In the Mike and the Mad Dog days, Chris Russo--hey, remember him?--was fond of asking listeners if they'd "sign up" for a proposition involving their favorite team. The query was usually presented thusly: Would you accept Your Team winning X games out of Y against Opponent Z? In that vein, I definitely would have "signed up" for winning two out of three in Philadelphia, and I have a feeling most Mets fans felt the same on Friday. And yet, the first two wins were so satisfying in so many ways--David Wright's Willis Reed act on Saturday the best of all--it was hard to not feel greedy this Sunday as the Mets stood on the verge of a sweep.
Despite his traditional struggles against the Mets, Ted Berg's favorite pitcher Cole Hamels looked quite sharp today, fanning 10 batters over seven innings and scattering six mostly harmless hits. Ruben Tejada was particularly victimized, going down on strikes three times. And yet, the Mets were able to jump out in the top of the first for the third game in a row when David Wright dunked a two-out bloop single and Ike Davis launched the very next pitch into the right field seats for a two-run shot.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Hamels allowed virtually nothing from the first inning forward, and the Mets' few opportunities were quickly erased. A Mike Nickeas walk in the fifth (Hamels' only free pass of the day) was negated when Mike Pelfrey bunted into a double play. A Wright hit in the sixth went for nought when he was caught stealing, while a leadoff single from Scott Hairston in the seventh yielded nothing.
If history was any indication, it seemed only a matter of time before Hamels' opposite number came apart at the seams. Coming into the game, Mike Pelfrey had pitched to a 8.60 ERA at Citizen's Bank Park, which came as a surprise to me--I was sure it was at least twice that. Despite facing a lineup that included Juan Pierre, Pete Orr, and Laynce Nix, Pelf certainly looked ill at ease in the bottom of the first as he allowed singles to the first three Phillies to cut the Mets' early lead in half. Somehow, he managed to limit the damage there.
Pelf ceded two more singles in the second (these to Hamels and Pierre) and mishandled a grounder hit right to him, resulting in a nearly disastrous encounter at third between Hamels and Wright when he opted to throw out the lead runner. He escaped this jam unscathed, however, and then settled in for a while, much like he did in his first start against the Nationals. Per his MO, Pelfrey allowed more than a few hits but few were well struck, and unlike The Maddening Pelfrey we've come to dread, he did an admirable job of keeping the ball on the ground.
Pelf negotiated the third inning with little trouble and got the first two outs easily in the fourth. Another Pierre single and a walk of Victorino set up a potential Phillies rally, but was promptly squashed when Pierre tried to swipe third and was thrown out easily. Another easy inning followed in the fifth, save a one-out single from Hunter Pence, and Pelfrey was also able to negotiate around a leadoff single from Carlos Ruiz in the sixth. All in all, about as good an outing as you could hope for from Pelfrey, considering the locale.
After six innings of Pelfrey, the game was put in the hands of the bullpen. The relief corps has given us little to complain about thus far, but the first man out faltered today, with some help from his defense. Ramon Ramirez gave up a one-out bloop single to Jimmy Rollins when Lucas Duda got a bad break on the ball in right field, then Hunter Pence poked a hit between third and short. Both runners moved up when Nickeas couldn't handle a ball in the dirt (officially scored a wild pitch, but a ball the catcher could have and should have handled), which set up a game-tying sac fly from Ty Wigginton. Laynce Nix then poked a ball into the left field corner that was just beyond Hairston's leaping reach, allowing Pence to trot home and give the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
Manny Acosta gave up a booming double to Pete Orr to start off the bottom of the eighth, then saw Tejada make an errant throw to first on a Placido Polanco grounder. That prolonged the inning, and Acosta walked two batters in a row to first load the bases, then force in a run. Acosta gave way to Miguel Batista (destined to be this year's white flag, if not released or demoted), who allowed a bases-clearing double to Wigginton. Batista then decided to get in on the dumb fielding action by staring at Juan Pierre dribbler as it rolled up the first base line, hoping it would roll foul. It never did, and Wigginton ran home on the play.
The air seemed to come out of the Mets' balloon even before the nightmare bottom of the eighth. Chad Qualls took over for Hamels in the top half and allowed a Daniel Murphy single, but escaped when Wright lined out to first. Jonathan Papelbon, who'd been warming up all throughout that disastrous frame, managed to protect the six-run lead, though he did allow a walk and a pair of singles with two outs and required 26 pitches to get through the ninth. That's why he makes the big bucks, folks.
Lest I offend the Baseball Gods of Small Sample Sizes, I wouldn't dare say for sure that the Mets are as good, or the Phillies as mediocre, as each team looked before that bizarro eighth inning. The Mets playing this well throughout the year is an iffy proposition at best, and the jury is out on Philly until we know when/if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are coming back and at what level of production. However, I do think there's a good chance this season could turn out to be a lot more interesting than any of us dared dream. I would definitely sign up for that.
Oh, and Jason Bay was scratched from the starting lineup with a jammed finger. So who says the Mets always have bad luck with injuries?
Big winners: Mike Pelfrey, +26.3%, Ike Davis, +21.9%
Big losers: Ramon Ramirez, -44.2%, Ruben Tejada/Kirk Nieuwenhuis, -8.0%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Ike Davis two-run HR, top first, +20.9%
Teh sux0rest play: Laynce Nix RBI double, bottom seventh, -22.6%
Total pitcher WPA: -29.6%
Total batter WPA: -20.4%
GWRBI!:Laynce Nix RBI double
Nice job by aparkermarshall; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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