By Mike Steffanos
Mets 4 - Yankees 3
There are some games that the Mets win that I feel more emotionally drained at the end of than losses. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving the win back, but this was one of those games that are a lot tougher on the fans than on the player. Sometimes you get a good feeling that the Mets are going to win in a close game, and then there are games like tonight's that ended a half hour ago and I'm still not completely sure that they won. (Does this paragraph makes sense to other Mets fans, or is this just me?)
The tone for the game was set right from the first inning, where the Yankees had a hit and a walk with nothing to show for it, while the Mets went down meekly against the journeyman Aaron Small. Then in the second, Bernie Williams leads off with a double, gets moved to third with one out, then dies there. With two outs in the bottom of the frame, Floyd hits a ball that just misses going out -- it goes for a triple but he's stranded. In the third, the Yankees get back-to-back singles from Jeter and the Giambino with one out but are unable to plate anyone. The Mets go down meekly in the bottom of the frame.
The Yankees finally break through in the top of the fourth. Williams leads off with another double. Cabrera grounds back to Glavine for the first out, but then Glavine walks Kelly Stinnett. Aaron Small bunts the runners to second and third with two outs, and then Glavine -- who was struggling with his control all night -- hits Damon to load the bases. Jeter singles home Williams and Stinnett, then Glavine re-loads the bases by walking the Giambino. A-Rod lines out hard to Cliff Floyd to end the inning. Yankees 2, Mets 0.
The Mets get all of their offense for the game in a 4 batter span in their own half of the fourth. Lo Duca and Beltran set the table with singles, then Delgado hits the first pitch from Small -- a fastball up in the zone -- into the teeth of the wind for a 3-run homer. 3 pitches later Wright smashes a monster shot into the parking lot past the bullpen in left. Mets 4, Yankees 2. The Mets would be holding on for the rest of the game.
In the top of the fifth, Glavine gets Cabrera to ground into a double play that Matsui and Reyes turn beautifully. The Mets miss a chance to tack on in their half. Reyes singles with one out, then steals second on a close play. Lo Duca walks, and lefty submariner Mike Myers replaces Small. He gets Beltran to ground into a force and Delgado to strike out. In the sixth, Glavine's final inning, Reyes turns Jeter's hard grounder into another inning ending double play.
Heilman comes into the game in the seventh, goes to 3-2 to Giambi before enticing him to fly out to deep centerfield. Rodriguez works the count to 2-2 before grounding out to Heilman on a terrific play by the pitcher. Then Cano singles softly to left field on a ball that Floyd dives for but short hops. (Floyd hurt himself on that play, and would leave the game later on.) Heilman wild pitches Cano to 2B and then walks Williams and Cabrera to load the bases. This was annoying, but partly due to home plate ump Tom Hallion's shrinking strike zone. It started somewhat small and seemed to shrink as the game went on. Heilman survived unscathed when he enticed Stinnett to ground out Reyes - Matsui.
Duaner Sanchez took over in the eighth and seemed to be bothered by the stiff breeze that kicked up and Hallion's strike zone. He walked pinch hitter Miguel Cairo on 5 pitches. Then Damon followed with a perfectly placed dribbler for an infield hit. Next up was Jeter, who bunted, and Sanchez tried to make a diving catch on it. He got it on the bounce, and was unable to make a play to any base. Bases loaded on a walk and 2 gifts from God, and it looked extremely ugly for the Mets. Sanchez got ahead of Giambi, but the Yankee first baseman managed a sac fly to Nady in RF. Nady threw into second and kept the other runners from advancing. 4-3 Mets, 1 out. Turning point of the game coming up -- Sanchez gets A-Rod to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Another few years off this blogger's life, but an amazing recovery.
Ninth inning, enter Sandman. Considering this was his third day in a row, he had decent stuff. I speculated yesterday he may not be able to pitch back to back days. He wasn't overpowering, but in fairness, I have to admit that I could have been off-base. Anyway, Wagner gets off to a good start by striking out Cano on 3 pitches. Then on a 1-2 pitch Bernie Williams clearly looks at strike 3, but Hallion calls it ball 2. Sure enough, Williams pops a parachute into RF just in front of Nady for a cheap hit on the next pitch. Cabrera follows with a ground single into the hole between third and short. Stinnett strikes out swinging for the second out. Cairo works the count to 2-2, but grounds to Matsui for the final out.
Thoughts on the game
The Mets faced some bad pitchers in this game and did very little against them. I don't know if they were a little tight, but it was a bad offensive game for them.
As bad as the offense was, the defense was tight. It saved them tonight.
Wagner deserved to get pounded for yesterday's debacle, but props for him today. He survived those 2 hits and closed it out, refusing to knuckle under. Neither ball was hit hard, but sometimes those are the ones that bother a pitcher the most. Good job.
I'm still trying to decide whose announcers were worse -- ESPN or FOX.
Off day tomorrow, and this tired blogger is signing off...