By Mike Steffanos
Game 141: Phillies 3 - Mets 0 (Friday)
Game 142: Phillies 6 - Mets 2 (Sunday Afternoon)
Game 143: Mets 6 - Phillies 3 (Sunday Night)
The difference between the 2008 Mets and their 2007 counterparts was in evidence Sunday night. The 2007 club went into a tailspin and never could seem to pull out of it. The 2008 Mets have been a resilient team -- once they pulled it together in July -- and have shown the tendency to fight their way off the ropes.
I can't say I ever expected a sweep and the resulting 6-game lead going into this weekend. I knew that it would never be that easy. Of course, it was anything but as Meyers stymied them Friday night and then Moyer teased them Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Pelfrey was great and deserved better, but Pedro put up the kind of performance that casts doubt on how much the team can depend on him in his stretch starts.
The pressure fell squarely on Johan Santana's shoulders last night, and he didn't disappoint. He limited the damage in a rocky first inning and allowed only a third inning solo homer by Ryan Howard after that. It was a clutch performance from Santana and it was greatly appreciated by those of us who didn't wish to be bombarded with stories about the 2008 collapse.
The news that Billy Wagner has perhaps pitched his last game as a Met is sure to inspire countless exercises in doom and gloom from the local dailies, but I never thought Wagner was coming back, anyway. I didn't realize that his problem was career-threatening, but I always figured if it wasn't some sort of structural problem he would have been back already. The near future is Luis Ayala, a bottle of Tums, and hands clasped fervently in prayer. I can deal with it.
I honestly think this Mets team is better with its back against the wall than they are when things are going well. In retrospect, it was almost predictable how things went this weekend. Whether or not this resilience will prove to be enough to get this team into October is beyond my powers of prognostication, but I do appreciate the difference between them and last year's disappointing group. Too bad some of the local scribes are more interested in beating 2007 to death than giving this team its due.
Some quick notes from the series:
One sign that a young pitcher has arrived is his ability to pitch very well in a very important game. In that regard, Mike Pelfrey gets his due despite losing the pitcher's duel with Brett Myers. With all of the uncertainty surrounding Pedro and the unlikeness that John Maine will return to start games in September, Pelfrey is a big part of whatever chance the Mets have of October baseball.
As for Pedro, to me the velocity isn't as big of a concern as his lack of precision with his command. Pedro has the best pitcher's mind of his generation, but if he can't put it where he needs to he simply is not going to be effective.
I found it funny that Philly catcher Chris Coste was questioning the catcher's interference call awarded David Wright in the first inning of last night's game. On the replay he clearly pulled his glove back after contact occurred with Wright's bat, and never argued with the home plate umpire after the call was made -- belying his claim that he never felt any contact.
Wright is usually a dependable September contributor, but is off to a very slow start (.167/.192/.250) in the 6 games played this month. He has more strikeouts (6) than hits (4) and just hasn't looked good at the plate much of the time. His neighbor at shortstop has been even worse -- .120/.185/.240 with 0 runs scored so far. Both are coming off solid months in August. The Mets are going to need these two guys unless Delgado can continue to drive in 4 runs every game.
Damion Easley played both games of Sunday's double dip, going 3-4 in the nightcap and scoring an important insurance run in the eighth. Since returning from the DL, Luis Castillo has five singles in 24 AB with two walks and eight strikeouts. He's clearly not healthy, and I find those stories about the Mets looking to deal him this winter somewhat moot. I don't think anyone wants this guy for the next three years unless he demonstrates that he's healthy. I like him and respect him, but his gimpy knees are making Minaya look real bad.
Final word: all of the pundits in print and on the air are going to try to depress you now that the news is out on Wagner. So what? Show of hands -- how many of you thought Billy would return in September and be a dominant closer? Yeah, me neither. What's really different?