Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 10, 2005
BASEBALL: Break on Through
Today's Mets game was as classic as a 6-1 victory in the first week of the season could possibly be. You really had to see it, Pedro and John Smoltz bringing their best stuff - Pedro hitting the mid-90s with his fastball on the way to a complete game 2-hitter (and keeping the pitch counts low enough that you didn't even worry about him going out for the 9th inning), Smoltz tying his career high with 15 strikeouts through the first 7 innings, to the point where the Mets announcers were discussing whether Smoltz had a chance to strike out 20. For a long while there, it looked like the 1-0 lead the Braves had staked Smoltz to would be all he needed, until Carlos Beltran nailed a line drive home run to right field. That got Smoltz out, and I just had that feeling that Cliff Floyd was going to go deep against the next pitcher, as he did, followed by a double for Minky and a homer for Wright, and all of a sudden all the frustration of the 0-5 start was washed away.
Oh, there was frustration. Perhaps the most vivid demonstration was Saturday night, when the ever-combustible Aaron Heilman gave up a second inning grand slam to Brian Jordan, and the cameras cut to Willie Randolph with what looked like a perfect addition to the Bill Simmons pantheon of faces - the Willie Randolph "Why Did I Ever Take This Job" Face, which was topped only when they panned down the dugout to Pedro and he had the exact same expression on his face.
For the record, Pedro has now struck out 21 and walked 3 while allowing 5 hits in 15 innings. You can say "small sample size" all you like, but it's been a damn long time since the Mets had anyone who could do that even in a 2-start sample. Hey, as long as Pedro continues to improve on his career ERA and K/9 . . .
Wright is really starting to remind me of Robin Ventura. The comparison he usually draws is to Scott Rolen, but Ventura was at least 90% of the player Rolen is, and Wright could do much worse.
I continue to fear the Mets' non-Pedro pitchers, other than my inexplicable faith in Victor Zambrano, who (1) managed a 35-27 career record in Tampa Bay, giving him almost half of the .500-or-better seasons in Devil Rays history, and (2) has whiffed 20 batters in 19 innings with a 3.79 ERA as a Met. But I'm really feeling good about the everyday lineup. Floyd has looked rejuvenated, to the point of throwing out two guys at home on Saturday night. Beltran, as he showed last October and again today, has icewater in his veins. And if the high/next highest comps on Wright are Rolen and Ventura, the matches for Jose Reyes are Barry Larkin and Rafael Furcal. Reyes is just one exciting baserunner, as he showed in legging a routine groundball single past second into right center into a double today.
Need the pitching to come through. If it doesn't, we'll have to settle for sending a championship team out to play only once every five days.