Thursday, May 7, 2009

By Any Means Necessary

For the Mets, last night was probably their most steely and satisfying win of the season so far.

On a night where they couldn't get an inch off of Chan Ho Park, the Mets rode the arms of Johan Santana, Pedro Feliciano and Francisco Rodriguez to the absolute limit, only able to manage two hits and an unearned run in a game that felt like October in May.

It's not much of a surprise that Santana was on his game; for him, rising to the occasion against the Mets closest rival is basically tantamount to saying that Santana basically had a normal day on the mound. As per usual, his teammates didn't give him much. Not that that seems to bother him, he just reared back and fired 7 shutout innings, giving up 3 hits and 10 strikeouts in the process.

On the other side, however, the Mets offense seemed to crawl back into their Citi Field Shell. After they fed Chan Ho Park his lunch last week, Park showed up and looked like the 21-year old Phenom he was when he played for the Dodgers, not the ragtag journeyman who shocks you every time you see him on a Major League roster. Figures that Park would match zeroes with Santana, and even better him by not allowing a hit until the 5th inning.

As the game moved further along, you couldn't help but notice the tension rise. You didn't have to be there to notice it. By the time the bottom of the 7th rolled around, you began to think strategy. With 2 outs and Delgado on 1st, Manuel decided to pinch-hit Tatis for Jeremy Reed. "Bad move," I thought. "In a game like this, you have to have Reed's defense out there."

Sure enough, Tatis hit the broken-bat dribbler that Pedro Feliz probably should have eaten rather than winging it down the Right Field line. If you're the Phillies, you're definitely kicking yourself over that one. Not only did the normally sure-handed Feliz make the wrong decision by throwing the ball wildly, but after the ball kicked around by the stands, Jayson Werth picked it up and inexplicably held it while Delgado charged around the bases. True, he would have had to make a perfect throw, but that's what he did, and the play was close enough that if he'd picked it up, set and fired, he probably would have had a play on Delgado. But in that particular instance, you have to make them make the play, and even if Delgado had been thrown out, it was probably the right move to send him.

The inning continued far enough to allow Santana's spot in the order to come up, and he was pinch-hit for by Ryan Church. Again, I questioned the move, you hate to take Santana out when he's pitching so well and Putz is unavailable, but, do what you have to, go for the jugular. And, again, the move worked when Pedro Feliciano came in and had quite possibly his best inning in well over a year, in spite of the fact that he gave up a Citi Field Double to Shane Victorino and then subsequently wild-pitched him over to 3rd. Outside of that, he managed to jam Rollins, get Utley to reach, and make Howard look simply silly, working him away, away and away with his breaking balls and striking him out.

Rodriguez for the 9th was fairly academic. The Mets caught the ball each time, and pulled off a rather impressive 1-0 victory. Not that it was easy. It certainly wasn't easy to watch. I think most Mets fans have a Relief Pitcher PTSD after last season, and once Santana came out of the game, the general consensus was "Oh, man, here we go." But, at least for tonight, the relievers were up to the challenge.

It's a Ballclub Night at Citi Field this evening, where I will be watching Big Pelf get silly with the Philly once again.

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