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Tucker's Blast Helps Mets Take Series

Mike SteffanosSunday, August 13, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 3 - Nationals 1

The Mets offense continued their lost weekend in the nation's capitol, but fine pitching by Steve Trachsel and the bullpen, combined with some shaky play by Washington, gave the Mets a win in the rubber game of the series.

We saw a Steve Trachsel this afternoon that we haven't seen much of in 2006. He was aggressive in the strike zone, getting ahead of hitters and making them swing at his pitches. The result was as dominating of a performance as we've seen from Trachsel this season. Soriano's homer in the fourth was the first baserunner off Steve, and with a little luck he could have made it through 7 complete innings. The Mets offense, meanwhile, made Tony Armas, Jr. look like the top pitching prospect he was a few years ago rather than the injury-plagued mediocre pitcher he is now. There were a lot of "day game after a night game" at bats for the Mets through Armas' solid 7 innings, and if not for Marlon Anderson's error in the top of the seventh Armas would have left the game with the lead.

It was Trachsel's turn to be unlucky in the bottom of the seventh. After retiring the first 2 batters, Trachsel gave up a ground single to Anderson and a soft hit to Brian Schneider. With Steve just under 100 pitches, Willie elected to bring in Royce Ring to face Daryle Ward, who was pinch hitting for Armas. Ring walked him on 4 pitches, surely not endearing himself to Randolph. This brought Soriano to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Willie brought in Chad Bradford on a double switch that saw Michael Tucker replace Ledee in LF. On a 2-2 count, Bradford threw a good sinker that Soriano topped up the middle. Jose Valentin made an acrobatic play to nip him at first, aided by a nice scoop by Delgado. Soriano not running hard right out of the box made the play possible, and kept the game tied 1-1.

Jon Rauch came in to pitch for Washington, and faced the newly inserted Tucker with 1 out. Tucker took his first pitch out deep to the power alley in right-center to put the Mets up by one. Bradford stayed in the game for the eighth, striking out Felipe Lopez before allowing Ryan Zimmerman's single. Willie brought in Darren Oliver to face lefty Nick Johnson, and Oliver got Johnson to fly out to Beltran on the first pitch. Zimmerman forgot how many outs there were and allowed himself to be doubled off first. It was an efficient 1-pitch outing by Oliver, to say the least.

The Mets tacked on in the ninth against Rauch, thanks to a wild pitch and Jose Valentin's sac fly. Wagner came in for the second consecutive game to pitch the ninth. He retired the first two batters, then allowed Anderson's single and a walk to Alex Escobar. On a 1-0 pitch pinch hitter Brandon Harper lifted a foul ball near the first base stands that Carlos Delgado made a terrific sliding catch on for the final out. The save was number 28 on the season for Wagner.

Thoughts on the game
Trachsel has taken some deserved heat in this space, but today he gets only love. I only wish he would pitch like this more often -- instead of rooting against him to have a playoff start, I would be rooting for him. Admittedly this was against a depleted Nationals lineup, but if we consider the battle for fourth starter is between him and John Maine, this weekend's round went to the veteran. Let's update his chart since June 1:

Steve Trachsel
*Returned after 2-hour rain delay.

The irony is that the 2 games at the top and bottom of this table were by far the best 2 Trachsel has pitched all year, and they both resulted in no decisions. Still, Trax has sent Randolph a clear message that he will fight for a post-season start. He'll need to show he can do this more than once every 2 months, but if he follows this up he can change the playoff rotation picture in a hurry. All things being equal, his experience will probably earn him a start. Anyway, we won't get ahead of ourselves. He has to follow this up with another sharp, crisp game.

The Mets left 9 runners on base this afternoon. Delgado and Wright combined for 7 of the 9. Beltran had a good day with a hit and 2 walks, while Michael Tucker has established himself as the frontrunner if we consider that he and Ricky Ledee are battling for one position on the team. I forget, why were we mad at this guy?

I think we all wish Carlos Delgado would start hitting again. Whenever a guy his age goes into a protracted slump there is worry that he is entering a career decline. What has impressed me is that he has been able to contribute with his glove while struggling with the bat. Ask Billy Wagner how grateful he was for the nice play Delgado made for the final out. For the Mets to go somewhere in the playoffs, however, they need Delgado to produce with the bat.

MLB and Viagra may not have considered him worthy of nomination, but in a fair world your 2006 Comeback Player of the Year is Mr. Jose Valentin. Case closed. Garciaparra has been impressive for the Dodgers, but no one in baseball has come so far with so little expectation. In April, the only question about Valentin seemed to be when he would be cut. Now we're not even surprised when he makes a game-saving play and drives in the insurance run with a clutch sac fly.

Bradford was once again clutch in a bullpen that has been somewhat spotty with inherited runners. If you didn't see the game, Wagner was better than his line would indicate. He threw well pitching in a day game after a night game, and a favorable call by the umpire with Anderson at the plate would have meant a 1-2-3 inning. I've been tough on him here at times, but the bottom line for closers is saving games. Wagner has saved 14 of the last 15 opportunities. As with Trachsel, it's time he gets a little love.

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

Box Score

Comments (6)

I still kind of dislike both of them, as a matter of fact. I still can't stand the fact that they both get starts. Tucker kind of pisses me off more, though. He's older, washed up, and less flexable.

Nick -- They're getting starts right now because Floyd is hurt and Milledge isn't doing the job. Tucker has been playing pretty well for them so far. We'll see how it goes.

As always, great recap, and in response to one of your previous posts, I don't mind their length, because you're always thorough, you remain on point, and your analysis is top-notch. At any rate, I think that Trachsel deserves to get the playoff start if he doesn't completely collapse by season's end for two reasons: first, in terms of only this season, he has generally been able to keep us in games for each outing and seems to have no problem letting up 3 runs or less (which, when our offense is functioning as per normal, should be enough for the win); second, he is the longest tenured Met, and I think he deserves loyalty back from this franchise. He's been a good soldier for a long time with minimal complaint. Maine has looked very impressive, but that will make him a solid option in the pen. In short, I think it should be Steve's job to lose.

Second, about the offense, I wouldn't worry. It's hard to motivate your team to produce on all cylinders with a ridiculous division lead and no pressure. Plus, when El Duque was pitching the other day and we had the AAA team on the field, we still managed to bring home 7 runs. I'd be more worried if the offense was in this kind of protracted slump come mid-September. Although I agree with your worries about Delgado, I think we should give it until season's end to see if he's declining. After all, he did have 20 home runs when the All-Star Break came around, and we'll see if he can bring his average back towards where he normally produces.

Keep doing your thing man-- peace out

Is it valentines day? Your recap is full of love. Trachsel, Wagner love and forgiveness. Did you go on a retreat without me?.. I must admit, I feel the same way, but I am a Met fan. I have been in the love and hate pattern since Casey was manager. Except in those days I loved them when they were bad, realy bad. Now that they ars good realy good, I am not so forgiving. But yesterday, love and kisses to Trachsel and Wagner.(I just wish the winning run isn't at the plate when Wagner pitches)

You wrapped up the game so well there is little to add, so allow me to drop the general tone with a little screed.

Did anyone else see the Hardball Times' article the "THT Dartboard?" It's an occasional piece by David Gassko that rates all the major league teams ranked entirely, as best as I can tell, on various statistical criteria. (Let me mention in passing that I love the Hardball Times, and ordinarily would be loathe to pick on such a good, free source. But anyway...) This time around the writer has the Mets ranked third, behind Detroit and the Yankees, which I believe is higher than he had them earlier.

It's the author's comment on the team that has me riled; despite the move upward there's no praise for the team. I'll take a liberty and quote his opening lines:

"Anyone else feel that Jose Reyes is once again ridiculously overrated? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very good player, but I challenge someone, anyone, to prove to me that Reyes is better than Carl Crawford...."

It's a perfect example of someone with a conclusion already in mind bending the facts to support his position. For the record, Crawford and Reyes do have pretty similar batting lines at the moment. Because Crawford happens to be bigger physically than Jose Reyes, he WILL, not probably will, hit for more power in the future according to Mr Gassko. That's pretty much his argument. He quickly glides over the fact that Jose is about two years younger than Carl, which any Bill James reader will tell you obliterates that assumption. I would bet, in fact, that Jose shows more power over the next five years than Crawford, not less.

And what is more: anyone who has watched Reyes play this season (as separate from one who read his batting line yesterday) knows that Jose: committed himself to changing his approach this season, teaching himself to better lay off the breaking balls in the dirt; struggled for a couple of months with the adjustment, and has since exploded, hitting .339 since June 1.

It takes one huge supposition to ignore the changes we all have seen in Jose's game this season, but it seems Mr. Gassko can not only do it, he can highlight his own ignorance. Beware of those who preach safety in numbers alone; you still have to watch the games to make an informed opinion.

Matt -- Thanks for the kind words. You have to keep in mind that you'll be seeing better pitching and scoring fewer runs in the playoffs. If Trachsel can continue to pitch like he did yesterday there is no arguement. If not, and Maine is clearly the better option, you owe it to the team as a whole to go with the best chance to win, at least in my opinion.
Rev -- just trying to be fair. Trachsel was at the top of his game. I was going to whine about Wagner when I realized I was being unfair. He really has saved 14 of 15, and that's pretty good.
DD -- funny, while you were leaving this comment, I was finishing my latest on the very article. Agree with you completely.

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