Apologies to the night staff and beer porters who have patiently awaited the latest edition of the Mets What If Season. This Crystal Ball of Unhappened Circumstances is a bit blurry at the best of times and in the glorious haze of nearly watching the Yank Me's swept up in a neat little pile, reality took a little bite of time. In any event, one hopes in this series of uncertainty, Game Two will be followed swiftly by the simulated game three and so on.
With the Cubbies swiftly floating out of the postseason as ridiculously as they entered it, the Mets late season swoon appears to be history.
The second stellar pitching performance in a row begs the question of whether the Mets starting rotation is suddenly this good or has the Rockie offensive juggernaut and unfathonable dream team finally hit an intergalactic glitch in the fantasy ride to the World Series?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Rockies 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 7 0
Mets 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 X 4 8 2
John Maine had a horrible second half of the season.
But this last ten days has been another story altogether. Following his near no-hitter in Game 161 of the season, Maine continued his domination pitching a complete game, scattering 7 hits and allowing only 1 run in helping the Mets to a 4-1 victory and a commanding 2 games to 0 lead in the NLDS against the once-red hot Colorado Rockies.
For a second consecutive game the Rockies batting lineup looked enfeebled by a superior Met starter. Better still, Willie has been able to keep his foot off the bullpen pedal and the Mets in the Game by telling his starters, just pitch us through the nightmares and into the light.
Pedro was good for 7 1/3 innings on Wednesday and on Thursday, Maine was good for the full 9. Next up will be Glavine, a man who has never, in a Mets jersey anyway, seen the end of a 6th inning he wanted to stay in for, will not likely buck up and carry the mantle a game further which means inevitably, Willie is going to have to whistle in some of the dodgier suspects out of the bullpen in Coors Field and it might not be pretty. His pre-series, half-joking promise to keep Guillermo Mota out of the festivities may yet prove to be the godsend the late inning version of the club has been waiting for the entire second half of the season.
But last night it didn't start well. Kaz Matsui, back to avenge the boo-birds of yore, led the game off with a double off the right field wall to silence Shea and scored one batter later when Tulowitzki singled him home to give the Rockies an early 1-0 lead.
Of course for Mets fans who endured an excruciating collapse that nearly saw their side blow a 7-game lead, this was yet another omen of impending doom. "We are too enured to disappointment this season," one skinny kid sporting a Jerry Koosman tee-shirt and slurping a can of indistinguishable liquid outside Gate E before the game. "The slightest set back causes rash and unfocused rage and fear."
Down by a run before even reaching the third batter, Maine miraculously settled down. Matt Holliday ripped a line drive to the right of David Wright who made a miraculous, sharp diving catch on the third base line and stood, firing to first to double Tulowitzki off the first base bag in an example of pin-headed baserunning usually reserved for the Mets rather than their opponents the last month of the season.
Holliday falls to the ground trying to urge Tulowitzki back before being doubled off first...
"That was a key for me," Maine noted afterwards. "David really got me out of an early jam which completely changed the context of the game..."
The 26-year-old starter who had shown none of this form in recent revealed yesterday that he was plagued with a painful left hip injury all season. Maine said he believes he'll need surgery although he won't know the full extent of the injury until the end of the season when he will see a specialist in Philadelphia, of all places.
"It's been bothering me all year, but especially around the All-Star break it started barking," Maine said as he was holding his MRI films in his hand just prior to the staryt of the game, ready with excuses he never really needed.
The Mets didn't wait long to answer in the bottom of the first when Reyes led off by drawing a walk, Castillo singled, Beltran bunted both runners forward and then David Wright, batting cleanup in a somewhat surprising lineup switch by Willie grounded out, scoring Reyes to tie the game. Moises Alou then singled Castillo home to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
Maine retired 15 of the next 17 Rockies he faced before Holliday singled in the bottom of the 6th. But by then the Mets had already built a 4-1 lead behind an Alou homer in the bottom of the 4th, another RBI single by Castillo in the 5th (Castillo is 5 for 8 in the series). He went on to finish the game in full, striking out pinch hitter Sullivan with two outs and two on in the 9th.
For a second consecutive game Willie was unspeakably conservative with his bullpen use.
Disenchanted bullpen drench Willie in pig urine before last night's game...
"Mainesy didn't need alot of pitches to reach the 9th," Willie shrugged, playing with the place under his nose where his pimpstache used to be. "It's simple math. I don't trust the bullpen and Maine was the best hope we had. Unless he gave up another run, I wasn't about to take the heat by bringing someone in to finish and watch them blow another game..."
The Mets will now have a break whilst traveling to Colorado where they are x-x this season.
"It's getting to be a better time to be recognized in this town, I almost hate to go" Willie joked whilst considering the flight to Denver. "I was afraid for my job and maybe even my life before but now I know that mismanaging a weak bullpen is no way forward. Of course if Maine let that error in the 4th bloww his concentration, who knows, you might have seen Mota out there giving away a half dozen runs..."
It's easy to joke with a two game lead in a 5 game series.
"We're not over the hump yet," Alou noted calmly having now assumed a strong leadership role in the lineup despite playing on one leg.
Meanwhile the Rockies are suffering an unbearable offensive outage. Yes, they managed 7 hits yesterday twilight off of Maine but at the end of the night had only 1 run to show for it. The fighting spirt that brought them this far is dwindling fast as reality sets in.
As the series moves to Coors Field they can hope that the combination of home field advantage and leaving the nastiness of New York will be the balm they need to return to their winning ways.
But first they have to prove they can beat the Mets again.