24.8.06

Trachsel Gets Lucky 13th

It must be nice to be Steve Trachsel.

Oh sure, he labours like a shotputter on the mound.



His face opens into a canvass of painful concentration when attempting to bunt.



He gives up runs like a paedophile handing out candy to children and yet, somehow, in spite of the hours in between pitches, in spite of being the houseboy of Wine Spectator, in spite of surrendering Mark McGwire's record-breaking steroid-slathered 62nd homerun of the season back in 1998, in spite of last year's discectomy, in spite of 18 losses in 1999, all conspiring against him in an apocalyptic painting of chaos, bewildering inefficiency and guile, in spite of ALL OF THIS, Steve Trachsel is tied for the National League lead in victories with his 13th.

Who else but Steve Trachsel could give up six hits, six runs and three walks in a mere five innings of work and still win with only the slightest tremor of uncertainty, backed by a massive 10-2 lead and winning his fourth consecutive decision, his 11th of 12? Do we understand that opponents have a .361 on base percentage against him?

Amongst his colleagues in the 13 win club in the National League only Cardinals starter Jason Marquis has a more daunting ERA, having surrendered 30 homers and hit 11 batters in a magical and equally inexplicable ride to the top.

And yet Steve Trachsel keeps winning or at least, not losing. He has suffered only one loss (and we all remember THAT one against the Cubbies on 24th July don't we, wringing our hands, aneurysm-inducing incomprehensibility?) in his past 17 starts.

His formula is simple. Let your teammates score. Serve them wine in the dugout during batting practice to loosen them up. And it works. Well, I have no factual evidence of the wine tastings in the dugout during batting practice but nonetheless, his teammates score an average of 6.38 runs, the most in the N.L, when he starts. It's either that or something in the water. What inspires them when he's on the mound? Fear that they'll be down 13-0 before they get their first turn at bat?

With his lucky 13th, Trachsel is now just 3 away from his career-high in victories but even the 10-2 lead almost wasn't enough. He gave up homers to Scott Rolen, the Met that will never be, Preston Wilson and absurdly enough, Jose Vizcaino.

The Cardinals chipped away at it 2 runs in the 5th and 6th innings, another pair in the 8th before Aaron Heilman came in to stop the bleeding, show the kids how it's done after Chad Bradford was done trying to give the game away.

And what if I had fallen asleep in March? Would I have been more shocked by the Mets being 29 games over .500 with an NL-best record of 77-48, Steve Trachsel's 13 victories or Jose Reyes' 15th homerun of the season, a three-run job in the third that gave the Mets and Trachsel a 7-2 lead?

15 homeruns?! I thought this kid with the dodgy hammies was all about speed, getting on base and running like a holy terror, striking fear into the hearts of catchers and pitchers alike and here he is hitting .294, driving in his 65th run, stealing bases number 51 and 52 and a career-high 43 walks under his belt. All obscured in a fascinating way by the talk of MVP for Carlos Beltran, the spiralling wunderkindness of David Wright, the sudden surge from Carlos Delgado.

And since July 25, shortly before Duaner Sanchez's fateful cab ride, Heilman has excelled as the setup man, going 3-1 with a 1.72 earned run average.

The season has been full of surprises and with the Mets taking their 10th in a row at Shea, taking another from the Cardinals, the homefield advantage in the NL Playoffs is looking more formidable by the day. But if we want to worry, we can keep the Phillies in our rear view mirrors as they inch closer to the wild card lead.

*****

Worth a read even if it is months late, Mets composite which I either missed entirely or simply forgot about reading.

1 comment:

dado said...

Nice one, Jaap. Trachsel is to pitching what Andrei Codrescu is to poetry. Squeezing by on guile and good luck.