Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Monday, April 30, 2007
  No hits? no runs? No problem.

Despite the general awesomeness of the Mets' offense, they have a tendency to make the strangest pitchers look like Cy Young contenders. This weekend was a prime example, as they scored a grand total of three runs in eighteen and one-third innings against Jason Bergmann (career ERA prior to Sunday's game: 5.25), Jerome Williams (2007 ERA after six shutout innings on Saturday: 6.11) and Matt Chico (2007 WHIP: 2.07). I've come to accept in recent years that rookie starters will make the Mets look hapless regardless of their actual talent level, but getting nearly no-hit by a veteran mediocrity like Williams is a bit much.

In total the Mets scored ten runs in three and one-third games, doing nearly half of that damage in a four-run twelfth inning on Saturday. For the most part, the Mets who had been hitting before this series kept hitting and those who hadn't been didn't start. Jose Reyes went three-for-twelve with three walks, a double and four stolen bases. He's now hitting a mere .343/.435/.576, but is on pace to finish the season with a Rickeyesque 112 walks and 112 stolen bases. Carlos Beltran went four-for-thirteen with one walk, one double and a home run that provided the only scoring in Sunday's game. He's hitting .333/.394/.625, just barely enough to outpace Moises Alou (.349/.400/.482) and Shawn Green (.360/.418/.551) for the best line among Met outfielders.

But while those who patrol the grass continue to pound the ball, Reyes's dirtbound compatriots are having more trouble. Jose Valentin (.279/.359/.471) is off to a fine start with both bat and glove, but he left Saturday's game with discomfort in his knee and flew to New York to get it tested on Sunday, although it doesn't appear to be anything too serious. Then there's David Wright and Carlos Delgado. Wright drew five more walks this weekend, keeping his OBP at a healthy .388, but his .329 slugging percentage isn't so pretty. Still, it beats Delgado's .187/.265/.264 line. But then, even Paul Lo Duca (.225/.288/.282) can beat that.

Fortunately, the Mets again got enough good pitching to take two of three games in this series. Oliver Perez got the loss on Friday, but his start was encouraging in that he had one bad inning and didn't fall completely apart. After giving up three runs in the first inning, he allowed just one more, going seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. He wasn't dominant, but giving up four runs in seven innings is going to be good enough for the Mets' offense on a lot of nights. Tom Glavine and John Maine chose not to take that chance as they allowed a total of one run in thirteen innings on Saturday and Sunday. Maine again kept his wildness within reason, walking three while striking out eight in seven innings.

The Mets (15-8) are third in the league (and the division) in runs scored with 126 as they head home, but no team in the majors has allowed fewer than their 75 runs. The Marlins (11-13) have been the NL's offensive juggernaut thus far with 134 runs scored and they will come to Shea for three games starting Monday. Orlando Hernandez (2-1, 2.53) may or may not start game one for the Mets as a sore shoulder will have him consulting with a medical professional. Mike Pelfrey (0-2, 7.90) and Perez (2-2, 3.86) are scheduled to follow him in he rotation. Scott Olsen (2-1, 6.23), Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 20.25 in relief) and Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 4.39) will almost surely start for Florida. Fortunately for the Mets, only one NL team has allowed more than 134 runs this season and that team is the Marlins, who have allowed 135.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
  A very special episode of Growing Pains

In Mike Pelfrey's first two starts, he at least managed not to fall completely apart. There wasn't too much to be encouraged by beyond that, but for a guy only a year into his professional baseball career, it was something. Start number three did not even reach those lofty heights and the day may be approaching when the Mets have to reevaluate their short-term plans for their first round draft pick of two years ago.

The previously punchless Colorado Rockies came to life at the sight of Pelfrey's fastball on Thursday, pounding him for six runs on eight hits and one walk in three innings, knocking him out of the game before he even had a chance to bat. Pelfrey now has an ERA of 7.90 in 10.2 innings with six strikeouts, seven walks and two home runs allowed. He's given up a total of twenty hits. There's been a lot of talk from Mets announcers this year about Pelfrey choosing to pitch to contact and generate ground balls rather than going for strikeouts and, if this really is his intent, early on it looks to be about as good an idea as it sounds like. One of the differences between Pelfrey's time in the majors and his brief but excellent stint in the minors in 2005 is that in the minors he was striking out more than a batter per inning whereas in his major league career he's struck out exactly one batter per walk allowed. The Mets' infield defense may be very good, at least up the middle, but getting outs without having to rely on your defense is still a surer route to success if you can pull it off. These three starts don't provide a very large sample on which to judge these ideas, especially since Pelfrey got knocked out of each of them before the end of the sixth inning, but the early results are not encouraging. Pelfrey's still just twenty-three and has a history of success in college in the minors, but he may not be quite ready to dominate major league hitters. It would not be the first or even the five hundredth time that Spring Training success failed to mean a damn thing.

Pelfrey's pummeling could not quite erase the memory of the first two games of this series, each of which went rather well for the Mets. Games one and two featured excellent starting pitching performances, from John Maine and Orlando Hernandez, respectively. Each pitched at least seven innings with Maine allowing one run and Hernandez none. Maine got plenty of offensive support while El Duque had to settle for watching extra inning heroics from the bench. Jose Valentin and Carlos Delgado each homered in game one and Damion Easley provided a dramatic two-out, two-strike, game-tying blast in the bottom of the tenth inning of game two to set things up for the inevitable Endy Chavez-fueled victory. Scoring just thirteen runs in three and a third games against the Rockies' pitching staff is a bit of a letdown for the Mets' offense, but at least they escaped with a couple of wins.

The "teams they really ought to beat" segment of the first-place Mets' (13-7) schedule takes its show on the road this weekend as they make a stop in the NL East cellar to take on the Nationals (6-15). Oliver Perez (2-1, 3.31), Tom Glavine (3-1, 3.07) and Maine (3-0, 1.71) will start for the Mets as they try to improve upon the two-game split these teams battled to two weeks back at Shea. None of them pitched in that series. Neither did Matt Chico (1-2, 6.38), Jerome Williams (0-4, 7.77) nor Jason Bergmann (0-1, 3.27), who will take the hill for the Nats this weekend.

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Monday, April 23, 2007
  The Braves? Again?

The Mets' offense remained hot over the last five games, putting thirty-six runs on the board against the Marlins and Braves, even smacking around Dontrelle Willis and John Smoltz along the way. They were able to take two games in Florida with relative ease, but bad defense and relief pitching allowed Atlanta to win two of three at Shea. At least the starting pitching was pretty good.

John Maine and Orlando Hernandez both pitched well in Florida, each allowing two runs in seven innings. Maine continued to walk too many batters, four this time, but he also struck out seven, which, along with allowing just two hits, helped him get away with it. El Duque, meanwhile, fanned ten, allowed just three hits and two walks, and would have allowed only one run if not for a David Wright error.

The worst start this time through the rotation belonged to Mike Pelfrey, who gave up four runs in five innings on six hits and two walks, while striking out three. He also hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. Pelfrey hasn't been completely embarrassed in either of his first two starts, but he's clearly got a lot of work to do before he'll be a dependable piece of this rotation. But the Mets' offense and the rest of the rotation is good enough to let him work through his issues at the major league level for at least a little while longer and it's not as if any of the possible replacements at AAA are very enticing.

On the subject of working through issues, Oliver Perez bounced back with a terrific performance on Saturday. He lasted six and two-thirds innings and gave up two runs on nine hits but the real story was how consistently he was hitting the strike zone. He struck out nine and walked none, throwing 72 of 98 pitches over the plate between the letters and the knees. Proclaiming him cured now would make about as much sense as writing him off after his last start, but I'm back to being excited by his potential.

The more dependable but less spectacular Tom Glavine took the mound on Sunday and would've had career win number 294 if not for a spectacular collapse on the part of the Mets' bullpen and defense. Glavine gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out five. He wasn't dominant, but he left the game with a three-run lead. With two outs in the seventh, the Mets' lead was still 6-3, but then a long fly ball to right field found the glove of Shawn Green shortly after which it found the ground below the glove of Shawn Green, opening the door to a Scott Schoenweis-fueled three-run inning. Green's play was not ruled an error, but the ball that bounced between Jose Valentin's legs at the start of a three-run eighth inning was. Aaron Heilman didn't do any better a job limiting the damage than did Schoenweis. Willie Randolph still seems to be figuring out what he's got as far as the bullpen is concerned. Hopefully he'll be able to discern the difference between Heilmand having a bad day and Schoeneweis pitching like Schoeneweis.

While Green playing defense badly is no more surprising than Schoenweis failing to record outs, it is hard for me to campaign for the Met right fielder's benching when he's hitting as well as he is. He homered on Friday and Sunday, giving him three home runs on the season, or three more than David Wright and Carlos Delgado have combined. Green is hitting .338/.411/.569 on the season, which is probably enough to make his avant-garde interpretation of the position of right fielder tolerable.

Of course, the Mets' offense isn't entirely the Shawn Green show. Jose Reyes (.370/.452/.644) and Carlos Beltran (.357/.420/.671) remain unstoppable and Ramon Castro made the most of some playing time this week, hitting his second and third home runs of the year, putting him at .353/.450/.882 while Paul Lo Duca struggles at .245/.317/.321. Wright (.273/.348/.368) isn't hitting for any power and Delgado (.211/.268/.278) isn't hitting at all, but after just seventeen games with plenty of guys picking up the slack, I'm not ready to panic just yet.

Up next the Mets (11-6) will host the Rockies (8-11) for three games. Maine (2-0, 1.93), Hernandez (2-1, 3.24) and Pelfrey (0-1, 5.06) are the scheduled starters for the Mets. Taylor Buchholz (1-0, 5.68), Aaron Cook (0-1, 4.00) and Josh Fogg (0-1, 6.61) will start for Colorado. Presumably the Mets' offense will make them feel at home.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007
  At least the Phillies can look forward to a good draft pick next year

It seems only Mother Nature can prevent the Mets from beating the Phillies because the Phillies themselves aren't much good at it. After two days and two nights of rain, the Mets saw the light and the light's name was Freddy Garcia. A thirteen-hit attack led by Moises Alou combined with solid pitching and good defense to give the Mets their third win in four games against the NL East favorites.

Five Mets had two hits each including Alou, both of whose were home runs. Jose Valentin had a pair of doubles and Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran each stole two bases, though Reyes was picked off of second base once. The Mets also drew six walks, two of which were intentional. Paul Lo Duca had to leave the game after taking a foul ball to his bare hand, but it is apparently nothing serious and Ramon Castro went two-for-two with a walk in his absence.

Despite the offensive outburst, Tom Glavine didn't exactly have an easy road to win number 293. He allowed just one run in six innings, but six hits and five walks meant he needed a lot help from his defense to keep the Phillies from crossing the plate. The infield obliged by turning three double plays, raising their league-leading total to twenty-one for the year. They probably can't keep up this ridiculous pace all year, but then they'll probably stop walking a batter every other inning at some point, too.

Up next, the Mets (8-4) head to Florida to face the Marlins (6-7) for a pair. John Maine (1-0, 1.54) and Orlando Hernandez (1-1, 4.00) will start for the Mets. The Marlins will send out starters from both ends of the "people you've heard of" spectrum with Dontrelle Willis (3-0, 3.32) going in game one and Rick Vanden Hurk (0-0, 3.86) taking game two. Maine and Hernandez have both struggled somewhat in limited career action against the fish, with ERAs of 4.50 and 5.19, respectively. Willis, of course, is 11-2 with a 2.02 ERA against the Mets. Vanden Hurk, on the other hand, had never pitched above A-ball prior to this year and has yet to record a decision in a professional baseball game. I would imagine his parents are still very proud of him.

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Monday, April 16, 2007
  Perhaps the rain can wash away the memory of this series

Prior to being rained out on Sunday and Monday, the Mets played two-thirds of a series against the lowly Nationals and failed to beat them so badly that they got relegated to AAA as one might have hoped. Mike Pelfrey pitched adequately on Friday while Orlando Hernandez got smacked around on Saturday. The offense didn't put up much of a fight in either game, managing just five runs on sixteen hits in the two games. Hopefully they'll come out ready to play tomorrow night at Citizen's Bank Park.

Weather permitting, the Mets (7-3) and Phillies (3-8) will play a one-game series. Tom Glavine (2-1, 3.12) is now scheduled to start for the Mets. Freddy Garcia (17-9, 4.53 in 2006 with the White Sox) will make his season debut for the Phillies. Garcia has started one game in his career against the Mets. In 2003, as a member the Mariners, he allowed one run on six hits and one walk in a complete game victory. Glavine's victory over Philadelphia on Thursday was the twenty-seventh of his career against seventeen losses. In sixty starts against the Phillies he has posted a 3.83 ERA.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007
  Maybe this is what Jimmy Rollins meant by "the team to beat"

The Mets took Rollins up on his offer in two out of three games despite less than stellar starting pitching. On Monday a Rollins error opened the door for the Mets to take batting practice against the Phillies' bullpen in a seven-run eighth inning. Overall they scored eleven runs despite just one extra base hit. Wednesday's game saw Adam Eaton somehow hold them to just two runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. The bats showed signs of life on Thursday scoring five runs on nine hits including two doubles and a triple. The New York offense leads the National League with 54 runs scored through nine games.

The Mets have allowed the second fewest runs in the league, 23, but this series was not a great one for their starters. On Monday John Maine had to be removed with two outs in the fifth inning having already allowed five hits and six walks, though he was wily enough to limit the Phillies to just two runs. Oliver Perez was not so wily on Wednesday, walking seven in two and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs despite allowing just one hit. Tom Glavine's trademark craftiness could not quite overcome the cold, windy conditions at Shea on Thursday as he gave up three runs on three walks and four hits, including two Rollins home runs, in six innings.

Perez's meltdown is obviously the most troubling of the three. He pitched a good first inning before completely losing his control in the second inning. Perez has had outings like this before, for example last June 23rd when he walked seven in three and two-thirds innings. Last April he walked five batters in a start shorter than five innings twice. There's no reason to think that this disaster will completely shatter his confidence and ruin him forever. It's disappointing after his good spring and excellent first start to see that he may still be the same guy he was the last two years.

The leisurely pace of these first two weeks is about to speed up as the second-place Mets (6-3) don't have another day in the next fortnight. Luckily they get to ease into this stretch with a series at home against the Nationals (2-8). Mike Pelfrey (2-1, 5.48 in 2006) will be called up to make his season debut on Friday. He will be opposed by the theoretical ace of the Nats, John Patterson (0-2, 9.35). Patterson has a career 5.18 ERA against the Mets in twelve starts, having allowed fourteen home runs in 64.1 innings.

Orlando Hernandez (1-0, 1.38) will start Saturday afternoon's game for the Mets. El Duque has been quite successful thus far despite a K:BB ratio of 6:6 and two home runs allowed in thirteen innings. Shawn Hill (0-2, 3.09) will go for Washington. Given that this game will start at 1:10 on a day when Fox is showing games around four, I expect to have some trouble watching it on MLB.TV.

John Maine (1-0, 1.54) will try to rebound from his rough second start on Sunday with the aid of a very beatable opposing offense. Rookie Matt Chico (0-1, 7.27) will see if he can get the Mets out after not having much luck against the Marlins or Braves.

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Monday, April 09, 2007
  160-2 is still pretty good, I guess

After Friday night it seemed like the Mets were on course to cruise to October, but reality had to go and intrude on the proceedings over the weekend. Still, it wasn't the soft underbelly of the starting rotation that did the Mets in on Saturday and Sunday as much as their failure at the hitting and the fielding and the relief pitching. At least two of those areas figure to improve as the season goes on.

Friday sure was fun, though. The Mets hammered Mark Redman and three relievers, including old pal Tyler Yates, for eleven runs on fifteen hits, six walks and two errors. Jose Reyes remained red hot, leading the way with three hits including his first two triples of the season. Paul Lo Duca had three of his trademark one-baggers and David Wright doubled twice. All nine Met starters had at least one hit. More surprisingly, at least to people other than me, Oliver Perez got his season off to a great start with seven strong innings, allowing one run on five hits with six strikeouts and zero walks. He threw just eighty-two pitches and was going to pitch the eighth before the Mets broke things open against Yates and company in the top half. Of the Mets' three relative youngsters at the back of the rotation, I think Perez is the most capable of putting together a spectacular 2007. He is also probably the most capable of falling apart and being sent to New Orleans by mid-June, but I'm a starting rotation half-full kind of guy.

gave up a hit and a walk and also balked, forcing Saturday and Sunday saw Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez pitch well enough to win but neither got quite the necessary support from his teammates. On Saturday two errors led to three unearned runs including Shawn Green just dropping a fly ball with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth. That brought one run home and neither Pedro Feliciano nor Joe Smith was able to end the inning before two more had scored. On Sunday El Duque gave up just one run in six innings, but Aaron Heilman gave up two in the eighth to blow a slim lead. Heilman is the Mets' only established reliever for the pre-Wagner portion of the game and it seems like Willie Randolph is still figuring out how to use the rest of his bullpen. How else to explain letting Scott Schoeneweis pitch to two righties in the seventh inning of a one-run game? Schoeneweis gave up a hit and a walk and also balked, forcing Heilman to come in and clean up his mess.

Of course, none of this would have mattered if the Mets had kept up their offensive onslaught rather than scoring just five runs in two games. They had ten hits and six walks on Satuday with a Lo Duca home run and and a Green double included, but they left a ton of runners on base. Green homered on Sunday as did Ramon Castro and Reyes added his third triple, but those were half of the Mets' hits for the day. It was good to see Castro smack a long home run in his first at bat of the season. Even though Lo Duca is hitting very well right now, Castro having a good year as his backup could be key on an otherwise weak bench.

Not so encouraging is Lastings Milledge's seeming imprisonment on the bench. I know Shawn Green and Moises Alou are both hitting well and Alou's defense has looked surprisingly okay so far, but what's the point of having Milledge on the major league roster if he's not even ahead of David Newhan on the pinch hitting depth chart? Alou is forty years old and in need of the occasional day off if he's going to be healthy come October. Green is bad at playing defense. Newhan is bad at, well, seemingly everything. It would be nice to see Milledge poke his head out of the dugout in the next series.

Said series will begin Monday at 1:10 PM as the Mets (4-2), out of first place for the first time since April 6th of last year, host the cellar-dwelling Phillies (1-5) for their home opener at Shea. Game one should be a fun matchup of two young, talented pitchers as John Maine (1-0, 0.00) faces Cole Hamels (0-0, 0.00). Both pitchers have good, if brief, histories against the opposition as Hamels shut the Mets out for eight innings last year while Maine is 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts against the Phils.

Game two will take place Wednesday night and feature a slightly more lopsided pitching matchup. Oliver Perez (1-0, 1.29) tries to build on his excellent first start for the Mets. He will face the Phillies' big free agent acquisition of the offseason, Adam Eaton (0-1, 13.50), who has not proven to be especially good at pitching through his career or so far this year.

The starters for Thursday's game don't seem to be official yet, but I would assume that Tom Glavine (1-1, 2.38) will get the nod for the Mets. Jamie Moyer (1-0, 2.70) would seem to be next in line for Philly. Perhaps after the game the starters can get together with Alou and Julio Franco for a game of pinochle.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007
  Is it too late to get a recount on the NLCS?

There are few better ways to begin a season than by stomping the defending Champs in their own ballpark for three games. As might be expected in the cold of early April, offense was difficult to come by at times for both teams. But the Met bats were able to get by in the first two games before breaking out on night three. Meanwhile, the New York pitching and defense silenced the Cardinals and the doubters for at least a few days.

Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez were each effective, allowing just one run apiece, Glavine in six innings, El Duque in seven. Glavine pitching well is hardly stunning at this point and Hernandez will have to stay healthy for longer than seven innings to allay the real concerns about him. The most important start in this series came from John Maine and the main reason it was the most important start is that it was the best. Maine pitched seven shutout innings on Wednesday, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out six. Sixty percent of the Mets' rotation has a lot to prove and through one start, so far, so good.

About as surprising as Tom Glavine pitching well is the Mets' offense scoring twenty runs in three games. Did you know that Carlos Beltran is good at hitting? The Met center fielder had four hits in the series including a pair of home runs in the finale. Jose Reyes also had a big series with four hits, including a home run and a double, two walks and a stolen base. Shawn Green staved off demotion for a little while with four hits of his own and Paul Lo Duca led the team with five. True to form, all nine of those were singles. Every Met regular had at least one hit and every Met regular not named Jose Valentin had at least two.

The Mets now take their shiny unblemished record on the road to Atlanta, land of teams that used to be good, fans that used to care and wacky, Fox-mandated start times. The Braves are also 3-0, having feasted upon Jimmy Rollins's pick to win the NL East to start the season. They outscored the Phillies 16-9, coming from behind to win in extra innings in each of the first two games.

Game one will pit Oliver Perez (3-13, 6.55 with the Pirates and Mets in 2006) against Token 2006 All-Star Mark Redman (11-10, 5.71 with the Royals). Perez getting off to a good start on Friday night would do a lot to further ease the Mets' rotation anxiety. I don't think he'll have to worry too much about getting some run support.

The second game, scheduled to start at 3:55 PM on Saturday, will be a showdown of longtime former teammates. Tom Glavine (1-0, 1.50) used to have a lot of trouble pitching to his former team, but last season he posted a 3.32 ERA in nineteen innings in three starts. John Smoltz (0-0, 4.50) was even better against the Mets last year with a 2.33 ERA in twenty-seven innings over four starts.

Orlando Hernandez (1-0, 1.29) will start a more traditional 1:05 in the afternoon game on Sunday. Kyle Davies (3-7, 8.38 in 2006) will make his first start of the season for Atlanta. Good thing the Braves put all that effort into rebuilding their bullpen.

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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.

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