Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Games 78 through 81 - Mets
Spanking the Yankees!

Mets 11, Yankees 2
Mets 10, Yankees 9
Mets 6, Yankees 5
Phillies 6, Mets 5
Record: 41-40

The Mets, whose season has been predictable only in its unpredictability, reverted the month-long pattern of losing all weekend until the final game, sweeping the New York Yankees (that phrase hasn't lost any of its appeal yet) but dropping the long-weekend finale to the Phils last night. Just as last-gasp wins didn't soothe the sting of a string of losses but so much, last night's misstep did little to suck the air out of the weekend heroics.

Averaging nine runs a game against the Yanks is both a huge step in the right direction for the Mets and also probably alarming enough for the Yankees that I expect Mr. Steinbrenner to have an All-Star caliber starter imported within the week. The addition of Richard Hidalgo came with only a modicum of fanfare, but it's apparent that we underestimated the shot in the arm he could provide. The way he's swinging now . . . well, he probably won't continue at this pace, but it's been a well-timed influx of incredible power. Remember last Wednesday's shutout loss to the Reds? That's the last time Hidalgo didn't hit a home run. Anyone who can go deep every game he plays against the Yankees will always have a place on this team and in my heart.

Monday was a sharp dose of reality, though. Sweeping the Yankees -- especially on the heels of their dispatching of the Red Sox -- felt like three big-time, momentum-swinging wins, but they actually weren't as significant as, say, sweeping the division-leading Phillies might have been. With the Phightin's . . . phighting their way past Florida in the standings, it's clear they are poised to pull away from this pack of NL East water-treaders. Last night Tom Glavine got roughed up early, but he quickly settled down and the Mets had their chances to come back. Another winnable loss, after recording a handful of imminently loseable wins.

With the score 6-5, Jason Phillips fouled off ball four, then fanned. Had he been more patient, Glavine might've bunted them over and the top of the order would be up with runners on second and third. As it was, Glavine had to swing away (sort of -- he struck out looking). Little squanderings like that hurt. Then again, the top of the order was Jose Reyes, who continues to look as if it's St. Patrick's Day instead of Independence Day. He's understandably rusty, and the only WD-40 in baseball is at-bats, but he might need to get those somewhere other than in the 1-spot. Immediately following Paul Abbott's second walk of Tom Glavine -- with Abbott looking rather spastic -- Reyes proceeded to swing wildly at three consecutive out-of-the-zone pitches and sit down. The two-run rally that inning could've used a more productive appearance from a leadoff hitter. Two innings later, when Reyes finally did reach, he got doubled off second on a line drive by Matsui. A little bit of bad luck, a little bit of bad baserunning. I dogged Jose Reyes in this space for his failure to rehabilitate quickly, and I predicted a lost season; perhaps I should have been more careful what I wished for? Reyes will hopefully return to the '03 form that was a smile among winces, but in the meantime, he's one of the few hiccups in a line-up clicking on all cylinders lately.

Three more against the Phils, starting with Al Leiter versus Randy Wolf tonight. Speaking of Leiter, am I the only one who thinks Al Leiter should have been at least considered as an All-Star candidate? I'm less irked by his exclusion on the roster than I am by his omission from any and all All-Star discussion of the NL pitchers. When the press issued their Pavlovian "who got snubbed" lists after the teams were announced, his name wasn't among any I saw. His 4-2 record and three missed starts while on the DL work against him, but his 2.12 ERA speaks for itself. I guess the knock has to be not enough IP, but when he's been out there, he's been spectacular. His record would be much better were it not for his meager run support. Check out these no-decision performances:

5 IP, 0 ER
7 IP, 1 ER
5 IP, 1 ER
8 IP, 1 ER
5 IP, 0 ER
7 IP, 2 ER
6 IP, 2 ER

It warrants an apology from the hitters -- perhaps they can recycle the one they issued Denny Walling. Anyway, Glavine's All-Star selection was followed by a disastrous couple of opening innings last night, so maybe it's just as well.

And finally, Billy Wagner is a serious stud, so the Mets need to do whatever they can to dodge save situations for Philadelphia. Cameron, Zeile, and Reyes went quickly, and Reyes was fortunate to put one into play. Cue the "Ride of the Valkyries" when he enters.

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