Monday, April 30, 2012

Game #23: Astros 4, Mets 3

R.A. Dickey carries a no-hitter into the sixth, but loses it in Houston. (NYDailyNews.com)
Back in 1962, the expansion Houston Colt .45's finished with 96 losses; awful, yes, but still better than the expansion New York Mets, who lost (if you're reading this blog you know). Houston was better than New York that year, and tonight, the Astros channeled that slightly-less-mediocre "winning" attitude.

The Amazin's came back to tie it in the 7th, but the Astros went ahead for good and held on to beat the Mets, 4-3.

The Bad Stuff:
  • R.A. Dickey wasn't awful and even took a no-hitter into the 6th, but after allowing 3 runs on 3 hits in 6 innings, by his 15/16 QS standards, this qualifies as "bad."
  • The Mets' 7th counterbalanced Dickey's rough 6th, but Manny Acosta couldn't get out of the 8th, allowing Jordan Schafer a single, then after he stole second, served up the game-winning base hit to Jed Lowrie.
  • Aside from their 3 runs on 4 hits in the 7th, the Mets couldn't get the ball rolling on offense, falling victim to an effective Bud Norris and a solid Houston bullpen. New York went just 2-7 with RISP and left 6 men on base.
The Good Stuff:
  •  That 7th inning though, that was a good one.
    • David Wright led off with a single and Ike Davis followed with one of his own (Ike went 2-4 on the day, bringing his average up to .185).
    • After Mike Baxter flew out and advanced the runners, fresh-off-the-DL Andres Torres picked up his first hit of the year, an infield single that scored Wright.
    • Josh Thole grounded Torres over to second, and a flu-ridden Lucas Duda came up to stare down Norris and gain a full count walk.
    • Up came Kirk Nieuwenhuis, displaced in the field but still in the leadoff slot. It continued to pay off today: Captain Kirk lined a 2-2 slider into right that scored Davis and the speedy Torres, brought the Mets back to a tie, and got R.A. Dickey off the hook for the L. Nieuwenhuis finished the day 2-4 and improved his batting average to a very attractive .325.
Final Anallysis:
This is a strange feeling for a Mets fan. So often when the team loses, it's either a blowout, devastating, or a devastating blowout. Tonight was neither: sure it was close, but it just felt like your everyday everyone-loses-a-few-in-baseball losses. It doesn't warrant a sob of anguish, but a shrug of the shoulders and a "meh."

Tonight, the Mets lost only their 2nd 1-run game in 8 chances. As cliched as it is to say, the only way to really analyze tonight's loss is to say, "Too bad, we'll get 'em next time." And for this team, I guess that's a good sign.

MM

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Game #22: Mets 6, Rockies 5 (11)

Johan Santana throws six scoreless innings Sunday, allowing two hits and striking out five but he doesn’t factor in the decision as the bullpen blows a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning. (NYDailyNews.com)
This time, the third time was the charm.

Ike Davis's go-ahead single in the 11th gave New York their third lead of the afternoon as the Mets held on to beat the Rockies 6-5 and win the road series.

The Good Stuff:
  • With Old Man Jamie Moyer on the mound, the Mets were swinging early and often. David Wright's 2-run double got the ball rolling and Scott Hairston knocked in another in a 1st inning in which the team batted around.
  • Josh Thole added an insurance run in the top of the 5th with his first home run of the season and second of his career.
  • This year at least, Johan Santana isn't used to getting run support of...well, any kind. But he got it today and responded beautifully, going 6 scoreless, 2-hit innings, walking 3 while striking out 5. He was in line for his first W of the year...
  • ...Until he wasn't. Todd Helton's grand slam tied it at 4 in the 8th, but New York went back to work in the 10th. Mike Baxter knocked a pinch-hit single, and hometown hero Kirk Nieuwenhuis, after delivering with his glove with a perfect "Nieuwenheist" (thanks to Jon Presser, @metsjetsnets88, for coming up with that brilliant phrase) in the 5th, delivered with his bat and launched an opposite field double to score Baxter and make it 5-4. Nieuwenhuis finished the day 3-6 with a run and RBI in likely his last game in the leadoff slot for a while, what with Andres Torres returning to the lineup tomorrow.
  • So the Mets were in line to win again...until they weren't. Carlos Gonzalez's solo homer in the 10th tied it at 5, but the resilient Mets went back to work in the 11th. David Wright led off with a single (finishing his day 2-3 with 3 walks - the man gets on base - 2 runs and 2 RBIs), and Lucas Duda's single sent him to third. After Scott Hairston grounded into a force out, Ike Davis came up with something to prove. He had hit the ball well all day, collecting 2 hits previously, including his first double of the year, but came through in the clutch by knocking a groundball into left field to score Wright and make it 6-5.
  • This was a lead New York would not relinquish, as Ramon Ramirez retired the Rockies 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 11th to seal the deal.
  • Ruben Tejada also stayed hot, going 3-6 with a run, making it a whopping 10-17 for the series.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Well, there is the matter of having to win the game thrice. The first blown save came in the 8th: Jon Rauch, who had been spotless till this point, got 2 outs but loaded the bases on a hit and 2 walks. Tim Byrdak, also usually very good, was brought on to punch out pinch-hitting Todd Helton. Guess who punched who? With good friend Peyton Manning in the stands, Helton absolutely crushed the game-tying grand slam of the second deck in right field. That ball would have been out of any ballpark, not just Coors Field.
  • The second blown save happened when Frank Francisco took the mound in the 10th. Carlos Gonzalez saw a fastball right down Broadway and launched an absolute rope just over the high wall in right. Frank-Frank put the winning run on second before eventually getting out of it.
  • Still, the Mets shouldn't have even been in that situation: they scored 6 runs but pounded out a whopping 18 hits. A lot of it was great Colorado defense, which we saw throughout this series, but a lot of it was New York's continued inability to hit with ducks on the pond: the Mets went a dreadful 4-18 with RISP and stranded 14 men on base, double what they had on Gilligan's Island. Just a couple more runs against Old Man Moyer and we could be reading that column about Johan's first win that writers had to scrap once the ball left Helton's bat in the 8th.
Final Analysis:
...But a W is a W, and we'll take it all the way. New York went through the first half of its western road trip in good fashion, taking 2 straight from the Rockies after Friday night's trouncing. Johan pitched great, the offense is hitting, and Ike Davis appears to be coming out of his slump. All systems are go as the Mets take off for Houston tomorrow.

MM

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Game #21: Mets 7, Rockies 5

Shortstop Ruben Tejada attempts to tag out former Met Marco Scutaro on the basepath. (NYDailyNews.com)
The pitching must've been delayed a day's flight. The offense was back in Denver tonight, and fortunately the bats wouldn't be expected to score 19 in this one.

Lucas Duda led a banner offensive day and Dillon Gee picked up a W on his 26th birthday as the Mets held on to beat the Rockies, 7-5.

The Good Stuff:
  • How's this for a birthday present? Dillon Gee became the first Met to win on his birthday since Dave Mlicki on June 8, 1995, tossing a career-high 116 pitches in 7 innings while allowing 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits, 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts. On paper, those numbers are only average-looking, but when you consider Gee the Goatee did that in the Rocky Mountain air of Coors Field, that's pretty darn good.
  • With the Colorado bats finally being kept at bay, all the New York offense needed to do was pick off where they left last night. Lucas Duda was quick to oblige, blasting a 2-run homer in the top of the 2nd that gave the Mets the lead (watch the replay of that blast and listen to the crack of the bat; the most beautiful sound you could possibly hear in a ballpark).
    • In the 5th, Big Dude was up again after David Wright's game-tying single one batter earlier, this time bouncing a groundball through the infield, driving in 2 more runs, and giving the Mets a lead they would not relinquish.
    • Duda finished the night with a tremendous line: 2-4, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, his most runs driven in since he first became Big Dude last June in Texas. He probably should have had 6 in the game, but was robbed of a 2-run single in the 3rd by a diving Dexter Fowler in center field.
  • Other notable New York offensive lines include:
    • Ruben Tejada, who went 3-5 with 2 runs. Tejada has now gone 7-9 in his past two games, skyrocketing his batting average up to .295.
    • Daniel Murphy, who went 3-5 with a run to bring his batting average above .300.
    • David Wright, who went 3-4 with a double, stolen base (!), 2 runs, and 2 RBIs. He's now hitting .385.
    • In total, the 2-5 hitters for the Mets tonight went 11-18 with 2 XBH, 6 runs, and 6 RBIs. I guess that'll do.
    • Mike Baxter picked up a pinch-hit double in the 9th, and after advancing to third on a Kirk Nieuwenhuis groundout, came home on a wild pitch from Edgmer Escalona. That run would become crucial in the bottom half of that inning (see below).
  • Also encouraging at the plate was Ike Davis, who went 1-3 with a walk. Even his two outs looked good: the first was a 400-foot flyout to Fowler in the 4th and a screaming line drive right to Marco Scutaro at second.
  • Tim Byrdak did a spectacular job after taking the ball from Gee in the 8th, retiring the heart of the Rockies' order on 9 pitches, including a strikeout of Todd Helton to get to the dugout.
  • Frank Francisco got 2 quick outs before getting into trouble, allowing a solo home run to Fowler and pinch-hit triple to Tyler Colvin. Up came pinch-hitting Jason Giambi (why yes, he's still playing), who Frank-Frank got to fly out deep to Captain Kirk to end the ballgame.
    • The seventh run in the 9th was key because it provided not just a cushion for Francisco, but piece of mind for Met fans everywhere. At Coors Field, a 2-run lead feels like just a 1-run lead, while a 3-run lead feels like a 2-runner. That additional run kept about 9% of the viewing population in New York from a coronary when Giambi came up to bat. And absence coronaries definitely equals Good Stuff.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis continues to struggle in his homecoming series, going 0-5 with 2 Ks, including a tough-luck hard groundout to boyhood hero Todd Helton in the 9th.
  • Scott Hairston earned a start against a right-handed bat after hitting for the cycle last night, but couldn't follow up against a nemesis arm, going 0-4 with 2 Ks.
  • Gee's only bad inning came when he allowed 3 runs in the 4th. But hey, everyone does that at Coors Field, so it's hard to fault him too much for that.
Final Analysis:
There's the bounceback for you. After getting throttled last night, the Mets were able to limit the self esteem-damager to one game, turning in what would probably be a typical Met 4-2 win (plus Coors inflation) with solid hitting and good pitching. Couldn't ask for much better than that.

New York will go for the series clincher tomorrow afternoon as Johan Santana goes up against the ageless wonder (or: freak of nature) Jamie Moyer. Ever seen a baseball need a walker to get to the plate? You may very well tomorrow. Tune in, it should be worth it.

MM

Game #20: Rockies 18, Mets 9

Troy Tulowitzki rounds the bases on a first-inning home run, only his second of the season. (NYDailyNews.com)
Um...I guess this qualifies as some kind of Amazin'.

Six errors and lousy pitching led to an avalanche of Colorado runs, as the Mets were buried by the Rockies 18-9.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Once they got past the fourth E on the scorecard it was almost worth it just to see how comical things could get. The Mets finished the night with 6 errors, including 4 of them in an 11-run 5th inning, both franchise records.
  • In order to get a full picture on the mediocrity of tonight's affair, let's consider a few pitching lines that would garner sympathy from even R.A. Dickey circa 2006:
    • Chris Schwinden (Mike Pelfrey's replacement in the rotation): 4 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), 2 HR
    • Manny Acosta: 1/3 inning, 5 hits, 7 earned runs, 1 HR
    • Ramon Ramirez: 1.2 innings, 4 hits, 4 unearned runs
    • Bobby Parnell: 2/3 inning, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 GS
    • Usually numbers don't tell the whole story, but tonight, the foul stench oozing from those numbers tells enough of a story.
The Good Stuff:
  • What's even worse is that tonight's trouncing erases a really great offensive night for New York, who came one run short of matching their entire run total from the Marlins series.
  • Most significant was Scott Hairston, who became the 10th Met ever to hit for the cycle, and first since Jose Reyes in 2006. He finished the day 4-5 with 3 runs and 4 RBIs.
  • Also making big impacts at the plate were:
    • Ruben Tejada (4-6, 2 runs)
    • Lucas Duda (2-4, 1 run, 2 RBIs)
    • Mike Nickeas (2-2, 1 RBI)
    • Josh Thole (extended his hitting streak to 10 games)
Final Analysis:
Not even drowning my sorrows in some of that Rocky Mountain-fresh Coors would be able to take away the dumbfoundedness that reeks from tonight's beating. Just wow. The only analogy I could possibly make is falling down an endless flight of stairs, Looney Tunes style. And that staircase was pretty endless for New York tonight in Denver.

If there's any sort of positive to take from this night, it's this: if the Mets can manage it, they can bottle up all the awfulness that should be spread out over 4 games, release it and completely tank in 1 game, and still win 3 out of 4. Whatever works, right? Met fans would just have to make sure to stock up on their ibuprofen every 4th game.

MM

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Game #19: Mets 3, Marlins 2

Teammates mobbed the Mets' Kirk Nieuwenhuis after his game-winning hit with two out in the bottom of the ninth. (NYTimes.com)
Last week, Kirk Nieuwenhuis gained the first "walk-off" of his career on that game-winning fielder's choice/E2 against the Giants. Something tells me he'll treasure this one a lot more.

After Heath Bell walked in the tying run after a 13-pitch at bat by Justin Turner, Nieuwenhuis launched a rocket to right over Giancarlo Stanton's head to give the Mets a dramatic 3-2 win over the Marlins.

The Good Stuff:
  • It started and ended with Captain Kirk this afternoon. Nieuwenhuis led off with a triple Stanton had trouble corralling in right and was brought home immediately by a Ruben Tejada sac fly. Kirk finished the day 3-5 with the run and the all-important RBI in the 9th (see below).
  • Not much happened in the way of offense until the 9th, when Heath Bell entered to close it out for Miami, who led 2-1. You may remember last year that it was with Heath Bell on the mound to close it out for the Padres that produced New York's best win of the 2011 season. Even with a new cap on, it appears the Mets have Heath's number.
    • David Wright led off with a full-count walk and went to second on a Lucas Duda groundout. Ike Davis then walked on 4 pitches, and he was joined on base by Josh Thole, who also went 3-2 before taking ball 4.
    • Up came Justin Turner to pinch-hit. After going down 0-2 early on a called strike and foul ball, his chances didn't look too good. But you have to remember, as unlikely as it seems, Justin Turner is one of the most clutch hitters on this team. He proved it last season, and with the bases loaded and everything to lose, Turner went to work. Foul ball. Ball 1. Foul. Ball 2. Foul. Ball 3. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. On the 13th pitch of the at-bat that included 8 foul balls, Bell missed outside and Le Grande Orange Jr. was on base with the game-tying walk.
    • After Davis was thrown out at the plate on Scott Hairston's groundball, Nieuwenhuis stepped up to finish what he started. On a 1-0 fastball, Bell's 46th pitch of the 9th inning, Captain Kirk crushed one to the wall that Stanton couldn't reach, and the celebration was on with a W, a sweep, and a pie in the face from a member of I'm guessing the clubhouse crew.
    • A little thin on the cream, don't you think?












 
  • With the offense in neutral in the innings in between, it was up to pitching to keep it close, and Jon Niese did just that with a 7-inning, 2-run, 4-hit performance in which he struck out 6. Ramon Ramirez came in to handle the 8th and 9th innings and kept the Marlins from plating any more.
  • New York caught a break in the 8th with 1 out and runners on the corners. Jose Reyes came up and punched a groundball to Ike Davis at first. Instead of opting for a single out, Davis tossed over to Ruben Tejada at second to start what was to be a 3-6-3 double play. A risky move considering Reyes's famous speed, Tejada's throw back to Davis at first was just late, but first base umpire CB Bucknor held up his fist for the third out of the inning. A stunned Jose could only stand there with a baffled face, producing the final image in an underwhelming return to Citi Field. Reyes finished the series 1-12, which is as much Good Stuff as anything else.
The Bad Stuff:
  • There is the matter of those 7 innings in the middle where the New York bats were put to sleep under the spell of Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco was in line for the W after 7 innings of 1-run, 5-hit ball. Aside from Nieuwenhuis's triple in the 1st, the Mets had no answers for the Miami starter.
The Farmer's Market, Baseball Edition
  • New York also made a different kind of history this afternoon. Jordany Valdespin got his first start in left field, which means for only the third time in their existence, and the first time in more than 40 years, the Mets produced a starting lineup that was 100% home grown. The entire starting 9 started out their baseball careers in the Met organization. For the last time that happened, you have to go all the way back to September 19, 1971, when the Amazin' lineup was as follows:
    1. Teddy Martinez, 2B
    2. Bud Harrelson, SS
    3. John Milner, LF
    4. Ed Kranepool, 1B
    5. Mike Jorgensen, CF
    6. Ken Singleton, RF
    7. Duffy Dyer, C
    8. Tim Foili, 3B
    9. Jerry Koosman, P
  • What this means is that we may have to start reevaluating the way we remember the Omar Minaya years. He may have been responsible for some pretty awful free agent deals and contract extensions (3 years, $36 million for Oliver Perez, anyone?), but he sure knew how to draft and spot young talent. The culmination of those years occurred today.
Final Analysis:
Way too early to say so, but we may have just seen the best series of 2012. Let's take a look at the facts: after dropping 5 of 6, the Mets respond with great starting pitching, solid bullpen outings, and clutch hitting, and it gives them not only a sweep, not only a sweep against a division rival, but a sweep over the division rival that stole a former face of the franchise. How much sweeter can you get?

All I know is the Mets will have a sweet flight out to Denver tonight, where they'll begin a western road trip with a 3-game set against the Colorado Rockies. Ike Davis will also return to the sight where his season was ended in shocking fashion last year. Perhaps he just left it all at Coors Field and will pick it back up again this weekend. Only time will tell, but that thin Rocky Mountain air may be just the thing to jump start him.

MM

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Game #18: Mets 5, Marlins 1

David Wright blasts a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field Wednesday. (NYDailyNews.com)
Last week in Atlanta, R.A. Dickey's streak of 14 straight quality starts was smashed to pieces. Well, I guess 15 out of 16 ain't bad.

David Wright's 2-run homer in the 6th provided all the offense Dickey needed as the Mets clinched the series over the Marlins, 5-1.

The Good Stuff:
  • Looks like it was the rain after all. After wet conditions ruined his knuckleball against the Braves, R.A. Dickey was back to the stuff that's given him Cy Young-like numbers since last July. Dickey went the Solid Seven, allowing 1 run (a solo homer to Omar Infante in the 5th) on 3 hits in 7 innings, walking 1 and striking out 7.
  • The narrative of offense during Dickey outings was seemed also to be back to normal with New York trailing 1-0 in the 6th. But Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off getting hit by a Mark Buehrle pitch. After Ruben Tejada flew out, Daniel Murphy hit a sure double play ball to first, but Captain Kirk, a man with a proven football mentality, slid hard into second base and forced Jose Reyes's throw to go over the first baseman's head. The Mets found an extra pendant of life, and David Wright made the most of it, smashing an 0-2 changeup to dead center for the go-ahead 2-run home run. The 2 RBIs gave him 735 for his career, putting him past Darryl Strawberry for #1 on the Mets' all-time RBI leaderboard.
  • New York would add a hefty insurance plan in the 8th when Tejada got it going with a 1-out double. After Murphy struck out, Wright was walked intentionally to get to Lucas Duda. The Big Dude then clobbered a single into center that Giancarlo (a.k.a. "Mike") Stanton couldn't handle, and Tejada came home as the runners went to second and third. Mike Baxter was sent up to pinch hit, and the Whitestone Kid came through with an opposite-field 2-run double to make it 5-1 Amazin's.
  • The bullpen kept Miami's offense under control after Dickey made his exit, as Jon Rauch delivered a scoreless 8th (keeping his ERA at a spotless 0.00) and Tim Byrdak and Manny Acosta combined for a scoreless 9th, forcing Chipper-esque Gaby Sanchez to ground into the game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Only 2 Met starting fielders failed to get a hit in the game: Kirk Niewenhuis, who went 0-3 with 2 Ks (despite the HBP that started the rally in the 6th), and Ike Davis, whose struggles at the plate continued even as he was moved down to the 7-hole in the batting order. Davis went 0-4 but at least didn't strike out and got good contact on a lineout to center in the 8th.
Final Analysis:
And they're back on track. After starting pitching, the bullpen, and the bats all went out to lunch for about a week, all have returned in the last 2 days as the Mets clinched a series win over their newly minted division rivals. This is the kind of win you saw when the team started out 7-3: everything gelled and New York seemed in control for most of the game. Play like this, and that 10-8 record's going to get even better. It'll start tomorrow afternoon if the Amazin's can break out the brooms.

MM

Game #17: Mets 2, Marlins 1

Mets' Kirk Nieuwenhuis is greeted by teammate Scott Hairston  after scoring on a single by Lucas Duda during the eighth inning. (NYDailyNews.com)
On a day when New York's former favorite son made his return to the place that made him famous, it was one of the city's new favorites that gave their team the win.

After Johan Santana battled Josh Johnson to an even duel, Lucas Duda blasted a go-ahead infield single in the bottom of the 8th to give the Mets a 2-1 win over the Marlins.

The Good Stuff:
  • It was Jose Reyes's first game back in Citi Field since his offseason move to Miami. After a mixed reaction from from the 20,000+ Met faithful, Jose launched a rocket to left center, which Kirk Nieuwenhuis snagged to take away a likely triple. Reyes would go 0-4 on the night, dropping his average to .215. Captain Kirk, on the other hand, reminded us all that while he may make mistakes like he did Saturday afternoon, he's going to make many more good plays than bad.
  • While Reyes was off on the night, Johan Santana was locked in and on. Santana gave up 1 run on 3 hits in 6.2 innings of work, waking 2 and striking out an impressive 11, his most Ks in 3 years. His 105 pitches were his most of the year, and he looked infinitely better than he was a week ago in Atlanta.
  • On most nights, that effort would have been good enough to earn Johan the W, which would have been his first of 2012. But tonight he was locked in a duel with Miami's Josh Johnson, whose numbers were basically identical, right down to the 6.2 innings. Johnson owns the Mets, but fortunately Marlins run out of energy, and JJ's walk to Lucas Duda with 2 out in the 7th led to his ouster. 3 more walks and 2 more pitching changes later, Josh Thole was on first with an RBI walk and the Mets had the score tied at 1-1.
  • In the bottom of the 8th, Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off with a single and went to third two batters later on Daniel Murphy's base hit. After David Wright struck out, Lucas Duda came up and blasted an Edward Mujica splitter right back to the mound. The ball ricocheted off of Mujica's throwing hand and landed harmlessly in the middle of the infield, allowing Kirk to score and giving the Mets a lead they would not relinquish.
  • The New York bullpen continued to build on their momentum from yesterday's doubleheader, as Ramon Ramirez got Santana out of the 7th inning and Jon Rauch picked up the W with another scoreless 8th (his ERA is still spotless). Frank Francisco then came in and earned his first save since opening weekend.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Ike Davis's early-season slump continues as he went 0-2 with a strikeout and was pinch-hit for with Justin Turner in the 7th.
  • Put in the 2-hole in a lineup experiment, Ruben Tejada had identical numbers to his Miami counterpart: an 0-4 day at the plate, dropping his average to a pedestrian .246.
  • And that's just the on-field Bad Stuff. There's still the matter of the busiest injury day even the Mets have seen in a while.
    • Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey were both place on the 15-day DL, Bay with a broken rib, Pelfrey with a much more serious possible ligament tear. For Jason, just another setback in a contract that has been full of setbacks. For Pelf, a much more disappointing revelation; he was pitching so well, leading the team in ERA and finally finding his groove. It's also disconcerting in that Mike has an image as a workhorse: this kind of thing doesn't happen to him. Now it has, and there's a chance this workhorse may be stuck in the stables for the rest of the year.
    • Third baseman Zach Lutz and relief pitcher Robert Carson were brought up from the minors to fill the roster spots, and fortunately it appears Andres Torres (remember him?) may be able to rejoin the team in Houston next week.
Final Analysis:
A little bit of everything tonight: great signs from New York's Ace, bad signs from further bites from the injury bug. But a win is a win: no matter what happens on the field or off, it's still another W in the win column.

MM

Monday, April 23, 2012

Games #15 & #16: Giants 6-7, Mets 1-2

David Wright flips his bat in frustration after striking out in a loss to the Giants Monday. (NYDailyNews.com)
It was a double dose of fun for fans of San Fran. For New York fans, it was twice the nightmare, plus having to put up with a sickly alliterate sentence like that first one.

Miguel Batista got rocked and the real Tim Lincecum finally stood up as the Giants took the first game of a twin bill, 6-1. It was more of the same in the second game as Madison Bumgarner outpitched Dillon Gee to give San Francisco a doubleheader sweep of the Mets, 7-2.

The Bad Stuff:
  • Where to even begin? Let's start with starters, who it seems both tried to outdo each other in terms of badness. Spot-starter Miguel Batista gave up 6 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits in 3.2 innings of the first game, while Dillon Gee allowed 7 runs to cross on a whopping 12 hits in 6.2 innings of the night game.
  • The Mets' bats couldn't do much either against the vaunted Giant starters: "Big-Time Timmy-Jim" and "Maddy-Bum" (doubt they call him that) gave up 1 run each in a combined 12 innings of work, striking out 12 Amazin's between them.
  • David Wright had one of the toughest games at the plate, combining to go 0-7 with a walk and a run. Wright finished the series 1-14, bringing his batting average down way under .500.
  • Also continuing to struggle at the plate is Ike Davis, who went 0-4 with 2 Ks in the first game and struck out pinch-hitting with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th of the second game. Davis is now hitting .136 in 2012 with more strikeouts than total bases.
  • Thanks to special rules allowing additional callups for doubleheaders, Jordany Valdespin made his debut in game two, pinch-hitting in the bottom of the 8th; he popped out to short with the bases loaded after swinging at the first pitch.
  • The injury bug bites again: Jason Bay bruised his ribs in the second game; fortunately x-rays were negative.
The Good Stuff:
  • The bullpen stopped the bleeding in both games, combining for 5.1 scoreless innings in the first game and 2.1 innings in the second.
    • The shining star of the first game was doubleheader callup Jeremy Hefner, who went tossed 3 scoreless innings.
    • Bobby Parnell also had a good day, tossing 2 scoreless innings between the two games and striking out 4.
  • Daniel Murphy picked up 2 hits in the first game and drove in a run with a sac fly in the second.
Final Analysis:
Ouch. It's back to reality for Mets fans: after starting out 7-3, the team has dropped 5 of their last 6 to fall back to .500. Things are going south fast for this young team, and they'll need to find a way up north against the Miami Marlins tomorrow. Hopefully a visit from their old mainstay at shortstop is just the thing to revive the Amazin's.

MM

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Game #14: Mets 5, Giants 4

Kirk Nieuwenhuis can’t come up with a fly ball in the ninth as the Giants rally for three runs to tie the game. (NYDailyNews.com)
Some wins go down like a steak dinner at a 5-star restaurant, others go down like bad roadside McDonalds. This was one of those McDonalds endings to a game, but it all ends up the same in the W-L column.

A bad blunder in the 9th cost Mike Pelfrey the win, but the Giants evened it up blunder-wise in the bottom of the frame, resulting in a "what just happened?" 5-4 win for the Mets.

The Pre-9th Good Stuff
  • Today's 9th inning deserves a category of its own, so we'll get to that later on. Let's start Good Stuff with what we can actually understand, shall we?
  • Mike Pelfrey was ordained the team's Ace last year, but with the pressure of that label off his back, Big Pelf has been pitching like a real Ace in 2012. Pelfrey went 8 innings and allowed only 1 run on 6 hits, walking 1 and striking out 3, all in just 102 pitches. His ERA in 3 starts this season is an outstanding 2.29, and he earned the W he would've gotten today.
  • In his first game batting 8th since Opening Day, Ruben Tejada tied the game in the 5th on a fielder's choice. Then after Jason Bay's leadoff single, Lucas Duda's walk, and Josh Thole's first sac bunt in the 7th, Tejada laced a double down the third base line to score both and make it 3-1. It was Mr. Clutch's 7th double of the year and would've served as game-winning hit.
  • New York added one more in the 8th after Daniel Murphy's infield hit (he went 3-4 with a double), David Wright's reaching first on an error (sending Murph to third), and Ike Davis's nubber of the bat for an RBI infield single.
The Pre-9th Bad Stuff
  • Of the Mets' 13 RISP at-bats, 11 came in the first 8 innings, and they were only able to convert on 2 of those at-bats.
  • David Wright's hitting streak and reaching base twice streak came to and end today with an 0-4, 2 K showing. His batting average was knocked down to "only" .439.
  • It could have been more than just 4-1 after the 8th, as the Mets had none out, runners on first and second, and Jason Bay at the plate. But Ike Davis was picked off and David Wright caught stealing third, so Bay's groundout to short resulted in the third out of the inning instead of the first (and probably second...but you never assume the double play).
  • After an eye-popping game last night, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was spent this afternoon, going 0-5 total (0-4 before the 9th) with a couple strikeouts. But his biggest blunder would come in...
 The 9th Inning Bad Stuff (or: "Holy Luis Castillo")
  • Despite pitching strong and a 3-run lead, Terry Collins elected to send Frank Francisco out to get the save. Buster Posey led off with a single and Aubrey Huff grounded him over to second. After Nate Schierholtz walked, Emmanuel Burriss singled home the first run. Collins came out and gave Frank the hook, electing to send Tim Byrdak out to turn Hector Sanchez, a better lefty hitter than righty, around. Byrdak struck him out swinging and Jon Rauch was brought on to get the 27th out. He appeared to get it, too, forcing Brandon Belt to pop up to shallow center. But a combination of the ball's placement, the outfield's prevent positioning, and the ghost of Luis Castillo haunting both Tejada and Nieuwenhuis resulted in Kirk overrunning the ball, which dropped harmlessly beyond his reach and allowed San Francisco to tie the game at 4.
  • So it appeared that New York had choked away a sure win and made a new A-Rod out of B-Belt. It seems like that sort of thing happens every year, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. Fortunately, the Mets gave the Giants their W, and San Fran being the happy place it is decided to say, "Nah, you keep it."
The 9th Inning Good Stuff (or: "Some Kind of Redemption, I Guess?")
  • Lucas Duda singled to lead off against Clay Hensley and Josh Thole sent him to scoring position with his second sac bunt of the day. Ruben Tejada drew a walk and Jeremy Affeldt was brought on to face lefty Mike Baxter, who was quickly pulled for Justin Turner. Le Grand Orange Jr. hit a groundball to short that should've been the inning-ending double play, but Aubrey Huff, displaced to second base for the first time of his career, forgot to cover the bag, and Emmanuel Burriss was forced to go to first with the throw, which got there late.
  • Up came Kirk Nieuwenhuis, looking to redeem himself for the blunder in the top of the 9th with his first walk-off. He got it, but not the way he expected. Captain Kirk hit a soft groundball to first which Brandon Belt sent home for the second out. Buster Posey was about to throw to first for the Giants' second inning-ending double play of the inning, but Scott Hairston, the lead-pinch-runner, stuck out his leg on the slide and clipped Posey's right ankle and caused the throw to go into right field. The desperation throw home was late, and Ruben Tejada was in with the winning run on the Giants' 3rd error of the afternoon.
Final Analysis:
Um...okay. In the span of about 20 minutes, the Mets went from cruising along to flailing and failing to celebrating the end of their 3-game losing streak. It's the kind of win you've probably never seen before (the first-ever Met win on an error by the opposing catcher) and may never see again. What do you take from that? I'd say you take all the good from the first 8 innings and see the 9th as an even balance of mistakes that gave the W to the team that had earned it in the first 8 frames. Since the Mets were ahead, they get that W. But the fact that they could make a blunder like that and still end up winning is the most Amazin' accident of them all.

MM

Friday, April 20, 2012

Game #13: Giants 4, Mets 3 (10)

Lucas Duda flies out for the game's final out in the Mets' 4-3 loss in extra innings. (NYDailyNews.com)
Deflation was the story at Citi Field tonight. If this game had a sound effect, it would probably sound something like this.

The Mets rallied to send the game to extra innings but Frank Francisco couldn't hold the fort and the Giants prevailed in 10 innings, 4-3.

The Bad Stuff
  • Jon Niese was solid for most of the game, but in the span of 14 pitches in the 3rd inning he went from looking like Tom Glavine to Oliver Perez, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and a wild pitch, the first being a solo home run allowed to former Met Angel Pagan. These 3 runs were the hill New York had to climb all game until they finally reached the top in the 9th...
  • ...Only to have to turn around and do it again in the 10th after Frank Francisco gave up the go-ahead single to San Francisco with 2 on and 2 out. There would be no coming back this time, even after New York had the first 2 on in the bottom of the 10th. Ike Davis grounded out to advance the runners, Jason Bay went from hot-earlier-to-cold-now and struck out, and Lucas Duda fought a few foul balls before ultimately flying out to deep center. Game over. Cue sound.
  • Ike Davis took a step back in terms of progress at the plate. After smashing 3 home runs in 4 games, Ike went 0-5, striking out twice and leaving 7 men aboard.
  • Speaking of leaving men aboard, that continues to be the Mets' biggest problem at the plate: the team went a dismal 1-10 with RISP and left 9 on to end innings.
The Good Stuff
  • Despite the loss some good stats will appear in tomorrow morning's boxscore. Take out those 14 pitches in the 3rd and Jon Niese had a good outing, allowing those 3 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings.
  • The bullpen also held the fort nicely before extras, with Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch, and Tim Byrdak combining for 3 scoreless innings in relief.
  • David Wright continued his hot streak, going 1-3 and walking twice, giving him 10 straight games of getting on base at least twice to begin his 2012.
  • Despite failing in the 10th, Jason Bay had a very good outing, going 2-5 with a solo home run in the 4th (the Mets' first hit) and starting the game-tying rally in the 9th with a single. He also made a tough catch running towards the wall in the 6th.
  • But the biggest bright spot of the day was the continuing development of "Captain" Kirk Nieuwenhuis. In one of his first chances against left-handed pitching, the young centerfielder blasted an opposite field solo home run in the 5th of Barry Zito. He also made a couple very nice catches out in center field and drew a walk in the bottom of the 9th that set up Josh Thole's game-tying single. He was eventually gunned down trying to sprint home on a Mike Baxter groundball, but all-in-all a very good night for Nieuwenhuis, who is growing into a permanent major-leaguer right before our very eyes.
Final Analysis:
Not the best of results on the scoreboard tonight, but this is one of those games you can take more good from than bad. Especially coming off the the two rough and ugly losses in Atlanta earlier this week, tonight was a step in the right direction.

MM

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Game #12: Braves 14, Mets 6

R.A. Dickey’s stretch of 14 consecutive quality starts comes to an end Wednesday, as the Braves chase him after 4-1/3 innings. Dickey takes the loss and allows eight earned runs. (NYDailyNews.com)
Throughout the afternoon, it seemed like the Mets were battling the baseball equivalent of the hydra: when they cut off one head from the Atlanta lead, two more grew in its place. It wasn't pretty for Hercules when he tried it, and it wasn't pretty for New York either.

R.A. Dickey's consecutive quality starts streak came crashing down and the Mets couldn't capitalize on all their chances, falling to the Braves 14-6 in their road trip finale.

The Bad Stuff
  • Since last July, the name R.A. Dickey has meant "quality start" in the eyes of Met fans. He had 14 straight going and the offense was good enough today that it would have gotten him his 7th win in those 15 starts. Problem was on this day, it was Dickey who came up short. Maybe it was the wet conditions tampering with his knuckleball, or maybe was just overdue for a dud. Whatever it was, it wasn't typical R.A., who allowed 8 runs on 8 hits in 4.1 innings, including 3 home runs, his most since joining New York in 2010. I would classify this as nothing but a blip, but it was a shocking blip, no doubt.
  • The rest of the pitching didn't live up to its season-opening standards either: Bobby Parnell, Tim Byrdak, and Frank Francisco each allowed 2 runs in their time on the mound; it was the first runs that crossed on Byrdak's and Francisco's time all season.
    • The most remarkable aspect of today's game was how the Mets gave up runs: in every single inning they scored, the Braves scored double that in the bottom half of the frame, plus 2 more in the 7th when New York didn't score. I've never seen anything like that; it was just like something out of Greek mythology.
  • While they managed 6 runs on the afternoon, with 14 hits the New York offense should have plated more. They hit 7-18 with RISP (a good batting average but my goodness, to only score 1/3 of a run for every at-bat? Not great) and stranded 11. They threatened in just about every inning, but once they got a run across, the engine stalled enough for the Braves to get a handle on them.
The Good Stuff
  • With 6 runs and 14 hits, you're gonna see some guys with good numbers. The most encouraging line came from Ike Davis, who went 2-5 and hit his 3rd home run in 4 games in the top of the 2nd.
  • David Wright went 2-5 and drove in 3 runs, tying Darryl Strawberry's franchise RBI record with 733. This also makes it 9 straight games to start the season in which Wright got on base at least twice; the last time that happened in the majors was in 2002 when Mike Cameron did it for the Seattle Mariners.
  • Every regular starter got at least one hit today. The most notable were:
    • Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who started his first game in the leadoff slot and went 3-4 with 2 doubles, a walk, 3 runs, and an RBI. Captain Kirk is hitting .375 in his first stretch in the majors, and with Andres Torres still struggling to get to rehab, there's a chance he has played his way into the centerfield role for good.
    • Daniel Murphy, who went 2-4 with a run and an RBI.
    • Jason Bay, who went 1-3 but drew 2 walks and didn't strike out. He's now hitting above the Mendoza line for the year.
Final Analysis:
Definitely not the way you want to end a road trip. The team's stellar honeymoon of a start appears to be over after 4 series and a 7-5 record. Still better than expected, I'll give you that. But recent numbers may be cause for alarm: in the last 4 games, New York has given up 32 runs; they gave up just 22 in their first 8 games.

An off day tomorrow before the next homestand is just what this team needs. The reality of the long season is beginning to set in, and we now have two pictures of what the Mets can be in 2012: the solid team of young players all doing their part, or the inexperienced team that is in over its head. We're about to find out which one is true. If it's the first, we're in for a treat. If it's the second, we're in for a long 5 months.

MM

P.S. So long, Dick Clark.
1929-2012

Game #11: Braves 9, Mets 3

The Mets' Johan Santana reacted after giving up a run against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning. (NYTimes.com)
The Mets were praying for the rain tonight, but the only rain that came was a flurry of Braves runs.

Johan Santana was blasted by Atlanta hits and New York errors, resulting in the shortest start of his career and the Mets' first loss to the Braves, 9-3.

The Bad Stuff
  • Before tonight, the shortest outing of Johan Santana's stellar career was 3 innings. He wouldn't even make it through half that before getting the hook. Santana went just 1.1 innings and allowed 6 runs (4 earned) on 4 hits and a walk. Perhaps it was ghosts of Turner Field past (this was the place he blew his shoulder out at in 2010), but whatever it was he didn't have his stuff tonight. I suppose it's to be expected with the nature of his recovery, but to see a former 2-time Cy Young winner knocked out by a mediocre offense after managing just 4 outs is still a jarring sight.
  • It didn't help either that the Met fielders were jarred from making good plays. Jason Bay's error on the first Atlanta batter of the game led to the unearned run in the 1st, and Ike Davis's throwing error on a sac bunt in the 2nd let another run cross.
  • The reverberations from Santana's rocking must have shaken through the New York bats as well. The Mets hit 3-11 with RISP and left 10 men on base. Ruben Tejada, Davis, and Lucas Duda were hit the hardest, each going 0-4.
  • While the offense wasn't particularly helpful, the bullpen wasn't much better in keeping the damage down to a reachable level. New York got 1.2 scoreless innings out of Miguel Batista, but Ramon Ramirez let in 2 runs in his 2 innings and Manny Acosta let one more through in his 3.
The Good Stuff
  • Despite 2 strikeouts, David Wright continued his hot start; the league's leading hitter went 2-5, which actually lowered his average to "only" .517. This makes it 8 straight games for David that he got on base at least twice, a phenomenal streak to start the year.
  • Daniel Murphy also did well at the plate, going 2-5 with an RBI. The other runs were driven in by Josh Thole and pinch-hitting Mike Baxter.
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis also went 2-4 and Jason Bay had the team's only extra-base hit of the night, a double in the 4th that led to a run.
Final Analysis:
Whereas everything went right for the New York Mets last night, everything went wrong tonight. That's alright, though. Baseball is a funny game: even the very best teams only win about 60% of the time; even the best teams have nights like these. The question for the 7-4 Mets is whether tonight's result is closer to the norm of what the team will be or just a hiccup in the road. Only time will tell.

MM

Monday, April 16, 2012

Game #10: Mets 6, Braves 1

Jason Bay robbing the Braves’ Jack Wilson of a home run. Bay hit one himself in the ninth. (NYTimes.com)
For years, Chipper Jones made New York his punching bag. In early 2012, the Mets are returning the favor.

Ike Davis's 3-run homer in the 6th highlighted a strong night at the plate, and Dillon Gee was bold and strong at the plate as the Mets took their fourth straight over the Braves, 6-1.

The Good Stuff
  • He's baaa-aaack! After taking some time to get going, Ike Davis has hit 2 home runs in the last 2 games. Last night's gave his team an early lead, tonight's gave them a lead they would not let go. With the score tied 1-1 and one out in the top of the 6th, Ruben Tejada smacked a double against the wall (his 6th of the year). Daniel Murphy grounded out to advance the runner, and then things start to get interesting. Rather than pitch to a red-hot David Wright, who already had a hit in the game, Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson, a right-hander, decided he'd rather try his luck against left-handed Ike Davis. So Wright was given the IBB and Davis was given 4 straight curveballs, something Ron Darling noted could backfire on Hanson. Like half a minute later, Hanson's fifth curveball landed in the right field stands after being sent like a rocket off of Ike's bat. The Mets were up 4-1 and whatever momentum was left in a sparse Turner Field crowd was snuffed out.
  • Let's not forget the man who follows Ike in the batting order also had a heck of a night. If they kept track of this sort of stat (and they probably do but I'm not in the mood for alphabet soup tonight), Jason Bay would be +2 in terms of runs tonight. One run comes from the home run he took away from Jack Wilson on a terrific snag in the bottom of the 5th (watch Web Gems tonight; that was a legit home run!). The other came as insurance in the top of the 9th when he belted a Livan Hernandez sinker into dead center.
  • Ruben Tejada also picked up an RBI on a groundout in the 3rd and Josh Thole scored on a wild pitch in the 7th.
  • With Giants' beardmaster Brian Wilson done for the year, Dillon Gee officially takes over the title of Coolest Facial Hair in Baseball, a title he followed up with a stellar performance on the mound. Gee went the standard 7 innings and allowed 1 run on 4 hits, walking 1 and striking out 5. His most impressive frame was his last: with none out and 1 on, Gee got a double play ball out of Jason Heyward, but Thole was called for catcher's interference, turing 2 out and none on into 2 on and none out. As cold as ice, The Goatee struck out Eric Hinske on a 3-2 fastball, made a nice play on a tough Jack Wilson groundball, and went after Juan Francisco with a 2-2 fastball to end the threat.
  • After Dillon made his exist, the bullpen took care of the rest, with Jon Rauch keeping his spotless ERA in the 8th and Tim Byrdak going 1-2-3 in the 9th to make it 4 in a row against the noodle-armed tomahawk chop.
The Bad Stuff
  • Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda were the only Met starters (pitcher notwithstanding) to go hitless, each going 0-4.
Final Analysis:
I'm getting used to this winning thing! So are the Mets, as they appear to have found a winning formula. If the starter turns in a strong performance (check), if Tejada and Murphy set the table and get on base (not so much tonight but in general yes), if someone from the middle of the order makes the delivery (Davis and Bay did so tonight), and if the bullpen comes in to slam the door shut (check), most of the time New York will have a W next to them in the morning papers.

The key part of that equation is the production from the middle of the order. The 3-4-5-6 guys are key to New York's success at the plate this year. They've got 4 guys who have power potential (each has at least 2 home runs with Duda at 3 now). If just one of them goes yard or delivers a big extra base hit, it goes a long way to winning ballgames. They've been able to take turns coming up big this year, and it has paid solid dividends.

Most people would have thought the Mets would be 3-7 at this point, not 7-3. They've risen to #10 in this week's ESPN Power Rankings. This team is winning and they're starting to turn heads. All they have to do is keep consistent and they'll turn a lot more.

MM

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Game #9: Phillies 8, Mets 2

Mike Pelfrey gives the Mets six solid innings Sunday, but the bullpen implodes in Philadelphia, giving up seven runs in the final three frames. (NYDailyNews.com)
The door to the broom closet was opened up again, but the bats of Philadelphia slammed it shut.

The Phillies offense blew up for 7 runs in their last 2 innings as the Mets' early lead evaporated into an 8-2 loss.

The Bad Stuff
  • It was only a matter of time before the Mets' rock-solid bullpen was going to show a few cracks. But even if inevitable, it wasn't pretty. Up 2-1, Ramon Ramirez allowed the go-ahead runs to score in the 7th, wiping out a W for Mike Pelfrey (who we'll get to in Good Stuff). In the 8th, Philly took out a massive insurance policy, tapping Manny Acosta for 4 runs and Miguel Batista for 1 more. But it wasn't just the bats that did the relievers in: Ramirez's wild pitch put runners on second and third with 1 out and Acosta walked 2 straight with 2 out to force in a run before Ty Wigginton delivered the final blow with a bases-clearing double.
  • After putting 2 on the board in the 1st, the New York offense shut down at the hands of Cole Hamels, who went 7 innings and allowed no more runs on 6 hits, walking 1 and striking out 10. Chad Qualls allowed a hit but managed the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon loaded the bases before striking out Justin Turner to end the game.
  • The Mets played shorthanded once again, this time with Jason Bay sitting out with a jammed right middle finger, apparently from sliding into first base, similar to what David Wright did on Monday.
The Good Stuff
  • The Mets wasted a fine outing by Mike Pelfrey, who went for 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 8 hits, walking 2 and striking out 2. He walked a fine tightrope and got into jams in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th, but managed to get out of them with little damage done.
  • The only offense New York got on the day was in the 1st inning when Ike Davis hit his first home run of the year, a 2-run blast off a Hamels cutter. An encouraging sign for Met fans, perhaps Ike has finally caught up after missing most of last year and dealing with his valley fever. He finished the day 2-4.
  • David Wright scored on Davis' home run and had another strong outing at the plate, going 2-4. He was picked off of first by Hamels in the 6th, but because he (presumably) kept his fingers in tact this time, it goes under Good Stuff.
  • Lucas Duda also had 2 hits on the afternoon.
Final Analysis:
A sweep in Philadelphia would have been nice and this loss is disappointing, especially since the bullpen had been so stellar. But when you look at the big picture, you see the Mets won the series and are 6-3 a week and a half into the season. They're still performing above expectations and a series win over the five-time defending NL East champs is an encouraging sign. They just have to get back on top of things tomorrow in Atlanta and keep the ball rolling.

MM

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Game #8: Mets 5, Phillies 0

David Wright’s ability to play Saturday had been questionable because of a fractured pinkie, but he erased all doubt with a home run in his first at-bat. (NYTimes.com)
"I guess his hand's okay."
--SNY play-by-play man Gary Cohen with the understatement of 2012.

David Wright homered on the first pitch he saw coming back from a broken pinkie, providing the difference for an unbeatable Jon Niese and giving the Mets a 5-0 win over the Phillies.

The Good Stuff
  • In a stunning turnaround, it was announced 2 hours before game time that David Wright would play despite breaking his right pinkie finger 5 days ago. Concern around the blogosphere was that he was rushing back too soon and would either get hurt worse or hurt the team by not contributing. Wright buried those concerns with one pitch and one swing, blasting a Vance Worley fastball to the deepest part of left center for his 2nd home run of the year. And he didn't stop there, going 3-5 with 2 runs and making a couple plays in the infield.
    • Any question as to whether David Wright wasn't the face of the franchise ended with that pitch. Playing through what I'm guessing is excruciating pain, Wright showed his toughness and his desire to help his team win. Reports earlier this week indicated the Met front office was concerned about his injury-proneness and they were holding off on his contract extension. I'd like to hope Sandy Alderson was finishing up the paper work by the time David rounded second base. Let's make this guy a Met for life.
  • The offense ignited again in the 4th when Daniel Murphy walked, Wright singled, and Ike Davis singled to load the bases with none out. After Jason Bay grounded into a double play to bring one home (*sigh*, perhaps it was black magic), Lucas Duda blasted a first-pitch fastball into the right field stands to make it 3-0. He also had a double in the 6th and has broken out of a long slump.
  • The last run came in the top of the 9th when Mike Baxter walked, stole second (our first stolen base!), and was driven in by Ruben Tejada, who went 2-5 and is hitting .333 from the leadoff slot (and he's only 22!).
  • All the extra offense was great, but in reality, it was checkmate for Philadelphia 4 pitches in when Wright smashed his home run. Because Jon Niese continues to earn that 5-year contract extension of his, going 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 5 for his second W in as many tries. Bobby Parnell finished up the 7th and the 8th and Jon Rauch slammed the door shut in the 9th to give New York their second shutout win of the year.
The Bad Stuff
  • Um...I'm sure David was in a lot of pain?
The More Good Stuff
  • The best painkiller in the world is winning.
Final Analysis:
Games like that don't come around very often. When they do, as fans, you can't help but celebrate. Today as Mets fans, we saw spectacular pitching, good solid hitting, and the 2012 version of Roy Hobbes. Oh, and did I mention it was against our fiercest rivals? And that it puts us at 6-2 and a half game out of first place? Yes, it's one afternoon, and there's still 95% of the season left, and yes, Red, "Hope is a dangerous thing." But through 5% of the season, this Mets team is giving its hope-starved fan base a reason to believe. How long it will last, I don't know. What I do know is you take it one game at at time and enjoy the ride when you're on a high point. This is a high point.

MM

Friday, April 13, 2012

Game #7: Mets 5, Phillies 2

Jason Bay hits a home run in the first inning against the Phillies to give them an early 1-0 lead. (NYDailyNews.com)
Terry Collins must have fed his team Lucky Charms before game time, because that Friday the 13th curse was nowhere near the orange and blue on this night.

Jason Bay's 2-run homer highlighted a 3-run 1st and R.A. Dickey pitched masterfully once again, giving the Mets a much-needed 5-2 win over the archrival Phillies.

The Good Stuff
  • Before this game, Cliff Lee had allowed one earned run in three career starts against the Mets. He wouldn't even make it out of the 1st inning without blowing up that stat. Ruben Tejada led off with a double (his 5th of the young season) and Daniel Murphy doubled him in mere pitches later. After Justin Turner struck out and Ike Davis grounded Murph over to third, Jason Bay stepped up and blasted a shot into the right center stands of Citizens Bank Park.
    • Was it just black magic on Friday the 13th? Or was this the game that finally gets him jump-started? Most have given up hope that he'll ever be what he was in Pittsburgh and Boston, but I'd like to believe Jason Bay finally has it figured out. Only time will tell, but it was a step in the right direction tonight. (At least he can still field - made a nice play in the 2nd to gun down John Mayberry Jr. at second base.)
  • There wasn't too much more offense after that explosion (not that pitching needed it; see below), but Scott Hairston provided an insurance run in the 5th with a solo blast to left off a Lee snailball (74 mph). The last run came in the 9th off a Lucas Duda sac fly.
  • The only question was whether R.A. Dickey could get run support. He did on this night, and it was more than enough for Mr. Knuckleball. Dickey turned in his 14th consecutive quality start, going 7 innings and allowing 1 run on 9 hits, walking 1 and K-ing 7. The lone run against him came on a Freddy Galvis solo jack in the 3rd; otherwise, Dickey got out of every single jam and earned a well-deserved second W.
  • Bobby Parnell came in and pitched a solid 8th, then turned it over to Frank Francisco, who allowed an unearned run and struck out 3 Phillies to end the ballgame (that makes it 4 appearances by Francisco and 4 games finished with Ks...that'll do).
  • Also, how can you not sing the praises of New York's new road uniforms? These things are classic, classy, and gorgeous. They should have removed the black trim a looong time ago, but better late then never, and nothing can beat the team grays this year. Simply fabulous.
The Bad Stuff
  • Ike Davis's struggles at the plate continued as he went 0-3, dropping his average to a dismal .043. The only plus was that he didn't strike out.
  • Aside from his sac fly, Lucas Duda didn't do much either, also going 0-3 and striking out twice to drop his average to .120.
  • The game would have been over one batter sooner if not for a ball that went through Daniel Murphy's legs Bill Buckner style with 2 outs in the 9th, allowing the second Philadelphia run to score.
  • The only time the Friday the 13th curse struck the team was in the top of the 2nd when Josh Thole's brain took a brief vacation (we have unconfirmed reports it was spotted in Argentina). Thole was on first after as single, and Dickey laid down the perfect sac bunt to advance him. But Thole misread Jimmy Rollins's hands-up signal at second as "foul ball" instead of "don't slide," and started jogging back to first. The ball was tossed over for an easy double play, and what could've been a runner on second with 2 outs turned into the end of the inning. It's been speculated that whenever Josh catches R.A.'s knuckleball it throws him off for a few days with other pitchers; perhaps it threw off his common sense in the 2nd inning tonight.
Final Analysis:
Who needs David Wright? Okay, we do, and it appears he and his swollen-beyond-gripping-ability finger may be headed toward the DL. But with great pitching like the Mets had tonight, all it takes is for one guy to step up and contribute in his place. Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy had been doing it all season, and tonight Jason Bay got in on the action. Just a bit of offense combined with excellent pitching from R.A. Dickey and the rest of the staff, along with a little luck (Philly scored 1 earned run on 11 hits...who was cursed tonight?), and the New York Mets will whether the storm caused by Wright's absence.

MM

P.S. We've reached a milestone on Midwestern Met: you've just read Post #200!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Game #6: Nationals 4, Mets 0

Stephen Strasburg gave up two hits over six innings, walked three batters and struck out nine. (NYTimes.com)
On the Mets' 50th birthday celebration, it was the visiting team who enjoyed a cake-walk.

Stephen Strasburg outdueled Johan Santana and the Nationals, aided by 10 walks, took the rubber game from the Mets, 4-0.

The Bad Stuff
  • The Amazin' offense was anemic today against one of the premiere pitchers in the game. Stephen Strasburg held the Mets to 2 hits in his 6 innings of work, walking 3 and striking out 9 to pick up the W. The Washington bullpen was just as stellar, holding New York to 1 hit the rest of the way. Not even Terry Collins' shall we say "spirited" appeal to the umpires could light a spark on the Mets this day.
  • At 4-0, the final score doesn't look too horrible. Then you take a look at the number of baserunners the Nats had today and you realize 4-0 was a lucky occurrence. New York pitchers gave up 9 hits and issued an astounding 10 walks. 3 of them were from Johan Santana, who had control problems in the beginning of the game, but 7 of those walks came in the final 4 innings of the game: 3 from Manny Acosta, 2 from Ramon Ramirez, and 1 each from Miguel Batista and Tim Byrdak. Had Washington not hit 1-14 with RISP and stranded 14 men, this game would've been closer to the Mets' very first game in 1962, an 11-4 loss in St. Louis, than a seemingly harmless 4-0 affair.
The Good Stuff
  • Despite his control problems early, Johan Santana wasn't horrible in his second start of the year: 1 run on 5 hits in 5 innings, 3 walks and an impressive 8 strikeouts (he probably would have gone much longer if those BBs and Ks didn't eat up his pitch count).
  • Ike Davis got off the schnide, picking up his first hit of the 2012 year, a single in the 7th which helped fuel the Mets' last chance at breaking the shutout.
Final Analysis:
Maybe it was the bad vibes from the '62 team, or a tricky strike zone, or the disappointment ringing from David Wright's pinkie problems. Whatever it was, the Mets couldn't solve Davey Johnson's puzzle in the finale of their first homestand.

Still, New York heads on the road with a respectable 4-2 record, certainly better than the 2-4 or 1-5 most of the "experts" thought we'd have by now. The team will get an off day before their series in Philadelphia, which gives Wright more of a chance to heal his finger. David said he was feeling better this morning and Terry's still optimistic we'll see him on the field Friday night. Let's hope so: while R.A. Dickey will give them a fighting chance against Cliff Lee, it'll likely take the Face of the Franchise to put them over the top in Citizens Bank Park.

MM

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Game #5: Nationals 6, Mets 2

Mets third baseman David Wright (r.) talks to Ike Davis and Terry Collins (l.) in the dugout after jamming a finger on a slide Monday night. X-rays show the finger is broken on Tuesday. (NYDailyNews.com)
All good things must come to an end, and New York's undefeated season is no exception.

A makeshift lineup and less-than-stellar pitching combined to doom the Mets, who suffered their first loss of the 2012 season, 6-2 to the Nationals.

The Bad Stuff
  • Dillon Gee was looking to get off on the right foot to start his sophomore season. Three pitches in, that chance was down the tubes. Ian Desmond led off with a home run and Washington never looked back. Gee picked up the L with 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits in 5.1 innings, walking 1 and striking out 6.
  • The so-far rock solid Met bullpen also began to show a few leaks in the wall (where's that little Dutch boy with a finger when you need him? Oh that's right, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is all grown up). Bobby Parnell and Miguel Batista each allowed a run in their combined 3.2 innings of work to put it out of reach in favor of Davey Johnson's ballclub.
  • Spectacular in the field yesterday, Daniel Murphy reminded everyone of why ordinary plays are extraordinary when he makes them. Murph had a rough go of it at second base, committing an error and ruining at least a couple double plays. He also faltered at the plate, going 0-4 and striking out twice in the 3-hole, where he was put after David Wright was scratched with a fractured pinkie finger (his timetable to return is unclear...oy vey, more injuries!).
  • The rest of the New York lineup was also ineffective at the plate. Jason Bay and Lucas Duda combined to go 1-8 with 3 Ks.
The Good Stuff
  • A last-minute replacement at third base, Ronny Cedeno had a good game at the plate, going 3-4 with a double and an RBI.
  • The Mets' other run was driven in by Justin Turner, who got his first career start at first base.
Final Analysis:
Well, you can't win 'em all. Especially not in baseball. You knew it would happen, but it's still disappointing knowing the Mets are not, in fact, invincible. But hey, 4-1 after the first 5 games? I'll take that.

What I won't take is the news about David Wright. Before the game I just thought his finger was jammed, and now to find out it's broken? Disheartening. Terry Collins says he might be back on Friday, but knowing the Mets' medical staff, he'll probably go on the DL. I just hope I'm wrong.

MM

Monday, April 9, 2012

Game #4: Mets 4, Nationals 3

Daniel Murphy (28), with David Wright (5) and other teammates after driving in the winning run in the ninth with a single. (NYTimes.com)
In New York's previous 3 games, Daniel Murphy was removed in the 9th inning for a defensive replacement. Tonight he wasn't, and he made his presence known...but in a good way!

Murphy's diving play at second base got his team out of the 9th and his RBI single gave the Mets a 4-3 win over the Nationals.

The Good Stuff
  • There was never any doubt that Daniel Murphy had a bat. It was his glove that concerned the Mets going into 2012. But a crash course in second base over the offseason has paid big dividends 4 games into the young season. Murph's been error-free so far, and his diving stop and flip to second on a Ryan Zimmerman groundball in the top of the 9th got the force out and got his team out of a mini-jam.
  • In the bottom of the 9th, Mike Baxter led off with a walk and Ruben Tejada laid down a perfect 2-strike sac bunt to advance him to second. But Washington pitcher Henry Rodriguez was so impressed by Ruben's skill at the plate, he decided Baxter deserved an extra base, so his throw to first got way away and put men on second and third. Up came Big Murph, who slashed a 1-0 fastball into right field for the game-winning RBI single.
  • Daniel Murphy gets hit with a celebratory pie by Justin Turner after his game-winning hit Monday night. (NYDailyNews.com)
    • Murphy finished the day 2-5, bringing his 2012 numbers up to 7-18 with 3 doubles and 3 RBIs.
    • On a related note, as SNY's Kevin Burkhardt was interviewing Daniel after the game, Met fans finally had their most pressing question of the offseason answered. Quick as a fox, a streak of red hair came in to deliver a shaving cream pie to Murph's face. Yes, Justin Turner, Le Grand Orange Junior, is New York's new cream pie boy! I'm sure Daniel will appreciate this long after the stinging in his eyes stops, but right then, all he could do was grab Burkhardt's jacket and clean up his face.
  • In other non-Murph news: "Captain" Kirk Nieuwenhuis launched his first career home run, a 2-run blast in the bottom of the 4th that tied the game at 3-3. I'd be sweating if I were Andres Torres: it appears he may be on the way to being, as some people have referred to it as, "Wally Pipped."
  • David Wright also continued his blistering start, going 1-3 and driving in his 4th run in as many games.
  • On the pitching side, Mike Pelfrey made his season debut on the mound, and while he wasn't spectacular, by Pelfrey standards, he was pretty good: 5.2 innings, 10 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 8 Ks. Those aren't the numbers you want out of an ace, but this year Mike Pelfrey doesn't have to be an ace, just a reliable fourth starter. He was that tonight.
  • The Met bullpen continues to be stellar, turning in 3.1 innings of scoreless, hitless relief against the National bats. Miguel Batista got out of the 6th, and Ramon Ramirez got out of a jam in the 7th when Batista walked the first two batters. Jon Rauch then came in for 2 innings and picked up the W.
The Bad Stuff
  • Ike Davis's struggles at the plate continued: Ike went 0-4 and is still looking for his first hit of 2012.
  • The team's hitting with men on base wasn't as good as it could have been: 2-11 with RISP and 10 men stranded on base.
Final Analysis:
Who are these guys? Written off before the season even began, the Mets are 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and have the best record in the National League. How long will this winning streak last? Only the baseball gods know. But the New York Mets are winning, and they're winning the right way. Let's just enjoy the Amazin' ride.

MM

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Game #3: Mets 7, Braves 5

Jonathon Niese carries a no-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday at Citi Field, but his bid for the Mets’ first no-no is broken up by Freddy Freeman in the seventh. (NYDailyNews.com)
The Amazin' broom closet is opening up earlier than it ever has before.

Jon Niese took a no-hit bid into the 7th and Ruben Tejada broke out for 4 hits as the Mets took down the Braves 7-5 to complete the 3-game sweep.

The Good Stuff
  • 6 innings into the game and Jon Niese was on pace to do something no Met had done in 7970 games. Then in the 7th, Game 7971 became like every other. No, Jon Niese did not achieve the first no-hitter in Met history, but he did earn the win by allowing 4 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits, walking 4 and striking out 7. He ran out of steam in the 7th, but for those 6 innings he made that contract extension look awfully good.
  • On the opposite side of the plate, New York exploded for 7 runs on 11 hits, led by Ruben Tejada, who made up for a previously 0-for-the series with a 4-5, 2 double, 2 run, 2 RBI performance in the leadoff slot.
    • Daniel Murphy also had a monster day, slicing out 2 doubles and driving in 2 runs.
    • Also making a slash at the plate were: David Wright (1-1, sac fly in the 1st), Jason Bay (1-2, 1 RBI), and Scott Hairston (RBI double).
    • The team as a whole also did much better in key hitting situations, going 3-9 with RISP.
  • Once Niese made his exit, the Amazin' bullpen took care of business, once again, with Manny Acosta, Tim Byrdak, and Frank Francisco combined to stop Atlanta's offensive surge, with Francisco picking up his third save in 3 days, once again striking out the last Brave to end the game.
The Bad Stuff
  • Ike Davis had another rough go of it, going 0-3 with a strikeout. Davis finished the series 0-11 with 5 Ks.
  • The Braves would have not gotten as close as they did without Lucas Duda's error in right field in the 7th, which led to 2 unearned Atlanta runs on Niese's record.
  • While 7 runs will do any day of the week, it would have been more without a couple baserunning miscues. In the 4th, Jason Bay's bases-loaded sac fly became a double play when David Wright messed up on the way to third. In the 7th, Scott Hairston's line drive to third was knocked down; thinking it was caught, Ike Davis was tossed out at home, and a diving-into-second Bay was forced out at third to end the rally.
Final Analysis
Boy, you couldn't ask for a better opening series than that. Three quality starts from Santana, Dickey, and Niese. Three days of clutch hitting and effective offense. Three days of rock-solid relief from the new-look bullpen. The result was the Mets' first-ever 3-game sweep of a division opponent to begin a season.

It's early, I know, but this team looked awfully good this weekend. If they keep this up, the Mets may have a real shot this year. Why not us, you know?

MM

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Game #2: Mets 4, Braves 2

NY Mets right fielder Lucas Duda rounds the bases after his seventh-inning homer at Citi Field Saturday afternoon. (NYDailyNews.com)
Baseball's newest power plant may reside at Citi Field, and the ol' Home Run Apple is getting its work in early into the 2012 campaign.

Lucas Duda slugged 2 home runs and David Wright added another, providing a cushion for R.A. Dickey and giving the Mets a 4-2 win over the Braves.

The Good Stuff
  • David Wright picked up where he left of Thursday, drilling a solo homer to right center in the bottom of the 1st. He finished the day 3-5 and would've had a double in the 8th if not for a great defensive play by Juan Francisco at third base. Wright has 5 hits in 8 at-bats so far and is looking great at the plate. He also had back-to-back nice putouts in the 7th.
  • Also looking great at the plate was one Lucas Duda. The Big Dude had the first longball of the new Citi Field, a solo jack in the 4th, and he added another on a line drive in the 7th that would've been out everywhere in the majors.
  • Also making a splash with their bats were Josh Thole, who went 2-4 and drove in the go-ahead run in the 6th, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who went 2-4 in his major league debut.
  • All that offense meant smiles after the game for R.A. Dickey, whose 13th consecutive quality start gave him his first W of 2012. The majors' last knuckleballer went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, walking 4 and striking out 3. His lone mistake was an errant fastball in the 5th to Martin Prado, who turned it into a 2-run homer.
  • After Dickey's departure, the revamped Mets bullpen took care of the rest: Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch were each perfect in the 7th and 8th, and Frank Francisco buckled down to pick up his second save in as many games.
The Bad Stuff
  • The only negative on today's game was New York's inability to turn 13 hits into more runs: they hit 1-8 with RISP and stranded 12 men on base.
Final Analysis
Just another solid day at the, *erhem*, "bandbox" that is the new Citi Field. Great hitting + great pitching = win #2 and a happy ending for the 39,526 who came out to Meet the Mets.

MM

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Game #1: Mets 1, Braves 0

Johan Santana made his first major league start for the Mets since September 2010. (NYTimes.com)
And then it was back to baseball. Everything else going on in the organization finally took a backseat to the fact that it was Opening Day at Citi Field. And like most Opening Days in Flushing, this one gave the fans a reason to cheer.

David Wright's RBI single in the 6th inning was all the offense Johan Santana and company, as the Mets' ace and four relievers combined to blank the Braves, 1-0, to kick off the team's 50th Anniversary season.

The Good Stuff:
  • He won't get it on the stat sheet, but Johan Santana deserves as much credit for this win as anyone. In his first game in 573 days, the 2-time Cy Young winner pitched 5 scoreless innings on 84 pitches, giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 5. He got himself into trouble in the 5th, allowing a double and walking the bases loaded, but in true Johan fashion he buckled down and got to the dugout unscathed.
    • Anyone who spent last year away from planet Earth and lost track of baseball wouldn't have noticed anything different about Santana: he looked darn near close to the superstar the Amazin's picked up in free agency in 2008. He baffled the Braves out there, at one point retiring 12 Atlanta hitters in a row. He ran out of steam and began missing the plate in the 5th frame, but you can attribute that to the long layoff from regular season action. He'll build up his stamina as the year progresses, but the most important thing right now is that Johan Santana just started Opening Day for the Mets in 2012.
  • Not too much in the way of offense today; it was a good, old-fashioned pitchers' duel. New York did break through in the 6th: Andres Torres led off with a walk and went to third on Daniel Murphy's single. Then David Wright, now the definitive face of the franchise, laced a single into left to give his team the lead and eventually the win.
  • Wright finished the day 2-3 and walked once. Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole also had good days at the plate, picking up 2 hits apiece.
  • With a unit that ranked 28th in baseball last year, Sandy Alderson had to use the limited resources he had this offseason to shore up a creaky bullpen. So far, it's paying dividends. Ramon Ramirez picked up the win after Santana's departure, and he, Tim Byrdak, Jon Rauch, and new closer Frank Francisco combining for 4 innings of shutout ball in relief, with Francisco slamming the door on Jason Heyward in the 9th inning to seal the deal and send 42,080 Met fans home happy.
  • But before festivities began on the field, the team paid tribute to a fallen icon with a moving ceremony honoring the late Gary Carter. The team will wear black "KID 8" patches on their sleeves the whole season, and a larger version of the patch was revealed on the new left field wall before the game, right next to the 50th Anniversary emblem. The Mets also kept Carter's #8 jersey in the dugout throughout the game. The Kid may be gone, but his spirit will live on in this New York team.
The Bad Stuff:
  • It appears not even the festive atmosphere of Opening Day could keep the injury bug away from the orange and blue. New centerfielder and leadoff man Andres Torres came up lame in the 7th chasing after a Tyler Pastornicky triple and was promptly replaced with Scott Hairston. He was diagnosed with a left calf strain, and a DL stint looks probable. Now one weakness the Mets have to deal with this year is a lack speed. It was no problem last year with Reyes and Beltran, but both those guys are gone. Torres was supposed to make up for some of that lost speed, but now that he's gone there is a real lack of basestealing ability for the NY 9. It also means Ruben Tejada, who was supposed to hit 8th this season, will become a 22-year-old leadoff man in the biggest city in baseball. Remember when I said we'll be watching Tejada grow up this season? He's gonna need a heck of a growth spurt.
  • They didn't need it today, but a lack of offense and missed opportunities plagued the Mets this afternoon. The team hit 1-9 with RISP and left 8 men on base. What stands out the most is the combined numbers of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda: the two lefty sluggers combined to go 0-8 with 4 Ks and strand 11 Mets.
Final Analysis:
You won't find many better ways to start your golden anniversary season. Great pitching and clutch hitting from their biggest star allowed the Mets to start the 2012 campaign the way they have 33 times in the last 43 seasons: with a capital W and a 1-0 record. Now THAT'S Opening Day like it oughtta be!

MM