Monday, April 12, 2004

Game 7 - Mets
Jets 10, Falcons 6

Mets 10, Braves 6
Record: 4-3

This is getting preposterous. These two teams -- neither expected to maintain a high-powered offense in 2004 -- have now plated 71 runs in four games. That's almost 18 scores a game. It's 36-35, Braves at this juncture. That it's the Braves and especially the Mets doing this is odd. That this 10-6 ballgame came on a cold, wet day at Shea with each team's #2 starter on the mound (my man Steve Trachsel vs. Rob's buddy Mike Hampton) is bizarre. That it happened with Mike Piazza, Cliff Floyd, and Jose Reyes on the shelf for the Mets and Chipper Jones and Rafael Furcal absent for the Braves is just silly.

I was following along at work -- today featured a rare but skillful juggling of cranking out work, checking the game at regular intervals, and writing the column for last night's game -- and "witnessed" (via constant refreshes of online game updates) the Mets jump out to a quick 6-0 lead in three innings. D.C. was drenched with rain all day, so I quickly checked the weather at Shea (also online, what a multitasking nerd I am). The beginnings of a rainstorm without end had reached Flushing Meadows, in not so many words. As the Mets began adding to the lead in the bottom of the 4th, we reached that familiar, angst-filled moment. It's the one where we're kind of wishing they'd hurry up and get back out in the field to complete the 5th before rain halts play (and subsequently erases an otherwise splendid outing), but we're also pretty damn sure we're going to need each and every one of these runs, so let's not squander any opportunities. I'm reasonably certain at this point that the outcome will either be (a) a rainout called in the top of the 5th with the Mets up, 10-0, or (b) playing the full nine and the Mets blowing the lead they didn't make big enough. Pessimism, but anyone questioning its place in Mets fandom is a stranger to these parts.

The lead is a whopping 10-0 as the game becomes official. Hampton served up more hits than Casey Kasem (again) and his ERA now looks like my dry-cleaning bill. Damn shame. Ah, well, he did say he didn't like playing in New York. I have some distaste for those "we chewed you up and spit you out" New Yorkers who love to rail on guys who didn't find solace in NYC (read: Yankee apes), but there was just something about the way Hampton abandoned the team when they most needed him -- for the money, money, and more money the Rockies were offering -- that left me very, very cold on him. And he's probably just a nice fellow with a dorky nickname (the "little bulldog"), but I'm relishing his lack of success since. He went belly-up in Denver, landed on his feet in Atlanta after some sketchy dealings with the Marlins, and gave the Braves less of a marquee season than . . . Jason Marquis. His two outings this year, both against the Mets, have been horrendous. This, my friends, is karma, the kind of karma you talk about when you have no idea what Buddha was really all about.

Steve Trachsel allowed just one run on four hits and a pair of walks to even his record at 1-1. A promising return after a hideous season debut (that his ERA is still perched at 9.00 despite his good numbers today tells that story). Thanks to the ever exciting "Remember the Armando" Bullpen, however, it looked for a spell like the 10 runs wouldn't be enough. Grant Roberts entered in the eighth and did his best Mike Hampton impression, giving up four quick ones on two homers. When "Minimalist" Art Howe left him in -- just like he did much of last year with struggling relievers, only to see them implode -- the tone of this posting was becoming like milk pushing the Sell By date. That decision paid off, though, as Roberts eked out a backwards K and preserved a 10-5 lead. After a 1-2-3 Mets 8th (natch), Dan Wheeler came on to finish it off, but ended up looking like [enter nameless, faceless teen here] trying to finish off Freddy Krueger/Jason/Michael Myers. Once the save opportunity arose, though, fireman Braden Looper stepped in and put out the fire with two pitches, inducing an Andruw Jones GIDP with a look of "Come on guys, it's so simple -- maybe you need a refresher course. Haaaaaeeey." Presumably the 9th inning run was just to ensure another football-looking score. Nice.

And finally, since I made a reference to our old chum Armando Benitez, I should give him his due. He's a Florida Marlin now, and in their six games so far this season, he already has five (5!) saves. He hasn't walked a batter, and after giving up a homer Opening Night (old habits die hard), he has allowed just a pair of hits and no runs. If he's turned everything around, good for him. But I noticed something the other night: in every interview where Jack McKeon or other Marlins are lauding Benitez's comeback, faintly in the distance but definitely noticeable, you can hear something. Listen for it next time. Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick . . .

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