Guest post by George Embiricos
The Mets lost to the Braves this afternoon by the score of 3-2. A frustrating all-around game for the Orange and Blue, as their starting pitcher, this time Orlando Hernandez, was once again able to produce a quality start, only to see the usually reliable Aaron Heilman blow the lead and watch the team leave RISP countless times.
- Home plate umpire Bob "King of the Balk" Davidson lived up to his reputation, calling one violation on Mets LHP Scott Schoeneweis and one on Braves RHP Kyle Davies.
- Carlos Delgado continues to struggle offensively, going 0-4 with 3 K’s. He did, however, catch all routine infielders’ and pitchers’ throws…
- Jose Reyes expanded on his hot start to the season, picking up his 3rd triple of the season while also stealing his 3rd base of the year and continuing to shine defensively. Ron Darling commented during the game that he can see Reyes becoming "the best overall player in the game."
- Orlando Hernandez pitched brilliantly, allowing no runs after his first pitch of the game, which was a home run allowed to Kelly Johnson. He manuvered his way out of spotted trouble and recorded 6 K’s.
- David Wright hit the ball hard a few times, expanding on his under-the-radar 18 game hit streak, which dates back to last season.
- Moises Alou also hit the ball well, continuing his good start to the 2007 campaign. Surprisingly, he stole a base, after swiping only two all of last year. He also continues to play above-average defense in LF, and showed off his range a few times this series. He seems to have swung at every first pitch fastball so far this season.
- Carlos Beltran has hit consistently so far, despite failing to score Reyes from 3rd with one out in the 1st inning. He also attempted to steal twice, but was deterred by a third-out K by Delgado and worked a hit and run with David Wright to perfection.
- Jose Valentin has struggled in the past couple games, and continues to look bamboozled while batting right-handed. He bounced out to first, failing to score Reyes from third with no outs in the first.
The Mets will look to rebound from their two-game skid tomorrow in their Home Opener against the 1-5 "team to beat" Phillies. John Maine gets the ball for the Mets, opposing southpaw Cole Hamels. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm.
— George Embiricos
Quick Side Note
- Steve Trachsel must be the only pitcher in the MLB who can produce his usual mediocre ERA after just one start to the season. Trachsel holds a 4.05 ERA after his opening start against the Yankees.
- Floyd had a terrific game on 4/6/07, smoking two doubles and picking up his first two RBI’s as a member of the Cubs. He pinch hit today and walked in his only at bat. Well done, Cliff. All the best.
Yesterday’s loss to Atlanta was a day of firsts for New York. For the first time all season the Mets committed an error, two crucial ones at that. After a Matt Diaz home run in the bottom of the second inning, the Mets trailed for the first time this year. The fifth game of the season also found Tom Glavine’s pitch count at 113 when he left the ball game after just 5 1/3 innings pitched, the shortest outing for a Mets starter this year and by far the most pitches thrown. And, of course, when Shawn Green’s line drive was speared by a leaping Craig Wilson at first with the tying run on second base, it was the first loss of the 2007 season for the Mets.
The game was lost due in part to each of these firsts, but the most important and frustrating of them was the defense. In a way, one could argue that the Mets were due for a lousy game in the field, following the terrific glovemanship that they had shown in the first four games. That thought, however, didn’t make Carlos Delgado’s first-inning drop of a routine throw to first feel any better, nor was it much consolation when Shawn Green dropped a routine fly ball in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded. Those two errors accounted for the three unearned runs charged to Tom Glavine and, in essence, lost the game for New York.
One has to question Willie Randolph’s move to stick with Tom Glavine in the bottom of the sixth inning. Glavine had thrown 104 pitches after Brian McCann hit a screaming line drive up the middle that was caught by a diving Jose Valentin for the first out of the inning. There were runners at first and third, one out, and all three batters that inning had made good contact. At first I assumed Randolph stuck with Glavine because he didn’t want Pedro Feliciano, who was warming up in the bullpen, to face right-handed Craig Wilson, who was the next batter. But later that inning, Randolph brought in Feliciano to face the nine spot in the batting order, knowing that a righty would pinch hit. Why stick with a tired lefty to face a weak righty hitter rather than bring in a fresh southpaw? Odd decision . . .
Depsite the lousy fielding yesterday, Jose Valentin’s defense at second continues to shine. As mentioned above, Valentin made a huge diving catch in the sixth inning . . .
That ninth inning was painful, but at least the Mets hit Braves’ closer Bob Wickman pretty hard. In fact, the Mets faced the Braves’ three best relievers yesterday, and fared well against two of them. They scored a run off of Mike Gonzalez in the seventh and would have tied the game in the ninth if it weren’t for Wilson’s catch. Hats off to Rafael Soriano, though; he worked a perfect eighth for Atlanta . . .
With both teams’ records at 4-1, today’s rubber game is important. Orlando Hernandez on the mound for New York, countered by Kyle Davies for Atlanta. Just a guess, but I think we could see at least one reserve getting a start today. Anyway, make sure to tune in at 1 PM on SNY . . .
Say what you will, but I’m pretty excited for tonight’s Mets-Braves game. Yes, I know it’s only the fourth game of the season, but no real Met fan can deny how pleasant it would be to win this series. The Mets roll red-hot into Atlanta for the Braves’ home opener, following their three game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. But Atlanta broke out the brooms on the road as well, as they took all three games (the first two in extra innings) against the Phillies. With both teams undefeated and the marquee matchup of Smoltz vs. Glavine set to air before a national audience on Saturday afternoon, most of the eyes of the baseball world will be focused on Turner Field this weekend. So what better opportunity could the Mets have to show that last year was no fluke and that they are capable of putting the Braves, and all the ghastly memories that come with them, away for good?
Tonight’s pitching matchup probably tips the scales ever so slightly in the Mets’ direction, as lefties Oliver Perez and Mark Redman will take the hill for New York and Atlanta, respectively. Most Mets fans know Perez’s story: he’s got great stuff, but he’s very inconsistant. Down the stretch for the Mets last year, however, Perez improved. From September 1st through his strong start in Game 7 of the NLCS, he posted an ERA of 4.50 and struck out 39 batters in 40 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Atlanta counters with Redman, the former Kansas City Royal, who has eaten innings throughout his career, but not eaten them terribly effectively. The 33-year-old gave up a lot of hits last year (202 in 167 innings pitched), recorded only 76 strikeouts, and doesn’t throw particularly hard.
I get the feeling that winning this series will require a group effort,
with players chipping in off the bench and the bullpen playing a more
significant role than in the series against St. Louis . . .
Shawn Green is 6 for 6 against Redman in his career, which could lead Willie Randolph to put him in the starting lineup tonight over Lastings Milledge, who Randolph said might start tonight against the left-hander Redman . . .
Atlanta’s home opener is tonight, so the park should be full, as this old rivalry heats up once more. Should be a fun series . . .
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 . . .
This is the first of a daily series of posts that will appear during the season on Daily Mets Blog entitled "The Daily Rumble". It will focus on the main daily issues concerning the team and appear in bullet-point form with brief personal insight (inscribed in bold font) into each issue.
Mets Hot to Open Season
- Sparkling defensive plays and seven turned double plays in first two games highlight impressive start.
- Starting pitching solid with Glavine, El Duque turning in solid efforts, getting outs with RISP. Bullpen issues still unresolved with Joe Smith still untested, Scott Schoeneweis shaky in Tuesday’s game, Aaron Sele yet to appear, and Jorge Julio/Armando Benitez-like Ambiorix Burgos scheduled to make first appearance tonight. Still, plenty of extra arms available in AAA should one or more of the current relievers faulter early on.
- The lineup looks pretty good in the first couple of games. Any talk of Wright hitting 2nd has been quieted for the time being as Lo Duca delivers 2 RBI in the two-spot in season opener.
- No home runs yet for the Mets. Moises Alou hit a line drive last night that failed to carry and was caught near the track and has been hitting the ball well despite a 1-8 start.
- Shawn Green is 0 for his last 6 after beginning the season with two "excuse-me" flairs that managed to find open ground for singles. Lastings Milledge continues to breathe down his neck after a hot Spring Training, and will most likely get a start Friday night against the Braves and left-hander Mark Redman. Like many Mets fans, I would like to see Milledge put to use as soon as possible, either in the starting lineup in place of Green if he falters in the next couple of weeks, or as the main piece in a trade for a starting pitcher, considering the promise of Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez in the minor league system and the current state of the rotation which includes Mike Pelfrey, who was rocked in his last couple of Spring starts and could use some tuning up in the Minors.
- John Maine starts tonight for the Mets. He is coming off of a 6-5 3.60 ERA season in which he seemingly came out of nowhere after being acquired from the Orioles to become an important piece of the rotation and pitch well in the playoffs. His #3 spot in the rotation this season was pretty much uncontested, though he did pitch well in the Spring. I expect Maine to be an integral part of the pitching staff this season, and he will have to step up, especially if injury-prone El Duque, inconsistent Oliver Perez, or unproven Mike Pelfrey run into trouble. Most people are pinning Maine for a teen number win season with an ERA around 4, which I believe is reasonable. I do, however, believe that he is capable of pitching better than those predictions, as showcased by his astounding 69 hits allowed in 90 IP last season. Provided that he keeps the ball in the ballpark (15 HR allowed last year), he could evolve into an elite pitcher for years to come.
- Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes both stole bases last night. Reyes stole 64 last year and is expected to produce a similar number this season, while Beltran’s swipe is a welcome sight, as the all-time leader in successful stolen base percentage has failed to run significantly during his two years with the Mets, but has expressed hope this offseason that he can restore his base-stealing prowess.
- Tonight’s matchup features the Mets’ John Maine against the Cardinals’ (and loathed ex-Met) Braden Looper, who will be making his first Major League start after years of (attempting) to close games. It will be interesting to see how Looper’s arm strength looks come the middle innings of the game. He has always had good stuff but has often been subject to the Domino effect, tending to fall downhill after yielding a base hit/walk or two. Hopefully, the Mets can get to him early, and make him throw as many pitches as possible.
Let’s Go Mets!
— George Embiricos
Cliff’s Line: (As Cliff Floyd’s biggest fan during his four years with the Mets, I will provide his game stats with the Cubs from the previous night in an effort to keep his name in the Daily Mets Blog spotlight)
0-1 (PH). Floyd popped out to first in his first at-bat as a Cub, a late-inning pinch-hitting appearance. Good luck to him tonight as his new team takes on the Reds.
Sometimes three quarters of the battle can be won by just showing up — or at least showing up healthy. In the playoffs last year Orlando Hernandez couldn’t say he did even that. The pitcher the Mets traded for in mid-season, based largely on his postseason prowess, hurt his calf just before his scheduled start in Game 1 of the NLDS, forcing the Mets to go with the inexperienced John Maine. El Duque might have been able to return for the World Series, but since the Mets fell short of the Fall Classic, Hernandez had to wait all offseason to pitch in another meaningful game. Sure enough, the injury bug plagued Hernandez in spring training as well, with various ailments keeping him from pitching the number of live innings the Mets had hoped he would throw.
So when Hernandez took the mound last night with a one-run lead in the bottom of the first, it was hard to know which El Duque we would see. Would it be the injury-ridden, aged starter who sometimes throws pitches at Little League speed, or would it be the healthy, ageless wonder who mixes speeds in a way that drives even the best hitters crazy? The answer became clear to me in the second inning, after Adam Kennedy grounded into the second 1-6-3 double play of the ballgame. Last night on the mound El Duque proved that as long as he stays healthy he can be a valuable member of the rotation. That wasn’t really a surprise, but what he did at the plate was. Hernandez went 2-3, with a two-RBI double in the sixth with two outs and the bases loaded.
Just like opening night, however, the game wasn’t over after the starter left with a comfortable lead. After Scott Schoeneweis got the first two batters he faced as a Met, he walked David Eckstein on four pitches and gave up a single to Chris Duncan, putting runners on the corners. Willie Randolph had wisely gotten Aaron Heilman ready in the bullpen in case Schoeneweis ran into trouble and was able to bring him in to face the great Albert Pujols. After falling behind the Cardinal first baseman, 2-1, Heilman brought the heat high and inside and got a whiff to level the count. After running the count full, Heilman got Pujols to fly out to Beltran in left center and effectively seal the 4-1 victory.
Aaron Heilman has thrown only 8 pitches in three days, but it feels like so much more. He got Rolen to hit into a huge double play in the eighth on Sunday (with a little help from Valentin) and then got Pujols yesterday. Nice job, Aaron . . .
The Mets have gotten some unexpected offensive production to start the season. David Newhan and Endy Chavez both have pinch-hit singles, and Glavine and Hernandez have combined for three hits . . .
The Mets will face an old *cough* friend *cough* in Bradon Looper tonight. Looper will be making his first-ever major league appearance as a starter and will be countered by John Maine. Looper is lucky his debut is coming at home and not at Shea, where the crowd was brutal to him during the NLCS last year, when he appeared as a reliever . . .
Let me first off apologize for taking almost a year off. I won’t get into details as to why that happened, but the long and short of it is that maintaining a blog as a hobby and not a full-time job isn’t easy. However, I am back for the 2007 season and hoping that I (and the Mets) can last just a little bit longer than last year. Last season was so inspiring and the off-season so brutally long that Sunday’s return of the regular season found me as ready for baseball as I have ever been. The game itself certainly left me pumped for 161 more in the regular season. Vintage Glavine on the mound combined with nine hits off of one of baseball’s best starters, capped off with two great defensive plays that saved at least three runs was a recipe so perfect it made yesterday’s off day especially unpleasant. But the Mets will return this evening to play another important game (of course I consider all games against teams like the Cardinals important) with Orlando Hernandez out to prove that despite his age and health concerns he can still be a valuable #2 starter.
Well I’m glad to have gotten the first post since last May out of the way and I look forward to many more.