Friday, April 09, 2004

Game 3 - Mets
Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Hoffa, Pitching & Defense

Braves 10, Mets 8
Record: 1-2

Those of you who've been with us since the beginning of last year are probably familiar with an annoying trait of mine: I will invariably bring up every accurate prediction I've ever made. To wit, this will be the second time in the embryonic stage of this season that I've done it. But man, when I'm right, I'm right!

Monday, April 5: (a) "Scott Erickson, who was last seen pulling into his reserved parking spot at the Johns Hopkins hospital." (b) "Erickson (now shopping for real estate on the DL)"

Last night during warm-ups before his first game as a Met, Scott Erickson strained a hamstring and severely hamstrung the Mets' chances of taking this series. If I cease to make negative (albeit obvious) prognostications, will they stop coming true?

Art Howe looked like the man who brought a knife to a gunfight as he penciled Dan Wheeler in as a spot starter. If his name sounds familiar, it's because he's mentioned several inches south on your screen, pitching an inning and a third in the game the night before. Oh, this should go well, everyone in Metville collectively sniped.

Wheeler wasn't terrible, especially considering the circumstances, and he made it through the first three frames unscathed. Ty Wigginton, much more fearsome in this year's 7- or 8-spots than he was in the 5-spot last year, hit a two-run dinger off John Thomson to give the Mets a surprising lead. The Braves got to Wheeler for a pair in the 4th, tying it, but the Mets got two more the next inning. After a leadoff double, Art Howe pulled Wheeler and brought in David Weathers to stop the bleeding. Weathers proceeded to do his best Edward Scissorhands, though, and three runs scored.

Weathers was a steady workhorse middle reliever/set-up man last year, especially in the early going, but he just didn't get the job done here. Still, the Mets scratched across another in the 6th and it was knotted again. It has been nice to see some tenacity in coming back again and again during this initial series. And then John Franco entered and assured us that there would be no more comebacks.

I had a lot of trouble justifying the negative comments I wrote about Franco last year, and it's still painful to have to write such things, but it's no less necessary. This is a great pitcher who did great things for this club for a great number of years. This is also a team who can't afford to have close games rest in the hand of a guy, were it not for his great history, would be out of a job in this league. That may be overly critical, since there were more guys to point blame at in this game than I have fingers, but the index finger is aimed squarely at Generalissimo Franco.

Franco faced nine batters and retired two, which isn't terribly efficient. In truth, he made a few great pitches along the way that reminded us of how he used to con, swindle, and trick batters into pop-ups or bad swinging K's. But one or two good pitches to each batter will not get the job done. He ended up walking a run home on a ball that bounced before it reached the plate. Franco's fastball hasn't been one at which to marvel in a long time, but his speeds are so low these days that he needs top-shelf control to have any shot. The three walks he surrendered illustrate how poor that control was. When he loaded the bases down 6-5, I angrily made a bet with my television (aloud, to my house guests' bewilderment) that if he walked Julio (the better-aging) Franco home, I would guarantee the Braves would score 10 runs, presumably on a subsequent grand slam. After the walk, there was not the slam I had envisioned ruining things, but the Braves did end up tallying 10. The TV and I agreed to disagree and called it a push.

The previously heralded good D was abandoned after Game 2. The Mets had three errors and a passed ball in the loss. None of the runs were unearned, but there were several defensive miscues in the midst of what became big innings for Atlanta. As the pitching and defense vanished, it became clear this game would not be won, and that we might be in for the long season we thought we'd ducked after Game 1. And I'm not the only fan grimacing after these consecutive pathetic displays. My brother-in-law Patrick, quoted more than once (in a tone either hostile or doomed) last year, called and left me a message early this morning. It contained the following snippets:

"need to vent . . . are you kidding me . . . give up 30 runs in 3 games . . . long, LONG year . . . was so excited after Game 1 . . .watched all three games . . . already think I've had enough . . . need to vent"

I think Patrick needs to move down here to DC where we can only catch the Mets on TBS when they play the Braves or WGN when they play the Cubs. This season might cause him bodily harm. For me, though, I need another week or two before I can get a good bead on the season just yet. I'm just happy they're hitting the ball. So what if this resembles men's softball? I like softball.

No comments: