Monday, October 09, 2006

Moving Right Along

Game 3 – NLDS

Mets 9, Dodgers 5
Mets win, 3-0

The quick and efficient dispatching of Los Angeles didn’t come without a price, as Cliff Floyd’s latest battle wound (a strained Achilles tendon) might keep him on the shelf for the duration of the Mets’ time in the playoffs. The irony of Floyd suffering that particular injury is fairly thick, what with that part of his body so obviously not his only weak spot. Still, it’s hard to be anything but pleased as punch with what went down in the NLDS for the Metros.

Losing Floyd should be neither under- nor overstated. His veteran (and fairly bad-assed) presence in the outfield and the lineup will be missed, though we’ll assume he’ll still be in the clubhouse. Clearly, he still has some pop, as Derek Lowe found out in Game 1, and despite the erratic year he had, I like the Mets’ chances better with him in the mix. That said, his year was erratic, with too many stints of ice cold in the batter’s box or icing down another body part instead of taking the field. I’d like to believe that it’s another case of the Mets withstanding a body blow in this quest for the title, and since these things usually come in threes that this marks the final segment of the injury bug. I can’t help but believe, however, that the team cannot endure many more losses like this.

Most important in the sweep, as my brother-in-law remarked wisely, was that it took an Oliver Perez Game 4 start out of the equation. He’s a question mark I’d rather leave on the keyboard for now. Now it’s time to get everything set up for St. Louis. Here come the Cards, left for dead a week ago but looking ominously Phoenix-like at the moment.

As with the Tigers, the Cardinals’ season-closing downward spiral had the pseudo-pundits of the sporting world writing them off entirely. (Meanwhile, somewhere below I had the St. Louis E Street Shuffle advancing to face the Mets. We won’t mention my miles-off predictions for the AL. I’m an NL guy, anyway.) It’s not really that surprising that they both rebounded splendidly in the NLDS; you might remember a team that backed into the playoffs in 2005; the South Siders needed a Cleveland collapse to get in, then blew through the postseason convincingly. Maybe this is the new design for October success? Here’s hoping the inane allusion I make a week from now won’t be a geographically pertinent Twain quote about the Cardinals’ demise being greatly exaggerated, but maybe something closer to Monty Python’s not-dead-yet old man being clubbed in the head by the Mets. Regardless of the absurdities typed in this space, the Mets will have their hands full with Phat Albert and the gang in this seven-gamer.

The Mets that my peers and I have written about for six months aren’t quite who we have poised to play the Cards right now. In addition to the trio of plan-altering injuries, Carlos Beltran is running at about 80% (which is about where he was last year, in case you don’t remember what all the booing was about). Reyes and Wright were excited but cool under pressure during the season, but in the early-going of the NLDS, they looked like a couple of does in the high-beams. They cooled down eventually – to a degree, and let’s hope that was as geeked-up as they’ll get. The way things change from the long slog of the season to the blink-and-you’re-gone immediacy of the postseason . . . well, the club managed to get past it somehow in round 1. Pulling together as a unit, that’s how it’s done.

I have 50+ more hours to pore over the match-ups of the next series, ones that seem to favor the Mets. It’s a fairly futile exercise, though, since so much of the statistical advantage is inevitably rendered moot come the first pitch. It would far more rewarding to sit back right easy and laugh after walking over L.A., but since when does that ever happen?

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