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Six straight nail biters left the Mets pretty much where they began the week.
Week 5 (5/3-5/9) record: 3-3
2010 Season record: 17-14
This week’s positives: Rod Barajas, Top of the lineup, David Wright (some of the time), Rod Barajas (he definitely deserves to be mentioned twice)
This week’s negatives: Bullpen, David Wright (the rest of the time), Oliver Perez
The optimist would look at this past week and point out that the Mets won three of the six games with late homeruns, including two walkoffs, showing much character in the process.
The pessimist would look at this past week and point out that the Mets lost three of the six games with late homeruns, including two walkoffs, and almost blew the games they ended up winning.
No matter who looks at this past week, the Mets are in almost the same position they were in one week ago: three wins over .500, in second place behind the Phillies.
This week featured plenty of excitement. All three games in Cincinnati relied on home runs in the winning team’s final respective innings at the plate: Two extra-inning walkoff HR wins for the Reds separated by a Rod Barajas game-winning HR in the top of the 9th (after the Mets bullpen blew the win for starting pitcher, John Maine).
This trend continued when the Mets returned home to host the Giants. In the first game, after Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was unable to provide the relief his position requires, Barajas again came to the rescue. The second game had similar results from the Mets bullpen, and similar heroics from the other half of the Mets battery, Henry Blanco (otherwise known as Hank White). Sunday’s series finally featured an Aaron Rowand 2-run HR in the top of the 8th (some people just can’t wait for the 9th, I guess) to put the Giants ahead to stay.
While the hitting statistics from this past week may not properly convey the excitement, they do a great job of summing up the mediocrity. The abovementioned Barajas had only three hits this week, batting a brutal .188. Then again, all three hits were homeruns, two of them game-winners. Cleanup hitter Jason Bay batted an even uglier .167 for the week, but he also led the team with 6 RBI’s (or RBI if you prefer that as the plural). David Wright had two home runs this week and an important (at the time) sacrifice fly. He also struck out in 13 of his 24 at-bats, including his last 8 official at-bats (broken up only by that sacrifice fly). I realize that this last paragraph has been full of numbers that are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of a season, but I urge you to re-read the previous sentence regarding David Wright. Thirteen K’s in 24 at-bats? That’s more than half of his at-bats (hooray for basic math skills). That includes a super-un-clutch caught looking with the potential tying run in scoring position with nobody out in the bottom of the 9th in an eventual loss to the Giants (hooray for run-on sentences). Wright was subsequently ejected after taking that called third strike; the rest of the team followed their leader to the showers mere moments later.
Meanwhile, the pitchers performances were just as “eh”. Mets starting pitchers did not lose a single game this past week…nor did they win a single game this past week. Oliver Perez followed up his inspiring start against the Reds with a dreadful 7 walks in 3.1 innings “performance” versus the Giants. Perez looked like Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp from Summer School during his “I don’t know anything” nightmare before his final exam. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was ruining the game, as well as Mother’s Day, for Mets fans, I would like to believe that they would have shown the helpless-looking Perez some sympathy. Don’t worry, I know better.
Obviously the Mets bullpen must have been pretty busy if the starters did not earn a single decision. Up until now, the normally busy bullpen has been reliable. That status didn’t come through in this week’s performances. Rodriguez blew a save, Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano combined to blow a save, and Jenrry Mejia and Manny Acosta each took a loss. To be fair, Nieve pitched in 5 of the 6 games this week, and came up big a couple of times. Furthermore, relievers Hisanori Takahashi and Raul Valdes provided game-changing appearances with shutout innings out of the pen.
It’s hard to know what to make of this past week. These games were too thrilling to simply dismiss as a 3-3 week. Therefore, instead of team-wide takeaways, perhaps it’s best to focus on some specifics.
The top of the lineup was pretty impressive. Angel Pagan has really begun to take advantage of his playing time as well as his role as the Mets leadoff hitter. While his .370 OBP this past week may not have been optimal, the timing of his hits was generally clutch, and his overall play has softened the blow of Beltran’s moving target of a return date. Luis Castillo continues to do what he’s been doing since last season, hitting singles. While that may not sound sexy (chicks do dig the long ball), he’s been the Mets most consistent hitter for a while now. If his heel can heal quickly (my apologies, it’s late and that was unavoidable), it would be one less worry for the Mets. Third-place hitter Jose Reyes is slowly returning to form. He may still not be the prototypical #3 hitter, but he’s looking more and more like Jose Reyes should look.
Ike Davis continues to impress. Davis had a .481 OBP this past week, with 7 hits and 6 walks. He also made an impressive and rather important play in the top of the 9th of Friday’s 6-4 Mets victory. More importantly though, at a time when pitchers are seemingly altering their approach to Davis, he appears to be adjusting just fine. He has gotten hits with 2 strikes, gone the other way on some tough pitches, and shown some pop. It’s way too early to declare him a future star, but he’s done enough to prove that his hot start was more than beginner’s luck.
No matter how heroic the rest of the team may be, the Mets simply cannot go far unless they can count on their middle-of-the lineup guys. At some point, Rod Barajas will look more like the low batting average guy and less like the game winning home run guy. The Mets will need Wright, Bay and Jeff Francouer to come through when this happens.
Johan Santana, a well-known second-half of the season pitcher, has battled through many of his first half of the season innings. Then again, Phillies game aside, he’s battled and won. It’s likely a matter of when, and not if, he will start to dominate again. Mike Pelfrey shook off his first truly bad start of 2010 by throwing 7+ effective innings against the Giants. He also experienced shoulder tightness this week. The Mets will certainly need him and his shoulder to stay healthy and loosen up. John Maine has now thrown two straight quality starts. How many more before fans start to trust him? My guess is three. Just when I start to think that Jon Niese is better than I originally expected, he has a bad game. Then again, it was just bad and not terrible, so he’s probably not worst than expected either. Ollie Perez continues to be Ollie Perez. He will likely never be anything other than Ollie Perez. Whether you’ve been watching baseball your whole life, or just started to follow the sport, your guess as to what Ollie will provide is as good as anyone else’s.
The Mets bullpen had their first collectively bad week this past week. Are they as good as they had been in the previous weeks? Perhaps, but probably not. Are they as bad as they were this week? Probably not, but perhaps. Is it possible that the bullpen is already tired from early season overuse? Entirely possible. Will manager Jerry Manuel alter his strategy accordingly? Entirely doubtful.
This week the Mets play two NL East foes…a 3-game series against the Nationals at Citi Field, followed by a 4-game series in Florida.
3 things to watch:
1. Which version of the 2010 Mets bullpen will show up?
2. Will major league pitchers find an Ike Davis weakness or will he continue to adjust?
3. David Wright can’t keep striking out. Can he?
As you probably noticed, or at least read, I used the term “walkoff” a couple times in this article. Please know that I do this begrudgingly. This term has only achieved widespread use in the last 15-20 years. I believe its origin has been traced back to Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, although I’m sure there were others prior to him. I don’t like the phrase. I can’t really explain why, and at this point I have little choice but to accept its place in the baseball vernacular, as it has been so thoroughly worked into the parlance of our times. That said, if you read this article and found yourself disappointed in me for my use of the term “walkoff” understand that those feelings are noted and shared.
Topics: Aaron Rowand, David Wright, First Game, Francisco Rodriguez, Henry Blanco, Heroics, Home Runs, Homeruns, Mediocrity, Oliver Perez, Optimist, Pessimist, Phillies, Reds, Rod Barajas, Second Game, Six Games, Starting Pitcher, Three Games, Winning Team