By Mike Steffanos
Game 120: Mets 13 - Nationals 0
For one of the very few times in the last couple of seasons, the Mets had a victory that looked and felt easy for most of the game. The Nationals are a struggling team. With a lot of key injuries to a roster that wasn't all that great in the first place, the Nats are also an indisputably bad team right now. When the Mets went up big in the third you could sense the game was over.
I feel for Nats fans after spending decades watching many iterations of this theme in Orange and Blue. Moreover, I honestly believe if Washington had stayed relatively healthy they would have won 70-75 games and been a thorn in the side of contending teams. As they are now, they probably need a very good outing from a starting pitcher to win most nights. Ah, the memories...
As for the Mets, John Maine looked decent. That shoulder problem will be a factor for the rest of the year, and 5 or 6 innings are probably the max to be hoped for. He still has the tendency to lose pitches up and away to lefties, also, which partially explains the four walks -- although I felt home plate ump Mike Reilly's ridiculously small and inconsistent strike zone was responsible for 2 of the 4 free passes.
I suspect that, given the shoulder problems, any talk of Maine in the bullpen is just talk. While pitching less innings would be a good thing, getting up and down and also pitching on consecutive nights would be not so good. Given all the ongoing bullpen woes, if Maine was effective at all out there the temptation would be to overuse him down the stretch, negating any possible benefits -- at least in my opinion.
As for the bullpen, perhaps Brian Stokes can fulfill the role I hoped Jorge Sosa might early on -- a long man with good enough stuff to do some short work when needed. Stokes has shown a very good fastball and slider and a power arm that is lacking from the setup crew right now.
The caveat, of course, is that after the league gets a look at him Stokes doesn't turn back into the pumpkin with the 7+ ERA he was with Tampa Bay. The Mets will also have a decision when Wagner returns with Stokes and Eddie Kunz the two most likely candidates for demotion, unless they decide to go with 13 pitchers for a while.
I'd love to see the Mets put the hammer down and sweep this thing tonight. Too often they have lacked that absolute killer instinct.