Monday, April 14, 2008

Return of the Double Play Brigade

The Mets started the following pitchers, in order, over the past weekend.

1) Nelson Figueroa
2) Johan Santana
3) Oliver Perez

Now, let's say, for the sake of argument, that you just flew in from Mars, and you only knew of the career patterns of these three pitchers. And let's say that I told you that one of these three pitchers took a perfect game into the 5th inning over this past weekend, while the other two pretty much got shelled.

You probably wouldn't have guessed Nelson Figueroa. But that's what happened.

Friday night, the Mets pulled through with the kind of victory you'd expect them to have more often than not over the course of this season. They'll hit a marginal amount, probably score just enough to win, and rely on some steely pitching to get them through the game. Friday, it was Figueroa, followed by Smith, Heilman and Wagner shoving the Mets through to a 4-2 victory over the Brewers that was just a joy to watch, because it seemed so easy. And, I was drinking. And, the Rangers were beating the Devils on the other TV in the bar. But I digress.

After watching that game, you figured the Mets were a lock to at least take the series, with Santana on Saturday and Oliver Perez on a hot streak Sunday.


Saturday, Santana didn't have it. After being staked to a 2-run lead, Santana battled through his first home start with the Mets, getting tagged for 3 HRs, being victimized by 2 errors from Wright and basically being stuck in a scene from Johan! The Musical!, on the wrong end of a pretty miserable all around effort from the Mets.

A word about Wright: Yes, he made 3 errors in 2 games. This does happen to him sometimes. The problems he seems to be having throwing to first are a bit disconcerting, though. It bears watching, if only because it could turn into a form of the dreaded Disreturnophobia, the bizarre affliction that befell Mackey Sasser a generation ago. But by this point, we know what we're going to get out of him, and whatever kind of a liability he creates with an iffy glove that really isn't that iffy, he's going to make up for with his bat. His bat, by the way, that's waking up. I mentioned to El Guapo Friday Night that Wright, basically, is just a slow starter. He seems to do this every season. Lousy in April, hitting in the low to mid .200s, poor power numbers, and yet by season's end, he's hovering around .300 or above, 25-30 HRs and 100+ RBI. He'll be fine.

So will Santana, for that matter. Just about everyone I've heard talk about his outing yesterday seems to be up in arms, and, yes, Santana did give up 33 HRs last year, but he's a fly ball pitcher. He throws a fastball and a hard slider, and those are the kinds of pitches that will get popped up when he's good, and drilled out of the park if he's not. And more often than not, he'll be good. Relax.

Then, there was Sunday.

Howie Rose, on WFAN, referred to Sunday's game as "Excruciating," several times over the last few innings. I don't know if that's the word I would use. Words like "Head-Shaking," "Nauseating," and "Miserable" come to mind.

Sunday saw the Mets take a page from the 2007 season, which involved breaking out to a large early lead, scoring a lot of runs for once, whacking around Jeff Suppan good and proper, and then Oliver Perez having one of his bad days and handing the lead right back, only getting removed before he could completely butcher the game. Instead, Willie gave the ball to Jorge Sosa, who assumed the role of "Horrible Relief Pitcher" for the day. He did the job just fine.

Meanwhile, the Brewers pitchers didn't really make much of an effort to hold the lead, but try as they might, the Mets wouldn't allow them to hand the game back to them. It was straight out of last season. I don't think I've ever seen a worse offensive display out of the Mets. Every inning between the 2nd and the 8th, the Mets got the leadoff man on base. In the 2nd and 3rd innings, the Mets got key hits and scored some runs.

Then, the Double Play Brigade made its first appearance of the season. Every kind of double play you could think of, the Mets managed to hit into it on Sunday. Most galling was the last one. With Guillermo Mota on the mound and looking just like the Guillermo Mota we came to despise so much last season, Luis Castillo came up with runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs and chopped one to first for an easy out, which would have probably moved up Pagan and set up 2nd and 3rd, 1 out. Except that Brady Clark decided to run on contact, and was easily thrown out at home. Just to turn that knife a little more, Mota then walked the next two batters, before Delgado flew out and that settled that.

So, currently, the 2008 Mets seem to be floating around aimlessly through the first two weeks. They're 0-for-weekend games so far. They pitch but can't hit, or hit but can't pitch or one guy can't pitch, or one guy can't field. It's like they're bipolar. The only medication for this would be a string of 6-3 or 7-2 victories, where the starting pitcher throws 7 innings and the Mets coast. I just hope they have it in them.

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