Some nights everything just seems to click. Because the Mets have only played one team so far this year, it is impossible to know just how much of this sweep is attributable to the Mets and how much of it is due to a Cardinal team that scored just two runs all series and played atrocious defense. Nevertheless, outscoring the defending champions 20-2 over a three game stretch gives little cause for worry.
One could definitely argue that stamina was the most important factor in last night’s drubbing. With the temperature at 41 degrees, both pitchers pounded the strike zone and kept the game scoreless through five innings. In fact, John Maine carried a perfect game into the fifth, before Scott Rolen broke it up with a single up the middle. In the top of the sixth, however, Cardinal starter Bradon Looper (a former reliever making his first major league start) began to tire despite having a relatively low pitch count. With Looper due to lead off in the bottom of the inning, Cardinal manager Tony La Russa wanted his clearly exhausted starter to finish the inning. But Looper gave up a one out single to Paul Lo Duca, the Met catcher’s third hit of the game, setting the stage for Carlos Beltran. After getting ahead 0-2, Looper threw a fat fastball on the inner half of the plate which Beltran turned on and ripped just inside the foul pole down the right field line. The grimace on Looper’s face following the home run was a look that Mets’ fans knew all too well from their former closer. Looper eventually got out of the inning after allowing another run on an RBI single from Shawn Green, logging a "quality start" in his first outing in the Cards’ rotation. But he had already surrendered more runs than John Maine and the Mets’ bullpen would need.
Jose Reyes would homer in the next inning, and one batter later Beltran would hit his second of the night as well, adding another chapter to his recent history of owning St. Louis. Five more runs in the eighth, with help from some poor defense from Preston Wilson, and the Mets had reached double digits for the first time this year.
As nice as the pitching looked last night, I don’t want to get too optimistic. John Maine worked seven innings and was relieved by Ambiorix Burgos and Aaron Sele who each worked an inning. The three pitchers combined on a two-hit shutout, but to quote John Maine: "it was a cold night, you just pound the strike zone and let them put the ball in play and it worked out good." It was a perfect night for Burgos to throw his fastball, which topped out at 96 mph, because of the cold weather and a demoralized Cardinal team that had not seen anything harder than 90 mph all night. As I wrote about a year ago on a start at Shea on a cold night by Brian Bannister:
I tend not to read to much into a start like this ever since I saw
David Cone’s comeback with the Mets several years ago on a chilly night
against the then-Expos. Cone worked five strong innings, against an
Expo team that was so cold it practically wore head scarfs to the
plate. We all remember how badly Cone struggled in the starts that
followed, so we’ll judge Bannister more after his second or third start.
I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about last night’s pitching too . . .
Shawn Green had a good game last night, going 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored. This could make for an interesting decision for Willie Randolph, since he said yesterday that he wants to start Lastings Milledge in right field against Braves’ lefty Mark Redman on Friday, but also that he doesn’t want to take Green out if he’s starting to hit well. Milledge entered last night’s game in the ninth inning for Moises Alou and popped up in his only at bat . . .
I should make a quick note that not only is the infield turning double plays like crazy, but the outfield’s defense is looking good too. Moises Alou had a nice catch last night on a deep fly ball off the bat of Preston Wilson, and Gold Glove winner Carlos Beltran is covering tons of ground in center . . .
I’ve just got to say it: sweeping the Cardinals feels great . . .
One final note. There was a wild finish in Philadelphia, where Phillies closer Tom Gordan blew a 2-0 lead in the 9th against the Braves and Ryan Madson lost it in the 11th. Check out the AP recap for more . . .