NY Sports Dog: Good Morning Mets Fans!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Good Morning Mets Fans!

They sure do make it exciting at times, don't they?

Yesterday the Mets won another extra-inning thriller on the strength of a Carlos Beltran homerun, some incredible bullpen pitching, just a bit of timely late game hitting, and the best fielding game they've had all season.

It started with, well, the starter. In this case Jon Niese, the Mets prized 21-year old lefty.

Niese didn't pitch well, in fact, he looked downright overmatched and very shaky at the start of the game--you could see the pressure on his face.

“I get nervous for him, no question,” Jerry Manuel said before the game. “He feels some nerves. He has to. I just hope he gets through it, and gets it behind him as quick as possible.”

It was admittedly a crapshoot with Niese. Earlier in the week we heard our first warning sign when Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said he, "would rather not have Niese make his debut against the Brewers righthanded lineup." Ummmmm, gulp anyone? We have a pennant race here!

Without getting into every dirty detail of his effort, Niese gave up a leadoff homerun, settled down to get out of the first inning jam, had an OK curve in the 2nd and 3rd but was not beating anyone with a very average fastball, and then the Brewers exploded for 4 runs in the 4th.

“That fourth inning kind of got away from me,” Niese said. “I didn’t command my fastball as well as I wanted to, and they were sitting on my off-speed stuff. That’s what they were looking for.”

"It's the first one," Manuel said. "You almost have to kind of throw that one out for him. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was obviously a tremendous experience for him. The fact that we end up winning the game is the most important thing."

Niese entered the 4th with a 5-1 lead thanks to the ultra red hot Carlos Beltran, who shook off the bruised knee he suffered in the previous game and blasted a 3-run bomb off of Brewers starter Manny Parra.

Beltran is 14 for his last 36 with 5 HRs and 13 RBIs. During that stretch he's scored 11 runs...he looks ready to put the team on his back for the stretch run.

In addition to his homerun, Beltran was part of a Mets team that had a spectacular night in the field.

  • Carlos threw out a runner at home to save a run
  • Endy Chavez threw out a runner at second to kill a rally
  • Nick Evans caught two balls in deep leftfield that could have easily gone for extra bases if not for his jump and concentration at the wall
  • David Wright made a spectacular play at third and an amazing throw to gun down Corey Hart late
  • Robinson Cancel did a terrific job blocking the plate on Beltran's throw home
  • Damion Easley had a great "quick tag" and sell job to the ump for the out at second
It all adds up to the best and most complete fielding game of the year for the Mets....each one of those plays was a potential run and game saver, none more than the Beltran-Cancel effort and Nick Evan's second catch.

But the real story of the game was the bullpen--the much maligned bullpen.

Five relievers combined for 7 innings of shutout ball. Nelson Figueroa came on in early relief of Niese and limited the damage by only allowing one inherited run, even though he came on with men on base and no outs against the toughest part of their lineup.

Duaner Sanchez pitched a scoreless frame. Brian Stokes followed him with two brilliant innings and flashed a fastball that topped out at 97 mph. Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith "lefty-righty'd" a scoreless 9th, and Luis Ayala notched a save in the 10th.

Jerry Manuel is loving what he's seen of late from his bullpen and the 18-pitcher armada the Mets have with the addition of the callups.

"When you have a number of pitchers like we have, and we have put most of them in somewhat stressful situations, you're not afraid now to call them in those times," manager Jerry Manuel said. "And you figure if you keep them short, keep them having some success, then the next time they go out there, they feel very confident about themselves. That's the plan. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it doesn't."

To get the save the Mets needed a run, and Daniel Murphy gave them one with a very focused pinch hit--this kid is something very special and is a very disciplined hitter. He hits like a 30-year old.

On the next play Jose Reyes laid down a sac bunt to move Murphy over, and the Brewers gave the Mets a gift. Jason Kendall's throw moved up the line a bit, and Rickie Weeks couldn't hold the ball. Murphy moved to third on the play.

"It was a really, really tough play," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "Reyes is one of the fastest players in the league, so Kendall had to rush the throw. And it's one of the toughest plays for a second baseman to make covering first. Kendall had to hurry and he just threw it on the foul side of the base."

Endy stepped in and confidently stroked a sac fly to right--a professional at bat.

"I was just trying to put the ball in play and make something happen," Chavez said.

Another great win for a Mets team that has won 16 of their last 21 games and 19 of the last 26. It kept the team two games up on the Phils, and it just keeps getting more and more exciting with each game.

Ya gotta love a pennant race!

Enjoy your coffee!
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