Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Game 38 - Mets

Mets 9, Colorado Rockies 6
Record: 17-21

God bless that thin air. There's nothing like a change in climate (to the tune of 5280 feet above sea level) to bring formerly dormant bats to life. And though Keith Hernandez tried to burst the bubble every time by providing us the Shea equivalent for every ball off and over the wall, it was still nice to see. Alomar and Floyd both hit Coors Field asterisked homers: Alomar was cussing himself on the way to first base for what he thought was a routine fly-out; Floyd's ball never got higher than a few feet above the top of the wall, a line drive shot that somehow carried into the bullpen. Mike Piazza collected three hits, Ty Wigginton hit a 3-run triple, and Joe McEwing took advantage of a rare start at short with a couple of hits and some great plays in the field. And just as you've got to temper your excitement about the big hitting, you can feel better about the pitching than you otherwise would. Steve Trachsel got his first win of the season, and though Stanton and Weathers looked shaky, Graeme Lloyd and round mound of rebound Armando Benitez looked sharp. Allowing six runs to Colorado sounds bad, but it's a run and a half below their home average. Actually, only five were earned -- one came when a high, softly dropping chop off the plate inexplicably eluded David Weathers' glove; Keith said he lost it in the lights (?).

The negatives from the day, beyond Weathers fielding like the T-ball league kids, included Jay Bell straining his groin two minutes into the game breaking out of the batter's box, as well as his being replaced by Tony Clark, who apparently has been reading his press here and has decided he feels sorry for Rob Russell so he'll revert to 2002 mode. Over a third of his AB's are K's, most of them ugly. And speaking of ugly, Hernandez and Fran Healy broke down the flaws in Roger Cedeno's swing nearly every time he came up. I guess for someone who has played in the professional ranks -- especially Hernandez, who prided himself on his hitting form, Cedeno has to be a train wreck to watch. He ducks out every time, he shuffles his feet in the box, he pulls his front shoulder, he sticks his butt out too much, he has a bad uppercut, and he just appears very uncomfortable. And this makes watching him equally uncomfortable. And that doesn't even get into the mental part, his bad habits, poor discipline, bad eye for pitches, etc. I do feel sorry for the guy for all the abuse he takes, but he is still playing major league baseball and being paid handsomely to do so, so there are a lot of folks in the world I feel worse for than Roger Cedeno. In his defense, he has been hitting better of late, raising his average all the way up to .242. [He's still projected to hit 4 HRs, steal 13 bases, and strike out 107 times.]

Speaking of improvement, as much as I ripped Armando Benitez earlier, he deserves a few kudos for battling back and nailing down some saves lately. On April 19, he had 5 saves, 4 blown saves, and an ERA of 6.97 (which jumped up to 7.24 a week later). Now he has 12 saves, still those 4 blown saves, and an ERA of 4.43. I have to say, though, that this is typical Benitez. Just when people have given up on him and the expectations are nil, he surges. He will continue on this track despite the naysayers for a while, just long enough to sucker a few people into once again believing in him. And then, I assure you, when not just any game, but the big game is on the line, he will melt down. This is what he does. This is who he is. Hell, just from me patting him on the back right now I can almost guarantee a little setback. But nothing major -- he'll wait until he's got the Baseball Tonight guys duped into backpedaling and saying it was just a bad spring, he's on track now, and all that crap. Then . . . (and the anticipation of it is both exciting and nauseating) . . . kablooey. You heard it here.

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