Thursday, August 30, 2007

I think the sword could take this pen

Now I am a little bit concerned. The Mets' bullpen is a complete disaster. It would be so based on the performances of the pitchers alone, but Willie Randolph seems intent on making things worse.

On Thursday afternoon, Orlando Hernandez had a rare bad start, giving up five runs in three innings. Randolph had little choice but to bring in Aaron Sele given that Jorge Sosa had pitched two innings the previous night. Aaron Sele had little choice but to give up three runs in an inning and two-thirds given that he's Aaron Sele. But the Mets put ten runs on the board, more than they had in their previous four games combined, and led by two entering the bottom of the eighth inning.

Randolph brought in Billy Wagner, who hadn't pitched since last Friday due to a "tired arm," to pitch the eighth. This was pretty odd, but could be interpreted as smart. Using your best reliever against the heart of the Phillies' lineup in the eighth, as was the case here, makes a lot more sense than saving him to pitch to the bottom of the lineup in the ninth so he can earn a save. Unfortunately, Wagner gave up a solo home run to Patt Burrell in the eighth. But he escaped the inning with the lead intact, having thrown twenty-two pitches.

Wagner did strike out two in the eighth, so it's not as if he was clearly pitching poorly. Still, sending he and his recently tired arm out to pitch the ninth when Aaron Heilman was available and had warmed up earlier in the game was pretty strange. Things got stranger as Wagner allowed a leadoff single to Jayson Werth and still no one stirred in the Mets' bullpen. After Wagner got one out, he and Paul Lo Duca let Werth steal second and third. Another single brought in the tying run. Still no action in the bullpen. Then a walk. No Heilman. Forty-five pitches and four outs in, Wagner gave up his fourth hit which drove in his third and losing run.

The last time Billy Wagner threw as many as forty-five pitches in a regular season game was more than six years ago. Obviously he pitched badly as twenty-two of those forty-five were balls. And this was not a shock as he's now allowed runs in four straight appearances--a total of seven runs in four and one-third innings. But it's hard to fathom what Randolph was thinking letting him pitch that long in such a big game without even warming anyone else up. Given how Wagner's felt and how he's pitched lately, a shorter leash, hell, any leash at all, would have seemed reasonable.

Four losses to the Phillies, each more excruciating than the last, have left the Mets (73-60) with a mere two game lead in the NL East. Now they head to Atlanta to face the Braves (69-65) and their two best pitchers. Tim Hudson (15-6, 3.23) and John Smoltz (12-6, 3.06) will serve as the bread in a Chuck James (9-9, 4.22) sandwich while the Mets send out John Maine (13-8, 3.68), Mike Pelfrey (0-7, 5.92) and Tom Glavine (11-6, 4.15). I think winning one game would be a triumph at this point.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New World Emerging Blues

After a disappointing homestand in which they won just three of six from the Dodgers and Padres, things have only gotten worse on the road for the Mets. Monday's 9-2 loss was neither surprising nor disappointing given than Brian Lawrence was the Mets' starting pitcher. Lawrence has been an adequate short-term fifth starter, but there was never any reason to expect much from him against a good offensive team in a good offensive park.

Tuesday's 4-2 loss in ten innings was a lot more troubling. First of all, the Mets scored just two runs in a game started by Adam Eaton. Only three Mets had a hit in this game and one of them was Tom Glavine. Glavine, Moises Alou and Carlos Delgado did each have two hits, including a Delgado home run that accounted for both runs, but the top four hitters in the lineup went hitless in sixteen at bats. The recently hot New York offense has scored just six runs in its last three games and fifteen in its last five.

Then there's the bullpen. Over the last eight games, the only Mets relievers with ERAs under six are Aaron Sele, who's pitched two scoreless innings, and Aaron Heilman, who's given up six hits and a walk in his last three and one-third innings and allowed an inherited runner to score the tying run in Tuesday's game. It seems no one in the Mets' pen can be trusted right now as even Billy Wagner appeared mortal this week, blowing one save and one tie game. And of course, Willie Randolph's bullpen management has not helped matters. On Tuesday he used Guillermo Mota in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game and got away with it only to tempt fate and send him out to pitch to Ryan Howard in the tenth. As the inevitable walk-off home run sailed the hundred or so feet it takes to reach the fence in Citizen's Bank Park, one couldn't help but wonder where Wagner was, or why Scott Schoeneweis is even on the team if someone like Mota is going to pitch to one of the best lefties in the league in extra innings.

The Mets still have a four-game lead in the NL East and favorable pitching matchups in the final two games of this series with Oliver Perez (12-8, 3.34) and Orlando Hernandez (9-4, 3.07) taking on Jamie Moyer (11-10, 5.16) and Kyle Lohse (7-12, 4.47), respectively. But neither Perez nor El Duque is likely to pitch a complete game and the Mets' offense seems incapable of building a big enough lead for their bullpen to protect right now. The Mets still have a much easier road to a division title than the Phillies, but they're going to have to play better than they have the last week to reach its end.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Life's a beach

I remember one day in 1989, as a cub sportswriter covering Double-A baseball in Williamsport, I interviewed Joey (later Albert) Belle after a 3-K performance for the Canton Indians. Just before the interview started, Indians manager Bobby Molinaro walked by and said to Belle, “This game, sometimes she’s a (rhymes with witch), Joey, ain’t she?”

That quote came to mind tonight as the Tigers lost 11-8 to the Cleveland Indians. A night after Detroit gives up 1 hit to beat the Tribe, and with Justin Verlander on the mound, the Tigs give up 16 hits and 11 runs. Detroit led 3-1 after the first, fell behind 8-3 after 5, then pulled within 8-6 in the 6th only to watch the pen give up 3 in the 8th.

The teams combined for 28 hits after combining for 4 last night. Tuesday’s game was played in 1:59; tonight it was 3:38.

And Gary Sheffield is out indefinitely because of his bum shoulder.

This game, sometimes she’s a …

One magic night

Hopefully, it will lead to more. Jair Jurrjens gave the Tigers the start of a lifetime and the return of Joel Zumaya led to the familiar Zoom-Fernando Rodney-Todd Jones late-inning relay that was so successful in 2006. Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen hit back-to-back jacks and all was right in Motown.

Best line from the night came from Mitch Albom, who said Jair Jurrjens sounds like the name of a Dutch hand lotion.

Heading into last night's game, I figured the Tigers needed to win every 3-game series and split any 4-game sets to have a chance. Using that formula of 2-1/2-2 in series from here on, Detroit would go 25-13 down the stretch and finish 92-70. That means Cleveland would need to play better than 23-16 the rest of the way to force a tie or outright win the AL Central.

At least one win down, coupled with one loss for the Tribe. Still, asking a team that's been struggling like Detroit to play .658 ball the rest of the way could be a stretch. But if the Tigs do start to click, they are capable.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is Mother Nature The Phillies Biggest Rival?

Here on a rainy Tuesday, I started wondering if the Phillies will be able to get their game in tonight. I started thinking about the problems it would cause if they couldn’t since there is rain in the forecast for tomorrow as well, and this is the last time the Dodgers are hitting up the east coast. If tonight’s game gets called it would bring up a double header and we’ve all seen how hard it is for a team to win both games of a double header. That’s bad news for both the Dodgers and the Phillies who both need as many victories as the can get.

Last September the Phillies had to make up 4 games due to rain. Their record in those make up games was 2-2, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Three of those games were played as double headers where a split is a common hope. The other was a make up game against the Houston Astros, played on what would have been an off day for the Phillies. Many people point to the September series loss in Washington last season as the series that got away, and the series that ultimately cost the Phillies their shot at the wildcard. That series came right after that make up game loss to the Astros. Is it possible that missing that off day and playing 3 double headers ultimately caused the Phillies to run out of gas?

The question remains, did Pat Gillick do enough to address the Phillies weak bullpen and bench? These were the two weakest links going into the year, and are probably still the team’s two main weak spots. If the Phillies want to make the playoffs, both the aging bullpen and thin bench have to be able to stand up to whatever the last few week’s schedule brings. A little less rain might help too.

Time to Zoom

The Tigers still have 38 games on the schedule, but it feels like time is running out quickly as the team tries to right itself and reach the playoffs again. Detroit really needed to split its series in NY over the weekend, but left with 1 win after taking the opener. The Tigs are 15-23 since the All-Star break and have fallen 2 games behind Cleveland in the loss column in the AL Central and 5 behind Seattle for the wild card.

Needless to say, the upcoming 3-game set with Cleveland is crucial; then comes 4 more against the Yanks followed by a road trip to KC and Oakland. The rotation for the series against the Indians sees Jair Jurrjens, Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson go to the hill. Detroit is playing only .500 ball against the AL, which isn’t a good sign.

Over the past 7 days (6 games), the Tigers hit .253/.294/.373 while their opponents batted .288/.368/.459. Detroit was outscored 32-22 and outhomered 8-4.

Brandon Inge will be on the pines when the Cleveland series starts. This is one of the many reasons Detroit is struggling compared to 2006. Inge is batting .242/.317/.389 this year. He has 12 HR and 56 RBI. Last season, Inge hit .253/.313/.463. He had 27 HR and 83 RBI. Couple this with the output of recently outrighted Craig Monroe, who was .255/.301/.482 with 28 HR and 92 RBI last season and just .222/.264/.373 this year with 11 HR and 55 RBI. That’s a significant drop in power and run production.

Joel Zumaya is expected back tonight; maybe that will be a lift. Placido Polanco should be back, too, after missing 6 games with the flu. Getting Kenny Rogers back would be a help, too. And Andrew Miller.

I noticed the Tigers have allowed 637 runs, which in the Central trails only the White Sox, who have given up 644. Cleveland has yielded 564.

The Tigers have used 11 different starting pitchers this season and 24 pitchers overall.

All told, I guess I should just be thankful the Tigers remain in position to reach the postseason given all that’s gone wrong – injuries to Zumaya, Rodney and Rogers; the drop off of Monroe and Inge, Gary Sheffield’s shoulder woes, and the general ineffectiveness of the bullpen.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Seeing Daylight

New York pitching was shaky again this week, but the offense exploded, enabling them to win five of six from two of the National League's weakest teams. After a spectacular bullpen implosion cost the Mets a sweep of the Pirates on Thursday, there was plenty of reason to worry about this team. But a weekend sweep in the nation's capital leaves the Mets with a five-game lead in the division, tying their largest of the season.

The Mets scored forty-three runs in six games games this week, hitting .318/.400/.516 as a team. This is all the more remarkable given that Carlos Delgado only played two games this week and either Mike DiFelice or Sandy Alomar, Jr. started every game at catcher. Carlos Beltran, apparently back to his 2006 form, led the way with four home runs and a .292/.379/.917 line for the week. David Wright and Moises Alou each also had an OPS over 1.000 and Marlon Anderson went four-for-ten with two doubles off the bench. This offense is finally starting to resemble the 2006 version, scoring 6.47 runs per game in the month of August, second best in the NL. With Beltran dominating again, Wright and Jose Reyes both slightly improving on their 2006 campaigns, Alou making up for the decline in Delgado's production, Lastings Milledge providing some offense out of right field and Luis Castillo playing the Paul Lo Duca role of "guy who gets on base enough to make up for the fact that he has no power," this offense could be just as dangerous as last year's.

Unfortunately, the pitching staff is also starting to look like something we've seen before. Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez have pitched well lately and Brian Lawrence has not been a disaster in the fifth spot. But John Maine and Oliver Perez each had another unimpressive start, allowing a total of six runs in ten and two-thirds innings. There may be some help on the way for this starting rotation, but I would feel much more confident if one or both of these guys put a few consecutive good starts together. The Mets may be able to win some 8-6 games in October, but I'd rather they didn't have to.

The lack of success and innings from the starting pitchers is all the more troubling given the recent performance from the bullpen. Billy Wagner has been dominant and Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano have been pretty good. Jorge Sosa has also looked a lot better since moving to the pen. But the rest of the relievers, Scott Schoeneweis, Guillermo Mota and Aaron Sele, have been awful. Combined, they've allowed 148 hits and 54 walks in 127.2 innings with 88 strikeouts and a 5.29 ERA for the season. Schoeneweis and Mota have both been good against lefties, but if Willie Randolph isn't going to use them accordingly, what does that matter? Joe Smith has a 2.57 ERA in seven innings since being sent to New Orleans, but his 4:4 K:BB ratio does not inspire a lot of confidence. Lawrence might make a better long reliever than Sele and if certain other plans work out, Perez or Maine could find himself in the playoff pen as well. Aside from that, there isn't any help on the way. The sixth, seventh and eighth innings of October are likely to be extremely tense affairs.

The Mets (70-53) now return home with Ramon Castro and Damion Easley having joined Paul Lo Duca on the disabled list. Maintaining their offensive pace won't be easy as the Padres (65-57) bring the best pitching staff in the league to town. Maine (13-7, 3.59), Lawrence (1-0, 5.06) and Glavine (11-6, 4.12) will start in this series for the Mets. Chris Young (9-4, 1.93), Clay Hensley (2-3, 6.70) and Jake Peavy (13-5, 2.19) will go for San Diego.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Moving on up

Cameron Maybin, the Tigers' top prospect, has been called up from Double-A Erie while Craig Monroe was designated for assignment. Maybin, 20, who has been compared to Eric Davis (a healthy Davis, I'm hoping), hit .304-10-44 with 25 SB in Single-A before batting .400-4-8 in 6 games for Erie.


Magglio Ordonez is batting .356/.430/.595 this season. He's got 22 HR, 109 RBI and 92 runs scored. He's got 41 doubles and 159 hits. His OPS is 1.025, which is the best of his career. He's on pace for around 210 hits, 120 runs, 50 doubles, 30 HR and 140 RBI. All, except the homers, would be career highs. Pretty impressive given his age, his past injuries, and the fact that a typical Maggs year in his prime White Sox days was something like .315 with 100 runs, 40 doubles, 31 HR and 117 RBI.

We like Maggs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can't Decide

With the O's dismal performance in the month of June culminating in the termination of yet another manager, my exasperation reached the point where I determined not to write any more about such a pack of losers.

Taking 2 of three from the Red Sox and Yankees in successive 3 game sets after dropping 3 in a row to Seattle has prompted reconsideration. However, I remain unable to decide whether or not this team is worth talking about.

Erik Bedard has 10 No Decisions in 26 starts. In these 10 No Decisions, Bedard's numbers are as follows:

6.03 IP per start, 3.25 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 47 H, 20 BB, 80 K.

Bedard has 12 wins, 10 No Decisions, 12 consecutive starts w/o taking a loss and 8 (or 9) starts remaining. It's probably not enough remaining starts to get 20 of anything.

But I can't decide.

RUSS-ELL BRAN-YUN *clap clap clapclapclap*

Last night was defiantly one of those games that a contending team wins. Branyan’s homer on the 2nd pitch he saw as a Phillie was a monster. Credit has to be given to Charlie Manuel for asking for Branyan, and for Gillick for getting him. Just by Russell Branyan coming through last night makes that deal worth it.

I’m sold on Loshe, and I’m hoping that they can resigning him at the end of the year. I know he is an average pitcher, but it is clear he has the stuff. I know he’ll probably implode a few times before the season ends, since that is his history, but with the pitching market the way it is Loshe could be a bargain and gives this team what it needs from its pitchers and that is to hold the team in a game. Loshe even pitched a little bit better than his line suggests. Iguchi was eaten up by two ground balls that should have been outs and would have gotten the Philes out of the inning with out being scored on. They weren’t the easiest of plays, but Loshe got the ground balls you wanted at that point. Tough break there, but no big deal thanks to Branyan.

Myers counties to look dominate as a closer as long as he is put into closing situations, striking out the side, and Gordon looks a little bit healthier each time out.

Last night Victorino suffered a set back in his road back. According to the Phillies, Shane felt his calf grab while he was trying to beat out a double-play. Looks like Shane is going to take some more time off before he gets another rehab start.

Today is the day we find out if Eaton gets to stay or go from the rotation. I guessing he gets one more start against the Pirates though I won’t mind if I’m wrong.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One more for the Scooter

"I heard the doctors revived a man after being dead for four-and-a-half minutes. When they asked what it was like being dead, he said it was like listening to New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto during a rain delay." -- Late Night host David Letterman

Goodbye, Scooter

"Well, that kind of puts a damper on even a Yankee win." -- Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto after reading a bulletin that Pope Paul VI had died.

Even though I've hated the Yankees since I've known what baseball was, I have to admit sadness over the death of Phil Rizzuto. I never saw Rizzuto the player; my only exposure was to Rizzuto the announcer. Listening to Rizzuto and Bill White was a large part of my childhood, and a sound of summer, just like hearing Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn or Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner or Lindsey Nelson. Back then, you only got games on regular TV and listened to a lot of games on radio, so those were the voices you heard over and over.

Scooter was famous for his offbeat observations, comments and questions. He only referred to Bill White as "White" throughout their long association. He was famed for leaving games early (which usually resulted in him saying something like "I was on the bridge when Nettles hit that home run and couldn't believe it" the next day). He hated lightning.

One of the most ingenious and entertaining books ever compiled was "O Holy Cow: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto." I recommend it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

To win 300

I saw something in the Bill James Handbook that was interesting regarding 300-game winners, and seems relevant with all the discussion about whether Tom Glavine will be the last 300-game winner we see. I’ll simplify what James found by merely displaying the number of wins for certain pitchers through the age of 30 followed by their career totals.

Phil Niekro 54-318
Gaylord Perry 95-314
Early Wynn 101-300
Warren Spahn 108-363
Lefty Grove 115-300
Tom Glavine 139-300
Nolan Ryan 141-324
Steve Carlton 148-329

Randy Johnson 81-284

That’s 8 pitchers with 300 or more career wins that had fewer than half that total through the age of 30. Randy Johnson’s career might be finished, but he could become the ninth if he gets healthy. Pretty interesting, I think. James suggested at least one more active pitcher (other than Glavine or Johnson when this was written prior to the start of this season) would win 300. Some likely candidates are Roy Oswalt, Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay – maybe even Javier Vasquez, who now has eight straight seasons of 10 or more victories.

Cry me a river Bobby.

"It was a little fly ball," said Braves manager Bobby Cox of Ryan Howard's opposite-field three-run homer. "It goes out here and Cincinnati. Maybe Houston [with] the short porch.

I’m pretty sure 391 ft would have left a lot of parks from where it was hit. It wasn’t like it went to dead center.

The great thing about this is it seems the park is starting to get into everyone’s head now, and not just the Phillies pitchers. Maybe that’s why it seems like the team has a home field advantage this year.

Something else to watch is Josh Towers has cleared waivers. There was a lot of buzz going around that the Phillies were looking at Towers at the deadline. Another name that has been popping up, but I think in this case is just speculation, is David Wells. I can’t see Wells coming here or the Phillies being all that interested, but after how bad Eaton has been and the success of other aging pitchers like Mesa and Alfonseca, who knows.

Right now it all depends on Freddie Garcia. If the team thinks he will be back at the end of the month and ready to go I see Gillick holding tight and riding what he’s got.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Make it stop

The Mets continue to be an extremely frustrating team to root for. This week they lost their fourth straight series to the Braves in agonizing fashion and followed it up by doing no better against the Marlins. Thanks to a ten-run outburst on Sunday, they wound up outscored by just one run in these six games, but their lead in the division will be three games at most at the end of the day. The Braves and Phillies may never take advantage of the Mets' struggles, but no team they face in October is likely to be so forgiving.

One of the major problems in the second half and this week in particular has been the starting pitching. Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are each pitching a little bit better in the second half than the first in terms of ERA and each was solid this week. John Maine and Oliver Perez, however, have not maintained their first half success at all. Maine has an ERA of 6.46 in six post-break stats, more than twice his first half 2.71. Perez's ERA has gone from 3.14 in the first half to 4.33 in the second half. It's not too surprising that Maine has cooled off, given that he's never pitched nearly as well in the majors as he did in the first half of this year and he's already pitched more innings this year than he had in his entire major league career prior to this year. The magnitude of his collapse is still quite disappointing given how good he looked in the first half. Perez was able to maintain his effectiveness through 196 innings three years ago, but since then he's been anything but consistent, so his struggles aren't exactly stunning, either. Still, both were very good for much of this season and a six-start stretch isn't enough to convince me that either is a lost cause. If the Mets are going to play deep into October this year, they will need these two to get it together.

The offense did have a decent week, scoring 31 runs and hitting .281/.338/.433. It was not exactly a dominating performance, especially before Sunday, but there were some good signs. Carlos Beltran returned from the DL and hit a home run, though it was the only hit he had in ten at bats. Jose Reyes, at .360/.429/.520, and David Wright, at .333/.423/.762, both had excellent weeks. And Moises Alou, with three home runs, continued to prove that he'll hit as long as he's healthy. Unfortunately that might not be very long if Willie Randolph keeps having him start every single game. Even with Beltran back, there should be plenty of playing time for Lastings Milledge given Alou's age and injury history and Shawn Green's general lack of ability at the game of baseball, but Randolph doesn't seem to agree. Paul Lo Duca going on the DL on Sunday should also have been a boon to the offense, but Ramon Castro left Sunday's game after just one at bat with "mild arthritis" in his back. He is listed as day-to-day, but I fear the Mike DiFelice era may be upon us.

The Mets (65-52) failed this weekend in their first shot at beating up on the dregs of the National League. They will get a couple more chances in the coming week, starting with a trip to Pittsburgh where the Pirates and the worst record in the National League (48-66) await. El Duque (7-4, 3.05), Maine (12-7, 3.53) and the so-far-adequate Brian Lawrence (1-0, 4.09) will start for the Mets. Ian Snell (7-10, 3.87), Proven Veteran Matt Morris (7-7, 4.53) and Tony Armas Jr. (2-3, 6.13) will go for Pittsburgh.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sinking feeling

I've been out of the loop for a while, but not so far gone to miss the Tigers turning 2007 into a disaster epic. The team many said was the best in the AL is playing itself right out of the playoff chase. Fortunately, there's still time to turn this thing around. The question now is whether Detroit can do it. I'm not even sure Jim Leyland knows the answer.

Entering tonight's game, coming off a horrible 16-10 loss to Oakland, the Tigers have won just 6 of their last 22. Last year, Detroit went into a similar funk to end the year and still made it to the World Series, so at least the players have that experience to draw on.

Here are some numbers, pre- and post-All Star break for the offense and defense. First the pitching.

Pre: 52-34, 4.31 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .265 BAA. Post: 11-18, 5.94 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, .299 BAA.

Those numbers are pretty awful since the break. The Tigs are fortunate to have won 11 times during that span. Most baffling is what the starters have done since the break: Robertson, 5.01 ERA; Verlander, 5.23; Miller, 6.08; Tata, 7.71; Bonderman, 8.50; Rogers, 9.98.

The pen failed to convert 14 save chances in the first half, which might come back to haunt the team as well. Detroit has 18 blown saves for the season, which, working from memory, is 2 more than all of 2006.

Now the offense's stats. Pre: .290/.352/.473. Post: .281/.327/.434.

The batting average has remained good, but the on-base and slugging marks have sagged. Some of this can be attributed to Gary Sheffield's ailing shoulder.

Maggs has pretty much remained Maggs, batting .306-5-26 in 29 games since the break. But Guillen is .267-0-7, Sheff is .247-3-11, Pudge is .234-1-4 and Inge is .223-1-10.

Making the lineup struggles interesting is the fact Granderson is batting .356-4-11 since the break while Polanco is .384-4-13. They both have OPS marks around 1.003. That's pretty good work by the table-setters. Also, the Tigs have gotten a boost from Ryan Raburn at .321-3-13 in 18 games. Marcus Thames has been a blessing lately, too, going .323-2-8 in 8 games. But the fact Detroit needs a boost from Raburn and Thames is telling. Sheff's shoulder needs to get well soon.

I would like to think the Tigers can turn this around just as easily as they've fallen into it. That wouldn't seem unreasonable, particularly on the pitching side, since you wouldn't believe the starters are as bad as they've looked since the break. But once a ball gets rolling downhill it can sometimes be tough to stop. Regardless, this spell has made Detroit's work to reach the postseason again increasingly difficult.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

300 is a magic number

Tom Glavine pitched well in both of his shots at win number 300, but on Sunday he got enough support from his offense and his bullpen to etch his name in the record books. He gave up two runs on six hits and one walk in six and one-third inning and exited with a four-run lead, much more comfortable than the one-run margin he left with on Tuesday. He was relieved by Guillermo Mota and Pedro Feliciano, the two men most responsible for blowing Tuesday's lead, and they weren't much better on Sunday, letting two runs cross the plate. But the offense tacked on three more runs and Aaron Heilman, Jorge Sosa and Billy Wagner helped the 8-3 score hold up.

It hasn't always been easy rooting for Tom Glavine. As a Mets fan, seeing him come over from the hated Brave was a somewhat awkward moment. And the way he pitched his first year in the blue and orange--9-14, 4.52 ERA--could've made one wonder whose payroll he was really on. But in 2004 he really turned things around, posting ERAs under 4.00 for three straight years. In 2007 he and his casual relationship with the strike zone have not always been easy to watch. But he's played a significant role in the Mets' return to respectability. And anyone who made it through the Art Howe years with his sanity intact deserves respect. So hats off to another terrific Tom in Mets history. Even when his Hall of Fame plaque is unveiled with that evil A adorning the hat, I'll applaud.

I'll also applaud the Mets as a whole, who did a fine job to win four of six on the road from the two teams battling for the NL Central lead. They outscored the Cubs and Brewers 37-24, including three games in which they scored at least eight runs. They only did that twice in the entire month of July. Ramon Castro finally got a chance to play regularly, starting the first five of these games. This didn't go all that well, as he had only three hits in twenty-three at bats, but he did hit two home runs, or as many as Paul Lo Duca has hit in his last thirty-eight games. Lo Duca had a single in five at bats on Sunday. Lastings Milledge also had a good week filling in for Carlos Beltran in center, hitting .368/.400/.474.

It's back to divisional competition on for the Mets (63-48) on Tuesday, as the Braves (59-53), who trail the Mets by 4.5 games, come to town. Oliver Perez (10-7, 3.00), Orlando Hernandez (7-4, 3.00) and John Maine (12-6, 3.27) will start for the Mets. Buddy Carlyle (6-3, 4.20), John Smoltz (10-6, 3.04) and Tim Hudson (12-5, 2.95) will go for Atlanta.

Thursday, August 02, 2007