FOUR DOWN, SEVEN TO GO
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.