Archive for May, 2009

More Injuries Equals More Wins

May 31, 2009

In the fifth inning of Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Florida Marlins, Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran left the game with a stomach virus. With Beltran out for the remainder of the game, the Mets lineup resembled something very similar to that of a spring training game in March coincided with the World Baseball Classic. In defense of Mets manager Jerry Manuel, the core of his starting position players were in desperate need of a day off.

Nonetheless, left fielder Gary Sheffield, third baseman David Wright, and second baseman Luis Castillo were back in the Mets starting lineup for the final game of this current home stand against the Marlins today and, wouldn’t you know it, produced a better result. Even with their starting pitcher, John Maine, experiencing the same fate as their absent centerfielder, (Maine was pulled prior to the beginning of the seventh inning Sunday with the same type of stomach virus as Beltran) he managed to propel the Mets to victory and take the series from the Marlins, two games to one.

Maine continued his dominance with the help of his trusty bullpen at Citi Field this season with his fourth win in his last four starts at home. Against the Marlins, the right hander went six full innings giving up only three hits with no runs to go along with five strikeouts to just two walks.

“Not many foul balls were hit. I had a low pitch count. I wanted to keep going but what are you going to do.” Maine said. “I couldn’t help it.”

Today’s 3-2 victory concludes a 5-1 home stand for the Mets. Overall, the Mets are 17-9 at Citi Field. “It’s always important to play well at home,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “Our starting pitching has stepped up for us.”

With that said, right-hander Livan Hernandez will take his 4-1 record for the season with him on the road Monday as the Mets begin a four game series in Pittsburgh. They will then head to Washington to take on the Nationals this weekend before returning home to play the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets currently have an 11-12 record on the road.

Adding to the Mets long list of injuries, outfielder Angel Pagan left today’s game with discomfort in his right groin. Pagan’s status has been listed as day-to-day.

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Sheffield and Hernandez Revive the Old Saying: Age before Beauty

May 27, 2009

Mets GM Omar Minaya was the first to break the news prior to yesterday’s game that his shortstop, Jose Reyes, and his right fielder, Ryan Church, were heading to the disabled list retroactive to May 21st and May 23rd, respectively. With that, the possibility for the Mets most talked about prospect, Fernando Martinez, to get his chance at the big league level became a reality. The decision to grant Martinez, 20, the start in right field last night was also prompted by the Mets inability to use their everyday center fielder, Carlos Beltran. Beltran underwent an MRI yesterday which revealed a bone bruise and inflammation of his right tibia that will keep him out of action for at least until Friday’s game against the Florida Marlins. Martinez was hit by a pitch and finished the night 0 for 3 with a RBI.

As Mets fans and the New York media rejoiced over the thought of witnessing the young Martinez on a daily basis, Mets clean up hitter Gary Sheffield, almost twenty years his senior, provided the real firepower in leading the Mets to a 6-1 victory over the Washington Nationals. Sheffield, who is batting .419 over his last ten games, slammed a three-run homerun for the second time in as many nights well over the left-field wall. Unlike last night’s three-run shot, there was no doubt in the validity of this one. Sheffield’s 504th career homerun put the Mets up by five runs and allowed for their starter, Livan Hernandez, to go the distance and pick up his fourth win of the season. Hernandez, 34, is 3-0 in his last five starts. He has pitched 33 and a third innings during that stretch averaging almost seven innings a start.

Tonight the Mets go for the sweep with their ace, Johan Santana, on the mound against the Nationals young right-hander, Jordan Zimmermann. On April 26th, Zimmermann pitched five and a third innings against the Mets. He gave up just one earned run and earned his second win of the season. Since then, he has been mired with four no-decisions and a loss in five starts. He currently has a 2-1 record and a 5.71 ERA.

Bruised and Battered, the Mets Find a Way to Win

May 26, 2009

It’s safe to say that on any given night this season the New York Mets have given themselves a good chance at winning. However, for the last week and a half that chance has been met with the question of which players will be asked to uphold it. With one third of their active roster decimated by injury, the Mets everyday lineup card these days can look as unpredictable as an Oliver Perez start. Prior to last night’s game, Mets manager Jerry Manuel delayed his decision to start centerfielder Carlos Beltran and back-up shortstop Ramon Martinez until thirty minutes before the start of the game. Reason being, Beltran was nursing a sore knee and Martinez was ailing from a bad back. Fortunately for the Mets, both players made their starts and helped the team to a 5-2 victory over the last place Washington Nationals.

Last night’s win earned Mets starter John Maine his fourth victory of the season. Maine looked well in command throughout the game, although he was not asked to pitch the seventh inning. Manuel was given the opportunity after the game to respond to why he opted for a reliever in the seventh instead of continuing with his starter. Manuel felt that too much time elapsed between the umpire’s review of Gary Sheffield’s three-run homerun and the start of the seventh inning. In hindsight, reliever Bobby Parnell began the seventh inning and surrendered three walks (the Mets pitchers had nine overall) which led to a run. Parnell was yanked and it took two more Mets relievers to limit the damage in the seventh.

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes continues his recovery from tendinitis of the calf and left fielder Ryan Church was again unavailable for the second straight game. On the bright side, closer Francisco Rodriguez kept his perfect save streak going last night and earned his thirteenth save of the season. If you remember, Rodriguez collapsed on Saturday in Boston from back spasms. He was rushed to the hospital where he received treatment and was then cleared to play.

With the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves losing their games yesterday, the Mets are now all alone in second place just one-half game back.

Mets Attempt to Escape Reality Tonight with a Win

May 20, 2009

As the Mets prepare for the final game of their current seven-game road trip on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, the number one thing that should be on each and every Mets players’ mind is how they will earn a victory and salvage the final leg of their recent West coast swing. Not only will this be the Mets’ twentieth scheduled game in row, it will also give them another chance to prove to their beleaguered fans that they still possess some might after dropping the last three games in disappointing fashion.

The only way perhaps to explain the latest Mets swoon is that they wandered into San Francisco’s notorious Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and left with what is known in some circles as “Purple Haze.” There’s no question that last Saturday’s comeback-win against the 2008 NL Cy Young-award winner, Tim Lincecum, could be seen as the “peak” of their performance. Unfortunately, even the strongest dose of LSD causes you to eventually “come down.” Prior to having their infield fully decimated, the Mets were Truckin’. Jerry, in this case Manuel, not Garcia, had his team performing on all cylinders. As we all know, there are many other social aspects that are synonymous with the City by the Bay that don’t involve the colors of the rainbow. Eventually, reality begins to settle in.

Ask Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey to explain why he committing three balks in Sunday night’s game, he’ll tell you that he had a case of the “yips.” Hmm…makes you wonder if that’s code word for something else or quite possibly the acid was beginning to wear off. Perhaps the same could be said for right fielder Ryan Church. You never know, instead of trying to score the go-ahead run during Monday night’s extra-inning game, he could have been trying to avoid being captured by little green men as he rounded the third base bag and that’s why he completely missed the base. All in all, the Mets have no reason to make excuses. If they are able to take tonight’s game, they can pat themselves on the back for avoiding a three-game sweep to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Only then will they be able to look back on these last seven games and remind themselves, “What a strange trip it’s been.”

Murphy May Have Lost More than Just His Stroke

May 19, 2009

Many moons ago, the only disappointing aspect of young Daniel Murphy’s short tenure with the Mets occurred when a fly ball was headed straight towards him. In those days, Mets fans were comfortable with their left fielder’s shortcomings. Most of the time, they looked the other way, satisfied by the patience that he was showing at the plate. Through the Mets first twenty games, Murphy managed to hit safely in seventeen of them. Heading into the month of May, he was batting .324 with 13 runs scored and a .373 on-base percentage. With those numbers, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was finding it much easier to tolerate an occasional misplay or two by his young left fielder.

However, with the current absence of first baseman Carlos Delgado, Murphy’s playing time and his offensive output has diminished considerably. In his last ten games, Murphy has only been asked to start in half of them. During that span, he has managed just 2 hits in 21 at-bats. On Sunday night, Murphy started in left but was lifted in the eighth inning for a pinch hitter.

“I don’t think Murphy is swinging quite well now,” Manuel said. “I don’t see the quick hands. It’s probably mechanical or fundamental right now for him. He’s not playing on a consistent basis like he’d like to be, and he’s just kind of struggling.”

It’s worth mentioning that Murphy has gone 1 for 5 as a pinch hitter during that ten game stretch along with a RBI. Perhaps he could better serve the Mets coming off the bench. If you remember correctly, that’s where it all began for Murphy.

Latest Setback for Delgado Opens Up a New Can of Worms

May 17, 2009

When news broke that Mets cleanup hitter Carlos Delgado was headed to the disabled list with what doctors were calling an impingement of the right hip, the main concern for Mets fans was who would fill the first baseman’s shoes. Since Delgado was brought over to the club, he has provided the Mets with much needed firepower to the number four slot in their lineup. With 473 career homeruns, Delgado was hoping that this season would be the year in which he would hit that all-important 500th homerun.

However, if the Mets opt for surgery for Delgado, he could see an extensive amount of time away from the ballclub. Such a decision might ultimately put that elusive homerun in jeopardy and prolong the feat for another year. Unfortunately for Delgado, he may not be able to afford to wait that long. This recent injury has also raised the question as to whether the organization will resign the two-time All Star to another long-term contract. My feeling is that Delgado, who will turn 37 in June, most likely would not be guaranteed more than a two year deal, if anything at all.

In his stead, the Mets have looked for their number three, four, and five hitters to carry the offensive load. In the last three games, Carlos Beltran, Gary Sheffield, and David Wright have gone 22 for 38 (.578 BA). During that stretch, Wright has produced nine RBI and has stolen five bases. He is now batting .350. Sheffield, who was batting .196 after Wednesday’s game, is now batting .270.

If the current heart of the Mets order can continue to perform offensively the way they have been, Delgado’s absence, however long it may be, will not seem as devastating.

Hustling or Lack Thereof, Reyes Can’t Catch a Break

May 14, 2009

For those Mets fans that have been following the team either in passing or until they’re blue (and orange) in the face, it won’t be difficult for them to notice that the finger-pointing has once again begun to resurface around Citi Field. This time, it is being directed at, you guessed it, Jose Reyes. In the past, some of you may have experienced an ill feeling caused by numerous amounts of baseballs popping up compliments of the Mets leadoff man. Well, you can now add another layer of suffering to your everyday list. Most recently, Reyes’ base running has been the focus of debate.

As Mets fans have gotten bored with coming up with one cheap joke after another regarding their starting rotation, Reyes, their superstar shortstop, has been under intense scrutiny. With the inability for him to correct mistakes that were magnified the night before, Reyes has been wearing the “blame me” tag since the Mets ended their seven-game winning streak. They have dropped two of their last three games.

Following Tuesday night’s walk-off-walk win, Reyes was in full agreement with his critics who were concerned with him being tagged out trying to stretch a double into a triple in the eighth inning. “Good hitting, stupid base running,” Reyes said. His overly aggressive base running removed him as the potential tying run and allowed for Mets manager Jerry Manuel to begin second-guessing certain aspects of his ball club. “I think Reyes got a little too happy on that play,” Manuel said. In Reyes’ defense, he did knock in two very important runs and his double gave the Mets offensive which was dead in the water against Braves starting pitching a much needed lift. The Mets also won the game but if you asked Braves third baseman Chipper Jones he’ll tell you otherwise.

Heading into Wednesday’s game, all things Reyes were forgiven. His failed attempt to arrive safely at third was now seen as just a footnote in a long list of Mets base running blunders. Unfortunately for Reyes, his aggressive-style of base running did him in again. This time, Reyes didn’t even have a chance. With a ball hit to the third base side of the infield you are taught to hold up at second. At least until the shortstop unleashes the throw to first then perhaps you could make a run for it. Other than that, nine times out of ten, you’re a dead duck. Reyes was just that.

His second mistake came in the bottom of the twelfth. In this instance it was Reyes’ lack of aggressiveness that raised some eyebrows. After smacking a drive that hit off the top of the left field wall resulting in a lead-off double, Reyes was questioned after the game why he was seen jogging instead of running. The Mets manager added his two cents by saying, “It looks like the harder he runs, the more trouble he gets in.” The only sentiment I can extract from that statement regarding Reyes is you’re damned if you do or you’re damned if you don’t.

The Mets will be playing their next seven games out West on the road. Perhaps some time away from the fan-friendly confines of Citi Field will allow Jose Reyes and his teammates a chance to take a deep breath and concentrate on building their lead atop the NL East.

That Raging Mets Fan May Not Be a Fan at All

May 12, 2009

During last night’s game with the score tied, 1-1, the Atlanta Braves had runners on first and second with two outs in the top half of the seventh inning. Mets manager Jerry Manuel had just taken out right-hander Bobby Parnell and replaced him with lefty Pedro Feliciano. Pitching to Braves catcher Brian McCann, Feliciano got exactly what he wanted, a ground ball. Unfortunately, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes bobbled it and failed to complete the play prolonging the inning. The Braves went on to tack on four runs upping the score, 5-1. It doesn’t take a baseball enthusiast to note that Reyes had made a big mistake.

The Mets sure-handed shortstop will must likely be criticized for what he was unable to accomplish last night. If the Mets hadn’t just won seven games in a row in convincing fashion, NY beat writers, local sports talk radio hosts, and all those fickle Mets fans would be calling for Reyes’ head. Prior to the Mets surge into first place atop the NL East, the team was catching an unbelievable amount of slack. Whether it was the inability of the Mets hitters to knock in runners while in scoring position or an over-taxed bullpen due to lackluster starting pitching, Mets fans were becoming steadfast believers that their team was heading towards a fate equal to that of the last two seasons.

Factor in a brand-new $800 million stadium that Mets fans consider unfriendly along with a free agent signing that stinks to high-heaven and you get self-proclaimed Mets fans who feel very strongly in the comments that they are spewing about. It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of them were camped out in front of their HD TVs tuned to SNY shaking their heads and stomping their feet still reeling from the pre-winning streak performances of their favorite team. I gather that type of behavior will start to rear its ugly head once again. Why? The ace of their staff, Johan Santana, was tagged with his second loss of the season in which he again received limited run support.

It’s just a matter of time when the magnifying glass will be dusted off and young Daniel Murphy’s defense will be brought into focus. Manager Jerry Manuel’s mismanagement of the bullpen will be cause for concern and David Wright’s strikeouts will continue to mount. Yes, these are the non-stop reminders from so-called real Mets fans. Whose only intention is to unleash their childish criticisms and who probably would have never followed the Mets if they didn’t have such a high payroll. According to these fans, the sky is the limit as long as it’s not their sky and not their limit. I was happy that the Mets didn’t sign Derek Lowe. I’d rather spend an evening with Gary Sheffield than all day inside Mannywood. I knew Pedro Martinez was washed up. And most importantly, I like these Mets. So now I have to ask all those embittered Mets fans, do you?

Does Minaya Deserve a Free Pass?

May 10, 2009

At the completion of last Saturday’s game, a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets were sitting in third place with a record of 10-13. Prior to that defeat, their fourth in the last six games, news spread like wild fire regarding comments that were made by their general manager, Omar Minaya. Minaya sat down with Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and responded to accusations that his team had lost its edge or better yet, never had one to begin with. Ever since the firing of former Mets manager Willie Randolph last June, the ballclub has been heavily criticized for not having enough players willing to stand up and be held accountable. Those who cover the team suggest that the Mets have the physical talent in getting the job done but lack a certain intangible which is conducive to a World Series-caliber club. Leadership, for starters, is one. Minaya, on some level, agreed. His comments were projected at Mets players, specifically David Wright and Jose Reyes. Minaya felt strongly and trusted their leadership but on the other hand was not so certain that they had the chutzpah to get the job done.

On the heels of a free agent signing about to go bust and a manager who just got word that he would be fined by Major League Baseball for delaying a previous game, Minaya could be given the benefit of the doubt for lashing out to those players who constitute the Mets’ core group. Most Mets fans would agree that Minaya, a self-proclaimed native New Yorker, possesses as much if not more passion than the average Mets fan. During last year’s off-season, he heard the outcries concerning the combustibility of last year’s bullpen. He made it his top priority to address those problems by signing closer Frankie Rodriguez and acquiring J.J. Putz via a trade. We were all thoroughly impressed and have commended him for his efforts. Rodriguez, this season, has gone a perfect nine for nine in save opportunities. Putz, until recently, was unstoppable pitching exclusively in the eighth inning setting up for Rodriguez.

Aside from last Sunday’s rainout, the Mets have won six games in a row and now sit tied atop the NL East with the Florida Marlins. During that streak, the Mets starters have accumulated a 5-0 record with an earned run average below two. The offense has exploded as well. Yesterday’s 10-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates produced seventeen hits. For the second time in as many days, the Mets were able to participate in an inning in which they batted around in the order. Leadoff man Jose Reyes went 3 for 5 with 3 RBI and a stolen base. Center fielder Carlos Beltran continued his offensive surge by clubbing a solo shot in the fifth inning, his sixth homerun of the season. He ended up going 2 for 5 on the day and raised his batting average to .378. Every Mets starter, except for catcher Ramon Castro who left the game with a tight quad, had at least two hits in the game. Serving a single-game suspension for having the brim of his cap poke umpire Bill Welke, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was made to watch all the excitement alongside his boss, GM Omar Minaya at Citi Field in his street clothes. Both were seen in good spirits. Perhaps all is forgiven between them. Like they say, winning cures everything.

Six in a Row Would Be Nice, Too

May 9, 2009

One if not the most important aspect for a hitter is his ability to see the ball well on its way towards home plate. Mets cleanup hitter, first baseman Carlos Delgado reiterated that point last night by going 3 for 4 including a whopping three-run homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning that put the Mets up, 6-2, and the game out of reach. Delgado, who also drove in two more runs in the first inning with a single, finished the night with a total of 5 RBI. Unfortunately, for one or two other Mets players, being able to locate the baseball was not so easy.

With a runner on second and the score, 2-1, in favor of the Mets, Pittsburgh’s Nate McLouth hit what seemed like a routine fly ball to right-center field. Mets Carlos Beltran began drifting under it. Right fielder Ryan Church had a beat on it, too. As the two outfielders converged under the ensuing popup, the ball landed to the right side of Beltran allowing the tying run to score. After the game, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was in good spirits. However, he felt that the Mets defense was somewhat lacking in some areas. Hmm, I wonder what areas he was speaking of.

The Mets, again, received another solid performance from their starting pitching. This time, from an unlikely source their young left-hander, Jon Niese. Niese pitched six strong innings in which he failed to surrender a walk. Right-hander Bobby Parnell earned the victory, the first win of his career, with another impressive outing in the eighth. With a Philadelphia win last night, the Mets still remain a half game out of first place in the ultra-competitive NL East. The Mets will try and continue their winning ways this afternoon at Citi Field.