Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekly Recap, June 18-24

Another week has come and gone in Ireland, and another six games have gone by in the saga that is the 2012 New York Mets. Here's what you missed this week on Midwestern Met.

Team Record: 4-2 (39-34 overall)
June 18-20, Orioles Series: W, 3-0
June 22-24, Yankees Series: L, 1-2

The Good Stuff:
  • Just about everything went right against the vaunted Baltimore Birds in the week.
    • R.A. Dickey tossed his best game since...well, the last one, delivering his second consecutive one-hitter on Monday night and solidifying himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball today.
    • Johan Santana followed up with a dandy of a performance himself, finally shaking off the fatigue of his historic no-hitter and tossing 6 shutout innings en route to a W.
  • After initiating Chickengate earlier in the week, Frank Francisco followed up with his 18th save (albeit a difficult one) Friday night against the Yankees.
    • The team's newest mascot, Little Jerry Seinfeld, also got some Good Stuff this week, moving to a chicken sanctuary where he will live out his days doing standup at the coop on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and three shows on the weekend. Good times.
  • Sunday night saw the return of a key piece in the New York lineup: Ruben Tejada hit second in the order and went 2-4 with 2 RBIs. His presence will be key as the dog days of summer are fast approaching.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Unfortunately for the Mets, it was the other New York team who got the last cluck this weekend, as the Bronx Bombers took the last two games of the Subway Series, giving them 5 wins in 6 matchups in 2012.
    • And they did it all while living up to the Bomber name: two quick blasts erased a 3-0 lead on Saturday and turned it into a 4-3 affair.
    • On Sunday, after the Amazin' offense bailed out a very human R.A. Dickey, Miguel Batista served up the go-ahead homer to Robinson Cano in the 8th to give the Yanks the Sunday Night win on ESPN.
  • Also no clucking matter was Frank-Frank's unfortunate trip to the DL. The closer's role will now go to Bobby Parnell, who I still believe has the stuff to fill the role, but will have to get his nerves under control if he wants the job for good.
Final Analysis:
So it was a disappointing end to an otherwise great week, but the Mets did a great job holding their own against two of the best in the American League. With the Interleague schedule in the books and the toughest stretch of the year in the rearview mirror, New York is 5 games over .500 and second place in the NL East. With the halfway point and the All-Star break in sight, all the Mets have to do is win a few series against the Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, and Cubs again, and they'll be in prime position to make a run for a Wild Card slot.


Irish Pics of the Week:

Spent the weekend in County Kerry in the west of Ireland. Here's Killarney National Park.

A very nice waterfall in the park

One of the spectacular views on our motorboat ride across the lake
Dingle Town, a quaint little seaside resort community. Reminds me of South Haven in Michigan a bit.

The westernmost point in Europe

The boat to go see Fungi the Dingle Dolphin (and a very nice view of the town at whole)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekly Recap: June 12-17

Welcome to Midwestern Met's second overseas weekly recap. It's been a busy weekend for me here in Ireland; you'll see some snapshots of my trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland at the end of the post. But first, let's get to what's happened in Flushing this past week.

Team record: 3-3 (35-32 overall)
June 12-14, Rays Series: W, 3-0
June 15-17, Reds Series: L, 3-0

The Good Stuff:
  • "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Charles Dickens might has well have been writing A Tale of Two Ballclubs, and writing about the Mets this week. The middle of the week was all Good, the weekend all Bad. Let's start with an improbable end to a then-disastrous road trip.
  • New York didn't just sweep the Tampa Bay Rays in the Trop, they blew them away like a hurricane: 11-2, 9-1, 9-6. Highlights included:
    • R.A. Dickey's second career one-hitter on Wednesday night. Overshadowed by Matt Cain's perfect game in San Francisco a couple hours later, Dickey turned in arguably the best performance of his career: 1 infield single in the 1st inning, 1 unearned run in the 9th, 12 strikeouts, no walks, becoming the first pitcher to reach 10 Ws this year. R.A.'s been nothing short of Cy Young-esque over his last 5 starts, picking up wins every time while sporting an ERA of 0.23, 50 strikeouts and just 3 walks in 39.2 innings, and most importantly, no home runs. That he'll be on the All-Star team is a given fact now with the only question being whether he would get the start on baseball's biggest stage in Kansas City.
    • Of all the offensive prowess we could talk about in this series, Ike Davis's emergence was the most significant. Ike went 6-11 in the series with a double, home run, 6 RBIs, 3 walks, and just 2 strikeouts. Currently on an 8-game hitting streak, Davis is just barely riding the interstate with an average up to .194; if he starts off this week 2-4 or better he will have reached the Mendoza line of .200.
  • When the dust had settled, the Mets were out of St. Petersburg with 3 wins and a 4-5 record on their toughest road trip of the season. The team hoped to turn that momentum into another series win over the weekend...until the worst of times came around.
The Bad Stuff:
  • In the words of Tim McCarver (sort of): "As good as the Mets were in the first half of this week, that's how as bad as they were this weekend." On Father's Day Weekend at Citi Field, the Cincinnati Reds came in and stomped on all New York's momentum, delivering losses of 3-7, 1-4, 1-3.
  • After only managing 4 hits on Friday night against Bronson Arroyo, New York combined to go 3-17 with RISP on Saturday and Sunday. Apparently they didn't save enough offense for the weekend and used it all up against the Rays.
  • But the biggest emotional blow of the weekend was Jason Bay's second concussion in two years on Friday. I don't expect to see him the rest of the season, and I wouldn't be surprised if we never see him put on a baseball uniform again. These things are crazy dangerous; more and more research is coming out it seems almost daily. As Terry Collins put it, it's not about baseball anymore: it's about quality of life, about whether this sort of thing will affect Bay 20 years down the road.
Final Analysis:
It was like someone turned off the immersion and suddenly the red-hot Mets were icy cold (it's an Ireland thing; they have to heat up their own water here; crazy!). After a stunning week down south it quickly turned stunningly awful for the team as they fell right back to where they started the week. New York has lost 9 of 13 and the schedule doesn't get any easier with home series against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees this week. It's been said before, but this week may be one of the more crucial ones for the Mets in 2012. After this week, which could leave them under .500 or sky high, we'll have a clearer picture of what this team will be at the end of September.


Irish Pics of the Week:
Some friends and I went up to Belfast for the weekend. Here's the famous City Hall, with the Olympic Rings to recognize the UK's hosting of the Summer Games in London.

The Queen's University in Belfast. Beautiful campus, like something out of a Harry Potter film.

A Rose Garden in the Botanical Gardens near Queen's campus. Artsy shot of a friend.

Carrick-a-Rede on the northern edge of the island. Those far out rocks? You need to cross a rickety rope bridge to get there. Yay survival!

The Giant's Causeway. Yes, those stones are all natural.

On Sunday we took a Black Cab tour around the significant sights of The Troubles. Here's a Bobby Sands mural on the Catholic Republican side of Belfast.

Conversely, a mural for William of Orange on the Protestant Loyalist side.

Queen's again. This time on a rare sunny day.
That's it for this week; check back again Monday for another update.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Weekly Recap: June 5-11

Good morning to all you in the States. It's about 5:00 over here in Ireland, and this is a first for me in many ways: the first overseas Midwestern Met post, as well as the first post of a weekly recap variety. Being five hours ahead of EDT, watching the game every night is basically impossible with all that's going on here. And frankly, the way things have been going this past week, I'm kind of glad I wasn't around to see it live. Here's what's happened on the week that's been in Mets baseball.

Team Record: 1-5 (32-29 overall)
June 5-7, Nationals Series: L, 1-2
June 8-10, Yankees Series: L, 0-3

The Bad Stuff:
  • You wanna try everything? Whether it's been the offense, defense, starters, relievers, it all fell flat for the Amazin's this week.
  • Five, count 'em, 5 errors in 2 games cost the Mets in Washington, including two at shortstop in the 10th by Jordany Valdespin that helped extend the first game. Two more Es helped the team blow a 3-0 lead in the final game of the Subway Series.
  • I could go on, but frankly, it's just depressing. Let's get to the one redeeming quality of the week.
The Good Stuff:
  • The Mets have their medic, one Robert Allen Dickey, who came in to stop the bleeding and salvage the final game of the Nationals series with 7.1 scoreless innings and 8 strikeouts. He has now surpassed his Win total from the entirety of last season and leads the league with 9 Ws to his name. Dickey has solidified himself as the Ace of the staff and is now on the shortlist of starters for the NL All-Star team.
  • Yesterday (Monday) was a day off, so no Bad Stuff could happen.
Final Analysis:
After reaching a high last weekend with Johan Santana's no-hitter, New York fans hit the ground and bounced like a dead cat this week. The team is now just above .500 and 5 games out of first place in the NL East. While they're still a long way from last (the Phillies took a similar nosedive), the optimism of last weekend has all but dissipated.

What I see from this week is a team has a razor-thin margin of error. The Mets were winning when everything went right, and they tend to lose when a couple things blow up, especially with the gloves and the bullpen. If this team fires on all cylinders, they will win; they're good enough. But if something fails during the course of the game, something will have to give on the other side, a.k.a. the other team has to make a mistake.

That being said, things don't get any easier this week with series in Tampa Bay and hosting Cincinnati, so those cylinders are gonna have to start firing quickly.


But that's not all!

Irish Pics of the Week:

The Rathmines neighborhood, just outside of Dublin, where I'm living and going to class.

Christchirst Cathedral in Dublin, where they film The Tudors

The Irish President's house in Phoenix Park...look familiar?

The Gravity Bar on top of the Guinness Factory, complete with an overview of all of Dublin. There's mountains back there, who knew?

Rody Bolands pub in Rathmines, everyone's getting set for the Ireland-Croatia EURO 2012 match. The Irish, much like the Mets this week, fell flat, losing 3-1.

Oh by the way, that above was the second floor of the pub. This is the first floor. Absolutely packed, a wonderful atmosphere.
So that's what I've been up to this week. Check back next Monday for another recap and more pictures.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

The Mets start a long road trip tomorrow night in Washington, and I am about to embark on a long journey of my own. On Wednesday morning I board an airplane in Chicago that will take me all the way to Dublin, Ireland. I shall be there for the next six and a half weeks on a study abroad program in the city.

While this is a very exciting time in my life, unfortunately it will take me away from another passion of mine: this team and this blog. The time difference between the Eastern time zone and Dublin is about 5 hours, meaning it will be just about impossible for me to write nightly game recaps.

Fortunately this is not the only site you keep up-to-date on the New York Mets with, and if it need to go back to Internet school and find the hundreds more, buddy! I will do my best, however, to post at least a weekly update to bring light to the highs and lows of what's going on in Flushing.

So long for now, and remember: "When Irish eyes are smiling, sure, they steal your heart away." But when Amazin' eyes are smiling, they'll steal it right back.

See you around July 21.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Game #55: Cardinals 5, Mets 4

Dillon Gee strikes out eight and allows three runs (two earned) Monday. (
Well...can't win 'em all.

Allen Craig's 2-run homer off Jon Rauch in the top of the 8th put the Cardinals up for the third and final time as the Mets can't put together and fall 5-4.

The Bad Stuff:
  • The Mets went down twice in this game and both times came back to tie it in the very next half inning. There was no comeback in them for a third showing, though. Jon Rauch came on to relieve Dillon Gee in the 8th, gave up a leadoff single, and then the go-ahead home run to Allen Craig two batters later to pick up the loss.
    • New York did Amazin' this weekend because their starters pitched just about every inning. Unfortunately, this just doesn't happen very often any more. But if the bullpen were to pull itself together, my goodness, how great this team would be.
  • Kyle Lohse has traditionally been Mr. Met's punching bag, but today he had some fight right back in him, allowing 1 run in 6 innings and only needing 76 pitches (had he not been pinch-hit for in the 7th he might've had a shot at a complete game).
  • The Mets got runners on second and third with 1 out in the 8th but could only plate 1 as David Wright flew out to right to end the inning. New York then went down 1-2-3 in the 9th to officially run out of chances.
The Good Stuff:
  • Dillon Gee wasn't great today but was very good, once again, turning in a quality start with 3 runs (2 earned, but the error was his) on 6 hits in 7 innings, walking 2 and striking out 8. He gets a no decision but certainly deserved a W.
  • Lucas Duda pounced out his fourth home run of the series, a monster blast to the Pepsi Porch in the 4th inning that tied the game at 1.
  • Down 3-1 in the 7th, David Wright led off with a single. After two groundouts that sent him to third, Scott Hairston came on to pinch-hit for Ike Davis. The Mets' "lefty-buster," as Gary Cohen referred to him as, did his job by launching a towering home run to left to tie it at 3.
  • Andres Torres had the other RBI, hitting a sac fly in the 8th that was just a few feet from being a 3-run homer.
Final Analysis:
While the team's first-ever 4-game home sweep of St. Louis would've been nice, the Mets nevertheless win the series and complete their homestand with a 7-4 record, plus some history on the side. The bullpen blew a few opportunities that could've resulted in a couple more wins, but overall the team is playing very, very well, with starting pitching and power shining through this first week of June. They're just a half game out of first place, and with some key pieces coming back this week (Jason Bay as soon as tomorrow, Ruben Tejada soon thereafter), a chance to make some more noise against the best of the best in both leagues is coming.

The Mets start a 3-game series at Washington tomorrow, followed by a set at Yankee Stadium over the weekend and then down to Tampa Bay to take on the Rays at the Trop. It's the toughest stretch of the season, but as they've shown this weekend, Terry's boys are up to the challenge.


Game #54: Mets 6, Cardinals 1

Winning pitcher Jon Niese congratulates Kirk Nieuwenhuis after the outfielder's two-run homer. (
Faced with the even-more impossible task of following a no-hitter and a complete game shutout, Jon Niese carved out his own place in this weekend of weekends in Flushing.

Niese struck out 10 batters in 6 shutout innings and the Kirk Nieuwenhuis-Andres Torres 1-2 punch provided the pop as the Mets cliched the series against the Cardinals 6-1 on national television.

The Good Stuff:
  • It was just about a lose-lose situation for Jon Niese tonight. On a weekend when Mets fans had seen Johan Santana pitch the team's first no-hitter and R.A. Dickey deliver a performance just as impressive, not to mention the Mets Hall of Fame induction of one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history (John Franco), Niese had to go out and continue the streak against the defending world champion Cardinals on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Remarkably, Jonathan found a way to get a big win.
    • Niese tossed 6 scoreless innings, allowing 6 hits, walking 1, and striking out a career-high 10 Cardinals. New York was in their black uniforms for the first time all year tonight in honor of Franco, and black was the color St. Louis was seeing all night long.
  • Niese extended the Met starters' scoreless streak to a mind-boggling 24 innings. Bobby Parnell got it to 25 with a scoreless 7th, and Frank Francisco struck out 2 in a scoreless 9th.
  • The Mets went up quickly in the 1st as Andres Torres doubled and came home on a Lucas Duda single. In the 4th, Jon Niese knocked out his second hit of the game, and three pitches later Kirk Nieuwenhuis blasted a home run to right center.
  • Nieuwenhuis and Torres broke it open in the 6th when Kirk singled home a run and Torres grounded a triple to the corner in right field to score two more. When the lights went out on tonight's game, Kirk & Andres combined to go 6-9 with 3 runs and 5 RBIs.
    • Torres also made an impact with his arm: in the 6th inning, he gunned down David Freese at the plate to preserve the shutout and get Niese out of a jam in his final frame.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Elvin Ramirez made his major league debut in the top of the 8th, and while his 0.65 minor league ERA implied there were only a few guys he couldn't get out, all those guys were in attendance tonight. Ramirez's first pitch was a hard single up the middle and his second lined off his leg before he could control it for the out. After striking out Matt Adams, he gave up an RBI single to Adron Chambers to break the scoreless streak and earn a hook in favor of Tim Byrdak, who got his man for the last out of the 8th. Ramirez's run in 2/3 of an inning equates to 13.50, definitely not pretty. "Hey rookie, welcome to the big show."
Final Analysis:
When was the last time the Mets had a weekend this fun? Flawless starting pitching, great offense, and all against the defending world champions. These three games were about as Amazin' as they possibly get, and the result was a series win, at least 7 wins in an 11-game homestand (they can go for 8 and their first 4-game sweep of STL since 1986), and a tie atop the NL East with the Nationals and Marlins. One third of the way through the season, the New York Mets are 31-23, 8 games over .500 for the first time in almost two years, and in first place. Dare I say it, the Mets are playing like...contenders. "Believe it, amigo!"


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Game #53: Mets 5, Cardinals 0

NY Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is pumped as he baffles the Cardinals all afternoon at Citi Field. (
How do you follow up a no-hitter? Like this.

R.A. Dickey turned in a masterpiece of his own and the Mets benefited from a strange 2nd inning on the way to beating the Cardinals 5-0.

The Good Stuff:
  • In the first game of the post-No-han era, R.A. Dickey earned his own spot in the limelight. That knuckleball danced its way to a complete game, 7-hit shutout in 100 pitches. It was R.A.'s 8th win of 2012, matching his total from the entirety of last season, and lowered his ERA all the way down to 2.69. Without that rain-soaked April affair in Atlanta, that number would be down to 1.71. "Real All-Star"? You bet.
  • Dickey had the benefit of a solid Mets infield that turned 3 double plays over the course of the game, one 4-6-3 and two of the 6-4-3 variety.
  • New York got its best offense in the 2nd on one of the strangest sequences of the year. Ike Davis led off with a single and Omar Quintanilla was hit by a pitch. Josh Thole then hit it where they weren't, pounding out an infield single. Up came R.A. to help out his own cause, which he did by hitting a sharp groundball that second baseman Daniel Delasco couldn't handle; Delasco's throw was low to first, and everyone was save with Ike coming home to score. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Andres Torres also had RBIs in the inning on two groundballs, making it 3 runs in the 2nd that came when the ball was never more than a couple feet off the ground at any time.
  • Another run came in in the 7th when Daniel Murphy came home on an Eduardo Sanchez wild pitch. The last run came in the 8th when David Wright blasted a solo home run to right field.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Once again, the Bad from this game was more like just the Other. Unfortunately, there are a couple injuries to report in the aftermath of last night's party.
  • You had a feeling Mike Baxter was seriously hurt after The Catch, and that feeling was spot-on: Baxter suffered a displaced collar bone and will likely miss 6 weeks. Sure, it sucks that the injury bug has bitten once more, but I would say he willingly gave himself to that bug. Six weeks may seem like a long time, but it's an alright price to pay for baseball immortality.
  • This injury, however...this one's a little harder to explain. Ramon Ramirez injured his hamstring during last night's no-hitter celebration and will go on the DL. File this one under the "GOB" category.
Final Analysis:
To borrow a phrase from legendary Cub voice Harry Carey, "Ho-ly cow!" While it wasn't a no-hitter, it was just about a perfect outing from R.A. Dickey, and the result was the Mets' first back-to-back shutouts since...last weekend. Guess who was responsible for those two outings? The All-Star one-two punch of Santana and Dickey.

Felt bad for Dickey that he had to follow a no-hitter? Think about how Jon Niese must feel having to follow both those guys, oh by the way, in front of a national primetime audience on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. But the way Met starters are rolling right now (a 1.53 ERA in the last 8 games), he's got as good a chance as any.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Game #52 (8,020): Mets 8, Cardinals 0

And in this, the 8,020th game, "It has happened."

It was Johan Santana who made the night of June 1, 2012 an immortal one in New York Mets history as he tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history, blanking the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0.

The Good Stuff:
  • Here are the numbers we will have burned into our minds for years to come: no runs, no hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts, 134 pitches.
  • Santana's previous career high was 125 pitches and the most he had gone this season was about 106. Once the 7th inning was complete, the only concern was whether this man who was coming off major shoulder surgery would be allowed to go back out there for the 8th. At this point, with 50 years of history staring in his face, there was no way Terry Collins was going to lay a finger on his starter. He went back out for the 8th, and then the 9th, getting Matt Holiday to line out to center, Allen Greg to fly out to left, and David Freese to fish after a beautiful 79 mph changeup to send 27,069 Citi faithful and millions more from Long Island to Long Beach sky-high.
  • After being mobbed by his team on the mound, Johan went to the dugout to receive a handshake and a hug from the man who had the confidence to leave him in. He then went in for an on-field interview with SNY's Kevin Burkhardt, and after addressing the fans, "I know you've waited a long time for this," received a whipped cream pie in the face from Justin Turner, boot and all. "At least it wasn't shaving cream!"

The Other Stuff:
  • Let's face it, there's no Bad Stuff tonight. Just the Other.
  • The closest the Cardinals came to a hit was in the 6th inning when Carlos Beltran (who was warmly received by the Citi Field crowd...that's what I was going to write about tonight) hit a line drive down the third base line that was ruled foul. Replays and a mark in the chalk showed otherwise, and I'll leave it at that.
  • Every one of these things has "the catch that saved the no-no," and tonight that came in the 7th inning. On a 3-1 fastball with one out, Yadier "That Guy" Molina sent a rocket to left field. Charging to the wall came Mike Baxter, and The Whitestone Kid secured it in his glove before crashing shoulder-first into the padding. Baxter left the game with a shoulder contusion, but received a standing ovation for keeping history alive. Something tells me that will dull the pain better than any anesthesia.
  • Oh by the way, the Mets' bats scored 8 runs tonight! Lucas Duda led the way with 4 RBIs, including a 3-run homer in the 6th that all but clinched the W. In the 7th, David Wright drew a bases-loaded walk and Daniel Murphy singled home two more later. Murphy also had an RBI triple in the 4th inning.
Final Analysis:
At the beginning of the season, this the Mets 50th Anniversary campaign, I made a bold prediction: I said it was R.A. Dickey who would break the drought and give team it's first no-no. Never have I been more happy to be wrong.

One of the more well-chronicled phenomena in baseball history, the Mets had at least a dozen men who pitched no hitters either before coming to or after leaving the franchise. It had even been almost 37 years since a Met last took a no-no bid into the 9th (Tom Seaver, on his 3rd attempt). Eight thousand nineteen games had been played in New York Mets history, and 8,019 times the other team had at least a "1" underneath their "H" column. But in Game #8,020, against the defending world champions, Johan Santana gave the fans an Amazin' moment they thought would never come.

Three things come to mind as I wrap up this post I never saw coming. First, the Mets were not the last team to get its first no-hitter (suck it Padres). Second, the team doesn't have to do anything else this season; they could lose every game from here on out and it would still be a successful year. Third, one of the first things I did after the euphoria of the initial celebration with my dad, a lifelong Met fan himself, was check, a daily reminder to Met fans of how long it has taken. It was down. How appropriate.

But now, one more question remains. For the last 50+ years fans have waited for this moment. Now it has come and gone. what?

"Have you ever considered piracy? You'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts."


June 1, 2012