The Mets have a couple of pitchers who are dealing with some nagging injuries or have recently returned from injuries. Two of those pitchers, Bobby Jones and Pat Mahomes, pitched today, and they were unable to get the job done as the Mets dropped the rubber game.
Things started well enough for Jones as he pitched a scoreless first, but he was blitzed by the Padres in the second. Phil Nevin led off the inning with a single. Jones caught him leaning, but Todd Zeile missed the ball allowing Nevin to go to second.
Jones should get some credit here. After that terrible inning, Jones settled down pitching three scoreless innings after that to keep the Mets in the game. No, it was not pretty with him allowing three doubles over that stretch. Still, he kept the Padres at bay.
The Mets rewarded Jones for his effort by getting him off the hook. In the fourth, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza led off the inning with back-to-back singles off of Brian Meadows. Robin Ventura would double home Alfonzo. Piazza would score later in the inning on a Benny Agbayani RBI groundout.
The Mets would get closer in the sixth. Ventura had hit what should have been an inning ending double play, but Klesko dropped the ball. The Mets took advantage with Zeile singling, and Agbayani drawing a walk to load the bases. Matt Franco pinch hit for Rey Ordonez, and he drew a bases loaded walk to pull the Mets to within 4-3.
Carlos Almanzar relieved Meadows, and he got the Padres out of the jam by retiring Kurt Abbott. While Amanzar got out of that sixth inning jam, he’d give up the lead in the seventh when Edgardo Alfonzo hit a two out solo homer to tie the game.
At that point in the game, Mahomes had relieved Jones, and he pitched a scoreless sixth. Bobby Valentine stuck with Mahomes in the seventh, and he pitched a 1-2-3- inning. Seeing how well he was pitching and given his track record, Valentine stuck with Mahomes. That decision did not work as Boone hit a lead-off homer in the eighth to give the Padres a 5-4 lead.
Unlike the past two nights, the Mets were unable to put any pressure on Trevor Hoffman. For the first time in the series, Hoffman had a 1-2-3 inning. With that, the Padres took the series, and the Mets are getting on a flight to St. Louis before flying back to the west coast to face the Dodgers.
Game Notes: The Mets initial two outfield options with the release of Rickey Henderson were Jon Nunnally and Jay Payton. Both players are struggling at the plate with them hitting .191 and .206 respectively. Valentine has responded by mostly using them as defensive replacements.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
If you ask people about Bobby Bonilla‘s time with the Mets, there is nothing but negativity associated with his tenure. There is the annual consternation over his deferred payments. His last ever act as a member of the team was playing cards in the clubhouse with Rickey Henderson as Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones. He wore earplugs to drown out the booing, and generally speaking, he was cantankerous.
Truth be told, Bonilla was not well suited to playing in New York either when he was a 29 year old or when he was a 36 year old. However, sometimes we over-focus on negatives like this to overlook the positives.
Bonilla signing with the Mets was supposed to usher in a new era of Mets baseball. A team who never truly forayed into free agency made the highly coveted Bonilla the highest paid player in the game. Bonilla, who grew up a Mets fan, was coming home to play for his favorite team. At least on the first day he wore a Mets uniform, it seemed like this marriage was going to go great.
On Opening Day, Bonilla hit two homers against the hated Cardinals helping the Mets win 4-2. It was exactly what fans expected from him and that team. However, things quickly unraveled for that Mets team who would be dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. From there things went bad, and they went bad quickly.
Bonilla slumped mightly in May while the Mets. Even when he picked it back up in June, a Mets team who was well in contention fell completely apart. With Bonilla having an awful May and his being the highest paid player in the game, he faced the brunt of the criticism. Unlike Carlos Beltran who went from maligned in 2005 to superstar in 2006, Bonilla never quite recovered.
Part of the reason is the Mets were plain bad. To that end, it’s not his fault the Mets plan was ill conceived. Howard Johnson was not an outfielder. Other players like Eddie Murray and Willie Randolph were over 35. Bret Saberhagen and John Franco were injured. Anthony Young was in the middle of his MLB record losing streak. The bigger issue is Bonilla handled it poorly, and then he was terrible at the end of the year hitting just .196 over the final two months of the season.
While stats like this weren’t used regularly in 1992, the 1.2 WAR was the worst he had since his rookie year. The 121 wRC+ was his worst since his second year in the league. Bonilla and that 1992 Mets team was a huge disappointment, and Bonilla’s image never quite recovered.
What gets lost in the criticism is Bonilla did rebound. From 1993 – 1995, he averaged a 3.1 WAR, and he was a 138 OPS+ hitter. He hit .296/.371/.537 while averaging 27 homers and 84 RBI over that stretch. He would make two All-Star teams, and Bonilla proved to be a bit of a team player willingly moving to third base for stretches when Johnson was injured.
Bonilla’s true breakout season with the Mets came in 1995. He was mashing the ball hitting .325/.385/.599 (151 OPS+) when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Really, this is what the Mets envisioned they were going to get with him. It just took a longer period of adjustment for him to get there.
Overall, in the first stint of his Mets career, Bonilla hit .277/.361/.505 with a 130 wRC+ amassing a 9.7 WAR. That was not that bad, and to a certain extent, on the field, you could say he lived up to the contract. No, he did not live up to expectations, but to be fair, he was never surrounded with the talent to help him do that.
When you look at his entire Mets career, he ranks as the fifth best Mets RF by WAR. The four players ahead of him played more games with the Mets. Among players with at least 500 games played, he is the Mets second best hitting right fielder, and he is tied for sixth as the best Mets hitter of all-time.
At least on the field, that is not a player worth as much derision as he receives. No, on the field he was good but not great Mets player. On the field, he did nothing to deserve scorn.
Off the field is a whole other matter. His adversarial nature with the press did nothing to help him. Mets fans are never going to forgive him playing poker while they were crushed by the ending of Game 6. No one is saying you should.
Rather, the suggestion here is Bonilla be remembered for being the good player he actually was. If you want, you can also opt to remember him a little more warmly as his accepting the buyout led to the Mets having the money to obtain Mike Hampton in a trade. That helped the Mets get a pennant, and when Hampton left for Colorado, the Mets used that compensatory pick to draft David Wright.
All told, the Mets were far better off having Bonilla as a part of the Mets organization as you may have realized.
At this moment, MLB and the MLBPA are negotiating on ways baseball can be played safely in 2020. Part of the proposals in the 67 page document were social distancing measures. Those measures included keeping players apart in the dugout and utilizing the empty stands to do that. There was also the suggestion fielders “retreat several steps away from the baserunner.” (ESPN). That suggestion is well founded.
The CDC has strongly recommended social distancing measures which include keeping six feet away from people. That is both indoors (like a clubhouse) and outdoors (like a baseball diamond). The reasoning is “COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period.”
The stolen base and the threat of the stolen base prevents that six foot separation from occurring.
Now, as detailed in a 2015 Grantland article, even the shortest of leads is over nine feet. In and of itself, those leads provide sufficient social distancing measures. However, that’s only part of the problem.
Periodically, a pitcher will throw over to first. The amount of times a pitcher throws over increases when there’s a fast runner, i.e. stolen base threat, like Ronald Acuna Jr. or Billy Hamilton at first.
On those plays, the base runner dives back into first as the first baseman lunges down to apply the tag. The other situation is the base runner gets back without sliding, and he’s now standing almost face-to-face with the first baseman.
Right there, you have a violation of the CDC social distancing guidelines and MLB’s request fielders position themselves several steps away from the base runner.
There’s also the matter of MLB wanting balls touched by multiple players be thrown out. That means on every throw over, a ball needs to be discarded. Basically, a pitcher throws over, a first baseman applies a tag, and then timeout is called so he can discard the ball.
Assuming the base runner isn’t deterred, his taking off for second creates another series of issues.
First and foremost, he’s now well within six feet of the second baseman or shortstop. That means in all likelihood the base runner has been with six feet of the catcher during his AB, the first baseman on the pickoff attempt, and now the middle infielder on the stolen base attempt.
This means the plans to keep players separated go completely kaput once a runner reaches first.
We then get back to the matter of the ball. On a standard stolen base attempt, three people touch the ball – pitcher, catcher, and middle infielder. If there’s a run-down created by a pick-off or stolen base attempt, all hell breaks loose.
Looking at it, MLB wants players to keep distance as much as possible, and they want as few people as possible touching the ball. That’s simply not possible in a game where players reach base and can advance on a stolen base.
The question for MLB is how they choose to address it.
If the goal was safety and social distancing, perhaps, it’s time MLB prevents players from stealing bases in 2020.
Sure, it seems drastic and draconian. It’s also a major rule change, which impacts the way the game is played. The same can be said for the rules MLB already has implemented in 2020. That includes a universal DH and radical realignment. Those changes also take the game and makes it look much different from the way it looked and was played in 2019 and all of baseball history.
While eliminating stolen bases is a radical change, it’s not as impactful as you might imagine. In the 1980s when Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Vince Coleman were running wild, this would have completely changed the game. Now, not so much.
In 2019, there were 2,280 stolen bases. Over 2,430 games, that’s fewer than a stolen base per game. With attempts, this may push it to one stolen base attempt per game. While we know the impact that one stolen base may have (Dave Roberts Game 4 2004 ALCS), on the whole, the lack of that attempt is not dramatically impacting the game.
Looking at it, this is again about health and finding ways for players to safely play the games. Taking out the constant close contact between a first baseman and base runner does that. In lieu of that, there can be a designated spot where runners may take their lead, and first baseman can be permitted to play back on every play.
Is this ideal? No, not in the least. Really, no one wants to see baseball eliminate the stolen base much in the same way National League fans don’t want to see a DH (which is still absurd for many reasons). However, what people want even less is seeing players get infected with COVID19. As a Mets fan, I don’t want any situation wherein Pete Alonso even has a 1% chance of getting COVID19. As a human being, I don’t want to see that happen to any player.
With that in mind, the safest possible course is to eliminate the stolen base in 2020.
Once again this season, the Mets are struggling, and once again, they gave the ball to Al Leiter who got the win for the Mets. In eight starts for the Mets, Leiter is 5-0 with a 3.24 ERA. That includes today’s start against the Colorado Rockies where Leiter allowed two earned over eight innings on five hits and two walks. He would strike out nine Rockies en route to victory.
The two runs against Leiter came in the third. With two outs and a runner on second, Jeff Cirillo hit an RBI double, and he then scored on a Jeffrey Hammonds RBI single. After that, Leiter retired the next six batters he faced and 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. That allowed the Mets to overcome the 2-0 deficit.
The first run of the game featured two Mets who have a great opportunity ahead of them. Benny Agbayani started in left field for the second straight game since Rickey Henderson‘s release. He led off the bottom of the third with a single off Rolando Arrojo.
After a Rey Ordonez single and botched Leiter sacrifice bunt attempt, Joe McEwing stepped to the plate. McEwing has been leading off and playing center since Henderson’s release. He made an impact here driving home Agbayani on an infield single.
Unfortunately, after Derek Bell walked to load the bases, neither Edgardo Alfonzo or Mike Piazza was able to drive home the tying run. Alfonzo and Piazza would make up for that by starting a rally in the fifth.
With two outs, Alfonzo drew a walk, and Piazza singled. Both players would score on a Robin Ventura RBI double. With that, the Mets were ahead 3-2, and with the way Leiter was pitching, there was no chance the Rockies were going to get back into the game.
Speaking of players with an opportunity with Henderson gone, Jon Nunnally pinch hit for Leiter to start the eighth. McEwing sacrificed him over, and Nunnally scored on a Bell RBI single.
That gave John Franco two runs to work with in the ninth. He didn’t need that buffer as he retired the side to record his second save of the season. Overall, this was a good win for the Mets who hopefully have righted their ship after losing four of six to bad teams entering this game.
Game Notes: Henderson has signed with the Seattle Mariners. Bell is being considered to bat lead-off with Henderson gone. Armando Benitez was unavailable after pitching two innings yesterday.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
The Mets finally got rid of Rickey Henderson. The Mets finally had enough of his lack of hustle and his attitude. According to Bobby Valentine, it wasn’t just him, but the players as well. Combine that with his threatening a reporter, and the Mets finally got rid of the future Hall of Famer. Given how he has been purported to be the issue with the team, you’d think they’d right the ship immediately.
The Mets are really running out of excuses as to why they are playing as terribly as they are. A team who was once six games over .500 is now at .500, and they have lost four out of the five games they have played against the Marlins. This is the same Marlins team who lost 98 games last year and 108 the previous season.
The Mets had a 2-0 first inning lead in this game. Derek Bell hit a one out homer, and then later in the inning, Todd Zeile hit an RBI single. At that time, the Mets had runners in the corner with one out, but the rally ended there when Benny Agbayani hit into an inning ending double play.
As an aside, Agbayani is one of the players who should benefit from Henderson’s release. Agbayani went from coming THIS close to beginning the year in the minors to being on the cusp of an everyday role. Others who may benefit include Joe McEwing, who made his Mets debut starting in center before moving around the field.
That Mets lead grew to 3-0 in the third. Bell hit a lead-off single, and he’d steal second. Paul Bako‘s throw was wild allowing Bell to go to third on the play. He would score an unearned run on Robin Ventura‘s RBI ground out.
Unfortunately, this 3-0 was not enough for Pat Mahomes to protect. With the injury to Bobby Jones, and the complete ineffectiveness of Bill Pulsipher, Mahomes was again thrust into a starting role. For the first three innings, he kept the Marlins off the board. Starting in the fourth, they’d begin to hit him hard.
Preston Wilson, who is starting to wear out the Mets, led off the inning with a double. He’d then score on a Kevin Millar two run homer. Mahomes would get that run back with an RBI double off opposing pitcher Vladimir Nunez in the bottom of the inning to extend the Mets lead to 4-1. He’d then pitch a scoreless fifth, thanks in part, to an inning ending double play after Luis Castillo reached on an error.
In the sixth, the trouble started for Mahomes the way it usually does for any pitcher – the lead-off walk. Cliff Floyd walked to start the inning, and he stole second. That allowed him to score easily on Wilson’s second double of the game. Turk Wendell would relieve Mahomes, but he would allow the inherited runner to score making this a tied 4-4 game.
When Zeile homered off of Ron Mahay to lead off the bottom of the sixth, that’s where the Mets should have put this game away. That gave the Mets a 5-4 lead late in the game. That meant the Mets bullpen, which is supposedly superior to the Marlins’, would be able to close this one out. They didn’t.
Again, it was Wilson who killed the Mets. Dennis Cook started the seventh, and he was didn’t have control. Castillo had reached on a lead-off single. He’d then plunk Floyd with one out. That put two on in front of Wilson who hit a three run homer to give the Marlins a 7-5 lead.
Not wanting to lose this game, Valentine went to Armando Benitez. Benitez got the last five outs of the game which gave the Mets a chance. They would have their chances, but they failed to capitalize.
In the eighth, Todd Pratt, who started this day game after the night game, hit a two out single. Sensing his chance to get the win, Valentine sent Mike Piazza up as a pinch hitter for Kurt Abbott against Braden Looper. Instead of Piazza hitting the game tying blast, he struck out. Then, Valentine pinch hit Jon Nunnally for Jay Payton. Despite Looper not being good against left-handed batters, Nunnally struck out to end the inning.
It should be noted at that point, Valentine had emptied out his bench completely. Actually, there was one bat left, but that bat was Rey Ordonez, who is injured and unavailable. That meant Valentine was going to have to use a pitcher in the ninth as a pinch hitter. It is really difficult to defend that complete lack of foresight and decision making.
You could say it cost the Mets.
McEwing led off the ninth with a double against Antonio Alfonseca, and he’d score on an Edgardo Alfonzo RBI single. Now, instead of having Piazza to bat here or even Nunnally, the Mets had Mike Hampton. For a second, Valentine looked like a genius when Hampton got a hold of one, and he appeared to hit a game winning two run homer. Instead, it went foul, and Hampton would wind up striking out in the at-bat.
With two outs, Zeile kept the rally alive with a single pushing Alfonzo into scoring position. That’s where Alfonzo would stay as Matt Franco grounded out meekly to Alfonseca to end the game.
With the loss, the Mets are at .500, and they look like a team completely lost. They are getting beat up by the Marlins, and they are trying to use interchangeable parts in their outfield and rotation. For now, the only thing they can hope for is Hampton to once again play the role of stopper and get the Mets back on track tomorrow.
Game Notes: McEwing was up because Melvin Mora was placed on the DL. He had busted up his index finger and needed stitches on a bunt attempt on Friday. This will put the shortstop duties squarely on Abbott until Ordonez feels healthy enough to play again.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.t
Well, this is a redux of the Ryan Dempster/Glendon Rusch match-up in Miami last week. In that game, Rusch was terrific in that game, but he would be out-dueled by Dempster who threw a one hit shut out. Today, neither pitcher would be nearly at the same level. Part of that could have been the slick conditions for a game which had a 25 minute rain delay at the start.
For Rusch, this is now two bad starts over his last three. Entering the fifth, the Mets were already down 2-0 after Dempster hit an RBI double in the second, and Preston Wilson hit one in the third. At 2-0, the Mets were still very much in the game. They wouldn’t be that after the top of the fifth.
First, it was a three run homer by Wilson, and later that inning, Derek Lee hit a homer. That expanded the Marlins lead to 6-0. Rusch had allowed six runs on 12 hits, including those two homers. After throwing 98 pitches, he was done for the game, and unlike his prior starts, he would be a deserving loser in this game.
What was frustrating for the Mets up until that point was they had their chances, and they didn’t have to wait until the sixth to get a hit off of him.
In the first, they wasted a Rickey Henderson lead-off single, and they did the same with Todd Zeile lead-off singles in the second and fourth. Of course, part of the Henderson wasted lead-off single was Henderson’s signature lack of hustle. He thought he hit one out against Dempter beginning his home run trot. Instead, what he had was a single that hit the wall. With his speed, even at this age, that should never happen.
After falling behind 6-0, the Mets were finally able to get to Dempster, not just in this game, but in 2000.
Henderson got the Mets started with a one out single and then a stolen base. He would then score easily on a Derek Bell RBI double. After Bell, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura would go back-to-back. Suddenly, the Mets were in this game pulling to within 6-4.
After the Ventura homer, the Mets continued the rally. Jon Nunnally drew a two out walk, and Melvin Mora singled. That brought up Kurt Abbott to the plate as the go-ahead run. He’d pop out to end the inning. From there, the Mets would muster just one more hit the entire game.
Even though they only had one more hit, that doesn’t quite mean they had no more chances. In the sixth, Bell doubled putting runners on second and third with one out. Dempster would rear back and strike out Piazza, his final batter of the game. Armando Almanza relieved Dempster, and he struck out Ventura to end the inning.
In the eighth, Almanza would walk two batters giving the Mets first and second with two outs. With Piazza coming to the plate, the Marlins went to Braden Looper. Looper would get Piazza to ground out meekly to first to end the inning.
The shame of it was the Mets bullpen did their job. Turk Wendell (two innings), John Franco, and Armando Benitez shut down the Marlins over the final four innings. However, when your offense isn’t taking advantage of their opportunities, it doesn’t matter. In the end, this was just another ugly loss to a bad Marlins team; one which has pushed the Mets back to just one game over .500.
Game Notes: Edgardo Alfonzo was held out of the starting lineup with a sore calf, but he was able to pinch hit. With Rey Ordonez‘s shoulder injury, that meant the Mets middle infield was Melvin Mora at second, and Abbott at short. The Mets have officially decided to have Pat Mahomes start in Bill Pulsipher‘s place tomorrow.
There is no sugar coating it. In this extremely long road trip taking the Mets all around the country, they have not played well at all. Lately, they have been digging into the bullpen, and they are getting fatigued allowing a lot of runs. In circumstances like that, a team needs a front line starter to step up and save the team.
That is exactly what Al Leiter did for the Mets today.
The Mets got him a lead before he even threw a pitch in this game. Rickey Henderson walked, and he went to third on a Derek Bell double. Brian Giles then misplayed an Edgardo Alfonzo fly ball. Henderson scored on what was ruled a sacrifice fly, and Alfonzo reached safely on what was ruled an E9. Later in the inning, Todd Zeile hit an RBI single to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
In the second, Leiter allowed back-t0-back singles to Kevin Young and Wil Cordero (two Pirates who have worn the Mets out in this series) to start the inning. Leiter almost got out the jam, but Luis Sojo would hit an RBI single pulling the Pirates to within 2-1.
The Mets would get that run back on a Zeile solo homer to lead-off the fourth, and the Pirates pulled to within 3-2 on a Chad Hermansen homer in the fifth. After that, Leiter would not allow another run.
Part of the reason why is his stopping a Pirates rally in the sixth. Sojo hit a two out double to put runners on second and third with two outs. Leiter got the pinch hitter Bruce Aven to end the inning. After that Sojo double, Leiter would allow just two hits over the final few innings as he would go the distance.
This complete game victory was exactly what the Mets needed. Not only did it help give the Mets a series win after losing two straight series to sub .500 teams, but it would also give the bullpen a needed rest. This long road trip is finally over, and the Mets can return home to Shea Stadium to face the Marlins.
For a moment, this seemed like an easy win for the Mets. The game was tied 1-1 in the third inning when the Mets offense exploded against Pirates starter Todd Ritchie.
Mets starter Rick Reed was hit by a pitch, and Rickey Henderson walked. They would both score on a two out RBI double by Edgardo Alfonzo. After the Alfonzo double, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura went back-to-back. In that five run inning, the Mets went ahead 5-1, and they had Reed, who has been their ace this season, on the mound.
Unfortunately, Reed just did not have it today.The same pitcher who began the season with a streak of seven inning starts allowing two or fewer runs just could not keep the Pirates off of the board.
In the second, it was a Kevin Young homer. In the fourth, it was a Pat Meares RBI triple. In the fifth, it was an Adrian Brown lead-off triple setting up his scoring on a Warren Morris RBI ground out. Suddenly, that Mets 6-1 commanding lead was a closer 6-3 game. Even with his struggles on the day, Bobby Valentine still sent Reed out for the sixth. He wouldn’t be out there for long.
Reed allowed three hits to start the sixth including a two run Wil Cordero homer. With a man on and no outs, Turk Wendell entered the game. First, he balked the runner to second, and then he would allow a Brown RBI double. At that point, the game was tied 6-6.
If you were the Mets, you still had to have faith you were going to win this game. After all, the Mets are the better team with the better bullpen. Maybe, that was a bit of hubris because with the way the Mets are playing right now they are not better than anyone. The Pirates would prove that point.
The Mets entered the bottom of the seventh with a 7-6 lead after a Todd Zeile RBI double in the top half of the inning. That rally ended when Ventura tried to score on a ball which did not get far enough away from Jason Kendall.
In the bottom of the seventh, Dennis Cook put the first two batters on, and Valentine brought in Pat Mahomes. Like Reed, Mahomes has been great for the Mets this year. Like Reed, Mahomes just didn’t have it allowing five straights, including an RBI double by John Vander Wal. Suddenly, a Mets 6-1 and 7-6 lead became an 11-7 deficit.
To their credit, the Mets did not go down without a fight. In the eighth, they had second and third with two outs, and Alfonzo would score on a Mike Garcia wild pitch. In the ninth, they had the bases loaded with one out, and they would score a run on a Jay Payton sacrifice fly.
However, it just wasn’t enough. Part of the reason is John Franco allowed to a two RBI double in the eighth. All told, it was a 13-9 Mets loss. This loss was bad not only because the Mets blew a big lead against a bad team, but it was worse because the pitchers the Mets thought they could rely upon all season failed them in this spot. They’re now lost seven of their last nine and are now just one game above .500. With the way things are going, they may be at .500 tomorrow.
Game Notes: With his double, Zeile snapped an o-for-18 streak. Like Henderson earlier in the week, Rich Rodriguez was put on waivers. The Mets are looking to move Bill Pulsipher to the bullpen, but they claim they first need to move Rodriguez to do it.
Well, the Mets got exactly what they needed. In an insane road trip apparently put together by someone who doesn’t own a map, the Mets finally got a day off. Rickey Henderson was back in the lineup putting his problems aside for a day. Finally, they got that well pitched effort from Mike Hampton after a Mets loss.
And the Mets needed this effort from Hampton. They needed it because they needed to get off the snide. They also needed it because Kris Benson was nearly equal to him today.
As an early practical matter, the Mets got their first hit out of the way early on an Edgardo Alfonzo infield single. That caused a bit of relief for a team who was just nearly no-hit by Ryan Dempster. There was more relief in the third when Derek Bell and Alfonzo hit back-to-back homers to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
After that, there was no more scoring in what proved to be a 2-0 Mets victory in what proved to be a pitcher’s duel. While Benson was putting up zeros in seven of the eight innings he pitched, Hampton put up zeros in all 8.1 innings he pitched. However, just because Hampton didn’t allow a run doesn’t mean it was always easy. In fact, he needed to get a number of big outs.
In the second, Kevin Young singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Hampton got the next to Pirates to ground out to preserve the tie. The biggest challenge came in the fifth when Young singled and Wil Cordero doubled to begin the inning.
Hampton first struck out Pat Meares. Then, with the infield drawn in, Robin Ventura fielded the Luis Sojo grounder, and he nailed Young at the plate. Hampton then escaped the jam by getting Benson to ground out. The Pirates could not get to Hampton again until the ninth.
In that ninth inning, Hampton allowed a lead-off single to Brian Giles, and then with one out, he plunked Cordero. That put the tying runs on base with one out. Despite his recent struggles, Bobby Valentine went to Armando Benitez to record the save.
Benitez would reward Valentine’s faith in him getting Meares to fly out before striking out John Vander Wal to end the game. With that, Benitez recorded his ninth save of the season, and mostly, the struggling Mets finally won a game. That was even better with Hampton playing the role of stopper like the team had hoped he would be when they obtained him this past offseason.
Game Notes: With the off day, the Mets are going to skip Bill Pulsipher‘s next start and move him to the bullpen. While the team may want to keep him there permanently, those plans may be encumbered by Rich Rodriguez‘s contract. Henderson was placed on outright waivers but said they have no intention of releasing him.
So much for the Mets getting healthy after getting swept by the Giants. Instead of taking a series against a bad Marlins team, the Mets lost two out of three, and they really lost the last two games of the series in rather embarrassing fashion. Yesterday, it was a route. Today, well, it was domination.
Looking at the positives for the Mets, there was one, and that one was Glendon Rusch. After this rough outing against the Giants, he returned to the form he was to start the season. His final line was 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
Once again, it was a sterling seven inning effort. where he allowed two runs or fewer on six or fewer hits. He has done that in five of his six starts. That makes his 1-3 record to begin this season all the more bewildering.
Rusch allowed three straight singles to start the game, and on the third single Cliff Floyd scored Luis Castillo. After that, Rusch only allowed three more hits the entire game, and including the walk, just four base runners. He really wasn’t even threatened.
The problem is the Mets never really threatened Ryan Dempster. After all, that is difficult to do when the one and only hit you get is a Mike Piazza two out double in the sixth. At least with that double the Mets did not suffer the indignity of being no-hit. Instead, they had the indignity of being one hit by a pitcher who entered this season with a 5.36 career ERA.
It’s not even like Dempster was THAT sharp. After all, he did walk four batters, and the Mets did get runners into scoring position. In the first, there were runners on first and second with one out after Derek Bell reached on an error and Edgardo Alfonzo walked.
In the fourth, Alfonzo reached via a lead-off walk, and he was erased on a Piazza fielder’s choice. After a walk to Robin Ventura, there was once again runners at first and second with one out. Finally, as referenced above, Piazza hit a two out double in the sixth.
Again, the Mets offense did nothing against Dempster who just made the Mets look bad at the plate striking out eight batters en route to his shutout in the Marlins 3-1 victory.
To make matters worse, Rickey Henderson blew up again. After the detente in San Francisco, Henderson responded by becoming an on-base machine. While he has just four hits over his last 13 at-bats, he has drawn an astounding eight walks for a .524 OBP.
Despite that hot streak, Bobby Valentine opted to rest the 41 year old in the day game after the night game. In Valentine’s defense, this is not too dissimilar than what he did with Henderson last year, and Henderson responded with a great year. However, this is a soft spot for Henderson, and he was angry for sitting yet again in place of Jon Nunnally.
This means that yet again we have to monitor how much of a problem Henderson and his playing time will be, and worse yet, when the Mets are mired in a slump like this losing six of seven to sub .500 teams, you wonder how much this is affecting the team.