Magic Number 12

The Mets looked to be cruising again going into the 8th before some of the auld familiar bullpen ugliness reared it's collective head.

See If You Can Guess Which One Is Guillermo Mota...

Yes, Aaron Heilman, going into the game with 8 consecutive scoreless appearances having allowed only one earned run over his last 14 1/3 innings, after getting the 1st and 2nd outs of the inning without a struggle, suddenly lost the plot, allowing a walk and a single. Inexplicable as it was unacceptable as we shutter now when thinking of the post-season.

Then Jose Feliciano, brought in specifically to face the lefty Brian McCann with lefties hitting only .169 against him, brought it and to get one teeny, tiny little out and what? He failed, walking McCann on 5 pitches.

But now to compound matters, ohhh, here came Guillermo Mota to the House of Boos, bases "juiced" and you know, just know with a gut-wretching certainty what's going to happen next.

And sure enough, Mota comes through. There were two near-escapes; the foul ball grounder David Wright gamely attempted to turn into out number 3 and the foul tick that was almost strike three on Jeff Francoeur before the predictable crack of the bat and the two-run single tied the game.

And it could have gotten much worse.

Thanks in large part to Bruce Froemming, who suddenly expanded the strike zone down to the ankles and 3 feet to the left of the plate, before he could choke it down any further, Mota already had two strikes on Andruw Jones before nailing down the third an ending the inning with the score tied.

And then of course, doing what winning teams do, the Mets came back straight away to answer the call and pull back into the lead after Beltran led off with a single and eventually scored on Shawn Green's clutch RBI single to make it 4-3.

Billy Wags held them, just and that was it, two out of three from the Braves and with the Phillies getting crushed by the Rockies, the magic number reduced to 12.

Positives: No doubt the bullpen is the Mets postseason Achilles Heel but the versatility and the bench of the Mets is impressive. There you had the Mets playing either their arch or their Arch-arch rivals with Ruben Gotay playing 2nd (and making a gem of a defensive, diving play in the 9th), Marlon Anderson playing 1st base and Shawn Green in right field. Not the strongest starting trio but one which went a combined 4 for 11 with a homer and two RBIs at the plate.

Gotay Learns To Fly

And then late innings, Green slides down to first base, Endy Chavez is the defensive diamond in right field and Lastings Milledge, left off the field, smacks a pinch hit triple in the 7th which led to the go-ahead run.

Also enchanting, for most of the time anyway, was John Maine stepping up to pitch brilliantly against Braves ace John Smoltz.

We now recognise what might be called The Unmechanical Maine which, when unleashed, leads to Maine Meltdown, but with two out in the 4th, the game was nearly lost when he walked three men in a row and gave the Braves their only run of the game that wasn't bullpen incompetency-induced.

You could chart the demise like the sinking of a ship. 7-pitch walk to McCann, 6-pitch walk to Francoeur, 5-pitch walk to Andruw Jones.

Fortunately the bullpen visit did him good, got the mechanics and the head back into the game and the damage was thereby limited.


Think we've forgotten about El Duque's Rotten Return?

Nah, we just didn't want to comment on it. A 13-5 loss amid all this winning just isn't worth sweating.

Nor is Duque facing 19 batters in three-plus innings, allowing six hits and four walks. After all, he did hit a Brave, Andruw Jones, so it wasn't a complete wash.

More worrying perhaps was that he said the strained ligament in his right foot, which had originally caused him to go 10 games without a start, had regressed a bit the morning after his return.

Let's hope for a quick and stable recovery. Gawd knows with the bullpen the Mets have they need all the good starts they can get.


sanchez said...

I'm very concerned about:

1. The bullpen that doesn't involve Wagner.
2. Maine's "meltdowns" as you call them, more like a lack of focus/concentration.
3. El Duque's health.

Post-season rotation of Half-Fit Pedro, Glavine and a John Maine who self-destructs at least one inning every start combined with a bullpen that is as shaky as this one and I'm beginning to worry about the playoffs...

GaryG said...

Magic Number 11 as Phils lost as well.