Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Game 130 - Mets
Dropping Ballgames Like Galileo Dropped the Orange

Marlins 6, Mets 4
Record: 60-70

This loss was a microcosm of the entire Mets season. Starting pitching that begins the game/season beautifully but falters down the stretch, middle relief that wipes out leads as soon as the hitters can build them, and a depleted lineup incapable of rallying at the end. Oh, and Armando Benitez sticking it to the Mets just for a little knife-twist. I watched this game, and can tell you that there were 11 good minutes of elation among the two hours and 59 minutes of ball played. Not a good ratio, and not a great case for the three-hour hunker-down when I could be doing something less frustrating, like trying to solve the energy crisis, or attempting to figure out the MLB relocation committee's logic.

Al Leiter pitched well, allowing one run into the sixth, but a walk and a meaty gopher ball served up to Miguel Cabrera put the Mets down, 3-1. With Dontrelle Willis hurling for Florida, and given a lineup that predominantly features premature call-ups, throw-ins, and players to be named later, those three runs loomed large. For two batters. Cliff Floyd ripped a single through the right side, and clearly-not-premature call-up David Wright fought off a number of tough pitches, then smoked a fastball over the right-center wall. Two pitches later, the much-maligned Jason "On the Atkins Diet So I Hit Above My Weight" Phillips crushed a ball way, way gone to left. 4-3, Mets. Bedlam ensued among the Expos-numbered fans at Shea and in my house. There's a little-known corollary to the "Don't count your chickens" adage:

If you know your eggs are all going to be duds eventually, cracking and
rotting and scoring no chicks, count them all immediately and do the funky
chicken all around the nest while you still have the chance.
As applied to the New York Mets baseball organization, it translates: If you know full well the Mets will blow the lead, hell, you might as well go ahead and celebrate. Any lead is rare these days, and we all need something to cheer about on this dark desert highway towards the completion of this season.

And so, with the Mets (a) rebounding immediately to take the lead, (b) touching up the young phenom Willis, (c) hitting back-to-back taters in impressive fashion, (d) saving Senator Al from the loss and setting him up for a win, and (e) not injuring themselves while doing so, there was great cause for some Met merry-making. Better hurry, though, as we know what's around the corner.

Top 7, enter Heath Bell. The burly lad (6'2", 244 lbs) is one of many Mets/Tides/Mets/Tides/Mets who've shuttled back and forth at least once or twice between the big leagues and the big city (Norfolk, VA; population: 241,000) this season without much rhyme or reason. Bell got his rung almost immediately. He registered a quick K, but then gave up an infield hit to Juan Pierre (so fast he didn't draw a throw on a grounder just to the left of short). Damion Easley, who hasn't finished out a contract since the 90's, followed with his 7th home run of the year, quickly turning a Mets' lead into a deficit. Good thing we had that fiesta when we did. (I needed to go to the store last night for orange juice for the kids, about a 12-minute trip -- had I elected to go in the sixth, as I almost did, I would have missed the only sunshine in yet another dismal outing.)

Denouement: Marlins tack another one on, Mets can't touch Piazza's buddy Mota or Born-Again Benitez, Mets lose. Again. The Mets have lost 10 of 13 to the Fish this season. Nine of Armando's 39 saves have been against the Metropolitans. Neat.

Who knows what this means for Bell -- if the pattern holds, he's en route to SE VA already. Kid, there's no pain that a pair with slaw, fries, and a limeade can't ease, so head on down to Doumar's for some curb service when you get in. Actually, two sandwiches (they're on the small side) may well not be enough for Heath "Taco" Bell.

On the plus side, Mike Piazza finally returned to the lineup (and first base) last night, and he even homered in his second at-bat. And . . . well, that's about all I can come up with on the plus side. I could get into more negative stuff, like articles about Art Howe having lost the team, or how he's about to sink below .500 for his career record, or how the New York Post pointed out the Mets are only 2 games better than they were at this point last year, but why would I want to mention stuff like that?

Something I noticed during the telecast: The Mets' relievers now enter the game not to a song on the PA but an inspirational quote from the film Tombstone, when Kurt Russell hollers: "Tell them I'm coming and L's coming with me!" Boy, do I wish that weren't true.

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