By Mike Steffanos
Cubs 8 - Mets 7
Steve Trachsel retired the first 2 batters he faced this evening. It was not a sign of what was to come. A homer, a walk, and a pair of doubles later, Trachsel had allowed the weak-hitting, Derek Lee-less Cubs to jump out to a big lead. After the Mets battled back to tie the game in the first, Trachsel walked a tightrope for the next 3 innings + that ultimately led to disaster.
Trachsel never retired the Cubs in order during his outing, allowing a leadoff single to Neifi Perez in the second, walking Aramis Ramirez in the third and allowing a single and a walk in the fourth. Still, the Mets handed him a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the fifth. It was like handing a grenade to an anarchist.
Trachsel immediately fell behind Michael Barrett 3-0, came back with a couple of strikes, and then gave up a hard single. Aramis Ramirez followed with a home run to put the Cubs up 5-4, and then Trachsel went full on Jacque Jones before giving up another long ball. Phil Nevin followed with a double, and after Trachsel got Matt Murton to ground to third for the first out, Neifi Perez singled, and then with pitcher Greg Maddux at the plate Trachsel wild pitched the runners to second and third. Trachsel went full on Maddux before striking him out, but Willie had seen enough of Trachsel for the evening. Heath Bell came in and made a good pitch to Juan Pierre, but got burned on a bloop hit that scored both runners. The Cubs had hung a 5-spot on Trachsel to go up 8-4, and the Mets would be battling from behind for the rest of the evening.
To their credit they did fight back, knocking out Greg Maddux in the seventh with consecutive singles by Chris Woodward and pinch hitter Jose Valentin, and a Jose Reyes walk. Lo Duca hit a soft ground ball to second off of reliever Michael Wuertz that scored Woodward and advanced the two Joses to second and third. Lefty Scott Eyre came in to face Beltran and gave up a deep fly ball that scored Valentin, and then walked Delgado on 4 pitches. Bob Howry came in to face Wright, but was beat up the middle on an RBI single despite shattering Wright's bat. Down by a single run now, and with the tying run on second, Cliff Floyd hit a hard ground ball right at the shortstop to end the inning. The Mets would hit a couple of balls hard off of Howry in the eighth, but would never mount a real threat in the final frames.
Thoughts on the game
Now that Trachsel's winning streak is over, please join me in taking a hard look at what he's done since early June:
Trachsel managed to put together a 7-game winning streak despite only pitching well in 4 of those games, and in a couple of the decent games he survived a lot of base runners. In baseball, you have to honor a streak no matter how much luck is involved, but this streak is over and what we're looking at is a pitcher who has been consistently ineffective for most of the season. He has a 5.14 ERA, people, if he was healthy last year and pitched like this with 2005's offense, his record would probably be the reverse of the 9-5 he's put up in 2006.
Look at the 1.72 WHIP in this 10-game stretch, and you'll understand if a couple of balls had bounced the wrong way for him his ERA could be much worse than it is now. I feel more confident when Orlando Hernandez pitches right now than when Trachsel goes. Hernandez might pitch awful once in a while, but he's a much better pitcher than Trachsel right now. Believe me, this isn't just a Met fan dumping on a guy that had a bad game. Trachsel looks like a guy that needs a cooperative home plate umpire and his absolute best stuff to pitch well in 2006. I think now that we've seen 20 starts from Trachsel we can safely assume that what we see right now is what he truly is. If the Mets stop scoring a huge number of runs for him he will not continue to win. They scored 7 today and it wasn't enough.
Carlos Delgado is undoubtedly back now, and it was good to see David Wright get a couple of hits, because he's been a little off. Despite working an important walk to load the bases in the seventh, Jose Reyes has really been bad since he's come back -- looking anxious at the plate a lot and biting on all those breaking pitches in the dirt that he was spitting at for so long when he was going well.
Heath Bell (2.1 innings), Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez all did their jobs today, giving the team a chance to get back into it by holding the Cubs scoreless the final 4-1/3. If Trachsel wasn't so god-awful, it might have been enough.
This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.