19.10.06

GAME SIX: Home Sweet Home

So, there will be a Game Seven after all.

Just barely though, after Billy Wagner gave us more drama than any of us were really looking for and as you would expect, the Cardinals did not go down without a fight.


The evening's hero, pumped after snuffing out the great Alberto with a K in the 5th

But they did go down and they did stay down and with this 4-2 victory the Mets live for at least another night where still more questions will follow them.

Following the superlative pitching of Tom Glavine in Game One, the gutty and passable pitching of Ollie Perez in Game Four, John Maine, as one of a short history line of rookies pitching in a championship series with elimination on the line shut the enigmatic Cardinals lineup out for a little over five innings, just enough for the Mets to take hold of the lead and keep it on the way to winning Game Six and forcing the decisive and final game of the NLCS at Shea.


One ace down, one more to go...

There's probably not enough that can be said about a rookie whom many of us considered a mere throw-in to the Kris Benson deal this winter, outpitching Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter to save the Mets' collective skin last night. But then again, although it was certainly more efficient than Perez's Game Four, it was no more surprising, no more invigorating, no more mandatory. That Maine and Perez, two pitchers acquired by GM Omar Minaya with very little fanfare, have saved the Mets' collective skin twice when a starting rotation in tatters needed help from anywhere it could get it, speaks volumes of Omar's value to this team and both players' nerve and survival instincts.

Ironic then that the man we paid so much to get over the winter nearly blew it for the second time in this series with a less than impressive closing performance.


Can't help but like a guy who points to the crowd rather than heavenwards when he produces...

From the batter's side of things, Jose Reyes opened the scoring with a lead off homer 395 feet over the right field wall in the bottom of the first and never looked back. With the advice of his teammates to just get on base ringing in his ears after an impatient game at the plate the night before, Reyes responded with three hits and a pair of stolen bases to lead an offensive charge that perhaps lacking in the usual explosiveness, was sufficient and workman-like enough with solid pitching to seal the victory.

The Cardinals had their chances - in the top of the 1st they had men on second and third with only one out before Maine inhaled and struck out Jim Edmonds and induced Scott Rolen to fly out to end the inning. That was the first sigh of relief. And then again in the third, the Cardinals had Maine nearly on the ropes with runners on first and second, one out and again, Jim Edmonds at the plate. Edmonds flew out and Juan Encarnacion went down on strikes to end the inning. And finally, top of the 9th, So Taguchi, who should only be beaned or intentionally walked Thursday night if he comes to the plate in the late innings with a chance to win the game, hit a two-run pinch hit double that brought the Cards to within a pair before Wagner finally sealed their fate once and for all. The Mets survived each of those innings and survival, the instinct most predominate in the Mets' season, was again sufficient.

And so here we are, poised on the precipice of the World Series with no idea who will start the decisive Game Seven. Quite appropriate perhaps, considering the questions about the starting rotation that began last winter with Pedro's toe and have continued on through injuries until Steve Trachsel's bitterly disappointing and short performance in Game Three threw his scheduled start into question.


Given the Cardinals' season-long weakness against lefties, perhaps Matt Dillon will be available to start Thursday night...

*****

With virtually no time to savour this victory staving off elimination all heads now turn to the decisive Game Seven.

On paper the matchup of Jeff Suppan, who stunned the Mets' lineup in Game Three to the tune of Shut Me Out Of The Ballgame and has a 4-1, 1.85 ERA mark against the Mets in seven starts, versus TBA should be a betting man's wet dream. In fact, Cardinals fans must be having a hard time containing themselves with anticipation. But on paper, the Mets probably shouldn't have gotten past the Dodgers in the NLDS after losing both Pedro and El Duque from their rotation almost overnight, a double whammy few teams could survive on such short notice.

It appears Oliver Perez will be the Mets' Game Seven starter and again, on paper, this game will be a blow out. Suppan has pitched four NLCS games in his career, is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA. At Shea, Suppan is 1-0 with a 1.56 ERA. He has a better ERA on the road (3.65) this season than at home (4.75). His lone NLCS loss came in 2004 against the Astros in Game Three against Roger Clemens. Is that demoralising enough?

Oliver Perez, despite his gutty performance in Game Four, comes into this game with a rotund 7.94 ERA. At Shea for the Mets this season he is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts. Yes, Darren Oliver will be waiting in the wings. Yes, the entirety of a very efficient bullpen is also waiting in the wings. In some ways, this hydra-headed starting pitcher philosophy for Game 7 is the perfect response to Suppan, provided Suppan gives up a few runs or has to throw too many pitches early on, because Cardinals batters will have no chance to get accustomed to any one pitcher's rythym.

I still would have made the argument to see Steve Trachsel pitch this game. I know it sounds crazy but there's a continuity involved - September 18th he held the Marlins to 3 hits over 6 1/3 innings to help the Mets clinch the NL East and on the 7th of October he started the game against the Dodgers which saw the Mets win their NLDS. (Granted, 3 1/3 innings, 6 hits and 2 runs but,) nonetheless he was the starting pitcher on the mound for those two clinchers and there's a certain karmic value to seeing him start Game Seven.

Secondly, one has to wonder with the allegedly gutless performance in Game Three of this series sticking in his craw if Steve Trachsel might not rise to the occasion and strive to make up for letting his team down earlier. Motivation and karmic factors should have weighed heavier on Willie's mind. Then again, fortunately for all of you, I'm not the Mets' manager, Willie is and what Willie does, is most often make the right decision so there you go. Time to push our luck that Oliver Perez can have two non-disasterous starts in a row. He has not won two starts in a row all season.

In any event, it's time to sit out the remaining 19 1/2 hours or so until first pitch with alot of time to ponder the immeasurable in between. Good luck to the Mets and whatever the result, it's been a helluva season.

And if you REALLY want to get the crowd going at the onset, why not have PEDRO throw out the first ceremonial pitch?

FINAL FACT TO PONDER: THE METS HAVE NEVER LOST A GAME 7 AT SHEA

1969 - NLCS - Won over ATL
1969 -WS - Won over Balt
1973-NLCS - won over Reds
1986-WS - Won Over Boston
1999-NLDS- Won over ARIZ
2000-NLDS - Won Over SF
2000- NLCS - Won over STL

8 comments:

dado said...

Trachsel doesn't have the support of his manager or his teammates - it's true that Oliver Perez is no guru on the mound and is very unpredictable and Game 7 could be blown open early but it's also true that the Mets' bullpen will be alive to pick up any slack so it really doesn't matter who starts. It's Game 7 - everyone but Glavine and Maine will be available.

Jaap said...

"Oliver's army is here to stay
Oliver's army are on their way
And I would rather be anywhere else
But here today"


--Elvis Costello "Oliver's Army"

sanchez said...

Wouldn't it be cool if Oliver Perez takes the mound and just before making the first pitch, unzips his face/costume to reveal a healthy Pedro Martinez underneath?!

bosco1986 said...

Game 6 was intense and I cant wait for game 7 to start. Maine was solid and the offense did just enough. Wagner was Wagner giving up a few hits a runor two but got the job done thats what counts the most.
In OLIVER WE TRUST!!!
LETS GO METS!!!!

Itsmetsforme said...

and the Mets have NEVER EVER lost a game 8 at shea!
oh im tired.

Skeeter Harrison said...

Jaap,

As a fellow writer, I am really happy to have discovered your blog today. Why? Because it is immensely entertaining. And that's what good blogs are all about. I hope the Mets win Game 7 for several reasons. But one of the foremost is a selfish one. If they win, I get to enjoy your posts throughout the World Series.

Anyway, because I found you, and you deserve it, you're batting clean-up today on Baseball Nooz.

Keep up the great work (I will email you on the side).

Walter Roark (editor)
http://www.baseballnooz.com/
(All baseball, all the time—over
230 blog feeds + news sources)

Jaap said...

Bosco1986 - correct, he didn't blow the game (this time) and yes, Wagner is the kind of closer who will make every last three outs an exercise in nerves but you're right, he did the job and that's what counts.

Jaap said...

Game 8, It'sMetsForMe? Whose the insomniac here? Wouldn't that be Game one of the world series? let's hope...