By Mike Steffanos
Game 51: Mets 7 - Marlins 6 (12)
The script for last night's game was straight out of 2006. When someone faltered, someone else picked him up. What a concept!
Oliver Perez was handed leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, and for a while it looked like that would do it. Then a 3-run homer to Cody Ross in the sixth put the Marlins up 5-4, and the Mets couldn't do much against Florida's bullpen. An improbable 2-strike home run from Endy Chavez in the ninth kept it going, but when the Mets managed to come from behind and win it in extra innings, it was reminiscent of a season when being behind late in the game didn't always translate into a loss. Even Fernando Tatis stepping up to be unlikely hero was 2006-ish.
I very much want to believe the Mets are at a crossroads and have finally turned the corner on last season. I'd like to see them hold on to the spirit they displayed last night. However, as terrific as spirit is, I suspect going forward that performance will matter more.
One of the best things that could happen to the Mets going forward would be for Carlos Delgado to start putting up respectable numbers. I doubt we'll ever see the Delgado we saw in 2006, but the one we saw in the second half of last year (.285/.375/.469 in 240 AB) would give us a chance to win a few more games, especially if Randolph continued to sit him against the tougher lefties. The next best thing, if Delgado can't climb back to respectable numbers, would be for the Mets to find an alternative.
Pedro coming back and staying healthy would be another huge plus, as would Aaron Heilman joining Duaner Sanchez as someone who could be trusted getting the game to Wagner. Offensively, Reyes needs to keep it going and Wright and Beltran need to produce at levels closer to their norm.
This team has been guilty of lackluster baseball at times, but they've also been the victim of a fairly cruel streak of bad luck. Maybe things will turn around for them in that regard. While I don't see them as the best team in the NL, they could compete with what they have now if they get some more production and some breaks start going their way. After a year of wandering with their team in the wilderness, Mets fans would rejoice if this club could return to being a legit contender.
This 4-game set against the Dodgers starting tonight is a tough assignment for this team. The Mets have struggled against good pitching this year, and the Dodgers have a lot of it. The momentum gained from these last 2 versus the Fish could be gone very quickly. On the other hand, there is also an opportunity for a real turning of the page if the Mets can continue to play well.