Friday, September 30, 2011

Top Mets Games of the Year: #10-6

Even if you finish 77-85, when you play 162 games in a season, you're gonna have some pretty thrilling wins. 2011 was no exception. The New York Mets' season was filled with thrilling come-from-behind victories and equally thrilling lopsided triumphs. What I've done is come up with the ten best games Met wins from the season that was, my own "Top Ten List," per say. But there's no Letterman funniness in this list, only fond memories.

Instead of cramming all the goodness together in one post, we're gonna spread it out over the next couple days. Tonight, we'll be covering top games 10-6, then after tomorrow's reflection on the bottom five games of the year (sad, but we have to do it), we'll finish off the weekend with the top five games of 2011.

Let's let the good times roll:

#10: Game #93: Mets 11, Phillies 2
Saturday, July 16. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
A couple weeks after Jose Reyes began his first DL stint, Carlos Beltran came down with the flu and had to miss this Saturday afternoon contest against the Mets' hated rivals. With David Wright still out of commission, New York's batting order for the day consisted of: Pagan-Turner-Hairston-Murphy-Bay-Paulino-Evans-Tejada-Niese. On the mound for the Phillies? Former World Series MVP Cole Hamels.

Who didn't think they would put up an 11-spot?

Scott Hairston led the charge from the 3-hole, finishing the afternoon 3-5 with a home run, 2 doubles, and 5 RBIs. Daniel Murphy, not to be outdone, also went 3-5 with a home run and 2 RBIs, the solo shot coming in the 5th, the same inning Hamels was knocked out of the game. On the other side of the hill, Jon Niese turned in a superb pitching effort, limiting Philadelphia to one earned run (2 total) in 7 innings. New York would lose the series, dropping games the previous day and next day, but I'd say embarrassing your archrivals on national TV with the ultimate makeshift lineup makes up for that.


#9: Game #28: Mets 2, Phillies 1 (14)
Sunday, May 1. Citizens' Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
This Sunday Night affair started off innocently enough. Chris Young pitched masterfully against Cliff Lee, getting in line for the win after 7 shutout innings. The Phillies tied it in the 8th, but the real fireworks started in the 9th inning. Out of nowhere, a chant started building in the crowd. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, "It started out low, then it started to grow."

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

As the news of the death of Osama bin Laden spread through the crowd at Citizens' Bank Park, the action on the field seemed less important, and these two bitter rivals looked less like enemies. While people will remember where they were when they first heard the news, what gets forgotten is that the game being played was a real dandy. Ronny Paulino capped a 5-7 night with the game-winning single in the top of the 14th, and as it was in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11, the Mets won the game blended together with the bigger story.

#8: Game #97: Mets 6, Cardinals 5 (10)
Wednesday, July 20. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
This game has special significance to me because it was on my 20th birthday during a wonderful vacation in South Haven, MI. What better way to end that day than with a game like this? A real present.

ESPN was in the booth, and Gary, Ron, and Keith were on the Pepsi Porch for this Wednesday Night affair. R.A. Dickey didn't have his best outing, falling behind 4-0 in the 3rd, but the team got back into it that next half inning. New father Josh Thole doubled in Lucas Duda, and Dickey himself bounced a grounder into left to score Thole. In the 5th, with Jose Reyes on base, Carlos Beltran sent one towards the SNY crew in right with his 15th home run (and last with the Mets). The Cardinals re-took the lead in the 8th, but Thole, still sky high with excitement, laced a 2-out single to tie the game. After Jason Isringhausen tore through the heart of the St. Louis order, Angel Pagan blasted the first pitch he saw in the 10th, sending it literally a couple feet from Gary, Ron, and Keith, giving the Mets their first and only walk-off home run of 2011, and receiving one of many whipped cream pies in the face Willie Harris would dole out through the summer.


#7: Game #156: Mets 8, Cardinals 6
Thursday, September 22. Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
By this point, things were pretty bleak for Terry and his team. Long out of the playoff picture and falling fast in the standings, New York was down 6-1 in the 8th inning, appearing to be all but swept away by the Wild Card-charging Cardinals. St. Louis ended up making the playoffs after Wednesday night's 24-esque finish, but if they hadn't, they would have looked at this game as the back-breaker.

Ruben Tejada singled in the 8th, then went to second on an error, third on a wild pitch, and came home on a passed ball. In the 9th, Willie Harris walked. Then Nick Evans reached on an error. Josh Thole flew out. Jason Pridie walked. Justin Turner walked, forcing in a run. 6-3. Jose Reyes singled, one run scored. 6-4. Ruben Tejada, "Mr. Bases Loaded," doubled home 2 runs. 6-6. The man who started the whole rally, Willie Harris, singled home 2 more runs. 8-6, Mets win.

New York was supposed to fold up and go home, being down so many runs with so few outs left. But Terry Collins helped to instill a never-say-die attitude in his young Mets this season, and this Thursday afternoon in St. Louis was the last, and one of the finest, examples of that winning attitude.

#6: Game #79: Mets 14, Tigers 3
Tuesday, June 28. Comerica Park, Detroit, MI
This was one of many attempts the Mets would make at getting back over the .500 mark in June. Against one of the top teams of the American League, I doubt many people gave the Amazin's a realistic shot of doing it on this Tuesday night. And even if they did manage to squeeze it out, there's no way anyone saw them winning like this.

Riding a title wave of runs all the way from Texas, New York got started early. Doubles from Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan brought home the first 2 runs in the 1st. After two quick outs in the 4th, the Mets really blew it up. After already plating 3 runs and loading the bases, Jason Bay stepped up hoping to end the team's 299-game grand slam drought. With a towering shot down the left field line, Bay made sure it wasn't 300 games. In the 5th is when things got really freaky: after waiting almost 2 years between grand slams, New York had to wait just 2 outs, as Carlos Beltran lifted the second grand salami of the night into the Detroit night.

There weren't too many times when Mets fans could feel on top of the world this season, but this game in Detroit was one of them. The next night the team scored 16 more runs (all without a home run), making it a team-record 52 runs in 4 games and catapulting the team back into the win column.


And that's it for now. Tomorrow we'll get the bottom five out of the way; check back on Sunday for the top five games Mets games of the year.

MM

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 in Review: More Than a Record

On April 1, the New York Mets kicked off their 50th season in the major leagues. Six short months and 162 games later, the team finished 2011 with a 77-85 record, good for fourth place in the National League East Division. On the surface to passersby, this season was a disappointing one. After all, the Mets have tons of money and play in the greatest city in the world. Shouldn't they be winning more than 77 games a year? To industry insiders, this kind of result may have been expected. The team was facing a financial crisis in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, and they certainly didn't have the talent levels necessary to compete. Toss in more than a few key injuries, and it's no surprise that they finished so far under .500.

But if you're reading this blog, like me, you know that there's more to this season than just finishing 77-85. While we did get hammered with injuries the way Mike Piazza got hammered by Roger Clemens in 2000, for most of the season, Terry Collins and his team played with fire. A fire that brought back an exciting brand of baseball to Flushing Meadows. A fire that produced a good number of very exciting wins. A fire that helped clear away the ugly brush of the Omar Minaya era, so that the new seeds could be planted and a solid foundation could be built for years to come.

I thoroughly believe more good than bad happened to the New York Mets in 2011. First, let's get the Bad Stuff out of the way, remember what went wrong, acknowledge what didn't work. Then, we'll move on to the Good Stuff, as we have all year, and see that brighter days are truly ahead of us.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Medic! - Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Chris Young, Ike Davis, David Wright, Angel Pagan, Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy, Scott Hairston, Jon Niese. What do all these Mets have in common? They spent significant time on the disabled list this season. Whether it was for most or all of the season (Santana, Young, Davis), the beginning (Bay), the middle (Wright, Pagan, Reyes twice), or the end (Murphy, Hairston, Niese), the injury bug was stinging like a wasp the whole year.
    • While each ailment is gruesome in its own special way, Ike Davis's downfall in Colorado may be the worst. On May 10, Davis and David Wright both charged a 4th-inning popup. Neither of them called for it, and we saw a very Little League-esque collision. Wright caught the ball, but Ike went down with pain in his left leg. What turned into a day-to-day strain turned into a protective boot and a DL stint that was supposed to last till July, then snowballed into a question of whether surgery would be necessary and a return date of 2012, we hope. I'm starting to think the Mets' team doctors got their degrees from the same place that gave "Weird Al" Yankovic his in the "Like a Surgeon" video. The misdiagnosis wiped out what was turning into a spectacular sophomore season for the young first baseman: before his untimely fall, Davis was hitting .302 with 7 home runs, 25 RBIs, and an OPS of .925 in 36 games.
  • Oy Bay - When Jason Bay made his return to left field in mid-April, he started off hot, hitting .391 in his first 6 games. It wouldn't last. Bay was extremely streaky as a hitter: when he was on he was on, but when he was off he was colder than ice. During one particularly horrid stretch in early summer, Jason went almost 90 at-bats without an extra-base hit. Then he would catch fire, hitting .347 with a .947 OPS in 18 games in June and July (including the team's first grand slam in 299 games in Detroit)...then it was back on the chain gang with a .107, 14 strikeout showing in the next 16 games. Bay got it together in the last month of the season before missing the last week with a sinus infection, finishing with perfectly ordinary numbers: .245 average with 12 home runs, 57 RBIs, and a .703 OPS in 444 at-bats. Those numbers aren't so horrible, but when you factor in the $16 million the team paid this year for those ordinary numbers, it counts as pretty bad. Jason has two years remaining on his 4-year, $66 million contract. You'd be tempted at this point to call him a bust...until you remember those amazing 18 games in June. Bay showed flashes of the player who hit 36 home runs in Boston in 2009, but just when you think he'd gotten back on track, he derailed again. Maybe he can work it out next year. He works so hard that maybe something will finally click. But until it does, Jason Bay will remain in holding in the Bad Stuff.
  • Bullpen BS (both abbreviations) - As has been commonplace in the last 5 years in Flushing, once the Mets' starter left the mound, all bets were off. It was rare when the New York bullpen could escape a game unscathed: whether it was Francisco Rodriguez walking his closer's tightrope every night, or DJ Carrasco and his 6.02 ERA balking away a game in Atlanta, or Ryota Igarashi and his unfulfilled potential, the clean up crew this year had a miserable time cleaning up. The low point was a stretch in May when the Mets lost six straight home games when leading in the 6th inning or later. Then when K-Rod was unloaded to Milwaukee at the All-Star Break, things got even worse. Jason Isringhausen reached 300 saves in the interim, but bottomed out once he reached that number. Bobby Parnell, who was so brilliant as a set-up man, bombed as closer, blowing about as many chances as he saved. Manny Acosta tried, but rarely inspired as 9th-inning man. We got to the point of missing K-Rod's nightly tightrope dance. Sandy Alderson has already come out and said that next year's closer "is not currently in the organization." Yeah, that sounds about right.
  • Rancid Home Cooking - If the Mets hadn't been such road warriors this year (43-38), they would have finished last in the division. New York went 34-47 this year in the so-called "friendly" confines of Citi Field. The low point of the season came in September, when the team had rallied to reach a 70-71 record and seemed poised to crack .500 again. Going 1-8 on that homestand took care of that problem. Unbelievably, the team finished the literal inverse of what they did last year: in 2010 New York went 47-34. If the Mets had managed that record this season, they would have won 90 games and could have played a part in last night's breakneck Wild Card finish. Perhaps it's good thing Sandy plans to move the fences in for next season. Maybe the additional offense David Wright and Jason Bay will contribute can give us a few extra wins.
If you're still reading at this point, don't worry: the demons have all been exorcised. It gets better from here.

The Good Stuff:
  • The Jose Reyes Show - Fans may remember what owner Fred Wilpon said about Jose Reyes in May. Four months later, Wilpon watched Reyes complete one of the more remarkable individual seasons in Met history. In the immediate aftermath of Wilpongate, Jose caught fire faster than a Spinal Tap drummer. From May 24 until July 2 (his first DL stint), a span of 34 games, Reyes hit a superhuman .413 and scored 37 runs, piling up 8 doubles, an other-worldly 9 triples, 17 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases. It's not often in their 50-season history the Mets have had the best baseball player on the planet, but for about a month and a half, they had him in Jose Reyes. Despite cooling off after a nagging left hamstring put him on the DL twice, Jose finished his 126-game season with 181 hits, 101 runs, 31 doubles, 16 triples (despite not hitting one after July 21), 39 stolen bases, 7 home runs, and 44 RBIs. His .337 batting average gave him the National League batting title, the first time a Met has garnered that distinction. Reyes becomes a free agent this off-season, and while his teammates, his manager, and even Reyes himself have said they want him to come back, it still remains to be seen where #7 will be in 2012. But if this really was his last year in the orange and blue, what a special year it was.
  • Carlos's Redemption - Coming into this season, not much was expected of Carlos Beltran. Coming off an injury-plagued 2009 and 2010, Beltran was moved from center to right field and was supposed to get day games after night games off to rest his knees. Perhaps the biggest irony of the season: in a year when everybody and their aunt was landing on the DL, Carlos Beltran led the team in games played during his stay in Flushing. Not just surviving in right, he thrived at the plate, hitting .289 with 15 home runs, 30 doubles, and 66 RBIs in 98 games before being traded to San Francisco in late July. The high point came the day after the Ike Davis injury, when Carlos went yard not once, not twice, but thrice against Ubaldo Jiminez and the Colorado Rockies. While he may never be able to shake the image of staring down the best curveball Adam Wainwright will ever throw, Beltran made his final act with the New York Mets memorable and enjoyable. Even more so, in an attempt to get something for him at the trade deadline, Sandy Alderson managed to get a heck of a prospect: top Giants organization pitcher Zack Wheeler. Wheeler shined in his 6 starts at Class-A Port St. Lucie in August and September, going 2-2 with an ERA of 2.00 in 27 innings, including 31 Ks and a 1.148 WHIP. Assuming Wheeler makes it to Citi Field in a couple years, the legacy of Carlos Beltran could be shining in Queens for years to come.
  • The Buffalo Boys - As a result of the plague of injuries that the baseball gods sent upon the team, first-year manager Terry Collins needed to milk the roster of Class-AAA Buffalo for all it was worth. After spending last year as the team's minor league field coordinator, Collins knew which players were ripe for the milking. Every month it seemed a fresh new face was tearing it up on the field. Whether it was Justin Turner in May (.325 with 20 RBIs in 20 starts, good for NL Rookie of the Month) or Nick Evans in August (.366 with 8 RBIs in 10 starts), Terry pushed all the right buttons with players who started the year in the minors.
    • The two biggest surprises came in the form of Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada. Duda really blossomed after his second call-up in June, finishing the season with a .293 average, 21 doubles, 10 home runs, and 50 RBIs in 301 at-bats. After Beltran's departure, Duda really picked it up, notching a key game-winning hit against San Diego in August and all but locking up a starting spot in right field in 2012.
    • Tejada filled in for Reyes at short and platooned with Turner at second, finishing the year at .284 with 15 doubles and 36 RBIs in 328 at-bats. He came into his own as a clutch hitter, going 6-11 with the bases loaded, including 3 run-scoring walks. The 21-year-old Tejada has all but assured himself that he will be a starter next season, either as shortstop if Reyes walks or second base if he stays.
    • And let's not forget Daniel Murphy. Scheduled to be starting first baseman last year before his injury led to the rise of Ike Davis, Murphy made a comeback this year in a big way. Able to play just about every position (never mind how well he could play each position), Murph provided more-than-steady offense in 109 games, before a leg injury against Atlanta knocked him out for the season. Daniel finished the year hitting .320 with 28 doubles and 49 RBIs.
    • While pitching in 2012 remains a mystery, the only mystery about the offense is who will get the most playing time. It's a good problem to have.
  • Gee Whiz - While the rotation this year was a mixed bag, one rookie made his way through the forest and into the forefront. Dillon Gee won 13 games and lost 6 in his first full season in the bigs, the first Met rookie to win that many games since Doc Gooden in 1984. While his ERA was a shaky 4.43, Gee did what he needed to do to get Ws, becoming the team's most consistent starter (save for R.A. Dickey, who was spectacular most of the year but never got any run support). I see it that 80% of the New York rotation is set for 2012: Santana, Dickey, Jon Niese, who had a solid year, and Dillon Gee, who could remain a staple on the mound for years to come.
Final Analysis:
On the first day of the season, I made predictions about how the New York Mets would do in 2011. While they missed a winning record and third place in the division, I do not consider this season a disappointment or a failure. Not just for the above reasons.

It's hard to be a Mets fan out here in the Midwest. I live 760 miles from the epicenter of the team. I'm surrounded by Cubs and White Sox fans to the west, Tigers fans to the east, and Reds fans to the south. Not to mention all those damn Yankee fans who are everywhere. But this season, I decided I was going to go all in. I started this blog. I subscribed to MLB.tv so I could watch every game on SNY and listen to Gary, Ron, and Keith. And after 77 wins and 85 losses, it was the best baseball season I've ever gone through. This was a fun team to watch. They played hard, never quit, surprised a few people, and set in place a solid foundation for the future. When I think of the 2011 New York Mets season, I'll remember Jose Reyes slicing the ball into a corner and racing down the base paths. I'll remember Carlos Beltran sending a souvenir off the end of his bat to the fans out on Shea Bridge. I'll remember Terry Collins smiling and high-fiving his team after 77 successful afternoons and evenings. But most of all, I'll remember this past summer when I watched the Mets game every night with my dad, himself a lifelong fan of the orange and blue, and writing about every single one of those games on Midwestern Met.

That's what a team that finished 77-85 means to me.

See you in 2012.

MM

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jose Reyes Wins Batting Title

The crown fits on Jose's head.

At 8:56 p.m. EDT on September 28, 2011, Ryan Braun grounded into a force out during his second at bat of the night. With Braun currently at 0-2 on the night, Jose Reyes has clinched the National League batting title. It is the first time ever a New York Met has won the NL's top hitting award.

Congratulations Jose Reyes! The perfect ending to a spectacular season.

MM

Game #162: Mets 3, Reds 0

Jose Reyes celebrates single in first, but Mets are booed at Citi Field as shortstop is pulled. (NYDailyNews.com)
On the last day of the 2011 season, the spotlight was on who you expected it to be. But after Jose Reyes was pulled early in perhaps his last act in the orange and blue, the most unlikely of players took hold of that spotlight for perhaps the final act in a baseball uniform.

Jose Reyes' bunt single in the 1st put him 2 points ahead in the race for the batting title, and Miguel Batista pitched one of the finest games of his 17-year career, as the Mets closed out the season with a 3-0 win over the Reds.

The Good Stuff:
  • With the entire Citi Field crowd of 28,816 on its feet, Jose Reyes led off the 1st inning with a beautifully placed bunt single. And that was all she wrote. Reyes was pinch-run for with Justin Turner, finishing his 2011 season with a .337 batting average. If Ryan Braun does not hit better than 3-4 tonight, Reyes will win the first batting title in Mets' history.
    • It turns out that this was all pre-arranged: Jose asked Terry Collins if he could simply bunt his way on and come out of the game. While fans in attendance were disappointed that they only got to see #7 hit once, I say this was the right decision. First, remember when Jose said that he wouldn't be able to sleep last night, thinking about that batting title? Turns out he didn't actually sleep. The pressure was clearly getting to him. And while some people even told him he shouldn't even play today, I suspect Reyes wanted to give the fans at least one more thrill before "riding off into the sunset" of the off-season. Second, what if Terry Collins had left him in the game, and he'd gone 1-4 or 1-5 and lost the title? It's a lose-lose situation either way, but considering Jose's request and the daunting shadow of history, I think this was the way to go. Besides, the fans stuck around to see him after the game anyway, and what a game they got to see.
  • 40-year-old Miguel Batista has played for 10 teams since his career began back in 1992. If this is his last game in the majors, and it very well may be, he took a heck of a final bow. Batista methodically retired Red after Red after Red, delivering an out-of-the-blue, complete-game, 2-hit shoutout, his first in 5 years, walking 2 and striking out 5 on 123 pitches. He may have been an emergency starter when we called him up, but he almost single-handedly gave Met fans a smile as the sun sets on this season. Thanks, Miguel.
  • Nick Evans drove in the game's first run in the 4th with an RBI single that scored Willie Harris. Then in the 6th, Queens native Mike Baxter launched his first career home run over the soon-to-be-extinct 'Mo-Zone, putting New York's final runs of 2011 on the board.
The Bad Stuff:
  • We'll know by 11:00 tonight whether the batting crown fits on Jose Reyes' or Ryan Braun's head. If Braun wins it, that'll go under Bad Stuff. If Jose wins it, disregard this last section. I can't think of a better way to end the 2011 season than with what we just saw (well, I can think of one...but we'll have to wait until at least game 7,969 to see that).
Final Analysis:
In this season of ups and downs, the Mets finished on a big up. They may have lost the final series, but the final memory of this year will be of a W. Keep this in mind: 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010 all ended with painful losses. This year may not have been the best, but it ended with a win. What more could you ask for on the final day of the season?

And there it is. 162 games in the books. The Mets finished the 2011 season 77-85, but to really appreciate all that's happened this season we have to dig deeper than just wins and losses. Some really Good Stuff happened this year, as well as some really Bad Stuff. Which is why while this is the last game of the season, this will not be Midwestern Met's last post in 2011. Over the next few days, I'll be writing a comprehensive summary of the season, complete with the Good Stuff and the Bad Stuff, as well as taking a look back at some of the more memorable individual games of the season. So check back this week and relieve the last 6 months with me so that we don't go into the off-season with just 77-85 in our heads.

Stay tuned.

MM

Game #161: Reds 5, Mets 4 (13)

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes hit two home runs during Tuesday night's game against the Cincinnati Reds. (NYTimes.com)
It was shaping up to be the party of all parties for Jose Reyes. Then, all of a sudden, it was shut down in the worst way.

Once one strike away from victory, the Mets blew it in the 9th and couldn't get a run across in extras, falling to the Reds 5-4 in the 13th.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Manny Acosta was one strike away from getting the win when he allowed a single to put 2 men on with 2 out in the 9th. Terry Collins brought Bobby Parnell in to face Juan Francisco. Parnell's struggles in the 9th continued, as he promptly allowed a game-tying double. It's a good thing Sandy Alderson has said next year's closer isn't in the organization, cause we sure don't have one now.
  • In the bottom of the 9th, Jose Reyes got on with a single (his 3rd hit of the night; more on that later) and went to second on an error. Then he stole third to put the winning run 90 feet from the plate. After Ruben Tejada drew a clutch walk, Willie Harris was due up. Collins had the option of pinch-hitting with Ronny Paulino to face the lefty Aroldis Chapman, but instead elected to keep Harris (already 0-4 on the night) in the game. He lined out to left field, ending the inning and keeping Jose from scoring.
  • Not much happened until the 13th, when the same Francisco hit a 1-out triple. Drew Stubbs dropped down the perfect squeeze bunt to give Cincy the go-ahead run. In New York's half of the 13th, Nick Evans led off with a walk against Francisco Cordero. Evans, not known for his speed, was caught stealing. Cordero then walked the next three batters to load the bases (had Evans stayed put, he would've scored), bringing Justin Turner to the plate. Turner got good wood on it, but slammed it right into the glove of a waiting Todd Frazier, who stepped on second to end the game in a heartbeat.
    • You have to question the decision to send the sluggish Evans down a run in the 13th. When you saw who was standing in the box as first base coach, though, you'd understand why he went: Wally Backman was filling in for Mookie Wilson, who was away due to a death in his family. Wallyball was alive in that 13th inning. And even if it worked, I'm not sure how I'd like 162 games worth of that. Terry may have made his mistakes tonight, but I still feel much better with him as manager. Apparently the front office agrees: they exercised his option for 2013 this afternoon.
The Good Stuff:
  • There was a playoff-like atmosphere at Citi Field every time #7 stepped up tonight, and he did not disappoint. Jose Reyes blasted a game-tying solo home run in the 3rd inning. For an encore, he did the same thing in the 5th (his 7th of the year), earning himself a certain call. After that third hit in the 9th, Jose finished the night 3-6. His batting average now stands at .335821. After a 1-2 night in Milwaukee, Ryan Braun sits second at .334526. There's one game to go. Says Jose about what's at stake tomorrow, "I don't even know if I'm going to sleep tonight." Rest up, Jose. We could be seeing history tomorrow.
  • Chris Capuano should have gotten his 12th win of the year, pitching 6 decent innings of 3-run, 5-hit ball, giving up his runs only on the longball. Instead, he'll finish 11-12 in 2011.
Final Analysis:
Man, this would have been a good one to win. The last night game of the year, a W would have been the perfect ending to this latest Jose Reyes Show. Unfortunately, the bane of the Met lineup for so long, the bullpen, managed to keep Win #77 from coming for the third straight day.

Unbelievably, tomorrow is the Grand Finale of the 2011 season. New York will send out Miguel Batista, looking to end this roller coaster of a year on a high note. Now, the Mets play a day game and the Brewers don't play until the evening, so we won't officially know until around 11:00 tomorrow night who wins the NL batting title. But if Jose Reyes can get another 2 or 3 hits tomorrow afternoon, we'll have a good idea whose head that crown will fit on when the clock strikes midnight.

MM

P.S. Great news for Gary Carter: soon after doctors discovered new spots of his brain cancer, they were able to determine they were benign. He's also due to complete his second high-dosage round of chemotherapy. Wonderful news, Gary. Get well as soon as you can!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Game #160: Reds 6, Mets 5

Jose Reyes walked back to the dugout after scoring on David Wright's single in the third inning. (NYTimes.com)
As they opened up their final series of 2011, New York went through a very painful flashback. Remember in May when they lost like 6 straight home games after leading through the 6th? Well...

The Reds scored 3 runs in the 7th and the Mets couldn't piece together a 9th inning rally, falling in the series opener 6-5.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Leading 4-3 in the top of the 7th, Tim Byrdak came on to get the team straight through to the 8th. Except instead of straight threw, he took a few wrong turns, swerved a little, and ended up driving through a storm of Reds. After giving up back-to-back singles, he turned it over to Josh Stinson, who got hammered by Chris Heisey for a 3-run homer, wiping out the lead and Chris Schwinden's first W.
  • The Mets got the first two men on in the bottom of the 9th, but Nick Evans and Josh Thole topped off a 2-11 RISP night for New York: Evans bunted into a force out and Thole grounded into the game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
The Good Stuff:
  • Chris Schwinden didn't do too bad in his final start of the season: 5 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned). Granted, that unearned run came on Schwinden's own error, but it won't count against him this time.
  • Jose Reyes recaptured some of his June magic, going 3-4 with a run and 2 RBIs. His last hit was an 8th inning double in which he got thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. Wish we could've gotten the out back, but it's still good to see him going for triples again (he's only had one since July...and still leading the league with 16). His batting average is now up to .334, mere decimal places ahead of Ryan Braun with two games to go.
  • Aside from that last at-bat, Nick Evans had a good day at the plate, going 2-5 with a double and 2 RBIs.
Final Analysis:
Okay, so we won't get the sweep and we're set to finish worse than last year. Let's just get a series win and call it a day, shall we? Two games to go. Make them some good ones.

MM

***Correction***
Jose did not try to stretch his 8th inning double into a triple; he was thrown out at second after making a wide turn.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Game #159: Phillies 9, Mets 4

Mike Pelfrey gives up five runs on nine hits in three innings against the Phillies on Sunday. (NYDailyNews.com)
The Philadelphia Phillies were on the verge of 100 wins before dropping 8 straight. Needless to say, they were gonna get the train back on track eventually. Unfortunately for Mike Pelfrey, he was standing right on those tracks with his feet caught in the mud. You can guess what happened.

Pelfrey got shelled in his final outing of the year, and the New York offense got too little too late as the Phillies avoided the sweep at the hands of the Mets, 9-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Once upon a time, Mike Pelfrey was good enough to be the Mets Opening Day starter. Six months later, he finishes 2011 with his mere survival in the rotation in doubt. Pelf gave up 5 runs on 9 hits in 3 innings to "earn" his 13th L of the season.
    • While fellow starter R.A. Dickey doesn't deserve his 8-13 record, Mike sure as heck looked like a 7-13 pitcher this year. His 4.74 ERA for the year is highest on a staff that averages in the 4.00s. Pelf showed flashes of greatness this year, tossing a couple complete games, but he's widely been unreliable. You have to figure 80% of the staff for next year is set (Dickey, Johan Santana, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese). That last spot is up for grabs, and I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Pelfrey doesn't win out when the dust settles. It's time to find another arm.
  • DJ Carrasco, another disappointment this year, couldn't do much better in his inning: he gave up 4 more runs and destroyed any hopes the Amazin's had for a comeback. Carrasco's status for 2012 is up in the air as well, but with an ERA of an absolutely pathetic 6.02 (not to mention that balk-off in Atlanta in June), I would cut that guy from the roster faster than you can say "fuhgeddaboudit."
  • Much like most of the league, the New York offense couldn't do much against Roy Halladay. Philly's Doc pitched 6 scoreless innings to pick up his 19th win of the season. And while the team finished with 11 hits, they hit a dismal 2-15 with RISP and left 10 men on base.
The Good Stuff:
  • Jose Reyes went 2-4 on the day to raise his batting average to .331. With 3 games to play, he trails Ryan Braun by 2 points for the NL batting crown.
  • Justin Turner had 2 doubles and an RBI on the day. Jason Pridie went 3-3 with a run. And Ronny Paulino hit his second home run of the year, a 2-run shot in the 7th.
  • The rest of the bullpen kept the Phillies from getting double digit runs; Dale Thayer got through the 5th and 6th unscathed, while Ryota Igarashi, Pedro Beato, and Josh Stinson managed an inning each.
Final Analysis:
So we couldn't sweep the Phillies. That's okay, very few teams can. Winning this one would've been sweet, but we still managed a series win. I'll take that.

It's almost hard to believe, but tomorrow the Mets start their final series of the 2011 season. The Cincinnati Reds, who New York swept in 4 games in late July, come to town for our last taste of Amazin' baseball till next April. Let's make it a good one, boys. Let's get another sweep.

MM

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Game #158: Mets 6, Phillies 3

"Let's play two?" How 'bout let's win two.

Hunter Pence's error in the 3rd opened the floodgates for a 5-run New York 3rd, and Dillon Gee settled down after a rocky start to give the Mets a 6-3 win and a doubleheader sweep over the Phillies.

The Good Stuff:
  • With 2 on and 2 out in the 3rd, Willie Harris laced a liner to right field. Philly's Hunter Pence, usually well-equipped in the field, let it bounce off his glove. Both runners scored and Harris went to third. The Mets weren't nearly settled making Pence pay for his error. After David Wright walked, Nick Evans smashed a double to left to score Harris and put Wright on third. On a 3-2 sinker from Kyle Kendrick, Josh Thole poked a single to center to plate two more. Once trailing 3-0, New York ended the 3rd up 5-3, once again coming through with 2 outs.
  • Ruben Tejada knocked in an insurance run in the next inning, scoring Jason Pridie after his ground-rule double. The Mets would not get another baserunner in the game, but the damage had been done.
  • Dillon Gee struggled the first few innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) through 3. But after he got the lead back, Gee settled down and kept the Phillies off the board for the rest of his 6 innings of work; he walked a pair and struck out a pair. With this W, Dillon becomes the first Met rookie to win 13 games as a starter since 1984 when Doc Gooden baffled the NL with 17 wins.
  • Bobby Parnell pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief and Daniel Herrera did his job to get the last of the 8th. Manny Acosta bent but did not break in the 9th, picking up the save on a day when he saw his total for the year double (2 to 4).
  • Gee and Acosta were aided by a mostly stellar infield, which turned double plays in the 1st, 2nd, and 9th to help kill Philly rallies.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Gee's 2nd was rough; he allowed 2 runs in that inning.
  • Justin Turner's error in the 3rd eventually led to another Philly run.
  • Aside from the 3rd and 4th, the Met offense was relatively quiet; they picked up their 6 runs on just 6 hits. Of course, that's not really Bad Stuff. It's efficiency.
Final Analysis:
Doubleheaders have not been very good to the Mets this season. But on this, almost definitely the last one of the year, they stepped it up and delivered another blow to a reeling Phillies team that has lost 8 straight since clinching the division.

Again, this Mets team really likes to play well for their manager. Since Terry Collins's calling-out after that 1-8 homestand, the team has gone 5-3 with a series win in Atlanta, that 9th inning dagger in St. Louis, and a series win and doubleheader sweep over Philadelphia. At best, this team can only officially be 80-82. But they'll be the best 80-82 team in recent memory, thanks to Terry Collins and his Buffalo Mets (that should be the name of a band).

MM

Game #157: Mets 2, Phillies 1

New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey baffles the Phillies at Citi Field in likely final start. (NYDailyNews.com)
In the span of 3 innings, Met fans went from on the edge of their seats to dejected and slumped in their seats to jumping out of their seats. And at the end of all that seat action, the result was well worth it.

David Wright's RBI double in the 8th put New York ahead to stay and brought a happy ending to R.A. Dickey's masterful start, giving the Mets a 2-1 victory over the playoff-bound Phillies in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader.

The Good Stuff:
  • R.A. Dickey won't get the W on this day, but oh boy did he deserve it: in 7 innings, he gave up just 1 run and didn't give up any hits till the 7th. After likely his final start of the season, Dickey drops his ERA to a team-leading 3.28, miles better than his 8-13 record would indicate. With normal offensive production behind him, R.A. could be 13-8. Maybe next year he will be, because he has all but locked up a spot in the rotation for 2012.
  • In the bottom of the 7th, Valentino Pascucci came up to pinch hit for Jason Pridie. The last time the 32-year-old career minor-leaguer hit a home run, it was in 2004 for a team that doesn't exist anymore (the Montreal Expos). So what does he do against Philly ace Cole Hamels? Only recall the "slugger" of his 25-year-old days. Pascucci hammered an 0-1 fastball over the Great Wall of Flushing and tied the score at 1-1, getting Dickey off the hook. Pascucci now has 3 home runs in his big-league career, none so big as this one (I'm pretty sure).
  • In the bottom of the 8th, Ruben Tejada singled after a 7-pitch at-bat against Brad Lidge. Tejada proceeded to pick up a rare stolen base, his 5th of the year, with David Wright at the plate. Both were rewarded for Ruben's speed: David sliced a groundball off the tarp in left field for the eventual game-winning RBI double. Wright's struggled this month (his batting average is down to a pedestrian .257 for the year), but a rare clutch hit like this one is welcomed by all. Perhaps he can use this hit to start a hot streak in these final 5 games of the year.
  • Jose Reyes went 1-3 with a stolen base, boosting his batting average to .3295, a fraction of a point ahead of Ryan Braun, whose Milwaukee Brewers clinched their division last night.
  • The bullpen bent but didn't break once Dickey made his exit: Miguel Batista got through 2 outs of the 8th and Bobby Parnell got the last one, putting himself in line for the W. Manny Acosta got the first two outs of the 9th then gave up a single and a walk, but got Carlos Ruiz to fly out to center to end the game and give the Amazin's win #75 in 2011.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Seven thousand, nine hundred, sixty-three. The New York Mets have now played 7,963 regular-season games in their 50-year history. All 7,963 times, the other team's gotten a hit. R.A. Dickey got through 19 outs, 6 1/3 innings, before Shane Victorino spoiled the bid with a double. Today was the closest New York got to that elusive no-no this season; Dillon Gee got through 5 2/3 against Washington in May. I've said it before, I'll say it again: we will get a no-hitter eventually. As long as we get ours before San Diego gets theirs, I'll be fine. But after nearly 50 seasons without this ultimate pitching feat, the pressure ramps up with every game that passes. I think we're to the point now that whenever it happens, it will make the team's entire season. It won't matter if the team loses 100 games that particular year; the fact that we finally got that no-hitter will make the whole season a success.
  • Jason Bay started after an illness wiped out his series in St. Louis; he grounded into a double play in the 1st and was taken out after the 3rd, as those symptoms started popping up again.
Final Analysis:
The no-hitter will have to wait at least another day, but a win is still a win. And a win against the Phillies? Sending them to their 7th straight loss? Even better. David Wright improved his reputation in the clutch, and R.A. Dickey went out with a bang (Terry Collins has said he might get some time in the bullpen the final couple games). Overall, a great way to start a doubleheader. To paraphrase Cub great Ernie Banks, "Let's win two!"

MM

P.S. Also in the news today, a message from an all-time great Met: Darryl Strawberry tells Jose Reyes to not leave the Mets. Straw went to the Dodgers in free-agency in the early '90s, and he's telling Reyes not to make the same mistake he did, telling him something to the effect of what David Letterman opens his show with every night: "New York City is the greatest city in the world." This could be potentially huge, and if Jose listens, someday we might see Jose Reyes with Darryl Strawberry in the same fraternity of all-time Met greats.

UPDATE, 6:40 p.m.
Thanks for the re-tweet Darryl!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Game #156: Mets 8, Cardinals 6

David Wright dives for a ball as the Mets come back to beat the Cardinals 8-6 Thursday. (NYDailyNews.com)
Even at this late stage in the season, this scrappy bunch of Mets can still find ways to come back. This time, they did it with patience.

Ruben Tejada and Willie Harris punctuated a 6-run 9th in which the team picked up 4 of their 8 walks, and the Mets pulled one out of the fire to salvage an 8-6 win over the Cardinals.

The Good Stuff:
  • Down 6-1 in the 8th, Ruben Tejada created his own luck, slashing a single and going to second on an error. He then came third on a wild pitch, and finally came home on a passed ball, all with Angel Pagan.
  • Then in the 9th, Willie Harris started things off with a walk. Nick Evans reached on an error (St. Louis's second of three of the day), then after Josh Thole flew out, Jason Pridie drew another walk. Up came a pinch-hitting Justin Turner, who fought back from an early 1-2 count to pick up a 10-pitch walk, forcing in a run to make it 6-3. After a pitching change, Jose Reyes blooped a broken-bat single over a diving Ryan Theriot at second to score another. Up came Tejada, already known as a force at the plate with the bags full. Mr. Bases Loaded outdid himself, fighting back from 0-2 and tagging a 3-2 fastball to the left field corner, tying the game at 6. Pagan was walked and David Wright struck out, bringing up the man who started this whole rally: Willie Harris. With a 2-2 count, Harris was looking for a changeup. He got it, and sent the ball into right field, plating 2 more runs and giving the Mets a stunning victory.
    • Mr. Bases Loaded has earned that nickname: with men at every base, Tejada is 6-11 with 3 walks (including another one in the 5th that put New York on the board in this game). It's clutch hitting like that that gives Tejada a strong case for the starting job at second base, should Jose Reyes resign with the team. Trouble is...Justin Turner has that same clutch-hitting ability. So what to do? As much as I love Le Grand Orange Jr., Mr. Bases Loaded will probably be the man to win out. Turner started off hot, but his average has dwindled to .263, while Tejada's average has been trending up, and now sits at .280. Tejada is also just 21 years old to Turner's 26, which gives him a tremendous upside. Of course, if Reyes is gone in 2012, you've got no problems: Tejada is at short and Turner at second. But if Jose stays a Met, Tejada should be the one to take the spot at second base.
  • Back to the game at hand. Manny Acosta soared through the 8th to pick up the win, and Bobby Parnell registered a save with a 1-2-3 9th, aided by an incredible diving catch by Jason Pridie in right to retire the Cardinal catcher (his name is cursed in the Met-averse) and end the game.
The Bad Stuff:
  • David Wright had a dreadful game at the plate, going 0-5 with 3 Ks, including with the bases loaded just before Harris's heroics.
  • Chris Capuano struggled on the hill once again, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He gave up 2 home runs, including Albert Pujols's 37th of the year.
Final Analysis:
Holy cow, these guys know how to make things exciting. It's been wins like these throughout this season that have made it a fun one to watch, in spite of the fact the team will finish under .500 again. But if these Mets can fix their problems (mainly pitching) and still keep this fighting spirit, they will be a real force to be reckoned with in 2012.

This was New York's final road game of the 2011 campaign. After this, they'll have a 3-game set against the already-clinched Phillies over the weekend and will finish out the year against the Cincinnati Reds, whom the Mets swept in 4 games in July. Going 5-1 will put us at 79-83, just like last year. It'll be tough to do so, but if the team that showed up in the 8th and 9th today returns home to Citi Field, anything is possible.

MM

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Game #155: Cardinals 6, Mets 5

Just like last night, New York couldn't hold an early lead. This time, it was a one-man wrecking crew that did the trick.

David Freese picked up 5 RBIs himself, including the go-ahead 3-run homer in the 7th, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 win over the Mets.

The Bad Stuff:
  • David Freese was a thorn in the Mets' side from the very beginning. His 2-run triple in the 1st opened up the scoring, and his 3-run homer off Pedro Beato in the 7th put St. Louis back in front to stay. Daniel Herrera picks up his first loss.
  • New York couldn't do much to regain the lead over the Cardinals, save a Willie Harris solo homer in the 9th. The team had a good average with RISP (.333)...trouble is, they only got 3 at-bats with runners on second or third and stranded just 2 men. They did manage 5 runs, but 4 of them were unearned, coming as result of a Rafael Furcal error in the 3rd.
  • We couldn't go through the last act of the season without some injury, right? Lucas Duda left with dizziness after crashing into the right field wall in the 1st inning.
The Good Stuff:
  • Luckily for the team, Josh Satin did his best Duda impersonation in the 3rd, lacing a 2-run double to extend the inning and put the Mets up 4-3.
  • Jose Reyes only went 1-4 with a double, but with an average now of .330 he's a fraction ahead of Ryan Braun for the batting title.
  • Rookie starter Chris Schwinden was better than he's been, allowing 3 runs in 6 innings. He was in line for the win until Freese the wrecking ball blasted through the bullpen.
  • Bobby Parnell pitched a perfect 9th and struck out a guy. His ERA is now down under 4 again.
Final Analysis:
And...there goes everything. With this loss, the Mets are guaranteed a losing season. And at 73-82, they've set a new low record for the season. The team has now lost 11 of 14, sandwiching a solid summer between two slices of lousy-bread. Now the best we can hope for is a 7-game run of awesomeness to drizzle over this spoiled sandwich.

On a lighter note, amazing things are happening in San Francisco: as of this post, the Giants are only 4 games back of the Braves in the Wild Card chase and lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the 4th. One of the big reasons they've come back from the dead is none other than Carlos Beltran, who's hitting .431 with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 12 RBIs, and an other-worldly 1.248 OPS in his past 16 games. If the Giants do end up completing another amazing comeback and winning the Wild Card, they will have our former Met to thank. Nice going, Carlos. Good luck this last week.

MM

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Game #154: Cardinals 11, Mets 6

For most of the game, the Mets were hot. Then after one bad inning, it was all for naught. (Yes, that was a purposeful rhyme...I'm just as annoyed by it as you.)

After taking the lead in the 7th, the Mets led the Cardinals explode for 6 runs the very same inning, resulting in an 11-6 loss in the series opener in St. Louis.

The Bad Stuff:
  • After a typical less-than-stellar start from Mike Pelfrey (5 runs in 6 innings), Josh Stinson came in to try to keep the Cardinal bats down. All he did was give them more life: Stinson allowed the first 3 runs of the inning, picking up the loss. Tim Byrdak followed with 2 more of his own, and DJ Carrasco made it an even 6 before the 7th was done with. Once up 6-5, New York was now down 11-6, and there was no coming back from that deficit.
  • The team may have scored 6 runs in the game, but they probably should have done a lot more: the Mets hit 3-13 with RISP and stranded a whopping 13 men on base. David Wright takes the cake for worst day at the plate, going 0-4 with 2 strikeouts and 6 LOB, including leaving the bags full in the top of the 7th.
  • Jose Reyes went 1-4 with a couple walks and 2 runs. His average sits at .331, just one point behind Ryan Braun for the NL lead.
The Good Stuff:
  • Angel Pagan had a stellar day from the 2-hole, going 3-4 with a run and an RBI.
  • RBIs were also picked up by Wright, Lucas Duda (#50 for him), Willie Harris, Josh Thole, and Mike Pelfrey.
Final Analysis:
Rough loss. Even rougher: officially, the Mets cannot finish with a winning record this year. At 73-81 with just 8 to play, all they can do is finish .500. But if they win 6 of these last 8, they can still finish 79-83, just like last year. It's a stretch to root for, but you gotta root for something, right? The finish line is on the horizon.

MM

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Game #153: Mets 7, Braves 5

Dillon Gee can't protect a 4-1 lead but isn't saddled with the loss in the Mets' 7-5 comeback win. (NYDailyNews.com)
On a day when Jose Reyes was out of the lineup for routine rest, New York needed someone to step up and be the sparkplug. They got it in Reyes' replacement.

Ruben Tejada drove in 4 runs, including the go-ahead score in the 8th, helping the Mets take the game and the series from the Braves, 7-5.

The Good Stuff:
  • It starts and ends with the man in the leadoff position. Ruben Tejada moved over to his natural position of shortstop in place of a resting Reyes.
    • In the top of the 4th, Dillon Gee drew a 2-out bases-loaded walk to bring Tejada to the plate; Ruben made starter Brandon Beachy pay with a laser of a double to the wall in left center, clearing the bases and giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.
    • In the 8th, Tejada came up again under almost identical circumstances: Ronny Paulino had drawn a 2-out bases-loaded walk that tied the score at 5. Ruben again gave the Amazin's the lead with a bloop single that dropped just in front of Jason Heyward in right. Justin Turner was thrown out at home to end the inning, but New York had the lead again, and Tejada finished a stellar day 2-4 with 4 RBIs.
    • 21-year-old Tejada has proven himself a major leaguer this year; he's hitting a solid .279 and has an OBP of .356 with 14 doubles and 32 RBIs in 297 at-bats. With 2011 almost in the books, it's time to start thinking about what this team might look like next year. Individually, the biggest question mark will be whether Jose Reyes decides to re-sign. Earlier this season when Jose was All-World, the idea of him in another team's uniform would be the worst thing for Met fans. But now, while the idea certainly isn't something to root for, it appears the Mets will have a solid replacement in Ruben Tejada.
  • After Dillon Gee struggled on the mound, the bullpen stepped in to keep the damage from getting too much. Tim Byrdak picked up the W after 2/3 innings and a couple strikeouts, and Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta navigated through a rough 8th and 9th to keep the game with the good guys.
    • Speaking of Byrdak, the team announced after the game that he had been signed to a one-year contract extension. Byrdak's old, he'll be 38 in October, but he's been one of the most consistent arms (and the go-to lefty, often the only one available) in the bullpen this year with a 2.89 ERA and 46 Ks in 37 1/3 frames. He's definitely earned a spot on roster next season.
  • Lucas Duda added an insurance run in the 9th with a monster shot to dead center off Craig Kimbrel.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Dillon Gee struggled on the mound, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 4 1/3 innings of work, walking 5 and striking out 4.
  • The team as a whole swung and missed quite a bit this afternoon, racking up 10 Ks, 8 of which came against starter Beachy. The inning-to-inning trend is reassuring, not striking out as much late, but cutting down on the Ks would always be the best option.
Final Analysis:
A series win in Atlanta. What more can you ask for? This weekend helps detox from last week's homestand and gives the team momentum going into St. Louis for their final road series of 2011. At 73-80, the team would need to win all 9 games to finish with a winning record. While this would take a miracle, a decent 6-3 over this stretch would make it 79-83, just like last year. Only difference is, last year's 79-83 left a sting. This year's 79-83 wouldn't be bad at all.

MM

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Game #152: Braves 1, Mets 0

The Mets' R. A. Dickey pitched another quality start, but still took a loss. (NYTimes.com)
Often this year after the Mets score an ungodly amount of runs, I've jokingly said, "Pace yourself, guys! Spread these runs out!" Well, it's not much of a joke today.

R.A. Dickey pitched an absolute gem, but Tim Hudson's gem was shiner, as he tossed 8 shutout innings and helped the Braves knock off the Mets 1-0.

The Bad Stuff:
  • How many times have I written these words this season? "Dickey great, no support." I could probably make it into some kind of shorthand: DGNS. Whenever you see that, you know what's going down. R.A. Dickey gave up his first run in the 8th inning, spoiling an otherwise spectacular 7 2/3 innings of work. Oh, and guess who knocked in that game-winning hit with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th? That Larry person. How many cliches can you have in one game?
  • Tim Hudson had to be even better than R.A., and he was: New York could not get anything going against him, managing just 4 hits in 8 innings, stranding 5 and going 0-5 with RISP. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel finished the job by striking out the side in the 9th, completing the power outage.
The Good Stuff:
  • When you only give up 1 run, usually you'd expect to get the win. Unless you're R.A. Dickey, whose 1 run on 3 hits in 7 2/3 innings wasn't enough to avoid his 13th loss of the year. Dickey was a bit wild on the day, walking 6, but what more could you ask from him?
Final Analysis:
These last couple games seem to mirror that stretch in early June: embarrassing loss, Collins meltdown, huge win, letdown loss. The last time this happened, the Mets went on a great run, winning 8 of 11. Only time will tell if the team can pull off that feat again. If they can, it will certainly take the sting out of this final couple months of the year.

MM

Game #151: Mets 12, Braves 2

David Wright connects on one of his two home runs as the Mets rout the Braves 12-2 Friday. (NYDailyNews.com)
Twice now this season, the Mets have risen to the occasion the night after a meltdown from Terry Collins. The last time was in June, and the team responded with a 7-run comeback over a still-good Pirates team. The second time was tonight. Read on.

David Wright provided the power and the Mets pounded out 20 hits en route to a much-needed 12-2 victory over the Braves.

The Good Stuff:
  • It's been a long time since I've been able to start with this section. Where on Earth to begin? I suppose we'll just move down the box score:
    • Jose Reyes led off the game with a base hit and finished 3-5 with 2 runs, increasing his batting average to .334, 4 points ahead of Ryan Braun. He also stole his 36th base of the year, I believe the first time he's swiped a bag since his return from the DL. Really encouraging to see him stealing again, especially after hearing that he's still not all the way there yet with that leg.
    • Angel Pagan was back in the 2-hole and had a solid night, going 1-5 with a couple runs.
    • David Wright returned to the 3-hole and made an immediate splash, smashing a 1st inning changeup from Derek Lowe deep into the Turner Field stands and giving New York an early 2-0 lead. In the 4th, he provided the final nail in the Atlanta coffin, blasting a 3-run homer to make it a 9-2 affair. Wright finished the night 3-6 with those 2 HRs and 5 RBIs in his best effort to cleanse himself of that awful homestand. I'd say he's off to a good start.
    • Lucas Duda was back in the cleanup spot. How'd he do? Oh, "just" a 4-5, 3 run, 1 RBI night. His batting average is now up to a most impressive .290. Never would have guessed it earlier in the season. But it appears we've got a potential slugger who can do more than slug. Nice.
    • Jason Bay went "only" 1-5 with a couple runs, but he made his biggest splash with his glove. In the bottom of the 4th, the game was already out of reach, 10-2. But that didn't stop Bay from taking an actual home run away from Alex Gonzales. "Holy Endy Chavez!" was the cry from SNY's Gary Cohen. Indeed, Gary.
    • Nick Evans moved up in the order and did his best to make a splash, going 3-5 with a run and an RBI. His average, for the longest time stuck in the doldrums of the .100s, is now up to a respectable .267.
    • Josh Thole went 3-5 with 3 RBIs, bringing his average up to .265.
    • Ruben Tejada completed the Mets' 4-spot in the 1st with a bases-loaded 2-out single that scored two.
  • Oh yeah: not that we really needed it, but pitching was spot on tonight as well.
    • Chris Capuano picked up the win with a 5-inning, 6-hit, 2-run effort, walking 2 and striking out 6.
    • The bullpen took the wheel from there and landed the plane about as smooth as you can. Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak, Josh Stinson, and Ryota Igarashi each combined for 4 hitless innings of relief, with the only baserunner coming on a Stinson walk in the 8th. Come *on* Josh, step it up!!
The Bad Stuff:
  • It would have been nice to spread some of those extra runs over the Washington series, maybe pick up a couple wins from that...oh well.
Final Analysis:
Terry Collins really knows how to motivate his guys. After a crushingly disappointing homestand, he instilled a fire in this team. A fire that ignited the offense, set the pitching arms ablaze, and left the Atlanta Braves a charred pile of ashes. Tonight, the team gave its fans at least one more great memory before the end of the year. The 2011 season only has 11 games left to go, but you know that with Terry Collins at the helm, this New York Mets team will do their very best in those final 11 games.

MM

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Game #150: Nationals 10, Mets 1

Oh boy, was that ugly.

The Nationals broke it open with 7 runs in the last 2 innings, sending the Mets to an awful 10-1 loss, completing the 4-game sweep.

The Bad Stuff:
  • It was all Bad Stuff today: pitching (10 earned runs), fielding (2 errors, including a 6th in 6 games from David Wright), hitting (0-11 with RISP, 10 left on). There was even a balk in the 7th that led to a run.
The Good Stuff:
  • Back in the cleanup spot due to players getting the day off, Jason Bay went 2-4 with 2 doubles and the team's lone RBI. In a time when the team is trending way down, Bay's numbers are going back up again; his batting average is at .248 and his 57 RBIs are somewhat respectable for a 6-hole hitter.
Final Analysis:
Over the last 4 games, we've seen the Mets run out of gas, lose the breaks, and start drifting, then plummeting, downhill. Today was the crash. The big thud. It was a spectacular crash, one that's hard to look at but impossible to tear your eyes from.

New York's 4-game home sweep at the hand of Washington, their first such sweep since Colorado did it during the 5-13 start in April, gives the Mets a dismal 1-8 record in their current homestand, wipes out the progress made the two and a half weeks previous, and drops them back to their lowest (so far) low: 8 games under. And with a brutal 12 final games left, the horrifying question is how far the record will fall.

Fans who lived through this latest implosion will be hard-pressed to do this now, but the important thing is to not forget how much fun it was to watch this team for most of the season. Aside from the awful start and this awful finish, the New York Mets were one of the most exciting teams in baseball this year. No losing streak can take away the thrills of watching Jose Reyes when he was on fire in June, or of beating Mariano and the Yankees in July, or crushing the Phillies with an even-more makeshift lineup. At the end of the season I'll recap those highs officially, but it's important to keep those in mind and not let the exhaustion of September take that away from us.

And at the absolute very least: if we had to be swept, at least Davey Johnson oversaw it.

MM

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Game #149: Nationals 2, Mets 0

Dickeyosis seems to be spreading: first from R.A. Dickey himself two nights ago to Dillon Gee last night, and now to Mike Pelfrey tonight.

Pelfrey gave up just two unearned runs, but it was enough for the Nationals, who dropped the Mets to their 5th straight loss, 2-0.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Washington scored a couple 2-out runs in the top of the 3rd. They got a chance at those runs after David Wright committed what seems like his millionth error of the past week; it's been at least 5 in 5 games.
  • Those gift runs turned out to be the difference: New York could not get anything going on offense. The well was about as dry as it could be: 4 hits, 1-11 with RISP, 10 men left aboard. With 2 on and 2 out in the 9th, Jose Reyes lined out to center to end the game.
The Good Stuff:
  • Pelf pitched about as well as he could on this night, tossing 7 innings and allowing just those 2 unearned runs. Unfortunately, all he has to show for it is his 12th loss of the year (he's the third Met starter to earn that distinction this year, after Dickey and Chris Capuano).
Final Analysis:
Boy, when these guys run out of gas they really run out of gas. They can't even get it push-started again. Five straight losses, 7 of their last 8. Now the Mets are back to only one game above their worst record of the year, 8 games under. And this series was supposed to be the easy one: after tomorrow's finale against the suddenly-smoking Nationals, here's how the schedule breaks down: at the Braves, at the Cardinals, home against the Phillies, home against the Reds. It will take a near-miracle to finish above .500, but now the big concern is how far the team will fall before Game #162.

MM

Game #148: Nationals 3, Mets 2

Tonight was Star Wars night at Citi Field. So in the spirit of George Lucas, the Mets decided to re-release last night's result but change it around a bit. Han shoots first in this one, but it's still essentially the same game.

Washington countered New York's big 5th with 3 unanswered runs, and a two-out rally in the 9th came up short as the Mets dropped another one to the Nationals, 3-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • New York scored two runs in the 5th, but would plate no more, despite hammering out 11 hits (10 singles, 1 double). The team hit 2-9 with RISP and stranded 10. With 2 outs and runners on the corners in the 9th, Lucas Duda came up looking for a four hit of the night. He wouldn't get it, striking out on 3 pitches to put it in the books.
  • After the Nationals scored 2 in the 6th, recent callup Dale Thayer came in from the bullpen. He got one out then gave up a couple singles and was relieved in favor of Tim Byrdak. Byrdak got his man, then turned it over to Bobby Parnell. Parnell won't get the loss for this, but he let the dam break: Ryan Zimmerman hit the go-ahead single on the second pitch, a 96 mph fastball after a 94 mph changeup.
    • Parnell's a tough one to put a finger on: he's shown signs of greatness, and just the opposite. And sometimes it comes on consecutive days. There's no doubt he can throw; a 100 on the radar gun will tell you that; but he definitely needs some more work. Earlier in the season I think we all thought he had it, but moving to the closer role for a short time seems to have wrecked him for the year.
The Good Stuff:
  • When you bang out 11 hits, there's gonna be some good stuff to talk about.
    • Jose Reyes went 3-4 and scored a run. The outstanding showing boots his average up from .329 to .333 and lifts him 2 points over Ryan Braun.
    • Lucas Duda also went 3-4 and produced the team's runs in the 5th; an RBI single scored Reyes, while Ruben Tejada came in on a throwing error. Tejada finished the day with a solid 2-5 line as well.
  • Dillon Gee re-demonstrated his close-to-mastery of Washington, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking 2 and striking out 5. With some normal run support, he might have been in line for a W tonight; unfortunately, he caught a case of Dickeyosis (that just sounds wrong, doesn't it?).
Final Analysis:
There really isn't anything to say that wasn't said after last night's 3-2 loss: the guys seem to have finally run out of gas. Now the biggest question is this: at 6 games under .500 and stalled on the highway, how much farther will the Mets' record drift downhill?

MM

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Game #147: Nationals 3, Mets 2

With former great manager Davey Johnson back home in Flushing for the series, one would have hoped that some of his greatness would have rubbed off on the franchise he managed to a World Series in 1986. The opposite seemed to reign true tonight: his current team took all the greatness.

R.A. Dickey was solid but, once again, fell victim to no offensive support, and the Mets dropped their series-opening game to the Nationals, 3-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • A day after getting more hits than they could apparently handle, New York decided to cut back a bit tonight. How much of a cutback? Let's just say that the Mets' cutback in hits makes the recent debt ceiling deal look like a stimulus. The Mets managed 3 hits the whole night, and none after the 6th inning.
  • Jason Bay went 0-3 with a couple strikeouts. Unfortunately this may be the start of another dreadful stretch for him. Let's hope it's just a fluke.
  • Jose Reyes went 0-4, dropping his batting average down to .329, 2 points below Ryan Braun.
The Good Stuff:
  • The Mets now have two pitchers on staff with 12 losses: Chris Capuano and, after tonight, R.A. Dickey. Dickey has been far from a 12-loss pitcher for a majority of the season. But surprise, surprise: he got no run support tonight. Again. Dickey lasted 7 innings and gave up 3 runs on 8 hits, walking none and striking out 7. Not great numbers, but good enough that he would have gotten a win with some more runs on the board.
  • The bullpen kept it close in the 8th and 9th as well: Josh Stinson, Daniel Herrera, DJ Carrasco, and Tim Byrdak combined for a couple scoreless innings.
  • David Wright and Angel Pagan each went 1-3 with RBIs in the 6th, staging a Met mini-rally that tied the game at that point.
Final Analysis:
With just over two weeks to go in the season, the gas may have finally run out on this team. They've fought back against everything that's been thrown at them all year, but with 15 games to go, the tank may finally be dried up. As it stands right now, New York must win 11 of their last 15 games to finish above .500. If they can't, hey, it's understandable: it's hard to go 11-4 in any stretch. Still, the way they've fought all year, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they matched that mark.

MM

Monday, September 12, 2011

Game #146: Cubs 10, Mets 6 (11)

Mike Piazza, the star catcher for the 2001 Mets, led Sept. 11 first responders onto the field for a somber pregame ceremony. (NYTimes.com)
For two or three glorious moments, multiple Mets had the chance to put their names next to Mike Piazza's in New York history. But when they did finally score extra inning runs, it was far too late.

The Mets left the bases loaded in the 9th and 10th, then imploded spectacularly in the 11th, allowing the Cubs to steal the Sunday Night game, 10-6, on the emotional 10th anniversary of 9/11.

The Bad Stuff:
  • The Mets tied it in the 8th and had the goahead run on second with 2 outs, but Jose Reyes popped out harmlessly to the catcher to end the threat. In the 9th, New York had runners on first & second with none out, and eventually loaded the bags with 1 out, but couldn't score. Same thing in the 10th: bases loaded, this time David Wright couldn't bring a run across. Jason Pridie would eventually hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 11th, but it didn't matter in the slightest after what happened in the top of that inning.
  • Up to this point, September callup Josh Stinson had been virtually perfect on the mound. Last night, he was more than a bit less: Stinson surrendered 4 runs without getting an out. Most of those runs were let in by Ryota Igarashi, who was responsible for two more runs himself while only getting 1 out. 6 runs, 1 out, 11th inning. Those kinds of numbers would sink even the best of teams.
  • Miguel Batista was less than stellar in his start as well, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings.
  • All-in-all, the Mets went 4-15 with RISP and stranded 15 men. Individually, Wright came up shortest, going 0-5 and leaving 7 men on himself.
The Good Stuff:
  • In between Batista's & Stinson's run-fests, the rest of the bullpen served up 5 solid, scoreless innings. That brigade consisted of: DJ Carrasco, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Beato, Daniel Herrera, and Manny Acosta. Those five guys deserve credit for keeping the game going as long as it did.
Final Analysis:
After an emotional pregame ceremony that honored the victims and first responders of 10 years ago, including a first pitch from John Franco to Mike Piazza, one Met legend to another, the perfect storybook ending would have been a Met win for New York City. The New York Jets were able to provide that ending. The Mets were not. It's just too bad.

What's also too bad is how New York lost this series to the hapless Chicago Cubs. It drops them 4 games under .500 with 16 to go. The Mets will have to go 11-5 the rest of the way to finish 2011 as a winning ballclub. Four games against the Nationals will help that cause; indeed, a sweep will get us to the .500 mark. But after that the stretch is potentially brutal: 3 games in Atlanta, 3 in St. Louis, hosting the Phillies for 3 more, and wrapping up the season at home against Cincinnati. These guys have been never-say-die all year, but these last two and a half weeks, they're gonna have to be more than that.

MM

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Game #145: Cubs 5, Mets 4

Mets third baseman David Wright makes two errors as Cubs rally for 5-4 win at Citi Field. (NYDailyNews.com)
New York was extra generous this afternoon. Unfortunately, this kind of generosity will get you nowhere in baseball.

Jason Bay's 2-run single gave the Mets a late lead, but Chicago took the lead again after New York's fourth error of the game, and the Mets fell to the Cubs 5-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Gee, I wonder what's going here. Oh yeah, dumb mistakes. Four, count 'em, four errors, two each by Jose Reyes and David Wright, spelled doom for the Mets on this day. Reyes' first one in the 1st led to the Cubs' first run of the day. Wright's first came in the 4th and didn't lead to anything, but it would be a sign of things to come. One inning later, Reyes committed his second fielding gaffe, leading to another Chicago run. Then, after an explosive and exciting 8th inning which we'll talk about later in Good Stuff, the momentum came crashing down on Wright's second error, putting New York at an even 4 in that third line score column. That one eventually led to two more runs, another Bobby Parnell blown save, and a deflating loss.
The Good Stuff:
  • Take away the errors, and this was a great game for the Mets, one that would have put this section on top instead of flattened by a mountain of Bad Stuff. Let's take a look:
    • Chris Capuano won't get the loss in this one, nor did he deserve it: 7 innings, 2 runs (1 earned), 5 hits, 1 walk, 6 Ks.
    • Down 3-0 in the 8th, the Mets decided to make things more interesting. Willie Harris drew a leadoff walk, then Jose Reyes lined a double into the right center gap to score him. After Ruben Tejada singled and Lucas Duda struck out, David Wright lined a single over the secodn baseman's head to score Reyes. Angel Pagan struck out, and up came Jason Bay. Bay has been dreadful this year in clutch situations, but he's in the middle of a resurgence right now. Thus, even in the daytime sun (hear that, Josh Hamilton?), Jason's gonna come up with some big hits. Try a should've-been game-winning 2-run single. After seeing that on my iPhone, I already writing my Final Analysis in my head. And then came the 9th.
Final Analysis:
Thus, my FA for the day is not one of goodness, but of disappointment.

Try to keep this straight: the Mets gave this one away, got it back, had it, and decided to give it away again. It's good to be generous, but that kind of generosity will not get you anywhere in baseball. Should've won this one.

Still, you never assume the sweep. New York has another chance to win this series tomorrow on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Mike Piazza will be there to throw out the first pitch. Hopefully some of his magic will rub off on this Mets team and can provide some more memories.

MM

Game #144: Mets 5, Cubs 4

Mets 2B Justin Turner's ground-rule double beats the Cubs 5-4 at Citi Field Friday night. (NYDailyNews.com)
Back in May when he became the first Met to win Rookie of the Month, Justin Turner had a knack for clutch hitting. When he was up and there were runners in scoring position, he would find a way to get them across the plate. This September night, the Justin Turner of May made an encore appearance.

Turner's game-winning ground-rule double in the bottom of the 9th scored Jason Pridie and redeemed Manny Acosta. Most importantly, it gave the Mets a series-opening 5-4 win over the Cubs.

The Good Stuff:
  • Justin Turner's mini-renaissance wasn't limited to just the 9th inning. Back in the 2-hole for the night, the position where he so excelled in the springtime, Turner went 3-5 on the night with 2 doubles, a run, and 2 RBIs. His first RBI double came in the 5th and gave New York a 4-3 lead.
  • Jason Bay stayed hot, smashing 2 doubles and driving home a run.
  • Down 3-0 in the bottom of the 4th, it was Turner who sparked a rally, leading off with a single. Lucas Duda followed with a single that sent Justin to third and David Wright's fielder's choice plated Turner. Angel Pagan followed with a single, then Bay smashed the second of his 2 doubles to score Wright. Nick Evans brought home Pagan right after on an RBI groundout.
  • Mike Pelfrey wasn't great but wasn't awful either; he allowed 3 runs in the 3rd and 4th, but kept Chicago off the board for the rest of his 6 2/3 innings. Josh Stinson finished off the 7th cleanly, then Stinson, Tim Byrdak, and Bobby Parnell each got outs in the 8th.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Manny Acosta entered in the 9th to try to bolster his case for the closer's role. So what happened? He didn't. Acosta struck out a guy, walked another, got the second out on a lineout, gave up a single, then allowed Darwin Barney the single that tied the game.
    • Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Mets going into 2012 is who will close out games. While K-Rod's era was less than perfect, at least with him you always knew who would be out there in the 9th. New York has multiple options (Parnell, Acosta, Beato), but neither one of these guys has been able to consistently string together saves. So another question emerges: does Sandy Alderson try to shop around for a stopper? Would Heath Bell or Brian Wilson? Probably not El Beardo because, God love him, the only place a guy like that could be that much himself is San Francisco. So that leaves Bell. Would he be willing to leave San Diego for the Big Apple? Would the spotlight be too much for him, like it seemed to be for K-Rod? There's a mountain of questions Alderson needs to think about going into this offseason, and the closer situation may be the most important of them all.
Final Analysis:
A walk-off win, no matter the circumstances, always feels good. Especially for the guy who gave it to us. Justin Turner, a regular starter through most of the season, seemed to have become an afterthought. Tonight's performance was his way of saying, "Hey world, I'm still here. Don't forget about me for that second base spot." Way to go, Justin.

While the Mets have had their problems this year, I still wouldn't ever want to be the Cubs. Their financial situation is perhaps even worse than ours: they're paying $18 million a year for a .287 OBP (Alfonso Soriano), and another $18 million for a guy who can't get his anger issues under control (Carlos Zambrano). A book like that only leads one way: the 20 games under .500 way, which is where Chicago sits right now. If things go the way they should, the Cubs will lose Saturday and Sunday, and it won't mean much for them. But for the Mets, 2 more wins would be extremely significant: it would bring us back up to .500. Who would have thought that was even possible just two and a half weeks ago?

MM

Friday, September 9, 2011

Games #142 & #143: Braves 6-5, Mets 5-1

Justin Turner reaches for a grounder on the Mets' 6-5 loss to the Braves in game one Thursday (NYDailyNews.com)
In the September callup period, you generally see fresh new faces around the ballpark, doing their best to make an impact. Unfortunately for the Mets, it was the oldest of nemeses that packed the biggest punch.

Chipper Jones went 3-9 with a home run and 3 RBIs, getting the best of Nick Schwinden in Game 1 and Dillon Gee in Game 2, helping to dropping the Mets in both games, 6-5 and 5-1.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Aside from the usual gut-wrenching, Met-killing performance of ol' Larry, other things went wrong for New York in these 18 innings. Nick Schwinden picked a bad time to make his major-league debut, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings.
  • The Mets were still in the second game in the later innings, but Pedro Beato let it get away by surrendering 2 runs in his 2 innings.
  • The team hit a combined 1-10 with RISP and stranded 15 men.
The Good Stuff:
  • Jason Bay is back in a hot streak: he hit a grand slam in the 1st inning of Game 1 and drove in the team's only run in Game 2.
  • Jose Reyes went a combined 2-5 in both games (he came off the bench to pinch hit in the 9th of Game 1), keeping his average at .335. Ryan Braun struggled on the day and now sits 5 points back at .330.
  • Another callup made his season debut: ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration, Mr. Valentino Pascucci, who had a pinch-hit single in the 8th, giving him a rare and strange-looking 1.000 batting average. He's now tied for the single-season hitting record. Think it will last?
Final Analysis:
The worst part about losing both ends of a doubleheader is that it wipes out the progress of not one but two previous days. Now, instead of 1 game back of the .500 mark, the Mets are right back at 3 games back again.

Lucky for them, they get a sort of health-spa in the midst of this crazy end-of-season stretch: the hapless Chicago Cubs make their trip to Flushing on this 9/11 weekend, and then Davey Johnson and the Nationals stop by for 4 games after that. Best case scenario: 5-2. Worst-case scenario: well, I don't like to think about that. Let's hope we're closer to 5-2.

MM

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Game #141: Mets 1, Marlins 0

Manny Acosta hugs catcher Mike Nickeas after earning his first save of the season. (NYTimes.com)
In response to last night's marathon of a win, Terry's boys decided to get this one done a little quicker. Indeed, this one only needed 11 pitches.

Lucas Duda doubled in Jose Reyes in the 1st and R.A. Dickey took care of the rest, tossing 7 scoreless innings to hand the Mets a 1-0 series-winning victory over the Marlins.

The Good Stuff:
  • Jose Reyes led off the game with a sharp single to left. Two batters later, Lucas Duda sliced a double to the left field corner, allowing speedy Reyes to score. The End.
  • R.A. Dickey is used to getting less-than-adequate run support. But on this day, that single, solitary run in the 1st was all the fiery kunckleballer needed. Dickey tossed a 7-inning shutout, allowing just 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3. From there on, the bullpen took care of the rest. Young Josh Stinson kept his ERA perfect with a scoreless 8th, and Manny Acosta filled the closers role for the day, striking out 2 in the 9th on the way to the save.
  • While New York only managed 5 hits, there are some good offensive numbers to report on the day:
    • Jose Reyes' hit in the 1st was all he would get on the day, in 4 plate appearances he went 1-2 and walked twice, bringing his batting average up to .335, 2 points ahead of Ryan Braun in the race for the NL batting title.
    • With his run-producing double in the 1st, Lucas Duda continues to make a case for not just a starting spot in right field, but for a permanent fixture in the 3-hole as well.
    • The Jason Bay pendulum may be swinging back to the hot side: Bay went 2-4 with a double.
The Bad Stuff:
  • While the team hit 1-0 with RISP and stranded 8, 1-0 wins are great every once in a while, so this Bad Stuff isn't so bad tonight.
Final Analysis:
I don't know how these guys do it. Two weeks ago, the bottom had fallen out of this team: everyone and their uncle on the DL, out of playoff contention, 8 games under and sliding fast. Now, incredibly, almost unbelievably, the Mets are back within a game of the .500 mark at 70-71. Simply Amazin'. I will say this right now: if this team finishes above .500 and squarely in 3rd place, Terry Collins should be NL Manager of the Year. I truly believe that had this 2011 season happened with anyone else at the helm, 2011 may have ended up looking more like 2009, when the oft-injured squad was 70-92. That potential 15-game difference would be a major accomplishment, one for which Collins deserves recognition from all the league.

Today's game also marks the last time the Mets will ever set foot in the football stadium of many names, currently posing as "Sun Life" Stadium. So long, abomination-of-a-baseball-park. We knew too much of ye.

Terry's boys don't have time to mark the occasion, however. Tomorrow they return home for a makeup doubleheader against the Braves, kicking off a 9-game homestand and breakneck final stretch of 21 games in 21 days. After Thursday, the Cubs come to town for a weekend set, then Davey Johnson makes his return trip to Flushing when the Nationals stop by for four. Rest up, Mr. Met, and let's get back over .500!

MM