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Big Game Pitcher

Mike SteffanosSunday, April 22, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 7 - Braves 2

While it may have been shocking to see Oliver Perez throw 20 consecutive strikes, I can't say that I was surprised to see Oliver pitch well yesterday. While his game is still very much a work in progress, what we have undoubtedly seen from Perez in his young Mets career is that he likes to pitch in big games. With a 3-game losing streak to their NL east archrival, for the Mets yesterday's game against the Braves was as big as any April game could be. Perez didn't disappoint.

For the first four innings of the game, Oliver Perez was as good as anyone I've ever seen pitch a game, and I've been watching for a long time. His fastball was alive, his slider was electric, and his control was almost perfect. When the Atlanta batters tried to be patient against him they just found themselves in a hole. When they tried to be aggressive, they looked futile. Perez wasn't just throwing strikes, his stuff was filthy and he was spotting it where he wanted it.

Perez started fighting himself a little in the fifth inning, when McCann led off with a double and he started missing pretty bad with a few pitches and hanging some sliders. He wasn't real sharp the rest of the way, giving up 6 of the 9 hits he allowed in his last 2-2/3 innings of work. By then, the Mets had a nice lead.

Oliver Perez (2-1)
TOTAL (3 Games)16.1661517713.311.352-1

It's undeniable that the game against the Phillies was a real stinker. In fairness, though, it wasn't what we have seen from Perez through most of the spring and his first start of the season. Rick Peterson is right when he says that Perez has everything he needs to repeat his delivery at a high level and be a consistent winner. The biggest battle Oliver faces right now is with his emotions and his concentration. I still like his chances.

The Mets made a lot of Scott Schoeneweis when they signed him, but he's been walking too many guys in the early going (5 BB in 6.1 IP). A contact pitcher like Schoeneweis needs to throw strikes even more so than a big strikeout pitcher. His walk to Larry Jones in the pivotal seventh inning, after jumping out to an 0-2 advantage, was inexcusable. 23-year-old Joe Smith, a kid that was pitching for Wright State University last spring, bailed him out with a huge strikeout of Andruw Jones.

I know the relievers aren't really in a groove yet, thanks mostly to the weather and some good starting pitching in the early going, but I'm concerned that our 2 setup lefties are issuing too many free passes. Pedro Feliciano's 6 walks in 6.1 innings of work is even worse than Schoeneweis. For all of the heat that Randolph got about bringing in Burgos with the bases loaded Friday night, Burgos had only 2 walks in 7.1 innings of work going into that game.

The bullpen has been great so far, but the walks need to be reduced. Sooner or later, they'll come back to bite you.

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (4)

Mike, you were unfortunately prophetic with your words. Schoeneweis was bound to walk the wrong guy in the wrong situation with the wrong guy on deck, and with the Willie making the wrong move to follow. After Green's dropped fly ball today, and Willie prematurely pulled Burgos and called for Schoeneweis, I immediately thought of your blog today. Sure enough the writing was on the wall. The walk and some terrible managing by Randolph conspired to give us a loss that I won't soon get over.

Let's hope the Mets players are better at coping with a horrible loss, handed to them more by their own Manager than by their opponents, than I am. But looking the faces of guys like Reyes, Beltran, Valentin and Delgado after watching Willie blow it, I got the impression they felt it just as badly as I did.

Colorado comes into town tomorrow. I hope we can find a way to get back to winning and retake this division.

Go Mets!

Schoeneweis hasn't been good since the season began. As Mike mentioned, he's issuing way too many walks, and he looks like he doesn't know how to handle being ahead of the count. 0-2 and 1-2 counts become 2-2 and 3-2 counts with him.

To be fair to Schoeneweis, the game was basically decided on Willie's bad call to bring Schoeneweis into the game. Burgos threw 7 pitches, 5 for strikes. The double was very playable by Green- and if he didn't feel like he could catch it, he should have just taken it on the rebound from the wall, limiting them to a long single. That's not Burgos' fault, and if there's a lefty coming up to bat, so what? The Mets had a 6-3 at the time, and the worst the Braves could do was hit a 2 run homer.

Instead Schoeneweis comes in and walks the batter. First, I disagree with Willie's call to bring in Schoeneweis. Second, I disagree with Willie's call to LEAVE HIM IN after walking the one batter he needed to get out. I know it's early, and Willie's trying to formulate a level of trust with the bullpen, but that's what you do that against teams you know you can beat, or in games where you have a very big lead. Not in games where you're fighting what appears to be your #1 threat to the division. You take a stake and you drive it through their hearts, until the game is done and finished.

Oh, and that Bell/Ring trade for Johnson looks really bad now. I hope that they'll make some midseason moves, preferrably for bullpen help. The good news is that the lineup is generally hitting very well (even if Wright is struggling), they're fielding well, and their starting pitching's been very good.

Bottom line: this is a game that will haunt the Mets. Sure, they get Colorado up next, which is a major relief (about time they faced a non division-opponent-who-is-supposed-to-challenge-them), but they haven't been solid at home so far. I know it's early, but the Mets need to establish that they're not just a team that can beat up on mediocre teams. At least we can say "it's early".

Salman, Jason - Schoeneweis is a guy that they're counting on to handle late game duties with Heilman. Neither one of them is great right now. They've been getting away with the bullpen guys issuing free passes, it even happened Saturday and could have cost them that one.

People would have killed Randolph if he left Burgos in and gave up the homer. I'm going to give things time to work out -- we're only 3 weeks into the season. This loss definitely sucked, though.

Hi guys,

Emotionally I'm not too warped by this. I think the fact we put 6 runs on Smoltz was far more significant. In about 30 games mota comes back and at this rate will be the set up man, as he was in the NLCS....whew.

Schoenweiss is struggling but I think he just needs to get it together. At this point tho losing Padilla AND Sanchez hurts and we see why, but at least Mota offers help. Heilman also is AWOL. While the collective sigh here is for Scho, MY fuse is short with Heilman who I would glad offer, (with Ben Johnson) to Houston for Brad Lidge.

As for lost weekend, Ollie has now beaten the Braves TWICE for our only wins against them.
Reyes owns the Braves, and I think its time to see Carlos Beltran in the 2 spot more often.

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