Game 140 - Mets
Mets 9, Brewers 2
1st Place in NL East by 3 games over PHL
Sometimes you have to watch the game to get a sense of the tension absent in the box score. People used to say that Gene Mauch could tell everything about a baseball game from the box score -- really had it down to an exact science. Well, I contend there's no way the late Mr. Mauch could have looked at the simple numerical representation of yesterday's 9-2 series sweeper against Milwaukee and get a feel for the first seven innings.
Oliver Perez is the classic "x-factor" in any game, especially a critical one. He's the wild card, the question mark, the mystery meat, the pitching rotation equivalent to pulling a set of keys out of a fish bowl. He can be nearly unhittable, or he can be void of any sense of where strikes should be thrown . . . and he can be both at the same time. Yesterday he was mostly the former, but there was enough of the latter to make Mets fans anxious for seven unnecessarily tight frames.
The Mets hadn't scored in the first inning in a few games, so to make up for it, they plated six in Top 1, thanks in large part to homers by Ryan Church and Brian Schneider (a "Jim Bowden Special"). Church's was a grand slam, his first in months, and a huge cushion for Ollie.
Enter Oliver Perez.
Strike 1 (foul).
And so begins the afternoon for Ollie. He'd start all five batters off with Ball 1 that inning, and only thanks to Gabe Kapler & Corey Hart repeatedly bailing him out by going fishing (it's Angler Imagery Day here at MLC, apparently), Ollie might've hooked himself with his own line. Or something. As it was, he skated in the 1st. (Ice fishing reference.)
With the Mets doing what they do best after a sizable early inning (i.e., putting goose eggs on the board for six straight frames), O.P. had to tighten up just a hair. Though he did go 1-0 to two of three batsmen in the second, he . . . well, he only faced three batsmen in the second, so you can guess how that went. In the third, he strategically fired a Nuke LaLoosh backstopper on Ball 4 so that the earlier batter he'd walked couldn't advance more than 90 feet. Shrewd. But no damage.
And so it went. The Brew Crew made very little good contact on Perez's offerings . . . and they were just impatient enough to try overly frequently. It was all so frustrating to them that when Bill Hall sent one up the chute, he damn near brained Brian Schneider with his infantile, Little League pound-the-plate-with-the-bat tantrum. Eventually, Ollie pinpointed the plate a bit, so that by the time the Brewers were wise enough to lay off, he was finding the corners. Case in point, the 5th inning, when he started the first three hitters off with a called strike. There was a window to capitalize on Wild Ollie, and Milwaukee didn't do it.
Meanwhile, the defense was airtight; one gaffe in the early innings could've spelled a big inning and yet another comeback for a Met opponent. Carlos Delgado's over the shoulder catch by the seats was the most surprising, but it was just one instance of the Metgloves keeping O.P. rolling along. And the bullpen not sucking . . . this we like. I won't gush for fear of being made to look the fool in a few days' time, but I have to give them credit. After seeing what AAA Baltimore's late-inning pitching & defense looked like yesterday against Rob's Sox . . . wow. We really don't have it so bad.
Rest day today, big BIG BIG series against the Phils this weekend. Super-duper "be careful what you wish for," but with Tropical Storm Hannah (aka "Hannah Storm" . . . I've got a million of them, folks) set to make her way up the coast, we might see a postponement until "down the stretch" of at least one of these games. Could . . get . . interesting.