Friday, March 20, 2009
The Mets have drastically revamped their bullpen, acquiring two of the best closers in the game in Fransisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Some question marks remain about the back-end of the pitching staff, but with Santana at the front and Pelfrey looking like he's picking up this spring where he left off last season, if the Mets can get John Maine healthy and re-signed Oliver Perez sane, the staff has the potential to be one of the best in the division, if not the National League. The three-man battle for the fifth starter between Tim Redding, Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia seems to be clearing up, for no reason other than Redding being hurt and Garcia being awful. Hernandez could be a solid fifth starter if he can pitch decently--he's fairly durable (unlike his half brother El Duque, whom Mets fans are quite familiar with) and he can eat a lot of innings.
The lineup scored quite a few runs last year, and I think Castillo will be better, Delgado will be worse than the second half last season, while Reyes, Beltran, Wright and even Daniel Murphy are looking for more consistency. Kind of like the rest of the team actually.
So the team is moving into a new stadium and ridding itself of bitter Shea memories from the past three seasons. Starting over implies a clean slate, a renewed chance to achieve the goals they set four years ago when the promise of the "New Mets" brought Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to Queens. Beltran has said that he's surprised that he hasn't made a World Series yet, but thinks that the future holds one.
This team is different than those teams. They have a new manager, a thoughtful, philosophical guy no one would accuse of ultimately being a true Yankee and not a Met. They have new pitchers-- a new star rising from the farm system in Mike Pelfrey who finally offered gleams of his potential, an ace in Johan Santana who proved on a cool September on the primeval day of the season that he was the messiah every one predicted, and a fiesty, passionate closer who will fit right into the self-confident New York attitude, and also happens to be the best closer of his day. Yes, this is the second (or third or fourth) new beginning, the New New Mets, another chance to rebuild the dynasty in the way it should have been.
We, as fans, hope the new start holds a certainty of success --an impossible thing, of course, because baseball is baseball and Mets fans are Mets fans. The imminence of failure is our ever-present pal. We hold fast to that dream for that Great Hope of seeing a late October game in shiny new Citi Field this season. But until then, we can only take satisfaction in starting afresh, in off-season dreams and wishes, in the fanatical optimism we only dare to hold in our strangest dreams, the hope in starting over. And that's when we realize: that's what being a fan was all about in the first place.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves today 6-3 to take the series from their NL East rivals. Recap and box score is here.
Nelson Figueroa (2-1) got the win, going 5.1 innings giving up three runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out three. As the Mets fifth starter, he is doing just about everything you could ask. He is giving the Mets a decent chance to win every time he pitches, and has the ability to be very good at times. Interesting note on Figueroa: opponents are hitting just .094 against him his first time through the order. When Pedro comes back and Figueroa likely heads to the bullpen, this will probably come up again.
The Mets have been John Smoltz's little punching bag for most of his Hall of Fame career, but today New York got the better of Smoltz (3-2). Smoltz threw just four innings for the Braves, and though he struck out five batters, he surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks. The Mets scored in the first inning when Jose Reyes trotted home from third following a puzzling wild pitch from Smoltz, and then added the next three runs in a Raul Casanova two-run home run in the second and Carlos Delgado's solo blast in the third. Smoltz obviously did not have his best stuff today, and the Mets took advantage early and often. With both Hampton and Glavine either on the DL or altogether ineffective, I harbor some serious concerns about the Braves' rotation. Chuck James and Jurrjens can only take you so far . . .
-Carlos Delgado had a big game, going 2-2 with two home runs and three runs scored, and raising his average to .205 on the year. This is a good sign for Mets fans, especially the fact that his first homer was to left field and his second was a bomb to right. Delgado has always puzzled me. He gets good at-bats, but he always seems to miss his pitch - he either fouls it off or misses it altogether. Let's see if he can put some good games and get some confidence, which may be his biggest problem.
- I tire of watching David Wright flail weakly at John Smoltz outside sliders. He might as well just concede an out before stepping to the plate ,and start saving his energy for pitchers he can actually hit.
- Great catch by Ryan Church in right-center field in the seventh inning. He caught it before running into the wall, leaping over Carlos Beltran in the process, and hanging onto the ball for the third out of the inning. Great effort is great to see, especially considering that the Braves would have trimmed the Mets slim two-run lead to one had Church not made the divine-like catch.
- Billy Wagner is a machine. Simply a machine. Ten scoreless innings to start the season, and just one hit off him that entire time. Aside from the I-give-up-leads-like-the-Dutch-build-dikes time bomb Aaron Heilman, the Mets bullpen has been pretty good so far, especially Joe Smith, Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, and Pedro Feliciano (knock on wood).
Johan Santana (3-2) vs. Ian Snell (2-1) as the Mets start a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow night at Shea. It's just Santana's second home start of the year, as he lost his first to the homer happy Milwaukee Brewers.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Jorge Sosa (1-0) threw just one pitch in the game, retiring Pedro Feliz on a groundout. Because he was the last guy to pitch, he gets the win. Scott Shoeneweis is the real hero though. More on that later.
Tom Gordon (0-2) was cruising, retiring five batters in just thirteen pitches in the eleventh and twelfth innings, but then gave up a two-out double to Reyes and the game winner to Pagan.
-Maine was okay tonight, but I don't think he was quite as good as his line indicates. He went 6+ innings, giving up five hits and just one run, a homer by Pedro Feliz in the seventh. But he had just one strikout, and walked five hitters. I didn't think his slider was all that great, and he seemed very erratic, though his ball to strike ratio wasn't all that terrible(35 balls, 55 strikes). He didn't have his best stuff, but was in line for the win until Heilman let the Phillies tie it in the ninth. I think that really shows how far he's come as a pitcher: he can not have his best stuff, walk five and strike out just one, and not really have a great slider, yet still go over six innings, give up one run, and be in line for the win.
-Do you want the bad first or the good? Let's go with the bad. Aaron Heilman is really struggling. He gave up the lead in the top of the eighth inning, and just looked absolutely terrible doing it. He was booed off the field at the end of the inning, and though I don't usually condone booing anybody who wears a Mets uniform, I probably would have done the same thing if I were at Shea tonight. He's had a very slow start to the year, and if the Mets want him to be a set-up man for Billy Wagner, he REALLY needs to be a lot better than that.
We aren't even talking about being consistent yet; he just needs to be somewhat reliable. SNY took a vote at the during the game, asking which player would help the Mets most when he comes off the Disabled List: Pedro, Alou, El Duque, or Duaner Sanchez. The answer was Moises Alou, and that is probably the correct one, but I bet Sanchez got a lot of votes after that eighth inning.
-Aside from Heilman, the Mets bullpen was rather, dare I say it, phenomenal. In the seventh inning, after Maine gave up a home run to Pedro Feliz and a double to Chris Coste, Randolph removed Maine and replaced him with Pedro Feliciano. Feliciano had a rather mediocre outing last night, and it was pretty important for him to get in a groove pretty quickly with the top of the Phillies order due up. He walked Jason Werth on five pitches, and the tension screw around Shea Stadium tightened cruelly. But then he struck out Shane Victorino, Eric Bruntlett, and Chase Utley all in a row, the latter on a steady diet of deadly sliders. When Feliciano doesn't locate his slider, he becomes ineffective very quickly. But when he gets it over for strikes and gets hitters to chase after it, he is almost impossible to hit- especially for lefties.
-For the rest of the bullpen, Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth, Joe Smith was pretty good in the tenth, but put the Mets in a tough situation in the eleventh, when the Phils had runners on first and second and one out, with Chase Utley at the plate Ryan Howard on deck. Randolph did the only thing he could do in the situation, and went toleft-hander Scott Shoeneweis. Shoeneweis had recieved most of the blame for the loss on Tuesday, whether it was justified blame or not. But here, he got Utley to ground into an inning-ending double play, and retired Ryan Howard and So Taguchi to start the twelfth. They replaced him with Sosa only because Pedro Feliz is a right-handed hitter, and Sosa retired him on one pitch. Still, major kudos to Shoeneweis, whom every Mets fan and his brother has ripped for the last year. I admit that I have often fallen victim to this. But, to get some perspective, this is just one nice game. Let's see him sustain it.
-What has Angel Pagan not done for this ball club? Clutch walk-off single in the twelfth, but I just love how he goes the other way from the left side of the plate. He did it twice tonight, and both times got hits. He's been, as Gary Cohen put it on the SNY broadcast, a god-send for the Mets. Ron Darling noted that the only thing Pagan hadn't done for the Mets was hit a walk-off homer. Though he didn't do that, a walk-off hit is a walk-off hit, no matter how far it travels.
-By the way, it was nice to see Reyes smoke a double into the gap there to set up the game-winner by Pagan. That was a frozen rope to right-center. Hopefully he can keep it going into the next series, because as Ron Darling pointed out, the Mets won't be nearly as good as they can be unless #7 gets going.
Wow, I wrote a ton. That's what happens when you feed we malnourished Mets fans with a walk-off win over the Phillies. Ahh....
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The Mets topped the Philadelphia Phillies this evening by a score of 8-2. Box score can be found here.Winning Pitcher:
Mike Pelfrey (1-0) stepped up big tonight for the Mets, going five strong innings of two-run ball, and most importantly, not giving into the pressure when the defense behind him made mistakes. He pounded the zone with his fastball and did a very nice job with his slider, impressing even Keith Hernandez, who commented on it during the game tonight.
It's not that Kyle Kendrick (1-1) was getting pounded- he gave up four hits in two and a third innings. Okay, that's not great, but not the kind of start you would think would not last past the third inning. The problem was he walked six batters and the defense committed four errors behind him. That usually leads to poor results. He gave up seven runs, just one of them earned, in his measly 2.1 innings of work.
-For scoring eight runs, the Mets offense really wasn't all that good. They only managed five hits for the game, getting just one hit after their six-run third inning. Reyes continues to struggle, and Wright took a tough 0-4 night, dropping his batting average pretty low. Oh-fors in April will do that to you. Delgado recorded one hit to continue his nice little streak here over the last few games. Maybe the guy will have a good year. Overall, the offense did well enough. Still, it would be nice to get some more consistency in the offense.
-I really like Pagan hitting second. It's really a nice thing to do when Castillo can't play.
-We were all calling for Feliciano yesterday, and he pitches today and gets hit around quite a bit. I'd love to see all the Willie haters deal with that one. At some point I'll post a long rant about how much I can't stand people who continually second-guess Willie Randolph, but school and other more important things beckon.
-Ultimately, this was a win over the Phillies, the Mets first since June 30th, 2007 (yes, that stat is correct). Was it ugly? Yes. Will the Mets take it? You betcha.