Friday, August 19, 2005

A Needle Pulling the String

Games 120 & 121 - Mets

Pirates 5, Mets 0
Mets 1, Nationals 0
Record: 62-59

Good evening, Mets fans, and welcome to another edition of MLC’s live in-game commentary. Tonight your New York Mets square off against the best thing going in the nation’s capital, i.e., a worthy distraction from the turmoil, chaos, and ineptitude of the administration, the Federal government, and of course, the Washington Redskins. Tonight most Met fans will get to enjoy the aural ecstasy of the usual Metscasters while I am treated to the soothing sounds of former Voice of the Bullets Mel Proctor and future Voice of the Motocross Circuit Ron Darling. It’s always nice to get the unsung Darling back to Shea, where he quietly carried the ’86 pitching staff through the World Series. It’s just too bad that we have to hear his color commentary, which hasn’t made nearly the progress this young team has this year. Enough with the intros, however, because here we go.

Uh oh. John Patterson is going tonight. Last night the offense was absolutely MIA against an unknown Pirate pitcher. Looks like the sleepy bats may be getting a curtain call, as Patterson has been pitching extraordinarily well of late. Nothing like settling in with the laptop and a Heineken, seeing the other team’s starter, and grumbling, “I hunkered down for this?”

Ron Darling flexes his vocabularial muscles early, explaining the Nats’ slump: “They had a tough break coming out of the All-Star . . . break.” (Is it legal to rag someone for repeating words in the same sentence in which you just make up words? Home-field advantage tonight, so we get the call and it stands.)

Wait just a second -- Jae Seo goes tonight for the Mets. Tit for tat, John Patterson, and “Tat” Lester is suddenly excited.

Cristian Guzman has been replaced at short for Washington by Jamey Carroll, a light-hitting utility man with limited range. That move may well hurt the Mets, and I wish I were being facetious. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Guzman in action this summer, you can: rent the original Bad News Bears and watch Walter Matthau’s Buttermaker playing ball after downing a bucket of Buds for a reasonable facsimile.

Seo gets through the first unscathed. A couple of quick outs, a walk, and a laser right at David Wright. Not perfect, and he was missing upstairs early, but once he loosened up and started bending his back more, he settled in and made the pitches he needed.

Jose Reyes singles. Fasten your seatbelts, people. Nats catcher Brian Schneider has a cannon and a quick release but Patterson’s stiffer than a Democratic Presidential candidate in his motion to the plate. I say . . . run him!

After Miguel Cairo flies routinely to left, they do run Reyes, and he’s in there by the thinnest of hairs. Whew. Nice gun by Schneider. Now Beltran walks, making the close call at second simply a stat-pad for Reyes.

Why, why, why must they keep showing the collision? How grisly would it have to be for them not to show it? Would it have to be like in The Naked Gun when the player’s head came off in the highlights? I guess the Nats' producers figure that after the 2003 and 2004 seasons, anyone watching the New York Mets is well beyond “aghast.”

Cliff Floyd drives a ball deep, to just right of the pitcher’s mound, and there are two outs. Double steal! Wow, Schneider went for Beltran at second and almost had him, but now the Mets have swiped three bags in this inning alone. If I’m Frank Robinson, I’m thinking about pitching around David Wright to get to Marlon Anderson, but me telling big Frank how to manage an inning is akin to me telling Mr. Coppola what angle he should use for the next shot.

David Wright gets punched out on a somewhat questionable strike three. Inning over. Threat eliminated. Beer empty. On to the second.

Preston Wilson opens the second with a double down the left-field line, and I am officially retiring from covering the New York Mets forever. Preston Wilson is Mookie’s son?? And I didn’t know that? I thought they were related, but I had no idea. Proctor and Darling both said it, though, so it must be at least 30% true. If it’s true, that’s a hideous oversight by me, and I should be mocked in every corner of the ‘sphere.

Ouch. With one out, Seo fires one off Vinny Castilla’s elbow. I might be mistaken, but I think he just cursed in English. Interesting. How long would I have to live in France before I instinctively said, “Merde” when I hit my head on those low-hanging Old World doorways? Probably a while, but I’ll tell you this: I’ll be saying “Sacre bleu!” just about any chance I get as soon as my plane touches down.

First and third, one out, but Seo gets out of it. I like the way he’s throwing, despite digging himself some divots already.

Marlon Anderson crushes one to shallow pitcher’s mound on the first pitch. Way to make him work, Marlon. Sometimes that early-and-often mentality of the pinch-hitter sticks with a guy even after he gets into the starting lineup. A whiff by Ramon Castro and a meager fly by Victor Diaz, and the offensive output is starting to resemble the bleak turnout predicted in this space.

After some research, it turns out Mookie is Preston’s uncle . . . and stepfather. I’m letting myself off the hook for not knowing he was his “father,” and we’ll let Mookie off the hook for being his uncle and stepfather. We’ll also let Ron Darling off the hook for either misspeaking or not knowing what he should definitely know, only because today is his 45th birthday. Happy Birthday to one of my favorite Mets of all time. They just showed some of his work from the ’86 Series, and I enjoyed this quote from Ron even though it made no sense: “I was accused of having a bad mullet, but it was worth it to strike out Wade Boggs.”

The Nats are down quickly, and Seo moves from the mound to the batter’s box. Mel Proctor makes the rookie “Seo-Seo” joke first used on MLC back in 2003 and used pretty much on every Mets blog/site/column at some point. Like a rite of passage. Nice, Mel.

Reyes singles again and steals again, but after popping up on ball four, Cairo walks like a punished toddler (you though I was going to say Egyptian, didn't you??) back to the dugout. Beltran flies out. Speed kills, but without any production behind him, Reyes’s Speed becomes Speed 2 very quickly.

Preston Wilson’s one-out single is erased when Castro nails him stealing. I think Jose Reyes makes it look a lot easier than it really is. And if you can’t tell the difference between Mike Piazza and Ramon Castro from your lead at first base, for goodness’ sake, Preston, ask somebody. The Nats are swatted in the 4th, and it’s another imperfect but impressive inning from Jae “What Exactly Do I Need to Do to Stay in the Bigs?” Seo.

Cliff Floyd sends one deep to the on-deck circle for out number one. Dee-Dub singles, but gets gunned in ugly fashion trying to steal second. Again, I think Reyes gives people an inflated sense of what they can accomplish on the basepaths by being so adept. Brian Schneider just shot Wright a look like “The pale third baseman’s running on me now? Please.” Marlon Anderson walks and tries to steal, too, but Castro whiffs just in time to save Marlon the embarrassment of seeing the tag waiting for him before he actually went into his slide. Guys, Brian Schneider is pretty handy behind the plate. (Maybe not the handiest Schneider that ever was, but that’s understandable.)

The Nationals go in order, and I just want to warn the Mets: I have a few things to do tomorrow, so if there’s still no score around noon, I’m going to have to bail out here.

Just an observation: Mel Proctor seems to know way more about the Mets than anyone in the Mets’ booth knows about any other team. You can tell that much of it comes from crib notes and stats, but I like the effort.

With two outs, Jose Reyes singles again, and the Mets need to parlay this effort into a run. Except that he just got picked off by John Patterson’s slow-motion move to first. Honestly, pigeons were landing on Patterson as he was throwing over.

Three up, three down for Washington, who have been scoring runs this season as often as the lads from East Coast Agony have been updating their blog. Miss those guys.

Beltran ropes a single, and it goes for naught, naturally. We go to the seventh, there’s a parade of mini-keg cans beside me, and they just announced that if it’s scoreless after 30 innings, the four umpires will vote on who’s had the better game in their opinion, and that will be how they determine the winner.

I just learned that it’s Irish Night at Shea tonight. Whoever decided to schedule Irish Night during a series devoid of any bad blood whatsoever deserves a bonus, but there are going to be a whole lot of antsy drunks when last call comes in the seventh of 42 scoreless innings.

The Mets just turned the fastest double play I’ve seen all season. Sharply hit ball, quick flick from Cairo to Reyes, laser from Reyes to first. Brian Schneider was still following through when the out was recorded.

Ramon Castro just doubled with one out in the seventh. This may be the Mets’ best good chance to score. Hey! Victor Diaz singles him home on an opposite-field drive, running himself into an out to ensure the run scored. 1-0, finally, and we go to the eighth. I certainly wasn’t going to say it, but Mel Proctor just moped that the one run might be enough.

Naturally, the Mets get themselves right into trouble. Victor Diaz was the hero for about two minutes, and clearly he was uneasy with the role. He misplayed a looper toward the line off his glove – it was a ball that Mike Cameron catches 100 times out of 100. Now first and third with one down, and I need to pause for a 12-ounces tribute to Irish Night.

Whew. Jae Seo was the beneficiary of a home plate with love handles for that strike three call. Tom Glavine smiles, “That’s my boy.” A flyball has the Mets escaping, the fans erupting, Jae Seo pumping his fist, and me . . . not quite ready to breathe easy yet.

Jose Reyes, 4-for-4 now after singling to lead off the bottom of the eighth. And they can’t get him in. Man, this is getting old. Gilligan got stranded less often.

Nick Johnson singles, because that’s just Braden Looper being Braden Looper, but Jose Guillen grounds into a 4-6-3 rugpull. The Nats are down to their last out. Now down to their last strike. Now down to their last six weeks of the season with no offensive production in sight. Preston Wilson watched strike three sail into the glove, looking like he was waiting for a wild pitch to score the tying run.

Quick Question: If Steve Trachsel comes back strong, is Victor Zambrano your choice for a bump to the bullpen?

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