Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Games 47 through 50 - Mets
Just a Little Bump in the Road

Marlins 2, Mets 1
Marlins 3, Mets 2 (10)
Marlins 8, Mets 6
Mets 5, Phillies 3
Record: 24-26

Okay, I'll admit it. When the Mets were swept by Florida directly following the proclamation of the Era of Positivity Part Deux, I considered abandoning this borrowed, flawed concept (did anyone catch the end of the Red Sox '03 season?). It was just more of the same from my guys -- I get pumped up for them and they immediately sport more L's than Laverne DeFazio. You could almost set your watch by it. But no, I kept the confidence alive, if barely breathing, even encouraging my visiting Met-fan brother-in-law to keep the faith . . . and get himself to some games up there.

The series was a tight one, and that's reason for a wee bit of optimism. Remember, these are your division-leading, World Championship-defending Marlins. Game 1 saw Dontrelle Willis outduel Tom Glavine, Game 2 was a draw between Jae Seo and Carl Pavano that was lost by Braden Looper in 10, and Game 3 was a relative slugfest in which the New York nine erased three-run deficits twice, gave away four unearned runs, and fell by two. They were battles, all of them, they just didn't work out. The good guys don't always win -- have you all re-watched The Bad News Bears yet?

Despite my combing the box scores for positive signs like that weirdo on the beach with the metal detector, every series sweep is a demoralizer. In addition to the losses, Mike Cameron and Cliff Floyd crashed into each other awkwardly -- it looked like a bad little league screw-up -- and each appeared hurt. What with the injury bug flocking to Floyd like cicadas to my trees, the wound was unsurprising except in origin. Other bad signs over the weekend were Steve Trachsel getting lit up, Cameron's average continuing the landslide to .197, the aforementioned bad defense, and Braden Looper suddenly looking "touchable" -- uh, like the mob labeled Eliot Ness's squad in blood in the elevator, not like Miss July.

I intentionally refrained from spelling it out for the first month and a half of the season (there are more occurrences of Superstition on this website than there are on the one cataloguing Stevie Wonder's concerts), but Looper did not concede an earned run during his first 18 appearances (21.2 innings). Over his next four outings, however, he allowed 4 ER and at least one in three of the four. He was starting to look like the Braden Looper of last year: the one who sported a 3.68 ERA and six blown saves, and the one who made us question the offseason commitment of the Mets' front office when they picked him up rather than Ugie "Wonderland" Urbina (6 saves, 5.40 ERA), Billy "Golden Anniversary" Koch (7, 4.19), or Keith "Contemporary" Foulke (okay, he's been pretty good).

Holiday weekends are good for more than just turning Monday from bad-meaning-bad to bad-meaning good. In some cases, that extra game allows the storm clouds of the weekend to dissipate and the sun to shine through, i.e., the Mets won Monday after L-L-L over the weekend. After a couple of lengthy rain delays, they kept their concentration where the Phils could not and pulled out a victory. Of note were Mike Cameron's clutch, two-out, two-run double, Jason Phillips homering again, and the pitching staff fending off the Phightin' offense, though Pat Burrell still co-owns the Mets with Fred Wilpon. (Brian Jordan appears to have sold the stake he owned a few seasons ago.)

Perhaps even more significantly, Braden Looper bounced back and got a save. Even with his brief lapse, he has a mere 1.33 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, a 19/5 K/BB ratio, and 8 saves. The save count is strangely low, considering how well he's pitched, but sometimes that's just how the season unfolds. Consider that the top of the MLB save leaders list makes little to no sense, with the only expected name being Mariano Rivera (18 saves) in 3rd, behind Danny Graves (24, but with a 2.70 ERA) and Armando (Dr. Jekyll) Benitez (20) and just ahead of Matt Herges and Francisco Cordero (16). Of the 17 guys with more saves than Looper, 12 have higher ERA's, with five of them over 4.00 and a pair over 7.00. So that stat just doesn't tell the story. And since these New York Mets can ill afford any blown saves, we'll need him in that early season form almost every time.

Back on the winning track, keeping our heads up, and above water, and making a wave when we can. Good times ahead. Looking forward to leaping back over that .500 mark for good. Dammit.

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