By Mike Steffanos
Mets 3 - Reds 2
Played Thursday, July 12, 2007
Watching Orlando Hernandez struggle through the second inning of last night's game, then walk Ken Griffey leading off the third, you had to wonder how long the veteran right-hander would last. It turned out that Griffey would be the last Red to reach base against Hernandez as he wound up giving the Mets 6 strong innings of work. They even managed to reward him with a win, which has been somewhat rare when he has pitched well for them.
When El Duque gets on a roll as he did last night, it's a pleasure to watch. One reason I've always enjoyed baseball is for the sheer beauty of the game sometimes -- Reyes running, Beltran tracking down a hard-hit fly ball, and Hernandez' delivery when he has everything in synch, with the high leg kick that generates the torque for those breaking pitches that can embarrass even good hitters. Those last 12 outs through the Reds' batting order were vintage El Duque.
|Orlando Hernandez (Last 5 Starts)|
|Season (14 Games)||84.1||33||30||61||68||34||10||3.20||1.13||8-6|
Offensively, the game opened up with a bang with the 2 home runs by Reyes and Gotay, but became somewhat disappointing again by the end. They let Bronson Arroyo off the hook a couple of times, and he wound up settling in and going 7 strong innings against them. There did seem to be more of an effort to work the count, but you still have to generate some hits to really put pressure on a pitcher and there wasn't enough of that. When they did rally, it always seemed to be with 2 outs. They were hurt by a couple of baserunning mistakes, and a failure to plate an insurance run in the eighth with second and third, no outs against that awful bullpen caused my stomach acid to churn.
Still, it was nice to see the hustle plays like Milledge busting it to score the game winner and Reyes turning a routine single into a double. Playing the game the right way will help them get out of their offensive funk for sure.
By the way, I've always liked Jose Valentin, and find some of the negativity directed his way by some Mets fans very puzzling. I think he has been a terrific presence on the team and has benefited Jose Reyes greatly. He did an amazing job at second base before he was hurt, and people just can't seem to grasp how hard it is to produce out of the eight hole in the National League when they don't give him credit for what he did offensively last season and before he was hurt.
Now that I've finished laying out my credentials as a Valentin supporter, I'll simply state that he hasn't been the same player on offense or defense since his return. I suspect that Ruben Gotay's future in the major leagues will be as a utility man rather than a star, but the simple fact is that he deserves a shot at the second base job this year based on what he's done, albeit in a platoon with Easley since he is not a good hitter as a right-handed batter (.218/.316/.267 in 118 career ABs with only 3 extra-base hits from the right side). Last year Valentin's play earned him the job over Kaz Matsui, this year same thing with Gotay. Case closed.
Having said that, what I find puzzling is those that see Gotay as a long-term solution for the job. I look back at his body of work in both the majors and minors and see nothing more than a guy having a very nice year in a limited amount of ABs (76) this year. I wish someone who sees Gotay as more than a utility player going forward would explain to me why. Be that as it may, unless Valentin turns it around dramatically when he returns or Gotay falls on his face, I think a Gotay/Easley platoon at second with Valentin as a bench player is the way to go right now in the best interests of the 2007 New York Mets.