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Mets Win a Nail Biter, Spoiling Piazza's Return

Mike SteffanosTuesday, August 8, 2006
By Mike Steffanos


Mets 3 - Padres 2

At this stage of their careers, Steve Trachsel and Woody Williams are very similar pitchers. Neither one possesses the raw stuff to aggressively challenge hitters consistently, and both will slow the game down to a crawl when men are on base. It's not very often that a 3-2 game that Tony La Russa isn't managing will take over 3 hours, but this one did. In the end, behind the efforts of Trachsel and five relief pitchers, the Mets managed to be just that one run better than San Diego tonight.

The game started out well for Trachsel. He had a very good splitter out of the gate and he was able to retire the first 5 batters he faced -- including striking both Cameron and Piazza in the first at bats of their respective returns. Unfortunately a Todd Walker single and a wind-blown 2-run homer by the weak hitting Geoff Blum followed, putting Trachsel into an early hole again.

The Mets came back to load the bases with no outs against Williams in the bottom of the second, but Lastings Milledge killed that rally by trying to pull a Williams breaking pitch and grounding into a double play. One run scored, but Williams was able to escape any significant damage by retiring Trachsel for the final out.

Trachsel was back into trouble in the third with a 2-out walk to Giles. Mike Cameron hit a ground single up the middle that deflected off of Reyes' glove on a nice try by Jose -- but then he stayed on the ground as Valentin chased the ball down, allowing Cameron an unearned double. Trachsel fell behind Piazza 3-0, but came back with 2 called strikes, and then induced Piazza to ground out to Reyes and escape damage.

The Mets loaded the bases again in the third with one out, and then David Wright singled home the tying run, but the Mets again let Williams off the hook when Valentin and Chavez both popped out.

Trachsel enjoyed a couple of quick innings, aided by a line-drive double play in the fifth. The Mets went up 3-2 in their half of the fifth when Wright singled home Carlos Beltran who was on base with his third double of the game. After that, it became a question of survival.

In the top of the sixth, Trachsel went full on leadoff hitter Brian Giles, then walked him. He got Cameron to fly out to Beltran, then Giles got thrown out trying to steal second on a nice throw by Lo Duca and tag by Valentin. Piazza singled, and Willie decided that Trachsel -- up to 97 pitches now -- was done. He brought in Royce Ring to face lefty Adrian Gonzalez, but Gonzalez doubled to left and advanced Piazza to third. A clearly nervous Ring walked Todd Walker on 5 pitches, but managed to get one over to Blum who grounded out to Wright to end it.

Darren Oliver came in to pitch the seventh, and looked good retiring the Padres in order. He came back out for the eighth, and retired Giles leading off. Willie elected to leave him in to face Cameron, who battled out a 10-pitch walk. Roberto Hernandez came in to face Piazza, retiring him on a fly ball but allowing Cameron to steal second in the process. Willie brought in lefty Pedro Feliciano to face Adrian Gonzalez, despite the fact that Feliciano has allowed almost half of his inherited runners to score. He fell behind 3-1, but came back with a slider for a strike and then induced a grounder to Delgado to escape that jam.

Wagner came in for the ninth, and you suspected it wouldn't be easy, didn't you? He looked good striking out pinch hitter Mark Bellhorn, but then walked the weak-hitting Blum on 4 pitches. He got Josh Barfield to fly out to center for the second out, and then Josh Bard hit a grounder to David Wright's left that he just kind of whiffed on. It was scored a hit, it could have been an error, in any case the tying run was on second. He struck out Roberts swinging on a 2-2 pitch to nail down his 25th save, but it sure wasn't easy.

Thoughts on the game
In our quest to determine playoff starters, here's what Steve Trachsel has done since June:

Steve Trachsel
DateOpp.IPRERHKBBHRWHIPTeam
Result
6/4SF71163101.00L
6/9@ARI5.15382622.63W
6/15@PHI64460221.33W
6/20CIN62261201.33W
6/25@TOR54462321.80W
7/1@NYY62273401.83W
7/6PIT6.13374401.74W
7/14@CHC62231200.83W
7/19@CIN*3.13362403.00L
7/24CHC4.288103332.79L
8/2@FLA5.23371121.41W
8/8SDP5.22253211.24W
TOTAL673937772534121.669-3
*Returned after 2-hour rain delay.

This is about as good as Trachsel pitches right now. He's never quite recovered all of his velocity since the back injury, and it's made him more of a nibbler than he was before. He looked really good at times today, but just couldn't get those outs quickly early in the game, and consequently couldn't make it out of the sixth again. Give him credit; this was win number 11 from Trachsel, and not a bad effort -- but if he was looking to make them consider him for a post-season start, I don't think he managed that.

One thing I've noticed about Trachsel is that he seems to start struggling in many games when he gets in that 80-90 pitch range, and that's not good for a starter who throws few innings with a low pitch count.

The Padres lineup reminds me a lot of the Mets' lineup last year, and not just because both Cameron and Piazza are in it. They have a few good hitters, but not enough to really keep the pressure on. Cameron was batting third and Piazza fourth -- I know both are having good years, but that's not the ideal slot for either.

Nice to see Carlos Beltran have a nice offensive day at home, and Delgado had some good at bats in working out a pair of walks, though he failed to get a hit. David Wright busted out with three important hits, with the tying and go-ahead RBIs. Lastings Milledge looks kind of lost at the plate again and lacking in confidence.

The Mets ran wild on Piazza tonight, stealing 4 bases. He's still bouncing many of his throws.

Darren Oliver was impressive tonight. I keep waiting for him to revert back to that sub-par pitcher he's been his whole career, and he just keeps impressing.

The only thing Wagner did really bad tonight was walking Blum on 4 pitches. After the game he talked about how strange it felt to pitch to Blum, who had been his teammate for so long. Funny, but Blum didn't seem to have any problems taking the walk. Perhaps Wagner will consider trying to get him out if he faces him again -- just a thought.

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

Box Score

Comments (9)

Hi Mike- Good game last night, I wanted to see the tribute to Piazza-either it never happened or SNY didn't show it.
I liked your tribute to Cameron-he really grew on me last season.

Trachsel keeps on winning- even though I find every one of his starts excrutiating to watch. With 11 wins, I bet he earns himself a starting spot in the playoffs, I don't think there is any way the powers that be could justify not starting a guy with 11 wins over John Maine, even though Maine if he stays consistant is a much better choice.

I don't see Trachsel getting a playoff start unless the Mets find themselves playing some team that can't hit. Maybe the Padres.

There was a time it wouldn't have played out that way, and I would have had to have agreed with Shari's comment above. It's those two-plus decades of stat research that have left players like Steve Trachsel exposed; now, the announcers (the Mets announcers, mind) provide full disclosure of Steve's high ERA, his walks to K's ratio, and the terrific run support he has received. He is winning games, but he really isn't fooling anyone.

Is anyone out there old enough to remember the 1962 season, when Sandy Koufax suddenly converted from being a very good pitcher who sported a 3.50 ERA and gave up about one home run per nine, into a world beater with a league leading ERA, whose injured middle finger probably cost the Dodgers the pennant that year? I am, just barely; and one thing nobody mentioned anywhere back then was that in 1962 the Dodgers moved from the hitter-friendly Coliseum, where Wally Moon was an All Star, to Dodger Stadium, the most pitcher-friendly park in the game at that time.

There is no chance, none, that that detail would go overlooked today. Different world.

Hey Mike,

Turn that "L" in the bottom right corner of Trachsel's chart to a "W" - even though I know it didn't feel like it after watching him pitch.

That string of 6 inning outings is looking better and better now that he isn't even averaging 5 innings per start. I fear we'll be seeing plenty of postseason games in which Willie will have to throw four and five pitchers out there every game.

NostraDennis

SNY dropped the ball big time on not showing the Piazza tribute video.

Hi Mike, seeing 4 stolen bases on Piazza I know we did the right thing and became stronger behind the plate...Lastings Milledge is not ready now or will be for the playoffs can we afford to keep him?....SHARI, I agree watching Trachsel is hard to watch, its like trying to nail jello to the wall....DD, I remember Sandy and his early years how wild he was with his fast ball,batters were afraid to stand in the box against him.

Hi Shari -- I hope not. I think a lot of it has to do with how John Maine and Orlando Hernandez pitch. Even despite those 2 really bad games Hernandez has outpitched Trachsel for the past month and a half, and we all know what Maine has done. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
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DD -- I agree with you, but I still think a lot depends on Hernandez staying effective and healthy, and John Maine keeping it going. I hate to say it, but if one of them falls by the wayside he can start a Game 4. It is interesting that the TV guys are more critical of Trachsel now after defending him for so long.
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Nostra Dennis -- Thanks. I always seem to miss something stupid when I'm writing these things. Hard to believe that Trachsel hasn't made it into the seventh in a month, and he hasn't pitched 7 full innings in 2. You have to think that back injury is still affecting him significantly.
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Matt -- I agree, they should have shown more of it, since there will only ever be one first game back to Shea for Mike.
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Rev -- It's not just the stolen bases, either, it's the pitch calling and aggressive attitude Lo Duca brings. As for Milledge, he really needs to take a step up. You never know with kids how fast it's going to click. What's the alternative for a RH OF -- Victor Diaz? He's buried himself in Norfolk.

Hi Mike- Althogh Willie has done well, I guess I get nervous that he willgo into that "stick with the vets" mode he was in earlier in the season.

REV AL- Greaqt anaology!

I think Maine has cemented himself in a way Seo, Heilman, Bannister, soler could not. With each start he improves....not regresses. And his starts do not read like Bannister' hit parade. His pitching reminds me of Dan Haren. If traxx starts in the playoffs its because El duque can pitch out of the pen. also Maine has breathed life into the team as a whole.

Milledge and Floyd are both issues. I think either could get hot going into the playoffs.

Shari -- I agree that's what still scares all of us.
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He's just got to keep it going, Ed. There's still a lot of time, but he's got better stuff right now than any Mets starter beyond Pedro, and he seems like he's good at soaking up information from all the vets around him.

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