Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
  Mets 1, Diamondbacks 0 (13)

It was clear that this pitching matchup had the potential to produce something special, and it absolutely lived up to its promise. Each starter dominated the opposition in his own way, exiting a scoreless game. And the bullpens kept up the pace into the thirteenth inning. It was truly a great game.

Brandon Webb shut down the Mets for seven innings, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out five. His signature sinker was in top form as he recorded eleven outs via the ground ball. Only once did he allow two base runners at the same time or anyone to reach third. And the Mets didn't accomplish either of those feats until two outs were recorded in the seventh.

Pedro Martinez was in mild trouble a bit earlier, as in the second inning an error by Lastings Milledge and a single put runners on first and second with two outs. But a brilliant diving stop by Jose Valentin put that inning to an end. The only two-hit inning Pedro allowed was the sixth, and Milledge erased any serious threat with a strong throw to nail Craig Counsell trying to go from first to third with one out. Pedro lasted eight innings and allowed just five hits, striking out eight and walking none. But, as has been the case all month, his offense was unable to get him the win.

Four Arizona relievers pitched five scoreless innings after Webb left. It took just two Met relievers to do the same. Billy Wagner allowed one hit and one walk and struck out two, getting through two innings on just twenty-one pitches. Duaner Sanchez followed him with three excellent innings, allowing two hits and striking out two.

The Mets were unable to get anything done against old friend Jorge Julio in the twelfth. But in the bottom of the thirteenth, they finally broke through against Jason Grimsley. Valentin led off with a double to left. The last hitter on the Mets' bench, Ramon Castro, followed with a ground out, but Valentin was able to advance to third. Endy Chavez, double-switched into the game two innings earlier, drove a ball to deep center field for a game-winning single. The Mets bench looked like a weakness at the start of the season, but players like Chavez and Valentin have stepped up and made important contributions.

One slightly concerning thing about this game was the manner in which Carlos Beltran left it. He fouled a ball off his knee in the bottom of the eleventh and was on the ground in pain for a few minutes before finally resuming his at bat. He subsequently struck out and did not return to the field in the next inning. Right now it's being called a bruised knee, but we'll have to wait and see if further investigation reveals anything more serious. At least he'll have a day off tomorrow.

The Mets (32-20) return to action on Friday night as the Giants (27-26) come to town. Tom Glavine (8-2, 2.59) will start for the Mets having lost the team ERA lead to Pedro's new 2.50 mark. Matt Cain (3-5, 5.07) goes for San Francisco.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
  Mets 8, Diamondbacks 7
Diamondbacks 7, Mets 2

Mets pitching continued to struggle in the first two games of this series, but the offense was able to salvage one win. It seems at this point that the team's run-scoring apparatus might just be good enough to survive the back end of this rotation. But that doesn't make these pitching performances any easier to watch.

On Monday, Steve Trachsel gave another unimpressive performance, allowing four runs on seven hits and one walk in six innings. He struck out four and allowed two home runs. And the bullpen didn't fare any better, as Aaron Heilman allowed three runs in the seventh to temporarily derail the Mets' efforts toward victory. He wound up pitching two innings and allowing one walk and two hits, one of which was a three-run home run.

But the Mets' offense was up to the task once again, repeatedly staying one step ahead of their pitchers' attempts to give the game away. After Trachsel blew an early 4-1 lead, they came back with two home runs in the sixth from Cliff Floyd and new second baseman Jose Valentin. And when Heilman relinquished that lead, the bats strung together four hits and a walk in the ninth and won the game on David Wright's single.

Paul Lo Duca led the team with four hits including two doubles but somehow managed not to score a single run. Floyd added a double and a walk to his home run and Valentin also had two hits. Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez each had a double with Chavez's leading off the ninth to start the game-winning rally.

Tuesday's starting pitching was even worse, as Alay Soler precisely failed to build on his promising debut. He allowed two runs in the first, and then seemed to get things under control in a manner reminiscent of his first start. But after two scoreless innings, he gave up a run on two hits in the fourth and simply imploded in the fifth. He gave up four hits and a walk, and two of the hits were home runs, accounting for the four runs the D'backs put on the board. The search for a decent third, fourth or fifth starter continues.

This time the Mets couldn't put nearly enough runs on the board to compensate. Of their nine hits, five went for extra bases, but Miguel Batista kept them from crossing the plate for most of the night. Valentin's fourth home run of the night was the biggest blow, but certainly not the most significant.

Lastings Milledge made his major league debut, playing right field and batting eighth. He was called up after an emergency appendectomy landed Xavier Nady on the disabled list. Milledge hit a hard line drive in his first at bat, but it sailed right into the glove of shortstop Craig Counsell. His second at bat yielded a ground out to third base. He needed only one more shot to get it right, leading off the seventh inning with line drive double to left field. He got one more at bat in the ninth and grounded out again. At twenty-one years and fifty-five days old--eerily the exact same age as Darryl Strawberry on the day of his major league debut--Milledge probably won't be in the majors for long. Once Nady returns, he will likely head back to Norfolk. But it was a lot of fun to get at least a glance at the not-too-distant future tonight. The Mets' starting lineup featured three homegrown players, none older than twenty-three. Next year at the latest, they should all be in New York to stay.

Wednesday's game brings excitement of a different sort, as two of the National League's best pitchers square off. Brandon Webb (8-0, 2.18) gets the start for the Diamondbacks having pitched complete game shutouts in his last two starts. Pedro Martinez (5-1, 2.79) goes for the Mets without a win on his record in the month of May despite having pitched well. This one should be fun to watch.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
  Marlins 5, Mets 1
Mets 7, Marlins 4
Mets 7, Marlins 3

Winning two out of three from Florida is no cause for great celebration. Any good team should do at least that well against the fifteen million dollar men. In fact, the Mets' continued inability to pull off a three-game series sweep when presented with a golden opportunity is a bit disappointing. But at least they scored some runs against a rookie starting pitcher for once.

Friday was not the day that they did that, however. No, it was business as usual as inexperienced hurler Josh Johnson held the Mets to one run on two hits and two walks over seven innings. This was how the Mets wasted another good start from Pedro Martinez, who was finally saddled with his first loss of the season. He lasted seven innings and allowed just two runs on five hits with ten strikeouts and no walks. Duaner Sanchez pitched one awful inning of relief, allowing three runs on four hits and one walk with one strikeout.

On Saturday, the Mets got similarly good starting pitching and this time backed it up with some offense. Tom Glavine lasted seven and two-thirds innings and gave up three runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. He didn't give up his first hit until the sixth inning.

The offense was able to give him a big enough lead that even when he lost it a bit in the eighth, the lead wasn't in much peril. David Wright had a huge game with four hits, including two doubles, and one intentional walk. Carlos Beltran had two doubles of his own and Ramon Castro hit his second home run of the season. Julio Franco got the start at first base and had two hits.

Sunday was the day when the Mets finally solved the rookie pitcher conundrum, teeing off on young Ricky Nolasco. Jose Reyes led the way, literally and figuratively, as he singled to start the game and scored the first run of the game. He had only the one run, but he added two more singles later in the game. Wright had two hits including a double. Beltran had three more hits including his fourteenth home run.

Carlos Delgado continued to struggle this weekend, as he had just one hit in nine at bats in the two games he played. He hit just .105/.261/.263 over the last week and a mere .230/.337/.460 in the month of May, cooling off considerably after an excellent April. But Beltran (.321/.367/.607), Wright (.435/.458/.913) and, at long last, Cliff Floyd (.375/.524/.813) all had excellent weeks to keep the offense afloat without Delgado.

Sunday also saw the debut of the Mets' second new Cuban pitcher in less than a week with Orlando Hernandez taking the mound. El Duque did not inspire the same sort of optimism as Alay Soler did in his first start, but he didn't embarrass himself. He lasted just five innings and allowed three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out seven. If that's the best he can do against the Marlins, the thought of him facing a real major league offense is a bit scary. But he did settle in somewhat after an awful second inning, so perhaps there's still hope.

Speaking of pitchers who don't inspire confidence lately, Steve Trachsel (2-4, 4.99) starts tomorrow for the Mets (30-19) as they begin a series at home against the Diamonbacks (29-20). Claudio Vargas (5-2, 4.93) gets the start for Arizona in this battle of first place teams. Hopefully the Mets will get a chance to take some swings against Jorge Julio before this series is over.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
  Phillies 5, Mets 3

The Mets got some more unimpressive starting pitching and this time they were unable to overcome it. Jeremi Gonzalez lasted six innings, but he struggled in most of them. Like Alay Soler the night before, Gonzalez allowed three runs in the first and none afterwards. Unlike Soler, Gonzalez stranded numerous base runners during those five scoreless innings. He gave up seven hits and three walks and struck out just one. Two home runs in the first accounted for all three runs.

The Mets were able to come back and tie the game quickly, as Jose Reyes hit a three-run home run, his fifth of the season, in the second inning. Reyes had an excellent day, adding a double and a single to his long ball. Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady each had two hits and a walk and one of Floyd's hits was a double. Carlos Delgado walked twice.

But the Mets were unable to score any more runs and the soft underbelly of their bullpen was unable to withstand the Phillies' offensive assault. Pedro Feliciano and Heath Bell combined to allow two runs in the seventh. Both were charged to Feliciano, who gave up a walk and a double while recording just one out. But Bell entered and gave up a walk and a run-scoring single before getting a double play to end the inning. Bell held the Phillies scoreless in the eighth and ninth, allowing two more walks while striking out two, but the Mets were unable to mount another comeback.

In the end, the Mets took two out of three from the Phillies without sending either of their ace pitchers to the mound. And at the same time, they did a bit to bolster their starting rotation. Yesterday they sent Jorge Julio to Arizona for Orlando Hernandez and today they acquired Dave Williams from the Reds for minor league pitcher Robert Manuel, who is twenty-two years old and has yet to reach AA. Last year across two levels he posted a 2.04 ERA with 54 strikeouts and four walks in 61.2 innings. Neither Julio nor Manuel represents much of a loss for the Mets, so the only question is whether or not the guys they acquired are of any use. Both have certainly struggled this season. Hernandez has an ERA of 6.11 in 45.2 IP and Williams has a 7.20 in 40.

But a closer look at Hernandez's stats is slightly encouraging. His 52:20 strikeout ratio is solid, it's just the eight home runs that are scary. But six of those eight were allowed in Arizona, where he's posted an ERA of 8.16, as opposed to just 2.65 on the road. He was pretty bad last year, too, with a 5.12 ERA in 128.1 IP for the White Sox. But the way he's pitching this year, relocation to Shea Stadium might go a long way toward rectifying his problems.

Williams is another matter. So far this year he has sixteen strikeouts, sixteen walks and nine home runs allowed, all of which is terrible. And he's been significantly worse on the road than at home, allowing seven home runs in nineteen innings with a 12.79 ERA away from the Great American Ballpark. The best thing that can be said about him is that last year he had a 4.41 ERA, which wouldn't be so bad for the Mets' fifth starter. But the Mets got him for basically nothing and he's only twenty-seven, so giving him a chance to remember how to pitch in AAA isn't a bad idea at all.

Neither of these deals is a huge upgrade for the Mets, but both have their strong points. At the very least they give the Mets some more options to plug into the back of the rotation in hopes that one might work out. But this weekend the Mets (28-28) don't have to worry too much about their pitching, as they'll send the best they've got to take out the lowly Marlins (14-31) in Florida. Game one will see Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.82) try to end his string of four straight no decisions against Josh Johnson (3-2, 2.62).
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
  Mets 5, Phillies 4

Alay Soler's major league debut got off to a shaky start, but once he settled down, he was pretty impressive. After walking just three hitters in three AA starts, Soler walked the first three major league batters he faced. The fourth hit an RBI single, and things were not looking good. He then got Ryan Howard to ground into a double play, but Chris Woodward let the ball go through his legs, allowing two more runs to score. But Soler retired the next three batters in order and after that he was very effective.

Over the next five innings, he allowed just one walk and four hits. The Phillies were unable to add to the three runs they scored in the first. And he struck out five batters along the way. He was removed after six innings and 102 pitches with a 4-3 lead. His performance against the first four Phillies was awful, but given the way he pitched after that point, I think it is reasonable to blame his inability to find the plate on nervousness. His work over the next five innings provided plenty of reason for optimism. If he can continue to pitch like that, he can be a valuable part of this rotation.

Pedro Feliciano gave up a run on a Pat Burrell home run in the seventh, erasing the Mets' lead and taking the win away from Soler. But the Mets also scored in the seventh to regain the lead they would not relinquish. Carlos Beltran and David Wright both homered in this game, Beltran for the second consecutive game, Wright for the third. Wright had three hits in the game, Beltran two. Jose Reyes tripled and scored in the fourth.

After Feliciano, Aaron Heilman pitched the eighth inning and held the Phillies scoreless on just one run. Then Billy Wagner finally got the chance to close a game against his former team, and he did so without incident. He didn't strike anyone out, but he did pitch a perfect ninth to earn his tenth save.

The Mets will try to finish off the sweep of this series tomorrow afternoon. Jeremi Gonzalez (0-0, 10.13) will start against Brett Myers (2-2, 2.75) in what experts in the field might refer to as a "mismatch". But bad pitching hasn't been enough to stop the Mets lately, so who knows? Blue hats forever!
  Mets 9, Phillies 8 (16)

The Mets' offense looked great for the first eight innings of this game. It was the next eight that were the problem. As Mets pitchers gave up run after run, the bats kept getting them back in the game. Home runs from David Wright (7), Cliff Floyd (5) and Jose Reyes (4) as well as doubles from Floyd, Kazuo Matsui and Chris Woodward helped the Mets put eight runs on the board against the first five Phillies pitchers. The sixth gave them a bit more trouble.

Ryan Madson entered in the ninth inning and shut the Mets down for seven innings, allowing just three hits and four walks prior to the sixteenth inning. But the Mets' bullpen was just as good in extra-innings, with Darren Oliver's four scoreless frames leading the way. Thus Carlos Beltran was able to step to the plate to lead off the bottom of the sixteenth with the game still tied. Already with two singles, a walk and a stolen base in the game, Beltran was one of the most productive Mets. And he capped off his night by launching Madson's final pitch over the right field wall to end this marathon game.

In the end, it was a great win for the Mets, but even in winning, the non-Pedro/Glavine portions of the starting rotation continue to be a problem. After an excellent start six days ago, Steve Trachsel's struggles resumed tonight. He lasted just five innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out two.

In Trachsel's defense, four of those runs could have been avoided if Paul Lo Duca could field his position. With two outs in the fifth inning, the score tied at two and runners on first and second, Shane Victorino singled to right. Endy Chavez's throw beat Pat Burrell to the plate by a wide margin, but it bounced once off of the ground and a second time off of the glove of Lo Duca. It was not an easy play--though it might have been had Lo Duca been in better position--but it was a play that should have been made. The official scorer would not have been out of line to charge an error. Lo Duca's hitting has been solid so far this year, but his defense, both in terms of throwing and catching, has not been good.

Still, Trachsel followed up that play in the worst way possible, allowing a three-run home run to David Bell. Trachsel hasn't been nearly as bad as some of the pitchers the Mets have allowed to start this season, but his ERA is now 4.99. The Mets are counting on him to be their third best starter, but if that is the case and he keeps pitching like this, the team is not going to keep winning. Either Trachsel needs to get it together or someone else needs to step up if this is going to be a playoff caliber rotation. And neither of those options seems extremely likely at the moment.

But the Mets prevailed anyway, due in no small part, I think, to the fact that they were wearing the classic blue hats for the second consecutive night. Blue hats in night games have been a rarity in recent years due to some silly thought that they don't match the Mets' ugly black jackets. But rather than redesign the jackets, the team has apparently just decided to risk angering the baseball fashion gods. This new attitude has earned them two wins already. We'll see how it works out tonight, as the Mets have brought their blue-hatted insouciance to the park again for Alay Soler's major league debut.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
  Mets 4, Yankees 3

Things didn't get any easier on Sunday night, but this time, the Mets pulled out a close win. The starting pitching was good enough. The offense did what it needed to do. And the bullpen didn't fall apart.

Tom Glavine struggled all night, putting a lot of runners on base. In six innings he allowed seven hits and four walks and he also hit two batters. But he was able to work out of trouble most of the time, as he allowed just two runs to cross the plate. He struck out four batters and the defense turned two double plays behind him.

The offense wasn't dominant either, but they came through when it mattered. Carlos Delgado homered for the fifteenth time in the fourth inning and his three-run shot gave the Mets the lead. David Wright followed immediately with his sixth home run of the season and first since and first since April 28th. The Mets had only one hit the rest of the game, but those four runs proved to be enough.

Aaron Heilman relieved Glavine in the seventh and retired the first two batters he faced. He then allowed a hit and two walks, but was able to escape the bases loaded jam. Duaner Sanchez faced even more danger in the eighth, thanks to a couple of very weak infield singles and a walk. With the bases loaded and none out, he allowed a sacrifice fly to score one run. But he got Alex Rodriguez to ground into a double play to end the threat and preserve the slimmest of leads.

The Mets went quietly in the bottom of the eighth, unable to get even one hit against Scott Erickson. So with the lead still at one, the sound of "Enter Sandman" filled the stadium. Billy Wagner, having pitched brilliantly and awfully in the first two games of this series, got another shot at the Yankees. Fortunately, he didn't have to face any of their top four hitters.

Wagner struck out the first batter he faced and it seemed like he might just mow down the bottom half of the Yankee lineup. But then he gave up a single. And another single. Suddenly things got very tense. With runners on first and second and one out, he had to face...Kelly Stinnett. Wagner struck out the Yankee reserve catcher, but not exactly with ease. Miguel Cairo battled Wagner for a bit, but in the end he grounded out and the Mets won.

This win snapped a streak of three straight series lost for the Mets (26-17). They will get a day off before hosting the Phillies (23-20), who have lost five of their last six games. The pitching matchup is currently scheduled to be Steve Trachsel (2-4, 4.33) against Gavin Floyd (4-2, 5.71).
  Mets 7, Yankees 6
Yankees 5, Mets 4 (11)

This series was going so well for seventeen innings. Friday saw the Mets come from behind and win in dramatic fashion. And on Saturday it appeared they would cruise to an easy victory behind some great starting pitching. And then it all went wrong.

The starting pitching was not so great on Friday as Jeremi Gonzalez pitched three awful innings, allowing six runs on nine hits and three walks, striking out three. But the bullpen was excellent. Darren Oliver entered in the fourth and allowed one inherited runner to score, but that was all. He wound up pitching two innings allowing no runs on two hits while striking out two.

Meanwhile, the Mets were having no trouble coming back against Randy Johnson. Carlos Beltran hit a three-run home run in the first to cut the deficit to one and Xavier Nady hit a two-run shot in the third to momentarily tie things up. The sixth Yankee run scored in the top of the fourth, but the Mets got even with two hits in the fifth.

With the two teams tied at six and both starting pitchers out of the game, the Mets turned to Aaron Heilman to keep the Yankees at bay. He was excellent. Through three perfect innings Heilman struck out three batters, needing just thirty-three pitches to retire the entire Yankee lineup. Billy Wagner entered the tie game in the ninth and blew the Yankees away, striking out the side on twelve pitches.

The Yankees countered with Mariano Rivera and he did not enjoy the same success. With one out, Paul Lo Duca doubled to left for his second hit of the game. After Carlos Beltran struck out and Carlos Delgado was intentionally walked, it all came down to David Wright. Already with two hits in the game, Wright came up and drove the ball over the head of Johnny Damon in center to score Lo Duca and win the game. Wright has struggled in some ways lately, as he's striking out a lot more often than he was early in the season and he hasn't hit a home run in almost a month. Even so, he's remained productive, raising his OBP from .377 to .397 since the start of the month as his SLG has dipped from .584 to .509. His recent power outage is a bit troubling, but as long as he's doing so much else well, I think it's too early to be very concerned.

There wasn't much reason for concern early Saturday, either. First of all, the day began with the welcome news that Jose Lima had been designated for assignment. The Mets have since recalled Alay Soler to take his place in the rotation.

The game started out pretty well, as Pedro Martinez shut down the Yankees for seven innings. He shut them out on just four hits and one walk while striking out eight in perhaps his best start of the season. And it appeared the rest of the Mets would give him plenty of support.

The Mets scored twice in the first thanks to some bad Yankee defense and a couple of doubles from Beltran and Wright. They later padded this lead with solo home runs from Delgado and Cliff Floyd. With a four-run lead and a good bullpen, victory seemed nearly assured.

Duaner Sanchez did nothing to diminish that feeling, pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing just one hit. But after throwing just ten pitches, Sanchez, who hadn't pitched since Tuesday, was removed. Willie Randolph for some reason felt the need to use Wagner to hold a four-run lead in the ninth inning. I wonder if he would have made the same decision against a team other than the Yankees.

Regardless of Randolph's reasoning, Wagner was terrible. He allowed two singles and a walk before he got anyone out. Then with one out, he walked the next batter to load the bases. The next batter also walked, bringing home the second run of the inning. This might have been a good time for Randolph to realize Wagner wasn't any good on this day and remove him. One batter earlier might have as well. But Wagner stayed in and hit the next batter, scoring a third run. At this point he was finally removed for Pedro Feliciano.

Feliciano very nearly got a game-ending double play, but Damon beat the throw to first, meaning the tying run scored. Chad Bradford entered and got Derek Jeter to ground out to end the inning in extremely clutch fashion. So at least the inning wasn't a total loss.

Even though the game was only tied at this point, it felt like the Mets had already lost. I've felt like that in other games this season only to see the Mets come back and win in extra innings. But this time the Mets had no more comebacks left in them, nor did they have much in the way of pitchers. So Jorge Julio pitched a scoreless tenth before giving up a run in the eleventh to lose the game.

This was a tough game to lose after being so close to winning this series. But the Mets have a pretty good shot at wrapping it up anyway, given tonight's pitching matchup. Tom Glavine (6-2, 2.43) will start for the Mets against Aaron Small (0-1, 8.71) and the Yankees. It will be Small's first start of the season.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
  Cardinals 1, Mets 0
Cardinals 6, Mets 3

Okay, this needs to stop. If the Mets can't find anyone better than Jose Lima to pitch, they might as well just forfeit every fifth game. At least then the bullpen would get some rest.

Lima has now started three games for the Mets and allowed exactly five runs in each of them. This time, like last time, he didn't even make it through the fifth inning before being removed. In four and two-thirds innings he gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out three. He did improve upon his previous performances by not giving up a home run this time. And only four of the runs were "earned", but the error in question was charged to him. There was nothing in today's performance to suggest that he's close to turning his season around. Rather than pondering his next unusual hairstyle, Lima should consider whether he'd like butter or perhaps some sort of jam applied to him, for he is toast.

On the list of readily available pitchers with whom the Mets could replace Lima, Aaron Heilman remains my top choice. Brian Bannister apparently reaggravated his hamstring injury today, so it won't be him. But if the Mets refuse to consider Heilman, I think they might as well give Alay Soler a shot. After a dominant month in St. Lucie (0.64 ERA, 32 K, 8 BB in 28 IP) he's had three good starts in Binghamton (2.75 ERA, 22 K, 3 BB in 19.2 IP). He still has a lot to prove, but an unknown quantity with reason for optimism is preferable to a known stiff like Lima right now.

There were some encouraging signs last night, at least, as the Mets might have three major league quality starting pitchers after all. Steve Trachsel lasted seven innings and allowed just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out two. Unfortunately, that was not enough to avoid the loss.

The Mets' offense also managed just four hits and no two of them occurred in the same inning. Jose Reyes led off the ninth with a double and was on third with just one out, but he somehow did not score. David Wright had two hits, including a double of his own, in the game, but struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth, leaving things up to Cliff Floyd, who did not choose that moment to break out of his season-long slump.

There were some signs of life in the offense today, but not enough to overcome the Lima handicap. They put together five hits this time and two of them were home runs. Carlos Beltran went deep for the tenth time and Jose Valentin for the second. Carlos Delgado had two hits and Floyd hit a double.

So, having lost three consecutive series, the Mets (24-16) return home to face the Yankees (23-16), who, unlike the Mets, are not in first place in their division. Jeremi Gonzalez (0-0, 5.40) will try to repeat his adequate performance from last week. He will be opposed by some impostor in Randy Johnson's uniform (5-4, 5.13).
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
  Mets 4, Cardinals 3 (through 6 1/2)
Mets 8, Cardinals 3 (final)

At the time of this writing, the Mets are leading the Cardinals by the above score in the middle of the seventh inning. The Mets scored their fourth run in the top half of the inning. And then the game was delayed by rain. If the game is not resumed tonight, it will be suspended as per MLB Rule 4.11 (d). I may very well be asleep by the time that happens, so let me just tell you how we got here.

Tom Glavine pitched a decent six innings before being removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh. He allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out two. It was not exactly a dominant performance, but the Mets' offense put enough runs on the board to make it stand up. For now.

Jose Reyes drove in the first two with a home run in the third. And he scored the fourth on a Paul Lo Duca double after walking and stealing second with two outs in the seventh. Cliff Floyd had two hits, including a double, to raise his batting average to .207. David Wright had both a hit and a walk and scored the Mets' third run.

So that's where we stand at the moment. It is apparently still raining in St. Louis. Tomorrow, possibly in addition to the rest of this game, these two teams will try to play another nine innings. The struggling Steve Trachsel (2-3, 4.91) will face off with Mark Mulder (4-1, 4.27).

EDIT: Once the game resumed, the Mets scored four more runs in the eighth on a Wright double, three singles and an error. Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez and Jorge Julio each pitched a scoress inning of relief. Cliff Floyd got hit by a pitch in the eighth and struck out in the ninth, dropping his average to .205. His OBP is over .300 for the first time since April 11th.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
  Brewers 9, Mets 6
Mets 9, Brewers 8
Brewers 6, Mets 5 (10)

This was not a good weekend for Mets pitching. Neither the starting rotation nor the bullpen distinguished itself, but at least they may have found an adequate fifth starter. Now if only they could come up with a third or fourth starter.

On Friday, it was Jose Lima getting the start, so of course that went poorly. Rather than watch this game, I went to see They Might Be Giants live in Philly and therefore I win. But from looking at the box score, I can see that Lima was even less successful than in his previous start. He lasted just four and two-thirds innings and gave up five runs on four hits and three walks. He also hit a batter and struck out just two. With Brian Bannister about to return from the disabled list, this will hopefully be the last we see of Lima.

Saturday's starter was Jeremi Gonzalez, and while calling his performance "good" might be a stretch, he certainly appeared less hopeless than Lima. He allowed three runs in five innings, but one of those runs scored after he was removed in the sixth. He allowed five hits, two of which were home runs, but he didn't walk anyone and he struck out four. At the very least, he deserves a second start more than Lima did.

Pedro Martinez had a chance to win this series for the Mets on Sunday, but he had some trouble with the long ball as well. The Brewers lead the National League in home runs and they hit three more on Sunday, two against Pedro. Those accounted for all four of the runs he allowed as he gave up just four hits in total. He walked two and struck out ten, but even with a bit of offense from the Mets, the bullpen could not preserve the win.

Poor performance by the bullpen was a theme of the series, as they allowed a total of eleven runs in the three games. On Friday the Mets scored enough runs to overcome those Lima allowed, but Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver and Heath Bell each exacerbated the problem by allowing at least one run. On Saturday Aaron Heilman not only allowed a runner inherited from Gonzalez to score, but he gave up another run as well. And Duaner Sanchez had an awful game, allowing four runs on one walk and three hits, two of which were home runs, while recording just one out. On Sunday Sanchez and Bradford were the culprits, allowing one run a piece after the Mets' offense had twice tied the game in the late innings.

Despite the losses, the offense had a pretty good weekend, putting twenty runs on the board. On Friday, Carlos Delgado had three hits including his thirteenth home run and Endy Chavez had three including a double. Carlos Beltran, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca each homered and were among five Mets with two hits on Saturday. And Valentin had another good game starting in left field on Sunday as he led the team with four hits including a double. He got off to a terrible start, but right now he looks like he could be a decent bat on the Mets' bench.

After two disappointing series, the Mets (23-14) find themselves just one game ahead of the Phillies in the National League East. And things won't get any easier as they travel to St. Louis for three against the Cardinals (24-14), who lead the NL Central. In game one on Tuesday, Tom Glavine (5-2, 2.19) will take on Jeff Suppan (4-2, 4.58).
Thursday, May 11, 2006
  Phillies 2, Mets 0 (5)

I don't understand what the rain has against me. I never did anything to the rain. In fact, I've always been nice to the rain. I like the rain. I feel it's an important part of our ecosystem and have not been shy about saying so. And frankly, I think it just looks cool a lot of the time. Especially in movies.

But the rain doesn't seem to feel the same way about me. Two years ago, I tried to attend four different Mets games, two in New York and two in Philadelphia, and all of them were either delayed or cancelled due to rain. I did not figure out any way to harness these powers to my advantage. And now, tonight, the Mets were in a close game against a shaky starting pitcher and the rain came and handed the game to the Phillies. I don't know what I've done to anger the rain, but I'm through being nice. I always liked the snow better anyway.

Anyway, the Mets nearly got off to a great start in this game. With two outs in the first, Gavin Floyd walked the bases loaded. Xavier Nady followed that up by driving the ball to the wall in center field, apparently the part of the ball park where a fly ball isn't necessarily a home run. And in this case, it wasn't even a bases clearing double, as Aaron Rowand felt the need to break his nose on the outfield fence and still catch the ball. It was an amazing play, but maybe not the smartest gamble in a game that could very well have been rained out. These young players, they just don't think these things through. After that, the Mets had some trouble putting together a rally. Ramon Castro and Kazuo Matsui each had a double later in the game, but neither was able to score.

Steve Trachsel had some trouble, but was mostly able to limit the damage. He gave up six hits and two walks in the four innings he got to pitch. But he struck out three and kept the Phillies to just two runs. Unfortunately, the Mets ran out of innings to make a valiant comeback, and so the Phillies escaped with the cheapest of victories.

Tomorrow the Mets (22-13) begin a series in Milwaukee against the Brewers (17-18). Things don't get any easier for the Mets as they'll have to try to win despite the handicap of starting Jose Lima (0-1, 9.00). Dave Bush (2-4, 4.12) goes for the Brewers.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
  Mets 13, Phillies 4

That was certainly more relaxing than last night. The Mets' offense got off to a quick start and, with the help of some atrocious Philadelphia defense, resolved this game early. With a ten-run cushion after three innings, Tom Glavine didn't have too much trouble getting the win.

Three errors in the first three innings aided the Mets' cause, but they added plenty of hits. In the end, every starter had at least one. Jose Reyes was the only Met to go deep, hitting his second home run of the season in the third inning. But Paul Lo Duca, Chris Woodward and Glavine each had one double while Carlos Beltran had two. Joining Reyes, Lo Duca, Beltran and Glavine with a pair of hits on the night were David Wright and Xavier Nady. Cliff Floyd went one for five, which actually improved his batting average.

In addition to his offensive heroics, Glavine did some pitching. He lasted six innings, gave up three runs on four hits and three walks. He struck out two and gave up two home runs. It was not his best effort of the year, but he did drive in two runs and score two more, so I guess we can cut him some slack.

Heath Bell made his season debut in relief and did not fare well. He gave up a run on three hits, though he did strike out two. That will probably not be enough for the Mets to feel confident in giving him Aaron Heilman's job. Following Bell, it was Jorge Julio in his natural habitat--a game that has already been decided. With a nine-run lead, he pitched a scoreless inning, allowing just a leadoff double and striking out one.

Tomorrow season finale will decide just how massive the Mets' division lead will be. Steve Trachsel (2-2, 4.96) gets the start for the Mets having struggled in his last two outings. Gavin Floyd (3-2, 6.16) goes for the Phillies having struggled for most of his major league career.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
  Phillies 5, Mets 4

Well, that was disheartening. The Mets staged a dramatic comeback to overcome a merely human start from Pedro Martinez, only to give the game right back in short order. For a minute it seemed like Billy Wagner might get a chance to show up the man who replaced him in Philly. But in the end, he just watched from the bullpen as Aaron Heilman reminded us all how important he is to the bullpen.

Pedro got off to a rough start, giving up three runs on four hits in the second inning. Things could have gone more smoothly for Pedro with better defensive support, but regardless, he didn't take long in reasserting control of the game. Those four hits were the only ones he gave up in seven innings of work. He walked two batters and hit one, but he struck out ten and kept the Mets in the game long enough for them to strike back in the latter innings.

Xavier Nady hit a two-run home run, his eight of the season, in the top of the eighth inning to bring the Mets within a run. Nady's attempts at defense had contributed to Pedro's rough second inning, but he certainly redeemed himself with the bat. After being frustrated by Brett Myers for seven innings, the Mets' offense appeared to have a shot at tying this game. But they would not score again in the eighth. And then, the unthinkable happened.

Duaner Sanchez gave up a run.

The Mets' premier reliever of the first month of the season entered in the bottom of the eight with his team trailing by one. He retired the first two batters. He gave up a single. And that was followed by an RBI double from Ryan Howard. But it was totally not Sanchez's fault. Howard hit the ball down the right field line and Nady made a good play to get the ball in to the cutoff man, Kazuo Matsui, quickly. Matsui's throw home was not perfect. It bounced. But it was still mostly on target and certainly on time. Paul Lo Duca could not field it cleanly and apply the tag, though. It would have required a very good play from Lo Duca to record the out, but it was certainly possible. Sanchez escaped the inning without further damage, his ERA now a ghastly 0.41.

The Mets, however, did not fold in the face of this latest adversity. They fought right back. Lo Duca led off the ninth with a single against the new Philly closer, Tom Gordon. One out later, Carlos Delgado strode to the plate. And he showed everyone what not folding in the face of adversity looks like, driving his twelfth home run over the wall in right center to tie the game. The Mets put two more runners on base with just one out, raising the possibility that they might take the lead and bring in Wagner to close it out. But neither Nady nor Matsui could get a run home and the game went to the bottom of the ninth tied.

Heilman came in to pitch the ninth and got the first two outs. Then he gave up a triple. He got to 0-2 on the next batter only to plunk him. A walk later and the bases were loaded for Bobby Abreu. Heilman got Abreu to ground the ball weakly in front the plate, but then he decided to field the ball himself and throw it into the outfield, thus ending the game. Someone more conspiratorial than I might suggest Heilman was trying to prove that he's not as valuable to the bullpen as the Mets think, thus earning himself a starting job. But more likely he just had a bad night and ran into some bad luck, resulting in this disappointing ending.

Tomorrow the Mets will try it again, once again sending an excellent pitcher to get the job done. Tom Glavine (4-2, 1.94) gets the start against Cory Lidle (3-3, 4.17). Hopefully the Mets can get to Lidle a little earlier than they did Myers.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
  Braves 13, Mets 3

We may have a problem. Victor Zambrano will miss the rest of the season due to a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, leaving the Mets with just three major league starting pitchers who aren't Jose Lima. And Lima is only a "major league starting pitcher" by the most literal interpretation of that phrase. The Mets are set up fine for their next series, but after that, they're going to need to find some pitchers.

Unfortunately, Lima will probably get another start. Today he lasted five innings and gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks. He did somehow strike out five batters. And their were some extenuating circumstances, such as terrible umpiring and his catcher acting like an idiot. Nevertheless, it was not a good performance by the Mets' fourth starter.

Things could have gone a little better for Lima but for a ridiculous second inning. After allowing a leadoff hit, he got Brian Jordan to hit into a double play. But that DP was nullified by an extremely questionable balk call. He struck out Jordan, but gave up a hit to the next batter, putting runners on first and third. It was at this point that things went from bad to weird.

On the first pitch to the next batter, John Smoltz, Brian McCann charged home from third as if a squeeze play were being executed. Except that Smoltz didn't bunt. He swung and grounded the ball weakly in front of the plate where it was fielded by Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca appeared to tag McCann, but it was hard to tell for sure from any angle shown on TV, and in any event McCann was called safe at home. So Lo Duca, with all the class and leadership he could muster, jumped up in the air, spiked the ball into the ground and let it roll away as he argued with home plate umpire and Braves fan Angel Hernandez. While Lo Duca was arguing and ignoring the live ball, a runner advanced from second to third. This was succinctly recorded in the box score as an error. Lo Duca was then ejected, which presumably signaled the end of the play, as a result of which Smoltz was not allowed to advance to second. Bobby Cox came out to argue this and was himself ejected.

Lima retired the next batter but gave up a single to Edgar Renteria, allowing Ryan Langerhans to score from third base, where Lo Duca had so graciously let him advance. One walk later, Lima finally recorded the "third" out.

This game didn't get entirely out of hand until Lima was relieved by Bartolome Fortunato. As if determined to continue pouring salt into the wound of the Scott Kazmir trade in Zambrano's absence, Fortunate allowed six hits and two walks in one and one-third innings. All eight of these runners wound up scoring. After that, things calmed down a bit.

As for the Mets' offense, well, they didn't have as much luck as the Braves with Hernandez's amazing traveling strike zone, which sometimes takes up residence as many as six inches from the edge of home plate. Carlos Beltran did homer for the third straight game and also hit a single. David Wright hit a double. And a Kazuo Matsui single accounted for the only other New York hit.

Next up for the Mets (21-10) is their first series of the season against the second place Phillies (17-14). The serious portion of the Mets rotation is in place to pitch all three games of this series, with Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.72) starting game one. Brett Myers (2-1, 3.11) will go for the Phillies. The Phillies have won eight games in a row to close within four games of the Mets. But they didn't face any pitcher during that stretch the caliber of Pedro or Tom Glavine. I think it's time the division leaders remind them who's boss.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
  Mets 8, Braves 7 (14)
Mets 6, Braves 5

The Mets offense had awakened just in time. With the starting pitchers that they've sent out, it is remarkable that the Mets have won this series. That they have a chance, admittedly minute, to sweep it is amazing. Or possibly even amazin'. I was thinking the other day that if the Mets could just win every single game started by Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine and one of three of the others, they would coast to the playoffs. If the offense keeps showing up like this, maybe they can win more than one of those three.

On Friday it was Steve Trachsel getting smacked around a bit in the Braves' vain attempt to win a game on the road. He lasted six innings and gave up four runs on nine hits and one walk, striking out four. And Chad Bradford followed by allowing two runs in the two-thirds of the seventh inning that he pitched. At that point the Mets trailed 6-2 and things looked bleak.

But then the bats erupted for four runs in the bottom of the seventh on four hits, one walk and one error. For the most part, the bullpen held the Braves while the Mets got around to finishing them off. Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez each pitched two scoreless innings. Billy Wagner gave up a home run in the top of the eleventh, but The Ghost Of Cliff Floyd Past tied things up in the bottom half with his third long ball of the year. And then David Wright won it in the fourteenth with a ground rule double.

Wright had a great game with three hits and three walks. Floyd had two hits and a walk and still managed to leave ten men on base. And Carlos Beltran had two hits, including a double, and two walks. But the star of the show was Jose Reyes, who was on base six times with a triple, four singles and an intentional walk. The game might have been over earlier had anyone been able to drive him home after he led off the eighth with that triple, but I digress. It was a great game from Reyes who is absolutely on fire, having raised his batting average 49 points in the last thirteen games.

Saturday, the Mets got even less from their starting pitching as Victor Zambrano couldn't even make it through the second inning. He retired the first four batters he faced, three of them via strikeout, but apparently all that effective pitching was unnatural and a strain on his arm, as he left the game with elbow troubles. That might not be the worst thing in the world if the Mets had anyone to replace him in the rotation, but with their depth playing for other teams and Heilman chained to the bullpen, Zambrano's health is actually a concern. In this game he was relieved by Darren Oliver, who pitched four decent innings, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out six.

The Mets were able to match those two runs early, putting up a single run in the first and third innings, the latter on Beltran's seventh home run of the season. But the Braves scored a run in the seventh against Bartolome Fortunato, making his season debut. He lasted one and two-thirds and gave up just one hit, a home run by Adam LaRoche.

But the Mets again responded with the big inning, putting up four in the seventh. Four hits and three walks built the rally that was keyed by Kazuo Matsui's two-run double. This inning also included one of Reyes's three hits. He also had a double later in the game and is now hitting a very respectable .280/.345/.432 on the season.

What was left of the Mets' bullpen was less effective on this day, though. Bradford got one out via the strikeout, but also allowed one run on one hit and one walk before being relieved by Pedro Feliciano, who gave up one hit and struck out two. And with a lead of two runs in the ninth, Wagner was apparently unavailable. So Willie Randolph turned to Jorge Julio. Seriously.

Julio struck out the first batter he faced, giving one the impression that this might not be a disaster. But then he walked a guy. And gave up a hit. And gave up another hit. At this point Heilman was warming up, making everyone watching wonder why he wasn't in the game in the first place. But Julio got the next two batters and escaped with a one-run win and his first save of the season. Hopefully he will be one for one in save chances at the end of the season.

With victory in this series assured, the Mets will take a day off from seriously trying to win and send Jose Lima (2-3, 5.10 in freaking AAA) out to pitch. He will be opposed by John Smoltz (1-2, 4.05) which would border on the unfair if not for the nine-game gap between these two teams in the standings. If the Mets manage to win that one, I may entirely lose my sense of perspective.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
  Mets 6, Pirates 0

This is what a game between the Mets and Pirates should look like. The Mets score a number of runs. The Pirates don't score any. Everyone's happy. Well, aside from Pirates fans, I guess, but if they haven't given up on this franchise by now, "happy" is probably a long way off.

Tom Glavine dominated the Pirates for seven innings and continued his string of surprisingly frequent strikeouts. He sent ten Pirates back to the bench without the aid of his defense, giving him 41 Ks this season. He allowed just three hits and his only walk was intentional. Duaner Sanchez pitched another scoreless inning in relief with one hit and one strikeout. And Jorge Julio was similarly effective, allowing one walk and striking out the side in the ninth.

How did the game get to the point where Julio could safely be brought in? Well, after struggling to score one run through the first six innings of the game, the Mets broke through. They had earlier managed just one run from a bases loaded, no out situation. But five hits, an error and a hit batsman led to five runs in the seventh, keyed by Xavier Nady's seventh home run of the season, a three-run shot. Aside from Nady, the offensive star of the game was David Wright, who had four hits, including a double, raising his batting average twenty-five points back up to .302. Carlos Beltran had two hits and a walk. Carlos Delgado got the day off, which might explain why the other Mets felt the need to hit for once.

Tomorrow the Mets (19-9) begin a series with the Braves (12-16). Again. Having used their aces to take down the Pirates, the Mets will turn to Steve Trachsel (2-2, 4.72) in the series opener. The Braves will counter with Kyle Davies (2-2, 4.70), who you may remember beating the Mets twice already this year. Surely they have figured him out by now.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
  Mets 4, Pirates 3 (12)

It should not take twelve innings to beat the Pirates. When Endy Chavez is the offensive star of the game, something has gone awry. But Chavez had four hits, two of them doubles, to lead the way for the Mets. He did not play a role in the eventual game-winning run, however.

The Mets got off to a good start, scoring a few runs and getting excellent starting pitching. Pedro Martinez lasted just six innings for some reason, having thrown only 77 pitches, but he gave up just one run on three hits and one walk, striking out nine. He was well on his way to his sixth win of the season when he exited, up 3-1 and leaving the game in the capable hands of the Mets' bullpen.

Aaron Heilman pitched two excellent innings, allowing none to reach base and striking out two. But things did not go so smoothly in the ninth. Billy Wagner walked two of the first three batters he faced and wound up giving up two ground ball singles through the left side to drive in two runs. And so we went to extra innings.

Now, Chavez wasn't the only Met who did anything with the bat. Kazuo Matsui and Carlos Delgado each had a double. Jose Reyes had an RBI triple. And the unstoppable Ramon Castro got the start and drew two walks, though he did go hitless, dropping his batting average below .400. But the Mets offense couldn't put this game away until the bottom of the twelfth. That was when Delgado bailed everyone out by hitting another home run, his eleventh of the season. Apparently a game can only go on for so long before Delgado does something great with the bat.

Tomorrow the Mets have another chance to be frustrated by an inexperienced starting pitcher as they face young Paul Maholm (1-3, 5.86). Tom Glavine (3-2, 2.29) will try to earn the narrow victory for the Mets. Possibly someone other than Delgado will help him with that. And possibly not.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
  Nationals 6, Mets 2

You know what would be good? Scoring more runs. Over the arbitrary period of the last nine games the Mets have gone 5-4, but they have scored four runs or fewer six times. Given that they have three starting pitchers in the rotation at all times named neither Tom nor Pedro, this sort of production isn't going to be adequate to maintain their gargantuan lead in the division for very much longer.

After being shut down by Ramon Ortiz on Monday, this time it was rookie Michael O'Connor's turn to look like an ace against the Mets. The New York offense collected just three hits and two walks. Two of the three hits were solo home runs, by Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca, the latter of whom also had a single and failed to throw out Nick Johnson trying to steal. Beltran had one of the walks as well.

But those two runs were not enough, as the Mets did not have a former Cy Young Award winner and future Hall Of Famer starting. Instead, they had John Maine, who had some difficulty. He lasted five and one-third innings and allowed four runs on six hits and two walks. He did strike out six batters, but it was not an encouraging debut for the best replacement starter the Mets think they have. Aaron Heilman presumably had a comfortable chair from which to watch the game.

Tomorrow the Mets (17-9) face another inexperienced starter with a dodgy record of success in Ian Snell (1-2, 5.79) of the Pirates (8-20), so they probably won't score a lot of runs. Luckily, Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.94) will be on the mound for the home team. This should make for a tense but satisfying victory by a margin of a about 3-1.
Monday, May 01, 2006
  Mets 2, Nationals 1

Prior to tonight, Victor Zambrano's least disastrous start of the season was against the Nationals. On April 13th, he held the mediocre Washington offense to three runs over five innings. Given another shot at them tonight, he had a legitimately good game. He lasted six innings, making this his longest start of the year, and he held them to just one run on five hits and two walks. He struck out four.

Unfortunately, the Mets' offense didn't have any better luck against Nationals punching bag Ramon Ortiz. It wasn't until the sixth inning that they finally broke through. As you might imagine, it was Carlos Delgado who put them on the board. Delgado's tenth home run of the season was a solo shot over the left field wall.

The Met offense continued to struggle, but the bullpen held the Nats in check as well. Pedro Feliciano pitched a scoreless seventh, allowing just one walk and striking out one. Duaner Sanchez added his standard perfect inning in the eighth with one strikeout. And Billy Wagner fanned the first two batters he faced before settling for a ground ball to end the ninth.

Four Mets, Xavier Nady, Jose Reyes, Paul Lo Duca and Kazuo Matsui, hit a double in this game. But it wasn't an extra base hit that got the Mets the win. With one out in the ninth, Julio Franco started things off with a walk. Then came Reyes, who may have cost the Mets a run earlier when thrown out trying to stretch his double into a triple. He grounded a single through the left side, advancing pinch runner Endy Chavez to second. The stage was set for the clutch hitting that made Lo Duca famous. So of course he hit an easy double play ball back to the pitcher. But that pitcher, Gary Majewski, threw the ball into center field and Chavez rushed home for the win. Apparently Lo Duca is so clutch that no matter how easy an out he hands the opposition, runs will invariably score. This peculiar brand of magic will serve the Mets well if he can keep it up.

Tomorrow's game provides an unspectacular pitching matchup of a different sort. Rookie Michael O'Connor (0-1, 0.00...three unearned runs explain that), who led the Carolina League (that's high A-ball) in innings pitched last year, gets the start for Washington. And the Mets will send out John Maine (1-3, 2.63 in Norfolk) to make his first start of the season and try to salvage the Kris Benson trade.
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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