Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
  Phillies 8, Mets 2

Ah, crud. This seemed to be going really well for about five innings. The Mets were on the verge of being the Wild Card leaders. And then it all fell apart. And then, it fell apart some more.

Pedro Martinez was cruising early, allowing one run in the first five innings. But in the end, he got smacked around pretty good. He allowed five runs, and all of them scored as a result of the four home runs he gave up. He allowed eight hits in total, along with three walks while striking out six. Shea Stadium seemed unusually conducive to the home run ball on this night, but then again, the Mets didn't really take advantage of it.

Ramon Castro hit another home run, but he was the only Met to do so. The Mets had just six hits and two walks, and Castro was the only Met with multiple hits, adding a single. A double from Mike Jacobs was the only other extra base hit. Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran each had a single and a stolen base.

So tomorrow, the Mets will send out Tom Glavine (10-11, 4.06) to try to salvage this series. The Phillies will counter with Jon Lieber (12-12, 4.81). I will likely be unable to watch or hear any of this game, as it will occur at 1:10 PM, when I will be at work, and given that I live in the greater Philadelphia area, my MLB.TV subscription will be powerless to do anything about it.

EDIT: Hey, for some reason MLB.TV is letting me watch this game. So I'll be able to have it on in the background. Of course, that means having to listen to Ted Robinson and Fran Healy "call the game", which generally means not having any idea what the count is or how many outs there are. Those guys are really awful.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
  Mets 6, Phillies 4

I love baseball. This game had a playoff atmosphere and drama to match. Much to my surprise, the Mets fell behind early. But some heroes, likely and unlikely, came through in the late innings to get the Mets a huge win.

Jae Seo got smacked around early, allowing two home runs in the first inning. He lasted just five innings and gave up four runs, all of them in the first two innings. He allowed ten hits, but he didn't walk anyone and he struck out six.

But, unlike this past weekend, the Met offense didn't just roll over and die. Carlos Beltran did all he could to keep the Mets in the game. He homered in the bottom of the first to give him fourteen on the season. And that was just part of a three-for-three night that also included two singles. And he threw out a runner at the plate on a very controversial call which may very well have been right. Beltran also drove in the Mets' second run in the fifth to cut the deficit to two. Then the Mets got acquainted with the Philadelphia bullpen.

Ramon Castro started a big night of his own by leading off the seventh with a double, but the next two batters could only get him to third in the process of making two outs, so it was all left up to Miguel Cairo. Cairo had his usual oh-for-four night, but in this clutch spot in the seventh, he did all that was within his power to do. He got hit by a pitch. A couple of pitches earlier he had, for some reason, gotten out of the way of a pitch headed for him, as though he were capable of doing more than acting as a human backstop. But Ryan Madson was diligent and succeeded in plunking Cairo. Beltran then walked to load the bases and a wild pitch brought Castro home.

Cliff Floyd struck out to end the seventh with the Mets still trailing by a run, but that wasn't the end of the world. After all, it meant that David Wright would lead off the eighth and inevitably reach base somehow. He chose to draw a walk this time and subsequently stole second base on a play that was waaaaay too close for my liking. But Victor Diaz followed with a one-out walk, leaving things up to Castro, who did the sort of thing Met fans have come to expect from their catchers in such situations. He launched a ball into the left field bleachers. It was Castro's sixth home run of the season and it put the Mets up by two.

The Mets got four scoreless innings of relief in this game, with Aaron Heilman pitching two of them and Juan Padilla another. Braden Looper entered in the ninth and close things out with ease. He struck out one batter in a perfect ninth for his twenty-eighth save of the season.

So now the Mets (and the Astros) are just half a game behind the Phillies (and the Marlins) for the Wild Card lead. Four teams separated by half a game. Now this is fun. Tomorrow, the Mets have a chance to pass the Phillies, perhaps to take the Wild Card lead, perhaps not. The Mets will have the right pitcher on the mound, as Pedro Martinez (13-5, 2.77) gets the start. He'll be opposed by Brett Myers (11-6, 3.55).
Monday, August 29, 2005
  Giants 2, Mets 1
Giants 4, Mets 1

Well, the Mets may suck, but at least the rest of the teams in contention for the National League Wild Card suck, too. The Mets lost two consecutive games to a bad team. And yet, the Mets are as close to the playoffs as they were at the close of business on Friday. Even when the Mets lose they get lucky these days. The problem this weekend was the offense. It's pretty amazing given how often that's been the problem this year that the Mets have scored more runs than all but four National League teams. A quick jaunt through the deserts of Arizona will do wonders for a team, I guess.

On Saturday the Mets had just four hits, though they also drew six walks. Jose Reyes hit a triple, which is how they scored a run as Kazuo Matsui subsequently drove him home with a groundout. A double by Victor Diaz was the only other extra base hit and no Met had two hits. Mike DiFelice did draw two walks, though.

It was because of that that a good start from Tom Glavine went to waste. Glavine lasted six innings and gave up just two runs on four hits. He didn't walk anyone and struck out three. Glavine has been good lately, allowing two runs or fewer in four straight games and five out of the last six. To the surprise of many, or at least me, Glavine has turned into the Mets' third best starting pitcher. If you include guys who made one start and then got booted to the bullpen, Glavine might drop to fourth, but still, that's not bad.

On Sunday, while I was busy out-witting the other members of my fantasy football league in our draft, pitcher number four on that list made the start and he didn't get much support, either. Kris Benson also lasted six innings, but he gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out two batters. Benson has allowed at least three runs in four out of his last six starts.

Another weak effort from the Met offense included six hits and just one walk. Carlos Beltran hitting a double and later scoring on a wild pitch was the highlight. David Wright hit a single in four at bats for the second day in a row, which I think qualifies this as a bad weekend for the National League's Player of the Week.

And despite all that, the Mets (68-62) are just one and one half games behind the Phidelphia Phillies (70-61), with whom they begin a three-game series in New York tomorrow. The Amazing Jae Seo (6-1, 1.30) will win the first game for the Mets. Starting futilely for the Phillies will be Robinson Tejeda (4-3, 3.20), who seems like a pretty good young pitcher in spite of the fact that he is going to lose tomorrow.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
  Mets 3, D'Backs 1
Mets 1, Giants 0

I don't mean to alarm you, but the Mets are in contention for more than just the Wild Card right now. Though this five game winning streak has left them just a game and a half behind the second-place Phillies, it's also brought them to within four games of the Braves. In fact, the Braves, who have never finished anywhere but first in the National League East, don't lead anyone by more than five games. With a little more than a month left to play, they hardly have another division title locked up.

The Mets got more good pitching in these two games and their winning streak hasn't included a game in which their starter allowed more than two runs. On Thursday, it was Pedro Martinez with another excellent performance. Thought he wasn't at his sharpest in terms of "stuff", he took another no-hitter into the sixth inning, continuing his quest to rid the Mets of The Curse Of Nolan Ryan. He gave up a couple of singles with one out in the sixth, but was able to escape the inning unscored upon. He left after the sixth having thrown exactly one hundred pitches, allowing four walks and striking out six.

The bullpen made things interesting in what was then a two-run game as Aaron Heilman started the seventh by allowing a triple and hitting a batter. Roberto Hernandez was able to bail out Heilman in the seventh before doing his own damage in the eighth by allowing a leadoff home run to Chad Tracy. But that was the only hit he allowed, getting through two innings with just one run, one walk and two strikeouts. Braden Looper pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth after the Mets added an insurance run in the top half.

The Mets' offense settled down considerably after the previous two games, managing just five hits and three walks. Victor Diaz homered for the Mets for the ninth time this season. Cliff Floyd had a pair of hits including a double. David Wright had a mediocre game by his standards, with just a single, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored. Mike Jacobs again nearly matched Wright's effort, as he had a single and a walk of his own.

But if that seemed like a bad offensive night for the Mets for the Mets, Friday was even worse. Giants starter Kevin Correia completely shut the Mets down. Of course, these days, "completely shutting the Mets down" means stopping everyone but Wright, who has developed into a veritable force of nature over the last month. He had two hits in the game, including his twenty-first home run of the season, which accounted for the only run. Wright is now hitting .400/.485/.694 in the month of August. Since the start of the month, he has raised his season batting average twenty points, his OBP twenty-two and his SLG thirty-seven to their current levels of .316/.396/.538. Alongside a lot of good pitching, Wright has absolutely carried the Mets back into the playoff race. The next best OPS on the team in August among players with more than twenty at bats is Diaz's .988, which is more than 190 points shy of Wright's. The Met third baseman doesn't have the kind of season numbers to put him in the NL MVP discussion, but if his September is anything like his August and the Mets stay in the playoff race until the end, he's going to wind up on some ballots and rightly so.

Of course, Wright's home run wouldn't have been enough if the Mets hadn't gotten more stellar pitching. This time it was Steve Trachsel, in his first start of the season, shutting down the Giants. The Mets' new sixth starter lasted eight innings and gave up just two hits and two walks. Like Pedro the night before, he didn't give up his first hit until the sixth inning. Things got a little scary in the eighth, when Trachsel was approaching one hundred pitches and gave up a leadoff single to Edgardo Alfonzo. A sacrifice and a groundout got Fonzie to third and then Trachsel walked a batter. But he got Randy Winn to fly out to end the threat. Trachsel struck out six batters along the way in a start that has to make Victor Zambrano nervous about his job security.

Looper kept up the tension in the ninth by allowing a leadoff double to Omar Vizquel. But three straight groundouts followed and Looper escaped with his twenty-seventh save. Games that the Mets likely would have blown earlier in the season seem to be going their way these days, and this was probably the best example. Sure the Mets are playing well right now, but it takes a little luck every now and then, too.

This afternoon's game features a couple of veteran pitchers who've seen better days. Tom Glavine goes for the Mets (10-10, 4.10) having pitched surprisingly well in four of his last five starts. Jason Schmidt (10-6, 4.41) goes for the Giants, unable to say the same.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
  Mets 4, Diamondbacks 1
Mets 14, D'Backs 1
Mets 18, D'Backs 4

Okay, so the Diamondbacks suck. Seriously, anyone who predicted before the season that the Diamondbacks would be good this year should be forced to watch the first three games of this series in their entirety. It takes more than just an ordinary bad team to absorb this kind of beating from the New York Mets. It takes something special.

In the first game of the series, the Mets didn't exactly light up the scoreboard, but it didn't matter, because the D'Backs couldn't get anything done against Tom Glavine. The aging lefty lasted eight innings and gave up just one run on five hits and one walk. He struck out five batters. It was the third consecutive good start by Glavine, but of course he, like the rest of the Mets' starters, hasn't exactly been facing stiff competition lately.

The Mets' decent offensive night included just seven hits and three walks, but four of the hits were for extra bases. Jose Reyes went deep for the fifth time this season and Victor Diaz launched his eighth home run. Cliff Floyd and Kazuo Matsui each had doubles, and Floyd's drove in two runs. Floyd was the only Met with two hits, while Carlos Beltran drew two walks.

Once that game was over, things got silly. First of all, the Mets got more excellent pitching, this time from Victor Zambrano. Like Glavine, he lasted eight innings and gave up just one run. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out three. But, in the end, it didn't really matter much what Zambrano did.

The game David Wright had wasn't all that ridiculous. Three hits, including two doubles, and a walk. He stole a base. He drove in a couple of runs. But he also scored four more, because the rest of the lineup had similarly excellent nights. Only three Met starters had fewer than two hits, and Zambrano wasn't one of the three. Every Met starter had at least one hit. Diaz had a double and a triple. Reyes had a triple. Mike Jacobs hit his second home runs of the season to go along with a single and two walks. And Ramon Castro drove in five runs on two hits, one of which was a double. The Mets had seventeen hits in all. And they somehow topped themselves the next night.

On Thursday the Mets had twenty hits and thirteen of them were for extra bases. Wright had four hits, including two home runs and a double, and also drew a walk. That gave him twenty home runs on the season and an overall line of .314/.394/.533 for the season. The man is twenty-two years old. But as ridiculous as Wright's game was, it has to at least share top billing with the effort by Jacobs, who established himself at the very least as the new Benny Agbayani. He matched Wright hit for hit, with two home runs, a double and a walk of his own. He's now got four home runs in his first four major league games, which I believe may be some sort of record. There was no reason to expect this from Jacobs and it's unlikely he can keep it up for long, but he's still the best option at first base for the rest of the season. Taking the risk that pitchers will figure him out seems like a much better idea than going with the certainty of mediocrity that comes with any of the Mets' other options. First and second base have been anchors tied to the foot of the Mets' offense so far this year and anything that can be done to change that will be a big aid to the Mets' budding playoff chances.

Also with a big game on Wednesday were Diaz and Castro who each hit two doubles. Castro also drew two walks. Jacobs and Wright were each just a triple away from hitting for the cycle, but one man got even closer. Reyes hit his sixth home run of the season, and third of the week, as well as his thirteenth triple and his one hundred and fourteenth single. He couldn't finish the job with a double, but he did also draw a walk.

And another reason this game was as good as over starting in about the second inning was another terrific start from Jae Seo. He got his ERA under 1.00 for a little while during this game, but he did finally give up a couple of runs in the seventh inning. He lasted through the seventh and gave up seven hits, but didn't walk anyone. He struck out two batters. He's now 6-1 with an ERA of 1.30.

So, mere minutes from now, the Mets will once again try to complete a sweep of an inferior team. They'll send out their ace, Pedro Martinez (12-5, 2.86), who has had a lot of trouble lately in search of his thirteenth win. He will be opposed by former future star Javier Vazquez (10-12, 4.67).
Sunday, August 21, 2005
  Mets 9, Nationals 8 (10)
Nationals 7, Mets 4

This is not the sort of weekend you want to have when trying to establish yourself as a playoff contender. The Mets followed up narrowly avoiding a historic collapse on Saturday by getting pounded early on Sunday. Sure, they almost pulled of an enormous comeback of their own. But in the end, they once again fell short of completing a sweep of a team that just isn't very good.

Saturday's game should have been easy. The Mets had an eight-run lead and Pedro Martinez on the mound. This is the sort of situation where you wouldn't blame both teams for deciding to call it a night and just come back the next day after a good night's sleep. So how did this blowout turn into a baseball game? Well, if you follow the Mets at all, I'm sure you've got a pretty good idea what happened. Yes, Danny Graves happened.

Pedro lasted six inning and threw seventy-eight pitches. He gave up six hits and struck out four batters. And of course he didn't allow a run. Then Willie Randolph took him out. Now, this wasn't an entirely ridiculous decision. Giving Pedro some rest down the stretch is a fine idea. But putting Graves in a game is just never a good idea. This time he recorded one out and gave up five runs. Of course, only one of those was "earned" due to a throwing error by Jose Reyes, but it was still a typically terrible performance from Graves. He walked two batters and gave up two hits before being removed. His continued presence on the Mets' major league roster is absurd.

Dae-Sung Koo followed Graves and gave up a run on a hit while recording one out via the strikeout. Aaron Heilman followed and finally got the Mets out of the inning with an 8-6 lead. Braden Looper pitched the ninth and gave up the rest of the lead. He allowed two runs on three hits.

The Mets had built their lead largely on the strength of home runs by Ramon Castro, Jose Reyes and David Wright. Wright and Reyes each had two hits in the game and Reyes also drew a walk. Victor Diaz also had two hits including a double. But the Mets didn't score a run after the third inning until they got a bit of offense from some unlikely sources in the tenth. Gerald Williams drew a walk with one out and then Reyes drew his with two down. Then Chris Woodward finally got into a game started by Miguel Cairo and Marlon Anderson. It's hard to figure how those two get so many starts when Woodward has been a significantly better hitter all season, but he came through in the end anyway, driving in Williams to end the game.

Sunday's game was almost a mirror image of Saturday, as the Nationals got out to a big lead early. Kris Benson didn't even get out of the first inning as he allowed six runs on eight hits while recording just two outs. Juan Padilla followed him with four and one-third pretty good innings of relief, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Padilla gave up the seventh run in the top of the fifth inning, and in the bottom half, the Mets started their comeback. With two runners on, Mike Jacobs came to the plate for the first time since being called to the majors on Wednesday. With Mike Piazza officially hitting the DL today, Jacobs could perhaps serve as a decent part-time catcher and first baseman for a while. But Randolph has been very reluctant to put him in a game thus far, waiting until the Mets were down by seven to give him his first major league action. So of course he took full advantage of his chance by smacking a three-run home run to right field. That may not prevent him from being sent down in favor of Mike DiFelice tomorrow, but I hope it does.

The Mets added another run in the ninth when the Washington defense fell apart. The Mets didn't have a hit in the inning, but got three runners on as a result of a walk and two errors on routine grounders. Jose Offerman scored as a result of the second error and Wright came up with two runners on and two outs. But he was unable to tie the game in heroic fashion, as he struck out to end it.

The Mets (63-60) have a rare Monday game against another beatable team in the Arizona Diamonbacks (58-67). This four-game series in Arizona will start with Tom Glavine (9-10, 4.26) taking the mound for the Mets. Brandon Webb (10-9, 3.89) goes for the Diamondbacks.
Friday, August 19, 2005
  Mets 1, Nationals 0

This is ridiculous. As ardent a supporter of Jae Seo as I have been, even I am shocked by how well he's pitching. It's true that he's yet to come in contact with an offense that one might describe in superlative terms like "good" or "competent", but his utter dominance since returning to the major leagues is still remarkable. At this point, it's difficult to even comprehend that the Mets gave Seo's job to Kazuhisa Ishii for three months, let alone get outraged by it. Basking in the glory of Jae Seo makes it impossible to dwell on such negative thoughts.

One could make an argument for any of Seo's last three starts being his best since the recall, but I might just have to give it to this one. He lasted longer and struck out more batters than in his first start. And he gave up fewer hits and runs than in his second. The only thing that got a little worse was his control, as he walked two batters and hit another after walking just one batter in each of his previous two starts. But he lasted eight innings and shut the Nationals out on just four hits while striking out five batters. He won his fifth game in just six major league starts and lowered his ERA to 1.09. There is no excuse for Jae Seo do anything for the rest of this year but start games for the New York Mets. Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano and Tom Glavine can figure out for themselves who takes a seat.

Of course, Seo's efforts were nearly for naught, as the Mets' offense was similarly stifled by Washington starter John Patterson. It wasn't until the bottom of the seventh inning, with Seo in jeopardy of being removed from the game, that the Mets put a run on the board. With one out, Ramon Castro doubled to left field. Victor Diaz followed with a single to drive him home. The Mets had eight hits on the night, but those were the only two that put a run on the board. And that's quite a shame for Jose Reyes, who did just about all he could to singlehandedly score one. He had four singles in as many at bats and stole three bases to give him forty-five on the season. But he was caught stealing once and stranded three times. Carlos Beltran had a single and two walks, one intentional, and also stole a base. David Wright had a single but was caught stealing.

After the Mets put their run on the board, Seo went back to the mound and pitched perhaps his toughest inning of the game. The Nationals had gotten runners on first and third with one out in the second and they did the same in the eighth. But just as he had in the second, Seo struck out one batter and got another to fly out. In the eighth, it was Brad Wilkerson he fanned and Jose Vidro who hit the fly ball. Braden Looper relieved Seo in the ninth and while he gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, he followed that with a double play and a strikeout to save the game.

The Mets now sit two and a half games back of the National League Wild Card. The Phillies lost and the Astros won to take a half game lead over both Philadelphia and the Marlins, who also won, with Washington a full game out. Tomorrow's game looks like another tight pitching matchup. The Mets will send out Pedro Martinez (12-5, 2.96) to take on Livan Hernandez (14-5, 3.45) and the Nationals. The Mets have lost each of Pedro's last four decisions, but in only one did he pitch badly and the Washington offense is a good opportunity for him to take another crack at Mets history.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
  Pirates 5, Mets 0

Danny Graves got into this game. That should tell you all you need to know about how much doubt there was regarding the outcome. Graves pitched a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and dropping his ERA to 6.82.

The Mets got themselves into that predicament due to a real team effort. Neither the pitching or the hitting was any good. The New Victor Zambrano, same as The Old Victor Zambrano, gave up four runs in six innings. He only walked one batter, but he also threw a wild pitch and hit Jason Bay twice. He gave up six hits, one of which was a home run and three of which were doubles. Juan Padilla relieved him and gave up a run on four hits in two innings.

Failing more spectacularly was the Mets' offense, which managed just three hits and one walk over the course of nine innings. Rookie Zach Duke confounded the Met hitters, as rookies often do, tossing seven shutout innings with five strikeouts. Carlos Beltran had two of the Mets' hits and also reached on an error and stole a base. Chris Woodward had the other hit, which was a double. David Wright drew the walk. The seventh inning was the only one in which the Mets put two runners on base, getting Beltran to third with Wright on first and only one out. But Woodward grounded into a double play to end the threat.

At this moment in time the Mets (61-59) are three games back in the Wild Card race as a result of the Phillies splitting a doubleheader with the Nationals. The Astros currently trail the Brewers 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning in a game which will decide if they end the night a half game ahead of or behind the Phillies. The Mets will host the Nationals (64-57) this weekend in another series that it really would be a good idea to sweep. The Incredible Jae Seo (4-1, 1.35) starts game one for the Mets against John Patterson (7-3, 2.44).
  Mets 5, Pirates 1

Now things are getting interesting. With this victory, the Mets are now just two and a half games behind the Wild Card leaders, a title currently shared by the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets still trail their entire division, but the four teams battling for second place are as tightly bunched as ever. And if the Mets defy their nature and get hot, they could move up in the standings very quickly. They've got at least six games left against each divisional opponent, and will play the weakest team of the bunch, the Washington Nationals nine more times with six of those meetings occurring in New York. The Mets currently have the fourth-best home record in the National League, which is why they're still in this race despite having won fewer road games than all but two NL teams. The Mets are as likely to lose five in a row as win five straight, but with the way the other contenders are playing, there's still room to hope in New York.

So how did the Mets get so close to the consolation promised land? Well, this time it was a second consecutive surprisingly good performance from Tom Glavine. He lost his last start on Thursday, but may well have won it if not for The Collision, and pitched well in any case, allowing two runs in seven innings. This time out he was even better, as a solo home run allowed to former Met minor leaguer Jason Bay in the first inning was the only blemish on his record. Glavine lasted seven innings and gave up nine hits and one walk while striking out two batters. He didn't get into much trouble at all until the eighth inning when he allowed a bunt single and a double to the first two batters and was subsequently relieved by Aaron Heilman. Heilman got out of that second-and-third-with-no-outs jam without allowing a run to score and went on to earn his first major league save with two excellent innings of work. He struck out four batters and didn't allow a base runner.

As for the Mets' offense, the middle of the order really got the job done on this night. Carlos Beltran made his return to the lineup and had a bunt single, two walks and two runs. Cliff Floyd drove Beltran in in the first inning and after that, the Pirates decided they'd had enough of him. In the fourth inning, after Beltran bunted his way on and stole second, the Pirates walked Floyd to get to David Wright, making one wonder if budget cuts have led the Pirates to get rid of not only all of their advance scouts but also cable television service which might have allowed them to catch an episode of Sportscenter every now and then. The three previous occasions on which Floyd had been walked to get to Wright, the Met third baseman had responded by driving in at least two runs. He ran that streak to four after a wild pitch moved Beltran and Floyd to third and second by smacking a single to left. So how did the Pirates respond to this turn of events? Well, the next time Floyd came to bat, in the sixth inning, there was a man on second as Miguel Cairo had doubled. So they walked Floyd again. Wright didn't drive any runs this time, but he did draw one of his two walks in the game. Jose Offerman then drove in two runs with a single. Beltran, Floyd and Wright each had two walks in the game and Floyd had two singles while the other two each had one.

Tomorrow, the Mets go for their second consecutive sweep of a National League Central opponent. Victor Zambrano (6-9, 4.16) goes for the Mets. He will be opposed by rookie Zach Duke (5-0, 2.13), who even the Pirates probably wouldn't be dumb enough to trade for Zambrano.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
  Mets 6, Pirates 2

Well that didn't go horribly wrong. On a night when the New York Mets played a game of baseball, they entirely failed to rip the hearts of their fans out and throw them down on the uneven Shea Stadium dirt. It's unlikely this trend will continue for long, but two full days free of bitter disappointment stand as an occasion to be cherished by fans of this maddening franchise.

Kris Benson got off to a troubling start, allowing a pair of runs in the second inning. But then he either bounced back or settled down, or possibly did both, and lasted another five innings without allowing another run. His seven-inning outing included seven hits and two walks as well as three strikeouts. He has now followed up two consecutive bad starts with two consecutive good ones, in the process getting his ERA back down to 3.49 and earning his ninth win of the season against just four losses. At this rate, he'll finish the season with career bests in ERA and won-loss record. He's won more than ten games three times, but in none of those seasons did he win more or lose fewer than twelve. A good winning percentage with an ERA around three and a half and perhaps a career high in wins would make his contract look a bit less tragic than it was first thought to be. On the other hand, almost three-quarters of the way into the season he's less than half of the way to his career high in strikeouts, having fanned just seventy-nine batters in 129 innings. But if I may borrow the services of a third hand, he's also walking fewer batters than he ever has, just 2.3 per nine innings compared to a previous career-low of 2.7 achieved last year. Kris Benson may not be an ace-quality pitcher, but there are plenty of teams who can't boast a Number Two as good as the Mets'.

Of course, giving up just two runs is no guarantee of winning for a Mets starter, to which recent tragedies will attest. The Mets had a mere six hits in this game, but the also drew five walks and were able to piece these elements together well enough to score six runs. Cliff Floyd hit his twenty-seventh home run of the season and was also the only Met with multiple hits, adding a single. Miguel Cairo hit a double. Jose Reyes drew a walk, stole his forty-second base of the season and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. And Benson drove in a pair with a single.

Tomorrow, the Mets, three and a half games out of the Wild Card, get another shot to build a ladder to the playoffs from the bones of inferior teams. The Pirates will send out Josh Fogg (6-7, 4.94) to thwart the Mets. The Mets will send out Tom Glavine (8-10, 4.41), possibly with the same goal in mind.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
  Dodgers 7, Mets 6 (10)
Mets 5, Dodgers 1
Dodgers 2, Mets 1

Ugh. What an awful weekend. The Mets came very close to winning all three of these games, only to lose two of them in agonizing fashion. Of course, even this weekend wasn't enough to kill the Mets' playoff chances, as it appears that none of the teams in the National League Wild Card race are any good. But the Mets don't seem like the kind of team that's going to put together the "hot week" it'll take to win the thing.

Friday night began with another rough start from Victor Zambrano, who is becoming reacquainted with his old friend the earth. He lasted into the seventh inning, though he didn't record any outs after the sixth. He gave up a total of five runs on six hits and four walks while striking out five. Three of those runs came in the first inning, but the Mets were able to come back and take a 6-3 lead before Zambrano and Aaron Heilman combined to blow it in the seventh. Heilman gave up a run on two hits and also allowed the two runners that Zambrano walked to start the inning to score, evening things up at six.

David Wright had a decent night, with two doubles, a single, a walk and a stolen base. But the star of the Mets' offensive show was the returning Victor Diaz, who smacked a pair of home runs and also hit a single. The two bombs gave him seven on the year. Given that the Mets started both Gerald Williams and Jose Offerman, the offense had a pretty good night.

But when it came down to a battle of the bullpens, the Mets came up short. Roberto Hernandez and Juan Padilla each pitched a scoreless inning. But Braden Looper only got two-thirds of the way there before he gave up a home run to Dioner Navarro. So the Mets wound up blowing a three-run lead and losing in extra innings. Somehow that wasn't the most depressing finish of the weekend.

Of course, on Saturday, Jae Seo was a ray of sunshine breaking through the darkness. He did finally give up a run after twenty and two-thirds scoreless innings. Though if you phrase it another way, he didn't give up a run in the major leagues for two and a half months, which is Orel Hershiser territory. Surely the Mets won't take this guy out of the rotation again. Right? Anyway, the pride of the Norfolk Tides lasted eight innings and gave up just one run on five hits and one walk while striking out five to lower his season ERA to 1.35. I tell you I'll be outraged if Chris Carpenter wins the Cy Young Award due to factors completely outside his control.

The Mets lineup had another solid day, as home runs by Ramon Castro and Williams led an efficient eight-hit, one-walk, five-run assault. Williams was the only Met with more than one hit, adding a double. But Jose Reyes had a single and two stolen bases while Williams and Diaz each swiped a bag as well.

Sunday was something of a microcosm of what it's like to be a Mets fan. For a while it seems like things are going to work out just right. You've been disappointed so many times that it takes you a while to really believe it. But everything goes perfectly just long enough for you to buy in. And then it all collapses. And then, it gets even worse.

Pedro Martinez walked a guy in the first inning. Then he got twenty-one outs in a row. At that point, even a Mets fan has to start thinking that a no-hitter is a possibility. It was the eighth inning. He'd thrown fewer than ninety pitches. He was facing the Los Angeles Dodgers offense, only Hee Seop Choi and Jeff Kent had the day off. And if anyone could disregard the forty-plus years of hoodoo surrounding the idea of a Mets no-hitter, it'd be Pedro. But then, with one out in the eighth, Antonio Perez hit a long fly ball to left-center field. Now, I think there's a pretty good chance that Carlos Beltran (or Mike Cameron) would have caught this ball had he been stationed in center field on this day. But instead, it was Gerald Williams chasing the ball and then sort of leaping into the air as he reached the warning track and the ball smacked off the wall. Perez wound up with a triple, dashing hopes of a no-hitter. Then Jayson Werth hit a home run to give the Dodgers the lead. Pedro lasted eight innings and gave up just those two hits, but that was enough to lose the game. He struck out five batters and walked just the one.

But in the end, despite giving up ten hits, Brad Penny was more effective than Pedro. Back to back doubles in the top of the fifth by Diaz and Williams accounted for the only Mets run. Cliff Floyd and Marlon Anderson each also had doubles. Floyd and Wright were the only Mets with multiple hits with two each. Anderson hit his double in the top of the ninth and then stole third with just one one, giving the Mets a chance to tie the game. But he was nailed at the plate on a grounder by Diaz and that was that.

This week, the Mets (59-58) get another opportunity to put a streak together as the Pirates (51-67) come to town. Kris Benson (8-4, 3.54) takes on his former team in the first game on Tuesday. Mark Redman (5-12, 4.75) gets the start for the Pirates. I wonder how the Mets will manage to lose this one.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
  Mets 9, Padres 1
Padres 2, Mets 1

The most important story of the day was the collision that occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning of Thursday afternoon's game. Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran both dove in an attempt to catch a sinking line drive hit by David Ross. Their heads collided and Cameron had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. The latest news indicates that Cameron wound up with a broken nose, multiple fractures of both of his cheekbones and a slight concussion. As a result, he will spend at least one night in the hospital and at least fifteen days on the disabled list. Beltran seems to have escaped without any major injury, though he apparently will be examined further before rejoining the team. You can find video of the collision on, though I don't really recommend it. I don't think I've ever seen such a scary moment on a baseball field, though I didn't actually see it live or even hear about it on the radio, as it apparently occurred just as I was walking from my car to my apartment after returning home from work. Losing Cameron will be a serious blow to the Mets offensively and defensively, though they won't be entirely lost, being able to replace him with Victor Diaz. Hopefully Beltran is able to return quickly and suffers no lingering effects.

Wednesday was a happier day for the Mets, as just about everything went right. The offense, sparked by David Wright, scored nine runs on twelve hits and five walks. Wright had four of those hits, including a double and his seventeenth home run of the season, as he drove in six of the Mets' nine runs. He also stole his twelfth base. Miguel Cairo had a two hit game, as did Cameron. Cairo and Beltran each had doubles and Beltran also had a walk and a stolen base on his way to scoring three runs. The only Met starter who didn't reach base in one way or another was Jose Reyes, who had a fruitless four at bats for the second consecutive night on the heels of his twenty-game hitting streak.

Also having an excellent night was Kris Benson, who very nearly got away with allowing as few hits and he himself hit in the game. He entered the ninth inning with a one-hit shutout intact having gone one for four at the plate. But he was only able to record one out in the ninth and allowed two hits in the frame before exiting with runners on second and third. He struck out six batters in the game and walked just one. The Padres were still scoreless when he was relieved, but he was relieved by Danny Graves, so of course that didn't last. Graves allowed a single to the first batter he faced, but then got a game-ending double play to lower his season ERA to 7.02.

On Thursday afternoon the Mets got similarly good pitching, but they couldn't score enough runs to make it hold up. Tom Glavine lasted seven innings and allowed just two runs on nine hits. He struck out three batters and didn't walk any. And the second run was just a side effect of the aforementioned collision, as Ross wound up with a triple before Kazuo Matsui was able to play the ball that Cameron and Beltran dove for back into the infield. He would later score on a single by Met nemesis Joe Randa.

The Mets' offense put together just six hits and two walks, with a Cliff Floyd double driving in Beltran in the fourth for the only run. Floyd also had a single and his double was the only extra base hit for the Mets. Glavine had a terrific game with the bat, going three for three, but it was all for naught. Wright had a rough day, going hitless and grounding into a back-breaking double play in the eight inning after coming to the plate with runners on first and second and just one out. Reyes had walked in a pinch hitting role and subsequently stolen second before Jose Offerman struck out and Floyd was hit with a pitch. But Wright was unable to capitalize and the Mets' hopes were pretty well dashed.

Tomorrow, what's left of the Mets (58-56) will head into Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers (50-63). The day's events have left the Mets four games behind the Astros for the Wild Card lead. Victor Zambrano (6-9, 4.00) will go in game one for the Mets. Another man who knows what it's like to be traded for a highly regarded pitching prospect, Jeff Weaver (10-8, 4.34), will start for the Dodgers.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
  Padres 8, Mets 3

Surely you've seen The Catch by now. If you have spent the last twenty-four hours away from your television and computer, go here now to witness the awesomeness. I don't know if it's the best catch I've ever seen, but it certainly makes me sit quietly and think about that for a minute or two. While David Wright's offense has been unimpeachable--the twenty-two year old is twentieth in the league in OBP and twenty-third in slugging, second and fourth among NL third basemen--his defense has been an issue. While defense is extremely difficult to quantify and the standard measures are grossly inadequate, eighteen errors are nothing to sneeze at, even if Scott Rolen did have twenty-four in his first full major league season. But anyone who's watched Wright knows that his mistakes have been as much mental as physical, with tentativeness topping the list of troubles. Jaw-dropping plays like the one last night and the dive into the Safeco Field stands earlier in the season show Wright's athleticism and his fearlessness. And there's certainly no reason to doubt his work ethic. This is, after all, the guy who hit better on the road in the low minors because he was tiring himself out by taking too much batting practice when at home. Just as that problem was corrected with a little bit of good coaching, I have little doubt that all of the factors that have combined to make Wright a great hitter will come together to make him a good, if not great, defensive player.

As for the rest of the game, well, Pedro Martinez wasn't good. He lasted just five innings for the first time all season and allowed five runs on nine hits including two balls that landed beyond the distant fences of Petco Park. He did not walk a batter and he struck out four but his ERA is now precisely 3.00, the highest it's been since the end of May.

The Mets' offense wasn't much better, collecting just nine hits, eight of which were singles, and one walk. Cliff Floyd's double was the only extra base hit and he and Mike Cameron had two hits each. Kazuo Matsui made his return to the lineup in a pinch hitting role and he singled and scored, driven in by the man who took his job, Miguel Cairo. It's certainly not reasonable to expect that Matsui will bounce back with a strong final two months, and perhaps it's not even true that he deserves a chance to start again, but I'm certainly rooting for both. Matsui may have been awful so prior to going on the DL, but his getting hot would be a lot more useful than the status quo from Cairo.

As tonight's game starts, the Mets will remain a mere three games out of the Wild Card. Kris Benson (7-4, 3.72) will get the start to try to prevent them from squandering another glimmer of hope. Brian Lawrence (6-11, 4.43) goes for the Padres.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
  Mets 6, Cubs 1

It sure was nice of the Cubs to come to town so the Mets could look like a real playoff contender for three days. For the second straight day, the Cubs lineup, featuring such offensive stalwarts as Neifi Perez and Jose Macias, was unable to do much of anything against the Mets' starting pitching. And this time the Mets scored some runs to make sure this one wasn't so close.

The Battle of the Zambranos was no contest, as Victor shut the Cubs down over eight excellent innings. He only struck out one batter along the way, but he walked just two and it took him a mere 107 pitches to record those twenty-four outs. He gave up five hits and only back-to-back doubles in the eighth inning spoiled his shutout bid as he reduced his season ERA to an even 4.00. Aaron Heilman pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing one hit and striking out one.

Cliff Floyd led the Mets' offense with a perfect three-for-three night, also drawing a walk. Among the three hits was his twenty-sixth home run of the season, a solo shot in the seventh. Miguel Cairo had a pair of singles. Carlos Beltran had a single and a walk and scored three runs, including one in the first inning on which he scored from first base on Floyd's ground ball single up the middle thanks to the always fabulous Chicago defense, which also committed two errors on the night. David Wright had just one hit, but drove in three runs. And Jose Reyes extended his hitting streak to twenty games, which is apparently the official point at which I'm willing to talk about it.

The Mets (57-54) are still in last place in the National League by a margin of half a game, but they're also just one game out of second place. They remain three games out of the Wild Card, which means they are still the closest New York baseball team to a playoff spot. When they return to action on Tuesday, it will be in San Diego against the NL West-leading Padres (56-55). Pedro Martinez (12-3, 2.81) will take on Chan Ho Park (8-5, 5.84), which is just funny. The difference in the annual salaries of the two starting pitchers is just $300,000, which is even funnier.
  An interesting fact

It is currenlty the seventh of August, and the New York Yankees are further from a playoff spot, in terms of games, than the New York Mets. I find that to be interesting.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
  Mets 9, Cubs 5
Mets 2, Cubs 0

As is their custom, the Mets bounced back from a soul-crushing series loss to the Milwaukee Brewers to quickly tantalize their fans with a shred of hope. They've now guaranteed themselves a series win over Neifi Perez and the Chicago Cubs and could end today as few as three games back in the National League's Wild Card race. Damn is this ever annoying.

The first game of the series was not pretty from the pitching perspective, but the Mets' mashers exploded early. A six-run second inning left only the usual "I wonder how the Mets will utterly collapse this time" sort of doubt regarding the outcome and they escaped with a fairly comfortable win. The Mets didn't have a single extra-base hit in the game, but they piled on the singles and took extra bases in other ways. Jose Reyes had another big game with three hits and also stole two bases to give him thirty-six on the season. Carlos Beltran also had three hits and a stolen base, though he did make sure to add his usual boneheaded play, getting caught running too far around second base on a Cliff Floyd single in the first inning because he couldn't be bothered to slide back into the base. Beltran's bat may be starting to come to life, but he's not cutting down on the mental errors at all. Floyd and Miguel Cairo each had two hits and the only hitless Met starter was David Wright, who of course drew three walks and stole a base to compensate.

Tom Glavine started for the Mets and while he wasn't good, he was at least efficient. He gave up five runs, one of which was unearned, on ten hits. He didn't walk anyone but he only struck out two and he did give up two home runs. But he lasted eight innings on just 105 pitches, giving the Mets' bullpen the rest they sorely needed. The game was so secure when Glavine left that Dae-Sung Koo got to pitch the entire ninth inning, which he did without a blemish.

Saturday was an altogether different sort of game, one which was very satisfying before it even started. The Mets, showing that while they may be dumb, if you give them three months, they can figure some things out, sent Kazuhisa Ishii (3-9, 5.04, 53:48 K:BB in 89 1/3 innings) to the minors and replaced him with Jae Seo. Seo was 2-1 with an ERA of 2.00 before the Mets sent him down in May. And while he wasn't quite that dominant in his time in Norfolk (4.29 ERA, 111:30 K:BB in 121 2/3 innings), he returned to the majors in a manner that can't make the Mets feel any less stupid for having kept him down there as long as they did.

He was on top of things from the very start, retiring the first eight batters he faced, including three via the strikeout, before opposing pitcher Greg Maddux finally got a hit. Seo didn't slow down much as the game went on and wound up lasting seven and one-third innings and allowing just four hits and one walk. He struck out four batters in total and held the Cubs scoreless. Only once before he was removed did the Cubs get two runners on in the same inning, and he didn't give up an extra base hit until the eighth inning. Seo isn't going to be this dominant every time out, even if he could face the Cubs every time, but he, not Ishii, is the guy the Mets should have been giving every chance to succeed since the start of the year. It's a shame how much of his season was wasted in the minors. Sadly, he probably won't last long in the Mets' rotation with Steve Trachsel on his way back, as the Mets will surely choose the less effective Glavine over Seo. Maybe next year the Mets, or some other team, will give him a chance to show that his terrific 2003 wasn't a fluke.

Koo relieved Seo in the eighth with a runner on second and one out and, as should have been expected, walked the first batter he faced. But he got the next one and the exited in favor of Roberto Hernandez, whose rubber arm was able to strike out the guy the Cubs have who can hit, Derrek Lee, swinging to end the threat. Braden Looper pitched an uneventful ninth inning to earn the save.

The Mets' offense wasn't much more effective than the Cubs', as they also had just four base hits. But they were able to consolidate their four hits within just two innings to make them add up to runs. In the first Cairo singled and stole second in advance of a Beltran walk which left him in perfect position to be driven in by a double by Wright. And in the third inning, it was The Jose Reyes Show. He hit a perfectly ordinary single to center, but then tagged up on a fly ball to center to reach second with one out. He then stole third base and scored on a single by Beltran, who was subsequently caught trying to steal second. Reyes' steal was his league-leading thirty-seventh. No Met other than Beltran reached base as often as twice, and Wright's double was the only extra base hit.

Tomorrow night's game will put The Battle Of The Zambranos under the national spotlight. The two unrelated starting pitchers will face off in the ESPN game of the week with the Mets attempting to sweep the series. Carlos (8-4, 3.24) is clearly still the better of the two. But Victor (5-9, 4.19) has been pretty solid as well, his abysmal last start notwithstanding.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
  Mets 9, Brewers 8 (11)
Brewers 6, Mets 4
Brewers 12, Mets 9

Who would've thought the Mets could score twenty-two runs over the course of three games and lose two of them? The Mets' offense set out to torpedo the team's aspirations toward extraordinary levels of mediocrity in this series. But not to worry, Willie Randolph and his bullpen were there to set things right and put the Mets right back where they belong--at .500.

Things started off pretty well for the Mets in this series. Well, that's not exactly true. Things started off rather terribly for the Mets in this series, but they way they responded to that adversity was enough to quickly erase its memory. Victor Zambrano got absolutely torched in the series opener, recording as many home runs allowed as outs with four of each. He didn't walk anyone, and half of his outs were recorded via the strikeout, but it was an atrocious night for the ghost of trade deadlines past. He gave up seven hits, and all but one of those guys scored.

But the Mets' offense responded, time and again. Down three runs after half an inning, they immediately put two of their own on the board with four singles and a walk in the bottom of the first. Down four runs after an inning and a half, they came back again, though this time they took their sweet time, waiting until the fourth to stage another four-hit, one-walk, two-run rally. In the sixth inning, Jose Santiago, the Mets' fourth pitcher of the evening, gave up another run on three hits and a walk. But another four-hit inning finally brought the Mets even in the bottom of the seventh, as they finally added some extra bases to the mix. David Wright's sixteenth home run of the season got things started and a couple of doubles and a single followed to tie things up.

Then came Roberto Hernandez. The star of the Mets' bullpen had to go two innings in this one and he gave up a home run in the top of the ninth to put the Brewers back on top. But Mike Cameron retied things in the bottom half with his eleventh home run, and to extra innings they went.

Braden Looper pitched a couple of scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out three. And in the bottom of the eleventh, he was removed for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and just one out. Two singles and an intentional walk had put the Mets on the brink when Mike Piazza strode to the plate. And with all the flair for the dramatic he could muster, the Met catcher watched four pitches avoid the strike zone like they owed it money and then he walked down to first base with the game-winning walk. Cameron had the biggest offensive night, managing four hits. Miguel Cairo had three singles and a walk while four other Mets had two hits each. Carlos Beltran went hitless in six at bats.

The bats weren't quite as explosive on Tuesday night, but that's okay, because the Mets got some starting pitching. Cliff Floyd and Piazza each hit long home runs, their twenty-fifth and thirteenth, respectively. Doug Mientkiewicz had three hits including a double. And Wright drove in a pair of runs with a two-out, bases loaded single.

Pedro Martinez got the start and had a solid, if not dominant, game. He lasted seven innings and gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks. And he struck out eight batters. He gave up a solo home run in his final inning of work to cut the Mets' lead to 4-3, but he still exited with a lead, in line for his thirteenth win of the season.

Then came Roberto Hernandez. The star of the Mets' bullpen came in one night after throwing thirty-four pitches over the course of two innings and promptly gave up a game-tying home run. With one out in the eighth, Carlos Lee took him deep with the only hit Hernandez allowed. He struck out one batter. Braden Looper followed, one night after throwing thirty-five pitches over the course of two innings, and got knocked around as well. He didn't allow any long balls, but three singles and walk were enough to put two runs on the board. A throwing error by Wright allowed the first batter of the inning to reach base, but he was subsequently thrown out by Piazza attempting to steal third, so it's hard to pin too much blame on Wright. With two outs and no one on, Looper went single, single, walk, single, and that was too much for the Mets' to overcome. They were able to get runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Beltran took the first pitch he saw and grounded it to the first baseman, so that was that. He did double and score earlier in the game.

On Thursday afternoon it was back to the good offense, bad pitching model. Kris Benson got knocked around for eleven hits in five innings. He also walked two batters and that all added up to six runs. He struck out just two batters.

But the Mets' offense responded in kind and took a lead of 8-6 after six innings. The Brewers scored one in the eighth, but the Mets did likewise to make it 9-7. Beltran, Piazza and Cameron each homered. Piazza and Chris Woodward each had three hits including one double a piece. Jose Offerman had two doubles and Cameron and Beltran each added a single to their home run. Wright had just one single because he was too busy drawing three walks. So the Mets put up plenty of offense to support their struggling starter.

Then came Roberto Hernandez. The star of the Mets' bullpen entered in the top of the ninth with a two-run lead. I suppose the fact that he was preceded by both Dae-Sung Koo and Danny Graves should be taken as evidence that Randolph didn't really want to use him for a third day in a row, but maybe if Randolph hadn't used four pitches to get through the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, he wouldn't have needed to. Anyway, Randolph himself probably could have pitched about as effectively as the forty year-old Hernandez did on this day. The first batter he faced hit a ground rule double and it didn't get any better than that. He allowed a total of five runs on six hits and one walk, though, to be fair, that was intentional. Randolph can't be blamed entirely for this mess, of course. If a spot in his bullpen wasn't being occupied by the entirely useless Graves, maybe he'd have someone he could use in a situation such as this. With his closer and his top setup man having been worked quite hard in the first two games of this series, maybe this just-barely-afternoon game would have been a time for Heath Bell, currently of the Norfolk Tides. Randolph's bullpen usage hasn't been good by any measure, but having Graves on the roster is just inexcusable, and entirely Omar Minaya's fault.

This weekend, the Mets (54-54) host some more of their brothers in adequacy, the Chicago Cubs. Tom Glavine (7-9, 4.50) gets the start in game one. Shockingly, Dusty Baker's team will send out rookie Rich Hill (0-0, 3.78) to pitch. Yahoo maybe be lying to me, but I will take their word for it.
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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