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)||16.1||6||6||15||17||7||1||3.31||1.35||2-1|
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.