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The Afternoon After

Mike SteffanosMonday, July 28, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Game 105: Mets 9 - Cardinals 1

I have to admit that I was concerned going into Sunday's game. I worried that there might be a hangover from Saturday night's long, frustrating loss.

If there was a hangover, it was the Cardinals who were experiencing it. On a day when baseball logic demanded that they work Johan Santana patiently to get to the Mets' tired bullpen, this is what happened in the first four innings:

First (8 pitches)
Ryan - 6
Ludwick - 1
Pujols - 1

Second (11 pitches)
Glaus - 5
Molina - 2
Mather - 4

Third (7 pitches)
Izturis - 2
Lohse - 3
Schumaker - 2

Fourth (7 pitches)
Ryan - 1
Ludwick - 4
Pujols - 2

That's 33 pitches in four innings. There were more pitches thrown by Santana as the game went on, but essentially the Cardinals ensured that Johan would go deep into this game by letting him off so easy in the early going.

I make this point because this is what we saw so often from the Mets in games like this for most of last year and the first half of this one. Sure, Santana was being aggressive, and it helped that he kept the Cardinals off base, but in the first 12 batters half of them saw only one or two pitches and only two forced Johan to throw more than four. Extraordinary.

Meanwhile, although the Mets missed some chances again early on, it took Lohse 97 pitches to navigate 5+ innings. It caught up to him, and the bullpen wasn't any better. Playing smarter baseball on Sunday allowed the Mets to win a series from the rapidly sinking Cardinals.

I have to say, though, I agree with those who questioned Santana going back out to pitch the ninth. I understand his desire to prove something after the sh*tstorm that ensued from his previous outing against the Phillies, but it was unnecessary to push him to 118 pitches. He had just under 100 pitches after 8 with an 8-run lead. I agreed with Gary Cohen that it made sense for the just-called-up Willie Collazo to pitch the ninth. While Santana does have an extra day of rest this week, those 19 pitches in the ninth were unnecessary wear and tear in a game that was long over.

I feel as if I'm watching a different team now. It's as if some Bizarro World version of the club took over last June and was finally replaced by the real thing this month. After an absence of virtually a year, good baseball has returned to Flushing.

It will be interesting to see how they respond these next three days in Florida against a team that really wants to prove something against them. Hopefully the Mets remember last September and have something to prove themselves.

View Johan Santana's Full Season Stats

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

I'm going out on a limb while wearing my rose-colored glasses and sipping some delightful sangria-mixed kool-aid...Mets sweep the Fishies.

This is what we expexted since Aug of last year right? The Mets win series', beat up on teams, and play meaningful games, right? I think the test will come against the Marlins the next three nights. The Mets have not lost a series this month (am I correct?)and the Fish are playing tough. Good matchups on both sides for each team and first place on the line. Mets have already dispatched the Phils and the Cards at home and could have easily been riding a 7 game win streak if it were not for last Tuesday night's or this past Saturday night's losses (games the Mets should have won). Now they go on the road, and have to prove that they can win consistantly away from the "friendly confines". We have been waiting for them to put the pedal down and move. I am liking what I see out of the entire team for the most part of late. Now it's center stage............ "LETS GO METS!"

Used to be, Earl weaver was manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Earl was a savvy head; he would set up his matchups in doubleheaders, which were much more common in those days, with an eye toward who could benefit from a platoon advantage. Most managers back then would simply load their best position players in the first game and leave the second game to chance. But facing Weaver, it was chance at reduced odds; Weaver managed a record in doubleheaders of something like .640 winning percentage (I no longer remember the exact number).

Well, a day game after a long night game is something like a doubleheader. I don't think Manuel did much to indicate that he was treating the situation in Weaver fashion, but it's a cinch that La Russa wasn't. If you stand to gain a big advantage if you can get into the other team's pen, then why would you play Caesar Izturis AND Brenden Ryan? That's like handing your opponent's starter an extra inning.

Tony LaRussa does many things right, I believe. But I have never, ever felt that he was outmatching my team when it came to in game situations. And maybe not roster decisions, neither; remember the 2000 NL Championship series, when LaRussa managed to get 2 or 3 at bats out of Mark McGuire?

LaRussa and Dave Duncan have had a lot of success, and they have shown the baseball world a few things along the way. But I think it is fair to say that sometimes the most obvious things elude them.

Another passed ball! Where's this great catcher we traded for? It seems like he has a passed ball every week, not good. No way great! What's up with that.

Looks like Maine could use a few videotapes of Johan's starts. Right after he gets that whirlpool for the arm...

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