By Mike Steffanos
Padres 7 - Mets 4
Victor Zambrano was at his Schizophrenic worst, and the offense made Clay Hensley look like a future Hall of Famer for 5 innings before scratching a few runs out to get back in the game. Then the Mets 'pen bled a couple more, the offense went back to sleep for the rest of the game, and the Mets settled for a split of their 4 game series with San Diego -- not a disaster, but a disappointment none the less.
I've stopped defending Victor in this space. It's time for him to learn how to pitch. I'm not sure at all that he's capable. If he keeps going like this, he's going to force the Mets to look at one of their sub-par options in Norfolk or possibly overpay for a starter in a trade. As I mentioned earlier today, I wouldn't be in favor of moving Heilman out of the bullpen right now. The 'pen is the real strength of this club, and Heilman and Sanchez are as dynamic of a pair of setup men as there are in baseball. Maybe Henry Owens brings that 100 mph fastball to Shea and changes the dynamic, maybe Jorge Julio gets better and better and eventually makes Heilman expendable from the bullpen. In the meantime, Willie and Omar would be silly to mess with it.
I suspect that Victor will get a few more starts to turn it around. All he really needs to be is a guy who gives you a chance to win, just a decent fifth starter. Can he be that? Wish I knew. He certainly wasn't that guy today.
Some thoughts on the game
I thought it was a good move giving Reyes the day off. I didn't mind Willie using him as a pinch-hitter, but the double switch that left him in the game seemed gratuitous. Why not give him a real day off? He looks like crap at the plate right now.
Walking 2 guys today was kind of a step back, but 3 Ks and another scoreless inning didn't suck for Mr. Julio. It's gotten to the point where he can come into a game and you can reasonably hope that he won't be scored on. He's gone 5 innings over 5 appearances without allowing a run, after 4 awful outings to open the season. He allowed a walk each in both of his first two outings, then none until the 2 in today's game. In 9-2/3 IP this season, he has allowed 4 walks and has struck out 17. That's pretty amazing. After allowing 11 hits in his first 3-2/3 IP, he has allowed only 2 hits in his last 6 innings. I knew he had been pitching pretty well, but I didn't realize how well until I looked at the numbers. If you can fix this guy, you're going to have 4 guys with closer's stuff -- Wagner, Sanchez, Heilman and Julio. Just for kicks, think back on the bullpen we had in 2004.
Tom Glavine tries to get the Mets off to the right start in San Francisco tomorrow night 10:15 ET. Matt Cain pitches for the Giants.