Thursday, May 29, 2003

Game 52 - Mets

Phillies 11, Mets 3
Record: 23-29

This might be a good sign. The Mets took a beating by the same lopsided score that the Sox were crushed the night before. Does this mean we are destined to follow in the first-place footsteps of our friends in Beantown? Okay, back to reality. Pedro Astacio was terrible in that "this is my first time in the majors" way, Art Howe left him in waaaay too long, and by the time that the Mighty Maids mop-up crew of Pedro Feliciano, David Cone, and Pat Strange got the kerosene ready, the fire was at blaze status. Fast fact from the "I Wish I Were Kidding" department: Pat Strange's ERA and his Year of Birth are currently identical.

I know it's the fan with zero foresight that always calls for the manager to yank the pitcher when the going gets rough. Managing a bullpen is a complex task involving intricate knowledge of your guys' current health, fatigue, success, track record, and mental condition while considering the impact on contests in the immediate future. And while casual fans perpetually holler for the hook when they think thrower needs a shower, a manager certainly will draw more fire among his peers and critics for yanking guys too early, depleting his pen, and getting himself into trouble later in games or later in the season. But Art Howe has let guys absolutely hang around far too long on the hill this year, and his overall management of relief pitching has been utterly suspect (see Rockies 9, Mets 8).

Last night may well have been a lost cause -- you're going to have those, and it's a science to detect early on whether to let the pitcher work out some early kinks or whether he just doesn't have it. But after a three-run bomb to Ricky Ledee (!) and a solo shot to Jimmy Rollins (!), plus a couple of walks, a hit batsmen, about six hits, and way too many outs to the deep outfield in the first four innings, Pedro Astacio clearly -- to everyone watching, either in the stands, one the tube, or in the dugout, I assume -- did not have it. Then he came to bat in the top of the 5th. The message to this viewer was that this game, which stood at 5-1, is over. Well, not necessarily over, but we aren't going to help the cause if it might affect tomorrow night's outcome. Astacio grounded weakly to the pitcher, the inning ended two batters later with a double play, Astacio began the 5th by giving up a homer to Jim Thome followed by a walk and a double, the Mets' 6th ended in another double play, the bullpen gave up four more runs on homers, and the game ended with yet another double play. Hindsight is 20-20, but the call made in the top of the 5th set this tone, and I really hope Art Howe isn't looking to too many tomorrows, because this team needs more than a few rallies tonight. What our manager has yet to realize is that with this young, inexperienced, somewhat crappy team, it is possible to lose Game 3 of a series in Game 2.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the Red Sox illustrate for us Met fans what a 5-1 deficit (to a top-tier pitcher on a top-tier team, no less) can mean.

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