Posts Tagged ‘Florida Marlins’

Will the Real Marlins Please Stand Up?

April 28, 2009

If the Florida Marlins weren’t still sitting atop the NL East division by the slimmest of margins, last night’s 7-1 victory would most likely be nothing more than a tune-up for the Mets as they prepare for their three-game series this weekend against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Since starting the season with an 11-1 record, the Marlins have found themselves losers of seven straight. After being touted as this year’s Tampa Bay Rays, the only truth be told for the Marlins, who are fading fast, is that their payroll hovers near or below Alex Rodriguez’ single-season salary. Not only is Florida hanging by a thread, their All-Star shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, has been listed as day-to-day after being handcuffed by a John Maine fastball. Ramirez was struck on his right wrist in the first inning and immediately taken out of the game.

The Mets however were much more fortunate. The back-up to the back-up catcher, Omir Santos, put the Mets ahead in their bottom half of the first inning, 6-1, with his first career homerun, a grand slam. John Maine had a very strong outing in which he lasted six innings with an unearned run as the only run he allowed. Mets third baseman David Wright showed signs of coming out of his slump by going 2 for 4 with a triple and an RBI, his seventh of the season. The Mets did have their share of negatives. First baseman Carlos Delgado was a late scratch stemming from a sore hip he experienced while running out yesterday’s three-base hit. Second baseman Luis Castillo had to come out of last night’s game with what was diagnosed as back spasms.

Livan Hernandez will take the hill tonight for the second installment of this current three-game series. His start will conclude the latest turn in the Mets starting rotation. If Hernandez can replicate Maine’s performance against the Marlins last night, perhaps Oliver Perez’ previously disappointing outing may not seem so dire.

For further reading, check out this post entitled An Emerging Threat in the NL East.

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Pesky Marlins Expose Mets Old Flaws

April 11, 2009

Mets Carlos Beltran, who was batting left-handed, was caught by surprise as home plate umpire Mark Carlson punched him out on a pitch that came across the plate a tad bit inside and, in my opinion, should have been called a ball. Beltran then turned to Carlson and gave him a piece of his mind as he made sure his discontent was heard loud and clear on his way back to the Mets dugout.

At this point in last night’s 5-4 defeat in the hands of the Florida Marlins, the Mets were losing by a score of 2-0. Florida was able to tack on those two runs by doing what comes natural to them: hitting homeruns. Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla each connected on solo shots, both landing inside a section of the stands that is beyond the left field wall and incidentally, devoid of any spectators. With that in mind, a Mets hitter could probably have sent a blast hurtling towards the same spot, without fear that a disgruntled fan might toss the ball back out onto the field.

Beltran must’ve been aware of this because in the top of the sixth while batting right-handed, he took matters into his own hands and produced a solo shot that gave the Mets their first run of the game. Sweet revenge for the last time he was up. The Mets center fielder ended up going 3 for 5, finishing the night with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Starting pitcher John Maine also gave the Mets a solid performance by completing five efficient innings in which he surrendered two earned runs and struck out five batters. However, some might say that that amount of strikeouts could be considered a given against a free-swinging Marlins ball club.

In only their fourth game of the season, certain similarities that took place in 2008 have begun to rear their ugly heads. First, there is the obvious one: that dreaded four letter word, RISP. Last night, the team as a whole went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Granted, that lonely hit came at a very opportune time when pinch hitter Jeremy Reed delivered an RBI single that tied up the score at four. Ultimately, the Mets would go on to lose the game in the bottom half of the ninth inning.

Secondly, Marlins reliever Dan Meyer was having problems locating the strike zone as he had just walked pinch hitter Gary Sheffield on four pitches. So what does Jose Reyes do with a runner who is now at second base and a 1-0 count? He swings at the second pitch and produces a soft fly ball to right, ending the inning. Hojo, could you please develop a drill specifically for Reyes that teaches him that it’s okay to take a couple of pitches especially when the pitcher is unable to find the plate??

Lastly, how many more at-bats by Luis Castillo must we endure in which he is caught looking at a perfect pitch right down the middle?

An Emerging Threat in the NL East

February 19, 2009

For the last two seasons, a bitter rivalry has reared its ugly head between our beloved Mets and the new darlings of the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies. On a daily basis, players and fans alike have professed that their team is the team to beat.

The endless pontification dates back to the time Mets slugger Carlos Beltran merely suggested that his team was indeed the team to beat. The torch was then passed over to a feisty Jimmy Rollins who made Beltran eat his words. In the last two seasons, the Phillies have overtaken the Mets for first place in their division. Since then, the mantra has intensified to allow for Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels to go so far as to equate the Mets to a bunch of “choke artists.” The latest jab was recently delivered by one of the newest Mets, closer Francisco Rodriguez, who acknowledged the popular sentiment.

As Philadelphia and New York continue to taunt each other, a new challenger is starting to surface in the East. The Florida Marlins recently displayed an eagerness to throw their hats in the ring by re-signing manager Fredi Gonzalez to a three-year contract extension.

“It was really, really a tough negotiation,” Gonzalez joked. “Jeffrey [the team’s owner] came in. He wanted to talk to me. He offered me the extension. I don’t think I let him finish the sentence, and I said, ‘Yes.’ I wanted to be here. I want to be here for a long time and win a championship.”

With strength up the middle in shortstop Hanley Ramirez (.301 BA, 33 HR, 125 Runs, 35 SB in 2008) and second baseman Dan Uggla (32 HR, 92 RBI, 97 Runs), the Marlins possess just as good a double play combination as anybody. They have filled their roster with other effective position players as well such as 28 year-old catcher John Baker (.299 BA, .327 against right-handers) and corner infielder Jorge Cantu (.277 BA, 29 HR, 95 RBI, 92 Runs).

The 2008 squad set a franchise record for most homers in a season, 208. Unfortunately, they scored high marks consistently in another not so glamorous category: six of their top hitters averaged 129 strikeouts among them.

“You try to build on the positives and learn from the negatives,” Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida said. “That’s what I’m trying to take, build on it and take it into this year.”

The Marlins have placed as much faith in their even-keeled manager as they have in their young pitching staff. Right-handers Chris Volstad (22 years-old), Josh Johnson (25), and Anibal Sanchez (25) are all very capable of winning at least ten games this season. The only uncertainty for a club that finished in third place last year with an 84-77 record would have to be their closer. With the departure of right-hander Kevin Gregg in the off-season to the Chicago Cubs, the Marlins have asked former set-up man Matt Lindstrom to fill the role of stopper in the bullpen.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction,” All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla said. “We’re going to work hard, play hard, and go out there and see what happens.”

You never know, the Marlins could actually be this year’s team to beat.