Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nats Spoiling Mets Party!

The Washington Nationals playoff hopes were doused long ago, but they've been playing for something else all season long after their 9-25 start - R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Many were saying they would have a good chance at tying the 1962 New York Mets and their record for futility of 40-120. Some of us that have followed the team for some time knew better, and manager Manny Acta made sure that nothing like that was going to happen. Since that awful start, the Nationals have quietly become one of baseball's most pleasant surprises, putting up a 61-62 record over their past 123 games. Another win last night over those same Mets would get them to an even .500 mark over the past 4 1/2 months.

The Mets had a seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies two weeks ago in the National League East race, and many conceeded them the division title at that time. Not me though... Back on September 8th, a poster on my favorite fantasy baseball site, Ron Shandler's Baseball HQ made the following statement:

"6 game lead w/ 22 to go, with apologies to Howie Rose I think it's safe to say "Put it in the books"!!!

To which I responded:

That would be a grievous error to make, given the following...

Some numbers since 8/1/07:

Oliver Perez: 5.22 ERA, 1.64 WHIP (and only a 25/22 K/BB ratio the past 5 starts)
John Maine: 7.07 ERA, 1.77 WHIP (finally coming back to earth)...
Tom Glavine: 2.87 ERA, 1.43 WHIP (that ERA should be A LOT higher)
El Duque: 4.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP (got torched last time out)
Billy Wagner: 6.43 ERA, 2.21 WHIP (a tired arm???... these are very un-Wagner-like #'s)

Not to mention Delgado's out for 10 days or so... Unless these guys can suddenly turn it around, the Mets 6 game lead is anything but safe especially with three games against both the Phillies and Braves next week. If I were a betting man, I'd say their lead is no more than 4 games by the end of next weekend (Sept. 16).

The key to their success (or failure) the coming three weeks may indeed be the effectiveness of Pedro Martinez.


As we know, the Mets increased their lead to seven games by September 12th, but then lost five straight. By September 18th, their lead shrunk to 1 1/2 games as the Phillies won six straight games themselves. And who has been one of the few bright spots for the Mets the past few weeks? Well, Pedro Martinez, of course! Pedro's allowed three runs or fewer in all four of his starts since he came off the disabled list. The only other pitcher on their staff to pitch decently over that time is Oliver Perez. Indeed, the effectiveness of Pedro and Oliver the past few weeks has basically kept the Mets in first place.

Early in the season, the Mets dominated the Nats, winning eight of their first 12 contests. The Nats though took two out of three against them in their last homestand and took game one of this weeks three game series at Shea Stadium on Monday.

Yesterday, the Mets had their ace, Tom Glavine going. For his second straight start though, he was pounded. Austin Kearns slugged a three-run homer in the first and Tony Batista then added a solo blast to give the Nats a quick 4-0 lead. Jason Bergmann pitched an effective 5 2/3 innings for the Nats, giving up three runs and seven hits. By the time he left, the Nats had a fairly secure 6-3 lead. Galvine only last five innings, giving up six earned runs and nine hits. The Nats tacked on four additional runs in the final three innings to take a 10-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

The unthinkable then almost happened... the Mets rallied, and rallied, and rallied... Paul LoDuca singled to lead off the ninth against Nats reliever Jesus Colome. After pinch hitter David Newhan struck out, Chris Gomez walked. Jose Reyes then crushed a ball deep into the right field stands for a three run homer. Suddenly it was a 10-6 game. Luis Castillo then singled, and "the Chief," Chad Cordero was brought in to close things out. Chad just didn't have it last night as David Wright singled and Carlos Beltran walked. The ageless wonder, Moises Alou then smacked a ball down the right field line for a 3-run double. Suddenly we had a 10-9 game. Jon Rauch then came in to try and save the game. He got the dangerous Carlos Delgado to strike out swinging and then ended the game on a harmless LoDuca pop out to right field. WHEW!!!

With the win, the Nats are now at .500 (62-62) over their past 124 games, and are starting to finally earn some much-deserved respect amongst their peers... As for the Mets, they were fortunate that the persuing Phillies lost. At the moment their NL East lead is two games over the Phils and three games over the "never say die" Atlanta Braves.


Also of note, Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers slugged two homers yesterday in a 9-1 rout of the St. Louis Cardinals to give him 50 on the year. At age 23, he becomes the youngest player ever to hit 50. Additionally, I believe he now becomes part of the first-ever father/son duo to hit 50 homers. Prince's father, Cecil "Big Daddy" Fielder, hit 51 homers for the Detroit Tigers in 1990. Congratulations to Prince on this HUGE accomplishment!


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