By Mike Steffanos
Game 115: Mets 3 - Marlins 0 (Friday)
Game 116: Mets 8 - Marlins 6 (Saturday)
Sometimes the Mets play so badly against second division clubs that it's almost impossible to see them as a true playoff contender. Then they go into a series like this with a shaky bullpen and an emergency starter with a lifetime MLB ERA of 6.46. You start to wonder if things are going to start getting ugly really quickly.
Instead, improbably, the Mets have taken the first two games of the series and Aaron Heilman has saved both games. Daniel Murphy continues to spark the club, Carlos Delgado continues his improbable resurrección, and even Carlos Beltran has rediscovered his power.
When Scott Boras watches Ollie Perez pitch like he did last night in a big game, the dollar signs must ping pong around inside his brain. If Carlos Silva was able to find someone to give him a 4 year, $48 million deal, you could tack on another year and a few million for Ollie if he can maintain some consistency. Whether that prices him out of New York or not, an effective Perez is vital to the team's playoff chances this season.
Ollie didn't have his best control Friday night, but he was throwing the ball very well. Besides, in those big games OP has cojones the size of grapefruit. The Mets didn't do a whole lot of damage against Ricky Nolasco and two Marlins relievers, but long balls from Wright and Delgado provided all of the cushion Ollie needed and then some. With Aaron Heilman equally dominant in his 2-inning save, the Mets had a huge win to take a little pressure off of Saturday night's starter Brian Stokes.
Stokes wasn't great, but allowing 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings actually brought that high MLB lifetime ERA down a fraction. Actually, Stokes was really throwing the ball hard while striking out 6 Marlins, but the velocity worked against his sinker and he was victimized by a pair of 2-run homers. The second, by ex-Met Mike Jacobs, cost Stokes his chance at a win.
The Mets came back to batter the Marlins 'pen for 3 in the sixth and 1 in the seventh to go back up by four, but Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano made it interesting in the eighth, allowing 2 runs before Feliciano induced a huge double play from Alfredo Amezaga -- who usually seems to kill the Mets.
Heilman came in to pitch his third inning in two nights. Despite allowing a 1-out walk to Hanley Ramirez to put the tying run on, Heilman was equal to the task in nailing down his second consecutive save.
So kudos to the Mets. The might still show a maddening lack of anything approaching consistency, but at least they have some fire and fight in them. And kudos to Daniel Murphy for his first major league homer and curtain call. This kid can hit. We'll all be curious to see how he reacts once he hits a rough patch. It will be fine with me if that doesn't happen anytime soon, of course.
(No pitching chart for Brian Stokes unless he makes a second start.)