Monday, May 7, 2007

Raising Arizona

By losing Sunday's game in Arizona, the Mets failed to pull off the 4-game sweep of the D'Backs in Chase (nee Bank One Ballpark) Field. In fact, that was the first time they'd lost out in the Desert since May 11, 2004, when Steve Finley and Shea Hillenbrand torched Al Leiter 9-5. The streak began the next night when Kaz Matsui led off the game with a Home Run off of Randy Johnson, and Glavine pitched shutout ball into the 8th inning, a 1-0 victory.

And since then, it seems like the Mets just roll into Arizona and beat the D'Backs around like a group of red-headed stepchildren. In fact, since the D'Backs have abandoned their old purple-based group of 43 different uniform combinations in favor of a hideous red-based jersey scheme, they really are red-headed at times (and as an aside, how ridiculous are those uniforms? I can't tell if the Mets were playing the Anaheim Angels or the Houston Astros. Talk about going from bad to worse!). But I digress. In 2005, the Mets came into Arizona in late August and swept a 4 game series, with Mike Jacobs, David Wright and Victor Diaz leading 14-1 and 18-4 thrashings, sandwiched by taut, low scoring victories. In June 2006, the Mets surged into Arizona in June like a freight train during their 9-1 road trip, with strong pitching efforts by El Duque and Alay Soler leading the way for another 4-game wipeout.

This weekend appeared to be more of the same, with Sunday's game the lone exception. Thursday's game, as detailed here, featured a 9th inning meltdown by Arizona, as the Mets came back with a 6-run 9th inning. Friday night's story was, of course, John Maine continuing to look like an All-Star, and Julio Franco extending his record as the oldest man ever to hit a home run in a 5-3 victory.

Lost in the shuffle in that game was that not only did Franco homer off of Johnson, he also stole a base in the 8th inning. Amazingly, someone older than Julio has done that. I myself forgot that, but apparently, Arlie Latham was 49 when he stole a base, and Julio is still merely 48.

Maine continues to look sharp, even when he doesn't have his best stuff. As we've mentioned about Maine, it's not necessarily that we expect him to blow everyone away and throw shutouts each time out. He hasn't done that and he doesn't need to. But what he needs to do, and what he has continued to do very well over the early part of this season is he has been able to minimize damage, and get himself out of jams. In the 3rd inning, he gave up his only run of the game on a Chris B. Young RBI single, but Reyes alertly tagged Young out after he overslid second base. Maine had men on base in just about all of his 6 innings (only retiring the side in order in the 5th), but he was able to rebound, either by the strikeout, or with help from his defense (Reyes's play, and a DP in the second). To close it out, Maine had a 1st and 2nd, 1 out jam in the 6th, but he was able to get Byrnes (who looks like a blond-headed Mark Fidrych), and simply blew away Stephen Drew for his final out of the night. Maine himself admitted that he didn't have his best stuff, but he gutted it out anyway, and the end result certainly acquits him fine.

Also lost in that game was the non-catch by Chavez in the 8th inning, which nearly gave me a double heart attack considering 1) The ball may not have been caught by Chavez, but it certainly wasn't over the fence and 2) Chavez nearly broke his ankle in the process, but fortunately turned out to be fine. The picture here tells you all you need to know. The ball isn't over the wall, and Endy basically is about to get a glove full of popcorn by this Steve Bartman wanna-be, thereby confounding the umpire into calling the ball a HR. Fortunately, it turns out to be moot as the Mets still won the game.

Howie Rose on WFAN said following the game something to the effect of, "Ever since last year, you almost take for granted that Endy is going to make that catch every time. But sometimes, you just don't come up with it."

True. And he probably didn't catch it. But get the damn call right. It wasn't over the fence.

Saturday, it's Jorge Sosa, coming out of nowhere and pitching 6.2 strong innings, looking like the Anti-Chan Ho Park and surprising the hell out of all of us in the process. I saw Sosa a couple of times last season with Atlanta, and he certainly gave no indication of being effective. And he certainly didn't impress anyone in Spring Training. But it appeared that he righted himself in the Minors, and last night he threw great. Aided by a 2-run HR from Shawn Green (and a hearty Mazel Tov to Shawn for his stellar performance so far this season) and a 2-run single from LoDuca (aided by some sloppy Arizona fielding), the Mets again knocked around a tough pitcher in Brandon Webb and came away with yet another victory in Arizona, 6-2.

And so, with 3 games already in the bag, you can't really tear your hair out over Sunday's loss. Once again, Pelfrey looked good, if uneven over his 5+ innings. He got himself in trouble in the first, got out of it with only 1 run allowed, and looked OK through the middle innings before getting into more trouble in the 5th. But Willie basically threw the "B" team out there, with Beltran, Alou, LoDuca and Easley resting, and against Livan Hernandez the team looked mostly punchless.

Sure, there were a couple of bad moments, Gotay's brilliant stab and glove-flip up the middle was botched when Reyes tried to bare-hand the ball, which he dropped (and with Livan Hernandez running, Gotay might have actually had time to set and throw back to first, but it's still a difficult play), and Feliciano looking a little shaky before getting out of a jam in the 6th. But, again, you'll sign for 3 of 4 to start this road trip anytime.

Other odd notes: Burgos went down with Sosa being called up. It's not really a questionable move, since Burgos had been so inconsistent, and had just become the garbage-time guy out of the bullpen. He threw 2 innings on Friday and gave up the HR/non-HR to Hudson in his last outing, and that seemed like Typical Burgos. He could blow you away, or he could blow himself up, and there really didn't seem to be any in between. Some time in AAA ought to do him good. Let him pitch regularly for a while and work it out.

Lino Urdaneta is up, and made his first appearance on Sunday, following his lone ML outing coming with Detroit in September, 2004, in the midst of a 26-5 thrashing at the hands of KC, where Urdaneta faced 6 batters, gave up 6 runs and failed to get an out, resulting in him entering this game with a career ERA of Infinity, which he was able to lower to a much more manageable 81.00 with his 2/3 of an inning on Sunday.

Wright and Delgado continue to scuffle at the plate, only showing flashes of brilliance, and nothing consistent. Keep plugging away. They'll get started eventually. I hope...

So, all in all, a successful weekend in Arizona. And now further west we go...
"If you're going to San Francisco..."


Krup said...

my wife did a double-take when she saw the d-backs' uniforms. she thought they looked like an O'Douls non-alcoholic beer label

El Guapo said...

More of a Jeffrey Maier wannabe than Bartman, but yeah. Freakin' popcorn.

Mets2Moon said...

@ El Guapo

Actually, you're right. Maier never crossed my mind when I was thinking about it, though. Maybe I was reminded of Bartman because of that hideous bowl hairdo the woman with the popcorn has.

Or it could just be that Moises Alou is on the Mets now, and Tony Tarasco is long gone.