Wednesday, July 26, 2006

PEDRO & MAINE AND THREE DAYS OF RAIN???

Good news and bad news for the 11 people on earth who are actually fans of both the Mets and my blog. The bad news first: the Mets have lost three straight, yielding 24 runs in the process to the two worst hitting teams in the NL. And the good news? I'm too depressed about this to write one of my standard, sprawling pieces containing 6,000 words, 350 allusions to Met seasons past, 45 nicknames, and 23 mixed metaphors.

You can stop cheering. So, instead, a truncated set of Random Thoughts on last night's game, the sorry state of Met pitching, the impressive state of Met hitting, and maybe a Keith sighting or two. On to it:

One Step Forward, One Step Back: The Mets are 17-18 since returning from the famous "9-1 Road Trip." Over their last 15 games, following the sweep of the horrible Pirates, your N.Y. Mets have scored 94 runs, or 6.3 runs per game. Wow. Their record over those games? 8-7.

To barely crack .500 while scoring over 6 runs a game requires very bad pitching. You want very bad pitching? You got it: 5.13 runs given up per game. Pedro's missed the entire month of July; Trachsel's been so awful that even his usual run support can't buy him cheap wins; Glavine has fallen apart, El Duque can't string together two good starts; Heilman remains . . . weird; even "The Other Pedro," Feliciano, has started to show some troubling signs.

Still, I hope Omar doesn't make any panic moves; they're just gonna have to ride this out and hope that: Pedro comes back strong; Glavine can at least settle in as a 3-runs-in-6-innings guy; and either Maine or Pelfrey or a returning Brian Bannister can prevent some runs. But in the meantime, the boys with the lumber better keep putting up crooked numbers. Cause they're gonna have to.

Slugging, Slugging, Slugging: The Mets continue to put up huge offensive numbers despite an offense that doesn't walk much or even rank that highly in OBP (tied for 9th with four other teams). How can this be? Second in the league in SLG, including the top Isolated power numbers. Beltran, Wright, Delgado & Valentin all continue to slug well over .500, while Nady is close and Reyes, batting lead-off, is over .450. And with 2B and 3B totals near the top of the league, they're not just waiting for home runs. I've never seen a Met team lace hard line drives like this one. A pitcher better be on his game against these fellas or he's in for a very short outing. They will crush bad pitching and severely test the good.

And with the best SB numbers in the majors and speed throughout much of the line-up . . . the offense isn't the problem here. And it probably won't be from here on out. The only question is whether they can keep putting up high enough totals to bail out the increasingly shaky pitching. That's the issue.

Dizzy Darling: Last night, Ron Darling said that someone "swang" the bat. Just sayin, that's all.

Keith Declaration of the Day: You may recall that last week Keith told Met fans everywhere that California had "the best state flag" in the country. Well, on Monday night he informed us that the Reds and the Cards have "the best socks."

And no, I have absolutely no idea what I'm to do with that information. Nor would suggest anything to you in that regard. Just doing my duty passing it along.

On a sadder note, The Eternal Captain seems to be losing interest in both tumbling pitches and level swings. I guess, like the pitchers, Keith's enduring a little slump. He always pulled out of slumps quickly as a player, so I'm hopeful he'll get back on track. Keep that right shoulder in, Mex. Hands back, level swing . . .

9th Inning: Last night saw the Mets almost pull a come-from-behind victory in the 9th off shaky Cubs closer, Ryan Dumpster. Even though they didn't make it, I think it shows the strengths of the team, and I mean to run it down for you right now, based on what I actually wrote on my note pad last night as it played out. And why is that so special that Mike needs to bust out the italics, the 4 remaining readers ask?

I have no idea. But bear with me, there's a method to this madness.

Or maybe not. Let's check it out, shall we:
Following Wagner's strong 9th inning (like Armando, Hill Billy is lights out when the pressure's off), with the score standing at 8-5, the cameras turned to Wright as he jogged in, his face a mixture of boyish eagerness & gritty determination. And, no, I don't really know what the hell that means, but that's how it looked to me. Anyway, he was leading off, so as they went to commercial I wrote, "Wright looks eager coming in. Defining moment. 3 game losing streak vs. bad-hitting teams. Offense can carry. This could start a let's go moment."

So what happened? Wright exhibited patience and a quick bat, taking pitches and fouling off others to get ahead 3-1, then falling back to 3-2 before delivering a sharp single through the hole into left.

As I've said before, He Just Gets It. Like that other savvy left-side-of-the-infielder who plays in the Bronx (the one who doesn't ground into inning-ending double plays and slap balls out of pitchers' gloves), he has an incredible knack for rising at the key moment. I'm confident that if he finds himself in a big spot come October, he'll deliver. Confident. Now rush out and lay money based on my assessment. And give me a cut of the winning, as appreciation for the tip.

Anyway, so after Floyd made out, 'Stache came up and rapped a hard grounder to the right side. Neifi Perez nearly came up with what would have been a game-ending DP, but it got past him. Can't say I was suprised to see 'Stache make good contact there, even though it was nearly a disaster.

Then . . . my favorite Met (and yours too, admit it), Endy Chavez. I know he doesn't have much hitting talent, and I know he's overmatched against dominant pitchers. But between his baserunning, his gold glove-quality fielding, and his super-clutch hitting (364/453/500 w/ RISP), I feel confident when he's in the mix. And last night? After a tough, battling at-bat, he drew a walk, bringing the winning run to the plate.

And The Dumpster looked shaken after the walk.

That brought up Julio "I've Been In Baseball Longer Than Strom Thurmond Was In The Senate" Franco with the bases juiced. As I wrote on the notepad: "No DP, no DP, no DP." If you weren't thinking the same thing, you haven't watched many games this season. He did hit a grounder, but luckily it was too slow to turn, so two outs, one run in. 8-6.

Then Reyes, exhibiting his new skills to perfection. Almost too perfectly. Meaning what, you ask? Well, he ended up walking, which demonstrates his developing eye at the plate. But with Chavez on second as the tying run, I wanted a single. You knew that if the Mets loaded the bases, Dusty would pull The Dumpster.

And he did. And despite his hot bat lately, and the two hits he already had in the game, I was less-than-confident about LoDuca facing hard-throwing Bob Howry. And we know how that ended up. But even though they lost, even though the pitching was bad last night, the 9th inning left me pleased. None of the three outs were embarrassing; no one was overmatched. They pushed the Cub bullpen to the edge of its limits.
And seeing Wright, Reyes, my man Endy, & 'Stache all deliver in the clutch is a good sign. It's that type of thing that's gonna keep the Braves at bay in all likelihood. And win games in October, which is really what we're looking for, isn't it?

Now let's go Pedro!

4 Comments:

Anonymous Danny said...

Mike, great stuff as always. I liked reading your article with a mostly positive tenor, which is nice on the heels of a 3-game losing streak.

I am completely with you on Omar not getting sucked into a panic move... the market is just too absurd.

Maybe Keith not saying "level swing" and tumblers correlates to the Mets losing streak. If the Mets' batters take level swings and pitchers throw tumbling offspeed pitches, they are sure to win. What's probably happening is a lot of "uppercuts" and "hangers". I am sure you will continue to track this.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I have no choice. I'm as obsessed with Keith's obsessions as he's obsessed about the things he's obses--

Ohhh, you get the idea.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Really, 11?

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

"Really, 11?"

Give or take 11.

3:16 PM  

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