7.7.05

Willie Is A Happy Birthday Boy, Mets Dodge Nats

Perhaps righteous punishment for their decision to allow Qrio the humanoid robot throw out the ceremonial first pitch, the NL East-leading Nats were beaten 5-3 by the NL East bottom-dwelling Mets last night, despite baserunning and fielding gaffes-a-go-go by the Mets that should have handed the game to the Nats under normal circumstances. Instead, the loss meant that for the first time since April 25-27, the Nats will not win a home series. The loss was also the normally indominable Liván Hernández's first loss since April 19th.

Boo-hoo.

After slamming QuesTec the computer ump and saying it was ruining baseball, you have to wonder what Tom Glavine was thinking watching a robotic humanoid throwing out the first pitch.

"It was the kind of game that you know wasn't easy," Glavine noted, refusing to comment on Qrio, perhaps out of fear of retribution or being traded to some robotic baseball league before the trade deadline. "You're trying to battle, make pitches and keep the team in the game."

More linuep fiddling by the now 51 year old Manager Willie saw Reyes back in the leadoff spot, Beltran back in the 3rd slot and Cliff Floyd back hitting cleanup.

The effect was brilliant. After a loss the night before saw the first four in the order go a collective 2 for 16, the reshuffled lineup last night went 6 for 14 and scored 4 of the Mets' 5 runs.



All went along smoothly for Glavine and the Mets for the first three innings. Mike Cameron's opening inning homer had given the Mets a 1-0 lead before Glavine allowed three of the first four batters in the 4th to single to tie the game. After a sacrifice bunt by Hernandez, Brad Wilkerson knocked in two more with yet another single to make it 3-1. You could almost hear the thud of the heart dropping out even though the Mets had already come from behind in Game One and had nearly done the same the night before.

The Mets did in fact answer, but not until the 6th when Carlos Beltran started it off with a double to left-center field, and Cliff Floyd singled when Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen failed to haul in a shallow fly ball. David Wright walked to load the bases, and Anderson followed with a broken-bat, 60-foot squib single that scored a run. The next batter, Ramon Castro, slapped a single between first and second, knocking in Floyd and Wright.

However, although the blow could have been deadlier, sloppy baserunning, the kind that runs teams out of rallies, was the Mets bane as Castro, on his go-ahead single, turned too far around first, and Hernández picked up a loose relay throw near the plate and threw to first before Castro could get back. Later in the inning, Miguel Cairo flied to Guillen in right, and Anderson inexplicably broke for third base. Guillen made the catch and lobbed the ball to second for an easy double play. And just like that, the inning that should have blown the game wide open was over with a mere 4-3 lead. Hardly comforting against a comeback team like the Nats.

But the Mets proved resilient, thanks to the almost-forgotten Aaron Heilman.

In the bottom of the frame, David Wright's well-meaning but oft-misguided glove did some damage with one out and Glavine cruising, putting a man on. Glavine allowed a little meltdown thereafter, walking two batters to load the bases with two outs which is when Manager Willie decided that after 101 pitches, Glavine was gassed and Heilman was to play the hero.

Heilman induced the deadly Jose Guillen to an inning-ending groundout and thereafter, shut the Nats down for two more innings before Looper was brought in to earn his 19th save of the season.

******

The Mets remain buyers, for now anyway, according to Omar.

But if they turn sellers, last night's starter might be one of the first to go. Insidepitch magazine has an interesting Q&A With Glavine who apparently still believes 300 wins are a possibility. After last night, his 268th career victory, he needs another 32 which, going by his numbers with the Mets, would equal at least three more seasons. If he pitches until he's 50, there's always a chance...

*****

This afternoon, Mets Pitcher-of-the-Month for June, Kris Benson (6-3 3.75) takes the mound for the Mets against righty Tony Armas (4-4 5.27). Armas is 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA against the Mets in 10 career starts against them. Benson has a 5.10 ERA away from Shea but a 2.73 ERA in day games. A win would put the Mets a game over .500 heading for Pittsburgh and a "mere" 8 games behind the Nats for the lead. More importantly, a semblance of momentum, taking 3 of 4 from the Nats. However a loss will have an equally powerful effect and would play right into their typical up and down performance all season.

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