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Game Notes: Mets vs Nationals (04/11/2006)

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Yesterday's game might have been the Mets' finest of the young season. They got pitching, they got hitting, they won handily, and I got very little done at work. A Yankee loss would have made it a perfect day, but I'm not a greedy man.

Brian Bannister was very impressive, much moreso than his first start, which I thought was pretty shaky. Here's what they look like juxtaposed with one another:

      IP     H     R     ER     BB     K     %St
4/5/06    6.0     2     3      3      4     4     52%
4/11/06   7.0     3     1      1      0     1     58%
Though he gave up only two hits in his first start, his control was very erratic, punctuated by his four walks and 52% strike rate (number of strikes divided by number of pitches). This time around, Bannister had much better command of his arsenal. He fell behind some hitters early in the game, but he really settled down after the third inning and turned in probably the best start of any Mets pitching so far. He didn't walk anybody and his strike rate improved substantially. Next time out I expect him to do an even better job of getting ahead of hitters early in the game as he begins to settle into his role.

Bannister left after the seventh inning and the Mets' bullpen took over. Aaron Heilman was dominant, striking out one and throwing 11-of-14 pitches for strikes in a perfect eighth. Billy Wagner was not so good, though. In a word, he pitched like shite. He labored through a thirty-two pitch ninth, walking the bases loaded before striking out Ryan Zimmerman to end the game without allowing a run to score. In postgame interviews Wagner professed to feeling better yesterday than he had all season, and the radar gun lent some credence to that claim, as it measured Wagner's fastball as high as 95-96, a few notches faster than he was hitting last week. His command was piss-poor, obviously, but let's assume that this is just a stepping stone en route to the overpowering Billy Wagner the Mets thought they were getting.

Offensively, the Mets pounded out twelve hits, four for extra bases, and the top four batter reached base ten times, including thrice apiece by Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Beltran. Beltran had his best game of the season, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a towering two-run homerun that clanked off the upper deck facade in right field. His average is up to .238 and his on-base percentage stands at a healthy .393.

Anderson Hernandez picked up two more hits to get his average up to .174, a few ticks higher than Cliff Floyd's .167. Of course, without a walk, HBP or extra-base hit to his credit, Hernandez is batting a dismal .174/.174/.174, while Floyd, with a double and three walks, is batting .167/.273/.222. Both are terrible, but I'm confident that one of them will finish the season hitting respectably.

Pinch hitter extraordinaire Jose Valentin is now 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He has seen 17 pitches in those four at-bats, so at least he's working the pitcher a little bit.

The Mets are 5-1 now, and they stand a pretty good chance of going 6-1 with Pedro on the mound tonight. Right now, it feels pretty damned good to be a Mets fan.