27.8.06

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Ok, so the Phillies had their fun one night at Brian Bannister's expense.

They threatened, as early as the first inning when starter Oliver Perez required a a mound visit just three batters into the game having put two on board to set up Ryan Howard.



If you recall, the other MVP candidate thrives on these situations and I don't know about you but I was certain the Mets were going to be down 3-0 with this a mere whiff of the futher pillaging to come. I mean this was Oliver Perez, after all. 2-10 with the Pirates and pitching in the minors before we traded for him. A casual throw-in in the Nady for Hernandez desperation deal. An Roseanne Barrish ERA.

But he got Howard to ground out, struck out Burrell to get out of the inning and cruised for several innings thereafter. Out of nowhere, right? Oliver Perez, the punch line to the Xavier Nady joke.

And similar perhaps to Bannister, Perez wasn't lucky twice against Howard. He faced him again in the 5th inning with an ineviable bases loaded situation and Howard, as one would have imagined, smashed a grand slam to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead.

So this is what we were looking at: a repeat of the night before.

Ryan Howard taking on our starting pitcher. Ryan Howard homering. Phillies winning. Ryan Howard gaining more MVP momentum. Carlos Beltran hitting a two run homer in a loss.

But not last night. Not in Carlos Beltran's career year.

Instead of submitting meekly to an inexplicably effective Philly bullpen, every position player except David Wright had at least one hit and every position player scored at least not to mention a thorough pummeling of that bullpen in the 7th inning when the Mets scored seven runs and cracked the game wide open.

Shawn Green, who has been hitting the ball hard without result in his first two games with the Mets, doubled two runs in during that eventful 7th inning and officially gave everyone goosebumps thinking about the batting order that will eat the postseason in one bite. Even Shawn Green is impressed.

"This lineup is so impressive, from top to bottom," he gushed after the game. "Someone's always on. There's hitters who hit from gap-to-gap like Delgado and Beltran, a lead-off batter who gets on, someone like Chavez in the eight-hole. It's pretty special."

Endy Chavez has been absolutely irreplaceable in replacing Cliff Floyd. Last night he went 4-for-4 and tied a career high with four hits in a game. He had three singles, including a bunt, and a two-run double of his own. He's hitting .307 for the season. He's hitting .367 in August, picking up the slack created by David Wright's recent struggles.

The difference between the Phillies and the Mets last night is that the Phillies are Ryan Howard and a cloud of dust whereas the Mets are a team hitting from top to bottom and chockablock with people with no business pitching in the Major Leagues filling in the holes of the Mets starting rotation whilst the auld timer first string takes a rest for the postseason. The Mets are a team of destiny, the Phillies are a one-man gang.

I think we should take notice of something else quirky on as well, a subplot involving the birth of the second string bullpen:

Darren Oliver, Pedro Feliciano and Guillermo Mota, held the Phillies with two hits the rest of the way after Perez was finished and bloodied. Feliciano earned his sixth win of the season. Suddenly the Heilman to Sanchez to Wagner troika is put into perspective.

The Mets bullpen has allowed only two earned runs in its last 23 2/3 innings.

*****



This MVP thing is intriguing, especially considering we're getting to see the cream of the race every night. Pujols was banging around town only a few days ago and despite two homers and a grand slam in Game One, was outshone by Carlos Delgado. And now we are haunted by Ryan Howard.

The thing is whereas the Mets just might survive without Carlos Beltran simply because of the depth of the bench and Omar's quiet cunning ways, the Phillies and the Cardinals would both be meandering the National League boulevards like homeless alchoholics looking for another drink if they didn't have Howard and Pujols respectively.

In fact it's difficult to make a good argument for any Met being the Most Valuable Player in the National League.

I know, not a very fanatical comment for a Mets fan but the reality is, a team which is truly a "team" in the sense that the Mets are, can do without one of their stars and still keep rolling. Not that I want to see that happen of course but look, David Wright's been sleep walking for a month, as did Carlos Delgado before him and yet the Mets weren't any the worse for it. The Mets lose Pedro and Glavine and gutterballs like Oliver Perez come up with unspectacular but workmanlike performances to pick up the slack. The Mets lose their set-up man in a car crash and seemingly have four or five candidates to take his place. If Carlos Beltran went down we'd be sad but we wouldn't be banging our heads against the wall bemoaning the fact that our season was effectively over. Not like if Pedro was gone for the year.

So although Carlos Beltran is having his first career year in a Mets uniform and we can gush about his 200 career homers, his 38 this season to date, his 108 RBIs, his 103 runs scored, the .390 on base percentage all we want but does anyone really believe that were he out injured the Mets juggernaut would suddenly come to a halt?

Ryan Howard knocked in 3 of the Phillies 4 runs two nights ago and 4 of their 5 runs yesterday and whilst there are no other great Phillies in the lineup to diminish his numbers and importance as in Beltran's case, his dominance is precisely the reason the Phillies are even IN the wild card race to begin with. Not because they traded away two of their stars to the Yankees and created some sort of magical mystery season as they would like you to believe.

*****

Speaking of Carlos Beltran, it might appear to the casual eye that although he's having himself a memorable season, it isn't happening at Shea. Beltran is hitting .347 on the road and .224 at Shea. 71 of his 108 RBIs have come outside of Shea as have 23 of his 38 homers. Should we really be rooting for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs?

2 comments:

kyle in newport news said...

***Should we really be rooting for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs?***

Does this mean that thanks to Trevor Hoffman are in order?

Jaap said...

right, Kyle. Him and Benji Molina.