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Letting Pitchers Hit, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Willie

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It was a rather different evening at Coors last night.  The game began with what seems to be such a regular occurrence that it hardly bears mentioning anymore, and that is seeing the Mets finding a way to put up a couple of runs or more before the other team gets a shot.  All seemed well to that point, but by the time the 1st inning had ended, the Mets trailed for the first time in the series and never could quite catch up.

I have all the hope in the world that Oliver Perez will make us all forget He With The Initials SK Who Shall Not Be Named, but I wouldn't give away all my underwear just yet.

Perez, to my eyes, couldn't find a consistent release point, was hopping all over the mound, threw pitches in the dirt and way outside, went to hitters' counts on many of the batters he faced, had a pedestrian fastball that didn't fool anybody, and, most unfortunately, let the opposing pitcher look like the second coming of Larry Walker.

This game, in microcosm, can be understood in large part by the near-comic (or tragic) difference in how the pitchers hit.  Both lefties facing lefties, Jeff Francis, he of the 4-for-54 coming in, had the offensive night of his life, with a 2 for 2, 2 RBI night.

elifriedman was right as rain when he wondered what I was thinking, which had to do mainly with wondering what Willie was thinking, when he allowed Oliver Perez to swing the bat with the Mets down by 3, with runners at 2nd and 3rd and 1 out in the 4th.  Perez was already closing in on 100 pitches through the 3 innings he had scrambled through, so it was clear this was no "Let's get him though 5 and see if we can get him a win" situation.  It felt very much like a total give-up, like a spring training game in which getting one more inning out of Oliver, for evaluation purposes, was more important than winning the actual game.  Otherwise, how could Perez not be pinch-hit for in that situation?

The highlight of the evening occurred right at that moment, when a lone Mets fan about 20 rows behind me let fly with a series of plaintive wails, "Willie! Willie! Willie!"  he cried, to no avail, but much laughter all around.

Perez' performance at the plate was a vision to behold.  He fought like mad, as if his ability to plate those runs would have any bearing whatsoever on the Mets' willingness to let him pitch again in the future.  Freaky.  When he finally let fly with a mighty home run swing that missed, his bat-smashing act was an embarrassment to all witnessing it, given the big-picture disparities between the two teams on the field.  But Oliver appears to be all about Oliver.  I took that as a less-than-fantastic omen about his future with us.

As the game unfolded, Oliver did return to the mound, only to be given a quick hook after giving up a 2-run homer with no outs.  The head-scratching for Willie's actions didn't subside at that point, I can assure you.

Contrast this with even more of a head-scratcher, and that is the next at-bat of Jeff Francis.  I noted that Francis ended the top of the 5th with 103 pitches under his belt.  I accepted that with some solace that the Mets might soon get a shot at the Rockies (what's the opposite of "vaunted"?) bullpen.  

Imagine my surprise when Francis stepped to the plate in the home half of the inning and a not-insurmountable 3 run lead, with a runner on third and no one out.  Imagine my even greater surprise to see this barely +.100 hitter hit a very respectable drive to deep right-center to plate the run.  Imagine my utter and total confusion when he didn't even return to pitch the top of the 6th.  Oh well, that's Clint Hurdle for you.  Who am I to question a 60 year old man with a nicer flava-sava than Oliver Perez has?

So that's about the size of the game lsat night.  It was a brush with what we have in store for the next month as Willie prepares his post-season roster.  

The other moments that fall under the "enjoyable" aspect of being at the game included the remarkable play of Reyes, Wright and Beltran, and the Mets' fans repeated attempts to get a "Let's Go Mets!" chant going, only to be drowned out with boos on each occassion.  Nice going, guys - E for effort.

I had some ok seats last night.  Here's a shot of our poster boy taking a pitch, and another of the double-play machine and the brain trust. (I could't figure out how to resize them to make them fit on the page - sorry.)