By Mike Steffanos
Mets 5 - Giants 3
Armando Benitez had a better Mets career than he is given credit for, but he undoubtedly lacked the resilient psyche to match his gifted right arm. Up until the infamous "high-five gate" game last year where Lastings Milledge homered off him to tie the game, Armando had been maddeningly perfect against his former employer. His melt-down in the ninth inning of a tie game yesterday was both satisfying and eerily familiar to those of us who lived through Benitez' tumultuous seasons in Queens.
First things first, though. John Maine was a little off for his second rough start in a row. I initially listened to the game on radio and then watched it later last night on DVR. When I got a chance to actually see it, I was pleasantly surprised with how well he was throwing his changeup and slider. Yes, he walked six batters (2 intentional) in six innings, but he wasn't really missing that badly. His pitches had more break on them than usual, and a lot of his balls weren't that far off the plate. Ultimately John Maine's ceiling as a pitcher will be determined by how well he complements his devastating fastball up in the zone, and this was actually some nice progress in that area.
Maine has done a good job mixing up his fastballs this year. He's thrown some good sinking fastballs down in the zone that serve to change a hitter's eye level and make those high fastballs look even better. It's helped him to keep the hitters more off balance, which allows him to get away with a few mistakes.
The off-speed stuff has been a mixed bag early, there some days and nonexistent on others. I thought he had better movement on the slider and change than we've seen up to now. He'll need to control those pitches better than he did yesterday but, if he can throw them like yesterday fairly consistently, it will serve to keep opposing hitters even more off-balance. It will be interesting to watch those pitches progress during the course of the season.
Maine is a perfect role model for Mike Pelfrey. Last year, Maine had mostly the great high fastball and slowly built an arsenal around it. He was able to have some not inconsiderable success because he was aggressive in the strike zone.
Pelfrey's best pitch is the power sinker and, like the 2006 version of John Maine, his other pitches are inconsistent and in need of refining. If Pelfrey can be aggressive in the strike zone as Maine was last season, he could be a serviceable fifth starter with upside. With Philip Humber, Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick all scuffling in Triple-A, the Mets don't have a great option to replace Pelfrey.
Nice to see Delgado and Wright come up big. I've jumped the gun in hoping for evidence of a renaissance from both of them in previous games, so I'll resist the urge in that direction for now.
Billy Wagner looks great so far. He's not pitching quite as much as he did last year, and I wonder if that factors in at all.
|John Maine (5-0)|
|TOTAL (7 Games)||45.1||9||9||29||41||24||3||1.79||1.17||7-0|