By Mike Steffanos
Mets 4 - Phillies 3
When Tom Glavine got his eleventh win of the season on June 23 in Toronto, none of us -- including Glavine -- suspected it would take eight more tries to win number twelve. Even then it didn't come easy, but thanks to some shoddy Philadelphia defense and some terrific defense by David Wright, the long-awaited win finally came.
In the first inning it was Glavine that wound up on the wrong side of some less-than-stellar defense. After striking out Shane Victorino on three pitches to lead off the game, Glavine induced a foul fly ball from Aaron Rowand that Cliff Floyd -- bothered by that barking Achilles -- couldn't make a play on, and Rowand would eventually work out a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Next Floyd was unable to come up with Jimmy Rollins' fly ball single. These 2 plays were costly, as Ryan Howard hit an opposite field 3-run homer to put Glavine into another early hole. Unlike previous outings, Glavine stiffened up and retired 15 of the next 17 Philly batters he saw.
In the bottom of the first, a leadoff double by Reyes and a soft single by Lastings Milledge off of John Lieber cut the lead to 3-1. Beltran followed with another single, but then Lieber -- whose ERA coming into today's game was over 6 -- retired the next 17 batters he faced. The game took on almost a surreal air as the innings passed by with lightning speed.
Glavine's efforts were aided by two terrific plays at third base by David Wright. Shane Victorino led off the third by smashing the first pitch between David Wright and the third base bag. Wright, playing shallow against the threat of a bunt, made a diving backhand stop, got up and nailed the speedy Victorino with a perfect throw. In the fourth, with one out, Chris Coste hit a ball down the line on which Wright made a sweet backhand grab. With his momentum carrying him into foul territory, Wright's throw was a little up the line, but Carlos Delgado made a nice sweeping tag to nail Coste at first. Coste was burned again in the sixth when Jose Reyes went into the hole for his grounder and, with the help of a really nice pivot by Valentin, turned it into an inning ending double play.
It was in the bottom of the sixth the Mets finally broke through against Lieber. After retiring Reyes and Milledge for his 16th and 17th consecutive outs, Beltran hit a tapper between the first base line and the mound that should have been #18, but Lieber -- who apparently has extreme difficulty making that short throw to first -- bounced it by Ryan Howard for an error. Delgado followed with a hard single, then Burrell and Rollins butchered Wright's soft fly ball into an RBI single. Endy Chavez took the reeling Lieber's next pitch and just missed a home run to left as the ball bounced halfway up the fence. By the time it was corralled, Chavez was on second and both Delgado and Wright scored to put the Mets up 4-3.
The Mets bats were pretty much done for the evening, but the Phillies had 3 chances to take the game back. Glavine came out for the bottom of the seventh and pitched a 1-2-3 inning -- aided by Charlie Manuel's decision to let Lieber bat down a run. Heilman had a 1-2-3 eighth and looked decent, although pinch hitter David Dellucci hit a fly ball to the track in right center. Then Billy Wagner came out for the ninth and the fun started.
Ryan Howard led off, and Wagner started him with a decent inside fastball that Howard muscled into right for a base hit. Pat Burrell came up and never took the bat off his shoulder. Wagner made some nice pitches, and got him looking on a 2-2 fastball. Next Wagner embarrassed Chris Coste on three straight pitches culminating in a filthy slider for strike three. If Wagner could have retired pinch hitter Chase Utley, it would have been a great outing. Of course he didn't. After getting ahead with a good fastball, Wagner absolutely hung a slider inside. Utley laced it into RF for a base hit, advancing Howard to third. The only thing that saved Wagner was that the ball hung so far inside Utley wasn't able to really rip it -- if that ball came over the plate a little farther, that ball is into the corner for a double, Howard scores and Wagner has blown save number six on the season.
With runners at the corners, Mike Lieberthal comes up as the pinch hitter. Wagner makes some nice pitches to get ahead 1-2, but then misses with 2 straight to go full. Lieberthal hits the next pitch down the third base line -- not scorched, but seemingly hard enough to do the job. Fortunately for Wagner and us suffering Mets fans, Wright had one last web gem in him for the day. He made another terrific diving stop, jumped up and made an absolutely perfect throw to Delgado, who pumped his arm in celebration of the final out. Wagner had save # 24, Glavine had win #12, and about 20 minutes later my heartbeat dropped back down from dangerous levels. Jeez...
Thoughts on the game
Most of my thoughts are in the recap. I'll say this about Wagner -- when things go wrong he battles. Still, for a while it looked like he was putting it together, now he's back to being the second coming of Braden Looper. You'd love to see him put a few really strong performances together again. He's not pitching awful -- not like that stretch in May -- but he just doesn't inspire confidence coming into a game.
I think what I liked most about Glavine this afternoon was that he pitched that 1-2-3 seventh after being handed the lead. So often over these last two months he has given leads right back. The other thing I liked was that he was able to shrug off that bad first inning and keep the Mets in the game.
No offense to Lieber, but the Mets offense looked terrible today. To allow John Lieber to shut them down so completely for so long -- if you didn't see the game, trust me, he wasn't that good. Anyway, a win's a win.
Definition of cruel and unusual punishment for Mets fans: Tim McCarver on Saturday afternoon, Joe Morgan on Sunday night. There should be a law against having to sit through that much inane commentary in one weekend.
This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.