stay loaded for long, but in fact they did. Because when you enter a game and hit the first batter you face, a run scores, but there's still three guys on. The same is true when the next batter reaches on an infield single. Graves was able to get out of the inning before runs started being charged to his account, thus lowering his ERA to 7.09.

Sunday, Victor Zambrano was effective again, though he was no match for Dontrelle Willis. Zambrano gave up seven hits, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. And he only struck out one batter in eight innings. But he also only walked two, which would be good even for a pitcher not named Victor Zambrano. This unusual line added up to just three runs. Zambrano has gotten his ERA all the way down to 3.80, bringing him just .05 shy of Benson for the second-best ERA on the team. Of course, no one currently on the team has an ERA that can compare to Jae Seo's 2.00, but I digress.

The Mets' offense couldn't get anything done against Willis, though sending out a lineup that included Offerman at first base, Woodward in left field and Miguel Cairo at second base probably didn't strike fear in the heart of the Marlins' young lefty. Though Woodward does have higher on-base and slugging percentages this year than three of the five guys batting ahead of him--Reyes, Beltran and Mike Piazza. He had one of the Mets' three hits and their only one for extra bases to put him at .330/.367/.460 for the season in precisely 100 at bats. Beltran and Cameron each had singles while Piazza drew the team's only walk.

The Mets (40-41) have their first Monday game in a month tomorrow, as they'll take on those lucky, lucky Nationals (50-31) in our nation's capital. Kazuhisa Ishii (2-7, 5.68) goes for the Mets against John Patterson (3-2, 3.17), so the Nats may win this one by more than a run. The game will be on ESPN2, where the commentary may not be as annoying as those new Army ads they have all over their website.
Friday, July 01, 2005
  Mets 5, Phillies 3

Sometimes even Pedro Martinez isn't at the top of his game. And it is at these times, apparently, that he becomes the "six innings pitcher" some people once claimed he was. Pedro tied his mark for shortest start of the season with just eighteen outs recorded, and he still pitched well enough for the Mets to get the win without too much trouble. He struck out six batters, which actually lowered his strikeout rate for the season, and walked two. And he allowed just two runs on five hits, even though three of those were for extra bases, including a second inning home run by Jimmy Rollins.

And the Mets got adequate offensive production to make that lead stand up, with the big hits coming from Jose Reyes and Chris Woodward. Woodward drove in a pair with a single in the second and also doubled later in the game. And Reyes had the Mets' only other extra base hit, smacking a triple in the fourth with two runners on to give the Mets all the runs they'd need before scoring himself on a single by Mike Cameron. The Mets also stole bases like they were doing it against their own catcher. Only one of the team's four swiped bags figured in the scoring, but seeing both Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran steal a pair was an unusual sight. Especially given that Beltran's two steals brought his season total all the way up to three. Maybe his seventh-inning jaunt around the bases is evidence that his legs are finally healthy or that he's primed to begin a hot steak with the bat, but whatever the case, the Mets desperately need his slumbering bat (.258/.315/.425) to wake up in a hurry if they're going to get the league's tenth ranked offense back on track.

Of course, that doesn't tell the whole story, because when Pedro left the game, there were still three innings to play and the Mets had a mere three-run lead. The bullpen preserving that margin was no sure thing given their recent performances. And they certainly weren't perfect. Both Heath Bell and Royce Ring got into some trouble, Bell even being charged with a run in the seventh inning. But both were bailed out by a timely double play induced by the man who relieved them, with Ring saving Bell in the seventh and Roberto Hernandez saving Ring in the eighth. Braden Looper pitched a perfect ninth to earn his sixteenth save of the year and he did so without striking anyone out.

Another important divisional series awaits the Mets (39-39) this weekend, as the third-place Marlins (39-36) head north. Tom Glavine (5-7, 4.93) goes for the Mets in game one, having pitched well enough against the Yankees in his last start. He'll be opposed by former Met property A.J. Burnett, who used 123 pitches to shut out the Devil Rays his last time out. The last time the injury-plagued Burnett threw that many pitches in a major league game was August 12th, 2002, though he did pitch a complete game shutout in his next start before missing nearly a month with a bone bruise on his right elbow. Ah, the Jeff Torborg era. What fun times those were for fans of teams other than the Marlins.
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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