Monday, May 11, 2009

On The Way

What a difference a week makes.

Last Sunday, following the Mets rainout in Philly, things looked bleak, people were upset, words were being said and nobody seemed all too confident in the hopes of the 2009 Mets. Oliver Perez was removed from the rotation, and both his fate and replacement were a mystery. The Mets were going into Atlanta, where they managed only one victory for the entirety of the 2008 season.

So, of course, the Mets went out and won every game they played since that point. 7 wins later, the Mets are now in 1st place, and everything is nice and rosy pink.

It was easy to think the Mets could have a bit of a letdown playing the mostly punchless Pirates over the weekend, but the Mets kept their hot streak going in impressive fashion, sweeping the Pirates and looking pretty impressive in the process. Yes, two of the three games were close in the late innings, but the Mets won those games by doing things they haven't done often, namely, scoring in the late innings, tacking on, and burying a lesser opponent.

It began Friday night behind Jonathon Niese, making his season debut after a few forgettable outings at the end of last season. And yes, it was against the Pirates who threw Nate McLouth and a veritable Pu-pu platter of slop at him, but Niese showed me a lot by mixing his pitches, showcasing a scintillating curve and a good fastball, getting out of a couple of jams, but, most importantly, keeping his cool after Beltran and Church botched a fly ball, allowing the Pirates to tie the game. Rather than unraveling and allowing the Pirates to go ahead, Niese retired the side and stopped the Pirates in their tracks. More importantly, Niese didn't walk anybody during his 6 innings, and of his 95 pitches, an eye-popping 67 of them went for strikes. It was like watching the Anti-Ollie. It remains to be seen what we'll get from Niese from here on out, and he's certainly going to face better competition than the Pirates, who, with their main power threat in Ryan Doumit out, boast a starting catcher who looks like he's running after his school bus on the way to the 8th grade instead of chasing after a passed ball. Niese's next start will be against Atlanta, who he handled last season. But if this last outing is any indication, Niese could prove to be one of the unusual suspects for the Mets further down the line.

But despite Niese's strong outing, the Mets were held in check by Jeff Karstens, and the game remained tied into the 8th, until the Mets not only rallied, but buried the Pirates by scoring 5 runs, capped by Delgado's rocket of a HR into the Center Field seats (think that's a first), dispelling any drama that had remained from the game. At least until J.J. Putz made the 9th inning unnecessarily hairy (and delayed me going out to pick up some Chinese Food).

Saturday brought a 1-game suspension for Jerry Manuel after his Thursday night ejection (a word on this: From where I sat, it looked like Victorino and Reyes had tapped feet while the play was going on. It wasn't until I saw a replay that Victorino turned, stepped to his right and appeared to throw a shoulder at Reyes before flailing his arms and running. Manuel was right. That umpire, one of the dopey Welke brothers, should have been fired on the spot for calling that interference, and Victorino ought to take a fastball in the ribs for that move. And people wonder why I don't like him?). This, however, did not faze the Mets, who rode the arm of John Maine and the bats of just about everyone else to a runaway 10-1 victory that was pretty much over by the National Anthem. Beltran parked a HR into the 2nd deck in Left Field, and for the first time this season, the Mets managed to plate 10 runs in a game.

So, after two wins, the Mets now found themselves in a position they'd been in three times previously this season: Winners of the first two games in a 3 game series. Each of the first 3 times, the Mets went out and basically played in their sleep, losing each of those three potential sweep games.

It didn't happen a 4th time. Despite the fact that the Mets fell behind Ian Snell and the Pirates early, and in the first few innings, the Mets didn't show much life, they came alive, rallied, took the lead and then once again put the game away in the late innings, scoring a tack-on run in the 7th and 4 more in the 8th to win the game going away, 8-4. Not only that, it was the first time I watched a complete game from start to finish on TV this season, even more impressive considering I have a horribly short attention span and generally listen to most of the games on the radio. Francisco Rodriguez, after a strenuous week that saw him earn 4 saves in 4 days, got the entire weekend to rest up and get himself ready for the upcoming week, with the Braves coming to call and our good friend Larry coming for his first trip to the new Stadium.

You don't know how long these streaks will go on, and we all know that teams tend to run hot and cold, but for now, this hot streak seems to have come at just the right moment for the Mets. Let's see where they go from here.

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