Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mets lose despite Milledge heroics

Damn. I suppose you can't win'em all, but still, damn.

Earlier in the game, I was actually wondering how long it would be before Lastings Milledge hit a major league home run. I was thinking more in terms of months than hours, but he just smoked the ball against an intimidating, hard-throwing pitcher at a crucial juncture.

It was pandemonium in the broadcast booth as well as certain living rooms in the SNY market. The word "karma" was used frequntly, as were shots of Ray Knight crossing the plate in 1986. The ability to consistently come back. The resiliency, chemistry and whatnot.

While extra inning games, one run games or "walk-off" games are definitely more fun to watch, they don't have any more value in the standings, or prove the winning team to be championship timber. The Mets have been very successful in these nailbiters, which is great, but at the end of the day it's something to be thankful for, not evidence that we're better than our record. In fact, it's the opposite.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited that the team is playing at this level. We're not lucky to be in first place. The pitching has been the best in the league by (the arbitrarily selected metric of) OPS-against, and second behind the Cardinals in the higher profile ERA.

But the offense has been a little heavy on the slugging (4th in NL) and light on the OBP (11th). The former number is impressive given the hostile home environment but the latter has to give some pause.

Anyway, it also occurs to me that I may not have been making a big enough deal out of how good it is to still have Pedro Martinez healthy. Whatever your take on how the rotation has been constructed and handled, I think the number of starts we get from Pedro is the greatest predictor of the Mets success. Concerns over the usage or availability of any other pitcher pale in comparison. Credit to Peterson, the Mets medical staff, Willie for keeping him in working order (can't blame them for the recent slip and fall).

Meanwhile, Steve Trachsel is an absolute stud of a fourth starter. I realize he's our third starter, but that's how I like to think of him. Does he have the occasional blowup? Sure, but he mixes in enough games like today's to keep the numbers pretty tidy. He's boring to watch, but I'd rather be bored than terrified.

Heath Bell was not sharp, giving up a single and a double (the walk was intentional). I wish he would really slam the door a few times in a row, both because it's preferable to letting inherited runners score and because it might get him a little breathing room on the roster.

In any case, it's disappointing to lose a series at home, but it's only the second such mishap this season. Pending the conclusion of the PHI-LAD game, we still have a five game division lead. This is in spite of some suprisingly bad offensive performances (Floyd, Reyes, Delgado recently), and that dark age when we were starting Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez. While it's way too early to crank up the '86 nostalgia machine (if only because Keith is insufferable enough as it is), I'm pretty happy with the first two months of the season.

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