SIX DOWN, FIVE TO GO
Soooooo sweet. Gutsy performance early on, then straight domination before Willie pulled him in the 6th. What can I say? He out-pitched Carpenter in the "Incredible Shrinking Strike Zone" game last Friday, and he outpitched him last night. He's not a dominant starter at this point in his career, mostly because he throws too many pitches to go deep into the game, but I'm happy he's our guy going forward (to the World Series, to next season, whatever).
And how 'bout Jose, Jose, Jose pulling a Dykstra, leading off by going yard. Fantastic. He looked great last night, lacing line drives, taking pitches, going the other way, running well, stealing bases, turning DPs. Just a clinic in RapidoBall.
And continued production from Green, a timely hit from LoDuca, fine defense including three important double plays. Except for players who's names begin with W, it was as close to a perfect game as you'll ever find. Speaking of which, we find ourselves in a very strange place, adding charm & whimsy to what would otherwise be your standard, wild October ride. Let me explain.
Back in April, we knew we had a good ballclub on our hands. Maybe not great, but damn good. A couple of friends & I do our pre-season predictions every year, which leads to much shit-talking, good natured ribbing, bad natured ribbing, and outright invective. My 75-87 prediction for 2005 left me wallowing in shame & derision most of the off-season. Anyhow, two of us predicted 93-69 for 2006 (the third goon said 85-77, or something equally ludicrous. Hah!), so no one can say he's too surprised to see the Mets facing the Cardinals in game 7 of the NLCS, even with the Mets as home team.
But, here's what is surprising: the Mets forced that Game 7 because John Maine (who?) saved the season with a pitching gem in a game that saw 2nd baseman Jose Valentin (what???) turn 3 double plays, left fielder Endy Chavez (Andy who?) lead-off an inning with a nice bunt, right fielder Shawn Green (for the Mets?) drive in the first run, reliever Guillermo Mota (the guy with the ERA approaching 10 in the AL?) induce Dave Duncan's son (lay off the weed before you write, man) to hit into an inning-ending DP, setting up the final battle for the NL pennant with Oliver Perez (I said, lay off the weed!) taking the hill on a short leash, so Darren Oliver (how much did you smoke?) could come in at the first sign of trouble.
What a season this has been! And what a season I want to see continue, right into Detroit, where we can see the surprises continue, as Tiger ace Kenny Rogers takes the hill against our boys.
(And becomes the first pitcher in major league history to walk in the winning run on the game's first pitch.)
I see only two possible reasons for that not to happen: dead bats tonight, and a blown save by You-Know-Who, about whom I've lost all confidence. I know it'll never happen, but in a save situation tonight, Willie should go with Heilman, who's been straight-out dominant for two months now. Unlike Shaky Bill, Heilman's got the gunslinger look lately. Eyes focused, throwing first pitch strikes, serious gas before drops the changeup in.
I'm not trying to stir it up here, or to get down on Wagner. I'm sure he's a helluva guy, and he could prove very valuable against ALers who've never faced his 97+ MPH gas. But tonight is all about winning one game. Starters going two innings, Glavine coming in to throw 30 pitches if needed, bunts and steals and hit-and-runs. Pinch hitters in the 4th inning. All that sort of thing. And if it means keeping the "designated closer" locked in the pen where he can't do any harm, then so be it.
That said, as it has been all season long, tonight's about the bats, about Met lumber. They're facing a very average major league pitcher who struggled on the road all season. Their line-up is stacked. They've got Jose & Carlos & Carlos all with their heads in the game. And maybe there's someone else who's gonna bring that A game we all know and love. That A game we would have predicted last April.
Tonight, The Wright Stuff appears in Shea. See ya in Motown.