For A Day, Mets Escape The Bottom

There are so many savoury little tidbits to nibble over following last night's incogitable 11 inning, 3-2 victory over the NL East-leading Washington Nationals that you almost forget to chew.

Coming into this dramatic four game series the Nats had won six in row, had an NL-best 29-10 record at home, including 15 of their last 16 at home, and held a 10 game sway over the Mets in the NL East. The Mets were facing the very real prospect of yet another series loss, one which would kick them end over end, further down the stairs of the NL East cellar, into a darkness which might have well lasted the remainder of the season.

But not these Mets. For every moment of proliferate frustration this season has brought us there has always seemed to be that one game that puts a temporal end to the suffering and gives us mild hallucinations of what might have been or might still be. Time and again when the Mets have lain bloodied and bruised they have slowly gotten up, dusted themselves off and stood still to take the next wave of battering. Knocked down but not out. The legacy of this season's first half.

Last night, in a game that Manager Willie termed "huge", the Mets were able to overcome the odds and take their third game of four from the Nats, climb out of the NL East cellar for only the second time since June 9th and move on the Pittsburgh knowing they'd proven to the league that last rites were not to be issued...yet.

Mike Piazza, our favourite scapegoat all season, ended a 16 at-bat hitless streak, the third longest of his career, not only with a three hit night, but a game-winning bloop single in the 11th and a game-tying double in the 3rd to boot.

Oddly enough, even though they managed to take the lead in the 11th, another dizzyingly bad spell of baserunning cost the Mets what could have been an even wider lead when Beltran scored on Piazza's bloop, beating Jose Guillen's throw to the plate. The ball got away from catcher Brian Schneider. Piazza broke for second after stopping at first. He was thrown out. Floyd tried to score from third, he was thrown out at the plate. Bip, bang, boom. Just like that, the rally was killed. So quickly, closer Bradon Looper hadn't even had time to warm up to pitch the bottom of the 11th.

It was the 2nd time in as many games that the Mets had demonstrated an almost willful buffoonery on the basepaths following the 6th inning debacle the night before. It was also the key to this series that in spite of these baserunning gaffes and a few poorly timed errors, in other words, far from flawless baseball, the Mets were able to overcome themselves and take three of four from these Nats anyway.

Granted, this was a Nats side battered by injury. They managed only 10 runs total for the four game series, less than three a game and perhaps eerily reminiscent of the Mets frozen bat spell on a certain West Coast trip a few weeks back. Question is, would it be termed a Nat hitting slump, or the dazzling work of the Mets pitching staff? After all, they'd faced the top three pitchers of the Mets rotation and the Mets bullpen, perceived by many as the Achilles Heel of this team, pitched 11 2/3 innings in the series and allowed no runs.

There were several nail-biting moments to this victory including the 9th inning when Heath Bell came into the game with the score tied 2-2 following Hernandez's brilliant 9 pitch performance the inning before. Bell, who managed to record his first big league win in his 50th career appearance, had us all cursing Manager Willie's decision when with Schneider on first, he walked the .125 hitting Matt Cepicky to put men on first and second with a single out and Jose Guillen coming to the plate. This was certainly going to be another Waterloo moment for the Mets, we could feel it in our guts like the rumbling of a beef and chili bean burrito gone bad.

But to his credit, Bell got Guillen to swing on his first pitch which turned into a harmless fly ball to left centerfield which Carlos Beltran pulled down, and then induced Brad Wilkerson to ground to Wright at third for a force play and the end of the inning. But it was an inning filled with tension compounded by the WFAN broadcasters observation that Bell had recently taken to lowering his normally high pant legs "showing black sock, but not much." Was this an omen of good or bad tidings?

Bell, as it turned out, allowed only one hit over two innings and set the final frame for a controversial warm up on the mound in the 11th whilst Bradon Looper took a few extra warm up pitches in the pen. Looper earned his 20th save of the season and thoroughly impressed with his post-game interview filled with positivism and energy albeit through a fast-twitching southern-slurred speech which was oftentimes almost impossible to decipher as English.

For a night anyway, we could indulge visions what the Mets could be. Imagine Carlos Beltran and Mike Piazza getting hot in the order like last night's combined 5 for 10 performance at the plate. Imagine a bullpen with a stiff upper lip and an unbreakable back. Imagine a starting rotation that puts the clamps down on opponents early and keeps the Mets in the game. Imagine all of this, and 8 games is not a very long distance from first. For a day at least.


Coupled with the Phillies' 2-1 loss to the Pirates, the Mets were able to crawl out of the cellar to move a half game ahead into fourth place, one game over .500 but still 8 games out of first.

The Phillies will now host these very same Nats and another spin-out by the Nats will breath alot of life immediately into the NL East race. Unfortunately, pegged by ourselves a week ago to have regained the lead by the All Star break, the Atlanta Braves, despite numerous debilitating injuries, have now won 5 in a row and sit like a cat amongst the pigeons, deliciously imagining a fall from grace by the Nats.

The Mets of course, will now travel to Pittsburgh to face a Pirate team which just split their series with the Phillies.

Tonight, Victor Zambrano wields the machete and sports a 2.97 ERA since May. He will face Pirate "ace" Josh Fogg (4-4 4.42), who is 0-1 with five no-decisions since his last win on June 1 against the Florida Marlins. The right-hander has one win in seven starts at home, and the opposition is batting .313 against him at PNC Park.

In the rest of the NL East, the Marlins host the Cubs and the Braves will host the Brewers prior the end of the first half of the season.


Pedro Martinez pulled out of the All-Star game because he's scheduled to start for the Mets on Sunday.

It was quite unrefreshing to hear the idiotic duel chirping of WFAN announcers deriding this decision and claiming that unless you have a terrific injury, there is no reason to skip the All Star game if you are named a member of the All Star team. Rubbish. What do these clowns want, Pedro blowing out his rotator cuff pitching in a meaningless inning in a meaningless game? Buffoons! Pedro is correct, as Pedro most always is since he's joined the Mets (coincidentally enough) and he will be rested, as should be in preparation of facing the Braves following the All Star break.

No comments: