Didn’t think I’d be saying that a month ago.
AARON HEILMAN I SPOON YOU!
BILLY WAGNER I MAKE YOU PIES!
OLLIE PEREZ I FELLATE YOU!
There was a whole lot of impersonation going on last night. First, Carlos Delgado continuing to imitate his old form. Then, Johan Santana begins to look like the dominant pitcher we hoped for and expected when we traded the farm for him. Ramon Castro impersonating an honest-to-God starter, rendering Brian Schneider completely irrelevant (he seems like a nice guy?). Those three had this guy laughing in the aisles.
Not as funny, though, was everything else. Making up for Send ‘Em Sandy’s lack of windmilling as third base coach was Luis Aguayo, sending Endy Chavez home TWICE where he would record the first out of the inning. TWICE. Two times. Those two non-runs, we’d find out, would prove to be important. And considering Billy Wagner’s lack of availability, Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano (I’ll give Joe Smith a pass, since he got a needed ground ball with which Jose Reyes did absolutely nothing) decided to pretend to be the All Star closer, except they based their impressions on Wagner completely blowing it against the Phillies as opposed to dominating teams like the Reds. And then of course there were the Phillies, resembling the Mets team that scored five runs in the top of the ninth to beat Cincinnati on Friday, or maybe we should more accurately say that that Mets team resembled the Phillies.
That stuff? Not as funny. But more true, somehow.
I don’t recall the last easy game against the Phillies. I don’t remember the last no-doubter; that last game in Philly where they lead 10-1 seemed like one, only then it reverted to form and the Mets held on for a 10-9 win. It always seems like every game is a knock-down drag-out fight, which is fun in its way, but I like crisp wins. Last night seemed like a crisp win. Almost too crisp. Because from the time Johan gave up back-to-back-to-back two-out singles in the first inning through Shane Victorino’s home run, Santana looked dominant, getting quick outs and pop-ups and boring old lazy grounders to third, ho hum. Truly spectacular. And Delgado and Castro’s joint two-run blasts looked like the sufficient offensive production they’d need. But through that whole duration of glorious easy middle innings, a current of dread began to sink me further into my couch.
It seems like the Phillies are always coming back. It always seems like the Mets have a lead, or are tied, and the Phillies somehow are able to wake up late (in the game or season), their backs to the wall, and break out for the win. Usually it’s Wagner who blows it. This time we can look at Sanchez and Feliciano. I know everyone today is going to jump on Wagner for being unavailable, which is fairly understandable considering this fanbase’s love of expletives and hyperbole, but deal with the fact that his shoulder wasn’t up to snuff and he needed a day (and again, he always blows it against the Phillies anyway…see what I did there?!). Deal with what you’ve got. Funnily, I felt queasy with the decision to pitch Sanchez. I know it makes sense, considering he’s your set-up man, but as Howie Rose said last night, there’s a difference between pitching the eighth inning and pitching in a save situation. I would have rather seen Smith, who’d thrown two and a third scoreless against this very team two weeks ago, gone out for the ninth, matchups be damned. Because not only did he get some lefties out last time, but part of closer is not just stuff, but gumption. That kid has ice water in his veins. Sanchez, considering how soon he’s been thrust into these situations after being away for so long, maybe doesn’t have it yet. And let’s not talk about Feliciano. I’ve gone on record as saying he’s been shaky all season, and last night was just another example.
It wouldn’t be a Mets-Phillies game without trauma and drama. Last night’s impersonations attempted a bit of comedy, but I didn’t feel too much like laughing at the end of it.
I had this whole visual joke all ready to go but then I see that Metstradamus has beaten me to the punch. LOL@me.
Last night’s game was a rollercoaster, equal parts excruciating, exciting, disappointing, hilarious, and ultimately deeply satisfying.
But I won’t call it surprising. Not after these ten games. I’m not surprised by the fight back we witnessed last night. I’m not surprised by Fernando Tatis anymore, because now it seems that the only time he ever gets a hit is when someone’s on base, waiting to get driven in. I’m not surprised that Carlos Delgado is resembling an honest-to-God Major League hitter again, because he’s been taking his walks like a patient man and waiting for a meatball to smoke, which he inevitably does. I’m not surprised by David Wright’s heroics, because when Argenis Reyes singled in the top of the ninth I nonchalantly thought, “Well a third two-run homer would get us back in business,” and then instantly I heard the ball ricocheting off his bat, Wayne Hagin’s voice soaring with it and optimism and my pumped fist as it went over the wall. And I’m not surprised the succession of hard hits by Beltran, Easley, Delgado, and Tatis, because over the past ten games we’ve seen this team get on these runs, stringing together hits for a big inning, moving the line along like automatic assembly to craft something so lovely and satisfying like a four-run ninth, tenth win in a row, and a tie for first place.
Not surprised by the pitching either, sorry to say. Not surprised by Santana’s terrible start; it figures the one time the Mets actually score oodles of runs during a game he pitches it’d be after he was knocked out in the fourth. He’s had his dominant-looking performances here and there this season, but usually they’ve been spoiled by lack of offense and/or bullpen meltdown. I’m not sure I’ve been wholly satisfied with Santana since the first game of the season, and I expect that to change soon enough. It’s enough that Pelfrey has started to look the stud. But you could sense Santana’s troubles a-brewin’ during that second inning when the Reds loaded the bases. He just didn’t have it, and a few innings later–afforded a 2-0 lead thanks to Delgado–it all went down the tubes real fast.
The bullpen’s 19 1/3 scoreless innings streak had to end sometime, and after Muniz relieved Santana and Feliciano relieved Muniz, it was looking pretty good. You’d of course have to think that any runs given up by the bullpen would eventually–according to recent history at least–happen with a combination of Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis, which is exactly what happened, despite their recent efficacy. The troubling part about it was Heilman, as fantastically good over the past month and a half as he was bad during the first two months, getting two quick outs in the inning, only to give up a double, intentional walk, and another walk. Smart move by Jerry Manuel to bring in Schoeneweis, who’s been great at inducing ground balls but, if my memory is correct, not-so-great at stranding inherited runners. Enter bases-clearing double. Thankfully for them, Sanchez pitched a scoreless eighth and the offense would work its magic.
And what to say about Wagner? Sure, I was feeling a little shaky considering his All-Star appearance, but after Encarnacion popped up on the first pitch I remembered, “Wags only blows it against the Phillies!” (insert wah-wah horns). At any rate, nice to see an easy 1-2-3 deal-sealing after the offense’s tremendous comeback in the top of the inning.
So many heroes last night, from big (Delgado) to small (the other Reyes), but with a two-out, 2 RBI single to cut the score to 5-4, and then to tie the score at 8 in the ninth, player of the game has to be David Wright. And of course, let us gaze upon his bounteous beauty:
Let’s go Mets. Turn it up to 11.
According to Adam Rubin, Mike Pelfrey has been named the NL Player of the Week.
His maturation has been something to behold. What a stud.