Thursday, April 19, 2007

Remember The Maine!

Wednesday night was a pretty huge night in New York sports. The Rangers wiped the Atlanta Thrashers off the boards, sweeping their first round playoff series. The Devils won to tie their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Ice-Landers (my nod to Steve Somers) lost, and trail the Buffalo Sabres in their series. The Knicks season came to its merciful end with a rare victory. The Yankees took out the Indians in the Bronx. The Nets (amateurish as they are) also played, and I think they won too. Elsewhere, Chicago's Mark Buehrle hurled a No-Hitter against Texas. Big games, big performances all around.

But seemingly lost in the shuffle was the effort turned in by John Maine last night in Florida.

Aided by good nights for Reyes, Wright and Beltran, the Mets knocked around Dontrelle, and Maine stifled the Marlins, taking a No-Hitter of his own into the 7th, departing after 7 strong innings, giving up 2 runs and earning his second victory of the season.

We've written plenty about Maine in this blog already, within two short months. As one of five Key Mets players in particular, we feel that he's going to be able to shoulder the load that is being placed on him. Yes, it's a lot to put on someone who had, coming into the season, boasted a 9-9 record in a career spanning merely 29 games and 145 innings pitched in the Major Leagues.

But there's something about Maine. I noted this last week, following El Guapo's post about Perez's miserable outing last week against Philadelphia. I agree with him that it's difficult to really make a solid prediction about just how well he'll do. But with each outing, he gives us good reason to be optimistic about his chances to succeed. Maine finished off last season with a superb outing in Game 6 of the Cardinals series. We've talked about that to death. But he came into the spring with a chip on his shoulder, still feeling like he had something to prove. His outings in the Spring went mostly un-noticed, mainly because, well, they're Spring Training games. I know he did well, he had a couple of rough outings, which was to be expected, but all I seemed to notice was that, while the Mets looked listless and lost a lot of games during Spring Training, none of those key starting pitchers (Maine, Perez, Pelfrey) ever seemed to be the focal point of the losses. So we came into the season with that guarded optimism. And, so far, Maine has come to the forefront as stepping it up once the games counted. Yes, it's barely 3 weeks into the season. Yes, it's only 3 starts. But what's impressed me is Maine's ability to pitch, not simply throw, as many Pitchers often do. Maine has had one "difficult" outing so far, the home opener on April 9th, when it's easy to be overly amped. And in some chilly temperatures (although it was lovely in the sun), Maine missed with a lot of his breaking pitches, gave up 5 hits and walked 6, not making it out of the 5th inning. But, unlike Perez two nights later, Maine only allowed 2 runs, and made big pitches to get himself out of jams that could have turned very ugly. In the 3rd, the Phils loaded the bases with no outs. But Maine was able to minimize the damage, allowing a sac fly to Utley, before striking out Howard and getting Burrell to pop out. Again, in the 4th, Maine would load the bases, but this time, he got a fielders choice on a weak grounder to first by Hamels before getting Rollins to hit into an inning ending DP. Again, making key pitches in key spots.

Now, I'm not saying that Maine isn't going to be perfect every time out, and he's certainly not going to run off a string of starts like his first in St. Louis and last night in Florida. Sometimes, he'll probably be flat-out maddening. But, more often than not, he's going to put forth a quality effort, and I think it's safe to say that we can count on that out of him.

Also noted on Tuesday night in Philadelphia: David Wright had singled (and had 2 hits last night) to extend his hitting streak to 25 games, which would be a club record, that had been held by Hubie Brooks and Mike Piazza. As Gary Cohen astutely mentioned, this is incorrect. Brooks and Piazza accomplished their 24 game hitting streaks in one season, while Wright's streak is over two seasons. Although many seem to insist that the record is officially Wright's, you are dealing with two different categories of streak. Wright is certainly on his way to establishing a club mark, and it appears that his swing is finally coming around (and perhaps he took my advice and dialed up Julia Stiles). So maybe we can put the whole hooha about his struggles to rest. 11 games away now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Maine's very close to proving he's the real deal. His slider & change aren't bad and if he can get better command of them (as you'd expect over time), he could be deadly. Also, he's got exactly the right "challenge 'em" attitude that a pitcher should have on a team that's going to score 6 runs per game.

ps: nice site!