Speed Kills Astros and Mets Manufacture Home Opener Victory 8-4

Having missed the first five innings of the game some 3,500 miles from Shea, I arrived home just in time for the absurdist Opening Day Batter's Eye Delay in the top of the 6th.

"The billboard is supposed to show advertisements between innings and go black when play resumes, serving as a functional batter's eye. But in the top of the sixth, the billboard became stuck on an advertisement for MSG and Fox Sports Net, which seemed fitting because a cable television dispute has blacked out Mets broadcasts in a significant part of the metropolitan area."

I've decided to just type as we go and will do so for the rest of the season whenever the Mets play a day game since, due to the 5 hour time difference between there and here, the day games are usually the only ones I normally have the chance to to live.

The only thing I knew by the time I'd settled in for the 14 minute delay whilst the Shea Stadium staff bumbled around trying to sort out the Batter's Eye, was the Astros were ahead of the Mets 1-0 (good sign) and Mike Piazza had actually thrown out a baserunner! (thanks to Whitney at Misery
Loves Company
for the heads up.)

Mets 6th, down 1-0 with memories of yesterday, manufactured 3 runs without any power in the 6th via a Cliff Floyd single and David Wright single, followed by sacrifice bunt by Mientkiewicz (hereinafter known as simply "Mank" for the purposes of brevity). A misplayed basehit by Jason Lane saw Victor Diaz get on base and drive Floyd in on Pettite's 100th pitch. Cairo pinchhitting for Glavine delivers an RBI single scoring Wright. Then, Diaz takes off for third on an expected two out stolen base attempt and delivers. Reyes K's to make it two outs and the Kaz Man, everybody's Game Hero, lays down a beautiful drag bunt single to score Diaz who wouldn't have scored without stolen third a few plays before. Aggressive baserunning and speed. Good to see and fortunately, not limited to Reyes. Inning ends, Mets 3 Astros 1.

Glavine follows Pedro's lead. He finishes with 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 run.

Now comes the rested bullpen's test. Manny Aybar starts off. K's the first man he faces. But then Orlando Palmeiro gets a triple. RBI single follows by Adam Everett, lead cut to 3-2.

It appear the Mets are going to have to go into every late inning game with about a 10 run lead.

Biggio grounds to third and sacrifices. Two outs. Tying run in scoring position for Bagwell. Struck out on controversial call in 5th with the bases loaded to end the inning and 3-6 with a homer against Aybar, aye carumba. But he grounds out to 3rd and the inning is over, Aybar escapes catastrophic damage.

Ok Mets, we need about 5 runs this inning to save us from our bullpen.

Piazza comes to the plate. 0-3 so far in the game. Hitting .150 with one meaningless homer and RBI combination. I haven't seen a man sink this far, this fast since, oh, Carlos Baerga or Roberto Alomar. One pitch later, he's 0 for 4 on a hard hit liner. Those are the breaks. Koo Koo Kachoo is warming up in pen. Mets go down in order.

Castro in to catch (thank christ) -

Ensberg hits a lead off double putting the tying run on second. He's 3 for 3 today but can never live down getting thrown out by Piazza even though he stole on him successfully later in the game. Roseanne Barr could steal second base on Piazza's arm. Lane hits to the ball to rightfield, Diaz tried to make shoestring catch and blew it! Tie ball game, Lane is the go ahead run on third base. Aybar's dreadful line: 1 IP, 4 hits 2 runs (lead run in scoring position) well done Aybar! ERA up to 9.64 by game's end in an effort to join Looper and DeJean with double digit ERAs for the bullpen.

Koo is coming in. He hasn't given up a run in three games: Boom! Vizcaino hits ground rule double, scoring Lane. What is that like 5 extra base hits in the last six batters? Well no, it's four extra base hits given up in an inning of work. Astros 4 Mets 3 before the Mets bullpen even gets one out in the 8th! Koo one pitch and out. I pitch like a walrus, koo koo kachoo.

Hey kids, We knew the bullpen was going to be a nightmare so thanks for proving the world right.

Hernandez in to face Ausmus after three straight extra base hits to start the inning. Hernandez does the job, 1-2-3. Two runs too late but at least Hernandez, who will eventually earn the victory, gets the job done. Three and a third innings pitched this season without a run surrendered and six strikeouts. Doing it for the 40-something crowd.

Bottom of the 8th. Mank deep flyout to start it off.

*****DISASTER ALERT*****: Mike DeJean and his 15.43 ERA warming up in the bullpen. Diaz up to bat: walks as the tying run on base. Marlon Anderson to pinch hit: base hit into right, Diaz gets to third. He's fast, aggressive maaaaan. Maybe these should be caled the GO GO METS. Diaz's mad dash around the basepaths almost makes up for this fielding flub in rightfield last inning.

Now John Franco is up in the Astros bullpen. Nice one. We could use the extra five or six runs.

Reyes up. Radio broadcasters impressed Bloomberg still at the stadium watching the game to see if the Mets come back. This guy is the mayor of NYC for crissakes - doesn't he have any work to do on the middle of a Monday afternoon? -

Reyes hits back to the box, Anderson goes in straight and hard on Everett to try and break up the double play and Reyes is safe at first beating out the throw and scoring Diaz! Reyes then steals second to get into scoring position. Whew! Speed, baby, huge factor. Matsui lines single to center field, Reyes scores! Matsui's second RBI of day and Mets take lead 5-4, Matsui gets to 2nd on the errant throw home.

Beltran intentionally walked to get to Castro. The way Piazza is hitting, it's not JUST a defensive move getting him out of there.

*****BIGGER DISASTER ALERT*****: Bradon Looper now the lone man warming up in the bullpen!

Castro pops up in shallow RF and Biggio and Lane miscommunicate and the ball drops in safely, Matsui scores, Beltran to third and look who's coming to dinner! John Franco coming in, Mets ahead 6-4 and for the first time since '89 Franco in Shea as something other than a Met. 44 years old and lovingly, the home side boos him.

You have to wonder which is worse at this point, the Mets bullpen or the Astro outfield. Jason Lane has pretty much blown this game all on his own.

Franco pitches to Floyd. Oh, how about a three homer to send Franco back to whatever hole he crawled out of! Just as good: two run single for Cliff Floyd! Mets lead 8-4. Hmmmm. Enough for Looper to hold?

This is the Mets second straight 5 run 8th inning. Yup, Franco out of there after just one batter. Hometown return: 0 IP, 1 hit, no help.

Looper won't have a save chance with this lead so perhaps the pressure will be off...all he has to do is get three outs before he gives up 4 runs. We aren't asking for much here.

Ok, Everett is the first guy up, 2 for 4 on the day. Grounds to short. Yo! One down, two to go. Craig Biggo steps in. 1 for 3 with a walk. Two nice pitching duels in two consecutive days and tomorrow Ishii faces Clemens. Will Ishii have more walks than Clemens has strikeouts? Will Clemens bean Piazza and if he does, will anyone care any more?

Hooof! Looper strikes out Biggio on a slider lost in the late afternoon shadows. Pedro on the top stop of the dugout leading the cheers. I can't believe I ever hated this guy just because he mouthed off about Piazza beating up his fellow skinny Dominican Mota in spring training against the Dodgers a few years back but doing nothing when Clemens threw the chunk of bat at him in the World Series...

Bagwell up. One out to go....

Grounder to Wright - ballgame is over. Looper has a 1-2-3 inning, Mets have their second straight. Looper's ERA is now halved to 18.00.

Ed Coleman points out Floyd is 6 for 12 against lefties so far this season. Cliff says it's a myth that lefties can't hit lefties. Just keep your shoulder in rather than opening your stance up.

Marlon Anderson 3 for 5 as a pinch hitter. Piazza is Mister Irrelevent again in Mets second victory.

Many heroes today. Much speed. Two wins in the bag. Next up: Roger Clemens.

As always, the daily roundup for the rest of the baseball world can be found over at Sports Amnesia, King of the Deferential Utterances.

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