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Mets Survive a Sloppy Game to Defeat Florida

Mike SteffanosThursday, August 3, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 6 - Marlins 5

A few more wins like this one will probably finish me for the season. When the game was over, it was hard for me to decide how I felt about it, much less be able to write about it. I took a walk in the refreshing 82 degree sultry night air and now I guess I'm ready to give this a go. This will by no means be a comprehensive recap, as it is just too late.

Steve Trachsel started the game. For the first three innings we saw the evil Steve. Despite being staked to a big lead, he was paying excessive attention to baserunners and slowing the game down to a crawl. He always seemed to be one pitch away from disaster (my new nickname for him), particularly in the second and third. But helped out by his defense Steve survived, and for a couple of innings the good Steve made an appearance. Incredibly, Trachsel pitched consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth, working quickly and aggressively going after hitters. I suspected it couldn't last, and it didn't.

Even in games where Trachsel is pitching well, the sixth inning seems to be his downfall. Today was no exception. Trachsel made a mistake with a fat fastball to Hanley Ramirez, who turned it into a long home run to make it 6-2. After retiring Mike Jacobs on a groundout, he hung a curve to Miguel Cabrera for another solo home run. 6-3. He retired Josh Willingham, but then went full on Hermida and lost him. Trachsel was only at 93 pitches, but Willie had seen enough. Roberto Hernandez came in to get the final out, and once again Trachsel had failed to give the Mets 6 innings. Depressing.

The Mets did nothing offensively after jumping to a 6-0 lead, and sure enough, thanks to some sloppy play and really questionable umpiring the Marlins closed to 6-5 by the end of the seventh. Aaron Heilman blunted their momentum with a solid 1-2-3 eighth, but once again, Wagner failed to be lights-out in the ninth. After going to a 2-2 count on Wes Helms, Wagner left a pitch too fat and Helms bounced a single through the hole between short and third. Joe Girardi elected to use Reggie Abercrombie as a pinch runner and sent up pitcher Brian Moehler to bunt him to second. The Mets tried to play aggressively against the bunt, but Wagner failed to throw strikes. He fell behind 2-0, and then hit Moehler on the leg with a slider to put runners on first and second.

The turning point of the game came next. Hanley Ramirez was ordered to bunt the runners over. After fouling off two attempts, you would have expected the bunt to be taken off, as Ramirez has been a hot hitter and is hard to double up. Instead, he tried to bunt with 2 strikes, fouled it again and was out. Wagner threw a great slider to get Dan Uggla swinging for the second out. Miguel Cabrera came to the plate, and Wagner fell behind 2-0 (I thought ball 2 was a strike). He came back with 2 nice fastballs for called strikes, then got Cabrera to chase a high outside pitch for strike three.

Thoughts on the game
Ugly game tonight, with the Marlins kicking the ball all over the field in the first three innings and the Mets taking some poor at-bats later on.

Let's start with Trachsel, and drag out our handy-dandy chart of what he's done since the beginning of June:

Steve Trachsel
*Returned after 2-hour rain delay.

It's always the same thing with Steve. Again he's staked to a big lead, but he's the human rain delay for three innings, throwing way too many pitches and taking way too much time. Then he is aggressive for a couple of innings and looks as good as he has all year. But then he loses it in the sixth again, and forces the bullpen to carry another heavy load. I would have given him a B- for the game if he had at least finished the sixth, but couldn't. I guess it was better than most of his games in his winning streak, but it still left a lot to be desired. When a veteran pitcher gets staked to a 6-0 lead in the third, he needs to give you 7 solid innings. Trachsel never does. What more is there to say? Not good enough.

Quickly now, as your correspondent is running out of gas. Lo Duca had another good offensive game. Apparently Ramon Castro still can't swing a bat, and I would think they need to make a decision on him soon. They've done such a good job all year resting Lo Duca, they don't want to burn him out now.

Reyes jump-started the offense well, with a pair of hits and two runs scored. He's getting back into that groove he was in before being spiked. David Wright, on the other hand, is lost at the plate -- looking as bad as I've seen him in 2-1/2 years.

Heilman was terrific again, and seems to be picking up his game now that the Mets really need him. Hope he can keep it up, he's so important now.

The umpiring was awful tonight, and some really questionable ball and strike calls cost the Mets at the plate and when they were pitching. Then again, this game should have never been close enough for the umpires to play a part. There does seem to be a post-Atlanta letdown working here. Understandable, I guess, but I hope they bust out of it soon.

Should we worry about Wagner? I think we all let go of the myth of the lights-out closer a long time ago. I'm going to give him credit for striking out Uggla and Cabrera and hope he just had a momentary hiccup. To his credit, he could have lost it after plunking Moehler, but instead he bore down and saved the game.

Box Score

Comments (6)


What is up with David Wright? I don't know if it's just tiredness from playing every day, a post-HR derby curse, or what. But he just doesn't look like the same guy anymore. And I don't just mean his performance on the field. Even his whole demeanor seems different. Could this have anything to do with the criticism involving his weird religious advertisement? Because he doesn't seem as forthcoming and happy-go-lucky with the media anymore. He just seems...different. Am I wrong?

-- C Dubb

Heilman is getting it done, pitching the 8th inning, could he be the new backup for Wagner, and close games? Wouldn't it be great if Pedro pitched a 95 pitch compleat game shutout tonight.

Hey Mike,
I always enjoy reading your columns. It's only after a Trax start do I come to your page with some apprehension. I say this because no matter what the Mets do it ends up being a loooooong complaint about what Trax didn't do correct. I understand you borderline hate Trax. That's cool. Alot of people do. Others just tolerate his act on the mound. I happen to have limited expectations from him so he never truly lets me down. Hope you take my criticism contructively and not as an attack. I guess you can write whatever you'd like since this is your space. But I think it's great, and much more enjoyable, when you don't write about Trax.

If the mets must make a decision on Castro the only option is Jesus Flores who is the only other catcher on the 40 man roster.

C Dubb -- my paranoid thoughts are that the home run derby messes up guys swings, but it's probably just a slump. I really haven't noticed his demeanor changing other than the fact that he's not producing and that eats at him a little. David is a nice kid, but anyone who achieves greatness has a big ego (and I mean that as a compliment, not a dig) and suffers a little when things go bad. At least that's my take.
REV -- You have more faith than me if you'd feel any safer with Heilman closing games. I just want to see the kid pick up his game and do well in that setup role.
Chris -- I wish I had the time right now to answer your question properly. As a blogger, your number one job is to write about what you see as most important. I don't hate Trachsel at all, I think there was a time when he was a decent pitcher, and I got a kick out of his quirkiness, but that time is past. Trachsel has been very lucky with run support this season, but it is obvious this late in the season that he's not going to get any better. His failure to go deep into games is hurting the team and wearing down the bullpen. I see his spot as better filled by a young pitcher that has a future with the team.

I still root for him every time out, but I feel he has become a very important story for the Mets this year -- beyond being a quirky, relatively ineffective starter who should absolutely not start a playoff game for this team. The effects of his repeated failures to go deep into games to which he has been handed a big lead on the bullpen are cumulative.

Look, if I write something that doesn't entertain you, don't read it. That doesn't offend me. I do the same thing with some guys I like to read. No hard feelings -- but I'm always going to write about what I feel is important.

Ed -- They probably would be afraid to go to someone that young, understandably, but if Castro is going to be unable to play much longer they'll have to do something.

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