By Mike Steffanos
Mets 7 - Marlins 3
The Marlins made multiple costly mistakes today, and the Mets took advantage of them to take the rubber game of the weekend series. Meanwhile, Orlando Hernandez managed to be good enough in 5 innings of work to win his Mets debut.
The game went the Mets way right from the start. Jose Reyes led things off with a single up the middle, then shortstop Hanley Ramirez booted a sure double-play grounder to put runners on first and second. Carlos Beltran decided on his own to give himself up and bunt both players over, even that worked in the Mets favor when 3B Miguel Cabrera waited a little too long to see if the ball would roll foul. His throw to first was late, and the bases were loaded with no outs. Carlos Delgado grounded out to SS Ramirez, but because of the overshift the Fish were playing they only managed the out at 1B. Reyes scored, Delgado had an RBI, and the other 2 runners moved up a base. David Wright drove in a run with an infield hit where Cabrera looked too long at Lo Duca going home. Cliff Floyd bounced a single over Jacobs at first, Beltran scored and Wright made it to third with a nifty slide. Jose Valentin, starting at 2B, drove in the fourth run of the inning with a sac fly.
Hernandez went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first, and the Mets went down in the second when Reyes overslid 2B. In the bottom of the second, El Duque committed a cardinal sin for a 40-year-old pitcher staked to a 4-run lead. 2 walks preceding a home run by Jeremy Hermida cut the Mets lead to 4-3. The Mets came back with a run in the third when Jose Valentin singled home Carlos Delgado. The Mets were back up by 2, 5-3.
Hanley Ramirez led off the home third with a double, but got thrown out trying to steal third against Lo Duca with lefty Mike Jacobs at the plate and one out. He was out by a mile. Jacobs walked, but was stranded when Cabrera grounded out. Carlos Beltran had a 2-run home run in the fourth that put the Mets back up by 4, 7-3. It was starting to look like a softball game, but the pitchers took over.
Willie elected to go with Bell again in the eighth and save his bullpen. Cabrera led off with an infield single, but Bell came back to get Borchard and Willingham on fly outs to Beltran. Pedro Feliciano came in to face the lefty Hermida and got him to ground out to end the eighth. Chad Bradford came in and pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out.
Thoughts on the Game
El Duque struggled with control of his slider early, and that cost him a lot of pitches. Despite amassing 7 Ks in 5 IP he had a lot of balls fouled off. Gary Cohen made the good point that it was reminiscent of Al Leiter in his last years.
Heath Bell had a nice outing today, but was surely helped out by some fortunate bounces. He's a good, tough kid with decent stuff, but he always seems to be hit pretty hard. The league had a high batting average against him on balls into play last year, which most guys that are into stats assure you reflects bad luck. That's true to a point, and I've been one to lobby in favor of Bell, but what I've noticed in a limited sample this year is that he doesn't get many swings at sliders and split-finger pitches out of the strike zone. They sit on his fastball, which is around 94 but straight, and spit on the other pitches. A couple of times he hung sliders for high strikes, which worked for him because they didn't offer. If he could get a few breaking pitches over more consistently it could change his luck. As for the split, a good one is out of the strike zone, maybe if he got ahead more he'd get more swings at that.
By using Bell for 2.2 innings today, Willie was able to spare most of his bullpen, including Billy Wagner. He didn't use Sanchez at all these past 2 days, Heilman pitched 1/3 of an inning, Feliciano pitched to 1 batter today, and Bradford got some work he probably needs. Good job resting an overworked 'pen and getting away with it.
The Mets return home to face Arizona tomorrow night at 7:10. Steve Trachsel tries to look like something more than a bad fifth starter, while Claudio Vargas pitches for the Diamondbacks.