Monday, August 25, 2008

From Showoff to Showdown

It was pretty imperative that the Mets win tonight, particularly with a 2-game showdown in Philadelphia looming tomorrow night.

The Mets will throw Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana the next two nights, two games at the front end of an 8-game road trip of near-massive importance, in their final trip to Philadelphia and Steroid Field 2 this season. The Phillies have, once again, caught fire, and are currently right up the Mets asses following the completion of their revenge sweep of the LA Dodgers (and who would have thought Manny would go silent in Philly? I would have bet on him belting a HR off of the head of Ashburn's statue). But I digress. With the Mets reeling a bit after a pair of pretty ugly losses to the lowly Astros in which they couldn't do much of anything right, the Mets turned to one particular hot hand to right the ship.

That would be Mike Pelfrey. And once again, Pelfrey delivered a big time performance for the Mets.

The Guap and I were in attendance tonight, for the kind of game that's always a joy to watch. Pelfrey clearly had his great stuff, and that was evident after he zipped through the mostly punchless Astros lineup on 6 pitches in the 1st inning. Carlos Delgado hit a 3-run HR that took a rather unseemly and confusing bounce off the top of the wall, or was it the foul pole? And the drama had, for the most part, evaporated from the evening. The game moved along at a brisk pace, through 4 innings by 8:15 and through 7 innings by 9pm.

I think I've said enough extolling the virtues of Mike Pelfrey's sudden rise to prominence over the course of this Summer, but it really was a joy watching him pitch, particularly on this night. Going a little deeper into the Box Score, you'll see that aside from not drawing any walks, the Astros didn't get a runner past 2nd base until Geoff Blum doubled in the 5th inning, and didn't get a runner to 2nd until David Newhan, clearly out for revenge this weekend, doubled in a pinch-hitting appearance in the 9th (and was welcomed by me booing loudly). If Pelfrey was great against Colorado and Superb against Atlanta, tonight he was flat-out Dominant. It seemed as though every pitch went exactly where he needed it to go, and it served to set up the following pitch. The Slider set up the Sinker, the Sinker set up the Fastball, and so on and so forth, and as the evening progressed, it wasn't a matter of whether or not the Mets would win, but would Pelfrey follow up his first Complete Game with his first Shutout. He'd ultimately fall one out short (there was nothing Delgado could do on Wigginton's smash, although had it been hit directly to him, the potential of a 3-6 tag DP at 2nd base was a definite possibility), but you can't take anything away from him. If anything, he might have been winded from his quick trip around the bases after a walk and a subsequent Reyes triple in the 8th inning. This, in particular, might have been the pyrrhic moment of the night. El Guapo and I weren't particularly pleased that he walked and had to run the bases. He certainly showed his wheels as he motored around to score, but that was a close play, and I'm not sure what would have been worse, Pelfrey having to slide into the plate, or Pelfrey running right into a tag at home. But, the throw was late, and Pelfrey managed to score standing.

Pelfrey's strong performance is even more encouraging considering the state of the Mets pitching. The bullpen struggles have been well-documented. Now, John Maine is sidelined again, status unclear. Pelfrey's ability to go deeper into games, and even finish them as he's now been able to do, will only serve to keep the bullpen fresh and rested for those nights when they're needed the most. Someone was up and throwing in the 9th when Pelfrey got into a little trouble, but with a big lead, and Pelfrey having thrown under little to no stress throughout the game, there was little argument over whether or not he should have finished things off. And he did, in a tidy 108 pitches.

It was, in fact, such a good night, that even the giant D-Bag sitting next to me, who loudly spouted bad baseball cliches, screamed that David Wright sucked after he grounded out to end the 5th, hogged the armrest, bumped into me no less than 10 times and did a silly little dance during Lazy Mary all in an effort to bag a really unattractive girl couldn't put a damper on things. They left, of course, in the 8th inning. What great fans.

You don't leave a game when your team's newest emerging star is potentially working on his first career complete game shutout. Even if he falls short, you stick it out to the end.

At least, when you're as insane as I am.

Philly tomorrow.

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