By Mike Steffanos
Mets 5 - Phillies 4
The Mets came into Philadelphia a hot team and left there the same way. They now hold a 9-1/2 game lead over their rivals from down the turnpike, and for the near future should probably fear complacency as much as any rival. David Wright, whose 3-run homer was the big blow in the game, is making a case for an MVP award at age 23. Amazing.
A quick confession -- I was only able to watch fragments of this game. I DVR'ed it, and after I get a chance to watch it in full later tonight I will come back and update this post with more thoughts. Still, I'm not sure how much you can say about a team that is playing as well as the Mets are right now. Enjoy it for as long as it lasts, because the cushion they are building now will come in handy later on when the team struggles.
As I watched Wagner wrap it up in the ninth, I couldn't help but think back to the Mets' last trip to Philly in the second week of May. The Phillies were hot, the Mets were searching for answers for the back of their rotation. The breaks went the Phillies way -- including a rain-shortened victory in the rubber game. The Phillies came out of that series feeling they could do nothing wrong, while the Mets would continue to muddle through starts from Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez. The Mets were only 2 games up coming out of Philadelphia, and they would go on to drop series to both Milwaukee and St. Louis on that road trip. Now, just over a month later, they need a telescope to see the rest of the division.
When the Mets started this 10-game road trip, I would have been satisfied with 5-5, though I was hoping for 6-4. I would have considered 9-1 a silly dream. The Mets have found a little consistency in their rotation, and have survived a rough stretch from Glavine. The team that struggled for any offense a month ago is now on cruise control. At the beginning of the season we thought 90 games would take this division -- they could go a game under .500 for their remaining 97 games and reach that number now. The Mets are a team who have failed to live up to their hype several times in recent memory. That's not the case this year.
Thoughts on the game
Again, please check back later tonight or tomorrow morning for thoughts on the game, after I get the chance to see it in full.
I'll say one thing about Trachsel right now, though -- he wasn't brilliant, but I saw enough of him early in the game to consider it a miracle that he made it 6 innings. Trachsel's worst nightmare nowadays is an umpire with a small strike zone. Randy Marsh calls it as tight as anyone, but Trachsel hung in there. He really battled, and deserves some respect for that.
Update 12:44 AM
Just finished watching the game on DVR. I'll still give Trachsel credit for battling, but it's scary how little confidence he seems to have in his fastball. He's just not keeping it down in the strike zone, and his velocity seems to have dropped a couple of mph. You hope there is something mechanical that he might eventually figure out, and that he's not just a declining 35-year-old pitcher that doesn't have much left.
Nice to see Heilman pitch an inning without allowing a baserunner -- it's been a while. Still, he seemed a little off. Keith Hernandez made a good point of how Aaron is struggling getting inside on left-handers. With that low three-quarters delivery, his fastball has a tendency to move from left to right as you face home plate. To pitch a lefty inside he has to start the ball at their body and allow the natural movement to take it back over the plate. When his control is off there is a lot more chance that he'll plunk a left-hander or he won't start it inside enough and it will drift back over the heart of the plate and get hit hard. Both Keith and Ron think he's overthrowing and that's hurting his control. Keith came up with an excellent idea -- he thinks Heilman should work to develop a little cutter so he can get in on lefties without having to fight the ball's natural movement. Whether he winds up as a starter or reliever, that strikes me as an excellent idea.
Sanchez pitched an excellent eighth inning, and although he overthrew a few pitches, for the most part looked much more settled than he has lately. Wagner had a 1-2-3 inning, and although he wasn't at all overpowering, he did throw strikes. He got the save and didn't need a web gem from Wright like in game one of the series, I'm not going to nitpick.
The offense wasn't very impressive tonight after the first inning, but it seems unfair to bitch after all the great games in a row. I'm curious to see how the Mets handle being home tomorrow night against the O's after such a magical road trip.
Got a catty comment to something I wrote earlier from a disgruntled Braves fan. Life is good...