By Mike Steffanos
Mets 8 - Diamondbacks 7
Steve Trachsel wasn't great tonight, but he was good enough to survive a pair of rain delays and keep his team in the game for 6 innings. A pair of home runs by Eric Byrnes really hurt him, although the one-handed first inning homer came on an odd swing that would make me check the bat for cork and Byrnes himself for performance enhancers.
After a 39 minute opening rain delay Burns' 1-out first inning home run seemed to unnerve Trachsel a little. He gave up a single to Chad Tracy and a walk to Luis Gonzalez, and it was starting to look like another Steve Trachsel first inning meltdown. To his credit, he came back to strike out Conor Jackson and Shawn Green to escape further damage.
After the Mets wasted Lo Duca's double in the bottom of the first, Trachsel enjoyed a 1-2-3 second against the bottom of the order. In the bottom of the frame, the Mets got to starter Claudio Vargas big time. Wright worked out a walk, then Floyd followed with a pea into the right field corner for a double, moving Wright to third. Nady walked to load the bases, and Jose Valentin continued his return to the land of the living by lashing a 2-run single to right. Trachsel advances both runners with a sacrifice, and Reyes groundout to 2B drove in Nady. Lo Duca's second double of the game plated Valentin to put the Mets up 4-1.
Then the rains came, delaying the game a second time for 51 minutes. Craig Counsell doubled to lead off the third, but Trachsel escaped that one. In the fourth, Conor Jackson led off with a bloop hit to right, and Green followed with a double. Consecutive sac flies to Estrada and Orlando Hudson plated both runners and cut the lead to 4-3. Pitcher Vargas then doubled, and Trachsel was being severely cussed out in the Mike's Mets household, but he retired Counsell to get out of that one.
In the fifth, Trachsel's first pitch to Eric Byrnes was a batting practice fastball, and Byrnes crushed it for a game-tying home run. He survived every swear word that I could think of to retire the next six batters, and deserves some credit for that. Meanwhile, I was wondering how long they could go without scoring against the incredibly mediocre Claudio Vargas. Mercifully, they ended my suspense with solo home runs by Floyd and Valentin in the sixth. 6-4 Mets, and Trachsel had a chance for a win.
That chance evaporated quickly when reliever Aaron Heilman walked pinch hitter Jeff DaVanon and gave up a single to Counsel to put the tying runs on with no outs. He struck out Eric Byrnes, who threw an incredibly childish temper tantrum but somehow managed not to get tossed. Then Heilman got ahead of Chad Tracy 0-2, and Lo Duca called for a high inside fastball. Heilman's pitch drifted back over the plate, Tracy crushed it, and the Mets were behind for the first time all night 7-6.
Heilman retired the next 2 batters to end the inning, then the Mets wasted a 1-out Beltran double in their half of the seventh. Heilman had a 1-2-3 eighth (one inning too late), while a strikeout/throw out double play cost the Mets in the bottom of the frame. Sanchez got the D-backs in order in the ninth, and the Mets came up for last licks against Arizona's struggling closer Jose Valverde. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Valverde had been roughed up in his previous 4 games
Endy Chavez, who entered the game in the top of the ninth in a double switch, fell behind 0-2, but Valverde left one a little fat and Chavez went with it for an opposite field double. Jose Reyes was asked to bunt, and as usual, failed to get one down. With 2 strikes, Reyes atoned with a single to left, driving in Chavez and tying the game. Lo Duca singled to left, his fourth hit of the game, moving Reyes to third. The Diamondbacks elected to walk Beltran and pitch to the slumping Delgado with the infield in. An out-of-synch, overeager Delgado struck out on a high fastball out of the zone. David Wright was up next. Instead of taking the first pitch, as he often does, Wright looked fastball and got one up and over the plate. He put a perfect swing on it -- not too hard where you risk fouling it off, just meeting the pitch -- and one-hopping the centerfield wall with a walkoff single.
Thoughts on the Game
I'm tough on Trachsel in this space, but that was a reasonable effort that I only hope he can build on.
I've noticed that when Heilman struggles he can't throw low strikes. Anything low sinks out of the zone, and then he has to come up with his fastball, and that makes him vulnerable. During the game, Keith Hernandez remarked on the troubles that Heilman and Sanchez have both been experiencing when they first come into a game.
Watching Endy Chavez run the bases is like watching a clinic. On the double he hit in the ninth, he rounded the first base bag in text book manner, just clipping the front inside corner of the bag. He did the same with third base when he scored on Reyes' single. He's an incredibly good baserunner, it's a shame he can't learn to take a few walks.
The Mets really took advantage of D-back LF Luis Gonzalez' poor arm in the ninth.
I could see a platoon of Valentin, a switch hitter that doesn't do well as a right-hander, and Chris Woodward could give the Mets some production from the 2B position.
Nady looks really lost at the plate right now, but we've already learned that he is one streaky son of gun. Delgado is in the midst of a brutal slump -- his average for the month of May is down to .216. Fortunately Cliff Floyd is picking up some of the slack with a .333 average since May 12, however he only has 4 RBIs in that span. Wright and Beltran have been picking up the slack there.
Same teams, same time tonight. Alay Soler makes his second major league start against former Blue Jays closer Miguel Batista.