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D-Lovely

Mike SteffanosThursday, April 19, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


Mets 9 - Marlins 2

All Mets fans are aware that Dontrelle Willis has owned them in his short career. Coming into last night's game he was 11-2 lifetime (.846) against the New Yorkers, leaving him 50-37 (.575) against everyone else. What made this even less palatable was that the Mets seldom even made Willis break a sweat to beat them. Consequently, Dontrelle's famous smile is seen often when he takes the mound against the Mets. It was nice for once to see him look quite unhappy against them.

Essentially, the game was decided in the first inning. Willis was staring up a 4-0 deficit before he registered his first out. While John Maine was having a fairly easy time with the Marlins lineup, the Mets pressured Willis with runners in score position in the second and third, though they did not score them.

In the home half of the third, the Marlins had their first baserunner when C Matt Treanor walked with one out. The Marlins elected to have Willis bunt him over to second, which seemed a strange decision given the four-run deficit and Willis' skill as one of the best hitting pitchers in the game. Hanley Ramirez flied out to end that minor threat, and Carlos Beltran's long 2-run homer the following inning seemed to take the air out of the Marlins. The Mets tacked on another pair in the sixth, the last run coming on Willis' wild pitch. The D-train rolled out of the game after that on the wrong side of a 8-0 score.

The only suspense left was whether John Maine could pitch the Mets' first-ever no-hitter. Four walks and a fair amount of foul balls had his pitch count up fairly high, and I didn't think he could do it. After losing the no-hitter on Cabrera's single and the shutout on Joe Borchard's homer in the seventh inning Maine was done, having thrown 107 pitches.

John Maine
DateOpp.IPRERHKBBHRERAWHIPTeam Result
4/4@STL70016200.000.43W
4/9PHI4.22254613.862.36W
4/18@FLA72227412.570.86W
TOTAL (3 Games)18.2448171221.931.073-0

It's amazing how this kid can dominate games with a low-90s fastball. When he is throwing his changeup and slider for strikes he can be a very tough pitcher. After allowing only 69 hits in 90 innings last season, most experts seemed to look at that as a fluke. Many predictions of regression were based on this. Well, so far this year he's allowed 8 hits in 18-2/3 innings. For someone who is tagged with the "mediocre stuff" label, John Maine is fairly tough to hit. Even when he struggled through 40 innings with the Orioles in 2005 (6.30 ERA, 24 BBs), Maine allowed only 39 hits.

If he could avoid those mental lapses that result in losing the ability to throw strikes and refine those secondary pitches enough where opposing teams aren't sitting on and constantly fouling off 2-strike fastballs, this kid has the potential to be better than the bottom-of-the-rotation starter that he has been labeled as. Maybe we don't have the most proven starting rotation in baseball, but with Maine, Perez and Pelfrey we have three very interesting arms with a lot of upside.

It's become almost a cliché to talk about Jose Valentin's defense, but he was awesome again last night. A year ago, I dismissed Valentin as a washed-up ballplayer. I wasn't alone in this evaluation, but I sure was wrong. Valentin turned out to be the Anti-Kaz -- a ballplayer who came into town to a surfeit of indifference and ridicule, but earned his way into both a job and the hearts of Mets fans. Too many guys have come into this town merely to steal a paycheck. Not only has Valentin earned every dime on the field, but he has become an important team leader, also. What a great story he continues to be.

Jose Reyes 4-6 night raised his average to .364, and David Wright now owns the all-time longest Mets hitting streak.

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 (6)

Lots of things to contemplate from this game. I loved the game plan that the Mets apparently adopted, that of recognizing that Willis likes to get ahead with a low outside fastball, so go ahead and hit it, don't let him get you into a hole. I remember back in 1999 arguing that a similar approach might be the Mets best chance against Greg Maddux. Whatever, it worked last night.

Then there's my own early season theme, the two teams' respective defenses and how well the Mets come off in the exchange.

And John Maine; love that high fastball. It can't be the only thing you throw, of course, but the high heat does seem to be a forgotten weapon in many corners these days. Glad John Maine hasn/t forgotten it, and I am willing to accept the occasional home run that will result.

Durn, this is a fun team!

Gee, I forgot to mention the offense! THAT's telling.

Dear Willie,

I know that reading Mike's mets is not in your daily chores, so how did you arrive at the decision to hit Beltran 2nd....FINALLY? You know, despite the awesome displays the team has shown at times..and what they did to D-train bears note...I think this team (offense)could get ALOT better.

As they say, the monster has been let out of the cage. After tonight, the Mets look pretty unstoppable.

If any two of Maine, Perez and Pelfrey pan out, the rest of the league is in a lot of trouble. We also have no less than seven guys (Pedro, Mota, Sanchez, Milledge, Humber, Urdaneta, Park) who are not really expected to contribute anything, yet any help they give us would simply be gravy.

Should we end up running away with the division again (which would give our old buddy a little more time to heal his shoulder), we can end up seeing two of the most exciting cups of tea in the history of our franchise: Gomez and Martinez. It makes me get this idiot grin on my face every time I think about it... but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.

Time to take care of business against the Braves at Shea.

This weekend I think each team will be trying to send a message of who is boss. If one team shouid sweep, I think that would be a strong message for the rest of the year. This should be a very exciting baseball weekend. I am home but still on vacation till Mon. and I have my recliner in front of the tv all set. Lets go Mets.

dd - I agree with your take on the game plan. Willis had his share of control issues at times, so the Mets seemed to be committed to making him throw strikes. When he made the adjustment, they didn't, which was why everyone always seemed to be 1-2 in the count against him. The Marlins are going to have some troubles with that outfield D, particularly without a strong CF.

I like the fact that Maine is working high and low in the strike zone. Last year he was up too much, I thought, but this year pitching down effectively has made the high fastball even more of a weapon.
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Ed - Actually, I've always been a proponent of Carlos batting third, although I like him hitting second when Lo Duca and Chavez are both not in the lineup.
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Matt - I'm not seeing them running away with the division this year. The Phillies have looked worse than I thought, but the Braves are better. I'm just hoping for 2 of 3 this weekend, not any further ahead than that.
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Al - I think it's early to worry about messages, I just want them to take the series. Hope you have something to enjoy at the end of your vacation.

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