Some Surprising Pitching Stats as of April 29th–Mets Lead the MLB in Strikeouts
The Mets as a team have an ERA of 3.06, which is the third best in the major leagues, behind the Cardinals with 2.58 and the Giants with 2.78. They have given up fewer home runs this year than any other team, except the Cardinals. The Cards have given up 9 homers while the Mets have given up 12. The Mets pitchers are in a tie for first with four complete games, and lead the majors in strikeouts with 183. They also are second behind the Angels in innings pitched with 203. Combine that with clutch hitting and solid fielding and running and it explains why, at least for now, the Mets are flying high.
Mets Sweep Braves, Dodgers, Torre, Vault from Last to First In Four Days
Evan Pritchard for Amazine
The Mets went into a virtual tie for first, .007 behind the Phillies at 10:30 the night of April 27th after sweeping a double header from the Dodgers, 4-0 and 10-5. By one AM the Phillies had lost to the Giants and the Mets were Kings of the East with sole possession of first place by half a game. In the words of the humble court jester of WFAN Steve Sommers, “It’s good to be king.”
Just four days earlier, the Mets were in last place and everyone was asking, “Will the Mets ever play relevant games again?” This word relevancy has several layers of “Yankic” rhetoric to it, but we’ll take it at face value. Relevancy in New York obviously has to do with playoff games and World Series domination, in other words, being “king of the hill, top of the heap, A Number One….” Okay okay. Outside of New York, relevancy has more to do with playing your best with what you have, playing fair, and keeping a loyal fan base. Those ideas never seem to catch hold in New York, at least with the major media. That’s certainly not Derek Jeter’s fault, but if he would stop playing so well, the rabid Yankee fans would have a harder time picking bar brawls with the pure and virtuous Mets faithful.
So now taking the Steinbrennarian implications of “relevance” in stride, the New York Mets have launched themselves into sole possession of first place in the National League East, and seem to be giving us the “Monarch Notes” version of 1969, the Miracle Year of You Gotta Believe. In fact, at this writing, the Mets are ahead of the World Champion defending Yankees in two important categories. They are playing well and they are in first whereas the Yankees are a distant second, (okay 2.5 games out). The Mets have a seven game winning streak going, while the Yankees have a one game streak. Yes, true the Mets have a record of 13-9 as opposed to the Yankees 13-7, but the good news is, both teams are tied in wins.
Does this have anything to do with the precipitous fall of those performance-enhanced pinstriped “suits” working over at Goldman Sachs (and other banksters) and the rise of the everyday proletariats like Ike Davis and Mike Pelfrey, as defended by the SEC umpires? It does if you think it does. Meanwhile, I’m stocking up on salted peanuts in the shell and hotdogs with mustard and I’m getting ready to watch the whole battle from the safety of my TV set. I’m referring to the SEC vs Goldman Sachs battle, but I will agree to follow the Mets this year as well as long as there is electricity for the radio and TV to run after the global stock market crash.
Speaking of relevancy and electricity, I think the Mets electrifying surge to first place is very relevant. I think that this is the year America will turn away from the inflated home run numbers of steroids, the inflated empty profits of the stock markets of deception, and get back to real, earth-based values, fundamentals such as trade in real goods and services, and bunting, hit and run, and stealing bases. And I think the Mets are very relevant in that regard. In the last ten days since Ike Davis joined the Mets and the SEC came down hard on Goldman Sachs, the good guys have been looking great on the bases, making bold but calculated risks on the basepaths, and winning ballgames the old fashioned way, with their arms and legs. I think that after a market correction of mammoth proportions, world markets will get back to fundamentals and make money the old fashioned way, by helping their customers instead of betting against them.
Ike Davis started with the team on Monday April 19th, only three days after the news about the SEC suit against Goldman Sachs, and got two hits in his first game. Isaac Benjamin Davis now has 11 hits, 3 doubles, 1 homer and 6 RBI’s in ten games, batting .355. He has also turned in at least two spectacular plays. The Mets revealed his might on the first night of their first home stand, and went 9-1 on the stand, the finest homestand in Mets franchise history, tied with the Miraculous Mets of August 1969, and the Mets of September 1988 who also went 9-1.
Our new first baseman is not the first Ike Davis in baseball; there was a shortstop on the Washington Senators in 1919 named Isaac “Ike” Davis, who was later traded to the Chicago White Sox. But this is not your father’s (or grandfather’s) Ike Davis. They call this the “Ike Davis Era” for a reason. This year promises to be one of surprises and reversals of fortune. I sincerely hope the Yankees stay in business, they are a lovely team, but in the words of Bob Dylan “those who were first will later be last, for the times they are a changin’.” Let’s hope the reverse is true for the Mets. They’ve been in last long enough for my musical tastes!
Here’s the pan-MLB standings as of this moment:
Tampa Bay 16-5 .762
Minnesota 14-7 .667
St. Louis 14-7 .667
NY Yankees 13-7 .650
San Diego 13-8 .619
NEW YORK METS 13-9 .591
San Fran 12-9 .571
WHO’S THAT STEALING MY THUNDER?????
Pelfrey Giving Santana a Run for His Money
Evan Pritchard for Amazine
When $18,876,139 dollar superstar pitcher Johann Santana takes the mound tomorrow, Tuesday April 27th, for the first game of a storm-delayed double header, he needs to be on his best behavior. Someone is in the process of stealing his thunder as the Mets’ pitching ace. It’s the youthful Mike Pelfrey, a $500,000 a year farm lad who at one time had balkinosis, a tendendy to balk on every pitch, most notably on May 17th of 2009. Now he’s burning up the league and leading the National League in almost every category. He is strides ahead of Santana and probably on his way to this year’s All Star Game.
Rather than give a fair comparison of the two based on career averages, I’d like to tease Mr. Santana a bit, and show him the writing on the scoreboard concerning this season so far.
Mr. Pelfry is leading the National League in victories (4, Santana has 2) leads the league in won-loss (4-0, Santana is 2-1) leads the majors in ERA (0.69, Santana’s is 2.59) starts (4, same as Santana) and adjusted ERA+ (614, Santana’s adjusted ERA is 164). Pelfrey leads the league in least homers (0, Santana has given up 1)
Pelfrey leads the league for starters with saves (1, Santana has no saves) and leading the league with a 1.000 fielding percentage (tied with Santana). Pelfrey is leading the league in almost everything but strikeouts, and that often leads to a slot in the All Star line up.
Pelfrey already has more victories in three weeks (4) than he did all of 2007 in 72 2/3 innings. He is currently batting at .250, which is over 100 ahead of Santana’s .143 batting average. Santana has 22 strikeouts, which is better than Pelfrey’s but while Santana has only pitched 24 innings this year, Pelfrey has pitched 26 innings, with the last 24 being consecutive scoreless ones, and counting.
This kind of success did not come easy for Pelfrey. Let’s look at his career and the weird stats that have haunted him all along.
Mike Alan Pelfrey was born on January 14th, 1984 at Wright Patterson Airbase in Ohio. He grew to be 6′ 7″, the exact height of Ohio born Frank Howard of the Washington Senators. On January 10th, of 2006, he got a $3.5 million bonus from the Mets and $5.3 million in a four year deal. His major league debut was on July 8th, 2006, when the Mets beat the Marlins 17-3 including a grand slam, as did his second game. (For details, read The Boys of Shea, The Story of the Unforgettable 2006 Mets, available from PO Box 114, Salt Pt NY 12578, contact email@example.com )
On August 1st, Pelfrey was sent back to the minors, to the Norfolk Tides, the same team David Wright had left a year earlier.
In 2007, Pelfrey went 0-5 and was sent to the New Orleans Zephyrs, where former Mets World Series star Ron Swoboda is the announcer. Pelfry came back and won on September 1st against the Braves.
In 2008, Pelfrey went 243 consecutive innings without a giving up a homer, and from July 6th to 17th he pitched 15 consecutive shutout innings, a foreshadowing of this year. On August 25th, he had his second consecutive complete game win. Mid 2008, he was struggling so he stopped using his TMJ mouthpiece, and it helped; Pelf rallied towards the end of 2008 to have a decent season.
Scott Boras had conjured him up a good contract in 2006, and Pelfry turned his investments over to Richard Allen Stanford, a Houston billionaire who had been knighted by the royalty in London and who lived in Antigua much of the time. Note that both Pelf and Stanford have the same middle name, just spelled differently. Also note that Stanford had a meeting with friend President Bush on January 25th, 2006, only five days after Pelfrey recieved his signing bonus.
Then came the stock market failure of October 2008, and big investors like Pelfrey started to worry. Most of his money was invested in the stock market by Stanford.
On February 17th, 2009, the SEC charged Stanford with fraud and raided his offices. He tried to flee the country and go to Antigua, but the airline would not accept his credit card. Two days later they found him in Frederickton Virginia at his girlfriend’s place. On February 27th, the SEC declared Stanford a Ponzi scheme. The court case proceeded and all assets, including the assets he was managing, were frozen. Pelfrey pitched opening day on April 13th, and he gave up five earned runs and a lead off homer. On May 17th, Pelfrey, overwhelmed with worry as to what would happen to his money, (they say 99% frozen even to this day) started to have mental malfunctions, balking three times in a row. On June 18th, Stanford was finally arrested. On June 25th, Stanford pleaded not guilty in a courthouse in Houston. On August 27th, Stanford was admitted to a hospital, on September 26th, Stanford was reported hospitalized for injuries from a fight with a fellow inmate at Joe Corley Detention Facility. It was about that time that the Brits stripped him of his knighthood. Meanwhile, Pelfrey’s entire fortune is caught up in court and frozen solid. His final record for 2009 was a disappointing 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA.
Pelfrey’s last three innings of 2009 were scoreless, and this year has only had one inning that wasn’t scoreless, the second inning of his opening day performance on April 9th. So only one of his last 29 innings have been imperfect in terms of runs.
Pelfrey is in his “contract year,” the season before a player negotiates for a contract, which is when most players do most of their work. So is his sudden spurt of shutout pitching due to getting things resolved with Stanford? The contract year? the need for more money? or is it just that the new pitching coach is allowing him his old curve ball again? I think Santana would agree that Pelfrey needs to have a good year and get a decent increase in salary for 2011 so that he can put the horrors of his ordeal behind him. As long as he doesn’t invest that next batch of money in Enron stock, Goldman Sachs, or Bernie Madoff investments, he’ll be out of a jam, which is more than we can usually say about his pitching.
Francour, Mets, save Most Delicious Pies for Dessert
Evan Pritchard for Amazine
April 26th, 2010
Jeff Francour has been full of surprises lately, in the tradition of Soupy Sales, with his cream pies in the faces of the unsuspecting. Last week he mashed a cream pie into the face of Ike Davis after his first major league hit. But the Mets as a team have been saving up their most delicious pies for the face of Bobby Cox, the short-tempered manager of the Atlanta Braves, who has been their arch enemy and nemesis for as long as most Mets fans can remember.
Last night, Mike Pelfry managed to hold the Braves in frustration while serving up two bases loaded double plays in a row with the Braves behind 1-0, a pie in the eye, so to speak, of Bobby Cox, only to be followed by a pie from the sky, a deluge of rain that stopped the game one pitch after it had become a regulation 5 inning ball game.
Pelfry did not get the complete game to his credit because the last batter, the leadoff man in the top of the sixth, was pitched a single strike by reliever Raul Valdes. It had been raining fairly hard all night, but it really opened up with the Braves batting in the top of the sixth. Perfect timing as far as the Mets were concerned.
With this rain-shortened victory (manager Manuel said “I think we deserve a lucky break!”) the Mets swept the Braves for the first time in a good while, and jumped to second place, at 10-9, and the Braves jumped to last place in the NL East, with 8-10. The Mets are now in a three way tie for second with Florida and Washington. If this were later in the season, we would note that the Mets are a half game behind the WILD CARD berth, held by San Francisco who has a 10-8 record. But we won’t succumb to such presumption…yet. Give us Mets fans another few months and we will. Was it Archimedes who said, about the Pelloponesis Nine, “Give us a wild card and we will move the earth!” All three NL division leaders are at 11-7, and only one team, the Pirates, are more than three games out of first in any division. It is a tight race.
The biggest pie in the face of Bobby Cox happened in the first game of the three game series, but in a sense the Braves threw the pie, but Angel Pagan lovingly provided the cherry on top. There were runners on second and third with one out, and Reyes popped up to short. The infield fly rule was called. The shortstop called for it, but Chipper Jones ran in and collided with the shortstop and the ball squirted out of his mitt. Error on the third baseman Jones. Reyes was already out, but did Jones do this to cause confusion to the other Mets runners? If so, it backfired in a big way. The catcher, McCann, who can hit better than he can field, ran over and picked up the ball to the right side of the pitchers’ mound, then pointed to first then threw to the first baseman to tag Reyes who was already out because of the infield fly rule. That was a second mistake. Then McCann started to argue with the umpire about the infield fly rule, a third mistake, but also a fourth mistake because he was obviously wrong concerning his knowledge of the rules, a fifth mistake because his back was to home plate, and a sixth mistake because he did not call TIME. In all the confusion, Angel Pagan started a mad dash for home, and did a belly flop as he slid across home plate with the pitcher just missing the tag on a throw from McCann. If the pitcher had reacted quicker and been at home already to receive the throw, there was a chance he could have tagged out Pagan, a seventh mistake. Needless to say, Bobby Cox got mad, and started throwing things. The Mets won 5-2.
The second game was also a disaster for the Braves, one in which they lost 3-1 after a running mistake. With Prado at 2nd and Escobar at 3rd, there was a fly to Mets right fielder Francoeur. Prado tagged up and ran as fast as he could to third, only to find Escobar standing there like a brick wall. Escobar had not tagged. Prado was spam in a can and was doubled up by those mean old Mets. After the game, Cox had a meeting in which he yelled at his players….alot. That is why the third game, Pelfry’s 1-0 Houdini act, in which he went to 24 consecutive innings without giving up a run, brought his record to 4-0, and lowered his ERA to 0.69, was a sweet victory. Life’s short, Mets fans…enjoy the dessert while you can!
Evan Pritchard for Amazine
With Ike Davis making national news with his .500 batting average and rbi in his dramatic debut, its time to look at the weird stats involved. Here is a first salvo of weirdness.
The most famous play in Mets history involving a first baseman was the Buckner error, which allowed the Mets to win the 6th game of the World Series against the Red Sox. That was October 25th, 1986, as if you don’t already know. The following day the Mets won the 7th game and their last World Series title.
I’m sure you remember that day, but amazingly enough, three of our newest team members cannot. It is not that they have foggy memory banks from too much partying. The fact is, they weren’t even born yet.
Here is Ike Davis, son of Yankee pitcher Ron Davis. He was born on March 27th, 1987, only five months after the Mets celebrated the World Series victory in 1986. He has never seen the Mets win a world series. He was warming up with the Buffalo AAA team yesterday and someone walked up to him with a plane ticket to the big apple and said, “You’re starting first base tonight against the Cubs.” He went two for four and helped the Mets win.
Here is Jenrry Mehia, he was born October 11th, 1989, almost two years after the Buckner Blunder. He has been pitching rather well for the Mets.
Here is John Niese. You gotta believe it or not, he was born the day after the Mets won their last World Series title, October 27th, 1986.
IS THIS THE FACE OF THE NEW WORLD CHAMPION METS?
Mets’ 20 inning Marathon with St Louis on Fox TV makes a Dent in the History of the Teams
Saturday’s day night extravaganza took a total of 413 minutes (6 hours 53 minutes) to complete, the longest in the majors in exactly two years, in terms of time. It was the longest since Colorado beat San Diego 2-1 in 22 innings on April 17th, 2018. St Louis stranded a total of 22 runners, 14 of them in overtime. It was also the longest scoreless game since August 23rd, 1989, a marathon between the Dodgers and Expos. It was the Mets longest game since a 4-3 loss to St. Louis on September 11th, 1974. That one went 25 frames. That one and this one are the Cardinals’ two longest games in their long history. Y. Molina caught the entire game going 3 for 9, and several batters came to the plate ten times. The two teams used 19 pitchers combined.
For an in depth look at what happened, see previous post.
Scoreless Through 18, Mets Finally Deal Cards a Wild 2-1 Loss
Longest Victory in Mets History Ends With Save by Pelfry; all 25 Mets Involved
Copyright Â© 2010 Evan Pritchard for Amazine
With Mets manager Jerry Manuel under fire for poor coaching, it seems like Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals’ legendary pokerfaced high stakes gambler of the dugout, wanted to make Jerry look good by comparison. Tony made every kind of move except those that made sense, and it led to a somewhat bizarre contest between two really great pitching staffs (staves?) at the mercy of two unconventional ( to say the least) managers.
A day earlier, it was hard to say about the 2010 Mets, “What’s not to like?” “Okay,” you say, “I like Howie Rose and Gary Coleman, Cow Bell Man, and the Big Home Run Apple, and I especially admire the banjo player’s flawless performance in the ‘Meet the Mets’ jingle. If you listen really hard with the volume up, you can hear it mixed in with the other instruments. It really is a fine job, except that the recording was probably made forty years ago, and the nameless banjo man is probably dead.” Then came April 17
Add two pitching aces, Santana and Garcia, a bunch of remarkably feeble highly-paid sluggers, and participation from 46 out of the 50 players legally allowed to play, and you get the longest, toughest W in Mets history.
A day earlier, it was hard to say about the 2010 Mets, “What’s not to like?” “Okay,” you say, “I like Howie Rose and Gary Coleman, Cow Bell Man, and the Big Home Run Apple, and I especially admire the banjo player’s flawless performance in the ‘Meet the Mets’ jingle. If you listen really hard with the volume up, you can hear it mixed in with the other instruments. It really is a fine job, except that the recording was probably made forty years ago, and the nameless banjo man is probably dead.” Then came April 17th.
Although the Times, Poughkeepsie Journal, and other so-called dailies went to bed too early to cover the end of this day game, which started 4 PM EST, Amazine stayed the course for you. Obviously these other rags got confused, ran out of score card, and gave up, and went home to get ready for church. Call me a sinner for baseball, but I stayed up and watched it to the stunning finish. Now the Mets faithful have something to squawk about. Although at times it looked as if both managers were deliberately trying to spoof their way into the record books by trying hard not to score, the result was successful, a record-breaking game, and a single win for the Mets.
In my opinion, the Mets should get two wins, as the game was actually longer than a regulation double-header. It was as long as a double header where both games go into the tenth! It was the longest Mets game since May 31st, 1964. It seems clear that the Mets are like Avis, they are going to have to try harder to beat the Cards, who are like Hertz, as they are number one, and we Mets fans have been feeling like number two. Although the Mets had played in longer games three other times, and had even gone longer in a scoreless contest, they had never won those games. Team records tumbled for both teams on a day when anything could and did happen.
Mets ace Johann Santana had pitched seven innings of nine-K shutout ball, and starter for St. Louis Garcia had a no-hitter into the sixth, but no one remembers that. Santana came back from the showers to see what was going on, and stood there at the railing for the last eleven innings, just amazed. He and several veteran players agreed it was the craziest game they ever saw.
The most important move of the game was hardly noted at the time, but it cost LaRussa nine innings of sheer agony, which he deserved from things he said in the 2006 post-season, not forgotten by Metropolitan geeks. He pulled his slugger Matt Holliday from the cleanup position in the lineup, (after failing with the bases loaded in the tenth; reports are that Holliday had become seriously ill and had to leave the stadium) and double switched with a pitcher so that Motte and Hawksworth ended up both relieving and hitting cleanup. (Lohse, a .162 lifetime hitter, and Anderson, with a .000 lifetime batting average, also ended up in that hotseat behind Pujols). Who would have guessed that putting the number nine spot, the pitcher’s position in the number four spot, the cleanup hitter’s position, would eventually bear consequences down the road? Well, just about everyone who was paying attention. It was one of those things they teach you in Junior High School never to do, and I too looked at the tube with puzzlement, but thought, “That La Russa, he’s such a genius, he must have some secret weapon we don’t know about. This move only appears to completely neutralize both Holliday and MLB’s top hitter, Albert Pujols. With a pitcher following him, Pujols is an automatic W every time.” When he placed another weak hitter, Craig, in the six spot after Molina, I was sure of his wacky genius. All three of his big guns, taken out of commission. I guessed he had some new rookie Godzilla pinch hitter in hiding under the stands. “Isn’t he afraid of Pujols coming up with two on and two out?” I pondered.
Well, that’s what happened, only in a repetitive manner that reminded me of Bill Murray’s “Groundhogs’ Day!” Not only did they walk Pujols, but walked him to load the bases… a zillion times. And instead of facing the .317 hitter Holliday with the bases loaded, they faced…people we never heard of. People who never batted before while sober and shaven, people who couldn’t hit the side of a barn, people who just got out of prison (I presume), people who had recently decided to try relief-pitching for a living. I was surprised that LaRussa himself didn’t grab a bat and stand up there. LaRussa’s idea to double switch 9 for 4 was possibly one of the worst executive decisions in American history…okay, I can’t back that up after all the bailouts and Bush-era blunders that have left the country struggling. But it was one of the great blunders in National League managerial history and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy from a Mets’ standpoint. It helped Jerry Manuel show what he was made of. Jerry’s variety of new pitching talent, many of whose first names I can’t spell, were brilliant. Apparently, Jerry is taking a hint from the 1999 Twins, who did well with guys with weird first names, Jacque, Torii, LaTroy, Benj, Midre, and Cleatus, etc. He is having great luck with middle relievers named Ryota, Hisanori, and Jenrry, and it really paid off during this 20 inning weirdness expo. Ryota now has an ERA of zero, Hisanori’s ERA is 1.5, Jenrry’s is now 2.17. Learn these names, Mets fans. They are going to keep this franchise afloat!
The worst Mets pitching performance of the entire day and night was clearly from K-Rod, our most expensive reliever, and $37 million dollar All Star closer, who got a BS (that’s a Blown Save not a Bachelor of Science) and a Win in the same game. It turns out Francisco Rodriguez had thrown hard in the bull pen every inning since the ninth and was exhausted, having already turned in a 100-pitch Complete Game by the 19th, which was when Manuel finally gave him the call. During his first 9 innings of hard throwing, I’m sure that, at least in his mind, Rodriguez had not given up a single run, a CG shutout the likes of which Tom Seaver would have envied, but now facing real hitters it was a different story. Already having reached his pitch limit before even toeing the rubber, he gave up the Cards’ first run and it took the win away from Valdes, who could have used it after giving up a granny in the seventh to Lopez, and a loss the day before. K-rod was dragged from the field in a tie game, and after the Mets got a curvy number on the board, he was replaced by the real closer, who turned out to be Pelfry. For all his efforts, K-rod was given the same win that Tom Seaver would have gotten for a much more demanding nine inning masterpiece. The difference was that K-rod had already been sent to the showers when the winning run scored.
Much of the Mets win can be traced to LaRussa’s double switches leaving pitchers and other batter’s box losers in the 4th position behind Pujols. But its more complicated than that, a lot more complicated. On the other hand, Manuel did a lot of things right, saving his closer for what looked like the end, keeping his position players in the game, switching some batting positions with pitchers, but using his bench wisely. When Pelfry entered, he was the 25th man of the 25 man roster participate, because Maine had pinch-run for Barahas and Oliver Perez had stood on deck to pinch hit but did not get to the plate before the third out. Manuel rationed out his resources, somehow knowing it could go 20 innings, saving the best for last as it were. If Pelfry failed, Manuel had already decided to bring in Jeff Francour from left to pitch, a guy who hadn ‘t pitched since High School, his sophomore year. Having only had 20 warm up pitches, Pelfry struggled at first but got his first career save. Manuel got nothing but fine pitching performances from each of his middle relievers, which should give Mets fans a lot of hope for the coming season. As it was, thanks to Reyes’ run and sacrifice fly RBI in the waning hours, we didn’t need to see Mike Jacobs or David Wright pitch. (Jacobs has a great arm, just watch him in warm ups some time!)
Here’s a quick guide to LaRussa’s managing madness: He kept Schumaker, Ludwick and Pujols in the lineup the entire game, and in their 1, 2 and 3 batting positions. Holliday, a lifetime .317 hitter, was batting cleanup and was not having a good day. He struck out in the eighth with two on to end the inning. In the tenth, with the bases loaded, Holliday made that pop foul that Cora did a Jeter Jump into the stands, placing him on Play of the Week’s top five. It was only his third time playing first. Cora had just been put in at first base a minute earlier, mid-frame, during Pujol’s intentional walk, making Jerry Manuel look like a frigging genius. He inserted Cora batting ninth, which means he could replace him with Matthews, then Jacobs, which he did almost immediately, and which turned out to be a game winning move! Matthews struck out in the 11th, but Jacobs batted in that 9th spot thereafter. In the 16th Jacobs made a sac bunt that allowed Pagan to go to second, and reach third before the inning ended. In the 18th, Jacobs flied out, but in the 20th, Jacobs singled sending Pagan to third where he was sent home on a sac fly from the bat of Reyes, still playing leadoff, to score what became the winning run. An A plus for Manuel for a remarkable double double switch. Meanwhile, LaRussa was making decisions that will haunt him the rest of his miserable Hall of Fame career. (At least one Mets fan hopes so!)
In the 11th, Tony (yeah, like I know him) put lifetime .071 batting rookie left fielder Craig in the sixth spot, making Molina relatively ineffective in front of him. He put rookie reliever Trevor Miller in the cleanup spot, his puny .167 lifetime batting average notwithstanding, rendering Pujols ineffective as well. Who wouldn’t walk league leading Pujols to get to Miller? Molina led off the 11th with an out, then weak hitting Craig, now replacing Holliday in left field, walked, but was followed by Lopez (still batting seventh) who grounded into a double play.
In the 12th, Joe Mather batted eighth (as he had since the top of the 10th) and Brendan Ryan batted ninth (as he had since the eighth) both making outs. Then Schumaker singled, and Ludwick got awarded first on a strange, little-seen call, where the bat touched the glove of veteran catcher Barajas as he was reaching to catch the ball, and the batter was awarded first. Then Pujols was walked intentionally to load up the bases because the relief pitcher Motte (replacing Miller) was on deck instead of clean up hitter and monster long ball man with 155 homers lifetime, Holliday. It was only Motte’s second at bat in the majors, and he struck out, preserving for now his lifetime .000 average, and leaving three birds on the wire. There were a lot of ducks on that pond flying home in the breeze of that bat.
In the 13th, Molina led off again with an out, but the inexperienced Craig was caught stealing after a base on balls on a remarkable play, then Lopez struck out. For one inning, LaRussa could enjoy the game without wanting to kick himself in his own asterisk-spangled lineup card.
In the 14th, Mather (batting 8th replacing Colby Rasmus) doubled to lead off the inning. Ryan followed with a sacrifice bunt but was safe on a Takahashi’s fielding error. He then took second on defensive indifference as Mather was at third. Then Takahashi struck out Schumaker and Ludwick, bringing up Pujols with first base open. Now it was Hawksworth on deck, the relief pitcher, who had never so much as held a bat in the major leagues, so it was an easy decision to walk around Pujols to load the bases for Hawksworth. Does Holliday have 598 lifetime RBI’s? Yes. Would Manuel had put up his four fingers if it was Holliday on deck? No! What did Hawksworth do? He struck out, leaving the bases loaded. Deja vu all over again.
There were no bizarre incidents in the 15th, but in the 16th, the four spot jumped up to bite LaRussa again. Schumaker made the first out, but then Pujols singled, sending the potential winning run to second. LaRussa had been holding back his rookie backup catcher Anderson, in case anything happened to Molina, but now he played that card in the cleanup position, hoping for a pinch single. Anderson, in only his second at bat in the majors, hit into a 4-6-2 double play. He hit it to Castillo who threw to Reyes covering second where Pujols was taking him out with a slide. As he did so, Ludwick boldly ran past third and headed for home, and then stopped as Reyes recovered and threw to home on a heads up play. Ludwick was caught in a rundown as the substitute catcher Blanco chased him back to third where Ludwick fell on his knees as if begging for mercy and was tagged out, all of which made Manuel look like a genius for putting in Blanco for defensive purposes, and LaRussa a fool for putting the untried Anderson in such an important spot.
The 17th and 18th were uneventful, except that Felipe Lopez was brought in to pitch to the Mets in the 18th. The infielder, immediately showing good control, and seeing perhaps a new career path, was surprisingly effective. Rookie starting pitcher Kyle Lohse was put in left field at the same time, and pencilled in to bat in…guess what…the cleanup spot. But in the 19th, substitute outfielder Mather was brought in to pitch and gave up the first run of the game, walking Reyes, Wright, and Blanco, and hitting Bay with a pitch. With the Mets leading 1-0, Ludwick led off for the Cards with a walk, but was caught stealing at second, a poor decision with Henry Blanco behind the plate, one of the best in the game at nailing runners. LaRussa’s decision to run Ludwick turned out to be the worst of all of them, in 360 hindsight, as Pujols followed with a double that would have scored the tying run for the Cards. Instead, we had Pujols at second with one out and whoever happened to be hanging around the watercooler to bat next. The catcher Anderson had already batted, and LaRussa had elected to keep Molina behind the plate, so there was noone to pinch hit for pitcher-turned-left fielder Kyle Lohse the .162 lifetime rookie starting pitcher and so LaRussa told him to go up there. Lohse grounded out, but then Molina finally got a hit and drove in Pujols for the tying run, one that would have been a winning run if it wasn’t for that steal sign to Ludwick. Craig, the .071 hitter, now in the sixth spot, could have knocked in the winning run, but struck out instead. No surprise, there.
That brings us to the fateful 20th inning. The Mets scored in the top of the 20th off Mather, the substitute outfielder who was now pitching his second inning of relief. (See above) It was the second run off Mather in the game, who must now be listed in Baseball Encyclopedia under pitchers with a 9.0 ERA. The Cards came up in the bottom of the inning behind 2-1, now facing Pelfry, who had been itching to get in the game as a pinch hitter, but was happy to get his first save in five years, working on three days rest. Lopez, now a position player once again, came to bat for the ninth time in the game. He grounded out. Then Mather, the (current) pitcher, came up to bat in the eight spot, pinch hit for himself, and got out. Then Brendan Ryan (batting ninth, the usual pitchers’ position) slapped a single to keep it alive. Schumaker walked, so it was two on and two out for the Cards. Ludwick came up for the tenth time in the game, with Pujols on deck, but Pelfry turned on the juice and got him to roll a grounder to Castillo at second, and Luis threw out the runner at first to end the game, making Manuel look like a genius for bringing in Pelfry, a starter who is scheduled to appear at Citifield on Tuesday.
It would have been interesting if the runner had beat the close throw at first, because that would have left the bases loaded for Pujols with two out and Lohse on deck. What would have LaRussa done then? What would Manuel have done? Would he intentionally walk Pujols to tie the game and get out whoever LaRussa could put up in the cleanup spot? Would LaRussa then go with Lohse? Who would then pitch the 21st inning for St. Louis? As Lopez was still in the game, could he then be brought in yet again to pitch? Pelfry would have pitched carefully to Pujols, and perhaps walked him anyway after going to 3 and 2. Pelfry would then have gotten Lohse out. Francour would have pitched the 21st. What could have happened after that is anyone’s guess. The event horizon then fades into a fog of baseball calculus beyond the mental capacity of Tony LaRussa, and even the marginally brilliant Jerry Manuel, who can now be declared a managerial genius by Mets fans, as at least for one day, he out-noodled his arch-rival Tony LaRussa in a very long hand of poker that people will be talking about for years to come. In fact, the Hall of Fame wants the bat that Reyes used to pop that winning sac fly as well as both score cards, to put on display. They can have it, unless of course they are outbid by the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada. That would be worth the price of admission, wouldn’t it?
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