Friday, October 13, 2006

FOUR DOWN, SEVEN TO GO

Earl Weaver would've liked that one. Then again, maybe not. Afterall, Weaver watched the Mets beat his charges 37 years ago by combining strong starting pitching by a left-hander (Koos) with timely power-hitting (Clendenon) and fine defense, including sprawling backhanded gems by outfielders (Swaboda, Agee). Not to mention, Earl supposedly liked 3-run homers, not just those plating two.

But I think Weaver (or McCarthy or Stengel or Mack or anyone else) would gladly have taken a game like that from one of his squads. Once again this post-season, the Mets won by out-fundamentalling the opposition: a starter throwing strikes, opportunistic hitting, and stellar -- I mean stellar -- defense.

About Glavine, Pujols said after the game, "He wasn't good. He wasn't good at all. I think we hit the ball hard. We didn't get some breaks." Hmmm, that's not usually the way to go about it, is it? Then again, this was an uncharacteristic quotation from David Wright: "He made a lot of hitters tonight look foolish, kept them off balance." Then again, like most of Wright's comments to the press, that is complete bullshit. Glavine was effective, but fooled the hitters? Nah. The fielders fooled anyone into thinking the Mets don't play great defense.

Glavine threw strikes, the Attem' Ball was working, and Met leather was in the house: Endy's diving grab off Belliard; Beltran's run & gun strike to nail Wandering Albert off first, a play culminating in one of about 3 or 4 sweet scoops or picks by Delgado, who continues to exhibit the softest hands I've seen in October since Kent Hrbek saved Gagne, Gaetti, Pagliarulo & friends some errors in the '87 & '91 Series (And unlike Kent, Carlos can actually range a couple feet off the bag); Stache's Mad Dash with one out in the 9th, ranging far to his right to grab Encarnacion's hot grounder off Wagner, doing a "Jeter," with one of those leap and throw across the body moves, also featuring in a nice catch by Delgado; Wright making two stabs of line drives, turning one into an easy, inning-ending double play.

And, completing the Fundamentals Trifecta, after Paul "All I Do Is Hit" LoDuca singled in the 6th, The Beltranator returned, absolutely crushing a fastball into the scoreboard. Now, like most Met fans, I've seen balls hit the scoreboard in right center (think of who threw out the first ball last night). And obviously I've seen balls leave Shea's confines on a line. But it's pretty rare to see a hard, line drive homer hit the scoreboard. And his made contact about a quarter or a third of the way up. What a rocket. This is a very good development.

A few other thoughts:

The "Floyd Situation": It's not that bad & it's pretty bad at the same time. Cliff's bat is gonna be out of the starting line-up and that's not good. Plus, his roster spot can't be replaced, so for the next game or two when he'll be completely unavailable, that means the Met'll be playing a man down. Easy to say the Mets should've added an outfielder & not Anderson Hernandez to the Line-up (you see? It's so easy, I just did it. Try it yourself), but what's done is done.

And that leads to the good news: Endy, Endy, Endy. His bat isn't Cliff's, not when Floyd's right, but he's more than adequate. And as to his fielding, well Ron Belliard can tell you about that.

Wright: It's not just the uncharacteristic non-use of the cliche that has me concerned. (And no, I'm not talking about that . . . uhh, beard he's growing, or trying to grow.) His power is just gone. Disappeared. Hard to understand. And with his habit of falling behind 0-2 every at-bat, it's not likely to return. His glove's been pretty good (the throwing error last round notwithstanding), and he had a couple clutch hits in games one & two, but he's putting pressure on Delgado.

Who has, incidentally, been handling it with no problem at all. So maybe I'm nuts. In fact, I am nuts. What the hell am I talking about?

Reyes: Now here there's no argument. He's struggling. And it's sad to watch. Man, if he gets back into it, the Mets road gets so much easier. But he's taking a lot of hittable pitches, and wildly uppercutting on high fastballs when he swings. The result: 3 RBIs, 2 BBs and only 2 Ks in 16 at-bats so far in the post-season. But only two singles and two runs. He's still playing with enthusiasm, and it clearly hasn't hurt the team yet.

But, for his career, April & September have been two of his worst-hitting months, suggesting that perhaps like many players who grew up in warm climes, he's not at his best when it's cold. This year, he hit well enough in September (when it was rather warm all month), but struggled mightily in April. Whatever it is, we need him to get back to the old Jose (or, actually, not the old Jose, but the one from this season, meaning earlier, before the playoffs began, because . . . oh, never mind).

Valentin: He's not hitting at all either (literally), and that bunt attempt last night would also have made Earl Weaver proud, since he hated bunting. But that play in the 9th was soooooo good, he gets a pass.

Wagner: He got out of it again. But he looked shaky again. I'll remain positive on this front, but if I told you I wasn't a nervous wreck every time he comes in, I'd be lying.

So I'll lie and tell you I'm confident.

Heilman, ChadBrad, Feliciano: Not needed last night. Good. Very good.

Cardinal Bullpen: Not needed much either, which concerns me. I'm glad the Mets won last night, don't get me wrong, but I'm a little concerned the Cards didn't have to go more to the pen. With Carpenter going tonight, there's a good chance their relievers will be well-rested for the Suppan/Reyes starts in games 3 and 4. When they'll likely need that pen.

Green: Hey, he's been really good the last couple games. Shhhhh.

And tonight, Johnny Maine against defending Cy Young winner, Chris Carpenter. I looked through Carpenter's games this season, and he's good, damn good, but it's not like the Mets are facing '88 Herschiser or anything. Every month he's had one or two starts that saw him get hit pretty hard, including three in September: at Washington, at Houston, home against the Padres, where he yielded a combined 16 earned runs in 20+ innings. Of course when he faced those same Pads last week, he mowed 'em down.

But since late July, he's been either hit or miss every time out: 5-4 in 12 starts, with a 3.71 ERA, despite an exceptional 1.00 WHIP. He doesn't walk anyone, but he can be hit, apparently for extra bases: he also gave up 8 homers in those 87+ innings. Finally, he's been somewhat less effective all year in night games, at 10-7, 3.41/1.06 versus 5-1, 2.40/1.08 with the sun shining.

I can't say what all this means except that he ain't invincible. This notion that the Mets are facing a life-or-death, must-win struggle tonight against the greatest pitcher they'll ever see is ludicrous. They were the best, or second best, hitting team in the NL this year, and they're going against a very good, but definitely not-great hurler. It's a winnable game, and if they do so, the Cards'll be in a big hole heading back to St. Louis.

This is a good spot to be in.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Danny said...

Carpenter likes to get ahead with the fastball. The Mets need to sit on and crush said fastballs early in the count.

Weaver was impressive last night. Thankfully Tommy did Tommy things.

It was a little easier for the Cardinals to use less of their bullpen because they only had to pitch 8 innings. I hope they only pitch 8 innings again tonight.

Great point about Reyes and the cold weather. I disagree about his judgement of pitches. I think he is seeing pitches decently, his swing is just a little out of whack. And he has had A LOT of very questionable strike calls go against him. Hopefully he rights the ship.

A very agressive quote from young Wright. I am not concerned until he starts using first person in quotes. Now THAT would be concerning.

If the Mets win tonight, this thing is OVER.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Reyes definitely had some very high pitches called a strikes last night.

Tonight's a big game, that's for sure. But, you know what? They're all big from here on out.

12:19 PM  
Blogger sheadenizen said...

Mike, no fashion advice needed tonight. I'm dressing for a football game....Hope Mr. Maine brings his A game for 5-6 innings.
Maybe there's a little reverse psychology working here...no worry about Weaver..he pitches a gem. Worry about Carpenter...he implodes.
A girl can dream, can't she?
GO METS!

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

If the dream involves an imploding Carptenter (or exploding for that matter), then not only can she dream, but she must!

Dress for football is right. I'm always cold, so take this with a grain of the proverbial salt, but I wore a coat over my suit to work today. Come nighttime, I'll be happy to be warm & toasty on the couch.

It'll be cold there tonight, but man, it's gonna be rocking. If they touch Carpenter early, I think I might hear the crowd in Astoria . . . if only I opened my windows, which I won't be doing if the temp falls below 60 degrees.

I'm a wimp, what can I tell you?

12:34 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Why does Spiezio have a landing strip on his chin?

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Not just a Landing Strip, Ed.

A RED landing strip (and a poorly-maintained one at that, if you get my drift).

12:56 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

"Doing a Jeter." Does that mean forcing a player way way better than yourself to move to another position so that you can keep playing that position, then doing everything possible to undermine that player in the media?

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

No. That's called "Doing a Kaz Matsui, Bronx Version."

Oh, by the way, does watching Carlos Beltran his enormous home runs (in terms of distance as well as in-game magnitude) bring back fond memories?

2:46 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Yeah. But not just for the power. Corporate Name Goes Here Park has a centerfield that was made for Beltran. Instead, the Astros have tried to fill the spot with Willie Taveras who can't hit, and Preston Wilson, who got released in August -- just in time to join the Redbirds.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I thought "doing a Jeter" was what Jennie Zalasko dreams about each night?

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Now that's comedy.

5:16 PM  

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