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John Maine Gives the Bullpen a Night Off

Mike SteffanosFriday, July 21, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 7 - Astros 0

John Maine pitched a pretty good game last time out against the Marlins, but was done in by 3 solo home runs and a lack of offensive support. Tonight he threw a gem at the Astros, and Jose Valentin gave him all the support he would need with a second inning grand slam. Maine made his first win as a New York Met one to remember with a complete game 4-hit shutout.

Maine wasn't even supposed to start this game, but a rain delay to start the game and the threat of potential delays later on prompted Willie Randolph to flip flop Maine and El Duque. Maine didn't seem fazed at all by the short notice, retiring the Astros quickly in the first and working around Aubrey Huff's single in the second. He came out with a very good fastball that he pounded the strike zone with, and effectively mixed in a good curve and changeup.

Astros starter Taylor Buchholz didn't fare as well in the second inning, walking Delgado and going to a full count on Wright before David took him up the middle for a base hit. Cliff Floyd hit a hard grounder to first baseman Mike Lamb, who tried to start a double play by throwing to second. The throw pulled Adam Everett off the bag for a throwing error on Lamb, and Floyd beat Everett's relay to first to load the bases and bring up Jose Valentin. To say Valentin has been clutch in these spots all year is to state the obvious, and he jumped on a Buchholz fastball for his second gram slam of the season and a huge early lead for Maine.

Maine continued to pound the zone and work his way through the Houston order with little resistance, although it took a great leaping catch by Cliff Floyd in the fourth to keep Chris Burke in the park and the game scoreless. Meanwhile Buchholz got touched up for another run in the third when Carlos Delgado hit a sac fly to score Paul Lo Duca. Delgado hit a 2-run home run in the fifth to chase Buchholz, and Maine just kept rolling with a scoreless sixth and a 1-2-3 seventh.

Maine faltered in the eighth, walking leadoff hitter Eric Munson and giving up a double to Everett. With second and third, no one out, the shutout certainly seemed in jeopardy, but pinch hitter Orlando Palmeiro hit a short fly ball to Nady in right that couldn't advance Munson. Craig Biggio followed with a fairly shallow fly to CF on which Munson probably shouldn't have tested Beltran. It looked like he caught a break when Beltran's throw hit the mound and came up, but Lo Duca did a terrific job blocking the plate and nailing Munson for the shutout preserving third out at home.

Willie told Maine the game was his and sent out there for the ninth. He got Lamb and Burke to ground out for the first two outs, then Berkman lifted a fly ball to center for the final out. The bullpen, pushed hard in Cincinnati, had a much-needed night off, and John Maine had a very satisfying win.

Thoughts on the game
Lo Duca does a terrific job shepherding a young pitcher through a game, one of those intangibles he brings to the game that drive stat guys nuts when you try to explain it to them.

Willie just won't admit that Jose Valentin is his everyday second baseman. It's been working, I guess, this system where Valentin needs to produce to keep the job, so why mess with it? As I mentioned in my earlier post, what a terrific story Valentin has been for the 2006 Mets. I never cared for him all that much as a player coming into this season -- he really is one of those guys you have to see every day to appreciate.

Ron Darling was right on John Maine leading up to tonight, talking about how impressed he was with the young right-hander and how he thought he could help the team this year. He does throw a nice lively ball. Even though he only had 4 strikeouts, the Astros were constantly popping weak fly balls into the air. I could see Maine being useful to the Mets as either a starter or a reliever the rest of the season. You know, maybe the Mets already have the arms they need right now.

This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.

Box Score

Comments (5)

"maybe the Mets already have the arms they need right now."

My thoughts exactly! I dont think Main will have a lot of games like the one tonight, but I think for this year he will make a solid #4-5. Maybe give up 3-4 runs a game....maybe even less. I can live with that!

Oh, and how great is it to see delgado do something, anything with the bat these last 2 games. If he and cliff can stay healthy and be a little more consistent, we would have a very scary line up. Who needs abreu?

What's up with Willie? He won't admit that Valentin is his second sacker? If this is a strategy aimed at keeping Valentin hungry, it has got to end. The guy is obviously the consumate professional. Is there any second baseman in baseball playing any better than Jose has for the past 9 weeks? I think not. Look what this guy has been doing. He is hitting for average, for power, in the clutch and getting on base every which way. He is a gifted baserunner who has decent speed and excellent instincts. Defensively, he is fielding his position with agility, aplomb and guile. Hey Willie, Jose Valentin is my second baseman and every Mets fan on the planet and we are NOT afraid to say so.

As for the starting pitching, no one should be terribly surprised that John Maine pitched a terrifc game tonight. Certainly, as Mike pointed out, Ron Darling saw it coming. Maine has nice movement, good velocity differential between his hard stuff and breaking stuff and has good control. Combine that with being a fly ball pitcher in a park that substantially favors fly ball pitchers and the results may be far above expectations from those anticipating failure instead of success. If Peterson and Randolph tweak the rotation a bit so that Maine and Pelfrey do a little more pitching at Shea and move El Duque to the pen (with a spot start here and there) when Pedro returns, the Mets will be well served. In fact, they are so far in front that it would be wise to give Pedro a long recovery period so he is fresh for the last 8 weeks of the season and the post-season. The Mets pitching staff is just fine and perhaps the best play is no deal at all. Imagine signing Zito without giving up Milledge, Heilman or anyone else?

From my old Brooklyn Dodger days, I seem to remember alot more shutouts and compleat games in baseball. But I am 66 today and can't remember what I had for dinner last night so what do I know. I do remember saying a few days ago it would be fine if the Mets could just get an inning eater, so every 5th start the pen could get a rest. Maybe they have one?

cool breez -- Maine does look like someone that can help the team this year, whether out of the bullpen or in the rotation. I guess a lot will depend on what Pelfrey does, and El Duque.
Speaking of scary, I was starting to worry that Delgado was ready to hit a steep decline in his career. The last couple of days make me feel that I don't have to cover my eyes every time he comes to bat.
Dave, it doesn't seem to bother Valentin and it's been working all year, so why mess with it? Maybe the minute Willie comes out and says he's the starting 2B all his mojo fades...

I would love it if Maine and Pelfrey gave them enough that they felt they could pass on the available pitchers out there.
Rev,there were still a decent amount of complete game shutouts when I started watching, too. Happy Birthday.

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