Friday, May 31, 2013

This Crap Again?!

Man, talk about the highs of winning and the lows of losing. After reaching the apex of their season this week by sweeping the Subway Series from the Yankees, the Mets went down to Miami to play the horrible Mickey Mouse Marlins and apparently turned back into a pumpkin en route, because their display tonight was pretty much indistinguishable from every other performance they had from about April 20th through last Sunday. No offense, no hope.

I know that Keith and Gary were talking about maybe the long plane ride after the late finish of last nights' game taking the wind out of their sails, but let's be realistic here. The Mets are playing the Marlins. The Marlins right now are drawing comparisons to the 1962 Mets for utter ineptitude and hopelessness. If such a thing is possible as to have looked worse than the Mets this season, the Marlins have done it, and done it in spades. And yet, for reasons I'm clearly just not meant to understand, the Mets turn into complete assholes every time they see the Marlins. The Marlins have a winning record against one team this season: The Mets, with 4 wins in 7 games. And these aren't just wins, these are usually exercises in torture.

Tonight, it was Jacob Turner who did it to the Mets. Remember Jacob Turner? Yeah, neither do I. But here he was, making his season's debut and sticking the bats up the Mets asses. Shaun Marcum actually held the line just fine, at least until he didn't in the 7th inning, when his luck ran out and he had a Jon Niese inning, where the Marlins get one solid hit and then 4 dying quails, and the whole thing snowballs out of control and 1 run is all of a sudden 4 runs, and the game is out of reach.

Conveniently, Marcum had a Jon Niese inning tonight, because the bitch of all of this is that Niese is missing his start tomorrow. Instead, the Mets will try to break this Marlins hex with Collin McHugh, who was last seen putting forth the kind of performances that make Jeremy Hefner look good. The Marlins will counter with Jose Fernandez, who might be the only reason a Marlins fan might pay attention at all. This doesn't bode well for the Mets. You know, I was really starting to believe that the Mets might be past this. Even though they weren't hitting a ton against the Yankees, they were hitting enough, and if they were hitting enough against the Yankees, why, then, do they go back in the tank against the awful Marlins? This should have been a springboard. Think about it. Yankees/Marlins, Marlins/Yankees...Does not compute.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gee Whiz!

It is a pretty significant night for the Mets and their fans, who have, for the past 17 seasons have been playing these games against the Yankees, and although they've had plenty of nice moments over the years, they've also had some pretty lousy ones too, and more often than not, the Yankees and their fans have been all too happy to kick the Mets while they're down in these instances.

But tonight, the Yankees can't say much of anything (even if the TYFI response is something like "DUH! 27 to 2! (garble drool grunt)"). Particularly since the Mets came into this 4-game series in about as bad a shape as you could possibly be, not hitting, barely pitching and generally looking listless, and somehow the entire team decided to wake up and beat the Yankees in all 4 games. Though just about everyone contributed, this sweep was accomplished primarily by 4 consecutive outstanding pitching performances, one of which was expected, since Matt Harvey has done it all season, but the other three were rather surprising.

Tonight, Dillon Gee was the culprit, coming out of nowhere to post his best start in close to a year, pitching 7 1/3 innings, allowing only a Robinson Cano Home Run and striking out a career-high 12 batters. This from the same pitcher whose line has been something like 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts every time out for the past month. Gee didn't allow a baserunner after Cano's Home Run and when he got pulled in the 8th, after only 88 pitches, there was sort of an uproar. When the hell did you ever think Dillon Gee being removed from a game would cause an uproar?! That's how good he pitched tonight.

But as has been the story this week, pretty much anything anybody expected out of the Mets ended up turning out exactly the opposite. Most Mets fans probably would have accepted it if the Mets had won 1 of the 4 games and not gotten totally embarrassed in the process. Instead, the Mets played with a chip on their shoulder all week. They fell behind on Monday and Tuesday and came back. Last night and again tonight, they got an early lead and made it hold up. The offense wasn't gangbusters against Vidal Nuno, but they made their hits count. Marlon Byrd hit a real Yankee Stadium Home Run last night and tonight he hit one that would have been a Home Run in Citi Field, too, accounting for the first two Mets runs early on. Late, it would be the Mets small-balling their way to an insurance run, as a pair of walks and a Wild Pitch from Hobo Chamberlain set the stage for John Buck to take a mighty swing...and tap a roller up the 3rd base line that kept rolling and rolling and rolling, but stayed fair, giving Buck a rare Infield Hit and plating Omar Quintanilla with the 3rd run.

In the hands of Gee, Scott Rice, who has become the Pedro Feliciano of the current era, and Bobby Parnell, this lead appeared plenty secure. Rice picked up after Gee left and allowed nothing, and Parnell, who has really begun to enhance his stature as he's grown more and more comfortable in the closer's role, buzzsawed the Yankees in the 9th inning to finish off a most impressive series sweep.

There have been plenty of 3-game sweeps in the 17-year Subway Series history on both sides. But only once had an entire season series ended in a sweep, when the Yankees did it in 2003. That was a pretty humbling moment which I don't care to remember. It's taken 10 years, but the Mets have finally returned the favor. And, as such, it's a fine time for the Mets fan to take a little pride in this moment, because it's not something that comes along very often. It's too bad that Big Stein isn't alive to see this. Can you imagine? He probably would have gone to the mound on Wednesday night and fired David Phelps on the spot. I can only hope he's turning over in his grave multiple times. Sure, the Yankee fan might offer some pithy response spoken mostly in lower case, but they can't take anything away from us this week or this season. Particularly when you consider that there's a very good chance that this is the high point of the Mets season, unless this now 5-game winning streak ends up turning the tide completely. Time will tell, but for right now, this is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Much Better

I guess the Yankees were just the cure for what was bothering the Mets.

After weeks of slumping and scuffling and not doing anything especially productive, the Mets, perhaps buoyed by their midnight lightning last night, came out guns blazing tonight and attacked Yankee starter David Phelps with a barrage of well-placed hits in the 1st inning, which resulted in 5 early runs that set the tone for the night and allowed the Mets to mostly cruise to a 9-4 victory.

I don't think I remember the last time the Mets scored 5 runs in a game period, let alone 5 in an inning. It could conceivably have been that Friday Night against Washington for all I remember. But they certainly picked a nice time to break out like this; their resounding win tonight gave them their first season series win over the Yankees since 2008 and placed them in position to actually sweep the season series with a win tomorrow night.

The Yankees certainly aren't the superteam they once were, but even with several of their mainstays either sidelined or retired, their replacements had done the job and had them in first place. Certainly, for as bad as the Mets looked to this point, you had to figure the situation ripe for the Mets to get beaten into oblivion, particularly when you consider how the Mets have this annoying tendency to stick their heads up their asses when the Yankees come around. But through 3 games, the exact opposite has happened. The Mets haven't hit much, but they've made their hits count, and their pitching was great on Monday and Tuesday and even Jeremy Hefner acquitted himself well tonight. On the flip side, this has to be alarming for the Yankees, because they've sort of been relying on a tape and bubble gum lineup this season, and the Mets have shown them what's what in 3 games.

The Mets won Tuesday night by attacking Rivera and stringing hits together, and this strategy served them well in the 1st inning, which was bookended by Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis. Fittingly, it was these two who were central in this inning, because these two were officially put on notice by Terry Collins yesterday after weeks of stinking up the joint. As much as I or any other Mets fan hates to admit it, they both deserve it. After an awful game last night, Tejada kicked things off by singling to lead off, and then scoring on a gapper from Daniel Murphy. Then, there were some hits, some walks, an error from Jayson Nix and finally, it was Ike Davis putting the finishing touches on the inning, as well as finishing off David Phelps for the night with a 2-run single. 5-0 before Jeremy Hefner ever set foot on the mound. I'm sure he was shitting himself just as much as we were.

So, staked to a 5-run lead, that would eventually become an 8-run lead by the 4th inning, Jeremy Hefner went out and performed adequately well, or at least well enough to finally pick up his elusive 1st win of the season. He didn't really keep the Yankees down, since he allowed 2 hits in every inning, but he kept them off the scoreboard for the most part, and when he departed after 6 innings, he'd allowed 9 hits, but only 3 runs.

So, now the Mets have a chance to kick the Yankees in the nuts tomorrow night and pick up a rather unlikely sweep of the Subway Series. That would really be something after all the crap that's gone on up to this point this year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Man Up

After 8 and a half innings, I was probably in as foul a mood as Matt Harvey. I was all set to be subjected to an endless barrage of hooting and hollering from the legions of Yankee fans, ready to crap on the Mets, running around crowing about how "Dat Harvey ain't so tough (drool drool duh)" and "You knew he'd fold against a REAL TEAM (snort duh drool)." It was playing out, more or less, like all of Harvey's starts have gone lately: He goes out, pitches great, gives up a run, maybe two, and leaves with the game either tied or the Mets behind because his stupid teammates can't get him a run. And tonight, it was going to cost him his first loss of the season, and of course it was going to come against the Yankees, on a run that probably shouldn't have scored.

Hiroki Kuroda, whom I will forever remember melting down on the mound at Shea Stadium on a Sunday night in 2008, somehow went from that to becoming a pitcher of reasonable regard, and at the moment the best thing the Yankees have going. That's all fine and good, but he's not nearly as good as the Mets probably made him look over his 7 innings. Harvey, on the other hand, is as good as he looks, and against the Yankees, he basically did what he's done all season long and pitched a good game with pretty much zero margin for error. He snaked his way out of a jam in the 3rd by gassing Cano with 2 men on and other than that, the Yankees posed little threat. That is, until the 6th, when Brett Gardner, who has officially become Annoying Brett Gardner for what he's done in this series, led off with a single that Marlon Byrd misplayed, allowing Garner to 2nd. This, of course, was the kind of stupid break the Yankees usually get, and although Harvey damn near got out of that mess, an errant changeup to Scrap-Heaper Lyle Overbay ended up shot through the middle to bring Annoying Gardner home with the lead run.

It appeared for all the world that this run would hold up, primarily because the Mets just couldn't get out of their own way. Ruben Tejada got on in the last of the 6th, and advanced on a Passed Ball, but Wright struck out and then Tejada managed to get himself unconscionably picked off 2nd base, a play so badly botched that the umpire screwed up the call and made Terry Collins throw enough of a fit to get himself thrown out.

Harvey, who by this point appeared to have smoke coming out of his ears, came back, shook off getting hit in the back by a line drive (and likely would have thrown Ray Ramirez back into the dugout had the situation presented itself) and pitched two more scoreless innings, finishing up allowing 1 run, 6 hits and no walks with 10 strikeouts over his 8 innings. That might not have been enough to stop the Yankee fan from screaming "'Ey, Harvey sucks (duh slobber slobber)!" but those who paid attention would at least appreciate that they were fortunate to get the one run they did, take the victory and shut up. But, sometimes, that's a bit much to expect.

So, it came down to the last of the 9th, with the Great Rivera about to come in, throw the same pitch over and over again and retire the Mets with a quickness. If most Major Leaguers over the last 18 seasons haven't been able to figure out his stupid cutter, what chance would these Bum-ass Mets have? Which is why calling the final 9 pitches of the game shocking doesn't do it enough justice. Somehow, the Mets, who spent the entire night unable to get out of their own way, grew some Yarbles, dug in and knocked Rivera around. Fittingly, it was Daniel Murphy and David Wright at the center of the rally, since they're the only position players who seem to act with any kind of a sense of urgency. Murphy just sort of reached out and flicked a cutter just enough for it to drop inside the left field line and bounce into the stands, instantly jump-starting an inning. Wright, who already has a history of success against Rivera, subsequently shot another cutter right back up the middle to score Murphy and tie the game. Gardner, who had been a royal pain in the ass the last two nights, finally gave it back by alligator-arming the ball home; a bad enough throw that not only did Chris Stewart not handle it, but Murphy kicked it away, allowing Wright to go to 2nd (Rivera did not back up Stewart either, which didn't help). That brought it up to Lucas Duda, who, for as empty as his numbers have been of late, can sometimes run into a pitch and make something good happen. Fortuitously, this was one of those moments, and his looper to right fell in front of Ichiro, allowing Wright to dash home with the winning run and set off a raucous celebration, which culminated in Duda getting the coveted "double-pie" from Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada.

So, the Mets have somehow managed to sweep the Citi Field portion of the Subway Series, the first time they've swept a leg of these games since 2008. The pitching both nights was great, the hitting was terrible, and yet somehow the Mets managed to win both games by doing the absolute minimum necessary. Of course, both nights it was the same people doing the heavy lifting, but then again, that's why we keep having faith in Daniel Murphy and why David Wright makes the big bucks. It's for moments like these, little victories in a lost season, that keep things interesting and worth paying attention to. Because even though the Great Rivera has never blown a save without recording an out, you never suspect that it's going to be that lousy Mets team that's going to be the one to do it to him. Mostly, however, it was nice that the Mets were able to treat Rivera the way they should be treating him—Rudely—rather than the nauseating lather job that the higher-uppers lavished on him before the game. Bears repeating, but maybe if upper management were more interested in themselves, rather than kissing the asses of their rivals, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hip Hip Oy Vey

A major Arts Festival precluded me from keeping too much of an eye on the actions of this past weekend, which meant that I didn't get a chance to say anything about the folly of Friday's suspended game, but then again, given how that game and Saturday's subsequent game turned out, there wasn't much I could say that was either a) Kind or b) Already said by someone else. Sunday, the Mets actually won, although I really can't gather whether or not they skillfully outplayed the Braves or just kind of fell ass-backwards into a victory because that does happen sometimes, even to the Mets.

So, that brought us to Monday, and the return of the highly anticipated or utterly loathsome (or perhaps both) Subway Series with the Yankees. Once again, I'm not going to any of the games, for reasons I've explained previously. That's not to say that I was a little tempted, seeing as how they can't seem to give away tickets to these games (fine seats are readily available on a variety of outlets). But, no, I've decided I can't deal with it. The past few years, the Mets have generally looked rather bad against the Yankees, no matter how well they might be playing, and this year, well, forget it. The one upshot to all of this is that instead of having to be subjected to the Yankees and their semi-educated legion of fans 6 times a season, that number has now been reduced to a much more palatable 4, all of which are conveniently this week. So, there's that.

Monday's opener brought the biggest crowd since Opening Day to Citi Field this year (and I'd assume that after Tuesday, the largest crowd you'll see will be at the All Star Game), a paltry 32,911. If 10,000 seats went completely unsold for a Subway Series game on a National Holiday, then you know things are really going badly. Fortunately, the 10,000 available seats were not bought up by enterprising Yankee fans determined to take over Citi Field with their circus chants and chicken sacrifices, so the crowd appeared to be mostly slanted towards the Mets (The 7 Line, who could easily be described as Mets Freedom Fighters, were quite visible in Center Field, which pleases me). I was at home, in front of the TV.

Jonathon Niese, who has been sort of the poster boy, along with players like Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada, of the struggles the Mets have had this early part of the season, came out and pitched one of his better games of the season, scattering 8 hits over his 7 innings, and only allowing a run when the aforementioned Duda face-planted on a dying quail by Brett Gardner, allowing the ball to roll behind him for a triple in the 6th. Fortunately, this was the only run Niese would allow. Unfortunately, the Mets offense has often been hard-pressed to match a run, and at the plate, they were making Phil Hughes look like the phenom stud pitcher every Yankee fan continues to insist he is. Thus, it appeared Niese was destined for a Matt Harvey, a fine outing in which he got no run support and left the game either tied or losing.

But...David Wright did what he's been doing all season and got a big hit, in this case a tying Home Run in the 7th.

But...David Wright did what he's been doing all season and made a big play in the field, starting an inning-ending DP in the 8th.

But...Daniel Murphy did what he's been doing some of the season and drove in the lead run in the 8th inning.

And Bobby Parnell, who really ought to be commended for the job he's done this season, finished things off in the 9th, shutting up the Yankees and their fans and actually getting this season's incarnation of the Subway Series off to a winning start. That's not to say it was pretty, because Parnell did allow a single to Ichiro with 1 out, and couldn't you just see one of these scrap-heap Yankees like Overbay or Hafner somehow pulling a Home Run out of their ass? This seemed like the kind of thing that's been happening for the Yankees over pretty much the entire history of the Subway series. But, no. Parnell was up to the task of gassing Overbay for the 2nd out, and then induced Hafner to pop up—and probably give every Mets fan a heart attack as they waited for the ball to come down—to Wright, who held the ball and gave the Mets a fine victory...and come back with Matt Harvey on Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Tuesday night, I worked late and missed the game completely. Wednesday, I had the game on the radio, but had to leave midway due to an outside appointment.

It's becoming a recycled comment, but I see I missed very little.

It's sort of to the point right now where nobody's immune from the stink on this team. Today, Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell, two of the Mets few reliable players, were the ones who faltered. It was a rare bad outing for Harvey, who gave up a season-high 4 runs in 6.2 innings. He didn't pitch badly, certainly not by the standards of his teammates, but for him, of course, it wasn't great. Still, a stinker for him is probably a really good day for some lesser pitchers. Plus, given how well he's pitched to this point, logically, he's got to have a bad outing at some point, and if it's going to happen, it may as well be against perhaps the most potent offense in the National League.

Bobby Parnell also took it on the chin, giving up 3 runs in the 9th inning (though I didn't hear what happened, I found out later on that he wasn't helped by Ike Davis yakking on a grounder) in another rare poor performance. And, I suppose you can echo what's been said about Harvey. Plus, if Parnell is going to have a bad day, at least he's done it when Harvey also had a bad day, so as to keep the suckitude confined to one day.

But this isn't about Harvey or Parnell, who in general have performed rather well this season (to my surprise, Parnell settled down once he was named the closer and has finally seemed to get his act together). The rest of the team has just been a total drag on everything. Nobody outside of the two pitchers and David Wright have performed with any degree of consistency. It's starting to wear on even the most diehard of Mets fans, I'd have to imagine. It's killed any of the meager joy we could have taken in this season (it's beyond the point now where we're happy to have Baseball and too soon to begin getting wistful that the season is drawing to a close) and it's actually beginning to sap some of the juice from the hot prospects the team is banking on to save the future. The couple of "name" prospects that are on the way aren't going to swing the favor of the team the way it's composed right now. There's just not enough talent on the roster.

The result is that right now, the Mets come off as no better than the Cubs or the Padres (not quite as hopeless as the Marlins or Astros, but a little too close for comfort) and most fans have just become sick of it. The crowd at Monday night's game appeared to be less comprised of actual Mets fans than people who just thought it would be fun to go out to a Baseball game that night, or some groups of idiot hipster kids that were looking for an offbeat place to hang out. I mean, yes, the regulars are still there (Cowbell Man and Mr. Struck-Him-Out and his entourage have been present at every game I've been to this year, and the Hooligans have also been present on occasion), and I'm sure plenty in my ilk have and will continue to show up plenty of times, because that's simply what we do. But the more games I've been to this year, with tepid crowds that number between 10-15,000 (basically take whatever the announced attendance is and knock about 40% off that), the more I've noticed that there really aren't that many "Mets fans" there. And, I mean, can you blame them? Who, if you were someone just getting into Baseball right now, would want to root for this team? Who, who isn't someone who has lived and died with this franchise for 29 seasons like I have, or even longer like many Mets fans I know, would take the same kind of undying joy in being a Mets fan right now?

More than a few fans are starting to get really nervous that the improvement of the team may take much longer than expected. It'll happen, sure. But when?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

No Cigar

Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Reds was my 8th of the year, and the second in a row in which I only went to the game simply because I had the tickets. Once again, I wasn't particularly aggressive in finding someone to take my extra ticket, primarily because I didn't exactly remember I'd had these tickets until last Friday, and so I was stuck with an extra ticket. Fortuitously, the Reds appear to be somewhat of a draw for whatever reason, and I was able to find some hearty soul outside the subway who was looking for a ticket. This has happened to me before. Usually, if there's one person looking for a ticket, it's probably someone who is trying to get in and meet someone else, so at least I don't have to sit and feign discussion with someone I don't know. Particularly if they're not a Mets fan.

I don't especially mind going to games by myself. Citi Field (and Shea Stadium, in its time) is a bit of a sanctuary for me, so going by myself and drinking in a nice ballgame on a pleasant night is just fine by me, whether someone comes with me or not. But I usually have to hustle a little bit to make it on time; I leave work at 6 and with a 7:10 start time and two trains to take, I try not to waste any time getting out there. Usually it takes about 40 minutes to get there. But today, I just wasn't moving with my normal sense of urgency. Sure, I left work at 6, but there wasn't really the same spring in my step there usually is. Even when I got out there and battled my way through an abnormally long security checkpoint, I didn't really feel like I had to rush, lest I miss the ceremonial first nose picking or whatnot. See, I know when I'm heading into a bad situation. The Cincinnati Reds were my preseason pick to win the National League Pennant and go to the World Series. The Mets have been terrible, and really haven't shown any signs of being anything otherwise except when Matt Harvey pitches. Monday night, Matt Harvey was not pitching. Shaun Marcum was pitching, and the last time I saw Shaun Marcum pitch, he was, to put it kindly, awful. This just didn't seem like the kind of game I really had to rush to catch every minute of.

Though the end result wasn't as bad as I might have thought, my pregame premonition was pretty much on point. Shaun Marcum had a miserable first inning, which was partially due cause of a Joey Votto hit that a) Bounced off 1st Base before Ike Davis could field it and b) put Ike Davis in position for Joey Votto to clip him passing 1st base and draw a bit of a cheap interference call. This set off a chain reaction of events that led to 3 Reds Runs and Shaun Marcum looking like he was about to unravel into utter Jeremy Hefnerness (and while we're on the subject of comparing Marcum to some awful Mets Pitchers, how about the fact that Marcum works at a pace that rivals Steve Trachsel. Whether there's a runner on base or not, he just works at a miserably slow pace, so much so that by time he departed after 6 innings, the game was nearing 2 and a half hours long and ultimately ended at a horrendous 3 hours, 22 minutes). But oddly, after slogging his way through that first inning, Marcum settled down and actually retired 10 batters in a row at one point, and later worked his way out of a Daniel Murphy-induced jam in the 5th.

Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto, who I suppose fancies himself a Luis Tiant-type, did pretty much everything he could to hand the lead back to the Mets. But, fortunately for him, he was facing the Mets and so although he walked 2 and loaded the bases in the 1st, he only managed to bring up Ike Davis, who Josh Thole'd to get Cueto out of the jam. He walked another in the 2nd and in the 3rd, he again allowed 2 men on base. But there's only so many times you can walk that kind of a tightrope, and finally, Marlon Byrd was able to reach Cueto for the 3-run Home Run that tied the game. Unfortunately for the Mets, that Home Run appeared to be the shock to the system that Cueto needed, since he pretty much went on lockdown from there.

Byrd's Home Run actually kind of picked up my spirits a little bit and got me thinking maybe the Mets might shock me and win the game. Even after Jay Bruce's lightning-like Home Run in the 6th, I figured the Mets might pluck their way through the game and scrape across another run somewhere. But I was mistaken. A succession of 5 Reds relievers combined to stop the Mets in their tracks. I guess I should have known better.

So in situations like this, I guess you have to look for the silver lining, which would be that LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon and Greg Burke all combined to keep the Reds off the board; Hawkins doing so in spite of the fact that he probably got rooked on the Brandon Phillips HBP/foul ball call, which led to both he and Terry Collins getting ejected. Mostly, I give Hawkins credit for waiting until he got out of the inning before letting Tom Hallion have it.

But, in the end, none of it amounted to anything more than another loss. My feelings were right. Ultimately, after 27 seasons and 331 games, I guess I've developed some sort of demented sixth sense about these things. But at least they kept it close.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Missed Again

Once again, the Mets have made their season's visit to Wrigley Field, and once again, I managed to see none of the three games, or at least none of them while they were being played.

Although I did hear the game on Friday in my office, I was in my office again on Saturday and Sunday for a variety of reasons and did not have my radio on. In fact, on Saturday, I found myself busy enough that I forgot there was a game altogether, only realizing what was going on when I got the ESPN ScoreCenter buzz on my phone telling me that the game was over and how I'd missed very little. I suppose it's fortunate that I didn't see the game because from what I can tell, it would have only made me annoyed and launch into another tirade about how terrible Jeremy Hefner is. Although he's had some "respectable" outings this season, I'm still not convinced. Pitching 4 innings, giving up 4 runs and coming away from an outing against the lousy Cubs with a record of 0-5 and an ERA of 5.00 is not inspiring of anything but the overwhelming sentiment that when it's time for Zack Wheeler to ascend, Jeremy Hefner will not be spared (Ok, ok. So I had a tirade even without having seen him).

Sunday, I was also in my office and again, I knew there was a game, but for whatever reason I just didn't bother putting on my radio, and I was actually in transit by time the Mets rallied back to win the game. So, what I most likely missed was another rather unexciting performance from Dillon Gee in which he apparently gave up a Home Run to the opposing pitcher and did very little to distinguish himself. I still think Dillon Gee is a step up from Jeremy Hefner, but at this point I'm not sure how much of a step up it is; though Gee had started to make a step forward in 2012 before he got hurt, he's done nothing to build on that success. But, at least he's won a game this season, which is more that you can say about Hefner. Additionally, today, he did keep the Mets in the game long enough for them to come back thanks to the lightning-like Home Run from Juan Lagares in the 7th and Daniel Murphy's winner in the 8th.

So, Chicago has come and gone for the Mets. They'll be back in late June, but only to play the White Sox, in a midweek series that ensures I'll be able to watch the games. But outside of a few innings of the replay of Friday's game, I once again successfully avoided an entire series of games in Wrigley Field. I'm not proud of this fact, but that's how things work out.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Enough Of This

Rare is the Friday when I end up having to listen to the Mets on the radio, but here it was, a Friday afternoon game, which of course meant that the Mets were in Chicago to play the Cubs. I've mentioned several times in the past that for some reason I have very little recollection of the Mets playing in Chicago at all over the past number of years, and one of the reasons why is that they play a dearth of afternoon games at Wrigley Field. I'm usually just not home when they're playing there. And, of course, I'm so limited in the amount of attention I can pay to games in my office that it makes these Chicago trips even more of a blur.

Today's game was no different. Sure, there was a little extra juice in today's game because Matt Harvey was pitching, but I still have work to do, so you know, you do the best you can. I usually stream WFAN online, but because of the usual MLB rights restrictions, I can't actually stream the games. I have a pocket radio in my desk for such occasions. This is noteworthy because today, I actually forgot to take the radio out of my desk and at some point, I realized I was listening to a replay of Boomer and Carton. Horrified, I quickly clicked the stream off and got out my radio, turning it on just in time to hear David Wright hit a Home Run and give the Mets an early lead.

I know that the Mets hitters seem to have this feeling that one run is all Harvey needs, but Harvey is, in fact, mortal and sometimes he will give up more than 1 run. This happened rather mysteriously in the bottom of the first inning. Somehow, in between writing some checks and giving a copy machine tutorial, the Cubs got some runners on, and apparently they both scored while I was working at another station. So by time I came back, the Mets were down 2-1 and I figured, "Of course, This is finally the day that Harvey doesn't have it."

But apparently, I was wrong. Harvey just didn't have it in the 1st inning. I heard Daniel Murphy hit a Home Run in one of the middle innings, and then engrossed myself in a project that pretty much ate the remainder of my afternoon and ate up my attention so much so that by time I stopped for a breather, it was the 7th inning. In between that period, Harvey basically stopped the Cubs cold, which was a good thing, because the Mets were doing what they usually do and not scoring any runs for him.

I suppose Harvey must have been fed up, because I tuned back in just in time to hear him drive in the game winning run. Well, why not? Nobody else seemed prepared to step up for him. Although he'd never say it, I'm sure he was tired of pitching his ass off for 7-8 innings and getting no run support. So, given the opportunity with Ankiel on base, he got the hit, drove in the run, and then went back out to the mound and I went back to work.

It was the 9th inning when I looked up again, and by this point I'd missed the key play of the game, which was Marlon Byrd pulling Scott Rice's ass out of the fire and throwing out Barney Rubble at the plate (Barney apparently helped the process by pulling a Carlos Beltran and not sliding). Bobby Parnell, who continues to impress me in the closer's role, finished out the job, giving Matt Harvey his 5th win, which probably should have been his 8th win if there was any justice in this world. I then went back to work and promptly forgot what time it was, because I got in such a zone that I didn't look up until about 6:50. I'm supposed to leave at 6. Whoops.

So, the Radio streak continues. I'm tempted to go to work over the weekend and listen on the radio if that will help the cause.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It Happens

It really does happen. Sometimes, the Mets win a game.

Usually, it seems to be in those weekday afternoon Getaway Games, because for the past few years, it seems like having the game on the radio in my office appears to be some kind of demented good luck charm. Or at least it just seems that way. I don't know.

Today's game was kind of a blur. I say this because when I'm working and humming along in my office, large chunks of game can happen and I'm only marginally aware of it. I remember hearing the beginning of the day, of course, and I know that the Mets didn't score in the first, but I sort of lost track of things from there. I was in the midst of multitasking, and it was particularly involved multitasking, because when I started paying attention again, I assumed it was 3-0 Cardinals in the 3rd, but it was actually 2-1 Mets in the 5th. Of course, it may also just be because, after these past few weeks, I've been conditioned to think that the Mets are always down 3-0, like some demented Stockholm Syndrome or something to that effect.

At any rate, I was kind of surprised that it was 2-1, and I was even more surprised a few moments later after Daniel Murphy hit a ball through the fence at Jack Buck Stadium (and I can tell you that Howie and Josh did not do a very good job of describing exactly how Murphy's ball went through the fence, leaving me to some bizarre visuals) which spurred another 2-run rally, meaning the Mets had actually scored 4 runs for the first time in about 3 weeks. Meanwhile, Jonathon Niese was very neatly setting the Cardinals aside with rather dutiful efficiency, which may also have been a reason why I wasn't really following things—it wasn't an incredibly attention-grabbing performance. But one does not have to be attention-grabbing in order to be effective, and in doing both, Niese put together his best start in about a month, something sorely needed at this particular moment in time. Couple that with Daniel Murphy's 4 hits and the Mets actually won a game rather than going down in flames like they usually do in St. Louis. Believe it or not, it does happen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Circle of Vultures

St. Louis is just another House of Horrors for the Mets, but then again, that's not saying much, since pretty much every place they go nowadays has become a House of Horrors. But seeing as how what generally happens when the Mets visit St. Louis is that the Cardinals basically circle around the Mets like vultures, pecking away and pecking away until there's nothing left but a corpse. Doesn't matter who's on the team, whether it's been Pujols, or Holliday, or David Eckstein, or Ratso Molina, or Alfred Molina, or Jon Jay, or John Mabry, or John Mabry, Jr., it's usually one of those annoying little "scrappy" guys who does it to the Mets.

It begs the question of why the "scrappy" guys the Cardinals get always seem to come through with clutch hits and heady plays, while the supposedly "scrappy" gamer types the Mets always get end up going the way of Collin Cowgill. But that's another question for another day, because no amount of scrap seems to be able to help the Mets right now.

The silver lining to tonight's game, if such a thing could possibly be had, would be that Shaun Marcum sort of redeemed himself after an embarrassing outing last Friday against Ye Pirates. While the Mets have primarily not hit and been sunk by their awful starting pitching on Monday and Tuesday, on Wednesday they still didn't hit, but the starting pitching amazingly kept them in the game long enough for Rick Ankiel's 7th inning Home Run to actually tie the game, instead of simply putting a couple of token runs on the board so they lose 7-2 instead of 7-0. Then again, maybe those were just token runs, because the Mets didn't sniff any more runs before or after Ankiel's HR. But I digress. Marcum actually pitched a pretty damn good game tonight, although nobody's going to remember it. It's the kind of outing the Mets have really desperately been counting on him to put forth; only now did he seem to look right enough to get the results. He still looked kind of pissy on the mound, but that may simply be how he is (I am not especially familiar with Marcum's mannerisms. All I knew of him was that he pitched reasonably well while with the Blue Jays and Brewers, had some injury problems and also had kind of a weird, boxy pitching motion). The results were there for him tonight, for the most part, until he kind of ran out of gas in the 7th inning and the bullpen coughed up the losing run on his ledger.

Of course, Marcum's outing was no match for his teammates, who currently appear as though they'd have a tough time facing an A-Ball pitcher right now. Cardinals Wunderkind Shelby Miller didn't appear especially sharp, but any time he got in trouble, the trusty Mets were there to let him off the hook. Yes, the bullpen couldn't hold his lead because Rick Ankiel ran into a fastball, but it was only a matter of pushing another run across and the Mets would be sunk. But, you know, since this is the Cardinals, the game wouldn't be complete without Ratso Molina coming up in the 8th and driving in another run, thereby removing any actual drama from the game. Not that there was much drama to begin with.

The Mets have proven themselves to be so bad it's comical. I actually thought they might be reasonably competitive this season, even if they ultimately ended up losing most of their games, but they're proving themselves to be almost Astros-level bad right now. I just can't imagine, for their own pride, that they'd want to let this happen, but perhaps the stink on the team is just too great.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Don't Get Too Excited...

I know the first, last and only reason the Mets brought Rick Ankiel on board is to try to jump start the 3-run-a-game offense and give the Mets a viable Major League Outfielder.

This might be a reasonably good idea if it were 3 years ago.

That Rick Ankiel might be viewed as, now, one of the better Outfielders on the Mets roster is a real indictment on just how bad things are right now, because last week, Rick Ankiel got released by the Astros. Not the Cardinals, not the Brewers, not the Rangers, the Houston Freaking Astros. The team with the worst, stripped down roster in the game, whose management basically decided the best thing for them to do was throw in the towel for the immediate few seasons while they build their entire organization back up from complete and utter ashes. Rick Ankiel was one of the few veterans that the Astros brought in this offseason. Now, think about this logically. If you were a veteran Major League ballplayer with, say 7-8 years experience and and a moderate level of success, why would you even think of signing with the Houston Astros, knowing full well that you're signing on to a shipwreck? The answer is, you don't. You sign with the Houston Astros because none of the other teams in the league are interested in signing you. That's why the Astros had Rick Ankiel and Carlos Pena on their Opening Day roster. Neither of those players, on their own volition, would probably have signed with the Astros if a more attractive situation presented itself.

Now, Ankiel started off with a bang, hitting a 3-run Home Run on Opening Day, aiding the Astros to a blowout win. Since that point, they've lost at a frequency that would make the Mets' heads spin. Currently, they're 10-29, or, approximately 5 games worse than the Mets. Ankiel basically performed up to the level of the team. In 25 games with the Astros, he managed to hit .194, albeit with 5 Home Runs. He also walked 3 times, had 12 hits and struck out 35 times in 62 at bats. Rather than keep him around in some kind of mentorship role while their youngsters fumphered around, the Astros just cut him. It wasn't worth their while anymore.

So, what happens when you get cut by the Astros? Well, the Mets pick you up, of course! The only team possible that might be more hard up for Outfielders and marginal Major League Talent. This is just another sign of how bad things have become for the Mets. And, yes, this was what we were expecting this season, but at this point, the team has just become Matt Harvey, David Wright, John Buck, Bobby Parnell and that's pretty much it. Ike Davis has turned into Dave Kingman of lesser acclaim, Lucas Duda is full of hot air and Daniel Murphy just vacillates between Jeff Cirillo and Josh Thole. Nobody else seems to be of particular value to anyone, and the alarming rate at which the team has gone through relievers and outfielders is an example. I missed all of the weekend's games against the Pirates, but I saw the end of tonight's game and I suppose it may as well have been an amalgam of all three games rolled into a few mostly unwatchable innings. In the words of Mike Francesa, "NNNNNNEEEEYY STINK!!!"

Friday, May 10, 2013

Nice Grouping

It seems that 3 is the magic number for the Mets. They can only seem to muster 3 runs a game of late. Sometimes, it's good enough to get them a win. Tonight (and probably most nights), it was not.

My presence at Friday Night's game seemed a mistake from the get-go. I mean, I picked the game on my 15-game plan, so I had the tickets, but it just didn't seem like the kind of game I should have been going to. I had a rather rigorous work week, I already went to a game on Tuesday night (that turned out much better), and in the general meshugas of life, I didn't try very hard and ultimately couldn't find anyone to go to the game with me. So, there I was, out at Citi Field on a Friday night by myself. In fact, this was my 3rd Friday night game of the season. Most of you loyal readers (and many who don't read but know me well enough) know that I generally don't go to the Friday-Saturday-Sunday games very often. This year, I have. In the future, I may think better of it. In fact, I'm going to think better about a number of things when I build my future ticket plans (ie Fewer April night games, fewer weeks where I go to multiple games, etc). Though I got one very good Friday Night this season, the others I've been to have been pretty miserable as far as the game was concerned. In fact, were I not in a relationship, this would have been the kind of game that probably would have made me question my self-worth and wonder what the hell I'm doing. Games like tonight still make me wonder what the hell I'm doing, but at least I don't feel like I'm missing out on something of greater importance.

So, yes, there was a game going on, and I was there to see it, reluctant as I may have been. I knew that after witnessing probably the best single game pitching performance I'd ever seen on Tuesday, there was probably going to be a bit of a letdown. I didn't, however, think I'd witness Shaun Marcum put forth one of the more gutless performances I'd seen this side of Tom Glavine. Yes, Marcum did have 3 innings where he set down the Pirates in order, but when he didn't, the result was a complete and total meltdown. I was under the impression that Marcum was a reasonably good pitcher and he'd be a big help to the Mets rotation, but so far he's been nothing but injured and ineffective. It's hard for me to actually see his expressions from my perch in the Promenade, but I sort of got the impression Marcum wanted to be out on the mound about as much as I wanted to be at the game at that particular point in time.

The Pirates, who are building one of the more pesky teams in the league, started pinging Marcum to death in the 2nd inning. There were doubles, and hitting and running, and a big inning seemed imminent. Marcum eventually became unglued enough that after hitting a guy batting .077, he reared back and kicked the mound. That ought to tell you right there where he was at. He then got in the way of a potential double play ball, where he may or may not have hurt himself. When Andrew McCutchen made it to the plate with the bases loaded, I figured the situation rife for the Grand Slam and immediate departure of Marcum. But, amazingly, McCutchen flew out, buying Marcum another 3 innings before he fell apart again in the 5th. This rally started more or less the same as the one in the 2nd, except that Garrett Jones decided it best to pick up the pace and just hit the 3-run Home Run instead (and from where I was sitting, it was unquestionably a Home Run, no replay necessary. Sorry, Joe West).

So, now down 6 runs, I knew that the 3-run-a-game-Mets were sunk, even if they were facing Shrimpy Wanda Rodriguez and his garbage pail of pitches. So all I could do was stew about it for a while. Anthony Recker came to bat in the 5th inning, and it got me to thinking about Anthony Recker, because it's something that neither I, nor probably any Mets fan, has done much of. I don't know where he came from, but he's done very little good in his time with the Mets, and seeing as how John Buck has been so good so far, Recker has barely even had a chance to play. In fact, I was sort of surprised to see him playing in this game, because he tends to only spell Buck on Sundays and random weekday afternoon games. I didn't actually think I'd ever see Recker play in a game this season. He strikes me as kind of a prettyboy Mike Nickeas type, which I suppose is fine for a backup except that his defense has failed him at some pretty glaring moments. If John Buck was supposed to be the placeholder for Travis d'Arnaud, then Recker is what exactly...Oh. How quaint. Anthony Recker hit a Home Run. Now I can add him to the list of people like Nickeas, Valentino Pascucci, Armando Reynoso, Nick Evans, Roberto Petagine and Ruben Gotay as weird, random Mets players who I have happened to see hit Home Runs in person.

The rest of the game basically fell into the blah blah blah category. By the 9th, pretty much everyone who wasn't like me had cleared out or maybe found something else at Citi Field to entertain themselves. The Mets began to stage a sort-of-cosmetic rally in the last of the 9th off of Jose Contreras who for some bizarre reason still holds a spot on a Major League roster. Jordany Valdespin added his name to the Nickeas list (although I'd think it likely that I will see more Home Runs from Valdespin in the future) and Andrew Brown, who's playing more often than he probably should be playing, extended things with an RBI single, which prompted Clint Hurdle to remove Contreras in favor of his closer, Jason Grilli. Hurdle's scouts clearly were not doing their jobs, because if they had, they would have told him that changing pitchers there wasn't necessary. The Mets had officially reached their 3-run-a-game quota, so they could stop now. Or maybe Hurdle knew and just wanted to get Grilli the cheap Save. Either way, Ruben Tejada's fly out to end the game was fait accompli, ending the game and sending me steaming off to the 7 train that I was ready to get on 2 hours prior.

Another fine night at Citi Field. But at least it's better than 2009, where I felt like leaving pretty much every game I went to before the game ever started, before the Mets usually gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Everyone Else

Tonight's game was one of those games that I didn't have a chance to see until very late, and by time I'd tuned in, the damage had already been done. I didn't need to know what had gone on through the first 7 1/2 innings to know that the Mets right now can basically be boiled down to one sentence:

There's Matt Harvey, and then there's Everyone Else.

I didn't need to see anything to know that Jeremy Hefner wasn't very good, because Jeremy Hefner isn't very good. The White Sox threw out more or less the same lineup on Wednesday that they did on Tuesday, only substituting sage veteran Paul Konerko for walking strikeout Adam Dunn. Tuesday night, this lineup was completely overmatched by Matt Harvey. Wednesday, they lit Jeremy Hefner ablaze. Now, I don't know the White Sox very well, but I'd have to imagine that they're not as good as they looked against Hefner, and they're probably not as bad as they looked against Harvey. This, then, is a pretty good example of the kind of difference a starting pitcher can make, and just how much better Matt Harvey is than pretty much everyone else around him.

Offensively, the Mets appeared to do about as much tonight as they did last night. Yes, they somehow managed to score more runs tonight than on Tuesday, but on Tuesday, they made their 1 run count as the game winner. Wednesday, they scored 3 runs, 2 of which came in garbage time after the game was long out of reach. You might think that this debunks my theory, since the Mets don't seem to provide much run support for any of their starting pitchers these days, but, in reality, it just supports this particular thesis even further, because when Matt Harvey pitches, they can look like schmucks all night, score only 1 run and win the game. When everyone else pitches, they can look like schmucks.

No matter how bad they may look, and no matter how inept they can be offensively, Matt Harvey makes this team better. Even if they haven't backed him with much run support, they've won 6 of his 7 starts, and the only one they lost was the 15-inning shit show in Miami. Mike Francesa opened his show today talking about how watching Harvey on Tuesday night was like watching Tom Seaver in 1969. I wasn't alive in 1969 and I have a very vague memory of Doc in '85. But I know what I'm seeing in Matt Harvey 2013. He makes the Mets look better just by stepping out on the pitcher's mound. It's rare that a player can inspire that sort of confidence.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Now I've Seen Everything

As I've mentioned at some point in the past (though I don't expect you to pour over 6 years of this blog to find it), I have a habit of always seeming to catch a particular Mets starter several times over the course of the season. Fortunately, this season, I've been catching Matt Harvey's starts. Tonight was my 6th game of the year, and the 3rd time I'd seen Matt Harvey.

Harvey was excellent the other two times I'd seen him this year. Tonight, he defied description.

I have seen many outstanding pitching performances over the years. I've seen guys like Doc Gooden be great, and Pedro Martinez, and Al Leiter pitch some excellent games. I've seen Mets pitchers take No Hitters deep into games, like Ron Darling, Rick Reed and even Mark Clark. But I always maintained that the single best pitching performance that I'd ever witnessed was that by Bobby Jones against the Giants on October 8th, 2000. Although the circumstances on Tuesday night were vastly different from that Sunday afternoon in October 13 years ago, Matt Harvey's performance was very much the equal of Jones'.

I had a feeling Harvey would have a good performance tonight. I couldn't really explain why. But given that he had a couple of days of extra rest, pitching at home, against a pretty paltry-looking White Sox lineup, coupled with the fact that the White Sox were, of course, an American League team that has played the Mets exactly once since Interleague Play began in 1997. The circumstances just seemed to dictate a good performance.

But Harvey exceeded even my expectations by coming out and being simply unhittable. I mean, I know the White Sox aren't a good team, in spite of the fact that they're led by Ballclub Favorite Robin Ventura, but they want to go out there and win games just like any other team. But facing Matt Harvey on Tuesday, they looked completely defeated. If they weren't striking out, which 12 of them did over Harvey's 9 innings, they weren't making anything resembling solid contact. Most balls were harmless grounders directly at fielders, or lazy flies to the outfield. Sometimes, you see a team just run into a buzzsaw and just want to get the hell out of there and start over, and that's kind of what the White Sox looked like.

Twice, in June of 1998, I was at Mets games where Rick Reed took Perfect Games into the late innings. There's sort of a groundswell that grows within the crowd when something like this is going on. You don't really notice it during the first few innings. Maybe with 2 out in the 4th, the fans start to get a little into it. By the 5th inning, it gets a little louder. Come the 6th, people start standing with 2 strikes. They're roaring by the 7th...

...But I'd never seen anything further. On June 8th, 1998, Rick Reed retired the first 20 Devil Rays before Wade Boggs doubled. Given the circumstances I mentioned earlier, I was really starting to think I might see Matt Harvey take this thing all the way. That's how dominant he looked out there. Even a nose bleed and a pitcher who forgot to take his turn at bat didn't slow him down.

But Alex Rios hit a grounder deep in the hole at Shortstop that was just a little too far for Ruben Tejada to make a miracle jump throw. He made it close, but Rios was safe. Perfect Game done.

Nonetheless, there was still a game to be won. Sometimes, these things can undo a pitcher. But, undaunted, Harvey took his ovation, got back on the mound and struck out Adam Dunn. To that point, he'd only thrown 78 pitches. There was still more work to be done, and he went out and retired 6 more batters in rapid succession. Harvey barely broke a sweat in his 9 inning, 105 pitch effort. 28 White Sox batters came to the plate. 27 went back to the dugout with nothing to show for it. 1 hit, no runs, no walks, 12 strikeouts. I don't think I've ever witnessed better and I don't know that there have been many better pitching performances in Mets history.

There's one small problem, perhaps the turd in the punchbowl of a magnificent night. See, when you throw 9 innings and give up no runs, no walks and 1 hit, one would reason that you'd be rewarded with a victory. Unfortunately, the stupid Mets couldn't score a damn run for him. I'm almost glad that Harvey gave up a hit, because can you imagine if he'd thrown a Perfect Game through 9 innings, and it wouldn't count and he wouldn't get a win because his asshole teammates couldn't get him a run? He didn't need more than 1, that was pretty clear. But it seems that was a tall order. It didn't help that the lower half of the batting order consisted of Me, Ike Davis, El Guapo and Matt Harvey.

Still, I don't know much about Hector Santiago, his numbers look rather good, and though I'd pegged him as a junkballer early in the game, he has nice stuff, but let's be realistic. This is Hector Santiago of the 2013 Chicago White Sox, not Johan Santana of the 2004 Minnesota Twins. They should have been able to scrape a run across. But noooooo. Though Santiago tried to hand it over to the Mets in the first few innings, he eventually settled down and didn't give the Mets an inch over the majority of his 7 innings. After Ruben Tejada's 5th inning single, the Mets didn't get another baserunner until Ike Davis worked a leadoff walk in the 10th. The White Sox excuse for not scoring was being up against a budding superstar. What's the Mets excuse? They did nothing against an unheralded dude with a mohawk who can't remember to take his turn at bat, and a pair of retread relievers, only to finally get a run in the 10th thanks to Mike Baxter. If there were any justice, they would have done this an inning earlier. But no. It was the 10th, and Bobby Parnell, who performed a mini-Harvey, setting down the Sox 1-2-3, ended up with his 3rd win of the season. Sigh. I should be happier about the victory and I probably shouldn't complain too much. At least it was fast. At 2 hours, 30 minutes, this probably was the quickest game I'd been to all season, in spite of being my first extra inning affair since 2011.

Hopefully, these nights where the Mets don't score for Harvey don't become a habit. You can never be too sure the way the Mets tend to go.

Monday, May 6, 2013


The Mets could, perhaps, have springboarded from Friday night's outstanding victory and gone on to bigger and better things over the weekend in Good Ol' Atlanty. Unfortunately, a day's worth of rain washed out Saturday's game and from the looks of things on Sunday, probably killed whatever shred of momentum the Mets might have had. Instead, the Mets played a game that could have inspired a Jim Mora-esque meltdown from Terry Collins.

The Mets appeared to be comically unprepared for a baseball game on Sunday, and it wasn't as though there was one or two culprits, it was just about everyone not named David Wright or Daniel Murphy. Jonathon Niese had his Oliver Perez control, Lucas Duda couldn't field, Buck was having trouble, nobody was immune.

Niese's performance was probably most alarming. Towards the end of last season, it appeared like Jonathon Niese was ready to take a big step forward this season. He'd gotten into a good groove where he wasn't going to let an error or some adversity snowball into a big inning, and he wasn't going to start pouting and letting his body language dictate his performance. Unfortunately, both of those things happened on Sunday. Lucas Duda misplayed an eminently catchable fly ball from Bitch McFreeman, and all of a sudden, what should have been a 1-run inning became a 5-run inning, and game essentially over.

These are the sort of outings that Niese needs to avoid if he's going to earn the respect he's being afforded. He was on his way to a similar outing against Los Angeles, but Mark Ellis saved him from a similar fate by pre-emptively knocking him out of the game. Other outings against Colorado and Minnesota were similarly unimpressive.

I'm not sure what, exactly, the issue is here, whether the multiple weather-induced days off have kept him off a rhythm or if it's something else, but the Mets were sort of counting on Niese to be the complement to Matt Harvey, at least in the early going, to keep the Mets afloat. Harvey's done his job, but Niese, to this point, hasn't kept up his end of the bargain.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Script Changes

It's not news to Mets fans, particularly anyone who has been following the team since Turner Field opened in 1997, but nothing good has ever happened to the Mets at Turner Field. I mean, sure, they've won some games here and there, and they've swept some series on rare occasions, but for the most part, nothing good ever happens to the Mets in Atlanta. Whether it's umpires blowing calls at home plate, or players abandoning fundamentals, or Larry being a general nuisance, something terrible usually happens to the Mets when they go to Atlanta, and the result is that they generally lose games. I don't think they won a game there at all between 2003 and 2005, and I believe they've only won about 2 games there since 2007.

Even without Larry around to wreak havoc, the Braves still feature all the pieces designed to annoy me. Dan Uggla—remember him?—is there now, and some Uptons are involved. This Andrelton Simmons fellow is drawing a lot of sizzle in spite of the fact that he poses as little more than a glorified Rey Ordoñez. Then, there's their closer, Craig Kimbrel, who everyone fawns and drools over like he's the second coming of Mariano Rivera except that people gloss over the fact that every time he's had to close out a big game, he's shit the bed. So...yeah. No love lost for the Braves.

Tonight's game seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of all those other games. The Mets broke out to an early lead thanks to the continued success of John Buck, but the Braves chipped away and chipped away, and ultimately tied the game in the 5th. It didn't help that Shaun Marcum couldn't keep himself together. But whatever. If the Braves didn't strike then, they would have struck later on. And they did, in the 7th, courtesy of a walk and an inopportune Wild Pitch, setting the stage for All Star Andrelton Simmons to tap into a Fielder's choice that probably would have been a Double Play had the ball been better hit, but them's the breaks. Mike Minor hadn't given up a hit since the 2nd inning. And there went the Mets in this game.

Except that for reasons I can't quite understand, the Braves removed Minor from the game. Marlon Byrd promptly hit a Home Run off Eric O'Flaherty in the 8th inning, re-tying the game.

So, the Mets won't lie down so easily, will they? That's OK. Braves Folk Hero du Jour Evan Gattis answered Byrd's Home Run with one of his own off Brandon Lyon. Braves lead once again. Braves fans doing their little tomahawk chop dance that brings me right on the verge of homicide every time I hear it. The unhittable Craig Kimbrel coming in for the 9th. We already know how the script ends. May as well pack up and go home.

Except that David Wright decided to man up and throw a wrench into that plan. Kimbrel had him late on a pair of fastballs, but, pro that he is, Wright shortened up his swing and deposited the next pitch in the Center Field bleachers, tying the game again, and hanging a BS on Kimbrel. I found this to be a particularly gratifying Home Run, particularly since Keith Hernandez—Keith Hernandez!—had spent the entire inning with his lips firmly glued to Kimbrel's ass.

Still, the Braves appeared primed to make Wright's Home Run a footnote in the bottom of the 9th. Ramiro Peña (who was a former Yankees prospect, so you know he's got to be good) doubled off Lyon, and then got sacrificed to 3rd. Here we go again. Another game in Atlanta destined to end with something stupid happening. But instead of sticking with Lyon to the death, Terry Collins instead went to Bobby Parnell. All Parnell did was get Jordan Schafer to fly out to center—probably deep enough to score Peña, but shallow enough to scare him out of trying—and Justin Upton to ground out, keeping the game tied and into another extra inning affair.

I still wasn't entirely convinced that the Mets were just prolonging the inevitable, because they still had to score more runs in order to win, and through 9 innings, they'd only managed 5 hits, 4 of which had fortuitously left the yard. Jordan Walden came in for Atlanta in the 10th, and while Keith spent a good 15 minutes expounding on his bizarre delivery, the Mets once again got to work. Jordany Valdespin worked a 2-out walk, which seemed innocuous enough, but in reality it set one of Terry Collins' more ingenious plans in motion. Bobby Parnell, the next batter, would surely have been hit for under most circumstances. But here he was, coming to the plate.

Only in retrospect was it evident that Parnell was simply there to square for a bunt and distract Gattis enough to allow Valdespin to steal 2nd. At worst, Valdespin is caught and Parnell goes out for another inning. Instead, Valdespin was safe, Mike Baxter subsequently pinch hit and walked, and Tejada and Murphy followed with run-scoring hits. Just the way Collins drew it up.

3 tidy, uneventful outs from Jeurys Familia later and, amazingly, the Mets had a 7-5 win that you sort of had to pinch yourself over. The Mets battled back in a game where Atlanta's groundswell probably should have overcome them. They tied a game in Atlanta where normally they would normally have meekly faded off into the night. They took an extra inning lead and held it. This isn't the script that these Mets/Braves games usually follow. I hope to see it happen more often.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Prick Up Your Ears

Wednesday's afternoon game meant another of my "working man's specials," where I'm in my office with a portable radio, catching whatever bits of the game I can when I'm not buried in whatever that day's task may be. The result, as always, is that I tend not to get the best perspective on what's actually going on in the game, but after Monday and Tuesday, I can't say I had particularly high hopes for the outcome. The owner of a nearby establishment, a fellow Mets fan, popped into my office once or twice, stuck his head in my office and would say things like "It's suicide watch time..." and "Can you even bear to listen to the game today?"

There have been days where I haven't had a day game on in the office, but it's rare. Usually, I was simply too busy and I forgot there was a day game. But I seem to have enough cognizant Baseball fans around me to not let that happen anymore. I put the radio on and immediately had to go into my Boss's office for a spell, and when I came back, the Marlins already had a 3-0 lead. The way things were going, I figured the game was already over because the Mets can't score 3 runs. So the game dissolved into background noise and I continued working. Only when David Wright hit a Home Run did I pay attention, and that was only because Josh Lewin punctuates his calls with a particular kind of screaming that you sort of can't miss. A few minutes later, he was screaming again, because the Marlins came right back and tacked on another run. 4-1, I figured, would still sink the Mets and finish off a sweep of particular embarrassment.

Which is why I found it rather jarring when, some time later, Jordany Valdespin hit a 3-run Home Run that, according to Lewin, gave the Mets a 5-4 lead.

A 5-4 lead?! The Mets scored 5 runs?

A novel idea, scoring runs indeed. And not only scoring runs, but tacking them on, thanks to John Buck an inning later.

Try as they might, the bullpen couldn't blow this one. The Marlins got as close as 7-6. Bobby Parnell came in for a rare save opportunity and, of course, just as the bottom of the 9th was starting, I was called out of my office again. I came back just in time to hear Lewin screaming some more, "AND HE STRUCK HIM OUT! AND THE BALL GAME IS OVER!"

"That was quick." I thought. "And they actually won."

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. As hard it may appear to be for the Mets to win a game, it's also equally as difficult for them to lose every game. This will, apparently, happen from time to time.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Even Worse

I know that there's some spin flying around that the Mets got rooked in the 9th inning by a bad call at 3rd base, and sure, if Tim McClelland is in a better position he probably calls Coghlan out, but the Mets did it to themselves last night and let's not try too hard to grasp at straws.

The team right now is abominable. I started to wind up for the kill yesterday, and I could continue down that path, but is it even worth it? It doesn't matter if they play 5 and a half hours and 15 innings, or 2 hours, 20 minutes and 9, the result is still the same. Starter pitches well, offense stands around with their thumbs up their asses, bullpen either blows the lead if they were fortunate enough to have one, or puts the game out of reach if they were behind. The ineptitude they've managed to display on these fronts has been impressive even for the Mets.

The reaction of the Marlins after these past two games should tell you everything you need to know. They're used to playing in front of about 30-40 people already, so you probably couldn't blame them for looking like they're slightly lulled to sleep. But then they sort of stumbled into a pair of victories here against the Mets and they don't seem to know what hit them. SNY showed a shot of Mike Redmond in the dugout after Lyon's wild pitch and he had this look on his face as if to say, "Hey, wait a mean we won!? How the hell did we do that?"

For once, I feel bad for poor Jeremy Hefner. I've cracked on him plenty and he certainly has been deserving of it most of the time, but give credit where credit is due because he pitched his heart out for 8 innings and made the Marlins look like the Marlins. And thanks to the fact that nobody could get him some runs, he's hung with the loss. It's easy to point fingers at Lyon or Anthony Recker, and sure, Recker gagged on a passed ball and didn't stop Lyon's wild pitch, and also made a questionable play on the Pierre bunt, but at the same time, Recker was the only Met to drive in a run. If not for him, the Mets don't have the 1-0 lead in the first place because nobody else hit.

Pitchers are a convenient scapegoat and certainly this bullpen has been pretty lousy this season, but I feel like I've spent the better part of the last decade complaining about how you can't win if you don't hit, and the Mets continue to prove this point game after miserable game. You could call up Zack Wheeler now, that's fine. I'm sure he'll be thrilled to be in the Majors, until he realizes that this bootleg team can't back him up and he loses every game 3-1.