Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Game 117 - Mets
The Excavation of a Landfill

Rockies 6, Mets 4
Record: 56-61

On the surface of this game, i.e., in the only lasting record of it, i.e. i.e., in looking at the box score, this was just another loss in a losing season -- a nondescript, meaningless defeat that doesn't warrant detailed examination. But wouldn't you agree that very little is ever what it seems on the surface, excluding today's pop music, Sly Stallone's acting, and Mike Piazza's pure love of baseball? We'll dig into this game just a wee bit deeper, pausing momentarily for a Parental Advisory for scenes that may turn Met fans' stomachs.

One facet of this game that does jump out at you is Victor Zambrano's 1 2/3 innings pitched. His ineffectiveness stemmed from a "sore elbow," two great words that don't go great together. (Though not, as Rhys Lloyd always points out, as explosive a combo as "cash bar," two wonderful words on their own that wholly sour upon compounding.) Zambrano's next start is in question, as is the deal that brought him here if this ailment turns out to be more than a minor tweak in a long season of fireballing. He did leave the game, however, with a 2-0 lead, albeit with a couple of runners aboard. Enter Dan Wheeler. I repeat: Enter Dan Wheeler. While we're wasting time overanalyzing phrasing and diagramming sentences, I'll just say this: "Enter Dan Wheeler" is one I never enjoy reading, unless through some strange set of circumstances I happen to catch sight of a Brooklyn proctologist's to-do list.

So Wheeler comes into a small jam in the second, up by two with two outs and two on. Jason Jennings at the plate. That'd be Jason Jennings the Rockies pitcher. Yes, Jennings is a decent-hitting pitcher, and yes, it's Coors Field, but if Dan Wheeler is ever going to be a not-abominable pitcher, these are the outs he must record. Needless to say, he didn't; Jennings singled in one run on the first pitch, the next batter singled as well, and the lead had evaporated into the very thin air. After Richard Hidalgo doubled in a run in the third to reclaim that lead, it took Wheeler a mere three pitches to hand it right back. Efficient, if god-awful.

He did settle down for a few innings after that, much like the Mets' bats did. I figure they were tired of battling the Human Lead Eraser. The 3-3 tie went into the sixth when Matt "Every Day's a" Holliday "When You're Facing Danny Wheeler" parked one with the bases empty. By the time Pedro Feliciano "relieved" (if you will) Wheeler in the seventh, Wheeler's line didn't look so awful (2 runs over 4 1/3), but it's a misleading line. Fortunately for you, I dig a little deeper and tell the real story.
What Dan Wheeler's Line Doesn't Say (Explicitly or at All)
1. Two inherited runners, two inherited runners scored.
2. While his ERA was a reasonable 4.15, his WHIP was a lofty 1.84.
3. The Rockies hit .381 against him during those 4 1/3 innings.
4. Their freakin' pitcher was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
5. He sucked. Didn't he suck, Jack? He sucked.

I have arguably given poor Mr. Wheeler more than his fair share of abuse at times. At least he didn't walk anybody . . . but who's taking pitches when you're hitting .381 against him?

As alluded to, Feliciano came on and did his best "When in Colorado . . ." rendition. After getting the heart of the lineup out routinely, he issued walks and meatballs to the bottom of the order, and two more came across for the Rockies, making it 6-4. These guys are pitching in key spots but are more suited for mop-up than Hong Kong Phooey. Is this the best the Mets can throw out there?

Naturally, despite being handed a pair of walks and an error, the Mets managed just one run in the ninth, fading out on a strikeout and a popup. Wheeler got the loss, which was about the only telling stat in his line.

The altitude aided the Mets little to not at all, as they rapped out an unalarming seven hits and scored four runs -- three earned. Jason Phillips saw his average drop below .200 for the first time in a while, Mike Cameron dipped below that mountainous .240 plateau, and Cliff Floyd fell back below .270, marking a BA low since the Break. At least Hidalgo is ripping the ball again. It makes it harder to collect RBI's when guys don't get on very much, but somehow he had three, i.e., all of the team's ribbies. Colorado air, the Mets muster 3 RBI's. I can hear Skip & Larry:

"Three RBI's."

"Three RBI's . . . How'd we ever knock in three runs?"

"It's a miracle."

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