Archive for June, 2009

It Could Be Worse

June 30, 2009

In the top of the ninth inning of last night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, David Wright was at the plate with a runner on second and one out. Wright, who is currently leading the National League in hitting, is struggling. Prior to that at-bat, the Mets third baseman had just one hit in his last eighteen at-bats to go along with six strikeouts. Looking at the current Mets active roster, it’s easy to see their limitations in giving any of their everyday players a day off. With that said, all Wright can do is work his way out of it. Fortunately for him, he did. Wright smacked the next pitch for a double to left scoring Daniel Murphy from second giving the Mets offense some much needed help.

The next batter due up for the Mets was cleanup hitter Gary Sheffield. His final at-bat produced a two-run home run that landed into the highest deck in left-center field at Miller Park. As Sheffield rounded the bases with his tenth home run of the season, a Brewers fan proceeded to throw the ball back into the field of play. No love lost though because the Mets had just equaled the total amount of runs they scored throughout the weekend series against the Yankees, three. Before you get your hopes up, the score at this point is Milwaukee, 10, and the Mets, 6. The Mets next two hitters, Ryan Church (4 for 5) and Fernando Martinez (2 for 5), both managed to reach base safely in the ninth inning with one out. Alright, the probability of them staging a comeback is highly unlikely. Adding Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman via pitching change doesn’t help matters, either.

To make a long story short, catcher Brian Schneider swung at the first pitch and hit into a game-ending double play before the tune of Hell Bells even had a chance to fade out. Hoffman earns career save number 572, the Mets fall under five hundred and end the night behind the Florida Marlins in third place.

I’ve Seen Enough to Know When I’ve Seen Enough

June 29, 2009

When the Mets acquired infielder Alex Cora during the off-season, I thought to myself, “Hey, he’d make a good back-up infielder or he’d be an asset coming off the bench.” Nowadays, Cora is the Mets everyday shortstop not be choice but by default. As this month comes to a close, the definite theme for a Mets team on the brink of disaster is injuries or worse, complacency.

Since their lead-off hitter and gold glove centerfield have been relegated to the disabled list, the Mets have struggled to put any semblance of a winning streak together or shown that they deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the boys on the other side of town. Last night’s defeat, the third in a row to the Yankees, was just another embarrassing reminder of how far off this group of Mets players has fallen out of touch with reality. The reality is this Mets team is not keeping it together, with their major starters on the shelf. No matter how we try to spin it, Fernando Tatis and Argenis Reyes are no replacement for Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

The norm these days consists of Alex Cora staring down strike three with runners in scoring position or Daniel Murphy unsure of where to throw the ball. The other members of this team have become programmed to believe that if they just play five hundred baseball things will work out. To think Mets fans would be inclined to fall in love with just anybody who dons a Mets uniform is downright insulting.

There Are Better Days Ahead

June 28, 2009

There’s an old saying in baseball that good pitching beats good hitting. For the last two nights, the Mets have proved whole-heartedly that good pitching can also beat bad hitting. In the first two games of the Subway Series with the Yankees, the Mets as a team, batted just 4 for 58 which amounts to a .069 batting average. On the other side of the ball, Yankee pitchers gave up just one earned run in eighteen innings of work, a 0.50 ERA, while striking out nineteen. Wait, it gets worse. If you add bad pitching into the equation, it does not beat good hitting. In their eighteen innings pitched, the Mets’ staff allowed twelve earned runs along with twenty-two hits, four for home runs. The Yankees have hit .282 so far this series.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel admitted after the game on Friday night that the only thing his team could do was to look up at the scoreboard and make sure they had not fallen any further from the first place Philadelphia Phillies. Perhaps Manuel was acting premature when responding to the lackluster performance of his struggling caravan of moving parts. Looking at the Mets everyday starting lineup, David Wright, Alex Cora, Ryan Church, and second baseman Luis Castillo, who had the night off last night, are the only players of late that have shown any sign of stability at their positions. The other Mets players such as, Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis, or the recently called, Nick Evans, have been swapped in and out of the lineup on a daily basis. This, in turn, creates a lack of cohesion and leads to uneven or inconsistent play.

After Saturday’s loss Manuel stated he was somewhat concerned with the fact that his team could not get anything going in the last two games. The only recourse I can recommend for the Mets skipper is to allocate the same players and allow them to play everyday. Until he clearly defines his everyday players’ roles, then I guess we’ll just have to wait for the cavalry and hopefully stay afloat.

Can Anybody Play the Game Here?

June 27, 2009

It took the Mets just one inning to separate themselves from their cross-town rivals at Citi Field last night. By committing three errors that led to two unearned runs in the top half of the second inning, the Mets had fallen behind the New York Yankees, 4-0. Shortstop Alex Cora, third baseman David Wright, and first baseman Nick Evans each produced their own version of a bonehead play causing Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey to smack his glove, scream obscenities towards centerfield, and undertake an early trip to the showers. For the fourth time in his last five starts, the tall right-hander failed to make it into the sixth inning.

Two weeks ago to the day, Mets fans were privy to one of the most excruciating losses in Subway Series history. This time around, a 9-1 thumping in the hands of the Bronx Bombers was just as painful. Aside from an Alex Rodriguez home run, it was the other guys in the Yankees lineup that did most of the damage. Centerfielder Brett Gardner, a double shy of the cycle, finished with five hits, two RBIs, and three runs scored. With Derek Jeter as a late scratch, Ramiro Pena was given the start at short. Pena went 3 for 5 with two doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored. Other than counting how many 1-2-3-innings the Mets had last night, the only excitement worth noting was a laser-beam shot off the bat of Gary Sheffield over the left field wall that produced the Mets only run.

If the Mets want to give this series any merit, they’ll have to sweep the remaining two games. With Tim Redding matched up against another big name Yankee pitcher in A.J. Burnett, the likelihood of that happening seems very remote.

Oliver Perez, Take Two

June 26, 2009

With Oliver Perez’ imminent return from the disabled list, Mets fans may want to start asking themselves if they’re ready for it. Looking back on Perez’ five starts this season may make you want to question whether the left-hander’s second act is worth waiting for. In defense of the good Ollie, he was suffering from what doctors diagnosed as patellar tendinitis of the knee. For the time being, we’ll have to take their word for it. Who knows, that might be just a medical term for bad mechanics. The only real evidence Mets fans have is that Perez was seen limping around the Mets clubhouse with ten pounds of ice strapped to his right knee after an embarrassing pitching performance against the Philadelphia Phillies. In that outing, Perez lasted just two and a third innings and surrendered five hits and four earned runs along with six walks.

This past Monday, the unpredictable left-hander participated in his first rehab start, a sixty pitch simulation with a ninety pitch outing to follow. Not to take anything away from the Port St. Lucie Mets, but six runs and seven hits in three innings, I would think that a $36 million pitcher has got to have a better showing than that. After the outing, Perez sounded upbeat. His knee was no longer an issue and his aspirations were indeed high. “My arm is okay,” he said, “I just have to go 100 pitches and I’ll be ready.” Oh, is that all? Why stop at a hundred? Perez makes it sound so simple, but you can’t blame Mets fans who may be skeptical when he takes the mound sometime next week.

The Mets Deserve a Laugh

June 25, 2009

With the Mets up by two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning last night, first baseman Nick Evans came up with a runner on and crushed the first pitch he saw over the left field wall at Citi Field. Evans’s two run home run would be seen as a prelude to a commanding Mets victory as they would go on to win, 11-0, over the St. Louis Cardinals. Along with eleven runs scored, the Mets offense raked in sixteen hits that earned their starting pitcher, right-hander Fernando Nieve, his third victory in just three starts this season. Nieve’s performance of six shutout innings last night could be considered just as important for the Mets as the ease at which their makeshift offense was able to knock in so many runs.

With another impressive outing from what is becoming the Mets feel-good story of the year, Nieve struck out five and lowered his season earned run average to 1.31. Relievers Brian Stokes, Bobby Parnell, and the recently called-up left hander, Pat Misch, each followed Nieve’s lead by completing their inning of work unscathed. The Mets will look to take the series from the Cardinals this afternoon in the finale as Johan Santana is pitted up against Chris Carpenter. Carpenter like Santana is considered the ace of their staff.

For further reading, check out a previous post entitled Evans’ Future with Mets on Solid Ground

Pineiro Turns Mets Bats into Ground Beef

June 24, 2009

If any of you ever witnessed the unflattering sight of a fish out of water gasping for air, last night’s performance by the Mets was a close second. St. Louis Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro looked as if he was throwing batting practice to a Little League team yesterday as the Mets managed just two hits. Twenty-two of the right-hander’s twenty-seven outs resulted from ground balls that suffocated any attempt at a Mets rally. The closest a Mets runner got to second base was when their pitcher, Livan Hernandez, bunted him over there.

Pineiro’s complete game shutout was the perfect dose of reality for a Mets’ team that may now be starting to show its true colors. As inconsistent as the Mets have been this month, the usual consistencies abounded. Along with the offense’s stale performance, the loss last night included a customary Mets error, a poor base running decision, Fernando Tatis hitting into a double play, a David Wright strike out, and another wasted outing by their starting pitcher. When the only excitement Mets fans can muster is to anxiously wait for the return of Oliver Perez, predicting rookie prospect Fernando Martinez’ first career home becomes that much more fun.

The Mets will send their newly anointed savior right-hander Fernando Nieve to the mound tonight with the hopes that he will be able to replicate Pineiro’s dominating pitching performance.

You Can Never Have Enough Pitching

June 23, 2009

Mets starting pitcher Tim Redding has been known to spend quite a bit of his off-season hunting for deer. The veteran right-hander knows all too well that to be a good hunter you must take advantage of your opportunities and know exactly when to strike. When you finally decide to pull that trigger, you better make sure you hit your target. Throughout the first two innings of last night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field, Redding managed to hit his target with precision. The first sixteen pitches that he threw went for strikes. He not only kept the National League’s most feared hitter, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, somewhat in check but earned his first victory as a New York Met. Redding pitched seven plus innings while striking out four and walking only one. Aside from surrendering two home runs, the Mets right-hander was very much in command and utilized some of those hunting skills to attack the strike zone minimizing St. Louis’ offense. On the evening, Cardinals hitters totaled just four hits against him.

With the pending return of Mets starting pitchers, Oliver Perez and John Maine, from the disabled list, the competition for the fourth and fifth spots in the Mets starting rotation is becoming crowded again. If you don’t remember, the Mets had some decisions to make before the start of this season as to who would be the fifth and final starter in their rotation. Now, right hander Fernando Nieve has also been thrown into the mix. Along with a guarantee from his manager, Jerry Manuel, Nieve has a leg up on Redding because of a 2-0 record and an impressive 1.84 ERA.

It’s Official, Rodriguez Blows a Save

June 19, 2009

The top of the ninth inning had just come to a close. With the Mets up by just one run, it meant only one thing; Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was coming into the game. After taking a chug of his water, he then ceremoniously chucked it to the side and made his way from the bullpen. Mets manager Jerry Manuel so far has mixed and matched all other Mets relievers in his bullpen but not when it comes to the ninth. With 17 saves out of 18 opportunities, it’s no secret that the Mets die with their closer. Along with the Philadelphia Phillies dropping their third straight game to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the day and the Mets looking at a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning over the last-place team in the AL East, it was a perfect time for their closer to finish what his team had started.

The bottom half of the inning for Rodriguez began on the wrong foot as Baltimore Orioles rookie catcher, Matt Wieters, smacked a lead-off double into left-center field. Wieters’ extra-base hit was then followed by a walk to another rising prospect, Nolan Reimold. With runners on first and second and nobody out and the Orioles still down by a run, Baltimore’s manager, Dave Trembley, decided to have second baseman Brian Roberts lay down a bunt. Roberts’ bunt was a good one as it proceeded to dribble towards the third base side. Mets catcher Omir Santos grabbed it and threw a strike to David Wright who was covering third base. “Safe,” was the call from umpire, Tim Timmons, causing manager Jerry Manuel to storm from the Mets dugout. Manual pleaded his case for a minute or two. Unfortunately, his attempt was made in vain as a close play went in favor of the Orioles.

With the bases loaded and no one out, the Mets decided to bring outfielder Carlos Beltran in from center field to act as a fifth infielder. After a 1-1 count, Baltimore’s Adam Jones swung and missed at strike two, a tough pitch to lay off. Rodriguez, looking for a strike out, allowed the count to go 2-2, then 3-2. Could the Mets indestructible closer actually walk in the tying run? If you haven’t heard, he did, bringing in the tying run and officially blowing his first save. Unbelievable, another wasted effort from one of the Mets starting pitchers.

Nick Markakis then strode to the plate with a chance to drive in the winning run well aware that Rodriquez was having trouble finding the plate. The count quickly went in favor of the hitter at two balls and no strikes. Is is possible that K-rod would not only blow the save but lose the game without retiring a single batter? Finally, a strike on a change-up, 2-1, then 2-2, in there for a called third strike, bases loaded, one out, placing Beltran back into centerfield. With that, all the Mets and their fans needed in the worst way was a routine double play to force extra innings.

With Aubrey Huff due up next, that outcome for the Mets was highly unlikely. The left-handed hitting Huff had already blasted a two-run shot in the eighth inning off the Mets premier left-handed specialist, Pedro Feliciano, the night before. With that, Huff lined a base hit into right field, scoring Reimold that gave the Orioles another late-inning victory against the reeling New York Mets. Instead of heading back to Citi Field just two games behind in the standings, the Mets end up just two games over five hundred.

The Makings of a Mets Madman

June 18, 2009

Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey was unable to complete the sixth inning on Tuesday night. Nonetheless, he pitched enough to warrant himself a victory, his fifth of the season. Wins have been tough to come by lately for the Mets right-hander. Prior to Tuesday night’s start, Pelfrey’s last favorable decision was on May 7th at Citi Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only did Pelfrey struggle in the win department throughout that stretch but also revealed himself as a bit of a hothead. In his last two starts, he has been involved in a couple of public spectacles that have caused Mets fans to question his focus when he is out their on the mound.

The first of these two confrontations came against the Phillies at home last Wednesday. After calling for time, Philadelphia’s Chase Utley was hollered at by the Mets starter to get back in the batter’s box. Utley then proceeded to ready himself for Pelfrey’s pitch only to get reprimanded again for taking his sweet time as he was getting set. The Phillies second baseman then calmly responded back suggesting that the tall right-hander relax. In Pelfrey’s defense, he may have still been seething from a prior at-bat against Utley in which he smacked a home run over the left-field wall.

“I was ready to make a pitch and he called timeout,” Pelfrey said. “I got upset and told him to get in the box. I don’t even know the guy. I was just trying to compete and execute a pitch. I got caught up in the moment. And he had a good swing against me. I probably shouldn’t have said anything.”

Regarding that incident, I guess you could give Pelfrey a pass because of the fact that the Mets were playing their divisional rival at Citi Field. However, the second confrontation wasn’t so acceptable because it involved one of his teammates. At the completion of the sixth inning on Tuesday night, Mets third baseman David Wright approached Pelfrey in the Mets dugout. Pelfrey had already been taken out of the game at that point but Wright felt that the right-hander needed a talking-to. The third baseman began to scold his starter along with a dose of finger pointing and chest-pounding. “He said, ‘Let’s go. You were getting ahead of the hitters all night,’” Pelfrey said of Wright’s words. “He said that now I’m falling behind the hitters. Let’s go. I kinda liked it,” Pelfrey added.

So far, it looks as if Pelfrey’s next scheduled start is on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store for Big Pelf. As for all those who choose to confront him in the future, use good judgment or stay out of the big guy’s way.