Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Cure

Game 45 - Mets

Mets 3, Braves 0
Record: 29-16

Over the course of our run here at MLC, my cohort and I have drummed into your heads a series of principles both borrowed and original. We've seen recent references to a couple of these core concepts -- the tried "30 wins and 30 losses are predetermined and it's the other 62 that make or break a season" and the true "the lesson here is that I'm an idiot." Another adage repeated with some regularity in this space revealed its verity last night in Atlanta: "Momentum's only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher."

The Mets could have been characterized as having a bit of momentum going into last night's game, most of it the downward kind. With Maine and Sosa having rough nights of late and Carlos Delgado looking like Wilson Delgado for two months, it was as uneasy a feeling as a team sporting the best record in the league can emanate. Cautiously pessimistic, I was described. It's amazing what expectations a season-plus of success can create. "Just happy to be here in the mix" is right out. This team is championship-capable, where so many are not, and thus the angst over a mere modicum of mediocrity. On the plus side, "tomorrow's starting pitcher" was all I needed to breathe easy and re-engage the peaceful, easy feeling in Metville.

Oliver Perez was the perfect answer for the Mets' Atlantan woes. He's now 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA against the Braves this season; his counterparts in the rotation, meanwhile, are 0-5 with an ERA several times that. When he's dealing like he was last night, Ollie's as calming an influence as anyone in blue and orange can be. When he's not, he's a train wreck you can't turn away from, but that's happening with less frequency all the time.

Though the axiom that underlined this post was attributed by some to Earl Weaver, the Mets got on the board with a very un-Weaverian run. Walk, single, double steal, and score on the errant throw (errant catch on a perfect throw, actually; that was terrible); it's the antithesis of Earl's "waiting for the three-run homer" philosophy, but the Mets play small ball in ways that Boog, Brooks, Belanger and the boys never could. After a station-to-station trio of singles in the 4th, the Mets notched a second run on a sac fly, and in the fifth, the long ball did come into play as Dee-Dub drilled one into the left-field seats. Those three runs were all that Perez, Joe Smith (looking unhittable), and Wags needed.

Most notable for the offense was that Wright's tater came from the clean-up spot. Yes, after a couple of weeks of Township rumblings and a couple of days of mass media spotlight, Willie slid Delgado down a couple of spots in the order. The result: 2-for-5 and a night at the plate that was even better than the numbers. He's not back to belting homers and doubles on a nightly basis, but by the end of the night, the Braves had abandoned the shift -- that says plenty if you've watched Carlos flail away this year. I give Willie Randolph credit -- at times he's been more stubborn about such matters, but by most accounts it seems to be the right move. Now, if we can just keep DW from slipping back into home run swing territory, because he's just getting into his groove now.

Momentum is now Tom Glavine going against John Smoltz tonight in a sizeable showdown. "Need" is too desperate a term here, but the Mets and their fans really want this game. For the Mets, dropping the third of three series against the Braves to date would be the kind of storyline the team has ducked this far, and losing three of four as they head to Florida for the weekend would be something to avoid. For the goodly people in Mets Township, it's even simpler . . . man, do we hate the fuckin' Braves.

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