Since Billy Wagner went on the DL on August 5th, the New York Mets have gone 18-8, a record that has moved them into first place in the NL East. A slim lead, no doubt, but a lead nonetheless.
I don't know that I've ever seen a more stressful, agita-filled 18-8 run by a team with playoff aspirations.
The Mets have been winning games, certainly, based on the merits of their starting pitching, and some timely hitting. The starting pitching has been a given all season; it's guys like Santana and Pelfrey who've really stepped it up during this particular stretch, particularly helpful with Maine ailing, Pedro shaky and Perez Perez. Jonathon Niese will make his Major League debut on Tuesday, perhaps filling that 5th spot in the rotation.
The offense has done its job for the most part tolerably, and yet if they'd done a better job in certain instances, the Mets could have done even better during this particular stretch. They score, yes, and they score early and often. But where they've gotten into trouble is when they score early, and often, and then shut down in the 4th inning. I've already made mention of the prime examples of this offense, but it's really been going on all season. Put a few of these games out of reach, and then they can't be blown, and 18-8 might be 22-4.
This is because of that beleagured unit that has become the source and the target of every ounce of frustration coming from the fans, the team, and everyone else who seems to have any say about the fate of the 2008 Mets. There were, over this recent 18-8 stretch, 4 losses in particular where the Mets had the lead and the bullpen (perhaps moreso than the offense, though the two seem to work in cahoots) could not hold it. 4 times. That's not even taking into account the number of times that the Bullpen tried their damndest to blow the game, but couldn't. 18-8 could have been 14-12 just as easily as it could have been 22-4 if things broke one way or another.
It's nothing new to complain about the bullpen, and the reinforcements that are arriving today with the expansion of the rosters don't exactly inspire a lot of confidence. But, if nothing else, they're just more options. Guys like Sanchez and Schoeneweis can take a back seat and not have to be thrown to the wolves every day. Instead, we have...Ricardo Rincon! Ruddy Lugo! Nelson Figueroa!
The series against the Milwaukee Brewers beinning today is talked about as a potential October matchup. Today's pitching matchup, in particular, with Santana opposing Ben Sheets. If the season ended today, this would, in fact, be the matchup.
If it does come to pass, I hope I'm around to see it. The bullpen stands a very good chance of giving me a heart attack before September 28th.