Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Game 51 - Mets

Mets 4, Phillies 2
Record: 23-28

I'll say this for Armando Benitez: his sense of drama is extraordinary. He has the innate ability to incorporate edge-of-your-seat, frantic tension into situations where other, less exciting pitchers would keep the tone calm, workmanlike, and downright dull. Al Leiter pitched brilliantly for six shutout innings. Not the kind of brilliant where he utterly dominates a lineup; that's not his way. He allowed only two hits and struck out 8 but walked six in a way that seemed preconceived, picking away at corners and leaving nothing in the middle of the plate. It seemed liked nearly every batter went to a full count, then either walked, struck out, or dribbled one to Ty Wigginton at third. In fact, as Keith Hernandez pointed out as he was scolding the ump for one of the worst balls/strikes calls I've seen in a while, the only time Leiter did fire one down the pike (against Jim Thome with a 2-2 count), the umpire was so stunned he didn't know what to make of it and called it a ball. [Al was majorly pissed; Thome later check-swung through strike three.]

Graeme Lloyd befuddled three batters in the seventh, but allowed a leadoff double to Thome in the eighth. David Weathers replaced him, and after two outs and a wild pitch that should have been a passed ball, he gave up a single to score Thome. Art Howe then chose to bring in Benitez, who induced a weak flyout to end the eighth. After a half-hearted, 1-2-3 attempt to procure some insurance runs, Benitez returned to the mound for the ninth. Here is the Game Log and the words it elicited in my den:

-N Punto singled to right center. [Oh, crap, here we go again.]
-N Punto to second on wild pitch by A Benitez. [Dear Lord.]
-J Rollins struck out swinging. [Atta baby, here we go!]
-P Polanco flied out to shallow right. [Nice. Two down, close it out now . . .]
-N Punto to third on fielder's indifference. [Just as well, Benitez was concentrating way too hard on a runner whose run means nothing.]
-J Thome singled to right, N Punto scored. [Tying run at the plate. Nifty. Oh, it's an overdue Pat Burrell. Who eats Benitez's lunch. I'm gonna lose my dinner.]
-P Burrell walked, J Thome to second. [Can't say I blame you, but where's the pinpoint control of last inning? Winning run at the plate. You have to be kidding me.]
-D Bell walked, J Thome to third, P Burrell to second. [For the love of God, throw a friggin' strike, you asshole!! You suck so damn much, I hope they trade you to Tampa and throw away the key. You're going to walk in the winning run, aren't you? Aren't you?! Somebody get me a gun. I hate this game.]
-M Lieberthal popped out to shallow left center. [Yes! Armando, you are the man! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mike Lieberthal, for swinging at a 1-0 pitch out of the zone from a guy who'd just walked two guys and thrown a wild pitch. I love this game. Yes!]

I laughed, I cried, it was the feelgood game of the night. The feelbad game of the night came moments later when Chipper Jones hit a 10th-inning dinger to give the dork-laden Braves a walk-off win, but it couldn't sap the glee from the Mets' hanging onto what should have been a routine victory.

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