Monday, June 11, 2007

Go West

"And it feels like I've got something to prove
But in some ways it's just something to do
The state-line highway sign says,
'You have gone west, young man.' "
-Liz Phair

That photo was taken the last time the Mets set foot in Chavez Ravine, that grand dame of a ballpark out in the rolling hills of Los Angeles, rolling in like a runaway freight train and simply beating the Dodgers into submission, pushing them down and eventually knocking them off the dance floor in a 3-game sweep in last season's NLDS.

And during the 2006 regular season, the Mets stumbled into LA having gone 3-3 on a homestand, and lost 2 of 3 to a Giants team that they were clearly better than, capping off a showing in May that was certainly dramatic, but not quite overwhelming. But during their visit to LA, they would begin to hit, and win 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, kicking off a road trip that would see them go 9-1 and cement themselves as the team to beat in the National League.

So much has changed, and yet things seem to be oh-so-similar right now. And perhaps Ms. Phair is on to something when she says "something to prove."

Last season, the Mets had something to prove when they came into LA in June: They had to prove that their strong start was for real, and they could maintain playing well throughout the season, especially on the road.

This season, the Mets have yet another thing to prove: They have to prove that they can overcome injuries and inconsistency, and re-assert themselves as a team that can dominate.

The Dodgers are a prickly bunch in their own right. It seems that Grady Little is still their manager, which won't bode well for them in the long run, but their nucleus of Garciaparra, Kent and Luis Gonzalez, while on par with the Giants for longevity, has held together, and younger players like Russell Martin and Wilson Betemit have also played well.

Monday, El Duque and Randy Wolf square off, and this right away answers the question of "What the hell happened to Randy Wolf?" Randy Wolf for 8 seasons hurled for the Phillies (and was the subject of the dopey "Wolf Pack" in the 700 level at Veterans Stadium) was one of those pitchers who always pissed me off. He had spotty success (3.20 ERA in 2002, 16 wins in '03), and was the kind of pitcher that someone in your fantasy baseball league would always vastly overrate because he was young and he had good stuff (Call it the Jeff Weaver Corollary). Then he started getting hurt all the time, and then he disappeared completely. Now, he's re-surfaced with the Dodgers where it appears he is a #3-#4 starter at best.

Tuesday, a matchup of 2 guys who figured heavily in the NLDS last season, John Maine and Hong-Chih Kuo. We all know about Maine. But remember that it was Kuo who was supposed to be the "Wildcard" for the Dodgers last October; that young guy who befuddled the Mets in a September start, and who was supposedly going to baffle the Mets again in Game 2 of the NLDS. Didn't happen. Endy bunted, Reyes hit, Glavine did the baffling and Kuo barely lasted 5 innings.

In the finale on Wednesday, it's Jorge Sosa and Brad Penny (Bad Penny, if you ask Turk Wendell), whom the Mets have always handled. Even when Penny finally put it all together last season, the Mets knocked him around for 7 runs at Shea in September, and when Grady made the puzzling move of bringing Penny in in relief in Game 1 of the NLDS, Penny promptly walked Reyes to lead off the 7th inning, leading to a 2-run rally that would win the game for the Mets. Penny is again off to a strong start. But will it matter against a team that has always pounded him?

Settle in, folks! These are three 10:10pm start times, so get ready for some late night action! Whether this will translate into late night fun, we shall see...

Finally, one note left out from yesterday's post: It seems that SNY has thrown a little bit of mud in my face. Upon returning home on Saturday, I clicked on SNY looking to see some highlights from that afternoon's game. But what did I find? A Mets Classic game, from Tuesday, April 24th. The Endy Chavez Bunt game that I immediately had awarded the title of "Instant Lost Classic" had earned the right of an SNY Mets Classic. I stand corrected. They have shut me up.

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