By Mike Steffanos
Mets 5 - Diamondbacks 0
Alay Soler was able to do what Steve Trachsel failed to do the night before -- throw strikes, work quickly and keep his defense in the game. The end result was the Cuban righthander calling El Duque's complete game and raising him a 2-hit shutout. In the process, Soler showed us an effective third pitch -- a changeup -- and some real hope that the Mets have found something with this kid.
Soler was so good last night, there isn't a whole lot to say about this game. Soler did struggle a little with his control early. He walked a batter in the second, then in the third got into his biggest jam. Orlando Hudson led off with a double, the first hit off Soler. Webb tried to bunt him to third, but made a poor bunt that Lo Duca pounced on to nail Hudson in a close play at third. Craig Counsell forced Webb at 2B, then stole second. Soler walked Eric Byrnes, but then Valentin made a nice play on Gonzalez' liner for the final out. In the bottom of the fourth, Soler issued a leadoff walk to Chad Tracy. That would be the last baserunner for Arizona until DaVanon's double with one out in the eighth.
Meanwhile, the Mets got all the runs they would need in the first. Lo Duca hit a ball down the third base line and advanced to second on with what was originally scored as a single and a throwing error to Tracy at 3B. This was the correct scoring. Beltran doubled him home, stole third, and scored on Wright's single. Valentin's double into the LF corner plated Wright with the third run. Later on, the official scored ruled Lo Duca's single an error all the way, stealing a hit from Lo Duca and making all 3 Mets runs unearned -- a really cheesy scoring decision for the sake of Brandon Webb's league-leading ERA.
After the Mets tacked on runs in the eighth and ninth on Delgado's sac fly and Reyes' RBI single, the only suspense left was whether Soler would match El Duque's complete game from Thursday. A quick 1-2-3 ninth answered that question. Another invaluable day off for the bullpen, and an intriguing performance by Soler on the heels of that nice win over the Dodgers.
Thoughts on the game
One thought, really. What impressed me most about Soler in these last two outings is the toughness you can see in him. He's not afraid to pitch in big spots in the game when he gets into trouble. That's something you don't find in many scouting reports in the media, where writers armed with a small amount of knowledge and virtually no face to face experience with prospects feel qualified to pass judgment on them.
The Mets wrap up the west coast segment of this road trip with a 4:30 PM ET afternoon tilt versus the D-backs. Pedro takes the hill against Russ Ortiz.
Personal Note: Sorry for the late post. I was really tired after watching the game last night. Still, we all survived the last west coast swing of the season.