Friday, April 16, 2004

Game 9 - Mets
Getting Zippo Off Leiter

Mets 4, Braves 0
Record: 5-4

Two nights ago we were Metless and Soxless, and a documentary satiated my baseball jones. Last night both teams were on the tube, and each provided some excitement. While the Orioles are inching closer to forcing Pedro Martinez to publicly acknowledge he's their bitch, the Mets and Braves squared off for the rubber match of this series and for the sixth time in the nine games of this young season.

You may as well call Al Leiter "T'Pau," because he's the heart and soul of this team. (Please don't, though.) Glavine presents another father figure, Franco adds a grandfather figure, and Piazza captures the never-say-die spirit, but Big Al is the guts of this organization. Mike Cameron's late scratch added to a list of nicks and dings that's keeping the Mets from sporting its best lineup even once this year. The outfield of Joe McEwing, Jeff Duncan, and Shane Spencer paled in comparison to the Cliff Floyd-Mike Cameron-Karim Garcia trio that was killing the ball last week. Speaking of pale, the Wonder whitebread outfield was just one portion of a starting lineup featuring not a single Latin-born player. They made it work, though, as Leiter's 5 1/3 shutout innings paved the way for stellar relief from David Weathers, Orber Moreno, and Braden Looper, and the Braves managed just four hits, four walks, and nary a run.

Meanwhile, timely hitting makes all the difference, and the Mets cashed in on some. Spencer's groundout plated one in the first and his flare brought home a runner after a walk and balk from Braves starter Horacio Ramirez. The 2-0 lead looked a little tenuous in the late innings, requiring key double plays to help Weathers escape twice without damage. In the bottom of the eighth, the Mets appeared to be squandering a chance to add insurance, following up a walk and a hit with two unproductive outs. Karim Garcia pinch-hit, but the Braves brought in lefty-killer C.J. Nitkowski to minimize Garcia's effectiveness from the left side. Garcia, however, muscled one over second base for an RBI single, and Jeff Duncan (another lefty) followed with a slap to the left side that scooted through and brought home run number four.

When playing any team the difference between a two-run lead and a four-run lead going into the last frame is often larger than those two runs, but when playing the Braves it's expanded exponentially. That team simply has an annoying habit of dramatic comeback wins, especially when Chipper Jones has a turn at the plate. Those last two runs, scraped across in scrappy fashion, seemed to take any second winds from their sails. Looper fired a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of K's -- starting with Chipper's lead-off swinging strikeout to set the tone.

Bucs this weekend and Expos next week. Should be a few wins, right? Funny how it never works out that way.

No comments: