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Sweeping Out the Braves

Mike SteffanosWednesday, September 6, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 4 - Braves 1 (Game 1)
Mets 8 - Braves 0 (Game 2)

Game 1
Dave Williams doesn't really wow you when he takes the hill. He lacks overwhelming stuff, but he pitches quickly, throws strikes and has given the Mets a decent chance to win all of his starts. It looked like an overmatch when Williams went up against John Smoltz in game 1 of the doubleheader today, but it was Smoltz who was not up to the task.

So far in his young Mets career Williams has struggled against the first batter he faces in an inning. Today was no exception as the Atlanta leadoff batters had hits in the first 3 innings against Williams, including Brian McCann's solo homer on the first pitch of the second inning that put the Braves up 1-0. The Mets were able to tie the game in their half of the second when Jose Valentin doubled home Shawn Green. Willy Aybar led off the third with a single, but Williams quickly erased him with a pickoff, and the game settled into a pitcher's duel.

In the fourth and fifth Williams retired the leadoff hitters, but allowed singles to the second batter. Still, he matched zeros with the Braves' ace. It was Smoltz who cracked first in the bottom of the sixth, allowing Lo Duca's leadoff single and Delgado's long home run. It could have beeen worse, but Ricky Ledee, hitting for Williams, grounded out with the bases loaded. 3-1 Mets.

Pedro Feliciano took over in the seventh. A leadoff single by Diaz was erased when Delgado initiated a nifty 3-6-3 double play. Guillermo Mota came in for the eighth and survived a 2-out Aybar double with no damage. Shawn Green, who had been in a bad slump until busting out in a big way today, gave the Mets an important insurance run with an opposite field homer in the eighth, and Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for his 35th save.

Thoughts on the game
Updated Williams:

Dave Williams

Give this kid credit, because he's figured out something that some veterans haven't -- the simple truth that you can get away with being a little hittable if you don't give up walks. Sure, he's given up more than a hit an inning with the Mets, and gets touched up for some home runs, but he's a joy to watch. He knows how to pitch, pitches fast and keeps his defense in the game.

His curveball wasn't as effective as we've seen it in other games. He didn't have great control of it. He got good mileage out of his change and threw his fastball for strikes. He did a good job of throwing high fastballs out of the zone that enticed batters like Andruw Jones to chase. Williams probably doesn't have a spot on the post-season roster, but has to be in their thinking for next year as a fifth starter or middle relief/spot starter role. Great job by a kid who has earned my respect. When they picked him up I thought absolutely nothing of the deal. That's why Omar is a highly-paid GM and I write a blog.

Delgado hit the big home run to break a deadlocked game, but it was Shawn Green who had the big breakout offensive performance, going 3-4 with the solo homer.

Game 1 Box Score

Game 2
I have a feeling that Willie went up to Oliver Perez and told him, "I got good news and bad news. The good news is that you are getting another start. The bad news is that you're pitching for the Junior Varsity." After being told that the debacle in Colorado would be his last start for the 2006 Mets, Ollie was handed one more chance to end on a positive note. But if he was to win, he would do it with a lineup behind him that didn't include Lo Duca, Delgado or David Wright. It didn't matter -- the free-falling Braves were no match for Perez and his mates. And Perez did have Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd returning to action backing him up.

After Perez pitched a 1-2-3 first, the Mets jumped out quickly on Braves starter Kyle Davies. Jose Reyes homered on the first pitch Davies threw, and Julio Franco singled home Beltran to the Mets up 2-0.

After that there were a lot of zeros on the board as both starters pitched effectively. I thought a crucial point of the game came in the top of the fourth. Renteria led off with a soft single to second. This brought up Jeff Francoeur, who was talking a lot of trash before the Mets put the Braves back into a skid last time they saw each other. Francoeur, in the midst of an awful day, lifted a foul ball that Julio Franco had a bead on until a fan clearly reached over and interfered with the catch. Called out on interference, the frustrated Francoeur threw a little tantrum and was joined by his manager Bobby Cox. Although neither was tossed, I thought as I was watching them beg for the call that they both knew they were toast in this game. It was just a matter of time.

Time ran out on Atlanta's slim hopes in the bottom of the sixth. The Mets scored 2 on Chris Woodward's double and another pair on Endy Chavez' triple. Up 6-0, the only suspense was whether Perez would pitch the complete game shutout. He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and saw his lead balloon to 8-0 on Shawn Green's 2-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. He set the Braves down in order in the eighth. Marcus Giles singled leading off the ninth, but was erased when Tony Pena grounded into a double play. The Mets fans started taunting the Braves with a sarcastic tomahawk chop chant. Jeff Francoeur walked, but Perez enticed Brayan Pena to ground out to Jose Reyes to put the Braves out of their misery.

Thoughts on the game
Just for the heck of it, here is what Oliver Perez has done in the three games he has pitched for the Mets.

Oliver Perez

A complete game shutout against a team that was desperately trying to hang onto their dim playoff hopes was quite impressive. I think this would be a good place to shut Perez down for the 2006 season, at least as far as live games go. Keep working in the bullpen with professor Rick, and head into 2007 on an up note. One walk in 9 innings was almost a miracle. He was throwing hard, and the slider which was flat and hittable against the Rockies was sharp and breaking down again. He had some nice plays made behind him, and was fortunate on a couple of hard outs, but this was the kind of dominating performance that gives hope for next year. It's not an exaggeration to say there were times in this game and the Phillies game when Perez was electric. He was certainly never boring to watch.

Shawn Green was again the big hitting star with 3-4, the 2-run homer and a pair of runs scored. Green, who was slumping and clearly pressing going into the doubleheader, was 6 for 8 on the day with a double and 2 home runs. Anderson Hernandez, on the other hand, was 0-5 and continues to show that he just can't hit at this level right now. He's packing a ton of leather and no lumber at all.

Game 2 Box Score

Braves fans, it's time to turn your attention to the Falcons, college football and NASCAR. Hasta la vista, baby. See the helpful graphic below:


Comments (12)

Seeing the B-team absolutely destroy them will never get old. Kudos to Green for the huge day. I told you they'd be back before you knew it. Anything less than a WS appearance is probably a disappointment at this juncture. You could probably go with Maine, Williams and Oliver in a playoff rotation and still steamroll the NL field, including the overrated and brittle L.A. Dodgers. No joke. I've never been this excited for any team's playoff chances in my entire life-- granted, it's been a short one, but given that I'm a fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Islanders, I know for a fact I have to savor these moments.

And by Oliver up there, I meant the wily veteran, not the upstart yet erratic young hurler. Dude has come out of retirement to be lights out. Go figure.

A thought: might it be that the often-mentioned superiority that the American League enjoys over the Nationalistas is overstated?

Back on June 23, when the Mets were about to emback on their second interleague game swing, Boston was winning at a .606 pace. Some other winning percentages of that time: Detroit, .662; Chicago, .658; Toronto, .548; Texas, .541.

Here are the numbers for those teams today: Boston, .536; Detroit, .607; Chicago, .576; Toronto, .521; Texas, .511.

On the other hand, Oakland, Minnesota and the Yankees have improved since June 23, but only Minny's record (among this group; the Angels also improved after an awful start) have really impressed.

Taken from that date the AL shows a lot more of the parity we see in the National League. So the question is, could most of the disparity between leagues instead be that many of the teams simply were hot at the time of the interleague play?

Of course, once the writers decided that the national league was inferior, most of them probably saw no reason to re-address the matter.

Hi MIke- LOVE the junior varsity anology-that is so fitting.
I love the helpful graphic at the bottom of your post too.........what I love even more than Atlanta being deposed from their throne high upon the mediocre NL East is the fact that Mets are the ones they are losing it too in a HUGE way.

Matt -- You're not keeping up with the flavor of the month, it's not the Dodgers any more. Now everyone is picking the Padres. I've been around a lot longer than you -- so much longer that I don't care to think about it -- and I'm excited, too.
dd -- I still think some of the best teams in the AL have better starting pitching, but a lot of this stuff was just people overstating things. Imagine that happening in sports journalism...
Shari -- Sweeping this doubleheader to put the Braves' wildcard hopes on life support was a VERY GOOD day.

1. I already gushed on Shari's site. Yesterday, bore out 2 salient points and the demise of Atlanta is not one of them. In 1998-2001 Atlanta were a nemesis. Booby V was consistently out coached by Bobby Cox, and Armando Benitez wilted any time a guy named Jones or Jordan was at the plate. In 1999 I was irate that K. Rogers was not the game 3 starter instead of going in game 2. It always 'seemed' Tom glavine was getting calls 6-12 inches off the outside corner all day, while Al Leiter did not.

2. But Omar built this club as Schuerholtz did. He KEPT his star kids and plugged holes. Schuerholtz added Maddux to his young guns (Avery/Glavine/Smoltz), and dealt some fringe prospects at key times. We ALL know Reyes, Wright and Co. would have been dealt for Randy Johnson if SP was here. Atlanta will be back. Chipper and Andruw have yrs left. Mccann, Sosa, Horatio Ramirez, and Francouer are a good young core. If they get a Barry Zito in FA watch out.

3. I take greater pride when we spank St Lou. If not for them the Dwight gooden-Straw yrs would have been more golden. 1985-1987 were 90+ win EMPTY years because of John Tudor-Terry Pendleton and Co. As such in 2000 the WS run was special as we bested the GREAT Jim Edmonds (would not play in NY), and the team that was a media pick for WS winner.

4. The true reason that yesterday yielded the reaction in Atl, was they know UNLIKE 1999 that this Mets team is built to last. WE have a counterpart to Mazzone now.

5. I saw very little of Ollie on ESPN yesteday. But I rave over what I have heard. His FB was at 94mph. his slider had good break, he used the zone well, his mechanics were fluid. And the product a 5-hit shut out. He was less RJ, more Glavine and showed he had WORKED his butt off. Mike has Ollies stats up but take away ONE bad pitch to Ryan Howard and we have a different picture of Ollie..note TWO hits in his opening start...with 7 Strikeouts in 5IP. What else is transparent is Ollie protected a slim lead thru 6innings of a very close game without ever being in trouble. Add to that a complete game shutout on this staff is rare. Maine and Soler have the other 2.

Guys. Johan santana was a ruleV pick. Liriano came to Minn in trade...Ollie Perez is less than 3 yrs older than anibel sanchez, less than 2 yrs older than Humber. And is the YOUNGEST starter currently in the rotation. (glavine-Ollie-Williams/ traxx-El duque-John Maine ) ..he is 3months younger than John Maine. Guys....I still think Ollie may be THE most significant trade Omar has made. If someone told you last Nov that Cammy was traded for Ollie Perez the Media & metsbog-sphere would have gasped. Add to that a comment from the Anibel hoopla; his AA coach said he is too emotional....sound familiar?

For my parting blow, I turn to Detroit who cut there opening day 1st baseman/DH Dimitri Young yesterday. My point is in the midst of a playoff run sometimes loyalty gets in the way. I dont think Traxx is the 6th best starting option on this staff.

I saw the game, and he looked really great. His strikeouts were down a little, but his control was superb. I'm not sure how you feel, but I still would set him aside until next year. Willie left open the possibility of giving him another start, but I think I would have let him end on a complete-game shutout.

As fans and observers we see only a snap shot...the result. I am INTRIGUED by what is coming out of the Mets camp.

a. Ollie Perez was a staff ace. And he has had Kazmir-esque major league success. And he has ACE stuff. He is the type of pitcher who can win a pennant. I am at an extreme...but I see NO difference between Ollie and Dontrelle. Dontrelle also can be wild. Yesterday's product on display was a preview of your #2 starter in place of Glavine.

b. INJURIES: I like your thinking. but I think Omar wants the hot pitcher in the playoffs. Yes Ollie had a Tough yr, but to me Ollie can represent what Kenny Rogers did for the '99 team or Mike Hampton for the '00 team. (Both guys walked away after 1 season). My fear is that Pedro is very injured..(Radke?), and Glavine is back to his 2003 Met form, Traxx ...well you know. It is not inconceivable that the Mets may have a rotation of Williams/Maine/El-duque/and Ollie in the playoffs. If Pedro goes and crumples in a heap in the 2nd inning, in comes El-Duque....

My point here is even the Mets brass are concerned with the injuries and may well see Ollie as a strong option now and next yr.

If Oliver Perez starts a playoff game, or is even on the playoff roster, I will buy you the beer nuts to throw at me. Seriously, you don't want to expose a work in progress to that kind of pressure. Give him spring training and then we'll talk.

Deal. I think Shari might want in too.

Hi guys- I'm pretty practical, I'm with Mike on this one, I don't think Perez is quite ready to start a play off game.
I love what I see so far, but I need to see him progress and be more consistant.
Besides, the Met front office would not want to see the first play off opportunity in 6 years blown, which is always a possibility with a young guy who isnt proven yet. Definitely give him a spot on next years roster based on what he's shown so far and with what he does in spring training for 2007.

Shari -- couldn't have said it better.

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