Game 10 - Mets
Mets 3, Nationals 2
Through five innings, last night's game was playing out exactly as I'd feared and mentioned below. When you're the clear favorite, sometimes you get away from the fundamentals and the measured game plan. And sometimes it takes a wily veteran to know his limitations, play within himself, and get the job done. Case in point.
The Washington Nationals were -- and are going to be all season -- massive underdogs. Most gambling sites (and we here at MLC do not encourage gambling for anything except massive quantities of malt beverage) have the Nots posting a slim-to-none chance of winning any ballgame in this early going. The Mets are projected to win more games this year than Washington may win in two seasons. And yet, as they say, on any given Friday anything can happen in baseball.
The Mets were facing the Nots' "ace," John Patterson, while they trotted out youngster Mike Pelfrey for his first start of the season. There was a seriously stiff win blowing in, one which knocked down a handful of would-be taters off Met bats. These are factors to level the playing field, and there were more. The home plate umpire -- standing in for a fellow crew member who was off for family reasons -- had a . . . peculiar . . . strike zone. I'd call it amoeba-like: very small, amorphous, and perpetually changing dimensions. Not what Pelf needed to get into a groove. The temperature was thirtysomething, and ultimately the game's fate came down to the only man in the ballgame who was in the big leagues when that show was on the air.
The heart of the Mets' lineup seemed to want to ignore that there was a more than serviceable pitcher on the hill and that gale force winds were flying in over the Home Run Apple. Many a great power stroke was rendered inconsequential by the wind, but the Metbats seemed determined to better this inferior club through the long ball. Didn't happen. The night's five runs were plated on two groundouts and three singles.
As I said, after five frames I was getting antsy. This was the blueprint for losing to the worst team in baseball. Overswinging on offense and some early wildness from the young starter. Not good. 2-1, Nationals, in what was presumed (to a degree) to be a cakewalk of a series. Soon enough, however, the Mets reverted to the other potent aspect of their game: speed and the ability to manufacture runs.
Jose Reyes did what he wouldn't have a year or two ago; he led off with a walk. After stealing second (a given, it seems), Carlos Delgado plated him with a base-knock in the sixth. 2-2.
It's too early to get the excitement into overdrive, but David Wright has come around nicely over the last couple of games. We love the guy, but don't let the 10-game/22-game hitting streak fool you; he'd been popping a floof-ball into the shallow outfield for a hit once a night for a stretch, but the last couple of games have brought us the Dee-Dub of last year's first half. Avoiding the urge to pull the ball for power has always netted him big results. Thursday's triple and last night's up-the-middle single in the bottom of the eighth were the crunch-time successes we're used to seeing. Please, David, keep on keepin' on.
And then he stole second, taking a page from his partner in poster-boyness. That set the stage for Julio Franco to shuffle to the plate with two down. I'll be honest, as much as I think Franco's is a great story and his clubhouse presence shouldn't be understated, it seemed to me that, with a few exceptions, the latter half of '06 saw more K's and GIDP's from him in crucial moments than any sort of heroics. Not enough to bash him, just enough to trample expectations when he's announced.
And then he shut me up and raised hopes for his 2007, knocking one into center field to score Wright and leave the game in Billy Wagner's capable hands. It goes without saying: like my little friend across the aisle, I am an idiot.
Keep making it happen, boys. (And elder gentlemen . . . sir . . . Mr. Franco.) El Duque -- another person who was alive when the Washington Senators were still playing; true fact: the Nationals cannot claim one such player on their roster -- goes against Shawn Hill this afternoon in a match-up in which ESPN.com projects a 67% chance of a Met win. Let's pretend we didn't see that.