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.
|TOTAL (3 Games)||18.2||4||4||8||17||12||2||1.93||1.07||3-0|
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.