By Mike Steffanos
Mets 5 - Pirates 0
If you missed this game live and are going to watch the replay, may I suggest that any time the Mets come to bat after the first inning will be an ideal time for a bathroom break or a snack. After jumping on Kip Wells for 5 runs on 4 hits, a walk, hit by pitch and wild pitch, the Mets offense for the rest of the evening consisted of 2 walks. After the game Willie Randolph said he was disappointed in the offensive performance, and I can't blame him a bit.
Fortunately for the Mets, they couldn't have picked a better night to go to sleep with the bats. Orlando Hernandez was terrific all night, allowing only 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7 in 7 terrific innings. The Pirates didn't get a runner into scoring position until the fifth inning, when Kip Wells sacrificed Jose Castillo to second with 2 outs. He struck out Jose Bautista on 3 pitches to end that "threat". No one made it into scoring position for Hernandez' final two innings, as dominating a performance as we've seen from any Mets starter all year. Chad Bradford pitched a scoreless eighth, and Duaner Sanchez survived a couple of ground singles in the ninth to preserve the shutout win.
Thoughts on the game
The last good outing the Mets got from a starter was Hernandez' hard-luck effort against the Yankees last Friday night. As Willie pointed out, the aggressive, fastball hitting Pirates were a good match for El Duque, especially when he had his really good breaking ball from the start. He was getting ahead of batters and throwing a lot of strikes, finishing the game with 68 strikes and only 39 balls in 107 pitches. This was after getting off to a rough start in the first, where he began the game with 6 straight balls and throwing only 10 0f 20 first inning pitches for strikes.
Let's update the chart we've been keeping on El Duque:
Take away the bad start against the Blue Jays and the rain-shortened stint against Philadelphia and Hernandez is actually averaging more than 7 innings per start over the other 5 starts in this chart. That's surprising. I don't know whether he will continue this, but he's been outstanding. Even Glavine is struggling to go deep into games; El Duque has really spared an overworked bullpen.
Not much else to talk about here. The Mets will really need to pick up their game offensively tomorrow with Trachsel pitching. If he's on, he's another pitcher that can take advantage of Pittsburgh's aggressiveness. Of course, he hasn't been on very much during what has to be one of the ugliest 5-game personal winning streaks in franchise history, but he was pretty good last time out against the Yankees.