Friday, July 08, 2005

Swatting Away the Nats

Game 85 - Mets

Mets 3, Nationals 2 (11)
Record: 43-42

It's probably wise to temper the excitement of winning three of four against the division leader by duly noting the house of cards that is the Nationals' first half of the season, but hey, it's always nice to win. Yielding a dozen baserunners to a lineup void of All-Star consideration is not particularly propitious. Requiring eleven innings to notch a third run in a game started by a pitcher with a 5+ ERA in the National League whose home starts come in the cavernous park that's witnessed the fewest home runs of any this year is . . . not entirely encouraging. Making SportsCenter highlights for the second time in two nights for baserunning while blind is thoroughly disenchanting. Doing whatever it takes to win? Now that's what I'm talking about!

The poor Nationals (still eight games better than Mets; don't cry for me, Argenwhitney) look like a team on its last legs, but if a few of their key injuries heal, they may be in the running a bit longer. The Braves, meanwhile, are marching through opponents like a certain unnamed Civil War general marching through a certain unnamed southern town. And that's without the Chipper; I cringe at what they might do upon his return. The Marlins are coming around, too. Could get tight right before the break.

This baserunning blunder was worth mentioning -- it was strangely similar to the previous night's mistake. Hitter gets a hit, runner scores a run, catcher doesn't catch, mayhem ensues. This time it led to two outs, stunningly, as Mike Piazza tried for two and got hosed, then Cliff Floyd tried to score from third and suffered a similar fate of hosiery. I'm giving Piazza's maneuver the benefit of the doubt and suggesting it was sacrificial so as to score Floyd's insurance run, and I'm also acknowledging two brilliant throws -- Brian Schneider to Jamey Carroll was a rocket, the reciprocal toss was a bullseye, and the entire exchange was textbook. But the Mets looked slow, painfully slow, and the play was another bust (two outs on a single to right?) in an increasingly long line of supposed think-on-your-feet Mets plays. For the second straight night, it should have cost the Mets, but it didn't.

Why didn't it? More hearty shout-outs to the bullpen. Roberto Hernandez, Heath Bell, and the Loop-dog shut down the Nationals after Big Benson recorded another quality start. Looper, though he still doesn't believe in the three-batter inning, notched his 20th save -- not bad, considering how many folks have clamored for his sacking this season. About the best compliment I myself can muster for our closer is that his spot is not one of the areas of greatest need for improvement as the team moves towards the second half of the season. Don't let it go to your head, Braden.

Pedro's bagging the All-Star game. This is not really news-worthy, despite the publicity it's garnering, and we the Township are happier in the long run. End of story. If the Mets make it to the World Series and are burned because a sub-Pedro NL pitcher costs the Mets home-field advantage, we'll revisit this. Also, if my Powerball ticket gets drawn as I'm walking on the moon making arrangements with Tina Fey (unsung beauty) for some lunar action, I'll probably take a brief hiatus from MLC. You've been forewarned.

Two tickets to Pittsburgh, as the saying goes. If our resident seer (Patrick, not our colleague over at Metsradamus) is right, we'll see good things over the weekend. Funny thing, though. The Bucs have pulled the rug out from under the Mets twice in two years in should-be, would-be cakewalks for the Metmen. Not this time, Biff. Not this time.

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