Mets Lead Remains Two

Not all the news, despite winning all three games against the Pirates this weekend with three outstanding starts from Pelfrey, Pedro and Santana, was good news.

First, the Phillies took two of three from the Padres to stay within two games of the Mets in the NL East.

Secondly, the bullpen, which nearly blew a massive lead on Saturday, received further bad news when it was revealed The Hillbilly Is Still Hurtin and the cavalry is not on the way. Wagner will not be coming off the disabled list after all.

On Friday night, the bullpen entered the game in the 8th with the narrowest of two run leads after a rather brilliant performance from Mike Pelfrey; six hits and seven shutout innings.

Relief was a hard as it looked Friday night.

Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman closed it out surrendering only one run: Jack Wilson's lead homer off of Feliciano in the 8th to which kept everyone's hearts in their collective throats for the rest of the game. Feliciano made a miraculous recovery with two men on and two out in the 8th to set up Heilman's 9th inning save which involved three outs sandwiched around a lone walk.

So the Mets took the opener despite an enemic 2 run output against the Pirates' hardly renowned pitching staff.

On the other hand, rather than criticising, one simply felt relief.

Even if Pedro is back, he can't pitch complete games...

On Saturday, Pedro led the way, managing an encouraging seven inning out, allowing only a single run despite 8 hits. Before getting giddy about a resurgence from Pedro, remember that these were the Pirates after all, an almost ridiculously easy opponent on the heels of the Nats and hell, even before you could get giddy about the game you could see this one, like the one on Friday, almost but not quite get rubbished by the ever-frightening bullpen despite a seemingly insurmountable 7-1 lead going into the 9th.

Oh no, and did we need the Pirates to remind us that no lead is safe with the Mets bullpen?

Saturday, it was rookie Eddie Kunz who did the honours of horrifying Mets fans with a psychologically damaging outing, perhaps not unexpected when you throw a guy who has been pitching Double AA into a Major League pennant race. Kunz showed he's no closer, not even with a 6 run lead, managing only one out but three runs on only 17 pitches before Feliciano mercifully finished it off. You might also note that Joe Smith shat himself again, giving up a hit and failing to get a single out before being removed.

Not only unencouraging, but terrifying when you consider the lead the Mets blew against the Pirates last week.

In between the Mets announced a trade for Luis Ayala, from the Nats of all teams. Ayala of course, is 1-8 with a 5.77 ERA - just the sort of guy who can fit in the Mets' pigpen of ugly and flailing finishers. Any worries he wouldn't clear the waiver wire?

The entirety of the game Sunday could be summed up by these two battery mates.

Yesterday Santana made the bullpen irrevelant by throwing a nice complete game shutout; i.e. doing what he's paid kazillions to do for the Mets, preserving the winning streak and keeping the pen out of the equation.

This is all good and well against the likes of the Pirates and Nats - the Mets simply MUST win against these teams to have a prayer at the NL East - but it doesn't do the heart much good considering the results when they have to start playing contenders again.

For one, you begin to get the feeling that Wagner isn't going to be healed any time soon despite the wishful thinking and again, this is a blessing in disguise because frankly, we were never going to get deep into the post season with a choker like Wagner as our closer anyway so best the Mets learn to live without him and find a more suitable replacement next season.

Secondly, no matter how rubbish the Hillbilly can be, most outings he made it look reasonably easy. The remainder of the season is going to be filled with blown saves, deliriously wobbly saves blowing all but the final chunk of big leads, and perhaps, on occasion a night with no worries, when the offense explodes and gives a big enough lead to carry them.

I've also got a little theory here called wishful thinking:

Remember when the Mets nearly went to the World Series in 2006? Did they not do it by winning even though half their starting rotation went down to injury and they were forced to rely on the inverse of this season; 5 or 6 innings of hold your breath followed by 3 or 4 innings of hold your lead?

In 2006 it was all about the bullpen with surprisingly good starters occasionally paving the way. Who can forget Oliver Perez coming from virtually nowhere in Game 4 or equally, John Maine's 5 1/3 inning outing in Game 6 both of which kept the Mets alive? No Pedro, no El Duque. Just unstable kids holding on for dear life until the bullpen could save them. Sure, Glavine pitched almost memorably in Game 1 but by Game 5, he'd shot his wad just like Pedro and El Duque.

Now we're at the opposite end of the spectrum. We've got what one could argue is the best starting rotation in the NL, bar perhaps the Cubs and maybe the Brewers, but the bullpen is in shreds. (Ok, officially, over the last month, the best in the NL behind the Brewers, Cubs and Dodgers but hell, who's counting?)

And who knows, maybe Heilman, or Sanchez or even John Maine will catch fire and figure out they're going to be the closer the rest of the season and just do it. Who knows indeed. Stranger things have happened.

And for those of you feeling bad because Wagner isn't coming home any time soon just remember what he did in that 2006 NLCS: 16.88 ERA.

Even Heilman can probably manage that.


katherine said...

We're 9-3 since Billy went on the DL. I vote to give Eddie K a few more chances.

jdon said...

The bullpen has to be changed. The starters should logically wear down by September, placing greater strain on these knuckleheads. I am for shifting Maine to the pen. Keep Stokes, who has a power arm, at least. Come September 1, bring up who you can and try to give these jabonis some rest, then cross your fingers for the stretch run. And continue walking all over the Braves and the Pirates and the like. Boy, those 4 games in San Diego and the three in Houston still gnaw at my innards. The Phils just did a good job out in SD.

jdon said...

Actulally, I wrote something misleading. I did not mean to imply that Stokes should start in place of Maine. I want him in the pen too. I would like to see Niese.

Jaap said...

hey Katherine - I don't mind giving Eddie K a few more chances, especially considering we might think he's the future closer - but perhaps we should wait for some more 12-0 leads first judging by his last outing...

Jaap said...

jdon, I'd like to see Niese get a shot as well - why is the hubbub about Maine rather than Pelf do you reckon? Pelf is closer to going beyond his innings career high and might even have better stuff for late innings. The bullpen does need change but where will it come from? Raid the Nats' pen? Ugh. I keep hoping beyond reason they'll get hot again like during that 10 game winning streak.

jdon said...

Pelf is pitching better than Maine, and Maine is hurting. Reducing his innings almost makes sense. I am very worried that the Mets are screwing him up as well and he will blow his rotator cuff. Let him go an inning every other day. Also, Maine gets K's.
How about that Endy, huh? 258 at bats, and 11 RBIs. 11. Worst offensive player in the league. He has just passed Brian Schneider, who now has double digits in extra base hits. Chavez should never bat again.

jdon said...

jaap, I know it sounds crazy but there is no reason they cannot win the next 6 games. Tj\hey ar eplaying garbage teams. Phils play the Nats this week, and will get a chance to pick up ground if we mess around.

jdon said...

jaap, I know it sounds crazy but there is no reason they cannot win the next 6 games. Tj\hey ar eplaying garbage teams. Phils play the Nats this week, and will get a chance to pick up ground if we mess around.

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