Wednesday

Mets Meltdown & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

Happy Hump-Day to you all. I don't know about the rest of you, but this week has flown by. Of course, now that I've written that, the next couple of days will drag on forever. I was just kidding time gods... really... just kidding.

So today I'll look at the big tilt last night in New York (no Twins fans, that one *wasn't* so big). And then it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment!

"Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about."
- Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and author of short stories


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Last night, a game of great import was played in New York. And believe it or not, it didn't involve the Yankees. The Mets hosted the Phillies in a battle for first place in the NL East. It was Johan Santana against Joe Blanton. The former 2-time Cy Young Award winner against the recent stretch-drive acquisition. It was set up to be quite a game.

And it certainly didn't disappoint.

Santana pitched a gem. The Mets lefty went 8 innings surrendering only 2 runs on 8 hits with no walks and 4 strikeouts over a tidy 105 pitches. I mentioned it in a previous blog, but Santana has always been a 2nd half pitcher. And even though he struggled in his last outing, this makes 2 outstanding outings for him since the All-Star break. There are several NL pitchers who've had outstanding seasons to date, but I wouldn't count Johan out of the Cy Young race just yet.

Unless...

Unless his manager continues to make mystifying decisions like taking Johan out of the game last night after 8 innings when he knew that Mets closer Billy Wagner wasn't available. It's one thing to lift a superstar pitcher in a pivotal game when you've got a lock-down closer ready to finish the deal off. But last night, the Mets were closing by committee. And based on their results, that committee ought to be disbanded!

In case you missed it, the Mets led 5-2 going into the 9th inning and then proceeded to go through 4 different relief pitchers while giving up 6 runs and blowing the game.

Generally I don't discuss specific games in a segment like this, but I found this one particularly interesting. Not only because it was for the division lead. But because the result will likely have a large role in how this division race plays out.

If you're the Phillies, you know you were fortunate to win this one. Tom Kelley once said that there are about 25 games every year that are available for you to win even though you haven't played well enough to really earn the victory. And if you can win more of those than you lose, you've got a pretty good shot at a special season. Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel is cut from much the same cloth at TK, and I imagine he was using a theory like that to try and turn last nights win into a inspiration for his club.

If you're the Mets, there are really two ways to go. The first, and unfortunately most likely, is to say "here we go again". Remember, the Mets blew a big lead down the stretch to the Phillies last year. Included in that debacle was an 0-8 record against Philly in the closing weeks. So it's certainly understandable that if you're in that New York dugout, you're wondering if that other team doesn't just have your number. There's a solid chance that the Mets could tank off a loss like that.

But they could also use that loss as a rallying point. It's not terribly common, but every now and then you'll see a team take a tough loss and use it to unify the club and motivate better play. The Twins have made several seasons off of exactly that kind of turn-around. I'm not sure the Mets have the kind of clubhouse to pull this off (too many "me" guys). But the opportunity is certainly there for them, if they can step up and take advantage of it.

We'll start to get some answers tonight when the Mets and the Phillies go at it again. If you're as curious as I am, they'll be on ESPN's Wednesday Night Baseball. So check it out! Brett Myers for the Phillies faces John Maine for the Mets. Won't be a pitching classic like last night, but it should be an interesting ball game anyway!

Next up, it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment, where I compare my pre-season picks to the current MLB standings.

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, 59-41 (Dan's Pick: Boston (whom I hate), 1 Game Back)
The miracle of St. Petersburg continues. Troy Percival is back off the DL for the Rays who were able to reverse a tough pre-All Star break losing streak without him. Boston (whom I hate) has been a bit schizophrenic. Some days they look near unbeatable. Other days Manny Ramirez is doing his beached-whale routine landing on top of the ball in left field. I still think that Boston (whom I hate) is the team to beat here. But I'd never be happier to be wrong.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 56-43 (DP: Detroit, 5.5 GB)
The Twins got to a half-game back of the White Sox. And then they boarded a plane to New York. As I type this, the Twins are in the midst of their third-straight thumping at the hands of the Bombers. This team struggles on the road, especially against teams with big line-ups (remember that trip to Texas earlier this year? oof). As for the Tigers, they're treading water, having gone 5-5 in their last 10. Still not out of it. But not making enough noise to make me confident in my pick.

AL West: L.A. Angels, 61-39 (DP: Seattle, 23 GB)
The Angels are now the proud owners of the best record in baseball. Thanks for rubbing it fellas! Really, I appreciate it! I've only received one entry in the "How Far Back Will Seattle Finish" contest. Come on folks! This is your chance to win something out of the Sports Take prize closet! Email me at: dcook93@yahoo.com and tell me how many games back the Mariners will finish. The winner will not only receive the admiration and adulation of Sports Take nation, but I'll come up with a nearly-legitimate prize as well!

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 54-46 (DP: NY Mets, 1 GB)
I talked about this race plenty earlier. Don't forget the Marlins are only one game back too. What kind of ratings would a Marlins/Rays World Series get? Oof.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 58-42 (DP: Cubs)
Vive le Brewers! The Cubs have thrown the door open by losing 6 of their last 10 and Milwaukee has taken advantage. The Crew are now only a single game back and in sole possession of 2nd place in the NL Central. That also means that they're the current Wild Card leader in the NL as well. I said it on Monday. If they can get some bullpen help, the Brewers are in prime pouncing position here.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 50-50 (DP: D'backs)
Courtesy of 2-straight home wins over the Cubs (you're welcome Milwaukee), the D'backs have climbed back to .500 and into sole possession of first place in the AL West. Admittedly, they're the best team of the worst division in baseball, but somebody's got to win it! And give Arizona credit. G.M. Josh Byrnes is making moves trying to shore up his club. I mentioned last week the acquisition of a veteran bench player in Tony Clark. This week they acquired late inning reliever John Rauch from Washington. I'm not sure if Rauch will be "the answer" in the bullpen. But at 6-11, he along with Randy Johnson (6-10) and Tony Clark (6-7) would make a helluva front line in an intramural volleyball team!

That's all for today folks. Back at you on Friday with this week's DFTU! Until then, thanks for reading!

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