Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Baseball Fever

Game 76 - Mets

Mets 8, Phillies 3
Record: 38-38

Great night to be an Extra Innings ticketholder (unless you like the Boston Red Sox, of course, but I'm not sure I know anyone who fits that description). Every night's a good night to have made the investment, but this one was just about letter-perfect in timing and result.

The Mets sculpted a convincing win over the sagging Phils. And there was much rejoicing. But follow along for the post-game fun.

Moments after Danny Graves puts the finishing touches on an outing seemingly designed to provide Braden Looper a little job security breathing room, I jump channels just in time to see Brian Roberts hit Mike Stanton's one and only pitch of the night into the left-field stands to end the Orioles-Yankees game. Bedlam in Baltimore, with the best news for the O's being that Mike Stanton can probably go again tonight (and the best camera shot of the night being a post-walk-off glimpse of random, wide-eyed box seat fan Calvin Ripken mouthing "Wow . . . great game.") I can't stay in the Inner Harbor for long, though, as I'm onward and upward to Beantown. The Sox had turned a 5-3 deficit into an 8-5 lead, but now it's 8-7, thanks to a pair of runs allowed by Mike Timlin.

[It should be noted that both Peter Gammons and Rob Russell had heralded Timlin's '05 performance in the very recent past; PG selected Timlin among three guys he hoped would make the All-Star team, while double-R spouted, "Mike Timlin's been as good as any setup man in baseball with his 1.21 ERA as evidence." More fodder for the reverse mojo whammy Rob and his Sox enjoy.]

Anyway, no time to worry about runs 6 & 7 because run #8, a.k.a. the game-tying run, is on-base in the 9th. Keith Foulke is sweating, but his fans are even more. He struck out the first batter on a pitch that was decidedly outside, but the second batter doubled. After retiring Aaron Boone (somebody should), Foulke goes 3-1 but gets the same outside "strike" called. The home plate ump, one QuesTech night away from calling games in our softball league, later squeezed Foulke on a key pitch that led to a critical walk, but for this at-bat, he merely set the table for some karmic justice: Jhonny "B. Godoe" Peralta slapped the next pitch (also outside) into right to tie the game. After a couple of walks, a mound visit, some more sweat-pouring, and an 0-2 count to Travis Hafner, the Foulke Implosion concluded when Hafner took advantage of quirky, old Fenway Park's short porch down the line. Grand Slam. A speedy 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth later, the Sox were embarrassed again and more importantly, I was off to the next game.

While no other games had quite the finish of these two, the slate was full of tight games of some consequence, including an extra-inning set in Texas and tense one-run contests in Detroit, St. Louis, Washington, and especially Colorado, where the Rockies managed five in the eighth to top Houston and ruin a sure Roger Clemens win. [tear] (I know you're wondering: Johnny Franco had only a small hand in the Astro bullpen collapse.)

Okay, so for those folks who actually thought this might have some Mets content, here's a crumb or two . . .

Victor Zambrano was Al Leiter last night. 5 innings, 101 pitches, 1 run allowed. Those were Senator Al's numbers for most of the first four months last year. (There isn't room here to type his numbers from the last two months, but you can find them in the official Mets document Reasons Why We're Not Giving Al Leiter $7 Million.) It's tough on the 'pen when you can only get five from a starter, but you really can't complain too loudly about this outing from Zambrano. He struck out seven and walked just three; one of those walks became the only run he allowed, highlighting exactly why he needs to keep those BB's down. Relief came from Heath Bell, Royce Ring (insert bell-ring jokes here), and the aforementioned Danny "Digging My Own" Graves. Graves stepped in for two innings, permitting just two hits. That they were a pair of bombs to left field is worth mentioning, I suppose. Still, his gopher balls were inconsequential thanks to the flurry of hits recorded by a recently reinvigorated offense.

Carlos Beltran had himself a nice night, doubling and tripling to cap off and initiate rallies, respectively. He also hit a lazy fly ball to left that Keith Hernandez slyly noted would have been a home run in the wiffle ball park Phillies use as a home stadium. Mike "Your Starting NL All-Star Catcher" Piazza continued his slow, plodding ascent toward decent numbers with a two-run home run and an RBI single. He's hit .321 in June, and though his power stats continue to trickle away, he's still capable of producing, probably best suited for the 6-spot.

David Wright collected his 41st RBI on a single in the fifth and his 13th error on a throw in the eighth. Equal parts pleasing and distressing.

And finally, newly promoted Jose Offerman notched his first hit and ribbie as a Met with a pinch-single. Offerman's call-up was remarkable only in that the Mets now have the worst two players from the Boston Red Sox' 2002 starting lineup. Seriously, if you could have any two guys from:

C Scott Hatteberg
1B Brian Daubach
2B Jose Offerman
3B Shea Hillenbrand
SS Nomar Garciaparra
LF Manny Ramirez
CF Carl Everett
RF Trot Nixon
DH Dante Bichette

. . . would there be any two you'd want less (acknowledging that Bichette is retired)? Nomar is a nearly permanent DL resident and Everett is a jackelope, but the reuniting of Daubach and Offerman gets slightly fewer people a-titter than that of Peaches and Herb. But what do I know? They both drove in runs last night.

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