Thursday, April 03, 2003

Game 2 - Mets

Mets 4, Cubs 1
Record: 1-1

Maybe I was onto something. Maybe I was just on something. Anyway, my optimism wasn't just the stuff of pipe dreams as the Game 2 Mets only very slightly resembled the squad of two days prior. With Piazza sitting out his four games, Sammy Sosa champing at the bit for his 500th tater, and the images of the 15-2 rout still fresh, it wasn't logic but the knowledge that baseball is at its core a cockamamie game that led me to that mild foreshadowing of victory.

We got a huge break from the fact that Matt Clement was doing his best Mark Wohlers/Rick Ankiel impersonation in the first inning. It's always painful to watch a pitcher struggle like that. Hitters can slump and you'll cringe when they're fooled badly and just look out of their league, but you can always credit the pitcher with being that much better. When a man throws at a target at the top of the professional ranks (with 20,000 boisterous humans hollering insults at him) and can't seem to get remotely close while single-handedly sinking his team's chances of victory for the game, it's a train wreck. I've been there (without the 20,000 or the paycheck to boot). While in my JV baseball team's starting rotation, I had an outing where I quite simply could not find the plate. At all. Walked four out of the first six batters, most of them on four straight balls. And one of the other two smacked a double, aided in part because at that point I was nearly throwing underhand to try to find the strike zone. The look on my coach's face when he had to bite the bullet and pull me after 1/3 of an inning was horrifying. At the time I blamed a sliver of glass in my throwing index finger I'd suffered the night before, but in truth I just didn't have it that day. I sucked. Jack, didn't I suck? I sucked.

And so watching Matt Clement chuck balls in the dirt and over the batter's head time after time was painful, but at least he was throwing for the enemy. To borrow from Jon Lovitz in The Wedding Singer (there's a first time for everything), he was losing his mind and we were reaping all the benefits. After Cliff Floyd hit a mammoth 2-run shot over the bullpen in right, Clement gave up a single, threw two wild pitches, recorded a K but lost it when it scooted past the catcher, threw another wild pitch, and walked a guy before striking out Rey Sanchez to end the madness. After all that, though, it was only 3-1. Al Leiter had given up a run in the top of the first when Jeromy Burnitz displayed once again that the outfielders deserve to have "fielders" stricken from their position name. To Clement's credit, he settled down fairly well after the first, allowing only a Roger Cedeno solo shot (inexcusable as that may be) in the next two frames, but he was yanked in the 4th.

It's a damn good thing Clement didn't have it, and it's a damn good thing Al Leiter did. After the 2nd inning, the Mets scratched out exactly one hit. But Leiter was on, and the infield played solidly, and Dave Weathers, Mike Stanton, and Armando Benitez held the lead. And 4-1 stood up. Nice to get that first win. True, the Mets hitters have looked extraordinarily bad against the Cubs' middle relievers, but those guys are a very strong corps. In two games, New York "hitters" have struck out a whopping 23 times. Yikes. So yes, they're 1-1, but historically teams that strike out a lot, they're not . . . they're not good, to borrow from Ty Webb in Caddyshack (imminently more quotable). Anyway, it's only two games in and it's interesting. Good enough for me.

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