Sunday, September 2, 2007
Somehow, someway, this guy got his wish. Just when it looked like the Mets were hanging by a thread, much the same way things have looked so many times in this ridiculous season, the Mets bounced right back, stormed into Atlanta and Kicked the Braves square in the nuts, walking out with a 3-game revenge sweep and knocking them 7 1/2 games back in the NL East.
There were so many good things that came out of the sweep this weekend, enough to almost make you overlook the one overwhelmingly bad thing that seems to be occurring (that would be Wagner's continued struggles). Primarily, the praise can go to the starting pitchers, beginning with Maine's strong outing on Friday night, wriggling in and out of jams as he has done so often, and coming away with 7 solid innings.
Saturday, the hero of the day was Mike Pelfrey, in what has to be his most successful and most gratifying game in the Major Leagues. How many of us looked at the pitching matchup on Saturday, Chuck James, a tough lefty against winless Pelfrey, on National TV and sighed. It had come down to this.
Somehow, Pelfrey shut us all up and delivered the best outing of his career in the biggest start of his career. Mixing in his fastball and his sinker like a seasoned veteran, Pelfrey looked like a totally different pitcher than the clueless rookie we had seen so many times earlier in the season, the guy who would get into jams he couldn't get out of. No, Pelfrey started out like the ground-ball machine he was all through Spring Training, and then dialed it up a notch when he got into a couple of jams in the 4th and 5th innings. He was helped by a few HRs, from Beltran, Delgado and Milledge, and by Mota and especially Feliciano at the end of the game. Pelfrey so throughly baffled and frustrated the Atlanta hitters that when he drilled Jeff "Don't call me Charboneau" Francoeur to lead off the 5th, Francoeur yelled and whined and pointed like a little bitch, trying to somehow intimidate Pelfrey and fire up his own team. It didn't work. Yes, Francoeur would eventually score, but only on a wild pitch that should have been stopped by LoDuca, and that was while his teammates were busy squandering their best opportunity of the afternoon.
Sunday, it was the old pro, Glavine, coming up with his second brilliant outing in a row, outdueling his golfing buddy Smoltz in a tense 3-2 victory that was made even more tense by Billy Wagner's near meltdown in the 9th inning. Glavine on the mound was certainly good, and pretty much clamped down on the Braves following a shaky first inning, but Glavine also helped with his bat, drilling a long sacrifice fly in the 2nd inning that could have been a 3-run double were anyone other than Andro Jones patrolling center field.
The big blow on Sunday was supplied by David Wright. Wright, wearing his socks high as he usually does in Afternoon games, was also sporting a rather spiffy looking pair of shoes that appeared to resemble spats moreso than cleats. Whatever they are, they certainly helped enough as he drilled the first pitch he saw from Smoltz in the 5th over the wall in dead center field for his 25th HR, providing the difference in the game.
A word about Wright, if I may. Yes, we've all had our gripes about Wright this season. I've written several tongue-in-cheek posts about Wright's Matinee Idol status. We all worried that he might have been toasted after his strong showing in last year's HR Derby; that he may have permanently ruined his swing after he struggled and went homerless through April. But Wright has made a complete and total turnaround since that low point when he hit his 1st HR, way back on May 1st. Not only has he been hitting with power, he has been hitting with absolute and total authority, raising his average to among the best in the league, and driving in runs in bucketloads. And he has been doing so very, very slowly, and very, very quietly, to the point where I noted to El Guapo last week that Wright has almost come from out of nowhere to put together what could turn out to be his finest offensive season to date. While the Mets were slumping, Wright hit. When the Mets were hot, Wright hit. Last week, in Philadelphia, when the Mets couldn't buy a damn bit of luck, Wright hit. He's clearly emerged as a leader on this team, and as a player who is certainly capable of living up to the hype placed upon him in New York. With that comes the spoils, and he's certainly a handsome guy who can take his pick of any woman within a 50-mile radius. But he as well as anyone knows that he's got to back it all up with performance if he wants to keep this status, and he's done just that.
No, he can't do it alone. He's just one man on a team of 25. But I'll take my chances with him on this team any day. And this weekend, he rose up when he needed to and made sure that the Mets would come away with the sweep when the absolutely needed it the most, and, as the Marlins helped us out by taking 2 of 3 from the Philly Mirage, these victories proved to be even more important as the season winds down.