By Mike Steffanos
Mets 15 - Diamondbacks 2
Things are going so well for the Mets lately, they were even able to give Pedro Martinez an easy win, his first since April 28. It took a little while for the train to start rolling tonight, but once it did the Diamondbacks were handily swept away. The turning point of the game was actually two separate first inning plays -- one on offense, the other on defense.
The Mets were going against old friend Russ Ortiz, who has alternated being hurt and pitching atrociously since signing with the Snakes last season. The Mets got to him quickly when Jose Reyes, celebrating his 23rd birthday today, led off with a walk and stole second. Endy Chavez, bunting him over to third, beat it out for a single. Carlos Beltran followed with a ground ball good enough to score Reyes, and wound up safe when Orlando Hudson booted it for an error. With a run in and Ortiz on the ropes, the Mets almost let him off the hook. Delgado flied out to RF for the first out, then Ortiz struck out David Wright. The D-backs had a chance to come out of the inning with momentum, but Chris Woodward lashed a double down the first base line on an 0-2 pitch to score both runners. It was a huge hit that really kept the momentum going for the Mets. Turning point 1A.
Staked to a 3-0 lead, Pedro immediately struggled with his control in the bottom of the first. Craig Counsell singled to lead off, then DaVanon worked a full count before flying out to Milledge. Luis Gonzalez singled, moving Counsell to third. Then Chad Tracy lifted a medium-distance fly ball to Chavez in right. When I saw it live, I thought it would score a run. Chavez let loose a perfect 1-hop throw home, and Castro blocked the plate and fielded the short-hop throw perfectly. Counsell was out, the inning was over, and you could almost audibly hear the air come out of the D-backs. Turning point 1B.
Of course, the Mets had to mess around a little to keep it interesting, allowing Ortiz to make it through the second and third frames unscathed. He wasn't pitching that well, though, and it seemed like just a matter of time. The clock struck midnight for him in the fourth, when he walked Reyes, fell behind Chavez while trying to keep Reyes close, then Reyes stole second anyway and he wound up walking Chavez. Walking free-swingers Reyes and Chavez in the same inning is quite an achievement. Beltran doubled home both of them, then Delgado doubled home Beltran and Wright doubled home Delgado. Ortiz was gone, and the Mets were rolling with a 7-0 lead. They hung a 6-spot on Kevin Jarvis in the fifth, and all of the suspense was gone. Pedro made it through the fifth after allowing a homer to Estrada, and Oliver, Feliciano and Bell got the Mets home.
Thoughts on the game
Pedro wasn't that great, but after the game didn't seem concerned. He threw 91 pitches to get through 5 innings, and now has the all-important extra day's rest.
Willie announced he would platoon Valentin and Woodward at second base. It seems like a smart move. Valentin is 36 and could use days off to stay fresh. Although he's a switch-hitter he's always been notoriously better from the left side, so it's a perfect fit. Plus Woody gets enough ABs to stay sharp.
Reyes went 0-3, but had 3 walks, stole a pair of bases and scored twice. His recent struggles have his average down below .250, but his 3 walks give him 26 on the year, only 1 less than he had all of last year. Because of that, he has an OBP of .315, which is 15 points higher than last year. He is a work in progress, but there has been progress, and keep in mind he turned 23 today.
The Mets scored 15 runs with no homers today. They had their share of extra base hits, however. Delgado had a pair of doubles, while Wright, Beltran, Woodward, Chavez and newcomer Eli Marrero chipped in one each, and Milledge chipped in a triple.
I was concerned how poorly Chavez was hitting early in the year, but I thought his defense would be valuable enough if he could just approach his lifetime .250 average. He's done that and then some, playing flawless defense, taking a few walks, running the bases and showing a little pop. What a pickup he's been -- every bit as important as Julio Franco in his own right. When Beltran has been out the Mets have been able to plug in a CF as good as any in the league. Except for being over-aggressive at the plate at times, he's one of the most fundamentally sound ballplayers I've ever seen. I'm sure he's on a 1-year contract with the Mets this year, and they might be hard-pressed to re-sign him. Someone is going to offer this kid some money.
Speaking of Beltran, he's got his average just under .300, with 17 HR and 49 RBI despite missing over a week of the season and playing a little banged-up at times. He's 12-14 in stolen bases, he's walked 36 times which has helped him to a .406 OBP and 47 runs scored. I hate to say this, but he's looking an awful lot like a number 3 hitter to me.
If you missed it...
Sorry I was late with my story on last night's game, and for the fact I skipped the latest news this morning. I just got a little burned out from staying up late, and I didn't want to push it too much and make myself sick again. There were a couple of items in the Times that I wanted to comment on, so, in the better late than never category:
New York Times: Milledge
Ben Shpigel offers up a terrific profile of Lastings Milledge, including this great quote from the kid:
Sometimes we forget that we're entertainers, too, and I hope I never lose sight of that. I just want to let everyone know that I'm here to entertain and to win -- win first, and then to entertain.
Hard to argue with... Shpigel also quotes Tony Tijerina, his manager from Norfolk, that he "never once had to tell him to play hard; he does that every day." Wish the Mets could come up with a few more "thugs" like this one.
New York Times: Kissing Schuerholz' Butt
Murray Chass goes the Braves' apologist route with yet another of those "Atlanta is going to put it all together and turn it on any second now" stories. In case you doubt it, he offers this quote from the Lord God Schuerholz:
Just look at our history and the body of evidence. It indicates this organization knows where the weaknesses are and most often fixes them. We know what we need to do to get this team poised to win.
We are not worthy... we are not worthy... Just one thing, though, if you wait much longer you'll have to concern yourself with overtaking the Nats and the Marlins before you can worry about New York and Philadelphia.
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