Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ugly on the Outside

Games 106 & 107 – Mets

Mets 6, Marlins 5
Marlins 4, Mets 1
Record: 64-43

Back in early April, a Mets writer who shall remain nameless wrote:
. . . the rookie-ridden, no-name Marlins are taking this premier stint in the
season to evaluate themselves, gain some experience, and develop some confidence
in these young players. In April that’s hard to do, but this team does have
talent, and by July they may well put forth a far greater challenge for the
Genius, he.

And so concludes what by most accounts is a rather unsightly three-gamer in Miami: a giveaway in the ninth, a damn-near-giveaway the next night, and a struggle to plate runs while the new hot-seat set-up man gets roughed up for the loss on the third night. It appears this series had no alibi, as the youngsters might say.

Ah, but I of the mauve Ray-Bans contend that we had something rather attractive to ogle during this losing series. For starters . . . well, that’s about it: the starters.

In Game 1, Mike Pelfrey was actually solid. He gave up a two-run mistake to Hanley Ramirez, but if you forgive that (alas, the scorekeeper did not), he pitched well enough to put the Mets in a situation to win. I guess I have to mention that not only did Bwag ruin it in the 9th, but Pelf also got demoted immediately following. Still, baby steps rookie didn’t get throttled, baby steps fastball looks nice.

Game 2, the lone win. Steve Trachsel was also susceptible to the long ball, but with everything being relative, he pitched better than he has in a while (despite racking up win after win). Baby steps veteran didn’t get throttled, baby steps the game didn’t take five hours.

Tonight . . . Pedro. Petey. P-Mart. The ace. The Dominican can grin again. Call him anything you like, just note that he was back to his old form, minus 7 or 8 miles per hour but plus some crafty sage advantage. He never broke 90, according to the local gun. (Of course, with the current state of equipment at old Pro Joe Dolphin Robbie Player Stadium, I’m pretty sure the radar gun was donated by the Miami-Dade sheriff’s department after 25 years of service, takes several 9-volt batteries, and predates the digital age, so who knows how fast Pedro was gunning it?) All that mattered was that he was mixing his pitches, changing his speeds, and hitting his spots. Only ex-Met Mike Jacobs’ blast to right tarnished Pedro’s night. And this, my friends, is without a doubt the freshest breath of air we’ve taken lately.

It’s widely acknowledged inside and outside these parts that the Achilles heel of this first-place team has been the starting rotation for some time. Now, with the bullpen on an obvious and understandable downturn for the first time all season, I’d like to believe the starters are picking it up and gutting it out, knowing their back end may be suffering. (Insert George Brett joke here.) It doesn’t overjoy us to describe the bullpen’s collective three-game series as “Stink, Stank, Stunk,” but there’s reason to believe that the next two months will provide time to stabilize that element; meanwhile, I’m taking serious solace in the sighting of an old-style Pedro performance and improved outings by other starters. Tom Glavine, please follow their lead.

So that’s why I’m surprisingly upbeat after the beatdown, even though I missed watching the only win of the series. Last night I was attending a blog summit with the wizard of Gheorghe: The Blog, who, despite being a rather large Yankee fan, has thus far declined to pay for the right to watch them play on a nightly basis. In lieu of seeing my Mets, we conducted several unrelated debates, such as whether Jason Giambi is saturated with Human Growth Hormone because the Yankees’ payroll is so astronomically out of whack or vice versa. (Trust me, it’s a “the chicken or the egg” type of argument with little resolution.) Tonight, of course, I was able to hunker down and take in the gnarled image of GIDP after GIDP and Aaron Heilman’s continuance of his down-escalator-like season. Well played.

In spite of all this, and perhaps in part because Jose Reyes signed a long-term deal to stay a Met for a while, I’m casting aside the sour trip to the Sunshine State (made most sour by Duaner Sanchez’s accident) and looking forward to the Phils coming to town this weekend. Philly seems invigorated by Chase Utley’s huge hit streak; may the Mets shut him and them down in one fell swoop.

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