Monday, July 19, 2004

Games 89 through 91 - Mets
Dr. Lester's Prescription for Success
Phillies 5, Mets 1
Phillies 8, Mets 2
Mets 6, Phillies 1
Record: 46-45
Friday afternoon I was standing in the Irish Times with a nearly-empty pint of Guinness and my Phillie-loving friend Nick.  (We'll excuse him for letting his Yankee-fan associate tag along.)  At one point, Nick threw this out: "If I offered you a split, would you take it?"  With one win in the 4-game tilt in the bag already, and with the Mets playing solid ball of late, I shook my head.  "No way."  I acknowledged that I was conceding Friday night's contest -- at the time I thought Scott Erickson was going to pitch -- but liked my chances with Glavine and Leiter.  By Sunday afternoon, I was ruing that greedy decision.
Erickson's Met debut was pushed back to tonight, so Jae Seo resumed his regular spot.  He pitched well, but Kevin Millwood pitched better.  After Seo-Seo left, having given up just a pair of runs through seven, "Hit-or-Miss" Stanton missed to Bobby Abreu for a solo shot, and Johnny "Misses" Franco faced five batters, retiring one.  It's just not going very well for him this year.  Meanwhile, the Mets' offense managed four hits and a single run.  They made Millwood look like the pitcher he was supposed to be and not the pitcher he's been all year long.
Saturday made Friday look like a highlights film.  Tom Glavine pitched, and though he wasn't brilliant, he pitched well enough.  The rest of the club should have issued him a sincere apology for what they did.  Ugh.  I don't really know why I bothered to watch the whole thing, but my persistence paid off in getting to see a Mike Piazza blast to center.  Small solace for the wreckage I had to witness for the rest of the game.
The defense was pitiful, illustrating that the worst-in-the-NL fielding stats aren't misleading.  The outfield was mediocre, simply not making plays that could have been made.  Cliff Floyd somehow didn't get to a fly ball to deep left, and Mike Cameron failed to make a key play in center which resulted in a couple of runs scoring.  Cameron's play wasn't awful; in fact, the degree of difficulty makes it a tough bone to pick.  Still, his hitting numbers only reinforce that he was signed to a moderately lucrative contract in large part because he could shore up a terrible defense in the outfield, and you could name a half-dozen or more centerfielders who you'd bet would've made this play without much trouble.  His untimely whiff later in the ballgame only reinforced this notion.
Then there was the left side of the infield.  Ty Wigginton cleated a grounder from the opposing pitcher, keeping the inning alive for Cameron to do his thing in center.  And Kaz Matsui committed two more errors; he's now projected to record more errors there than when a rash of freak injuries forced me to play Dave Kingman at short in Strat-o-Matic.
Meanwhile, the hitting was lethargic once more.  Jason Phillips had a couple of key at-bats, locking up the Phils' victory.  Richard Hidalgo apparently spent the All-Star break regressing, and Jose Reyes is still swearing off multi-hit games.  Piazza's dinger ended a streak of roughly six million AB's without going deep.  What hits they came up with were squandered, as they left 10 aboard and eked out just two runs.
Just for kicks, of course, Jose Parra came into a 4-2 game and catapulted it out of reach, with partial credit given to Kaz for his Diego Maradona-like footwork (also referred to as the "hand of dog" play).  Sunday looked pretty bleak going into it, but every day's a new day.
Here's where, like clockwork on most Mondays, I ignore the piss-poor performance of most of the weekend and ride the joy of the Sunday win.  Not today.  Sunday was a good win, thank you very much, Al Leiter.  Mike Cameron rebounded with a great play in center and a homer, Vance Wilson made a case for more regular play behind the dish, and five relievers surrendered just one run in three innings, which we'll take after the previous two outings.  That's enough back-patting; with the Braves and Phillies both playing improved baseball, it's a long road to hoe and a few changes are in order.  Namely:
  • Flip-flop Matsui and Reyes.  Matsui was given the benefit of the doubt, sight relatively unseen, and Reyes hasn't bitched much.  It hasn't worked out, and Reyes should be given a chance to be the vital cog in the infield.  Try it out "temporarily," then see how well it works and forget about the "temporarily" part.
  • Drop Reyes in the order.  He hasn't shown he can get on the basepaths to take advantage of that speed.  He needs to be in the lineup, for sure, but not at the one-spot.  Couple it with the move to SS and he can't complain too much.  Meanwhile, Matsui might worry about the move to 2B, but he can move up in the order.  Psyche preservation.
  • Vance Wilson becomes the everyday catcher.  Send Phillips to Norfolk, or just relegate him to the bench for a spell, but he's not the same batter he was last year.  Likeable guy, just not when he's up with the bases are loaded in a critical spot.
  • Find a fifth starter . . . fast.  Yeah, I know, easier said than done, but I have my doubts about Scott Erickson, and I think it's somewhere in the Tyler Yates / Matt Ginter area.  Of course, they now have Yates closing games in Norfolk for some reason, and Ginter hasn't been back there long enough to get him into a groove.  Maybe the Mets are just trying to slip into the postseason without a #5 -- where they won't need one.  Smart. issued an article ranking 16 contenders' remaining schedules by difficulty.  The Mets rank 6th, which made my day.  Not so much because they have a relatively easy schedule, but because it's July 19th and ESPN called them "contenders."  Eerily cool-sounding.

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