Sunday, August 21, 2005

Zach and Ben go to Shea
By Zach

So Ben and I went to see the Mets host the Nationals (nee Expos) at Shea last night. Of course, the most important part of the evening was that we ate at Lucia's Pizza before pizza in the city. Anyhow, we get there, and learn that our seats are situated almost directly behind the rightfield foul pole. Fine. It's also both Hispanic Heritidge Night and Dog Night at Shea...I won't comment about that unusual combination. But of course Ben and I are looking forward to the pitching matchup, Pedro Martinez v. Livan "Livin' Large" Hernandez. Before the game, we decided that the over/under on Livan's pitchcount was 130. Seriously, Frank Robinson must have some deal with Dr. James Andrews where for every pitcher he sends there, he gets a cut from the costs, since Livan not only ranks first in Pitcher Abuse Points, but he's so far ahead of the number 2 guy he makes Carlos Zambrano look coddled.

After the first inning, Ben thought he might be in for a repeat of Friday night's game, and certainly Pedro lived up to the billing...unfortunately for the Nats, Livan apparently wanted to hit Happy Hour, so he was done in the third inning after giving up 8 runs on bombs by Ramon Castro, David Wright"eous," and Jose Reyes. At this point, Ben is giddy and I'm hoping to get home in time to catch the second half of King Felix's start against the Twins (another good one, by the way). To keep ourselves amused, Ben and I decided to have a few's what we've got:

-I said that I thought that for a period in the mid 90s, Chuck Knoblauch might have been the best second baseman in baseball. Of course, Ben disagreed, saying that Robbie Alomar was the clear choice. While Alomar was great, Knoblauch had some great seasons, including hitting .341/.448/.517, stealing 45 bases, and leading the league in triples in 1996, hitting .333/.424/.487 with 46 steals in 1995. Knoblauch, from 1994-1996 was a better hitter than Alomar and played similar, Gold Glove calibur D. Of course, Alomar was the better-known player, and had a better career, but for that stretch, I'd have rather had Chuck.

-Christian Guzman, who was hitting .191 at the time, came up to bat in the 5th inning. David Wright was playing well back at third. I wondered why Guzman didn't just bunt, and continue to bunt every single time up until it didn't work. He's fast, and clearly nothing else has worked for him all year. Of course, he got out.

-When Hernandez got lifted, a tall lefty came out of the 'pen for Washington. Ben, a long-time Expos fan and general fount of baseball knowledge, was stumped as to who #54 could be. I, however, after watching him warm up, knew I recognized that mediocre stuff from somewhere. I told Ben "that looks like John Halama," at which point Ben recalled that the Nationals had just called him up. Long story short, I know my crappy former Mariners.

-To pass the time, I asked Ben what the greatest baseball game he'd ever been at was. His answer: A September 2001 between the Mets and Braves. The Mets were making a late charge after September 11, and had made up ground on the Braves in the division. Greg Maddux started the game, and left after two batters with an injury. Armando Benitez had an RBI ground out, the fans chanted "Let's Go Marlins," hoping the Fish would beat the Phillies, and the Mets got within 3 games of Atlanta. Sadly, they faded down the stretch, helped by a blown save from Benitez the next day.

My answer was a lot easier. One-game playoff in 1995 between the Mariners and Angels. Randy Johnson pitched a complete game, Luis Sojo poked a ball down the right-field line with the bases loaded that somehow resulted in four runs. I ran onto the field after Johnson struck out Tim Salmon to end it, and the Mariners were playoff-bound for the first time in their history.

-Perhaps the real highlight of the game to that point was the presence of a preying mantis on the walkway right in front of us. After wandering a bit, and scaring some people, it took a seat for a minute or two, then flew down into the hair of some poor lady before flying off into the night. Apparently, Ben had seen one (perhaps the same) at the Met game the night before...maybe the Mets should consider a new mascot.

So at this point, we're in the bottom of the sixth. Victor Diaz grounds out to lead the inning off, and all of a sudden, Kaz Matsui is coming out of the dugout to pinch hit for Pedro. Now, at this point Pedro has thrown 6 scoreless innings and, more importantly, has only thrown 78 pitches. True, the Mets led 8-0, but at that moment I told Ben that with the Mets bullpen, the game would be 8-6 shortly. Unfortunately for Ben (and for those of us looking to get home soon), I was right. Danny Graves, didn't look too good, though Jose Reyes didn't help things by committing an error, at which point the floodgates opened. Neither Mr. Koo nor Aaron Heilman could stop the bleeding, until the game was, in fact, 8-6 heading to the home half of the seventh.

The 8th saw the appearance of Jose "Why Am I Still Here" Offerman, while by the Braden Looper came in with a two-run lead in the ninth, most of the fans expected him to blow the lead. Of course, he didn't disappoint, and the Mets had done the seemingly impossible: make the Nationals look like a competant hitting team. Of course, when you're giving up hits to Guzman, Jamey Carroll, and Carlos Baerga (no, he's not dead), the problem may be with your pitchers. By this point, I was nearly alseep, and Ben was ready to throw up, so it was a good thing Chris Woodward won the game in the 10th.

A few more random thoughts:

-I bummed Ben out by noting after the Nats tied the game in the 9th that the Mets had, since the 7th inning, allowed 8 runs and recorded 8 outs. That's some crappy relief.

-Ben and I spent the entire game sitting next to guys who would repeat whatever we said about 15 seconds after we did. Also, they got into a big argument in the 6th when Jose Reyes reached base. One of the guys wanted him to try and steal, while the other said that Willie Randolph would never send him because it would be a breach of baseball "ettiquacy." Yikes.

-When Gerald "Geriatrics" Williams came into the game, Ben noted that he seemed to have quite a smile on his face in his picture, which probably was because he's amazingly still getting paid to play baseball.

-I was stunned to see someone actually wearing a Mo Vaughn Mets jersey. I mean, what could possibly entice someone to wear that in public, especially to a Mets game. Granted, the guy was Mo-sized himself, but unless he's also getting paid millions of dollars to sit on his ass, he probably doesn't want to associate himself with Vaughn.

-Astounding, Jose Reyes has walked in both Mets games I've been to this year. Even more amazingly, he's walked in other games, too.

So, what started out looking like a pitching duel, then a blowout, then a disaster, turned out to be a close extra-innings game, which left the Mets just two games out of the Wild Card. And while I may have missed a start by the King, it could have been worse. Tom Glavine could have been pitching.


Blogger David Arnott said...

I saw the Royals/A's game today... The Nats' lineup is depressing, but nothing compared to the Royals'. Their 7-9 hitters, Mark Teahen (the poor man's Sean Burroughs), Angel Berroa (the upper middle class man's Neifi Perez), and John Buck (Brad Ausmus's cousin), all WISH they could crack the DRays' roster. Matt Stairs was hitting cleanup. Some guy named Chip Ambres was hitting leadoff and playing CF. Denny "I Broke My Finger In A Playoff Celebration" Hocking was hitting second. Joe McEwing came in to play first base as a late innings defensive replacement. The A's lost thanks to a ball Kotsay lost in the sun that ended up a ground rule double. I guess they can't lose them all.

Chip Ambres - CF
Denny Hocking - 2B
Mike Sweeney - DH
Matt Stairs - 1B
Terrence Long - LF
Emil Brown - RF
Mark Teahen - 3B
Angel Berroa - SS
John Buck - C

1:02 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Yeah, you're right David. They are worse. There are a couple of differences though. For one, the Nationals are technically in the playoff hunt. I still think they will finish last in the NL East, but it is quite a wonder they've lasted this long with someone like Christian Guzman in their lineup.

The other difference, is probably more depressing. The fact is the Nationals, outside of Ryan Church, probably don't have anyone better to play. The Royals have prospects, and should be playing someone like Justin Huber over Joe McEwing. They're an such inept organization, it makes me think a random person in Kansas City picked off the street could do a better job.

Hey... idea for a new reality TV show perhaps... "So you want to be the Royals' GM?"

11:52 PM  

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