Thursday, July 07, 2005

Winning Ugly Beats Losing Pretty

Game 84 - Mets

Mets 5, Nationals 3
Record: 42-42

The Mets defied the odds and my know-it-all prognostication, winning convincingly over the division-leading Nats. This was a game the Mets should not have won, so it qualifies as a losable win, but that's not necessarily all good news.

Livan Hernandez looked hot, tired, and somewhat out of shape on the hill, struggling with a small strike zone and firing 125 pitches in seven-plus. That the Mets were able to pile up five runs against him was a coup of sorts, and that Tom Glavine surrendered nine hits and three walks but only three runs was another. That this all happened with the Nationals playing generally good baseball and the Mets playing generally bad baseball has me a bit confused. The Mets reaffirmed my earlier accusation of being fundamentally weak. Two more errors (did I see Jose Offerman giving David Wright fielding tips before the game?) and two wince-inducing baserunning gaffes within 30 seconds of each other keep me doubting this team's solidity.

In actuality, Wright's "error" was far more of a scorekeeper's boot than his own. Jamey Carroll laced a fierce one-hopper at Wright, who didn't field it cleanly but made a good play that just missed getting the speedy Carroll at first. 24 hours earlier, Marlon Anderson watched a medium-pace grounder dart under his glove for a "hit." I've griped before about rampant scorekeeping discrepancies, but the problems continue.

More than the fielding mistakes last night, the baserunning equivalent of stepping on a rake and simultaneously cracking one's forehead and racking oneself could have cost the Mets dearly. They had bases loaded with nobody out. One single and a lineout later, the inning was over. Seems like that'd be hard to do, doesn't it? After Ramon Castro plated two with a single, he rounded first as the throw home caromed off David Wright's leg. Livan threw what was basically his 126th pitch of the night, a strike to first that nailed Castro as he tried to dive back to the bag. The very next pitch became a low liner at Jose Guillen, who snared it and zipped a laser to second to double off a befuddled Marlon Anderson. These are the basics, people; value your importance on those basepaths and stay focused.

I felt sure this would come back to haunt the Mets, but it didn't. Give Aaron Heilman credit for that. He was the picture of "relief" as he replaced the imminently hittable Glavine by mowing down Nationals left and right. It shouldn't have been all that surprising (but it was), considering the Nationals lineup, which featured . . .

. . . wait for it . . .

. . . Wil Cordero in the clean-up spot! Yes, Wil Cordero, he of the .119 batting average going into the game. The same Wil Cordero who's made more headlines for domestic abuse charges than baseball successes in the last few years. Memo to Jim Bowden: if Nick Johnson isn't ready by the time the second half resumes (thereby sliding Jose Guillen into the 4-spot), you might want to find a legitimate power threat to hit clean-up. Meanwhile, Vinny Castilla's got to be shaking his head and wondering what he might have to do to get bumped up from the 5th spot. He's half-expecting to see one of the RFK ushers penciled in above his name today.

Tighten up the ship, Steamboat Willie. Keep the guys concentrating on the task at hand and maybe, just maybe, Patrick's seemingly deluded 46-42 prediction is in your future. Oh, and send every member of the '01 Red Sox to Norfolk, Binghamton, back to Boston, or anywhere else outside the itinerary of the New York Mets. They aren't helping.

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