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Mets Take Opener Behind Trachsel

Mike SteffanosSaturday, August 19, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 6 - Rockies 3

Steve Trachsel gave the Mets 7 strong innings, Endy Chavez hit a key 2-run homer, and David Wright broke out of a slump with a pair of RBI hits as the Mets took the opener in Queens against the Colorado Rockies.

Trachsel, who often has been a slow starter in games this season, allowed a leadoff double to Jamey Carroll, but very little else over the first 3 innings. He was uncharacteristically efficient, averaging 12 pitches per inning over those first 3. Then, after David Wright's RBI double staked him to a 1-0 lead in the third, Trachsel had his one bad inning of the game in the top of the fourth.

After a 1-out Matt Holliday single, Garrett Atkins crushed a pitch up in the zone for a 2-run homer. Trachsel came back to strike out Brad Hawpe for the second out, but Yorvit Torrealba followed with a double down the left field line. The Mets elected to intentionally walk Clint Barmes to face pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim, but that backfired when Kim beat him for an RBI single. Barmes was thrown out trying to make it to third, but the Mets were down 3-1.

Byung-Hyun Kim managed to hold that lead for all of 3 pitches. He hit Chris Woodward on an 0-1 pitch, then Endy Chavez crushed his next pitch for the game-tying homer.

Trachsel regained equilibrium in the fifth. A 1-out single in the by Cory Sullivan was erased when Helton hit into a 4-6-3 double play. The usually easy-going Reyes was agitated by Sullivan's late slide after his relay throw had been released.

The Mets took back the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Kim walked the two Carloses leading off the frame, and David Wright's RBI single put the Mets back on top. Michael Tucker worked a tough 9-pitch at bat off Kim, ultimately hitting a soft double to right that scored Delgado. Woodward chipped in a sac fly that put the team up 6-3. The Mets should have had one more in the fifth, but home plate umpire John Hirschbeck called Tucker out at home despite replays clearly showing that Torrealba never tagged him.

Trachsel gave us his one real frustrating bad Steve moment in the sixth after being handed the 3-run lead. After Atkins' 1-out single, he walked Hawpe on 5 pitches to bring the tying run to the plate. Then he reverted back to the good Steve by striking out Torrealba and retiring Barmes on a ground out. He came back out for the seventh and was impressive, retiring the Rockies in order and completing 7 innings for only the third time all year.

Chad Bradford allowed only an infield single in a scoreless eighth, and Wagner overcame a soft leadoff single by Torrealba in the ninth to record his 29th save.

Thoughts on the game
Besides giving up fewer walks, the difference in Trachsel over his last handful of starts seems to be the rediscovery of an effective splitter. He also seems to have picked up a little extra life on his fastball. The combination of the two has inspired him to be more aggressive in the strike zone, and the payoff is back-to-back strong outings when the Mets really needed him. Here's how Trachsel has performed since August 1:

Steve Trachsel

The strikeouts and walks are a strong contrast to what he's been doing for most of the year. To me, the home runs are a forgivable consequence of being more aggressive in the strike zone. The return of his splitter is allowing Steve to get left-handers out again. He made a very good one, Todd Helton, look very bad in this game. Trachsel continues to make a strong case for post-season starts after being written off by many pundits, including me. I don't know how the rest feel, but I always love it when I'm wrong in cases like this. Once again, Trachsel gets well deserved love. We all hope that he can continue to keep this up.

David Wright had a pair of important RBI hits against Kim, who's not easy on right-handers. Carlos Beltran has begun to overcome his Shea Stadium hitting woes, and his 2-3 with a pair of walks continues that good trend. Endy Chavez proves again why he needs to get more starts. Chris Woodward finally busts out with a pair of hits and an RBI.

And finally, Billy Wagner now has a streak of 7 for 7 in save opportunities, and 15 of his last 16. Unlike last night, most of those came in 1-run games. That's the good part. During his current streak of 7-7 he has 13 strikeouts in those 7 innings. Also good. He has pitched a 1-2-3 ninth once in those 7 games. Not so good. In the other 6 saves, he allowed two baserunners three times and one in the other three. Perhaps that's why people still get so nervous despite his recent success. His control has been better over the last couple of months. He has allowed only 3 walks in 20.2 innings in July and August. Over that same stretch, he has allowed 18 hits and 3 home runs. Both totals are high for a closer of Wagner's ilk.

So what does it all mean? My personal bias is to see my closer, if has to get beaten at all, get beat with hits rather than walks. In that regard, I can't complain. Wagner has been the victim of his share of relatively soft hits, such as the one last night. Still, it's a concern that he's been somewhat hittable over a fairly long stretch. I like his attitude, and the way he's been able to make the pitches when he has to. He's saving the games, and that's the main thing, but there are still some warning bells going off with his performance.

Note: Apologies for the untimeliness of this recap. I wasn't feeling well last night.

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

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