Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Monday, July 31, 2006
  Please, sir, I want some more pitching

It wouldn't be the trading deadline if something didn't go wrong for the Mets. It'd be pretty hard to blame this one on the team's front office, though. Duaner Sanchez wound up with what is being called a separated shoulder when a taxi he was riding in was involved in an accident. And so the Mets had some tradin' to do.

The deal they made probably won't have a major effect on the team's fortunes for the rest of this season. They traded one of their least important and most replaceable offensive starters and received a couple of pitchers unlikely to make much of an impact. And instead of a top Mets prospect leaving the organization, as would be expected on this day, they opened up a spot in the majors for one.

The newest Pirate, Xavier Nady, has had a decent season, hitting .264/.326/.487, showing a bit more power than he had in any previous season. But he isn't nearly one of the best offensive right fielders in the league and his defense has not been impressive at all. Nady was a decent choice to fill the role of seventh or eighth best hitter in a good lineup, but he wasn't an integral part of the Mets' present or future.

Neither is Roberto Hernandez, the man the Mets acquired ostensibly to replace Sanchez in the bullpen. Hernandez was a revelation for the Mets last year, posting a 2.58 ERA in 69.2 innings of relief. He's been quite effective so far this year, too, with a 2.93 ERA in 43 IP. But a closer look at his stats reveals a forty-one year old reliever who has cooled off a bit.

He's giving up a hit and a walk more per nine innings as compared to last year and his strikeout rate has dropped from 7.2 to 6.4. His peripheral numbers are more in line with those of his unimpressive 2003 and 2004 seasons than his excellent 2005. Any decent reliever can get hot for a couple of months and look unhittable as Hernandez has in the past, but expecting Hernandez to regain his 2005 form or replace Sanchez's excellent production seems very optimistic. Fortunately, Omar Minaya is now saying, contrary to earlier reports, that it may be possible for Sanchez to return before the end of the regular season. If that comes to pass and Hernandez is about the fourth best reliever on the postseason roster, they may really have something.

The most interesting part of this deal, to me, is the Mets' acquisition of Oliver Perez. Perez is in some ways a Victor Zambranoesque figure. He's been awful lately, he walks far too many batters and the Mets are surely hoping that Rick Peterson can work his magic and turn him into the good pitcher his stuff says he could be. But unlike Zambrano, Perez actually was good at one point. Oh, and Xavier Nady's no Scott Kazmir.

Perez was significantly better than "good" in 2004. He was one of the best pitchers in the National League with an ERA of 2.98 and 239 strikeouts in 196 innings. But in 2005 he fell apart, posting a 5.85 ERA as his home run and walk rates skyrocketed. His 2006 hasn't been any better as he posted a 6.63 ERA in 76 innings before being sent to the minors where he did not exactly turn things around. He's gotten the walks under control a bit in AAA, but a 5.63 ERA and six home runs in 32 innings indicate he's still got some work to do.

Nevertheless, Perez has shown he has the talent to be a good or even excellent pitcher. And he won't turn twenty-five for another couple of weeks. He may not pitch in the majors again this year and I wouldn't expect much success if he did. But given the old "change of scenery" and a lot of work with Peterson in Spring Training next year, maybe he'll turn in to an asset. Taking a shot at reviving the old Oliver Perez, which was ironically the young Oliver Perez, is an excellent gamble given how little the Mets had to surrender to get him.

The Mets didn't get through the deadline completely unscathed, but things could have gone worse. Lastings Milledge is still in the organization and he'll soon be on the major league roster. And they picked up a decent reliever and a starter who basically amounts to a prospect with a lot of upside. It's not Ed Hearn for David Cone, but I'll take it.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
  Mets 6, Braves 4
Mets 11, Braves 3
Mets 10, Braves 6

Well, that was some run the Braves had, eh? Fourteen straight division titles (if you don't count 1994). Undefeated in NL East competition. Ten straight playoff appearances without winning a World Series. Wait, that last one's not so impressive. But anyway, it's over now.

The Mets got their ace back on Friday but wound up sweeping the Braves via pummeling. They scored twenty-seven runs to overcome some difficulties with their pitching and defense. But even the starting pitching had its moments.

Pedro Martinez got knocked around early, giving up four runs in the first inning on Friday. But he was excellent thereafter. He gave up four hits and a walk in the first and just one hit and one walk in the next five innings. He struck out just two batters along the way, but after getting that rough first inning out of the way, he gave plenty of reason to believe that it is the real Pedro who has returned to the Mets.

The offense was just getting warmed up on Friday as the scored a mere six runs on ten hits and five walks. David Wright and Jose Reyes each homered. Wright, Carlos Beltran and Julio Franco each had two hits. Wright's other hit was a double and Pedro contributed a double of his own.

On Saturday the offense provided a bit more room for error, scoring eleven runs on fifteen hits and five walks. Paul Lo Duca had four hits including a double, really hampering my ability to make fun of him. He was still overshadowed by Beltran who hit two home runs. Franco, Cliff Floyd and Endy Chavez each had two hits as well.

The beneficiary of all of this offense was Orlando Hernandez who had a pretty good day himself. He allowed three runs in eight innings, but all were unearned. He gave up just three hits, didn't walk anyone and struck out seven. Hernandez has had a handful of really terrible starts since coming to the Mets, but he's also had several excellent outings like this one. If he keeps up this pattern, I expect he will get to start a game or two in October and it will be hard to argue with that decision.

Also likely to pitch a playoff game or two is Tom Glavine who did not fare well on Sunday. He lasted just four innings and gave up six runs on ten hits and three walks, striking out three. Glavine really hasn't been much more than adequate since early May and often he's been quite a bit worse than that. And I will just say that Tom Glavine pitching like a forty year old finesse pitcher is not the kind of thing I want to see in October.

But I suppose if the Mets can score ten runs every day, things might work out all right. Beltran continued his assault on Todd Hundley's single season franchise record of 41 home runs with two more in this game to give him 32 on the year. Carlos Delgado also hit his twenty-sixth of the year on Sunday, leaving him nearly on pace to claim the second spot on the Mets' all-time list between Beltran and Hundley. Wright, who hit his twenty-fifth on Friday, has some catching up to do. Wright did have two hits in this game, as did Xavier Nady and Jose Valentin. But Reyes had three and Delgado had four, adding two doubles to his home run.

The Mets (63-41) will take a day off before resuming their whupping of the NL East. They'll begin a three game series in Florida against the Marlins (48-56) on Tuesday with Mike Pelfrey (2-1, 5.28) on the mound. The Marlins, who have lost three straight to the white flag-waving Phillies will start Scott Olsen (9-4, 3.79).
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
  Mets 1, Cubs 0 (10)

While the rest of the Mets' starting rotation seems to have taken the week off to plan an elaborate "Welcome Back" party for Pedro Martinez, the task of continuing to win games has fallen to John Maine. And he's responded excellently. Something resembling the old Mark Prior showed up, but it wasn't enough to overcome Maine.

While Maine did not earn the win, he was clearly the star of the game. After pitching a complete game shutout in his last start, he tossed seven more scoreless innings. He gave up just three hits and three walks and he struck out seven, including three in his final inning of work. The Mets will have to make some decisions about their starting rotation soon, but dropping Maine is not an option.

It took the Mets' offense a while to provide some support for Maine, as Prior pitched five and two-thirds hitless innings before being removed. He did walk five, but the Mets didn't get their first hit until the seventh inning. And while they threatened with multiple base runners in the eighth and ninth innings, it wasn't until the tenth that they finally put a run on the board. With two outs, Carlos Beltran singled and went to third on Carlos Delgado's double. David Wright was of course intentionally walked, but Jose Valentin came through with his second single of the game to end it.

The Mets (60-41) will now take a day off to try to cleanse themselves of the embarrassment of this series. Then it's time to finally finish off the Braves (48-52). The former division champs are currently eleven and a half games behind the Mets and four and a half games out of the NL Wild Card. The Mets will go to Atlanta this weekend to crush their spirit for good over the course of three games. Pedro (7-4, 3.45) will lead the way on Friday against Horacio Ramirez (5-3, 4.04).
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
  Cubs 8, Mets 7
Cubs 8, Mets 6

Okay, now I'm scared. Two of the Mets' veteran starters getting smacked around by the woeful Cubs offense is not what I wanted to see with the trading deadline just days away. The Mets' interest in any available starting pitcher may have increased a bit in the last two days and the price they'll have to pay to acquire anyone useful certainly hasn't decreased.

The end of Steve Trachsel's streak of seven consecutive wins was the first crack in the dam. The worst offense in baseball pummeled Trachsel for eight runs in four and two-thirds innings. He gave up ten hits, six of which went for extra bases, including three home runs. He walked three and struck out three. Trachsel hadn't pitched brilliantly during his streak, but this was the most severe beating he's endured all season. His timing could not have been worse.

The flood of horrifying trade rumors crept ever closer to breaking through the Shea Stadium walls on Tuesday as Tom Glavine turned in perhaps his worst outing of the season. Glavine outlasted Trachsel, going six and one-third innings. But he also gave up eight runs. Three were unearned, but he was the one who committed the error. He gave up seven hits with three home runs among them, one hit by opposing pitcher Carlos Zambrano. He walked two and struck out two. And somewhere Billy Beane reached for his phone.

Met hitters tried to plug the holes with their bats, but they could only do so much. A seventh-inning rally fell just short on Monday as the Mets scored three runs but stranded two more runners. Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Paul Lo Duca each had two hits in the game. Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady each hit a double. Even Met starter aside from Trachsel and Jose Reyes had a hit and Reyes at least walked and scored.

They scored just six runs on Tuesday, but five of those did come against one of the best pitchers in the league in Zambrano. Beltran and--believe it or not--Endy Chavez both homered against Zambrano. Lo Duca again had two hits, as did Chavez and Jose Valentin. They put together a rally in the ninth, scoring one run on two hits and two walks. But Lo Duca popped out with the bases loaded to end it.

And so the task of preserving some scrap of the Mets' dignity tomorrow afternoon falls to John Maine (1-3, 3.12) who, as you may have heard, pitched pretty well last time out. He'll get a bit of break as he'll only have to face what's left of Mark Prior (0-4, 8.14) who hasn't lasted longer than six innings or given up fewer than three runs in any of his five starts this season. Hopefully Maine will pitch well enough to convince Omar Minaya that he's better than Livan Hernandez.
Monday, July 24, 2006
  Mets 7, Astros 0
Mets 4, Astros 3
Astros 8, Mets 4

I think at this point it's been scientifically proven that the Mets will win two out of every three games they play against NL Central opponents. This weekend it was the Astros playing the role of series loser. And, as an added bonus, the Mets had some reason to be encouraged by their pitching.

Most encouraging was John Maine's dominating performance on Friday night. Maine pitched the Mets' second complete game shutout of the season, allowing just four hits and one walk. He struck out four. This performance seemed like a culmination of some recent flashes of effectiveness from Maine as he was excellent all night long. It is worth mentioning that the last guy to throw a shutout for the Mets was Alay Soler and we all remember how that turned out. Also, the Astros are one of the worst offensive teams in the National League. But Maine was very impressive and may have given himself a leg up in the race to stay in the rotation when Pedro gets back.

He got plenty of offensive support as well. Jose Valentin hit his eleventh home run of the season, a grand slam, in the second inning to give the Mets a lead that would never be threatened. Carlos Delgado continued his resurgence with his twenty-fourth home run of the year and his second in as many days. Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca each had doubles as every Met starter aside from Maine and Cliff Floyd had at least one hit. And Floyd still managed to score a run.

Orlando Hernandez did not get off to a good start on Saturday as he gave up three runs on two home runs in the first inning. But he averted disaster and was able to get things under control, not allowing another run in the game. He pitched seven innings and allowed four hits and two walks while striking out eight. It was not quite up to the standard Maine had set a day earlier, but it turned out to be a solid performance. And the Mets had just enough offense to make it stand up, thanks in large part to a three-run home run from Xavier Nady in the fourth inning.

Mike Pelfrey's results were not as impressive on Sunday, but he also gave reason for optimism. He lasted just four and one-third innings and allowed five runs on six hits, one walk and two hit batters. But the first two innings, in which he gave up nothing and struck out three, showed a glimpse of the promise of this twenty-two year old rookie. He showed that when he's at his best, he can dominate major league hitters just as he did minor leaguers. It may take him a while to be able to do that consistently. He might not get there by October. He might not ever get there. But this performance was the most exciting of his brief major league career for the brief peek at his upside in gave us.

Neither the Mets' offense nor their bullpen was able to salvage this game for Pelfrey. The bats did pretty well against Roy Oswalt, scoring four runs in five and two-third innings against him. Delgado had a home run, a single and two walks. Lo Duca had two doubles. Floyd had two singles and a walk.

But they weren't able to do further damage against the Astros relievers, whereas Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano gave up three runs in three innings. Heilman gave up two runs on five hits in one and two-third before Feliciano bailed him out. Then Feliciano gave up three hits, a walk and a run of his own in the ninth.

The Mets (59-39) will get another shot at taking two out of three from a Centrally located opponent starting Monday. The hapless Cubs (37-60) will be in town to reprise a pitching matchup that worked out pretty well for the Mets last time. Steve Trachsel (9-4, 4.68) got the win 6-3 against Greg Maddux (7-11, 4.59) in the first game of the second half. Trachsel's streak of seven consecutive starts with a win has since been snapped, but he still hasn't lost since the 17th of May. I would not imagine the Cubs will be the team to stop him.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
  Reds 7, Mets 4
Mets 4, Reds 2 (10)

It hasn't always been pretty, but the Mets have now started off the second half of the season by winning two straight series on the road. They blew early leads in both of these games, but were able to prevent the second one from getting away. And their slumbering slugger showed some signs of life.

Steve Trachsel did not have a good night on Wednesday, but the fact that his start was interrupted by a rain delay of greater that two hours didn't help. He got through the first three innings without allowing a run, but could not make it out of the fourth. He gave up three runs in three and one-third innings on six hits and four walks. Darren Oliver entered with two on and one out and prevented further damage, but he did give up a run of his own in the fifth.

The Mets had opened up a lead with two runs in each of the first two innings but were kept scoreless from that point forward. Jose Reyes had two of the Mets' six hits. Carlos Beltran had a double as did the slumping Carlos Delgado.

Aaron Heilman pitched well in relief, striking out two in two scoreless innings while allowing just one walk. But Duaner Sanchez gave up three runs on three hits in the eighth to lose the game for the Mets.

The Mets started well again on Thursday, putting up two runs in the first four innings. Cliff Floyd continued his recent return to usefulness with his tenth home run of the season. Delgado also went deep, hitting his first home run of July and his twenty-third of the season.

Tom Glavine allowed plenty of base runners, giving up nine hits and four walks, but he was mostly able to escape trouble. He did give up two runs in the fifth. But he got out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth without further damage. He loaded the bases again in the seventh with just one out and had to be rescued by Chad Bradford. Bradford struck out the first batter he faced and got the second to ground out to end the threat.

Heilman and Pedro Feliciano each pitched a scoreless inning, sending the game to extra innings. And thanks to some bad defense from the Reds, they were able to put a couple of a runs on the board. Xavier Nady hit a fly ball that should have been caught but instead became a double. Endy Chavez and Beltran followed with legitimate doubles to score a pair. Billy Wagner closed things out with ease, striking out two.

The Mets (57-38) will now return home and continue their battle with the non-threatening portions of the NL Central. The Astros (46-50) will be in town for three games this weekend. Game one will pit Orlando Hernandez (5-8, 5.52) against Taylor Bucholz (6-7, 5.31), so perhaps some runs will be scored.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
  Mets 8, Reds 3

If Mike Pelfrey keeps getting run support like this, he'll be a fine addition to the Mets' postseason roster. After putting seventeen runs on the board in the first round draft pick's major league debut, the Mets scored eight more to get him his second win. Given that the Reds are still in line to be the Mets' division series opponent, this is a very promising development.

Pelfrey pitched a bit better the second time around, too. He still allowed a number of base runners, giving up seven hits and three walks. But he lasted through the sixth inning this time, allowed just two runs and didn't give up any until that final frame. He struck out three and was very successful at inducing ground balls, recording twelve outs on the ground and just two in the air.

Offensively, the Mets took full advantage of the Eric Milton-y goodness on the mound. Xavier Nady and Jose Valentin each hit solo home runs, their thirteenth and tenth, respectively. And Carlos Beltran hit his second grand slam in as many games in the seventh inning. It was his twenty-seventh home run of the season. Each of those three men had two hits in the game and Beltran's other hit was a double.

Tomorrow, Steve Trachsel (9-4, 4.57) will try to continue his seven-start winning streak. During the streak, Trachsel has an ERA of 4.43 and a K:BB ratio of 13:23. He will be opposed by Aaron Harang (10-6, 3.51), who has pitched considerably better than that and yet has won just one of his last three starts. Clearly he lacks the intangibles to win in this league.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
  Mets 6, Cubs 3
Cubs 9, Mets 2
Mets 13, Cubs 7

The second half began much as the first ended for the Mets, with victories outnumbering defeats in spite of the performance of their starting pitchers. That all three of these games was scheduled against the hapless Cubs probably helped. Also, even with Jose Reyes still on the shelf, the Mets' offense is pretty good.

On Friday, Steve Trachsel's recent string of luck extended beyond mere wins and all the way into the area of run prevention. He won his seventh consecutive start, giving up just two runs in six innings. He allowed just three hits and two walks and he struck out one.

The Met hitters had a bit more luck against old friend Greg Maddux, smacking him around for six runs in seven innings. Jose Valentin had three hits, one of which was a double. Cliff Floyd and Paul Lo Duca had two hits apiece including a double for Floyd. And Chris Woodward hit a ball over the outfield fence which for some reason was ruled a triple.

Tom Glavine continued his recent descent into mediocrity on Saturday. He lasted just five innings and gave up three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three. His ERA has climbed steadily upward over the last two and a half months. It was at 1.94 on the fourth of May and is now a season-high 3.56. I know it's been said that the Mets could really use a solid third starter, but if Glavine's going to be the guy to fill that role, they've got a new problem.

Orlando Hernandez was significantly worse on Sunday, but this time the Met bats didn't have to contend with Victor Zambrano. El Duque didn't even make it out of the second inning, allowing five runs while recording just five outs. He walked two and gave up seven hits, one of which was a home run hit by opposing pitcher Sean Marshall. Of the six relievers who followed, five of them pitched significantly better than Hernandez. Only Aaron Heilman was scored upon as he gave up two runs in the seventh.

For a while the Mets looked like they might not be able to overcome this pitching failure. Then they scored a team-record eleven runs in the sixth inning. Every Met had starter had a hit with the exception of Hernandez, who didn't stay in the game long enough to bat. Half of the other starters had at least two hits. But I think the fact that they hit two grand slams in the same inning probably was the biggest factor in their winning the game. Floyd had one of them and it was his second home run of the game. Carlos Beltran hit the other. David Wright also homered in the inning. Woodward had also homered earlier in the game and this time the umpires decided it should count.

The Mets (55-37) will continue their tour of the NL Central on Tuesday when they start a three-game series with the mighty Reds of Cincinnati (49-44). Eric Milton (6-4, 5.19) will start for the Reds, giving the Mets a chance to close the thirteen-home run gap between these two teams for the league lead. Starting for the Mets will be Mike Pelfrey (1-0, 3.60), whom I'll actually get to see pitch this time provided the Fox network doesn't come up with a devious plot to prevent it between now and Tuesday.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
  I hate July

The Mets eased into the All-Star break by winning five of eight games in a busy week. The offense remained good, the pitching remained troubling and neither John Maine nor Mike Pelfrey could do anything about it. But now we move into what has recently been the hardest time of the year to be a Mets fan. It is July and as a result, rumors of the Mets emptying their farm system to acquire washed up veterans are flying. So I thought this would be a good time to look back at Omar Minaya's offseason trades and see how they're working out so far. Maybe he really does know what he's doing and I can relax.

The first significant trade of the winter was the deal that sent Mike Cameron to San Diego in exchange for Xavier Nady. Cameron was recovering from a serious injury and stuck playing right field if he were to remain on the Mets, so his trade value was certainly diminished a bit. Still, it seemed Minaya jumped the gun a bit in making this trade when he could perhaps have received more by getting a CF-less team like the Red Sox involved in the bidding.

At the artificial midway point of the season, this deal is not looking so great. Cameron got off to a slow start but is now hitting .259/.349/.440 in a very tough pitcher's park. Nady is at .265/.321/.484 and has actually played fewer games than the once injured Cameron. Nady has also looked pretty bad defensively and I seriously doubt the same could be said for Cameron. While the Mets did save a bit of money with this deal, I think they clearly wound up with the inferior player. The Mets couldn't have utilized Cameron in center field the way the Padres have, but I still think they could have gotten more for him.

Next up was the biggest deal of the season and the one I liked the most at the time. Carlos Delgado came to the Mets while Mike Jacobs and top pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit went to Florida. Delgado got off to a hot start in April only to cool off considerably in May. He bounced back with a good June but his overall numbers are still not good.

Delgado is hitting .252/.344/.513, which would add up to his lowest full-season OPS in ten years and his lowest OBP ever. Perhaps more disturbing is that Jacobs is putting up nearly identical numbers. He's hitting .278/.351/.494 in about forty fewer at bats. Petit has struggled in both the minors and the majors this year, but even so, this trade is a looking like a disappointment. The thirty-four year old Delgado, whom the Mets have signed up for two more years, isn't even out-hitting the twenty-five year old he was traded for. I still believe Delgado has it in him to finish strong. And in any case he's been a significant upgrade over the 2005 Mets' first basemen. But when the Mets are paying $13 million for a thirty-six year old Delgado in 2008, Mike Jacobs might be down in Florida making them regret it.

The Mets made one more deal with the Marlins this winter and that one is more obviously not working out. Gaby Hernandez is having a solid year in high-A ball at age twenty, posting a 3.24 ERA in 111 innings with 107 strikeouts and just 31 walks. Meanwhile, the guy the Mets got for him isn't outplaying his own backup or the guy he replaced.

Paul Lo Duca is showing us all how useless a .300 batting average can be if you don't have any patience or power to back it up. At .302/.343/.409, Lo Duca is about even with Ramon Castro, who's slumped a bit lately to drop to .255/.347/.402. Castro remains the superior defensive player. And out in San Diego, old Mike Piazza is hitting .290/.348/.504 playing only slightly less often than Lo Duca. There was no way Piazza was coming back to the Mets and even I didn't think playing him every day was a good idea. But it sure would be nice to have him around now.

The other two significant trades of the offseason saw the Mets trade pitching for pitching, some of which they've since traded for more pitching. Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack went to the Dodgers in exchange for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll. And Kris Benson went to Baltimore for John Maine and Jorge Julio, who has since been traded to Arizona for Orlando Hernandez.

The deal with the Dodgers seems like the best of the bunch as Sanchez has been very good in relief while Seo struggled mightily in LA. Seo's since been traded to Tampa Bay and pitched well against the Yankees. I swear if Jae Seo and Scott Kazmir lead the Devil Rays to the top of the AL East one of these years, I will never forgive the Mets. But I digress.

Benson's apparently been his usual mediocre self in Baltimore, just with a bit of AL inflation added to his standard 4.something ERA. Neither Julio nor Maine has been any better for the Mets, but Hernandez has at least added a bit of stable adequacy to the back of the rotation.

Wow. Looking at all of these trades together, a picture begins to develop. And it is not pretty. I thought this could be an unusually relaxing July, given the Mets' enormous division lead, and all I'd have to complain about would be the weather. Now I'm not so sure. I guess I'll get started on my "they traded what for Livan Hernandez?" post.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
  American League 3, Mets 2

David Wright and Carlos Beltran tried their best, but the rest of their National League teammates couldn't give them enough support to pull out the win. Wright homered in the second inning. Beltran, the only player to play all nine innings of this game, was on base three times, hitting a double and a single and reaching on an error. He scored the NL's second run in the third when he singled, went to second on a throw that nailed Alfonso Soriano at the plate, stole third and got home on a wild pitch. He reached in the bottom of the ninth with one out after Trevor Hoffman had blown the NL's lead in the top half. But Ryan Howard and Carlos Lee were unable to drive him in. And so the Mets are going to have to win a World Series game on the road.

Paul Lo Duca went hitless in three at bats and grounded into a double play.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
  Marlins 7, 3, 3, 6
Mets 3, 2, 17, 7

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I have some concerns about the Mets' starting pitching. With Pedro Martinez temporarily out of commission and four games scheduled in three days, the Mets had to dig even deeper into their bag of pitchers this weekend. It did not go well.

Someone in the Mets' front office decided that Friday's game was not one that they wanted to win. As a result, they sent Jose Lima out to start it. Lima was predictably terrible, allowing seven runs, five earned, on seven hits and two walks in three innings. He sucked in style, giving up a grand slam to opposing pitcher Dontrelle Willis as an exclamation point. With a record of 0-4 and an ERA of 9.87, it should be clear to everyone that Jose Lima has no business pitching to major league hitters. Letting him pitch this game was indefensible. If he gets called up again, it will lend a lot of credibility to the school of thought that the Mets' success this season is more the result of finances and luck than intelligent management.

John Maine was a bit more competent on Saturday, but he did not exactly solidify his spot in the rotation. He gave up three runs on six hits in six innings with three strikeouts. But each of the runs scored on a solo home run. Maine has looked very good at times and his 16:5 K:BB ratio in sixteen innings is impressive. But the fact that he hasn't lasted longer than six innings in a start and has given up four home runs already has to temper your enthusiasm. Of course, had the Mets' offense put together more than two runs, both of which scored on bases loaded walks, Maine's struggles might not have been such a problem.

That was not an issue in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. Now, I could not watch this game due to the Fox network's Saturday afternoon blackout of MLB.TV. But it seems Mike Pelfrey's major league debut was a bit of a struggle. He threw 104 pitches in five innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on five hits and four walks. He also threw a wild pitch and hit a batter. He did strike out three.

But the Mets' offense came to life, scoring seventeen runs on sixteen hits and four walks. Jose Valentin had a huge day, driving in seven runs as he batted twice with the bases loaded, hitting his ninth home run of the season the first time and a triple the second time. Cliff Floyd drove in five runs with three hits, including a double and his seventh home run, and also drew a walk. Carlos Beltran homered for the twenty-fifth time, singled, drew two walks and scored four runs. Endy Chavez had three hits, including a triple, out of the leadoff spot. Paul Lo Duca had a pair of singles, got hit by a pitch, drove in three runs and scored three more. David Wright had a double and a walk and scored two runs.

Wright had just two hits in twelve at bats in the first three games of this series, which I think qualifies as a slump for him. His batting average dropped all the way to .316. He had just one hit on Sunday, but it was a big one.

Tom Glavine started for the Mets on Sunday and had a rough game. He gave up nine hits and two walks in six and one-third innings and didn't get a lot of help from his defense. He allowed four runs, three earned. Two errors and some uncharacteristic bad relief from Chad Bradford contributed to a three-run seventh inning and a misplay by Valentin in the sixth allowed a run to score that shouldn't have.

The Mets had scored three runs in the fifth inning on a home run by Xavier Nady, his twelfth, and a double by Lo Duca. But they were down 5-3 after the seventh. The top of the lineup came up in the bottom of the eighth and with the help of the Florida defense and in spite of their own baserunning blunders, they staged a comeback.

Valentin walked to lead things off. Lo Duca then hit a fly ball to center field. Reggie Abercrombie, blinded by the power of Lo Duca's clutchness, or possibly the sun, lost the ball and let it drop. Lo Duca chose, as part of his strategy of leadership, not to hustle at all out of the batter's box and as a result he wound up at first base. Jose Reyes was brought in to run for Lo Duca. Beltran singled up the middle, just off the glove of the shortstop, to drive in one run. Reyes could have advanced to third on Carlos Delgado's subsequent line drive to right field, but he did not. So it was up to Wright to save the day. Hitless up to this point in the game, he launched one over the left field wall to put the Mets on top 7-5.

Billy Wagner came in to pitch the ninth. He did give up a long home run to Miguel Olivo, but he struck out two and closed out the game. That inning, like the rest of the game for the Mets, was not pretty, but in the end, they escaped with the win.

The Mets enter the All-Star break with a record of 53-36 and a twelve-game lead over their nearest division rival, the Phillies. Clearly making it to the playoffs will not be the problem for this team. Perhaps defeating their National League opponents won't be, either. But if they don't find some starting pitching, whether via trade or just by someone already on the team stepping up, this is going to be a short World Series.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
  Mets 7, Pirates 5

Steve Trachsel continues to find ways to win that don't involve pitching especially well. This time he gave up seven hits and four walks and hit one batter in six and one-third innings. But at the time he left the game, he had allowed just two runs. He didn't get a ton of support from his bullpen, but the Mets did score seven runs, so in the end he won his sixth consecutive start.

Trachsel left the game with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, handing things over to Aaron Heilman. Heilman continued his impression of a guy who should not be brought into a game with runners on base. He gave up a a run-scoring hit to the first batter he faced but retired the next two. He gave up two more hits and a run in the eighth.

Billy Wagner gave up another run in the ninth, but with some competent defense and/or managing, he might not have. Eli Marrero got the start in center field, which was odd enough. Giving Carlos Beltran a day off is fine, but replacing him with someone other than Endy Chavez makes very little sense. Not sending Beltran or Chavez in as a defensive replacement for the former catcher Marrero in the ninth inning of a close game is just baffling.

After Wagner struck out the first batter he faced, Joe Randa hit a long fly ball to center field. Chavez or Beltran almost certainly would have caught it and the way you know that is that even Marrero got close enough to it for it to bounce off of his glove. Marrero's not a complete disaster in the outfield, but he's no center fielder and it showed on this play on which he nearly tripped over the ground or perhaps his own feet while failing to catch the ball. A hit and a fielder's choice later, the Pirates had scored a run. Wagner closed it out without further damage, but things did not need to be that difficult.

Of course, the only reason the Mets escaped this game with a win was that the offense had another good game. For the second consecutive night they had more runs that hits. They scored seven times on six hits, half of which went for extra bases, five walks and two hit batters. David Wright was the only Met with two hits as he hit his twenty-first double of the year and his nineteenth home run. Cliff Floyd had a double and took a pitch off of his forearm. Jose Reyes had a hit, a walk and two stolen bases.

Up next for the Mets (51-34) is a four-game series with the recently surging Marlins (36-46). The Marlins had a big month in June, but they've lost five of six since turning the page on their calendar. This series will be pretty interesting as they'll play four games in three days and the Mets have just about run out of pitchers. Pedro Martinez went on the DL today which will result in the major league debut of 2005 first round draft pick Mike Pelfrey on Saturday. Unfortunately, it seems he'll be pitching in the second game of that doubleheader, meaning the Fox Saturday afternoon blackout will prevent me from watching it. Of course, that's not as unfortunate as what will happen tomorrow as Jose Lima (0-3, 8.79) will start the first game of the series for the Mets. Picking up the win for the Marlins will be Dontrelle Willis (5-7, 3.96).
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
  Mets 5, Pirates 0

At last, the Mets have found a pitcher able to get the Pittsburgh Pirates out. Orlando Hernandez pitched an excellent game, pitching well for the third time in four starts. Add to that an offensive explosion by the Mets in the first inning and this game was never in doubt.

Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings and allowed just four hits and two walks while striking out seven. It was his first scoreless outing of the season aside from a game on May 16th in which he left after just two innings due to injury. He's now pitched 45.2 innings with the Mets, the exact number he'd pitched with Arizona before the trade, and he's posted an ERA of 4.14 as compared to the 6.11 he gave the D'Backs. He's struck out fifteen fewer batters with the Mets, but he's also cut down a bit on his walks from twenty to fourteen and given up nine fewer hits. His home runs are still far too numerous, but he's allowed just six after the trade after giving up eight beforehand. Shutting down a poor team like the Pirates doesn't prove a whole lot, but he has also pitched well against some good offensive teams lately. If he can keep up an ERA around 4.00 he won't be a great option for a playoff start, but he can be solid filler at the back of the rotation.

His job did get a bit easier as the Mets jumped out to a big lead in the bottom of the first. Jose Reyes led things off with a triple and altogether they put up four hits, one walk and one hit by pitch en route to five quick runs. Jose Valentin's double was the biggest blow of the inning, driving in two runs. Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez also had RBI hits. The Mets didn't have another hit all game, but they didn't need one.

Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Bradford gave up one hit and struck out one. Sanchez got into a bit of trouble with a pair of ground ball singles up the middle, but was able to escape and preserve the shutout.

This series will conclude tomorrow night with Steve Trachsel (7-4, 4.70) on the mound for the Mets. Trachsel has won each of his last five starts despite allowing four or more runs in three of those games and not pitching more than six innings in any of them. Perhaps he's embarked upon a subtle campaign to point out the uselessness of the pitcher win statistic to the public. Perhaps he's just been lucky. Tom Gorzelanny (0-0, 3.60) will make his second start of the season and the third of his career for the Pirates.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
  Pirates 11, Mets 1
Mets 7, Pirates 6

These two games have done very little to alleviate my concerns about the pitching staff. On Monday John Maine looked good until he ran out of gas in the fifth inning. And Tom Glavine didn't even warrant that much praise on Tuesday. And on both days the bullpen was not good.

Maine was pitching excellently for the first four innings on Monday. He gave up just one hit and struck out six. But it took him a lot of pitches to pull that off, so by the time the fifth inning rolled around, he didn't have much left. He crossed the 100-pitch mark in that inning and gave up three runs on three walks and two hits while recording just two outs before being removed. He did strike out his seventh batter in that inning and Darren Oliver was able to finish it without further damage. Prior to the fifth Maine looked very impressive, and while the Pirates aren't much of an offensive juggernaut, it was still an encouraging performance. If he can maintain a similar approach and be a bit more efficient with his pitches, he might be useful at the back of the rotation.

Not that it mattered, given the Mets' offensive impotence, but the bullpen really put this game out of reach. Oliver pitched one and one-third scoreless innings, but those who followed were not so effective. Chad Bradford gave up five runs on four hits and one walk in two-thirds of an inning. And Pedro Feliciano, who was unimpressed with Willie Randolph's handling of the bullpen, gave up three runs on six hits and one walk, allowing two home runs in one and one-third. Duaner Sanchez pitched a scoreless ninth.

Meanwhile, the Met bats put just one run on the board. Jose Reyes had an excellent game with three hits. Paul Lo Duca and Cliff Floyd each had two. Carlos Delgado drew two walks and Floyd drew one. But Reyes scored the Mets' only run on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran in the third inning.

Things went a bit better on Tuesday afternoon, but only because the Mets' offense sprung to life. Reyes had three more hits and Xavier Nady did the same. David Wright and Delgado each had a hit and a walk and scored two runs.

The Mets scored three of their runs in the eighth inning, coming back from a deficit that Glavine and Aaron Heilman had put them in. Glavine gave up five runs on eleven hits and one walk. Two of those runs were unearned, but the error was his own. He pitched into the sixth inning, but he left with runners on first and second and none out. Then Heilman came in and dealt with the jam exactly the way a good pitcher wouldn't.

First the Pirates tried to give away an out on a sacrifice bunt. So Heilman ran the count to 3-2 and then hit the batter. He got one out before issuing a bases loaded walk. He got a potential double play ball from the next batter, but Wright's throw to second was a bit off, so they only got one out. Heilman gave up another run-scoring hit before finally getting out of the inning. He did pitch a scoreless seventh. Sanchez and Billy Wagner each pitched a scoreless inning to finish the game.

The Mets didn't exactly turn their recent slide around on Tuesday, but they did win a game. Tomorrow, Orlando Hernandez (4-8, 5.55), who pitched well against the Yankees on Friday, will try to make it two in a row. He will be opposed by Kip Wells (0-3, 15.19). No, that is not a typo.
Monday, July 03, 2006
  Yankees 16, Mets 7

The Mets need better pitchers. Aside from Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine they don't have anyone I want to even think about starting a playoff game. At this point I'm not too eager to see Alay Soler start another regular season game.

Last night Soler gave up eight runs for the second consecutive start. He lasted just two and two-thirds innings, gave up seven hits, thee walks and two home runs and didn't strike out anyone. He looked absolutely terrible doing it, too, apparently either terrified or unable to throw a strike. Neither John Maine nor Brian Bannister impresses me much as a potential replacement, but after this week, I have no interest in seeing Soler pitch against a good team ever again.

Willie Randolph certainly took his time in determining that Soler was not going to get out of his own mess in the third inning. The first six batters of the inning reached base and five runs had already scored when Soler first recorded an out. After the second out and the sixth run of the inning, Randolph finally went to Heath Bell. Bell immediately surrendered a two-run home run to Nick Green before finally ending the inning. Bell wound up pitching two and one-third innings and allowing eight runs on six hits and two walks. Four of the runs were unearned as they scored after Xavier Nady dropped an inning-ending fly ball in the fourth. But the three runs that Bell allowed in the fifth were all his.

Randolph thought long on whether or not to remove Soler because Darren Oliver was scheduled to start tonight. Pedro's bad hip will cause him to miss this start and thus Randolph tried to use Soler as long he could. As a result the game was pretty well out of hand before Bell entered. Bell certainly didn't help matters, but Randolph's slow hook almost made the performance of the bullpen irrelevant.

It's a shame the Mets couldn't find any major league caliber pitchers to pitch this game, because their offense had a pretty good night. Carlos Beltran had four hits including a double and two home runs to give him twenty-four on the season and finally wrest the team lead from Carlos Delgado. Jose Valentin and Julio Franco each had two hits. Both of Franco's were doubles as was one of Valentin's. Jose Reyes had a triple and a walk. And Paul Lo Duca added two singles and one temper tantrum.

In some ways, it was a good day for the Mets. David Wright was named National League Player of the Month and six Mets were named to the NL All-Star team. Beltran, Reyes, Wright and Lo Duca will all start and Pedro and Glavine were chosen for the pitching staff. Billy Wagner is also eligible to be chosen by the Final Vote, though I cast my ballot for Nomar Garciaparra. Lo Duca doesn't belong on the roster and Pedro probably won't go, but it will still be cool to see so many Mets fighting to start the World Series at Shea Stadium. But whether it's at home or away, they really need to find a guy to pitch that third game.

Things get a little easier this week, as the Mets (48-33) host the Pirates (28-55), who own the worst record in the major leagues, for four games. Oliver (3-0, 2.45) will probably make his first start of the season tonight. Paul Maholm (2-7, 4.97), who gave up just one run in six innings in a losing effort against the Mets two months ago, will start for Pittsburgh.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
  Yankees 2, Mets 0
Mets 8, Yankees 3

The Mets' offense continued to struggle on Friday, but things picked up on Saturday. They got good pitching from an unexpected source in each game. So now all that remains is to win this series tomorrow night to return things to normal.

The Mets could only manage one hit and one walk against five Yankee pitchers in a rain-delayed game on Friday. Endy Chavez had the hit, a single, and Jose Valentin drew the walk, both against Ron Villone. Chavez was subsequently picked off of first base and Valentin was caught trying to steal second. It was an entirely inept performance by the Met hitters.

Orlando Hernandez certainly did what he could to keep the Mets in the game. He gave up two runs prior to the sixty-three minute delay in the fourth inning but returned afterwards to finish seven strong innings. He allowed seven hits and one walk and struck out three. This is the second time in three starts that El Duque has allowed just two runs over seven innings and yet lost. Duaner Sanchez allowed a hit and an intentional walk and struck out one in a scoreless eighth.

Steve Trachsel pitched on Saturday and was not quite as good as Hernandez, but still got the job done. He pitched six innings and gave up just two runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out three. Fortunately for him and the Mets, they only had to deal with Randy Johnson.

They started off with two runs on three hits in the first inning and wound up scoring eight against the once intimidating lefty. Jose Reyes had two hits and scored two runs. Paul Lo Duca had three hits including a double. David Wright doubled and drew two walks. Ramon Castro, starting at catcher while Lo Duca DHed, had two hits. And Eli Marrero hit his sixth home run of the year.

For some reason Willie Randolph felt the need to use some of his best relievers to preserve the Mets' six-run lead. Aaron Heilman, who had allowed just one run over hits last six innings pitched, pitched two in this game and gave up a solo home run to Alex Rodriguez. He allowed one other hit and a walk and struck out two. With the lead now down to five, Willie Randolph of course went to his closer. This outing wet a bit better than the last time Randolph brought in Billy Wagner to preserve a big lead against the Yankees. He struck out the first two batters he faced and retired the third on a ground out to first, though he did appear to hurt his leg covering the bag in a scary moment. But a minute later he was walking around okay, so it's probably nothing.

The final game of this season series will be tomorrow night in prime time. Alay Soler (2-2, 4.68) will try to rebound after his absolute dismantling at the hands of the Red Sox. Jaret Wright (4-5, 4.18) will start for the Yankees, so I don't think the Mets have to worry about being shut out again.
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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