18.8.05

Through A Fractured Playoff Face, A Leader Is Born

It didn't take long for Carlos Beltran to make it home last night.



In the bottom of the first he scored from first base on Cliff Floyd's single, whilst the team and the giddy public gasped at a possible home plate collision, he ran full steam ahead 'round third and scored standing up.

The legend grows, the leader is born.

I know how much everyone carped about the New Mets and Carlos Beltran being the new fractured face of the Mets but despite the massive potential, this has been Beltran's NYC learning curve year and although he was voted an All Star, there have been moments when those intermittent boos began to escape the lips and throats of Shea denizens, moments not, I emphasise, of doubt for his talent, but simple impatience for the man to reach the next echelon already.

Being part of one of the more gruesome collisions in recent baseball memory, suffering a concussion and fracturing a cheek bone, could have been a step back but instead the near-tragedy seems to begin to define Beltran, give his hometown heroism shape and form.

We all know Beltran could have easily copped out on his teammates and there probably wouldn't have been many to question him had he opted for surgery and for missing a chunk of the remains of the season just when his team needed him most.

But he didn't. Instead he exhibited courage, toughness and skill, all at once and deepened the respect his teammates have for him as well as the minor awe with which the fans are going to come to regard him.

He rounded the corner at third and headed swiftly for home as though he were the picture of perfect health but in reality, he was running closer toward his destiny as perhaps someday being the greatest Met of all.

Last night his appearance in the lineup was inspirational but it wasn't just an appearance. It was a lead role. A spark and verve his mates sorely needed following what appeared to be the final gong of doom on the Mets season.

Beltran reached base three times, walking twice with a bunt single, stole a base and scored two runs as the Mets took their second straight from the Pirates, this time 5-1, and moved to within 2½ games of the NL wild-card lead, which is shared by the Astros and Phillies.

David Wright continued his neck-in-neck race with Cliff Floyd for the team RBI lead and punished the idiotic Pirate management decision to intentionally walk Floyd to pitch to him in the fourth inning. Wright is 6-for-7 in those situations this season, with 13 RBIs, and continued bashing opposing pitchers for disrespecting him with a two-run single.

Tom Glavine faced 30 batters all night, threw 108 pitches, 65 for strikes, allowed nine hits but only one run in 7 solid innings. He left the game in a mess in the 8th with none out and men second and third, but Aaron Heilman earned his first save of the season by pitching a perfect 8th and 9th innings striking out 4 of the 6 batters he faced.

So, two in a row, too much to believe on the heels of that disasterous West Coast misadventure?

*****

Tonight might not be so lucky as the Mets will prepared to face 22 year old lefty Zach Duke, a bit of a phenom pitcher for the Pirates this season having gone 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA this season.

Facing him will be the indeterminable Victor Zambrano carrying his 6-9 record and 4.16 ERA with him. Zambrano has faced the Pirates already this season and is 0-0 with a 1.12 ERA against them.

*****

Lost in the uproar about Beltran's return was Mike Piazza's quite diminuendo. He is listed as day-to-day with a hairline fracture of the pisiform bone in his left hand. To replace him, the Mets recalled their catcher catcher of the future, Mike Jacobs from Double-A Binghamton and designated pitcher Jose Santiago for assignment Wednesday.

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