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Lethargic Play Costs Mets a Chance to Sweep

Mike SteffanosSunday, July 23, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Astros 8 - Mets 4

For a few innings this afternoon, it looked like the Mets might be able to sweep their first 3 game series at home this season. Carlos Delgado had unloaded on Roy Oswalt for a 3-run homer, and Mike Pelfrey retired the first 7 batters that he faced. In the fourth he managed to work out of a bases-loaded jam. But in the end, Pelfrey would learn what it feels like to lose at the major-league level, and the Astros would take a game that they just seemed to want a little more than the Mets did.

Pelfrey started off the game very sharp, throwing an effective fastball and getting some strikes with his slider and changeup. But as the game wore on he admitted to losing control of his secondary pitches, and had difficulty throwing his fastball for strikes. In the end, he was unable to survive the fifth inning, and Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano allowed the Astros to build up enough cushion to cruise to a win.

Heilman in particular did not endear himself to Mets fans by making a foolish mistake in allowing Chris Burke to beat him to first base on a ground ball that should have been the third out, allowing the Astros seventh run to score. It appears that Heilman is allowing his frustration with his own struggles to affect his play, and in the process may be playing himself out of town with just over a week to go to the trade deadline.

After the game, Randolph seemed a little disappointed in his team's effort. This is indeed a team that has somewhat lacked the killer instinct this year, other than those consecutive road series against Arizona and Philadelphia, and they haven't played their best ball since. I don't want to take anything away from this team, which has won 3 straight series -- including 2 on the road -- since returning from the break, but their play today lacked both sharpness and urgency.

Thoughts on the game
Pelfrey wasn't terrible today, and I liked his responses to reporters after the game. He isn't just a kid that's happy to be here. Let's look at Pelfrey's 3 big league starts:

Mike Pelfrey

It's certainly not very pretty, but he's shown something. Although the Astros ultimately got to him in the fifth, he did once again show the ability to make pitches and get himself out of jams. At times, such as the first couple of innings today, he's shown the ability to use his secondary pitches effectively. At others, he seems lost. He hasn't given up a home run in 15+ major league innings. He only walked one batter today. As I mentioned earlier, he doesn't come off as a kid who is just happy to be here -- he vows to do better next time.

The jury is still out on whether Mike Pelfrey is ready to be an effective pitcher at this level right now. What I appreciate about him is that he brings a presence and a level of maturity to the mound. You can watch him throw a few pitches and know that you're seeing something special on the mound. This kid has a chance to be a real home-grown ace.

Perhaps the decision after Pedro returns is to send Mike Pelfrey back down to the minors for a time to work on his off-speed stuff out of the white-hot glare of New York. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that discussion this week, it would be interesting to hear the opinions of all concerned. I suspect that no matter what happens, before too much longer Mr. Pelfrey will be here to stay. Despite his ups and downs, he gives the appearance of someone who belongs here. In any case, I hope he makes at least one more start for the Mets, because I always like to see how they bounce back from their first butt-kicking.

Carlos Delgado and Cliff Floyd both had solid offensive games today. Delgado had a single and a pair of walks to go along with his 3-run homer. Floyd had a couple of hits, a walk, and drove in the only other run. With the 2 lefties back on track, maybe Wright can shake off the after effects of that home run derby appearance and start hitting again, and this lineup will be a monster.

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

Box Score

Comments (4)

Evening Mike..listened to the game on the radio today, so I could not see the lack of "life or death" intensity displayed by Mr. Heilman. It's probably the deadly psychological impact of the impending trading dead-line that caused Aaron's "dead footed" move to the first base bag. I mean why would a pitcher sabotage his own success? Unless it was a self-fulfilling prophecy in his subconscious, that if he appeared brain dead, than the powers would have a justifiable reason to ship his "dead man walking" attitude to some "dead zone" like say... Kansas City. (Maybe there he can catch on with some Dead Heads, still clinging on to the Grateful Dead road caravan.)

Hi Mike- Heilman infuriated me with that play-I couldn't believe that. If he isn't gone by the trade deadline now I'll be very surprised.

n8genius -- I don't think Heilman's jog to first displayed a lack of intensity as much as it was a still very young player, who hasn't been having things going his way, losing his focus and getting embarassed. It doesn't excuse it, though, and it's certainly not going to help him stay here.
Shari -- I felt kind of bad for him. Like I said above, I think all of his struggles this year got to him and he lost focus. It reminded me of that play where Beltran didn't run out the popup against the Marlins and Delgado let it drop and turned it into a DP. Only thing is, the Mets don't have long-term $$$$ invested in Aaron. He could have punched his ticket out of town.

Hi Mike- I still pretty much think he is disgusted with his role on the team, and the lack of love he is shown by the organization, his facial expression just looked like he did not care in my opinion. I think you're right though-that was the final nail in his Mets coffin.

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