By Mike Steffanos
Mets 8 - Twins 1
Played Monday, June 18, 2007
For one night, at least, the Mets took a vacation from what's been ailing them and played a very good baseball game. It started with excellent pitching from John Maine, included a Carlos Delgado home run to open the scoring, a rare 2-out hit with runners in scoring position from Paul Lo Duca that opened things up a little, a nice relief stint by Pedro Feliciano, and ended with the club actually displaying a killer instinct when they busted it open with 4 in the bottom of the eighth.
First John Maine. I was kind of surprised to read this in Bill Finley's game recap in the New York Times:
John Maine had certainly been part of the problem of late for the Mets, who entered last night having lost seven of eight games. After a strong start to the season, Maine had won only once since May 9. But last night, he was the solution.
While Maine had a bad one his last time out against the Dodgers, I can't really fault him for the team failing to win the two games before that where he only allowed 2 runs in each. In fact, had Billy Wagner not blown his first save of the season on June 7 against the Phillies, Maine's fine start would have salvaged a win out of that terrible home series against the Phillies. Kind of tough labeling him as "part of the problem" based on that.
Maine did have a pair of rough starts after that win on May 9 in San Francisco, but now he's pitched well in 4 of his 5 starts since then. Moreover, I'm impressed with his improved control. After allowing 34 walks in 61.1 innings in April and May, Maine has allowed only 4 combined in his 4 June starts. I like him more as a pitcher every day. He has more than justified the faith that the Mets showed in him this winter.
One reason for his shrinking walk total and his effectiveness last night is his much improved command of his slider and changeup. His slider in particular has become an effective weapon for him. Hitters can no longer merely sit on the high fastball from John Maine.
|John Maine (Last 5 Starts)|
|Season (14 Games)||87.0||28||28||70||72||38||9||2.90||1.24||9-5|
When Lo Duca came up with that 2 out, 2 strike, 2 RBI base hit in the sixth, my first thought was that I had almost forgotten what that felt like. That they actually made a bit of a laugher out of the game in the eighth seems like almost an embarrassment of riches. I won't pretend that I believe all of their offensive problems are straightened out, but for one night at least we got a taste of good offensive baseball for the club.
I loved Pedro Feliciano's eighth inning relief job. He was absolutely dealing. He made Joe Mauer, who is a very good hitter, look very bad in registering the first out. He had Cuddyer completely fooled on what, unfortunately, turned out to be one of the cheapest base hits I have ever seen. Then he retired Morneau to end the drama.
What do you suppose first base umpire John Hirschbeck was looking at when he called Jason Bartlett safe at first base in the third inning? It obviously wasn't the play. Seriously, the only way an umpire can blow a call that obvious is to anticipate the call rather than react. Hirschbeck has been around long enough to know better. This just seems to be the year of brutal calls on the bases, particularly first base.