Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shut Up, Tim McCarver

It's no secret that Tim McCarver is an annoying blowhard who has somehow managed to make a career out of pontificating and hammering the most obvious facts into our heads over and over again until we're ready to scream. It was bad enough that we were subjected to him all afternoon Saturday on the FOX telecast, alongside Chaz Bonnifusco or whatever the name of the guy announcing was. I rarely watch games on TV, for what it's worth, but it being Saturday, Yom Kippur afternoon and me being home, and the game being of paramount importance. I put the game on. I'm usually pretty good at shutting the announcers out when I have to, but it seemed like McCarver was all too giddy to remind us about the struggles of the Mets bullpen, and how poorly they've played over the past 10 days. He only managed to make mention of this about once every half inning. But by the 9th inning, I was a little surprised he didn't wave an Aaron Heilman voodoo doll in front of the cameras. He did everything short of scream out loud, "THE METS BULLPEN MIGHT BLOW IT! THE METS BULLPEN MIGHT BLOW IT!" and really did nothing except make all of us crazy for 15 minutes despite the fact that Heilman ran into a minor annoyance in the 9th, working with a 6-run lead.

Tim, we all know the story. We've been watching the last week or so. We don't need to be reminded about it over and over again, while we're trying to enjoy our first easy victory in over a week. Do us all a favor and SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Now that I'm done pontificating (and tearing my hair out at the Nationals for essentially handing the Phillies another victory), yes, we're all back in from the ledge for the moment, after the Mets have finally been able to wake up and string together two good, solid victories over the leaky Marlins and their hideous team defense. Rather than folding their tents and declaring themselves all cursed following the meltdown in Miami on Thurdsay night, the Mets grew some balls, caught some breaks and did what they were supposed to do: Beat the Lousy Team. And then do the same thing the next day.

It's always helpful when the Mets are finally able to catch a few breaks. Friday night was a prime example of the Mets finally catching these breaks and cashing in on them. After 2 innings, we were all ready to jump off of the ledge. Down 3-0, Pedro looking bad, Marlins getting dink hit after dink hit, and running around blowing their kazoos. But then, suddenly, they were the ones looking like the inexperienced last-place team. Miguel Cabrera, all world at the plate, showed us his set of stone hands, and Mike Jacobs, former farmhand, flashed us his pair as well, as the Mets very quickly tied the game. Then it was Pedro, getting himself into a bases loaded jam, and then just as quickly getting himself out of it, in typical Pedro style, mixing his pitches, throwing from different arm angles and thoroughly baffling Cody Ross, then just curveballing Olivio to death for the 3rd out.

And just when it looked like the Marlins were going to get out of their own jam, it was Scott Olsen, the sometimes drunken, sometimes surly, usually frustrated malcontent pitcher, sweating like a punctured waterbed (one of the moments I would have not wanted to see in Eye-Popping HD), walking Reyes, failing to throw a 3rd strike to Wright, throwing a tantrum on the mound, and then giving up a 2-run single to Beltran to incinerate the game entirely. Again, his defense didn't help him, but when a pitcher can get rattled like that, it becomes increasingly easier to jump on him, and the Mets did that, just when they needed it most.

Then came the scare (Beltran's frightening landing on Hermida's drive in the 5th), the rain (pushing the game later and later into the evening) and the rest of the game ending up being mostly uneventful if you look at it on paper, and completely and totally hair-raising if you stayed up for it. First, it was Mota, coming in after the delay, much to the dismay of us all, and miraculously tossing 2 shutout innings, allowing 1 hit. Then, it was Feliciano, usually reliable, giving up 2 runs in the 8th. And then, Scott Schoeneweis. Scott Schoeneweis! Schoeneweis, who, unlike fellow Semite Shawn Green did not elect to take Yom Kippur off, pulled the double-miracle, coming in, striking out Hermida to end the 8th, and then going 1-2-3 in the 9th, with 2 more strikeouts and picking up the save.

Scott Schoeneweis picked up a Save! When did you ever think something like that would happen?!

So, with all the good vibes flowing through the clubhouse as the game ended around 1AM Saturday Morning, even the Philly victory couldn't bring us down. But the real question was could they keep it up. With Perez pitching on Saturday, the question was once again raised, as it always is when Oliver Perez goes to the mound.

Which Oliver Perez will show up?

Big Game Oliver Perez showed up on Saturday. And maybe he should just be Big Game Oliver Perez on a full time basis, because it seems like every time he takes the mound in a high-stakes game, Ollie comes up big. He did it against the Yankees. He did it against Atlanta. He did it last October. And he did it again on Saturday, throwing strikes, hitting his spots and basically looking unhittable from the outset.

Not only did Oliver not walk anybody over his 8 masterful innings, he provided his own bridge to the 9th inning, allowing the overtaxed, overstressed and generally overdone Bullpen to rest and relax. Ollie, Ramon Castro and the rest of the offense did everything they needed to do in order to ensure a nice, easy victory, despite what Tim McCarver would have had all of us believe.

And some Kudos...

...To Carlos Beltran, who, after banging up his knee in that ridiculous triangle, on the rubber warning track in Center Field, came back, not 100%, and played it out on Saturday when a lesser player might have sat the game out. Anyone who wants to malign Beltran for some subpar performances (and I include myself in this group) can look at this game and know that you can't ever doubt his heart.

...To Carlos Delgado, who came back after missing 2 weeks (and he was sorely missed; despite his subpar year, he does add that element of fear to the lineup, as well as protection for the batters around him) and chipped in with a few hits, and a truly monstrous HR on Friday night that salted the game away.

...To Moises Alou, who officially broke the Mets Hitting Streak record (although Wright still holds the multiple-season record), passing Hubie Brooks and Mike Piazza on Friday night, and extending his streak on Saturday.

So, everything seems much calmer for the moment, although the Mets are certainly not out of the woods yet. But if they can continue to string these victories together, the good vibes will continue to permeate. It's clear that Philadelphia is not going to go away that easy. Even though they match up against Atlanta next week, and you know Atlanta will play them tough (Hudson and Smoltz are scheduled to pitch in that series), but take nothing for granted. I can certainly be called two-faced for going back and forth as the Mets ebb and flow through the season, but in reality, isn't it just an expression of how all of us feel at any given moment in a long season? When it was bad, it looked pretty hopeless. Now, it's not as bad, but we're still not where we need to be. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Right now, the onus is on you, John Maine. Keep focused, keep your head, keep in control. Just like Ollie did on Saturday, it's up to you to do the same on Sunday.

Magic Number: 7.

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