So far in the second half of this season, the bad has far out-weighed the good in Mets land. The team has lost 6 of 8 and is currently 4 games out of the wild card spot while trailing the Braves by 6.5 games in the NL East. Jason Bay, despite valiant offensive and defensive contributions in Friday night’s 6-1 win against the Dodgers, is giving fans reason to believe he is a bust. The team has won 4 of 15, all 4 of those wins have been started by ace Johan Santana who everyone (including myself) was writing off prior to the break. Mike Pelfrey has seen his ERA inflate to 4 and hasn’t been the same since Father’s Day weekend at Yankee Stadium. Carlos Beltran has returned quietly. He looks capable at bat, although he is still adjusting. However, not surprisingly, he does not appear to possess the same spring in his step as he has in years past roaming center field. With all this said, and more, this team somehow still finds itself in the mix for a playoff spot.
The San Francisco and Arizona series were extremely painful to watch. The team traveled to the West coast with no vigor, no fight. Instead of making a statement, they were embarrassed, and should have been swept by a solid Giants club, then went to the desert and bowed to Barry Enright and the last place Diamondbacks in a 3 straight. The managing was questionable, the execution was lackluster, and the heart was non-existent. The team looked dead on their feet. The 2009 New York Mets appeared to have been reborn.
Last night, after watching the Yankees score more runs in the first inning of their game against Kansas City than the Mets had scored all week, I was fearing for more of the same results for my team come 9:40 PM ET. After seeing the Mets explode for 2 runs early on against Dodgers starter Vicente Padilla, the bats were silenced as Padilla sat down 17 Met hitters in a row. The sound of crickets from my backyard got louder and louder as each batter was retired. The same defensive hitting approach I had watched since last Thursday was persisting. At that point I was ready to set my alarm clock for work the next morning and catch the highlights upon waking up. For the past week the Mets had done nothing but bring me disappointment and anxiety. They made Aaron Heilman look like Mariano Rivera, and couldn’t touch the mediocrity that is Ian Kennedy. I can hear Joe Benigno complaining in my head as I type this.
For whatever reason, I stayed up to see how the final 3 innings would unfold. What ensued for the Mets seemed all too foreign to me. Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo started the top of the 7th inning with back-to-back walks and we’re moved over by an Angel Pagan sacrifice bunt (Jerry is a genius, bunting with the 3 hitter). The Mets had executed good baseball, I could hardly believe my eyes.
After a David Wright sac fly drove in Reyes, the Mets loaded the bases and I was basking in the glory of a 2 run lead late in the game. The small ounce of optimism that was brewing inside of me then quickly subsided. Up came Jason Bay.
I was expecting the typical strikeout swinging on a 1-2 count after taking one down the middle, fouling one off, taking a waste pitch, then chasing a slider down and away. Instead, Bay treated us fans to a base clearing double which provided more insurance than the Mets would need.
Jason Bay had done the unthinkable, he had come through in the clutch. The big hit that had eluded him all season had finally found grass in the right center field gap and had plated 3 big runs. Instead of swinging through it, Bay was able to connect on a fastball on the outer half that got too much plate. It was a good piece of hitting, but hopefully it can also restore confidence and revitalize the $66 million man. Hats off to you Jason, but your 6 HR’s and 47 RBI still scream “BUST.”
A win is a win, but unlike the lone win at San Francisco last Sunday, which left us with a taste of artificial flavor in our mouth, this win was solid up and down. The Mets capitalized on mistakes, moved runners over, got excellent pitching, and a big hit was delivered late. In a word, simplicity.