--Archie Bunker's Army, 11 April 07
Victor Zambrano returned to the Mets last night.
Technically his name is Oliver Perez and he wears the Number 46 Mets uniform rather than the Number 31 Blue Jays rags but we all know deep down that a pitching display like last night's from Oliver Perez can only mean that the erratic pitching soul of Victor Zambrano has entered the body of Oliver Perez and seized the controls.
Like in the second inning.
Our heretofore impressive Oliver Perez is cruising along with one down in the second having struck out Mr Team To Beat to start off the game and retired the next 3 batters in order. Then suddenly the ghost of Victor Zambrano enters his body. He then walks Pat Burrell on four pitches. He walks Wes Helms on five pitches. And yes, for a few pitches you can almost see the Perez's own inner cavalry to the rescue, beating back the evil forces as Oliver struggles with this battle of souls between his own and Zambrano's and for three pitches, he is victorious, striking out Aaron Rowand.
But then the battle is lost once again and Rod Barajas, hitless for the season, is walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Fortunately for Perez and the Mets, the Phillies pitcher Adam Eaton was coming to the plate. And I say fortunately because had it been Ryan Howard rolling up there with his jelly belly stride, Manager Willie most certainly would have been summoning Ambiorix Burgos for an encore performance...
But this is still the second inning and Oliver Perez is still on the mound with his inner turmoil and fortunately for the Mets, Adam Eaton is not walked on four straight pitches. Instead of waiting, with two strikes he grounds into a force play and the Phillies inning is miraculously over.
There were still more tricks in the bag of Oliver Perez as this battle, like Mickey Mantle's with alcoholism or Darryl Strawberry's with crack, ensued between his soul and the soul of Victor Zambrano.
Paul Lo Duca and Jose Reyes join Pitching Coach Rick Peterson in reminding Oliver Perez that in America, only four balls make a walk, not eight...
In the third inning, the dam burst.
Oh, you'd not have known it was due to burst. Not the way Oliver Perez set down Mr Team To Beat and Shane Victorino in order. But then Chase Utley arrived to single a line drive to Shawn Green who miraculously did not bobble it into a triple or an in-the-park homerun. No, Shawn Green fielded that line drive single like he was a Major League outfielder because there was more green puss to spew from this pitching fountain of erratic performances called Oliver Perez and Shawn Green, comsumate professional that he is, was more than happy to let someone else wear the goat's head for a day.
Exhale the evil spirit of Victor Zambrano...
With two outs and one man on, Perez walked Ryan Howard on five pitches, this after the first was a swinging strike and you caught yourself thinking, oh yeah, the fat man is going down!
He made Burrell work through six pitches before issuing the free pass to load the bases, still with two outs and a chance of a miracle right around the corner.
But by now Oliver Perez had been entirely taken over by Victor Zambrano. This is what we call the Victor Zambrano Meltdown Stage where everything but the most rudimentary pitching skills fizzle into a jelly of incompetence.
So with the Phillies now leading 1-0 and the bases STILL loaded, Aaron Rowand, not suprisingly perhaps, walks on six pitches to make the score 2-0.
Hey Willie! How fast can a bullpen warm up, anyway?
And although I wasn't there at Shea I can only imagine the words of rage being shouted down from the stands. I can only imagine the sort of you-had-to-be-there bile erupting into the aisles from faithful supporters who only a few days before had cheered Oliver Perez on to a masterful performance over the Braves.
And Rod Barajas came to the plate promptly drawing two quick balls. Oh sweet jesus Willie, go out there and pitch the goddamned ball yourself if you have to! Just get this Victor Zambrano pitch-alike off the goddamned mound already before the damage is irrevocable!
But then, poised over the button of ultimate disaster, Perez temporarily defeats the evil soul of Victor Zambrano and throws two called strikes. Perhaps they were actually two balls as well but the umpire, showing a modicum of mercy or perhaps simply embarassed for Oliver Perez, has decided to give the kid a break.
And to repay him, Oliver Perez plunks Rod Barajas to make the score 3-0 in favour of the Phillies.
Now you can write all you want about the Mets' offensive juggernaut and the great skill of the bullpen but believe me sportsfans, when the game starts off with our starting pitching handing a goddamned 3-0 lead to the Team To Beat, you can bet your sweet arse that they aren't coming back from this one. You might as well change the channel or shut off your radio. This was a nightmare we wouldn't wake from.
And sure enough, with the Phillies pitcher coming to the plate the pen is finally warmed up enough and Aaron Sele waddles in to save the inning from complete humiliation.
Just so you know this isn't merely a bad dream, consider this:
Meanwhile the real Victor Zambrano has had two outings of his own for the Blue Jays. Against the Royals he threw a hitless inning of relief, striking out two along the way. Against the Tigers, he threw an inning as well but instead of relief, it was an inning of debauch; two hits and three walks on 31 pitches.
The theory is of course that because Victor Zambrano is only pitching for the Jays out of the pen (damage control?) he has plenty of energy to enter the body of Oliver Perez on his off days.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time for an exorcism!
Predictably, the Mets lost this one.
Yeah, they sorta made a game out of it for awhile. In the 4th they loaded the bases with no outs for Moises Alou who promptly pissed on those chances by grounding into a double play that scored Carlos Beltran.
Then Jose Reyes hit an RBI single to narrow the margin to 3-2 in the 5th and there were the faintest hopes that despite this horrific outing by Perez the Mets just might storm back, emasculate the Phillies bullpen in the late innings and win again.
But Sele, being human, allowed a triple to Mr Team To Beat and allowed a sac fly to make it 4-2 in the 6th and then an Aaron Rowand RBI double scored Rollo Howard to make it 5-2 and you begin to consider that not even the rubbish Phillies pen can blow a three run lead...
And they don't.
Inexplicably, with only a three run lead, the Phillies manager, fighting daily to keep his job, allows Flash Gordon into the game to try and
Carlos Delgado and Moises Alou sandwich their strikeouts around a David Wright single but Shawn Green grounds out like a meek little lamb to Ryan Howard and the Phillies win the game, surviving yet another day.
Hereinafter the Army is introducing a new concept to this blog and that will be the awarding after each game of either a HERO or a GOAT, depending on the outcome.
Tonight's inaugural GOAT is of course, Victor Zambrano.
Despite walking seven and throwing 41 out of 73 pitches for balls, I don't blame Oliver Perez for this loss. The exorcism of evil spirits is not an easy effort. We'll give Ollie the benefit of the doubt tonight in the hopes that this exorcism can take place between now and his next start.
The Mets left 10 men on base last night.
Adam Eaton left 8 men on base last night all by himself and the Phillies in general, 23 LOB!
23 runners left on base.
They were bloody lucky to win this one I tell you. They haven't improved. One victory means nothing when you are leaving 23 men on base.
This is just a minor blip in the ongoing saga of the Sacking of the Phillies, coming soon to a theatre near you.