Friday, April 11, 2008

Taking down the Phillies 2-1

Well, we lost the important one, but in the end, the Mets are up 2-1 on the season series against the Phillies.

First up was the emotional Opening Day. Willie Randolph took a lot of heat for his quick hook of Oliver Perez, and his post-game comments regarding why. But I have to side with Willie here, for once. Although he had pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, he had a lot of control problems throughout. I really don't think he was pitching well that game, although he was getting out of trouble. He came out of the game after throwing 94 pitches, and with runners on 1st and 3rd. It really didn't seem to me like a bad move at the time, and Joe Smith came in to get out of it to keep the Phillies off the board. The move worked, at least for the time being; perhaps Willie was putting too much pressure on the bullpen, but he has to have faith in his guys and not give up on them this early, whereas the fans are free to criticize and see the bullpen as a failure all they want. Anyway, Oliver Perez still hasn't given up a run, or even an extra base hit, in two starts, so that's great to see.

But then, we lost to the Phillies in typical fashion. The bats went to sleep, and the bullpen blew the lead. Scott Schoeneweis loaded the bases in the 7th, but should have gotten out of it, but Carlos Delgado threw a should-be inning-ending double play into Chase Utley's back, and 2 runs would score on the play, with a 3rd later in the inning. Then Aaron Heilman gave up another two in the 8th to give a cushion to the Phillies' lead that they didn't need, and they won 5-2.

Of note though are the two injuries that quietly happened in that game. Luis Castillo exited the game after the 4th inning with soreness in his knee. More importantly, Jimmy Rollins came out in the 8th after injuring his ankle. Neither injury was serious, but both would miss the rest of the series, and considering it was the struggling Castillo compared to the reigning MVP Rollins, that would certainly help us out more.

It turned out that it would help us a lot more. In Game 2, the Mets would score six runs in the third inning, with only one being earned, with help by two errors by Rollins' replacement, Eric Bruntlett. The game was certainly odd, as we scored 8 runs on just 5 hits, with 9 walks and 4 errors from the Phillies. I'll take the win any way we can get it though, and the 8-2 victory to snap the 9 game losing streak against the rivals felt good.

The rubber game was by far the highlight of the series, though. Like Perez, John Maine wasn't at the top of his game, but he got the job done, going 6+ innings while allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, although 5 walks. However, it would be problems for Aaron Heilman once again. He came in in the 8th inning with a 3-1 lead, but immediately gave up a lead-off HR to Ryan Howard. That was followed by a walk, a single, and an RBI groundout to tie the game. It was looking like it would be another typical blown game to the Phillies. But he got out of the inning, and the game would soon be going to extra innings.

It would also soon be time for Scott Schoeneweis to make his appearance. I want to give him a second chance, a fresh start this season. But so far, he has continued to struggle, and has continued to deserve the boos from the home crowd. However, today was hopefully the day when he turns it all around, as he would leave the game to an ovation. He came into the game in the 11th inning with runners on first and second, one out, and the two big lefties coming up for Philadelphia. He got the ground ball from Chase Utley though, and nobody was in Damion Easley's way, so the double play was turned. He also got Ryan Howard out to lead off the 12th. Getting those two batters out is obviously a big key to beating this team, and especially getting Utley out in that situation was huge. Hopefully Mets fans won't be so quick to boo him next time.

Finally, the game would end in the 12th, and what more can be said about Angel Pagan. After a two out double by Jose Reyes, Pagan lined one up the middle to bring Reyes home in a close play at the plate to end the game and give the Mets the 4-3 win. I, and most Mets fans, had high hopes for him replacing Moises Alou after a great Spring Training, and he is far exceeding expectations. After the 3-5 day with 2 runs scored an an RBI, he is now batting .370 with 9 RBIs, both leading the team, as well as 8 runs, which is tied for Delgado at the top. It's going to be tough to take him out when Alou comes back, but with what Alou can bring, and as good as Ryan Church has been playing as well, it's going to be tough to keep him in. With all the problems on this team though, this is a welcome one, for sure.

And what more can be said about Shane Victorino. While not as flashy as the big three of Rollins, Howard, and Utley, I saw him last year as a great complement to them. He just seemed to do everything right to beat us, between finding ways to get on base, great baserunning, and great fielding. He earned a spot on my fantasy baseball team this season, which is saying a lot considering how much he made me hate him last year. Although he's started off slumping at the plate, he proved to be an extremely dangerous force in the outfield, especially now moving to CF with after Aaron Rowand left. Atlanta may have let Andruw Jones go, but now there is Shane Victorino in Philadelphia.

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