By Mike Steffanos
Mets 2 - Nationals 1
It wasn't pretty, but it looks the same in the standings as all the other wins. The Mets accepted Washington's generosity and won a game they really didn't deserve on a walk-off error in the bottom of the ninth, improving to 17 - 8 and maintaining a 6-game lead on Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Victor Zambrano started the game for the Mets and looked decent. He escaped a jam in the top of the first by striking out Johnson and getting Guillen to fly out, then had a couple of solid innings. For the most part he was in command of the game, and probably could have given the team 7 innings if he wasn't pinch-hit for after 6. It was the kind of solid effort that the Mets will need from Victor this year.
The team looked tired and flat. They had terrible at bats against Ramon Ortiz. They were fortunate to win this in the ninth when Franco walked with 1 out. Chavez came in as a pinch runner. Reyes got behind in the count, but managed to slap a single through the left side to advance Chavez to second. Lo Duca swung at the first pitch and hit a perfect double play grounder to pitcher Gary Majewski. There seem to be some confusion between SS Royce Clayton and 2B Jose Vidro on who was covering second. Majewski split the difference with the throw and it sailed into centerfield, allowing Chavez to score the game winner.
This is the kind of game the Mets would have lost last year, but Zambrano was good enough, Feliciano, Sanchez and Wagner were perfect, and the breaks went the Mets way. You have to be lucky and good to win a division title, so maybe this is a good sign.
Thoughts on the game
Zambrano's fastball never makes it out of the high 80s any more. He still has good movement, and I know Peterson doesn't want him to overthrow, but I'm somewhat concerned. If he can't get his fastball back into the low 90s, he's not Pedro, he probably won't beat good offensive teams in hitters parks.
Jose Valentin really is looking better at the plate. He smoked the ball in a big spot, just hit it right at Guillen.
Willie needs to give Wright a day off. He looks awful at the plate.
Matsui had a solid double and another good game in the field. The fans were really fair to him, too, which kind of surprised me. Even when he had bad at bats there were few boos. I think they respect the new attitude he brought with him off the disabled list. Hope it keeps up.
They had a nice shot of the bench where Franco was talking to Reyes after Reyes made a stupid, costly baserunning blunder. I noticed that from other shots of the bench during the game that Franco was spending a lot of time giving a pep talk to Victor Diaz.
Wagner had his true "lights-out" stuff in the ninth, with his blazing fastball to complement his wicked slider. He struck out Johnson and Guillen on 6 filthy pitches, then got Schneider to tap back to him for the third out. Very impressive.
John Maine makes his first appearance as a Met tomorrow night at 7:10. The Nats will counter with a youngster of their own, 25-year-old southpaw Michael O'Connor. Let's go Mets!