Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Muddling Through May

Games 36 through 39 - Mets

Mets 2, Cardinals 0
Cardinals 7, Mets 6
Cardinals 4, Mets 2
Mets 9, Reds 2
Record: 20-19

This weekend was the Mets' little way of pulling the rug out from under anyone who claimed to know a thing or two about them. Oh, you think Tom Glavine reeks, do you? Cliff Floyd is slumping, eh? Aaron Heilman is getting better every time out, huh? Roberto Hernandez should be saving games instead of Braden Looper? You sure about that? Pedro is lights-out? Really?

The disappointing thing about dropping two of three to the Cardinals is that St. Louis seemed beatable all weekend long, and it would've been a big lift for the Mets to knock them off. They're a better than solid team, of course, but each of these games was within reach. Okay, on Sunday Matt Morris had the Mets baffled for the most part, but two would-be big innings were truncated with double play balls. Saturday, meanwhile, saw Hernandez blow a one-run lead in the eighth. He was victimized by two cheap flare mishits (from great hitters) that dropped in, but he bookended them with costly walks. And that was it. They'd lost four of five by Sunday night.

One philosophical point of order concerning part of that Saturday game: in the ninth, down a run, the Mets were fortunate enough to have leadoff hitter Jose Reyes coax a rare walk out of Jason Isringhausen. With nobody out and contact hitter Miguel Cairo at the plate, I fully expected some sort of hit-and-run/run-and-hit/straight-up-steal from the Mets. Willie Randolph had options in this scenario. I can concede that Yadier Molina, who's thrown out 8 of 11 steal attempts this year (what's more startling, that stat or Piazza's 4 of 33?) was catching, but I guess I got a little Earl Weavery watching this game. The Mets only had three outs to scratch across a run, and handing one over with Reyes on the paths and Cairo at the plate seemed generous. Hindsight is 20/20, but I was barking at Skipper Willie long before Beltran flied out, Floyd was walked intentionally, and Cameron whiffed. Oh, well. But it's not the first time there has been an outcry for better utilization of the speedy runners in this lineup.

Last night our lads knocked off the woeful Cincinnati Reds, 9-2. I read more than one headline or story-intro mentioning this as some sort of retribution for the season-opening sweep in Cincy. I'm certainly happy they won (as Nuke said, "it's like . . . better'n losing"), but there's little glee generated from avenging that humiliation. Any take on this win as anything other than whipping a down team like down teams should be whipped is setting the sights low. It's the hare gloating after beating the tortoise in the re-match; sweet, you just outran a friggin' turtle, guy.

Seeing Kris Benson pitch a long and prosperous game was, however, reason for satisfaction. Again, grains of salt are handed out in the clubhouse after every win over a glorified barn-stormer like the Redlegs, but a quality start is a quality start, and 7.2 innings of 4-hit, 2-run ball qualifies. The rotation is in some strange state of flux right now, with some doubt lingering about who's in it for the long haul, who's in for now, who's pitching against the Yankees this weekend (this shouldn't be the topic of discussion you know it will be), and who's headed for Norfolk (the lucky dogs). Benson certainly shored up his standing in the mix. Victor Zambrano and Tom Glavine (a one-two punch only if self-inflicted) have a chance to entrench themselves further with outings against these lowly Reds in the next two nights. Whatever you do, people, nobody wake the sleeping chelonian.

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